Sunday, May 30, 2010

Lightlife Love!!!


For those who read this blog on a regular basis, you know how I love Lightlife products. I truly believe they make some of the very best "meat substitutions," that don't have funky after tastes. I'm originally from the south, and enjoy the salty-smokey element that is often associated with pig bacon. I couldn't possibly EVER eat another pig, but am so happy Lightlife has created veggie bacon that works perfectly on a tomato sandwich, and garnishes a salad or potato.





One of my other favorites is the Mexican crumbles. These are perfect for tacos, nachos and enchiladas. I am a big lover of Mexican food, and these crumbles make traditional favorites doable.

Rachel, who blogs and gives tips on the Lightlife website, sent some incredible goodies for Bunny Bites readers. There are huge coupons, recipe books and cool bumper stickers. Drop me an e-mail with your mailing address and I'll share the love. I really want everyone to give Lightlife a try as I really believe they offer great quality foods.

I want to thank Rachel again for her generous gifts. It is effortless for me to sing the praises about companies, like Lighlife, who are taken vegetarian eating to a new level. Yeah!!! Makes me so happy!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Celebrate Summer!


So, my last post was to clarify a few things about what makes a vegan a vegan. Just because you’re vegan, you are not necessarily a “health nut.” (though my ego would like to think my junk food is better than some people’s junk food) This being Memorial Day weekend, and all about cooking outdoors, sitting over the grill and such, I thought I’d share my offerings to the picnic spread.

Hotdogs. I now consider Chicago home, so hot dogs are a big deal. And here, we have the best hotdogs that are as much about the toppings as the actual wiener. And this is a good thing, as you could mask a lot of crappy dogs with all the goodies, but you should have a good foundation as well. In my opinion, Lightlife makes the very best hotdog. And I’ve tried many veggie dogs. With Lightlife's Smart Dogs, the texture is great, as is the slightly smoky taste. There is a lack of funky soy/chemically taste you get with some products, which to me is key. I picked up some Eden’s vegan chili, which will pair well with a little mustard and relish. Daiya cheese would be an excellent addition, and of course, a dash of celery salt!

Now, for some great sides!

Sweet Potato Salad
Serves 4-6


2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in fairly evenly sized chunks
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 cup chopped onions, white or yellow
Pinch of salt
2 stalks of celery, diced
1 jalape├▒o pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1/3 cup diced bell pepper
3 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
5 Tbsp white vinegar
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp. hot sauce(Hot Sauce Planet will give 15% off to Bunny Bite readers!)
1 tsp grainy mustard (make certain no eggs are in this, if you’re vegan)
1/4 cup chopped scallions to garnish


Preheat oven to 400. Toss sweet potatoes with olive oil, onions and salt, then spread out on a jelly roll pan or a baking sheet with edges. Cook for 30 minutes and then let cool. I like my potatoes and onion to be just a little bit crispy, so I sometimes leave mine in a bit longer. Put all other ingredients in a big bowl and then add your potatoes and toss everything up.

Wheat Berry Salad
Serves 6-8

This is actually a modification of Eric Tucker’s recipe for kamut-pine nut salad, in The Artful Vegan. I adore Eric’s recipes, but they are often complicated, and I find I can pull one or two of the “layers,” out to stand alone, as a dish. Wonderful.

1 cup dried wheat berries
1 ½ cups water
Pinch of salt
¼ cup toasted almond slivers
2 scallions, minced (I don’t love onions, so I just put one)
1 cup cucumber, seeded and diced
2 Tbsp. chopped frsh parsley
2 Tbsp. basil chiffonade
Juice of 1 lemon
Fresh black pepper
¼ c. roasted garlic cashew cream (recipe to follow)

Place saucepan with water and salt on high, and when it starts to simmer add wheat berries. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to simmer and cover until done. This should take only about 30-45 minutes. Mix all the other ingredients in a larger bowl, and when wheat berries are done and cooled, toss everything together.

Roasted Garlic Cashew Cream

2 lg. bulbs of garlic, with much of the outside layers peeled away (you can leave the individual skins or remove
½ cup olive oil
1 rosemary sprig

Preheat oven to 350, and put garlic, oil and rosemary in a heatproof bowl. Don’t just wrap in foil. I did that and my oven still needs cleaning! Roast for 30-40 minutes, then take out, remove rosemary sprig and squoosh our the garlic and mash around with the oil. This stuff is awesome, and great spread on bread or in potato soup….OMG!

1/3 c. cashews
½ tsp. nutritional yeast
1 ½ cups water
Salt to taste
2 tsp. fresh herbs, chopped (I used lemon thyme, basil and parsley)

I recommend soaking your cashews overnight, but the original recipe doesn’t call for this. Just make the cream creamier. But, whatever…Combine the roasted garlic, cashews, yeast, ¾ cup water, and a pinch of salt in a blender. After it is well blended you can start adding more water until it is the consistency of heavy cream. After well blended, stir in your herbs. I cannot tell you how great this stuff is, drizzled over grilled eggplant!!!!!

Last, but certainly not least, Alton Brown’s Mooless Chocolate Pie. This recipe is so easy, and just wonderful! I will tell you, I made it last night, and when I was licking my bowl I tasted a little tofu, which means I might use a different brand next time. Having said that, I might taste it today and it will be fine. I just think it’s important to find a tofu you like and stick with it. Also, I didn’t have coffee liquor, but I did have Godiva, so that’s what I went with. I also don’t use honey, so opted for agave nectar. To serve this, I’m going to mix a bit of almond extract and toasted almonds with some chilled coconut milk (full fat, of course) and drizzle it over the pie slices with some raspberries. But I will pray there are slices left for me to eat right out of the pan, in front of a movie, while I’m nursing my annual sunburn!
Have a great weekend, rest, relax, and get ready for summer!!!!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Defining the Terms

Because I've been in and out of the vegetarian culture for quite some time now, I forget that there are terms I throw around that others might not have heard of, or might not have a clear understanding of. So, I thought I'd create a little glossery, or "cheat sheet," of some words, regarding diet choices and specifically, vegetarianism, that might be helpful.

Vegetarians - People who adhear to a plant-based diet

Lacto-Ovo Vegetarians - People who eat a plant based diet, plus eggs and dairy. But, they eat no animal flesh or biproducts of animal slaughter like geletin or rennet (most cheese has rennet)

Lacto Vegetarians - all the above, but they do not eat eggs

Ovo Vegetarians - same as lacto-ovo, without the lacto

Omnivores - People who eat whatever doesn't eat them first. This is what I was for a while.

Semi-Vegetarians - People who eat almost anything, with the exception of red-meat. I think there should be another name for this, but...

Flexitarians - Not much different from semi-vegetarians. They eat primarily vegetable based diet, but will occassionally eat meat, dairy and eggs.

Pescetarians - People who eat fish as their only source of animal flesh, along with their dairy, eggs and vegetables. I've heard of some who don't eat eggs or dairy, but keep the fish.

Vegans - Those who choose an all-plant based diet, with no dairy, eggs or honey. Some don't eat sugar that has been processed with bone meal. Many vegans choose this diet for moral reasons, opting to not wear leather or fur, and don't support any companies that use or exploit animals. But, just because you are vegan does NOT mean you don't eat processed foods or unhealthy foods. I'll finish my coconut milk ice cream while I type this.

Raw Vegans or Raw Foodists - People who choose to consume only raw or very slightly cooked, unprocessed foods. Nothing can be heated over 115 degrees, and some opt for no frozen foods either, and are often called Living Foodists.

(I did see some freak-show about people who eat raw meat, but could find no scientific catagory for it on the internet, and the people who were living this lifestyle looked so unhealthy, I think it was their own little cult)

Macrobiotic Vegans - Those who eat unprocessed foods, in specific ratios. Ideally, 50% grain, 25% vegetables, 15% beans, and 10% seeds or other healthy fats. They avoid processed oils, coffee and processed sugar. They include sea vegetables, and try to eat locally and seasonally. I LOVE macrobiotic eating, but find it difficult for me to maintain.

Fruitatarians - I did this for a while in college. You eat only seeds and things with seeds. So the obvious apple would be included, but so would bell peppers and tomatoes. I understand there are some variations on this diet choice. Some don't eat anything that caused harm to the plant it came from, and some opt out of the seeds. I'm not sure how you'd pull this off and still be able to form a sentance, but maybe. I ate a lot of almonds and avocados. I lasted about a semester.

Locavore - This is a dietary movement that is a big hit with environmentalists. Most try to keep their food sources, which typically include both plants and animals, within a 100 mile range. The FDA allows a 400 mile distance to qualify as "local." Wow.

Organics - Plants and animals that are raised with minimal to no non-organic pesticides, and no genetic modification. Animals are raised without hormones, and are often labeled "free-range," but that can be deceiving. Organic does NOT mean humanly treated animals. And it does not mean unprocessed foods. The FDA allows an organic certification to anything containing at least 95% organic ingredients.

Fair Trade Certified Foods - This is often a label found on coffee, cocoa or sugar, and refers to the workers who harvest or process the foods. It promises the workers are given a fair wage and they have decent working conditions. Also, that their products are sustainable to their region. You will see this a great deal on products from developing or third-world countries.

Kosher - This can be tricky, but is based on Jewish dietary laws. It's tricky as different groups interperat the dietary laws differently. There is no pork or shellfish eaten. There is no dairy mixed with flesh (so no cheeseburger or sausage pizza). It's more complicated than this, but packaged foods that are Kosher usually have a K or U stamped on them. I will say, while Kosher hotdogs might come from better parts of the cow, the cows are NOT treated more humanely. And, for the rest of the cow parts? Well, that's where we get the rest of the hotdogs. Just a little tidbit for you.

Halal - These are foods prepared according to Islamic law, and are basically the same as Kosher, as far as I can see. There probably are a few differences, but this is not as common in the U.S., and I've actually only seen things marked with the H in Germany and France.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Fried Green Tomato PoBoys


There are many things I don't do well. Cooking just doesn't happen to be one of those things. Ok, I'm sorry if I'm being grossly conceded right now, but my tummy if full of the BEST sandwich I've had in a very long time.

Doesn't this look good? Wanna' know how I did it? Here's what you need for 4 poyboys:


1/3 c. Vegenaise
juice from 1/4 lemon
1 tsp. Thai chili-garlic sauce (I put in more like 2 tsp.)
1/2 Tbsp. capers
1 Tbsp. diced fresh parsley
1 tsp. vegan Dijon style mustard
1 diced scallion, green bits only



Mix this all together, and this is your remoulade sauce. Just cover it up and put it in the fridge

4 french rolls, spread with a little Earth Balance (if you remember, which I didn't)and toast
4 cleaned and torn lettuce leaves (I like butter lettuce as it hold the dressing well)

3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
3-4 small to medium green tomatoes
1 cup ground corn meal
2 Tbsp. Cajun seasoning (I used Slap Yo' Mama, but Tony's is really good too)

Heat a skillet on medium high heat. Slice tomatoes really thinly. Mix corn meal and seasoning in a little dish or a bag.Add each slice and make certain they're covered really well before adding additional slices. I do one tomato at a time, so every slice is coated well. Add oil. After oil is heated about 3 minutes add slices of tomatoes.

I let the tomatoes cook about 3 minutes, or until the edges start turning up a little. I flip the slices and then cook about 1.5 minute more. Best to drain on a rack so that they don't get mushy.

Layer lettuce, then tomatoes, then gobs of sauce.

These would be so great with baked sweet potato fries!

Maintenant, appr├ęcier!

SA

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

More Comfort Food



I'll tell you what, every month I pick up several little jewels in Vegetarian Times Magazine that become staples in my recipe book. This month's Jamaican Black Bean Bake with Coconut Cornbread was no exception.

I made a couple modifications, then added my own sides to complete a really yummy, party-in-your-mouth meal.

The recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups of frozen corn. I roasted the corn a little, just to bump up the "corny," factor. I also added more jerk seasoning than the recipe called for, and sprinkled some Daiya cheddar-style cheese right when the back came out of the oven. The whole thing is ready, start to finish, in about 35 minutes and will easily feed 6 adults.

Mango Salsa
(makes 2 cups)

2 ripe mangoes
1/2 medium minced jalapeno pepper
1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaves
juice 1/2 lime
salt to taste

Peel mangoes and chop coarsely. Mix with all other ingredients and let stand at room temperature until ready to eat. I've added a few strawberries before, and it was wonderful.

Jicama and Artichoke Salad
(serves 6-8)

Dressing
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. cheyenne pepper
2 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. salt
2/3 c. vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp. garlic powder
2 c. oil
1/2 c. roughly chopped cilantro

Place sugar, cheyenne, chili powder, salt and vinegar in blender. Mix; slowly add garlic powder and then oil. Blend approximately 1 minute. Add cilantro and blend only enough to chop up the greens. It should be bright green.



Salad

1 jicama, pealed and sliced into 2" matchstick pieces. Drain a can of artichoke hearts and chop well, and toss with jicama. Drizzle dressing over and chill.

A great pairing is my new obsession with Lavender Limeade

2 cups water
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/3 cup fresh lavender
1 tsp. lime zest
1 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice
Lime slices and lavender flowers to garnish
1 bottle, or about 4-6 cups of club soda

In a saucepan, combine 2 cups water, the sugar, lavender, and lime zest. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring until sugar dissolves. Pour mixture through a seive, into a pitcher, to get rid of the lavender bits. To serve, pour about 1/3 a glass with the syrup over crushed ice, and then top off with club soda. Garnish with a sprig of lavender and a slice of lime.

This meal is a sure reminder of beaches and hangovers. Vodka goes well in the limeade, fyi!

xo,
SA


P.S. If you or someone you know is interested in dipping a toe in my culinary world, this is a GREAT packet! Vegetarian Started Kit

Friday, May 14, 2010

Quickies: Artichoke Gnocchi


Fridays are my decompression days. This means, I work from home, usually in yoga wear (especially love TanquiliT), and snack on fruit, veggie juice and tea. And Friday nights are movies, take-out or really easy quickies.

Tonight I found a package of gnocchi in the pantry, along with a small can of artichoke hearts. I've seen artichoke pesto at the grocery, which would work perfectly, but it's so easy to whip up, why not give it a try yourself?



Vegan Pesto

1 1/2 cups fresh basil (or 1 1/2 cups canned artichoke hearts)
1/3 cup olive oil
1 cup pine nuts or walnuts (I keep all sorts of raw and toasted nuts around and have even used cashews)
5 cloves garlic
1/3 cup nutritional yeast (this can be found at any health store)
salt and pepper to taste
(if you're making artichoke pesto add juice of 1/2 a lemon)
(You can also add sun dried tomatoes, capers or olives if you want to embellish)

Combine all ingredients in a food processor until nuts are ground. It should still have texture and not be completely smooth.

For your gnocchi, add one package of prepared gnocchi to a large pan of lightly salted water to a raging boil. This only takes about 2 minutes...when the gnocchi floats up to the top they're ready. I transfer the drained pasta to a hot pan with a little olive oil and pan sear until just browned. You could also use a bit of the pesto for the same result. Once the gnocchi is a little browned toss with the pesto.

I placed this next to a yummy pile of sauteed kale, sprinkled with a few sesame seeds. There is plenty of pesto left for bruscchetta tomorrow, and to smear on a tomato and soy bacon sandwich. Delish! TGIF!!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Sweet Twist on Chile


I'm in St. Louise, and of course, I made my way to the lovely Sweet Art. I cannot tell you how lovely this place is. The whole energy is delightful, but go for the food! It can't be beat.


I've mused about the cupcakes, which are remarkable. And cupcakes are tricky. I know they're very trendy now, but I've been a cupcake lover for the long-haul (I have the same dedication to Bulls basketball). The main qualms I have with cupcake boutiques are not the creativity of the flavors, but the actual quality of the cake. A cupcake is, by design, a full dessert in a cup. And, it's particularly wonderful for those of us who prefer a high cake to icing ratio. So the cake should be soft, and moist and NOT TOO SWEET!!!! And the bit of icing you have on top should be excellent. Not just ok, but crazy-over-the-top excellent.

They nail everything at Sweet Art, with regard to cupcake quality.

But, let's talk about the nachos: there nachos are well enough for two. I tried to eat more, and they wouldn't fit. The 3-bean chile was absolutely amazing, and included big chunks of unpeeled sweet potatoes. They offered a nice contrast to the very spicy chiles. The whole wonderful mess was covered in a vegan cheese sauce. I have no idea what that sauce is made of, but it doesn't matter. It's so good....Goodness, I want some more right now.

(this is not actually a pic of the nachos I had at Sweet Art, but I wanted to get your juices flowing!) The nachos are served with a side of really fresh salsa. All this goodness for around $6.00! Everything at Sweet Art is really reasonably priced, and ultra fresh. If you're in St. Louis you have to visit this spot. Love it!!!

P.S. The banana cupcake with butterscotch topping is completely over-the-top great.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Divine Inspiration: A return to Dragonfly


I have shared my love of Dragonfly Neo-V before, but my latest experience is worth sharing. Chef Magdiale Wolmark and his wife, Cristin Austin, have created a true treasure, right in the midst of OSU. There is a lovely art gallery attached to the main dining area, where a something was being celebrated on my visit. Next door you can grab "on the fly food," which includes things like falafel, portabella steaks, and empanadas, along with a variety of boutique beers. The couple has even created their own vegetable garden in the back of the restaurant!

With so many wonderful sites on the Dragonfly menu, it was difficult to choose. I finally opted for the night's specials, which is always a great idea. I did take note of several items on the menu that will inspire my spring entertaining at home, in Chicago.

Their craft cocktails always look amazing, and my Lavender Gimlet totally hit the spot. It was this perfectly fresh expression of lavender and lime with a kick. It paired really perfectly with my "salad." It was lightly roasted asparagus with a wonderful red-pepper vinaigrette drizzled on top. Piled on that was tossed arugula with a agave mustard dressing. It was really divine, and I probably could have stopped there, since they bring the most wonderful bread and house-made hummus. But, I didn't....

Next I paired a really complex Super-Tuscan wine with my entree. It was mashed potatoes topped with a sort of ragout of trumpet mushrooms, and baby turnips, and this was all topped with a pinot noir gravy, then crowned with steamed spinach. Yum.

And, of course, if there wasn't dessert you would think some impostor had taken over my blog, right? This plate comes out with a little bowl of chocolate fondue. Beside the bowl are 4 1/4 cookies...2 chocolate chip and 2 snickerdoodle. Beside that is a small scoop of chocolate mousse, which is sitting happily in a puddle of sweetened condensed soy milk!!! This, with a piping pot of chamomile tea, and I was ...well, actually I was so full my ribs hurt, but after about an hour I was ready to go to bed.

Since we're talking about sweets, let's transition to my new favorite spot for chocolate cake! In order to have plenty of energy for the 6 hour drive back to Chicago I stopped by Pattycake Bakery. This place has it all. There are whoopie pies, cookies, brownies, cheesecakes, and even wedding cakes. I limited myself to an iced sugar cookie and a giant chocolate cupcake. Both were eaten by the time I reached Indianapolis, and I really wished I'd gotten another iced cookie, but my favorite blue jeans are happy I held out. My goodness were these good!


I want to say, if you like to cook and experienment, I really encourage you to take note of upscale menus. Many are posted online, and give many details of the ingredients. And in summer and spring months, you can count on vegan chefs to offer really fresh, seasonal and more simple ingredients. I've literally printed the menus from 3 of my favorite American restaurants and am working on recreating their dishes. It's great fun, and my friends and neighbors are enjoying it too!

Be brave and support these innovative, veg-lovin' chefs!!!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

More Thoughts on Pancakes (or Waffles)



I missed meditation this morning. My group starts their work at 9am, and I woke at 8:40am. I called down to the garage for my car, through on clothes, ran downstairs, drove to The Ruby Room, and paid for a parking spot. Too late. So sad. I had such a great week and was really looking forward to this "spiritual bonding." But alas, it was not to be.

So, I slunk home, prepared to sip a cup of coffee (yes, I drink coffee and I don't apologize!). As I was walking through my kitchen I decided I wanted my Cherry Blossom pancakes. These are simply pancakes I make with my standard mix, but I add some reconstituted dried cherries (about 1/4 c), 1/2 Tbsp. vanilla and 1/4 c. chopped almonds.

It got me thinking: In the south you will often find fried chicken and waffles on the menu. And I LOVE Gardein's breaded strips, so I imagined making traditional hoe cakes, topping them with sauteed, garlicy greens and breaded chikn strips. Does that sound good? You could even add tomato slices and make a sandwich. Yum!

You could put all kinds of savory yummy stuff on top of hoe cakes. You could also make cornmeal waffles....maybe add some Daiya cheese and chopped green chiles, topped with Lightlife's Smart BBQ (I add a little Louisiana Hot Sauce to this and it's very good!).

With all the lovely summer vegetables just starting to push their way into the sunshine I can't help but think of my traditional Southern main dishes as they play so well with greens and peas and squash and all other things summery. Oh, and don't forget a side of sliced melon!

Vegan Hoe Cakes


2 cups boiling water
4 cups stone ground cornmeal
1 tablespoon Earth Balance
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup agave

Bring 2 cups of water to boil in a saucepan on the stove; mix that into 4 cups of cornmeal in a large bowl. Add salt, Earth Balance, and agave; mix thoroughly.
Dough should be quite stiff; if necessary, add cold water by the tablespoon until consistency is like cake batter. If you're adding things like Daiya, or Rotel tomatoes or whatever, do that before you start adding water, AND only put about 1/8 c. - 1/4c. of goodies. Drop 1/4 c. of batter on hot frying pan. Spread it around to about 3-3.5" diameter (eyeball this). When edges start to life slip your spatuala under the edge and flip.