Monday, April 14, 2014

"Oh She Glows" Review & Giveaway

I guess I was just living under a blog-rock. I had certainly heard of  Angela Liddon's blog "Oh She Glows," but for whatever reason, I hadn't ever tried any of her recipes. I started hearing good things about her new cookbook, and was getting curious. Then, as luck would have it, I was offered the chance to receive a review copy AND offer a giveaway! Yes, please!
Mr VE&T is really into this book

My first impression of the book is that it's crazy beautiful. Her pictures are so beautiful! And it's got a great layout: one recipe per page, a full-page photo of every dish, and the ingredients over in a side column. Each recipe has a "prep time" and a "cook time" estimate, and tells you all the details such as "gluten-free," "nut-free option" etc. As far as I can tell, this book is about 90% gluten-free, so that's cool for all you gf'ers out there in the world!

The first two dishes I made were the Creamy Avocado Potato Salad and the Pan-Seared Garlic Tofu. You guys. That potato salad is so damned good! The potatoes and asparagus are chopped up small and roasted to perfection. While they are roasting, you whizz up a super easy creamy avocado & lemon dressing... and then you just have to mix it all together. It's so easy and somehow just amazingly delicious. Mr. Vegan Eats & Treats fell deeply in love with this dish. He called it "Potato Chip Salad" because he says it tasted like Ranch-dressing-flavored potato chips. And it kinda did! I absolutely can't wait to make this again. It is totally great.

To go with it, for a protein blast, I made the tofu cubes and they were easy and quick and very yummy too. It was a good combo. I could definitely eat a whole bowl of tofu cubes like this in one sitting, but I practiced restraint and got a few servings out of it.

Next up, I tried the Indian Lentil-Cauliflower Soup. It's essentially like a red lentil dal recipe with cauliflower and sweet potatoes in it. I could see from the ingredients that it would be a quick and straightforward recipe and I that I might want to fuss with it. The spices she calls for are simple, so I threw in some mustard seeds and Indian chile powder for a little extra pizzazz. Once it was ready, I still thought it was a little quiet for my Indian-food-preferences, so I zinged it up with some hot sauce, fresh lime, and some tamarind paste. Yeah! Even though I modified the recipe a bit, I really liked this dish and I appreciated the framework of having this quick and yummy recipe to build off of. I would certainly use this recipe again for a foundation. I loved the chunky veggies in the dal... I don't usually do that in my dal, and they were delicious.

 this is fabric my grandparents brought home after their time in Ghana with the Peace Corps

Mr. VE&T got really excited about this book (so atypical!) - and was looking through it and picking out recipes for me to make. How fun! It was really fun to have his input and enthusiasm. Right away he picked out the African Peanut Stew. I always avoid peanut stew recipes because it seems like with all that peanut butter, it's just gonna be a giant calorie bomb. But I was so happy for Mr. VE&T's enthusiasm, that I wanted to follow through. And, actually, once I did the math, this soup wasn't very high-calorie after all - and full of good stuff. And, better yet, this soup is AMAZING. Like, holy moly, yumma-lumma-ding-dong good. We loved it so much. And it made tons. I'm not a delicate eater, and I think we got 5 big servings from this recipe. Plus, I just got the most delicious organic PB from Trader Joe's, so it was extra tasty. This soup = very good idea.

Next, I made the Protein Power Goddess Bowl. That name kinda freaks me out a little, so I just called it The Protein Power Bowl instead, and then I was comfortable again. This is a lentil-wheat berry salad with some veggies and a hefty tahini sauce on it. I made it for dinner one night and although I liked it quite a bit, Mr. VE&T thought the tahini experience was a bit intense and that it would be good with some carrots and greens. The recipe made quite a bit, so when I had some left overs the next day, I added in a diced up carrot and served it over a big bed of steamed kale. I think Mr. VE&T was right - it was really delicious like this! Also, the recipe is quite calorie-dense (and nutrient-dense!), so it was good for me to extend it with a big mess of greens. I still have some servings left, and I think I'll do this again for lunch today. It really kept me going!

Last but not least, I made myself a batch of the Spa Day Bircher Muesli. I had a big batch of homemade soy yogurt already, so this was very easy to whip up. You mix everything together, and then leave it in the fridge overnight. She says that it will keep for a few days... so in the morning, I portioned out 3 bowls and had this for breakfast 3 days in a row. So yummy! I've been having yogurt for breakfast often lately, and I really liked all the yummy stuff mixed in. Angela suggested adding maple syrup on top, which I did the first day... but actually I found that a little too sweet for my tastes. With all the fresh apple and dried fruits mixed in, I thought it was perfectly and pleasantly sweet on its own.

we are glowing with happiness after all that good food

So, as you can see, I've already made a lot of recipes from this book and I am really loving it! I have so many more recipes written down that I still want to try out... plus, I have to make that potato salad again pronto. So, this book is going to get a lot of use around here!

In general the recipes in "Oh She Glows" are definitely on the health-food side of things, which I really appreciate. There are no recipes calling for mayo or Earth Balance or such. I don't mind those ingredients, but I already have plenty of cookbooks that rely on stuff like that, and I don't want to eat that way too often. The recipes in "Oh She Glows" are almost entirely unprocessed, pantry staples. Not unusual or hard to find, but put together really nicely.

Now the good news! You too can get your grubby little paws on a copy! The publishers of "Oh She Glows" are happy to offer a copy to one lucky winner in the U.S. or Canada. You don't have to do anything weird. Just leave a comment here and say something nice or interesting. I'll pick out a winner on Friday the 18th... Good luck!

Monday, April 07, 2014

Dates Stuffed with Yum

Just recently, I have fallen in love with stuffed dates. I'm sure you're thinking "What the hell took you so long?" And the truth is, I don't know!

I've certainly made stuffed dates before - I've even featured them on my blog - but somehow I wasn't overly impressed. Then, a month or so ago, we had a little party after one of my yoga classes, and one of my students brought dates stuffed with almond butter and topped with cocoa nibs. It was a revelation! It was love at first bite!

have I ever shown you my Roaches In Love plate?
clearly, it is one of the best things ever, in all the world.

Since that moment, stuffed dates are now officially one of my favorite snacks. For a while I was making them just like that - with almond butter and cocoa nibs. It is so good. Then, I also started experimenting with shredded coconut instead of cocoa nibs (spoiler alert: also very good). Then, I realized that people often eat cheese with dates, so I busted out some of my aged cashew chevre (from Miyoko's book Artisan Vegan Cheese) and stuffed some of that into a date with a big hunk of walnut on top - and lo and behold! - that was also delicious!

Right now I am in the middle of teaching a 6-week course on Yoga Philosophy and it's keeping me hard at work. It's pretty much all Yoga Sutras all the time around here - you may have noticed that it's been cutting into my blogging time! With all this deep contemplation and concentration, I need some serious brain food to keep me going. These date snacks are perfect - fun and yummy and chewy and full of good stuff. Also, in the morning, Footie sits in the chair at the end of the table and keeps me company. It's very helpful!

Give me your stuffed date recipes! What are you favorite combos? Now that I am such a little nut for these things, I'm eager to experiment with more varieties. Plus, I've got two more weeks of this class and I'm gonna need lots of dates to get me through!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Happy NoRooz! Happy Spring!

Happy NoRooz, Everyone!

Last Thursday was my most favorite adopted holiday of the year: Persian New Year, aka NoRooz. Huzzah! NoRooz is officially celebrated at the exact moment of the vernal equinox, but, in the interest of social ease, we had a big dinner party on Friday night... which was also my dad's 77th birthday!

Although you might not know it from this picture, I was very proud of myself for not making too much food. Last year I went sorta crazy and made SO MUCH food for NoRooz... it was a bit too much. This year was just about perfect!

Kuku Sabzi
Every year for NoRooz, I like to make a few recipes that are new to me... but there are also some traditional dishes that you simply must have for the holiday - one of those is definitely Kuku Sabzi. Traditionally, kuku sabzi is an eggy omlette or quiche packed full with fresh herbs. Over the years I have tried many different veganized versions, but I think this year's vegan kuku sabzi was the best yet! 

I made a double batch of the mini quiche recipe from Isa Does It, and then "kuku-sabzied" the flavors. To a double batch of batter, I added roughly 1 cup each of: minced parsley, minced cilantro, minced fresh dill, minced scallions and minced spinach. Plus, about 3/4 c chopped walnuts, and about 1/3 cup barberries (rehydrated in warm water for +/- 30 minutes). I thought they might take longer to bake, what with all those fresh herbs in the batter, but actually they only needed about 20+ minutes in the oven, and they turned out AMAZING. Plus... so easy to do ahead of time and fun finger food for the party. I will definitely make them like this again next year! 

I also discovered how super fast this whole process is if I just use my food processor to mince all the nuts and herbs. Uh... why did it possibly take me so many years of NoRooz celebrations to realize this?? 

Sabzi Polow
Another NoRooz dish that you've just gotta have is Sabzi Polow: Persian rice with fresh herbs. If you are noticing a strong theme of fresh herbs, you are catching on. I've had really great luck with the polow technique from Terry's book Vegan Eats World... I especially like the little bit of yogurt that she suggests adding to the rice, and the cooking method is really clear. I made a 1.5 batch of her rice, but subbed out her suggested seasonings and added in about 3/4 cup each of minced dill, cilantro, chives, and parsley. As you can see, I didn't get a super golden crust (even though I cooked it longer than suggested... I think I had the heat too low)... but it still had a good crunch and it was super tasty.

Persian Sweet Potato & Orange Stew with Prunes
Here's one of the dishes that was new to me this year. I'd had it in my (excessively long) list of bookmarked recipes, and I finally tried it. I thought it was NoRooz appropriate because it was full of spinach and orange juice. I even used oranges from our own tree! You guys. This was SO GOOD and was a total hit of the party. Here is the recipe, which is very highly recommended indeed!

My excellent friend and her mom came over early to help me get ready (it was fun and helpful!!). They got put to work making these Nan e Taftoon flat breads... also a new-to-me recipe off the internet. I thought they turned out pretty well, but I actually preferred the flatbread recipe that we used last year... so I"ll probably return to that one. That said, I have a deep and abiding love for nigella/kalonji seeds and pretty much any ol' flatbread with nigella seeds is a friend of mine!

Aash e Reshteh Garnish
Somehow I failed to capture a photo of the traditional NoRooz veggie soup called Aash e Reshteh, but I did photograph the special garnish that goes with the soup. The soup (recipe here), is full of beans and veggies and spinach and noodles and generally it is bursting with flavor. This year I made a 2/3 batch, which was just about perfect! The garnish is a very special part - fried onions with dried mint and turmeric. Just the smell of the garnish fills the whole house with the smell of NoRooz. I love it so.

A big, fresh and simple Shirazi Salad: cucumbers, tomatoes, red onion and a few olives. Dressed with a combo of pomegranate molasses and olive oil. MmmMmmMmm.

I also made two special drinks. Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian has a bunch of really enticing Iranian drink recipes in it... including many that I have yet to try. Using her recipe, I made a batch of Irani Mint Lemonade (sorry, no picture!). I made a small pitcher of the syrup - which used simple syrup poured over fresh mint leaves and fresh lemon juice - and then let people add as much sparkling water as they liked. I also made this Pomegranate-Lime-Mint soda with fresh pomegranate juice, fresh lime juice, fresh mint leaves, and a small amount of simple syrup ... plus a bunch of sparkly water to give it fizz and to make it lighter and less intense. They were both very tasty!

(also, check out this awesome pitcher my mom gave me! even though it looks quite Persian, it's actually from my family roots in North Carolina!)

As I mentioned, Friday was also my dad's birthday! Although it has nothing to do with NoRooz, Key Lime Pie has everything to do with my dad: he loves Key Lime Pie! After becoming a vegan, I tried many K.L.P recipes, with varying degrees of failure and success... but once I tried Isa's Latchkey Lime Pie, I didn't need to look any further. Now I make this one every year and my sweet Daddy loves it. As you probably know, my dad has had a very rough year ... and so this year's birthday celebration felt even more special than ever. I'm so glad he is still here with us to love and laugh and just be together.

Ahwazi Cookies
Here's a super-awesome new-to-me recipe!! These interesting cookies caught my eye because they looked cool and the recipe sounded amazing - cookies stuffed with dates+walnuts+tahini??? Yes, please! The recipe was a bit like one of those old-fashioned recipes "add enough flour until you have a soft dough" (I ended up using about 2.5 cups). Also, I had to look up a recipe for homemade "self-rising flour," which was easy enough. These cookies are super cute and also super delicious. We were all calling them UFO cookies, for obvious reasons. They are just barely sweet, except for the date filling, which is naturally sweet. They're a really good treat to go with tea or coffee. Loved these!

My friends Jane and JP are organic farmers and they brought along a big bowl of beautiful strawberries - their first pick of the season. So glorious and delicious!!!

Sohan As-Ali
You've got to have plenty of shirini (sweets) for NoRooz... and although I do like to mix it up, I always make a batch of my personal favorite, Sohan As-Ali. Here's my recipe. These are almond brittle candies, flavored with saffron and rosewater, and topped with pistachios. They are absolutely delicious and I look forward to them every year! I've also learned to display them on parchment paper, so that they don't stick to the serving tray (hot tip!).

And, last but not least!, my friend Jasmine and her daughter brought along a platter of these delicious coconut-rosewater candies topped with ground pistachios and cardamom. YUM. I loved these! I was feeling a bit remorseful that I hadn't made any desserts featuring the Persian favorite cardamom, and then these showed up: perfect!
We had such a wonderful evening and celebration together with family and friends. Even though I didn't grow up celebrating NoRooz, I have really fallen in love with it... and every year that we celebrate it, I feel more and more strongly connected to it. It's such a beautiful and meaningful holiday - full of symbolism and so in harmony with the natural world. I love the idea of celebrating the new year with the vernal equinox - a time of balance and a time when all of Nature is preparing to burst forth into a new cycle of growth and beauty. Happy New Year!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Asparagus Appreciation!

 my precious little spring bundle of love

Every year I look forward to the arrival of asparagus at the farmers' market. For me, it is the one true harbinger of Spring. Once the asparagus arrives, I know winter is officially over and happy days are ahead. Soon there will be berries and cherries and then stone fruits and so on and so forth!

Last week, the asparagus arrived and I went overboard and bought (and ate!) 4 bunches in one week. Mwahahaha! No regrets! To keep it simple, I just lightly cooked them in a cast iron pan over medium-heat with a tiny spray of oil... until they were soft and lightly browned. Sooooo good.

As you may know, our kitty Yummers really loves asparagus. Even though it's been a whole year since asparagus season, little Mr. Yummers had not forgotten his favorite veggie - and materialized out of nowhere ... meowing like a persistent beast until he got his share. It's so cute! (here's an old video of him eating an entire asparagus in one fell swoop - after that show of gluttony, now I only give him the little tips!)
Springtime day-dreaming in the grass with my old friend, asparagus

asparagus brings out my playful side!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Noshtalgia: Girl Scout Cookies

Actual picture of Baby Me as a Brownie, aged 6 (1979)

This year I got my paws on some Girl Scout cookies for the first time in a LONG time. 
Here's the scoop, Girl Scouts of America has two different bakeries that make their cookies, and only one of them makes vegan options. If your local girl scout is selling Tagalongs, you are out of luck. But, if she's selling Peanut Butter Patties... you are golden!

As far as I know, this was the first year these vegan options hit my area... so when a yoga student of mine posted something on Facebook about girl scout cookies for sale (via her daughter), I placed my order for a box of PB Patties and a box of Thin Mints. Apparently the Lemonades are also vegan, though I didn't order any of those. 
I was a Brownie for three years back when I was a wee lass. Mostly I remember singing Christmas Carols in nursing homes, which is fine, but singing isn't really my thing so I can't say I loved it. I do remember going to a really awesome overnight camp where we made tie-dyed shirts in the woods (it was the 70's). And I remember taking the dog of the lady who lived across the street from my grandparents to dog-training school for my dog-training badge (ha ha- what a stretch! He was a cool dog). But, what I really remember most of all was the cookies.

Back in the day, before Facebook, you actually had to hit the streets. With my mom's help, I remember going to neighbors' homes with the colorful cardstock order form. I went to her office and solicited her co-workers, while wearing my brownie outfit. They had to write down their name and number and check off which cookies they wanted to order.

One year, my mom was Cookie Mom... which meant that all the cookies that had been ordered arrived at OUR HOUSE. Our house was cookie central! It was so fun and exciting to see all those cookies!

I'll tell you the truth. These girl scout cookies are pretty good, but the cookies I make for myself are yummier and more to my tastes. Still, that probably won't stop me from ordering another box or two next year... to support my local girl scout, and for a walk down memory lane. Also, these cookies freeze great, and if you want a sweet little nibble, a frozen Thin Mint with your coffee really hits the spot!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Vegan Fun in Palm Springs

Last weekend Mr VE&T set off for a week of sunshine and professional tennis down in Palm Springs. We brought along my two aunts, who are both super fun people AND big fans of tennis (and vegans!). Every year there is an important tennis tournament in Palm Springs, and all the top mens and womens players come from around the world to compete.

We got to see just about everyone! We spent our first day there watching Federer practice with Tommy Haas, and then Rafa practice with Stan Wawrinka. As you can see, we were right up close! I don't even own a zoom lens. It was so fun!

The tennis grounds where the matches are held is really beautiful and nicely maintained, and (if you're a tennis fan) it's a great place to spend the day. In fact, we spent 3 whole days there and had a great time. That said, there aren't many vegan options available for munching. One concessions stand was selling Lara Bars for $4. Uh, no thanks! There is a restaurant called Pizzavino in Stadium Two that offers all their pizzas with Daiya cheese... but that involves going to the restaurant and missing out on courtside time.

my aunt L likes lots of mustard!

So, every morning my aunts and I would make ourselves some little sandwiches. We went to Trader Joes and stocked up on all the sandwich fixin's. We've got the routine down, because this is how we make our lunches every year for our family trip to Yosemite. We had bread, mustard, lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, hummus and baked tofu. Plus, lots of nuts and fresh fruit for non-stop nibbles.

Here's my sandwich, helping sustain me through a super fun Bopanni-Quereshi v Federer-Wawrinka doubles match. Mmmm, delicious!

The dessert is super hot, so, you'll always want to have lots of water with you. In fact, at various points around the grounds, they had Brita water filter "re-fill stations" so that you could refill your water bottle for free. I drank a TON of water.

Also, we stayed at such a great and funky spot in Palm Desert. There was a sunny courtyard with a pool and surrounded by citrus trees. Every morning the proprietors put out a huge bowl of chopped fruits and baked goods (not vegan), bread for toast (Dave's Killer Bread!), and grapefruits from their trees. Swoon. It was a pretty magical way to start the day. Just look at all those grapefruits on their tree!!

We were having so much fun at the tennis that dinner was sometimes an afterthought- and yet, we had some pretty great dinners:

Our first night out we went to LaQuinta Resort, which is where many of the players stay. We wanted to see if we'd spot any tennis celebs! (we did see a couple top 100 players). We had dinner at their "American Bistro," called Twenty6. Even though we got there *right* before closing, the service was super excellent and the server was really great about confirming that their veggie burger and avocado sauce was 100% vegan. He even read us the whole list of ingredients. I was so impressed - and that was a really yummy burger!

Our second night, we drove up to the city of Palm Springs to check out Native Foods. I've heard so much about Native Foods over the years and I really wanted to check it out. We got a serving of the polenta bites to share (super yums!), and I got the Greek Gyro Bowl. Mmmm. Now I see what all the fuss is about. All four of us got something different and we all really loved our food. That says a lot - because between the group of us we cover quite an array of dietary preferences. Now I've got my fingers crossed that Native Foods might come to Santa Cruz one day!

After watching Rafa squeeze out a late night victory over Radek Stepanek, we (and 16,000 other people) made our way out of the stadium in search of dinner. We got to Pizzavino in Palm Desert right before closing - but just in the knick of time.

I started with a baby kale salad, which was all-vegan as long as I asked for no cheese. It was super good, super fresh, and I was jazzed to have a big mountain of greens. Sometimes greens are hard to find when you're travelling.

I also got a pizza! I ordered with half-daiya and half-no cheese. I never get pizza with Daiya, and though I really like the idea, I think I actually liked the no-cheese pizza more. I thought there was a bit too much Daiya, so I removed about half of it, and enjoyed it that way. I ate the whole darn thing, so that's quite an endorsement! They also offer gluten-free crusts, and apparently Novak Djokovic had been in for dinner two nights earlier (he is famously gf).

In case you're headed to Palm Springs, here's a little more travel info:
Mamma Gina's in Palm Desert - you'd never know it from the outside, but this old-school Italian spot had lots of vegan options (clearly marked on the menu!!). I had a big bowl of minestrone and plate of sauteed broccoli rabe and both were very good.

Palm Greens in Palm Springs - we had a pretty good dinner here. Nothing bad about it for sure, but if I had that chance to do that night over, I'd probably just go back to Native Foods again. That said, they had a pretty great looking breakfast menu.

Clark's Nutrition - I'm not just plugging this spot because my awesome friend Mo works there. It's a super huge and fun locally-owned natural food store with epic selection.

 Our last day we went hiking in the Palm Canyons. So beautiful!

Mr VE&T loves dinos!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Noshtalgia: My First Cookbook

Back when I was a college student, I set off to spend the second half of my junior year in Florence, Italy. I was so full of enthusiasm. I had already been to Italy twice, I had studied two and a half years of Italian, and I was a fine arts major going to study art in Florence ~ so I just knew it was going to be a good time. I remember some of the other college kids at the airport crying tearfully as they parted from their parents. In contrast, my parents saw me bound off through the airport security - dry-eyed and ready to go!

In Florence, I had an apartment with 3 other American gals right in the heart of the historic city center. The view from my bedroom window looked out at the Palazzo Vecchio, and directly down onto the Ponte Vecchio. It was a pretty great scene.

My time in Florence was the first time in my life that I was in charge of all my own meals. Before this, I really didn't have much experience in the kitchen. I had helped my mom with various things, and I had learned how to make pizza from scratch... but I was mostly used to eating whatever my mom cooked, or whatever was being served in the dorms.

Before happily waving goodbye to my parents at the airport, my mom gave me a really great present: my first cookbook. I was already a vegetarian, and she very thoughtfully got me a book called "Italian Vegetarian Cooking." Best of all, the book had measurements for each recipe in both metric and American measurements, so I knew to ask for a 1/2 kilo of tomatoes at the market. I used this cookbook as pretty much my sole reference in the kitchen during my many months in Italy. Mostly, I made simple pasta recipes, and bit-by-bit I started to develop a few kitchen skills.

In Florence, back then, there weren't supermarkets with produce. Instead, a hungry shopper either went to a small neighborhood vendor, or to the large central market - which was very near my school. I fell in love with the process of going to the market to buy my fruits and veggies. It was a fun way to practice speaking Italian, learn new words, and (over time) I learned which vendors would be patient with me as I spoke in Italian to ask for the right veggies. As you may know, being in a foreign land can be quite lonely. The comfort of a small conversation and a shared smile at the produce stand meant a lot to me. Over time, my Italian language skills became quite good, but I've never lost my affection for the role that these small interactions have in keeping life bearable and meaningful.

These days, I have so many cookbooks that it's a bit crazy, and from time to time I clear out the ones I never use. And yet, I've hung on to this book - mostly for its sentimental place in my heart. I just recently remembered it, and decided to break it out and make something for dinner. I decided to make the Minestrone Genoese - a lovely minestrone soup laced with a good dollop of pesto. It was great! I know it's not really pesto season, but back in the summer I made a big batch of pesto and froze it in ice cube trays... so all I had to do was just defrost a couple "pesto ice cubes." I hadn't ever thought of putting pesto into my minestrone soup before, but that was a very good idea!

The soup was very hearty and delicious, and it felt very sweet to be cooking from this book and remembering such a special and formative time in my life. Thanks again, Mom!