What I Ate This Week: Vegan MoFo #20

Vegan MoFo 2011 - Vegan Month of FoodHas it been 20 posts already? Seriously, it will be November already next week! Where did Rocktober go?

It’s been a mostly non-cooking week for me, at least at dinner. Maybe it’s MoFo burnout, or the minor cold I’ve had. Minor it was, due to my Vegan Superpower of Supreme Immunity. When I’m feeling something coming on, I eat more garlic, onions, kale, and miso. I also drink green tea and get regular amounts of sleep.

Without further ado, the food-related highlights:

tomato rice soup experiment #2

Some recipes just aren’t right the first time, or the second. Like this tomato rice soup, Take #2. Dave has loved both takes so far because they’ve been too overly spicy for me to enjoy. We both think there’s something missing. It could be basil.

 

Cactus Grill tofu burrito

Linda was talking about Cactus Grill this week while we were planning Food for Thought. I looked them up on Facebook. The first post on their wall was a thank you to their customers, who have supported a locally-owned shop in a tough economy. So on one of the best days of the week to take a walk around town, I walked over from campus to have a burrito. They have two kinds of vegetarian rice (lime cilantro and spanish) and two kinds of vegetarian beans (black and pinto), plus marinated tofu cubes. I think they have fajita vegetables, but I didn’t opt for those. Nice selections for the vegetarians, and of course you just leave off the cheese and sour cream to make it vegan. Easy.

 

Basil Thai Pineapple Rice

I like Thai food, and I don’t have it often enough. So this week, I had it twice. This is Tropical Fried Rice from Basil Thai in Urbana.

 

Mussamun Curry

This is Mussamun Curry from a restaurant that is now where Basil Thai used to be in Champaign, near Empire Chinese (another really good Chinese restaurant in town). I asked the owner, and they don’t put fish sauce in anything unless the customer requests it. All dishes can be made vegetarian (with tofu or veggies) or vegan (no egg most of the time) upon request. Only the pho broth cannot be made vegan (beef base).

 

mushroom pasta

And to end the week, and bring a little of the cooking mojo back, I threw together a quick pasta dish with some sliced fresh mushrooms and onions, sauteed in a little Earth Balance, with lots of black pepper, garlic, fennel, and fresh parsley.

Now if I just had someone to clean up my kitchen, I think that would get me even more motivated!

 

Look, it coordinates.

Pink sweater. Pink smoothie.My smoothie coordinates with my sweater and scarf today. Yes, I am a big dork.

The lovely red color comes from beets. The smoothie also contains frozen bananas, frozen blueberries, and tahini (for protein and calcium).

Thank you to Linda for the beet suggestion on the Food For Thought Radio Show. I love beets, and they’re one of the World’s Healthiest Foods. They contain powerful nutrient compounds that help protect against heart disease, birth defects and certain cancers, especially colon cancer.

From World’s Healthiest Foods:

Beets are unique in their rich combination of betalain pigments. Both betacyanins (red-violet pigments) and betaxanthins (yellow pigments) can be found in beets. Betanin and vulgaxanthin are betalains that have gotten special attention in beet research.

Beets are also an excellent source of hearth-healthy folate and a very good source of the antioxidant manganese and heart-healthy potassium. Beets are a good source of digestive-supportive dietary fiber, free radical scavenging vitamin C and copper, bone-healthy magnesium, and energy-producing iron and phosphorus.

Beets are in season right now, so go eat some!

 

 

Peace, Love, and Caramelized Onions: Vegan MoFo #19

Caramelized Onion and Delicata Squash Pizza

Vegan MoFo 2011 - Vegan Month of FoodSaturday lunches are often a chance to make something more elaborate and/or experimental. Today I sampled a new vegetable: delicata squash. I sliced it in pieces, unpeeled, and roasted it in a 425 degree F oven with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper. The skin is so thin, it’s edible. Easy!

The squash was a great addition to this pizza, along with caramelized onions and sliced mushrooms. The crust is made from King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour, my favorite whole-grain flour, and seasoned with a little garlic powder, fennel, and black pepper.

According to Wikipedia, “Delicata squash (Cucurbita pepo) is a winter squash with distinctive longitudinal dark green stripes on a yellow or cream colored background and sweet, orange-yellow flesh. It is also known as the peanut squash, Bohemian squash, or sweet potato squash (because of the flavor similarity to the sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas)). Although considered a winter squash, delicata squash belongs to the same species as all types of summer squash (including pattypan squashzucchini and yellow crookneck squash).”

And the seeds are edible too, when toasted. I’ll have to save them next time!

Liebster Blog

It’s been a great week, full of good food and lots of love – from the people around me, as well as the blogging world. I’ve received three Liebster Blog Awards from bloggers throughout the week: Mel from Veganise This!, Bethany from Bananas for Smoothies, and Katie from Not Your Parents’ Granola. I’m so honored! Thank you!

‘Liebster’ is German for ‘dearest’ or ‘beloved’ but it can also mean ‘favorite.’ The idea behind this award is to bring attention to bloggers who have less than 200 followers and show your support during Vegan MoFo! Thank you for visiting I Eat Grains, and supporting both the blog and veganism.

To return the love, I get to name 5 of my favorite blogs for each of these awards. I’ll divide these 15 blogs into the next three posts. Here are the first 5:

JL Goes Vegan – I love her KALE t-shirt. Where can I get one?!

Not a Crazy Vegan – she’s from Chicago, shares my first name and last initial, and is not afraid to post failed dishes on the blog.

Seitan Beats Your Meat – I like Kelly’s blog, of course, but the picture on her About page has so much awesome: funky hair, retro clothing, and cupcakes. (Plus, there’s a bunny.) I’ve been a part-time non-vegan cake decorator too!

Sneaky Vegan has a great selection of recipes and is another vegan in an omnivorous family.

The Vegan Zombie has fun with zombies and vegan food all at the same time.

 

 

 

 

What I Ate Wednesday: Vegan MoFo #18

It has been a busy week. I feel like I’m running out of steam with creating recipes. It’s probably because I’m busy creating Halloween costumes and trying to figure out where I’m going to find a Dragonball Z Vegeta costume wig a week before Halloween. I’m probably going to end up shaping one myself from whatever I can find at the local costume shop. It’s a good thing my friend who moved to Germany left her giant can of AquaNet.

On to the foods!

Lentil Dal

I think I found a spot with great lighting at the Red Herring. No level adjustments needed on this baby. No adjustments needed to the flavors in this red lentil dal, either. It was served over brown rice with a lime wedge as you can see. I chose to double up the curry and have it with curried pumpkin soup. This warmed me up for at least an hour, the first time I felt warm all day. There’s usually a month delay between AC and heat in my university building, during which I can be found in my office working in a parka and fingerless gloves.

 

Black Bean Burger, red light version

Do not adjust your screens, you have not been transported to the red light district! You’re at the table with the red light at the Red Herring. This is the black bean patty, a Herring original and definitely the most interesting veggie or bean burger I’ve had. Here’s a better picture:

 

Black Bean Burger

The patty has many interesting ingredients, among them beets, black beans, and prunes. The chef tells me she makes her own A1-style sauce for the burger. Amazing. I had to restrain myself from having this one again today. This is MoFo, and we need variety! The soup is butternut squash.

 

Chipotle Bean and Rice Burrito

This Chipotle Burrito was a quick lunch on the way to Chicago. I was happy to discover they now serve brown rice as an option. I like mine with corn salsa and medium salsa. No guacamole this time, since I was eating it in the car and didn’t want to make a mess. It has a nice ethereal glow, doesn’t it?

 

Spicy Channa Aloo

I haven’t had Indian food at a restaurant in some time. This is channa aloo and vegetable pakoras (cauliflower) from Bombay Indian Restaurant. It was very hot. And the next day, the leftovers were hotter.

 

Get your veggies and fruits at Walgreens!

Let’s hear it for Walgreens, advertising fresh fruits and vegetables (to go!). This is probably the closest source of produce for a lot of people on campus.

 

General Tso's Tofu

I think you can probably General Tso-ify anything, and tofu is no exception. This is from Cravings Restaurant in Champaign.

 

Ground Nut Stew

Ground nut stew from the Red Herring was a tasty part of last week’s lunches. Lots of vegetables here, but the sweet potatoes were the highlight. And twice in two weeks, I’ve been served the ends of the English muffin bread… my favorite pieces!

 

Jackfruit and Biscuits

jackfruit and biscuits

Vegan MoFo 2011 - Vegan Month of FoodSo what the heck is jackfruit? It’s a large (up to 80 lbs!), somewhat-obscure Asian fruit that shows up in Thai cooking. When green and unripe, it has a firm, stringy, chicken-like texture, earning it the nickname “vegetable meat”. It’s not fruit-like at all, and definitely not sweet. It’s what I would call “neutral”. In its ripened state, it does become sweet, and can be used in custards and cakes.

We’re going to use the green, unripe variety, which is available in cans at some Asian grocery stores. We’re lucky enough to have quite a few of them around Champaign-Urbana. My favorite is World Harvest Foods.

young green jackfruit in brineIf you’re looking for a whole, natural food with a (disturbingly?) chicken-like texture… this is it. I first encountered jackfruit in a recipe for BBQ pulled jackfruit on the Chow Vegan blog. I was intrigued, since not many veggies or vegetarian meats lend themselves to being “pulled”. A few weeks ago, I had the chance to try some jackfruit at a Seventh-day Adventist Vegetarian Food Fair, where it was included in a dish with french lentils. The cubes of jackfruit brought to mind a pot pie, but a simple biscuit topping was easier to make on a weeknight.

The biscuits are once again from the Veganomicon Leek and Bean Cassoulet, and remain the easiest and best biscuits EVER. You could use any combination of vegetables in this dish, but I think carrots, celery, and onions are essential. The purple cauliflower is just something I had in my fridge, and it looks beautiful in the dish. I love purple, and purple foods.

 

Jackfruit and Biscuits

Serves 4-6.

Ingredients:
1 10-oz can unripe green jackfruit in brine (NOT in syrup) – chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium white onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed
3 ribs celery, diced
1 large carrot, diced
1 cup water
3 tsp Better Than Bouillon, No-Chicken Flavor
1/4 tsp thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup green peas, frozen or fresh
1/2 cup purple cauliflower, chopped
3 tbsp Earth Balance Buttery Sticks
4 tbsp flour
2 cups unsweetened soy milk or rice milk
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp black pepper, or to taste
salt, to taste

For biscuits:
3/4 cup plain soy milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I used King Arthur White Whole Wheat, my favorite)
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup vegan shortening (I used Earth Balance Buttery Sticks)

Directions:
Heat oven to 425 degrees F.

In a small cup, mix plain soy milk and apple cider vinegar. Set aside to curdle while you saute the vegetable mixture.

In a deep skillet, heat olive oil. Add onion and saute briefly, then add garlic and saute until fragrant. Add celery, carrots, cauliflower, and jackfruit. Season with salt and a little freshly-ground black pepper. Stir in 1 cup water, Better Than Bouillon, and thyme. Add bay leaf. Cover and simmer over medium heat until vegetables are tender.

Meanwhile, mix up the biscuits. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir to combine. Cut in shortening with a pastry blender until it resembles coarse crumbs. Then stir soymilk mixture into the dry ingredients and mix gently with a fork until blended. Add a little more flour over the dough so it doesn’t stick to your hands, and knead briefly right in the bowl, folding the dough over about ten times. Set aside.

After carrots and celery become tender, remove the mixture from the heat and stir in the peas. Pour into a 9 x 9  baking dish, which you will later use to bake the whole thing. Fewer dishes to wash!

Now you can use the skillet to make the gravy. Heat the skillet up again and add 3 tbsp Earth Balance spread. When it’s melted, whisk in the flour. Let the mixture bubble for about 3 minutes, until the flour is no longer raw. Be careful not the burn it.

Whisk in the soy or rice milk and nutritional yeast. Simmer gently until mixture thickens, about 8 minutes.

Pour thickened gravy into baking dish, over vegetables. Stir carefully to combine. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Divide biscuit dough into about 8-9 equal pieces. Arrange biscuits on top of gravy mixture. Bake in preheated oven for about 15 minutes, or until biscuits are lightly golden brown.

 

Coconut Almond Date Truffles

coconut almond date truffles

Vegan MoFo 2011 - Vegan Month of FoodThese little truffles are inspired by Vegan Linda’s energy balls that she made for the last Vegan Meetup.

This is a highly-accurate and precise recipe which involves a lot of planning and perfect proportions. Just kidding! I hauled out the food processor, dropped in some dates, chopped them to a paste, added almonds, processed some more, then added the rest of the ingredients until the mixture tasted good. Then I rolled them in more unsweetened, finely-flaked coconut. Pretty! I’m going to make these in different varieties and give them as holiday gifts.

 

Coconut Almond Date Truffles

Makes about 12-14 truffles

Ingredients:
24 dates, pitted – check them for pits before adding to the food processor!
1/4 cup slivered almonds
2 tbsp sesame seeds
2 tbsp cocoa powder
3 tbsp unsweetened coconut, plus more for rolling
2 tbsp ground flaxseed
2 tbsp water

Directions:
Add dates to food processor bowl. Pulse until finely minced. Add remaining ingredients and process until a smooth paste forms.

To make a truffle, place about 2 tbsp coconut in a small bowl. With a measuring tablespoon, scoop up about a tablespoon of date mixture and shape into a small ball. Roll in coconut. Repeat until all mixture is rolled into balls, or until truffles have all been eaten by your children. Yum!

Teri’s Cucumber Pasta

Teri's Cucumber Pasta

Vegan MoFo 2011 - Vegan Month of FoodThis cool summer pasta salad could not be simpler. It is great for a potluck, where I was introduced to it by a colleague. Thanks for the recipe, Teri!

Any small pasta shape would work, but wagon wheels and rotini hold onto the sauce. Teri’s recipe calls for sugar, but I prefer to use agave nectar. Pasta has a high glycemic index already.

Teri’s Cucumber Pasta

Makes 8 servings.

Ingredients:
2 large cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and diced
1 lb pasta, such as wagon wheels or rotini, cooked
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup agave nectar
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly-ground black pepper
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley or dried parsley flakes

Directions:
In a large bowl, whisk together apple cider vinegar, agave nectar, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and parsley. Add cooked pasta and cucumber, and stir to combine. Chill, and serve.

 

Tour de Mofo: Weeks 1 & 2

Vegan MoFo 2011 - Vegan Month of FoodI’m subscribed to my own Healthy/Whole Foods category for MoFo, so most of these sightings are from that category. I can barely keep up with this small portion of the entries, and I totally fell behind the second week. Holy carrots.

Here are some of my favorite and most fun contributions to MoFo:

Biscoff spreadBest kid-friendly food that makes my kid’s PB&J sandwiches look sad:
Fun Kid Foods – Vegan and So Forth

What can I say – he likes PB&J. We use natural peanut butter, real fruit jelly, and whole grain bread. This week’s sandwiches included homemade wheat bread, Biscoff spread (a.k.a. the infamous Speculoos) and bananas.

Best idea for a restaurant that I should have thought of first:
Pop Bar

Hand-crafted ALL VEGAN gelato on a stick. With dips and toppings. Oh my. Pistachio bar dipped in dark chocolate and coconut, please!

Best food product picture that looks like a body part but isn’t:
Tempt Vanilla with Fudge Swirls Bar

A.k.a. a giant, waxy ear. Just a glimpse of my brain at work. I’m also good at creatively mishearing conversations.

Kitchen gadget I’m coveting but don’t actually need:
Ninjabread Men Cookie Cutters

I like irreverent takes on the classic gingerbread man. Last Christmas, I made giant Domokun gingerbread cookies. I sculpted them freehand, but this year I would like to try making my own cookie cutters. It looks easy, as long as I don’t slice off a finger.

Coolest theme idea (and I WON twice, woot!):
MoFo Mystery Pictures by The Airy Way

This is such a fun way to participate in MoFo! And I won twice so far, with “cabbage” and “those bumpy knobs on the outside of squashes”. The squash bumps were a total longshot, and a sign that some of my neurons are being put to good use.

Cutest mascot:
Ingvar

A little finger that poses with food. Finger food!

Post for making you say, “Eww!” and “Yum!” at the same time:
Creepy Crudités

I need to make these for Halloween.

Sweet Potato Breakfast Pancakes

Sweet Potato Breakfast Pancakes

Vegan MoFo 2011 - Vegan Month of FoodSweet potato lends subtle flavor and a nutrition boost to these simple pancakes. Lance loved them, and he’s not a big sweet potato fan. They pair well with Herbed Breakfast Sausage patties from Vegan Diner, our favorite vegan breakfast meat.

I cook the sweet potato in the microwave to save time. Scrub it well, pierce the skin a few times with a fork, and microwave on high power for about 4 minutes, until fork-tender. When the potato is cool enough to handle, slice it in half, scoop out the tender insides, and it’s practically mashed already.

 

Sweet Potato Breakfast Pancakes

Makes about 12 3-inch pancakes.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup sweet potato, cooked and mashed (about one medium sweet potato)
1 cup white whole wheat flour
2 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp agave nectar
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups non-dairy milk (I use SoDelicious coconut beverage)
canola oil, for oiling griddle or pan (optional)

Directions:
Start heating a nonstick griddle or well-seasoned cast iron pan over medium heat.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg. Blend well with a fork. Set aside.

In a smaller bowl, combine mashed sweet potato, agave nectar, and vanilla extract. Blend well. Whisk in non-dairy milk with a fork until well-blended.

Add sweet potato mixture to dry ingredients and mix until just blended. The mixture may puff up as the baking powder starts leavening it.

When the griddle is hot (a drop of water should sizzle when it hits the surface), spoon on the batter onto the griddle in circles to form 3-inch pancakes. When pancakes look dry around the edges, they are ready to flip. Turn then over and cook for about 3 minutes on the second side, until lightly browned.

Keep warm in the oven until ready to serve.

Peanut Tamarind Noodles

I picked up an immersion blender last weekend, and it’s handy for making sauces. The measuring cup included with the blender allowed me to measure the cup of broth, then spoon in the peanut butter until the liquid level reached 1 1/2 cups. It is a lot easier than scraping peanut butter out of a measuring cup.

This is the first recipe I’ve made with tamarind. I used a very thick wet-pack tamarind paste, pictured at the end of the recipe.

 

peanut tamarind noodles

Peanut Tamarind Noodles

Makes 4 servings.

Sauce ingredients:
1 cup no-chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup creamy natural peanut butter
2 tbsp wet tamarind chunks, minced
1 tsp lime juice
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp agave nectar
1/2 jalapeño pepper (seeded if you like it less spicy)
1 garlic clove
few dashes white pepper, to taste

Stir-fry ingredients:
6 oz Chinese noodles
2 tbsp canola oil
1/2 lb french green beans, cleaned and cut in half
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into thin strips
1/2 lb firm tofu, dry-fried
Chopped cilantro, for garnish (optional)
Chopped peanuts, for garnish (optional)

Directions:
Combine sauce ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Or, use an immersion blender.

Cook noodles according to package instructions. Drain, rinse, and set aside.

Heat a wok or wide pan over medium high heat. Add 2 tbsp canola oil and heat until nearly smoking.

Stir fry green beans, stirring frequently. Add carrots a few minutes later, and stir fry until just about tender-crisp. Add tofu, noodles, and sauce. Stir and cook a few minutes longer.

Garnish with chopped cilantro and peanuts to serve.

peanut tamarind noodles ingredients