Friday, July 24, 2015

Book Review & Giveaway: Homemade Vegan Pantry by Miyoko Schinner

What a cool book!

I was so delighted to receive a review copy of Miyoko Schinner's latest title: The Homemade Vegan Pantry. Miyoko is just amazing -- you all know that her yogurt recipe from her last book Artisan Vegan Cheeseabsolutely changed my vegan life. I always have a double batch of that yogurt on hand in my fridge. I've also made and loved many of the cheeses and other recipes from AVC. And Miyoko is also the force behind those beautiful vegan cheeses from Miyoko's Creamery -- we got to sample all of them at the VidaVeganCon, which was such a joy. The boxes are beautiful, and the cheeses are even more amazing. (I've got a post about her cheeses coming up soon) At VVC, I attended a really thought-provoking panel called "The New Vegan Economy" -- a term that Miyoko had coined. Miyoko was one of the speakers on the panel and it was positively inspiring to hear her talk about her vision for changing the world through the highest quality of vegan products. GO, Miyoko!! 

The Homemade Vegan Pantry is an absolutely beautiful book -- it's laid out perfectly, the font is beautiful, the paper quality is great... There aren't pictures for every recipe, but the pictures that are in the book are gorgeous and motivating. The array of recipes inside is staggering and will fill you with waves of DIY enthusiasm. Sauces and condiments, salad dressings, cheeses and yogurt, soup and broth concentrates, loads of seitan recipes, baking mixes, and MORE. In addition to all these amazing pantry staples like Butterless Butter, Homemade Pancake & Biscuit Mix, and Tomato Skin Pesto ~ there are also many recipes throughout the book to put these homemade elements to use. 

I am so stoked to have this book as a reference in my vegan cookbook library. In many cases, I will turn to this book for help making vegan substitutions that are not easily purchased (like Vegan Fish Sauce, Almond Feta, or White Chocolate). Other recipes just seem really fun to try making at home: such as Dijon Mustard, Not-tella Chocolate Hazelnut Spread, or Peppy Unpepperoni. And in plenty of other cases, I'll turn to this book for delicious meal ideas:  Cream of Broccoli Soup Concentrate, Roasted Tomato Risotto, and Unribs. Plus, the joys of the desserts chapter! 

Nineteen veggie burger patties. Long since gone! Time for another batch

The Real Burger
This was the first recipe I tried from The Homemade Vegan Pantry. It had been a while since I'd made homemade veggie burgers, summer was here, and I was in the mood. I didn't really realize that the recipe said it would make 18 patties before I got started ... but I actually got 19 out of it! The recipe came together easily and quickly (especially since I cheated and bought the pre-cooked brown rice from Trader Joes: in direct violation of the homemade ethos of this book). The burgers are packed full with every known vegan source of umami: tomato paste, miso, mushrooms, and so on!

Yummers wants that corn.

I had my parents over for burgers and corn, and we all enjoyed the burgers! Because the patties are already baked in the oven, they just require a simple re-heating in the pan before serving. I simply panfried them with a tiny spritz of oil and a dash of salt and pepper. The patties were quite delicate the day I made them, but I found that they held together much better in the days after. I guess that's often true with seitan-y things (these have wheat gluten in them too), that they firm up after some time in the fridge or freezer.

Fortunately, there were many patties left over, so I froze them, and slowly enjoyed them for easy, tasty, satisfying lunches.

Canadian Yuba "Bacon"
Yowza! This is by far the most exciting and interesting vegan bacon I've ever had -- and I MADE IT! How cool is that?? Once I'd made the yuba (see further below), the rest of this process came together very quickly and easily. I just panfried my marinated yuba strips with a tiny bit of spray oil, and they still came out perfectly. Just like Miyoko says in the recipe, the texture of the yuba really lends itself to a bacon substitute, because it is a little bit thick, a bit chewy, and then the cooked bits had some crunch. This was SO fun to eat. I made it on the 4th of July when my parents came over for dinner... and I just happened to have only 4 veggie burger patties left in my freezer. So...

Vegan Bacon Cheeseburger
I present you with one of the most delicious things EVER. This was a homemade Real Burger patty cooked with a slice of the Tomato Cayenne Chao Cheese from Field Roast, plus the homemade yuba bacon, plus a giant slice of heirloom tomato, caramelized AND raw red onion, crunchy lettuce... and a too-small bun that was just barely up to this monumental task. We all love love love love loved this meal so much that I am already going to have to make more burgers and more yuba bacon. I declare this my official meal of Summer 2015. I was quiet delighted with myself. 

Veggie Burger Fixin's
At Miyoko's suggestion, I also caremelized a huge red onion (in that little white bowl) and that was a great flavor contribution to the burgers. Don't all the burger goodies look beautiful and summery? 

Fresh Yuba (Tofu Skin)
Before I could make that amazing bacon, first I had to make the yuba. I've had store-bought yuba before, and I really love it... but I had no idea it would be so easy to make. It was really fun and weird (and time consuming!). You have to wait patiently while the thin skin forms on top of the barely simmering pan of soymilk (picture #2) This is a good time to read or goof off on instagram or do something else in the kitchen; then you carefully remove each newly formed yuba sheet and pile it on top of the others (picture #3 - wild looking!!). For the bacon, I folded my stack of yuba in half again (picture #4)  for more substantive strips before soaking them in the marinade. 

 Almond Feta

What fun! I used to be a real feta fan - and since it's been about 15+ years since I've had any feta cheese, I was really eager to try this recipe! It was really easy to make - and the recipe is already posted up online over here at Nava Atlas's blog. I made a half-batch and set my cheese up in a loaf pan rather than an 8x8" dish. I got four good slabs of cheese out of it (as you can see, one of them is already missing from this picture!)

I tasted the feta after a few days in the fridge and found it much too salty - I think maybe because I had made a half batch. So, I poured out about half the brine and added extra water to dilute it. A few days later, I tasted the feta again and it was much more to my liking. My husband tasted it too and suggested using some brine from a jar of capers for extra tang, which was a great idea. That really added some nice flavor to the feta!

 tomato & cucumber salad with feta
I used some of my feta on this beautiful salad, and many other salads like it. I love having a smooth, rich and salty cheese to add to salads like this. And the joy of having made the feta myself and knowing just what's in it!

I also used some of my homemade feta in this glorious spanikopita that I made last weekend with my pal. (That delicious dinner has a separate post coming soon!) The feta was an absolutely lovely contribution to the stupendous filling we made, and I would definitely use it again. I have one and a half pieces of my feta left, and I want to think of something special to do with them. Any suggestions?

Cultured Butterless Butter

I also made a batch of the Butterless Butter - which is made with refined coconut oil and a few other ingredients. There are a few variations offered in the book, and I decided to use some of my homemade yogurt and make the cultured Butterless Butter. It's really nice on toast - though I think next time I will add a little bit more salt, since I like my butter a bit more salty. I also look forward to using this baked goods - both from this book and other books. As you can see, I made it in small silicone cupcake molds. These are really easy to pop out and wash, and also then I have the butter already portioned into more manageable sizes. It put one in the fridge, and all the others in the freezer - awaiting future baking projects!

Great news! Miyoko's publishers at Ten Speed Press are letting me offer a copy of this wonderfully unique book to one lucky reader in the U.S. To enter the giveaway, please leave a comment here on this blog post and let me know about some thing that you love to make from scratch at home, or something you've only ever made from scratch once, or something you've always wanted to try making at home but have yet to tackle.

I'll pick a winner one week from today, on Friday July 31st. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Furry News!

I know this is technically a food blog, but don't you think it's time for a post full of pictures and news about our sweet fur family?! 

Dottie Bonkers

Sweet Dottie Bonkers.

Dottie is spunky and nosey and curious about every thing and every one. If you get out of bed, she will follow you. If you get off the sofa, she is right there with you. She follows the cats around the house relentlessly (much to their dismay). She is always paying attention and keeping track of what's going on.

If she sees a squirrel in the back yard she goes absolutely nuts and starts woof-woof-woofing her way all the way out the doggie door. By that point, the squirrel has long since taken off!

But she's also so shy and coy. She'll duck her head if you try to pet her. She likes to lie under the desk while I work at the computer. I think it's a cozy little nook where she can keep an eye on things and also avoid being petted. 

Dottie has the most piercing and shrill bark and she is not afraid to share it with the world. She doesn't want you to pet her, but she also doesn't want you to pet anyone else either. NO. So if I start petting Stevie or Snoopy, Dottie will stand 5 feet away and bark at us like a maniac. This is a bit nuts. 

She has a super sweet and kinda new thing that Mr VE&T got her doing: After a dog walk, she jumps back up into the car and for some reason, this is the time that she loves to get petted. She gazes into our eyes, with her ears all tucked back and just soaks up as much affection as we will dish out at her. 

Francisco "Footie" Foot-Foot

Footie is such a rascal!! It's been two years now that we've had Footie and he is FINALLY feeling like part of the family. It took him such a long time to get used to the dogs, and for Yummers to stop attacking him relentlessly.

Footie is truly a free spirit. Some nights he'll slip out the doggie door and we won't see him until 9 or 10 am the next day. Just this morning, he didn't come home for breakfast. Then, sometime around 11 am he showed up with his face covered in dirt, looking expectantly for his breakfast. Ha ha. Where has he been???

Other nights, he'll spend the whole night power-snugging on Mr VE&T. Those two have a deep, deep bond that is absolutely darling. After all this time, I finally get a few enthusiastic snugs from Footie every day, but his main focus is definitely not on me.

At bed time, Mr VE&T plays a special beeping sound on his cell phone, and Footie will come (literally) running into the bed room for snuggles and purrs and pets. He just loves the sounds that come out of the cell phone!

Snoopy Snoppy

Our sweet little Fella Snoopy. Snoopy has been getting a lot of attention and care lately, because after a really long stretch of good health, he recently hurt his back again. Man, I love this little booger so darned much. 

When he's feeling good, Snoopy is just a loveable clown filled with joie de vivre. Even the tiniest thing is cause for celebratory wiggingly and panting and frisky fun. When he gets really excited, he taps his little toenails on the ground and snaps his teeth like a snapping turtle. It's all so silly and cute. 

Lately he's been much more subdued, but every day he gets a little of his silly spunk back, and a little more spirit in his eyes, and I get a little more relief in my heart. Who knows what the future holds for this little guy and his fragile spine, but it's a good lesson in impermanence for me. He's my super cuddly sidekick and I'm grateful for every day together with him. 

Snoopy's primary interests are Food and Warmth -- and a great deal of his day is spent in pursuit of those hobbies. He also maintains a disciplined practice of sitting on the back of the sofa and going absolutely ape anytime anyone or anything outside moves. It is both hilarious and maddening! He loves to howl, and after we adopted him, Stevie Wonder learned to howl -- which was very cute. 

Stevie Wonder

Wonderbear! Bearpig! Stevie Weevie! Stevie was our first dog that we got together, and we didn't really realize that she would have preferred to remain our only dog. She's shy and sweet and absolutely devoted to us. One of her favorite things is if we completely ignore the other two dogs and just gaze into her eyes and pet her and swoon over her like she is the only dog in the world. She just soaks it up.

Every time I'm cooking in the kitchen and I look down, she's right there, looking up at me. SO ENDEARING. She shoots little love beams out of her eyes and they hit me right in the heart.

Stevie can mope around the house like a pro, but when it's time for a dog walk, she puffs up and comes to life! She sniffs and prances and runs and lopes with such joy when she's outside -- it's a completely different side to her personality. Sometimes, when she's just sitting outside in the backyard, she looks like she's been reading too much existentialist literature... contemplating the meaninglessness of it all. But just a moment of dog walking time, and her head out the car window solves all of her heavy woes.

Stevie's favorite things are for you to pet her bald little armpits and/or for her to maniacally lick your hand. Preferably both at the same time. It gets old (for us), but she seems to have no threshold, and it makes her so happy... so of course, we acquiesce.

Yummers Potatoes

Yummers was the very first pet we got together... and now he's about 15 years old. He's the old man of the house, and other than an occasional little problem here or there, he seems to be doing really well.

Yummers is "highly food motivated," as the vets like to say, and absolutely goes bananas for meal time or treats. Around dinner time, he starts hunting the other pets -- especially Dottie. He and Dottie have this hilarious cat-and-mouse routine where they each taunt one another mercilessly and then try to act innocent and persecuted when we tell them to stop. It's so funny.

Yummers loves to cuddle on the sofa with us at night, which is kind of a new thing. For years he really wasn't all cuddly, but now he really looks forward to our cozy sofa time together at night. Even if we've been out late (which is quite rare), I still try to spend some time on the sofa with him before going to bed.

Sometimes, if I'm lucky, I'll wake up to find Yummers cuddling between my feet. He's warm and smooshy and sweet in the morning... but he's not reliable. In fact, it seems like he has a special knack for coming to bed on the mornings when I have to get up super early, and then forgetting all about my desperate need for kitty snuggles on the mornings when I actually have time to sleep in and snuggle him. Sigh! This is the prerogative of being a cat!

This is the response to "Who wants a cookie?!"
Snoopy must be right under my feet, because he is definitely VERY interested in cookies

Winner: Congrats to Sherielynn who won a copy of "The Great Vegan Protein Book"!
ps. I'll be doing another giveaway on Friday, 
for Miyoko's latest amazing book "The Homemade Vegan Pantry"

Monday, July 13, 2015

Great Vegan Protein Book: Cookbook Review & Giveaway

The Great Vegan Protein Book ~ by Celine Steen & Tamasin Noyes

A while back, I received a copy of this wonderful book to review... and I've been remiss in not writing up a review sooner - but at least that has given me plenty of time to cook some delicious dinners! So, in exchange for a particularly timely review, I offer you a thorough review. Ha ha. 

I'm sure many of you already have books by Celine and Tami, because they are quite a duo!! I have (and love!) Vegan Finger Foods, Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day, and Whole Grain Vegan Baking... plus still more books that each of them has written individually or with other authors. So... it's no surprise that I also love this newest book.

Cacciatore Chickpea-Smothered Cauliflower Steaks
Oooooh La La! This dinner was absolutely wonderful. First of all, as you can see, it was really beautiful: the huge roasted cauliflower "steaks" provide a foundation for the cacciatore mixture - which is as flavorful as it is colorful. It was actually really easy and pretty quick to make this dinner, but it ended up feeling special and fancy.

As far as protein goes - the chickpeas (and the cauliflower) both provide a good blast of protein, and this was still a low-cal but super satisfying dinner. Supposedly, this recipe makes 4 servings, which would be true if I were the kind of person who also prepared salad and side veggies and stuff like that. But, since I'm only ever going to cook one thing for dinner, we just each had a double serving and that was great. Each serving has 8 grams of protein, so our servings had 16 grams. This is definitely a recipe I'll come back to again and again.

Split Pea Patties & Cashew Raita
(from the Buzzworthy Beans & Legumes Chapter)
These little delights were packed full with Indian spices and tasted sort of like samosa filling and split pea soup ran off and had a cutlet baby. Ha ha. They were toothsome, but not dry... textural, but not too chunky, and perfectly spiced. We also enjoyed them alongside the Cashew Raita (oh look, I made two things for one dinner) - the cooling raita was a natural compliment to the spiced patties. Mr. VE&T was particularly jazzed about these patties - and I always love it when he gets excited about the food I've made.

Each patty had 10 grams of protein. This book provides the grams of protein per serving, but no other nutritional analysis.

Sloppy Joe Scramble Stuffed Spuds
(from the Terrific Tofu & Tempeh chapter)
This recipe makes a very flavorful and rich tofu scramble, spiced with cumin and chili powder and mustard (!!) and packed with veggies... and then has you cram it all into a hollowed out baked potato. So fun and tasty! I made us each a half of a regular potato and half of a roasted sweet potato. They were both good, but I think I preferred the regular white potato. I suppose you could save a little time and just make baked potatoes and the scramble, but then your life would be slightly less joyful.

Each potato half had 12 grams of protein.

High Brow Hash
We have a winner!!! This hash was just exceptionally delicious and super easy and low-stress to prepare. The recipe called for brussels sprouts, but they aren't in season right now (and I am a snob), so I used broccoli instead. No problemo! In fact, I made this recipe again recently for my birthday Brinner celebration and I doubled it and left the seitan out entirely (since we were already having breakfast sausages), and added in asparagus - and still received rave reviews from everyone at the party. I love a recipe that is so solid and unfussy that it can easily be adapted and modified like that. This recipe is already a new favorite. I am in love with it. Each serving had 16 grams of protein.

The Hash calls for the Smoky Sausages, but instead I made the "Put More Protein in Your Sausages" sausages (love that name). The PMPiYS recipe makes two huge sausage loaves, which I cut into chunks and froze. I think I have two chunks left. The sausages are absolutely packed with flavor and protein: vital wheat gluten, chickpea flour, nooch, nut butter, miso, sesame oil, and much much more. Highly recommended as a way to protein blast anything you're making. Each huge sausage has 86 grams of protein!

Reuben Scramble 'Wiches
Well, I'll tell you the truth: Mr VE&T did not like this meal. Is it my fault if this man doesn't like sauerkraut?! I mean, really, that's his cross to bear. On the other hand, I really loved this! It's a totally creative tofu scramble with all the seasonings of a reuben sandwich, and a massive heap of sauerkraut mixed in -- all served over a beautiful toasted slab of rye bread. We are lucky to live just a couple of blocks from a bakery that makes super delicious bread, so I ran down there and got half of a freshly-baked loaf of rye bread for this dinner and it was just perfect. I may have to wait for Mr. VE&T to leave town, but I'll make this again one way or another! Plus I still have a couple pieces of rye bread in the freezer awaiting their delicious fate.

You can be a Protein Pro, too!

Several years ago, I started keeping track of my daily calorie intake and my daily protein intake. Even though vegans always like to joke about that "Where do you get your protein?!" question -- I'm here to tell you that I really wasn't getting enough protein. It turned out that I was eating loads of fruit (so tasty!), but fruit doesn't have much protein. Happily, lots of veggies and grains and beans and other vegan treats are loaded with protein! This book is a big help for days when I feel like I want to bolster my protein intake, and I am really glad to have it in my collection. 

There are chapters devoted to Beans & Legumes; Grains, Nuts & Seeds; Tofu & Tempeh; and Seitan -- and within those chapters there are breakfast, lunch, and dinner recipes... some of which are really quick and easy and some of which are a little more involved (but worth the effort!). 
I have many more recipes marked to try out:
Hummus Bisque, Butter Bean Crostini, Eggplant Balela, Gingerbread Quinoa Granola, Quinoa Crunch Blueberry Muffins, Jerk Tempeh Salad, White Chili... and sooo many more. 

Huzzah! The folks at Fair Winds Press have allowed me to offer a copy of this wonderful book to a lucky blog reader! This giveaway is open to anyone in the US or Canada. To enter: leave a comment on this blog post and tell me what caught your eye, or about your favorite high-protein snack, or whatever! Please just make sure that your comment includes a way for me to contact you -- if I can't easily find your contact info, I will select a different winner. 

I'll select a winner one week from today on Monday July 20th

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Figs Figs Figs!

I have loved fresh figs for as long as I can remember. My parents own a house that is divided into a few rental units. When I was a little girl, sometimes I would end up at that house with my mom if she had some work to do. I specifically remember a few wallpapering projects with my mom (and maybe my grandma?). I come from a line of industrious women!

This rental house also has a fig tree. You have to go through the side gate and down a little path with lots of big plants on either side - plants that are especially big if you are still a little kid. Then, at the end of the path, on the right side, there is a fig tree tucked into a corner.

my earliest fig memories

On the rare occasion that I was at that house "helping" my mom, and it happened to be summer, and there happened to be fresh figs -- she would pick one and share it with me. That is my earliest memory of eating fresh figs. Right off the tree with my mom, in a manner that made the whole affair feel very rare and special.

you have to give the fig a gentle squeeze. it should be so soft and smooshy

In college, I spent several months living in Italy, where fig trees literally grow like weeds. Imagine the abundance!! The first summer I ever studied with my painting teachers (20+ years ago), there was an enormous fig tree right outside of the rustic house where we stayed. We were a group of highly emotional, slightly sloppy, 20-year old art students from around the world - tormented by our own egos. But, we knew enough to recognize the inherent Truth and Beauty in a giant fig tree right outside our front door. Day after day we could fill huge bowls with gigantic, perfectly ripe figs.

the inside of a fig is beautiful and weird and mysterious and delicious!
who comes up with these things???

I'm not sure when my grandparents planted their fig trees, but later in my life, my fig focus turned toward their house. I think they had two big fig trees: a King Fig (the green ones -- my favorite!) and a Mission Fig (the black ones -- also great!). After they died, and my aunt Laura and her partner moved into the house... many more fig trees were planted! I think they have seven fig trees now!! I am not the only one around here who loves figs, obviously. ha ha. 

So, recently, my aunt Laura called to tell me that the Mission Fig was bursting at the seams with perfect figs and did I want to come pick some. ... YES! We had such a lovely visit together, picking figs and eating figs and chatting. The garden at that house is filled with a lifetime of sacred memories for me -- Easter egg hunts, picking raspberries with my grandma, picking grapes with my grandpa, smelling the lemon verbena bush each and every time we walked past it, inspecting the seedlings in the greenhouse, summers when I was paid to water their vegetable gardens when they were out of town, wheelbarrow rides where my grandpa would push us around one at a time in the wheelbarrow... I could go ON and ON.

It means so much to me to be able to visit that space and share it with my aunt who I love so much... and to continue to eat the lovely figs that the trees still provide, so many years after my grandparents planted them.

the figs we picked!!

Breakfast: family figs, white nectarine, Chef Brad's VVC Chia Pudding, hot coffee