Sunday, January 31, 2010

Fit Falafel

Honestly, when is falafel not a good idea?
Probably when you don't wanna share. Good thing, I was
taught to share a lot or Monkey-man would be screwed, man-
Screwed!

Got my fine fillings from TJs and also picked up their
tahini dip. Apparently they don't sell just straight tahini.
But it was damn good anyway- thicker than I'm used to, but no
complaints. Nice and zingy and garlicy!





We tried out the pitas from Fresh and Easy and they were
surprisingly awesome. I hate it when the inside melds
together and they are more like a big soft cracker or
super thick wheat tortilla. But we had just got them
because they were on super cheap and they turned out
to be great.

This is about the extent of my pre-made food purchases
so don't judge me!



I call these 'fit falafel' because they are baked- not fried.
One of my Mom's favorites it became a staple in our house
when I was old enough to seriously cook. But it wasn't until
I started sneaking garlic and onions into the house that I
realized how fudging amazing real homemade falafel was!
So pass up that premade boxed stuff folks get your butts
in gear!

Ingredients

16 ounces chickpeas
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
1-2 tbsp flour or potato starch (binding purposes)
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
A squeeze of lemon
and salt and pepper
some wheat germ for rolling

Its so much easier if you actually have a food processor,
but I've always just mashed them by hand. So grab the
nearest fork or machine or potato masher and get to work.
You don't want hummus, so take it easy. Leave some lumpies
in there.

Throw in all your spices and stuff. If it needs some more
liquid to bind, add a little bit of water. Shape into small
patty/balls and roll in some wheat germ. Place on a 'lightly'
grease baking sheet and bake for about 25 minutes at 375F or
until they start to brown.



After that- You know what to do. Stuff the buggers and
chow down!



A jaw dropping addition to the fabulous food that is falafel
is cucumber raita. And if you have never had raita before,
you have not lived. I posted this while ago.
Make it, eat it, love it. Now.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

caught in a pretzel



A while back we had a disgusting and disappointing occurrence
at a chain pretzel shop before running to a movie and ever since
we've been craving soft pretzels like crazy.

Just thinking we could get a plain pretzel without the
butter crap they put on it, we ordered at some pretzel chain.
Before we could even finishing saying what we wanted
they slathered something on it in the back. Apparently all
the pretzels at (wetzels? or was it annies? I don't know)
have butter on them. The dip the whole thing right when
it comes out of the oven and then again when you buy it.

Ha, forget that. No thanks. They were pissed, but I was
more so. What better than irritation to get you home to
start cooking something way better yourself?

I'm still working on this because I want them... shinier?
They were really good, but I want to work on the soda
bath. I certainly don't feel like whipping up a lye bath.



The dough is straight forward, but I noted not to
use excess amount of extra flour when rolling it out
later. Also to not roll it in oil before the first
rise.



After splitting them into separate balls, let them
rest before rolling them into ropes and twisting them.



Rise again and boil in a baking soda solution.





I dusted one batch with rock salt and left the other
plain so I could do sweet pretzels too.



As you can see they're missing that little bit of shine
I wanted. So after I tweak it, I'll post the whole recipe.
But for the salted ones, I mixed up a batch of my cheese
sauce that I use for mac and cheese to dip the pretzels in.



I brushed on a little melted earthbalance and dropped
them in raw sugar and cinnamon. You can use a mild
oil instead if you like.



Sunday, January 24, 2010

If at first you don't succeed, put it in a pie

succeed
I had the best intentions of making a wonderful pot of smokey
pumpkin soup. I had a container of pumpkin that I had frozen
from Christmas and was intent on using it up.

I made the soup before, but something went horribly wrong.
It tasted pretty bad, but in the way where you can't place
what was wrong. It is supposed to be blended smooth and
flavoured with a wee bit of condensed liquid smoke.
It imparts memories of smokey gouda cheese and oven roasted
pumpkin. Yet for some reason this time it came out tasting
more like smokey feet.

Oh gods! Ok, it wasn't quite that bad. I'm exaggerating.
But we put it aside in hopes of the flavour settling and
it mellowing itself out.

The next evening I cooked up some onions, garlic, carrots,
potatoes, sweet potatoes, and a bit of bell pepper with
some sage... mixed the pumpkin soup in and dumped it in
a pie crust.



For some reason my curse hadn't worn off yet and my
crust came out bready. Not bad, but not flakey.
Oh well. It still tasted damn good.



Pies, or shepherds pies, or even pasties are a great
and delicious way to use up leftover soup.
That's why its an even better idea to have a batch of
pie crust in your freezer for emergencies.
I still have an uncooked pumpkin in the kitchen, now
I need to decide if I'm gonna attempt pumpkin soup again
or if some pumpkin sweets are in order.
Oh well, I'll probably just make curry!



Saturday, January 23, 2010

Juicer what?! Basically I'm getting at something raw

A short while ago I had the happy fortune to stumble upon
a juicer for $7 at a little tiny thrift store by my house.
Mwa ha ha, said I. Indeed.

A bit dusty, but I cleaned 'er up and she works like a charm.
(I love that expression)

I first just tried it out by making a little carrot juice
and was trying to think of how to use the remaining pulp.
So I whipped up these awesome raw-ish wraps that look
amazing as anything you'd see at a high caliber restaurant
and taste even better.

Ok they're not raw really at all, but the veg is pretty much
all raw inside and you feel so good after eating. Only raw
foods can make you feel that vibrant. Like coffee without the
crash or jitters. I also made an herbed tvp/soya crumble
by soaking it in vegetable broth and adding garlic salt
and Italian seasoning. In there as well were some black
beans, avocado, tomatoes, bell peppers, a wee bit of garlic
aioli and the carrot pulp left over from the juicer.

For the collards that they're wrapped in, I removed a slice
of the thick stem and soaked them in some warm water.
You don't even need to steam them or even cook them.
I just wanted it to absorb some of the warm water to
soften slightly-- easier to roll and bit. NARM!



To give the juice a kick and balance out the carrot a little,
I added an apple and a couple chunks of ginger! I don't know
why but this is so amazing to drink at breakfast.





To seal up the wraps I cut some strips off the edge of the
collard leaf and used it to tie a little package. So cute!
Plus, these are a great to use in packed lunches because
you can throw it all together and not have to worry about your
bread or tortilla getting soggy!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Tal Ronnen Book Signing in Pasadena




A little over a week ago we headed up to the Pasadena Whole Foods
for a awesome little demo and book signing with Chef Tal Ronnen,
the author of Conscious Cook. It was mainly a demo to feature
the new faux mean product he helped design, Gardein.

I don't want to say his claim to fame is cooking for celebs,
but... He cooked for Oprah when she did the vegan 'cleanse'.
(I don't watch TV) He did Ellen's wedding-- Awesome!
And continues to cater for them both, as well as do other
celeb weddings and such... I wonder if he did Zooey and Ben Gibbard's
wedding... I should have asked. Shoot.

He made a 'steak' teriyaki stir fry and a 'chick' with mushroom
sauce. Here is a link to his site recipes, which hosts a similar recipe
to what he made- except without the udon and pea shoots.



Gardein was very good compared to other faux meat products
I've had. It wasn't spongy like some cheap meat subs tend to
be when they're heavy in gluten and it actually contains more
protein than animal flesh. So if you know a carnivore that
is eating meat 'only for the protein' (and I think we've all
heard this) definitely suggest Gardein!
So far I've seen it at Whole Foods and Fresh and Easy,
its pretty much brand spanking new, so you may need to ask
your local health food stores to look in to it.



It was pretty awesome and mellow. We got to ask him about
culinary schools and how he dealt with going through the
Natural Cookery and the whole meat side of the education.
Its really only a matter of time, I know, for a real vegan
cooking school to emerge... I just wish it had been around
when I had been training. Granted there are a few places,
but not real schools,
more just classes.

So we got a few tips, had some yummy food, made some connections,
and got my book signed! I know he's still doing demos in CA
and for sure one for Follow Your Heart, so look them up and
definitely try to catch him if he's in your area.





Tee hee!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Vegan Mac and Cheese revisited: Blast to the past

I will not lie, when I was growing up we ate a CRAPLOAD of
kraft mac and cheese. My Mom was a decent cook, but she hated
it. My Dad was a cook for a long time, but he worked alot!
So the last thing he really wanted to do after 12 hours in a
kitchen all day was come home and cook. Cooking is not all
love and glamor. Far from it. That is why I am admitting
my childhood staple was the ole neon orange noodle in a box.

About 4 or 5 months ago I posted this recipe for mac and cheese.
Well, I've made it pretty often since the Monkey-man is an
ex-cheese nut. But I don't just use it on pasta for mac and
cheese. We use it on pizza sometimes, calzones, puff pastries,
on veggies, chili and fries, etc etc etc

But I've departed from what I originally posted and simplified
it quite a bit, losing none of the flavour.
I would compare this to the Annie's version of mac and cheese,
as the nutritional yeast gives it the aged taste.



To be honest, I never liked the idea of adding a thickener.
It seemed unnecessary, so I just took out the water from
the original recipe. That was also the only reason you needed
to boil it- which I've discovered kills the vit B-12 in the
nutritional yeast- yowzers! So sometimes, I just whisk it right
up without cooking it, unless you're making a hot dish and
then I only heat it up to as low as I can keep it.

The original:
Ingredients
1 1/4 cups water
1 cup plain soymilk
1 cup nutritional yeast
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoon salt
1-2 cloves garlic pureed
1/2 small onion, minced as finely as you can
1 teaspoon mustard
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1-2 teaspoon turmeric
pinch cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons tahini
1 tablespoon mellow white miso
black pepper to taste


The New

1 cups soymilk and then some to thin as much as you need
1 cup nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1-2 tsp salt
2 tablespoons pureed onion or 1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp mustard
1 tablespoon nut butter
1 tablespoon miso or more salt

The spices? totally opt in my opinion.
They are mostly for color.

I really like my mac and cheese with apples for some reason.
And we steamed up some broccoli.




Here are a couple shots of our unbaked pizza. Monkey-man makes
the best pizzas ever! I think this was his rosemary
crust... sorry for the grainy pics, they were taken impromptu
with an iphone in bad light.

































So it bakes up fine, just stays pretty creamy.


I recently discovered what exactly it needed to get that
kraft 'cheese' taste. Butter, or rather earth balance in this case.

I found this one stressed out day, doing a huge pile
of homework and policy data analysis, with no time to cook.
I had some plain left over pasta, was out of olive oil and
thought to myself... oh I'll just use some earth balance and
do a quick garlic-butter sauce. Half way there, after I had
already tossed a little earth balance with the pasta I remembered
I had some left over cheese sauce in the fridge. Well, I
thought what the heck and tossed it in there too. I'll be
damned if it wasn't more like the kraft stuff than you can
imagine. So take that new recipe and just toss in a tablespoon
or two of earthbalance and see what you think...

But let me just say the ultimate thing to go with mac and
cheese is something else from my childhood... a classic
80s flick. In this case it was Monkey-mans first time
(pss he's a 90s kid) to see Farris Bueller's Day Out.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Vegan Chain on the Rise: Loving Hut

On New Years Day Monkey-man and I were pretty hard pressed to
find anything to do. Through the Holidays were a little over
being super duper lazy. We missed the Rose Parade that morning
and thought there there might have been some kind of after
event (not to do with the floats), but maybe something in town.

Well, there wasn't. But we drove around anyway, which in turn
made us hungry. I whipped out Vegan Steven iphone app and
found a place that isn't even four miles from us: Loving Hut in
Alhambra.



I was surprised that anything was even open on New Years Day,
but there were already a few other people there. It looked
like a family owned franchise and according to some of their
literature, its a growing chain all over the world!



The interior was fun, I can't compare it to where else I've been,
except some Japanese bars.

I ordered an orange juice drink... All of their drinks looked
absolutely beautiful. Check out mine!







A gorgeous presentation, topped with little tiny dried flower
petals. I'm gonna trust they know whats edible or not, hee hee.













Yummy!

Not to completely spoil our dinner, we split a meal.
We ordered a veggie burger and fries. Yeah? Sounds boring,
well it wasn't. It was gear-fab. Plus I am so over Asian
food, you have no idea. I hate Chinese food so so so so so
much and for some reason whenever people try to cook vegan
food they make it Asian. Please, hand me a barf bag and
throw away the teriyaki sauce now. Everything tastes the
same. It is the most boring and uninventive way to cook
and to top it off when people cook like that, they think they
are being super experimental and unusual because its not sold
at a fast food chain.



And it wasn't like a frozen burger out of a box, on the
pan, on the bread, to your face either. The bread
was decent, the filling was good. The patty was awesome.
We went to Green Leaves in Hollywood on Halloween and had
some sort of burger-sandwich and the bun not so good,
very white 'loves-ish'. But this patty was topped with
mushrooms and cripsy!



The Frenchie Fries were pretty tasty too. Tossed with a dry
seasoning. But pretty much your basic fry.





Yup, I'm satisfied. Num num num....

What!?? Vegan Chocolate cake?!



The cake was good, classic, filling. The frosting was a
tofu cream cheese with some cute toppings. I'd hate to really
know what is in those cherries though! I loved everything we
got. I can't wait to go back and try something else!

A funny thing that we noticed while we were there, was one
of the tv stations that was on. They had two screens on either
wall and one had the rose bowl- the other had a weird foreign
station with about fifty different language subtitles scrolling.
With the check they gave us a little piece of literature
describing all the benefits of being vegan and all the
atrocities that are taking place in the environment and against
animals. I thought that was awesome. I've never had a vegan
restaurant actually give me literature before.
It makes excellent sense too, not all of your customers are
going to be entirely veg.

But come to find out the literature and the weird tv station
that we noticed were from this organization (?) called
Suprememastertv.
I don't really find it all that strange. I've since read some
blogs and writings from people that were really freaked out
and calling it cultish, etc. Frankly, its just another
religion, just like any other.

I've gone to a lot of Seventh Day Adventist events to be
honest. They talk about God and Jesus, etc But almost
all of them practiced veganism. So if its not hurting
anybody (including animals!! yay) and it supports delicous
food... than go for it, say I. You don't have to be an initiate
to glean practical advise or information about the benefits
of a vegan lifestyle. Food is food, always without animals.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Munching muffins/ approached by Greenpeace rant



Working on Monkey-man's computer
right now, even more stranded from
all my photos and on-going work than
usual. Still haven't gotten my camera
back... tempted to just go and buy a
new one since the people that have it
are apparently never home.
Absolutely ridiculous... I am really really pissed off about the whole situation.

Another situation that got me miffed was a run in with a
Greenpeace worker. Walking into a bookshop to chill out while
Monkey-man was at work, I got flagged down by a dude with a
Greenpeace shirt. Hey, I'm not totally opposed to Greenpeace
so I stopped and chatted to hear him out. My problem with
Greenpeace though is mostly thoroughly summed up in what
how Paul Watson (The Sea Shepherd Society) described them to me...
"The Girl Scouts of activists" Yeah, basically... they're wusses
in my opinion.

I've seen them back down on important animal and environmental
issues on too many occasions. A lot of the time we need direct
action and they are not willing to walk that line.

So back to this guy. I feel pretty weird because I did end up
giving him my contact info, but not signing up for a donation.
Don't get me wrong, Greenpeace isn't BAD and I wouldn't mind
donating to the cause, BUT! There are organizations that I
would prefer donating to. Ex: one more progressive.

Also, he went off on the wrong plea with me. He started and
initially got me by invoking the need for ocean protection
and preservation. Yet, then went into how Greenpeace is
apparently setting up protected zones or something. Sounds
cool. Like protected habitats that enforce fishing bans,
to mainly ensure the total food chain balance is preserved.
So far, I'm in-- right? I believe this is what he was
selling me, which I am in no way opposed to.

Initially I though it was a sign up for our email list
(maybe donate), but this was a commitment to donating
every month a set amount. Ok, but not for an unemployed
student.

Where did he lose me? The whole time I was nodding and
throwing in agreements with his description of oceanic
destruction until after I had filled out my contact info,
but before I got to pulling out my check card.
This is where I stopped filling out--

"I love eating tuna and I want my children to continue
to enjoy eating tuna for his lifetime."

Me? "well, didn't you yourself just admit that this
damage to the ocean is a result of human ignorance and
over fishing?"

"Yes, absolutely--" (launches in to a description of
trawling and by-catch.

I cut in.
"Wouldn't it be better to just stop supporting that
industry and stop eating fish and seafood?"

Stumbling, "Yes, well.... We need to replete the ocean
reserves and... protect... We've set up reserves to
repopulate. If that's what you want to do, but."

My cheeks got hot. He obviously didn't understand or
maybe even care that a vegan diet is the first and
ultimately best step to throwing a wrench into global
environmental destruction. It was over.

So I asked about maybe volunteering instead of donating
and what you needed to do. He went on about needing
people about Sundays, I was thinking about how they
needed better spokespeople for the environment.

Oh well, not everyone is good with jumping back, holding
good ground, and thinking on their feet like that.
I think I may have caught him off guard after being
blown off by tons of people. But seriously, Girl scouts.
I will continue to support Sea Shepherd, PETA (despite the
lettuce ladys and shmeat), COK, CREDO, Compassionate Cooks,
FARM, and a few others... Not everyone has a clean record.
I do not always support Sierra Club, NRDC, WWF and the League
of Conservation Voters, but they have definitely been involved
in some nasty stuff.

The moral of the story? At least try to practice what you preach.
I've done a LOT of tabling, food demos, and leafleting.
You've got to be ready to bounce back from practically anything.
That is the worst appeal I may have ever heard.

I don't want to totally bash the org because of one individual,
and I am looking for an internship with an environmental agency
for my degree.... HA!

Alright, back in the kitchen-- I've been working on a peanut
butter trail mix muffin... Take a look!



I want to punch up the nut buttery taste, but the trail mix
strudel topping is to die for. Monkey-man said it was the
best muffin he ever tasted.
My response? I think I need to make muffins for him more often!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Savory Turnovers

After sleeping in and missing the Rose Parade,
we were pretty stumped on what else to do on New Years Day.
We lounged most of the day, watching the reruns of
the Rose Parade and the Twilight Zone Marathon.

We dug through stuff on the internet- to no avail.
Considered going to galleries or parks, but scraped that
and went driving for ideas instead. Unfortunately we
got stuck in the residual traffic of the Rose Parade
and made our way back towards home. We hit the vegan
restaurant Loving Hut in Alhambra on our way back for
a lite lunch. (I'll write more about that later!)

Then we hung around and tinkered until it was time to make
dinner. Ok, our lives don't revolve around food that much.
Its just that dinner involved a lot of prep work and it
was going to take awhile to make!

I wanted to make pockets or turnovers with the leftover
phyllo dough I used on my 'turkey' casserole.

So first we made our fillings... A squash and sage for
some and mushroom leek for the rest!

























































I started by making the same sized squares out of the
dough, coating each with melted earth balance.



















First as dollop of cashew cheese... Then the filling...





















It took a couple to get the hang of what exactly I wanted to do.
You can see in how my first one looked like a sad egg roll or a
pillow of some sort...













Bake for 15 minutes at 425-450F
After the first batch went in the oven, I started up a
red sauce. Later blended, it can be used for dipping or
just pouring over. Its a basic Italian, nothing more.












Out they come!

























All Crispy and golden like!





The mushroom and leek, inside and out!








The Squash covered with sauce...


We made these a little larger than party h'dourves, but
smaller than a turnover you'd get at a bakery. These would
be great smaller for parties or gatherings. I'll probably
be making them the next time we throw a party. A little
fattening with all the earthbalance. We had a lot left
over. This used half a package of phyllo, so we could have
made a lot more if we had wished.
Also, you can improv a lot with fillings. I'm already planning
a curried filling myself!

But our New Years was lovely. Its nice to kick back and
go all out on rich foods one in a while, thats why we have
holidays--right? To make foods like this special. I'd be
the size of a house if I ate this everyday. A couple times
a year is just fine for me, thanks. Now back to everyday life.