Monday, November 8, 2010

Vegan MoFo Survey

What is one food you thought you’d miss when you went vegan, but don’t?
Cheese. Yeah, not really and I was a cheese fiend and snob.

What is a food or dish you wouldn’t touch as a child, but enjoy now?

What vegan dish or food you feel like you “should” like, but don’t?
Swiss chard

What beverage do you consume the most of on any given day?

What dish are your “famous” for making or bringing to gatherings?
Baked goods

Do you have any self-imposed food rules (like no food touching on the plate or no nuts in sweets)?
I won't eat anything that's been lying around in the fridge for more than 2 days or so

What’s one food or dish you tend to eat too much of when you have it in your home?
Tofurky Italian Sausage

What ingredient or food do you prefer to make yourself despite it being widely available prepackaged?
Beans. I used to buy canned beans but now I almost always make them from scratch.

What ingredient or food is worth spending the extra money to get “the good stuff”?
Organic extra-virgin olive oil. Good chocolate. Honestly, I almost always spend extra money on groceries. I am a snob like that.

Are you much of a snacker? What are your favorite snacks?
I love snacks more than meals. Right now, I love BBQ soy crisps.

What are your favorite vegan pizza toppings?

What is your favorite vegetable? Fruit?
Lacinato kale, green peas, onions, scallions, leeks, garlic. Pink lady apples, pineapple, mango.

What is the best salad dressing?
Oil and vinegar with some dijon mustard and maple syrup.

What is your favorite thing to put on toasted bread?
Earth Balance or olive oil with nutritional yeast and sea salt.

What kind of soup do you most often turn to on a chilly day or when you aren’t feeling your best?
Black bean soup.

What is your favorite cupcake flavor? Frosting flavor?
Chocolate with peanut butter frosting.

What is your favorite kind of cookie?
Chocolate chip.

What is your most-loved “weeknight meal”?
Pasta with lentil tomato sauce from The Complete Vegan Kitchen or Tofurky sausage with a side of kale.

What is one dish or food you enjoy, but can’t get anyone else in your household to eat?
I live with someone who will eat anything, whether he likes it or not. He doesn't care for ginger or vinegar.

How long, in total, do you spend in the kitchen on an average day?
At least an hour per day.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sunday Brunch: Cornbread Waffles

Cornbread Waffles
We received a waffle iron as a wedding present and I finally got around to putting it to use this morning. I made Cornbread Waffles from the always perfect Vegan Brunch by Isa Chandra Moskowitz.

With novelty appliances like waffle irons, there's always a danger you'll use it once if you're lucky. But I have a feeling I'm going to use this iron quite frequently. It's as easy to make batter for waffles as it is for pancakes but it takes care of itself. No watching for bubbles or flipping. Just pour, shut the lid, and wait for the beep. Perfect for mornings when all you have the energy for is drinking tea and stirring a spoon.

These were more cornbread than waffle but still delicious. An hour after making them, the kitchen is still redolent with its warm, cozy corn scent. Perfect topped with Earth Balance and strawberry jam.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Best Vegan Cupcakes in Philly

Benji's Pupcake

After class today and to mark the end of a very long week, I treated myself to some lunch at Su Xing House Restaurant. Unlike Philly's venerable but I guess rat-infested vegan Chinese spots (which, of course, Brian loves), Su Xing is clean, almost classy, reliable, free of mock meat (they rely on tofu, seitan and a variety of veggies instead) and not heinously greasy. I feel almost virtuous when eating there. This stop today did not, however, soothe the Beast of PMS who roared, "CHOCOLATE, Bitch! Hormones cannot be sustained on garlic sauce alone!" I quickly acquiesced and headed over to Philly Cupcake.


I discovered this teeny, very pink spot by accident a few months back when I was studying for the GRE. I'd walked past them before but assumed nothing would be vegan. I was proven wrong on that day I finally noticed their "We Have Vegan Cupcakes," sign. Most of their flavors are not vegan but they usually have about four vegan selections per day. Today I picked up a peanut butter chocolate and red velvet cupcakes. Ostensibly, one is for me and one is for my husband but he isn't due back home until tomorrow night and I never vowed on our wedding day to always share cupcakes with him. I've kept my last name, why not my sweets? So far, the red velvet is sitting safely in the fridge but I've already nicked the chocolate swirly candy once placed on top of it along with a pinky-sized serving of frosting. I would not hold my breathe, Brian.

I love the Vegan Treats peanut butter bomb cake and Vegan Treats catered the desserts at our wedding but Philly Cupcake easily takes the cake (forgive me). Vegan Treats is a junk food delight, for sure but Philly Cupcake's items are moister, less crumbly, and way less synthetically sweet than most Vegan Treats' varieties. In fact, I find most Vegan Treats cakes to border on being Hostess-like and I never liked Twinkies or Ding Dongs (their donuts and sticky buns, however, are near-perfect and I don't even care for donuts...until that rare moment when nothing else will do). Philly Cupcakes are just right. They even have mini pupcakes, so Benji got a treat, too.

At $4 a pop, they are priced more than they are worth. Philly Cupcake also has an environmentally nasty custom of using tall plastic cups and covers to house a single cupcake rather than using a paper box. But, as a very rare treat, they are definitely worth it.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Roasted Popcorn Cauliflower

So named because this dish looks like charred popcorn and the cauliflower has a smooth yet crisp feel in your mouth. After taking an anatomy and physiology exam that I'm not quite sure I aced, the last thing I wanted to face was a night of complicated dinner-making. Even chopping seems too arduous at the end of the day. But I stole my courage and broke out the head of cauliflower from last week's CSA package. I caught that bad boy in the nick of time because it was sprouting a few spots of mold. No worries, though because I just snipped it off and the majority of the cauliflower was still firm and edible.

Unlike most leafy greens, that need to be stemmed and rolled and cut and then cut again, cauliflower can just be haphazardly hacked at, making it perfect for lazy evening meals. After a few hits, you chuck it into a roasting pan covered in parchment paper (nothing to clean), toss it in some olive oil, salt and pepper and that's it. And don't let it's white color fool you. Cauliflower is a nutritional powerhouse. Like its cruciferous counterparts, broccoli and kale, it's full of antioxidants, fiber, folate and even omega-3 fatty acids.

You can add to this basic recipe some smoked paprika or coarse bread crumbs added in the last 10 minutes. Top with some freshly chopped herbs, like thyme or marjoram.

Roasted Cauliflower
from Whole Living, November 2010

Preheat oven to 450. Cut 1 head cauliflower crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Arrange on a parchment-covered rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil and season with coarse sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Roast until golden brown on top, about 15 minutes. Flip and continue cooking until tender, about 10 minutes more.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Peanut Butter-Caramel Apples

Happy Day 1 of Vegan MoFo! I can’t think of a better way to usher in the season than with these decadent but not truculently sweet peanut butter and caramel coated apples. They are autumnal, a cinch to make and the creation of Isa Chandra Moskowitz, whose Post Punk Kitchen gave rise to Vegan MoFo. She has a column, “Nickel and Dined,” in BUST and this is featured in the October/November 2010 issue. To get the full scoop, pick up a copy. But even with the general guidelines I’ll provide here, you should be fine to make them.

All you need is a half-cup each of brown rice syrup and creamy peanut butter (go for the natural, unsalted, unsweetened variety—you’ll get plenty of salt and sugar from the other ingredients), a cup of roasted and salted peanuts, 4 to 6 apples (I used Granny Smith but I recommend my favorite apple, the perfectly rather than overly tart and crisp Pink Lady), and some chopsticks.

Brown rice syrup can be a little pricey but it’s cheaper than maple syrup and, as Isa wrote in her BUST column, it will give you a spot-on caramel consistency without the fuss of making caramel from scratch. I also use brown rice syrup to sweeten oatmeal and tea and it seems to hang around in pantry for longer than many other liquid sweeteners because most jars of brown syrup are more generous in comparison.

Securely stick a chopstick into the bottom of each apple and set them aside. Have a large platter or cutting board covered in parchment paper ready. Whiz the peanuts in a food processor until well-chopped. Be careful not to overprocess—you don’t want to end up with more peanut butter. Just small pieces of peanuts. You can also roughly chop them with a knife but it will take forever and you won’t get the pieces as small as you can with the processor.

In a small saucepan, warm the syrup and peanut butter over low heat until combined and smooth. This shouldn’t take longer than 2 or 3 minutes. Dip an apple in the sauce and smooth out with a mixing spatula or back of a spoon.

Roll the sauce covered apple in the chopped peanuts and press them with your hand to make sure the nuts stick. Place on the parchment covered platter. Repeat for each apple. Refrigerate the apples on the parchment platter for at least 3 hours and then, voila, deliciously decadent caramel apples! Now wasn’t that easy for something so pretty and tasty?

Pictures by Joselle and Brian