Monday, May 02, 2016

Learning about Korean Food! Chung Jung One Gochujang Sauce

I really don't know anything about Korean food, but when Chung Jung One offered to send me a jar of their Gochujang for review, I jumped at the chance to explore something new. Gochujang is a hot, thick, slightly sweet, and sticky fermented Korean chili sauce. It's not overwhelmingly spicy-hot, but definitely brings some heat. Also, it turns out, Gochujang is super delicious.

my new pal

Chung Jung One's sauce is gluten-free and vegan, which I gather is not always the case. It's sweetened with cane sugar and brown rice syrup. The fermented aspect of the sauce gives it a nice, rich umami power, which I always appreciate in vegan food. Also, I think their website is pretty cool - it has some recipes for inspiration, some info about the sauce, and a gallery of people's instagram pictures featuring their sauce. I love their idea of adding this sauce to hummus!

bibimbap! fun to say!

So, since I'm essentially a Korean cuisine noob, I started with a dish I've made once before, a long time ago: bibimbap. This time I used a great recipe from the New York Times. This recipe was easy to veganize. Obviously, I left off the egg. I also reduced the oil by quite a bit, increased the amount of rice vinegar-sesame oil seasoning in the carrots. There were many components to the meal, but none of them were complicated and overall this dinner was actually pretty easy to prepare. It was unlike anything I make with any frequency, and we both totally loved it! The greens, mushrooms, and tofus were all cooked, and the carrots and cukes were raw but dressed with seasoning. The hot-and-slightly-sweet gochujang sauce was definitely a key ingredient -- tying each bite together with a complex kick of sweet heat. So good!

I was feeling quite inspired after our first success, and so when Cadry posted her recipe for a Bulgogi Bowl, I knew I wanted to try it out! This bowl has grilled tofus marinated in a rich marinade (featuring Gochujang sauce, of course!), lightly seasoned spinach, rice, and kimchi. This was my first time finally having kimchi -- even though everyone talks about it all the time. The brand I got was quite yummy, but also quite spicy, so I enjoyed just a little nibble with each bite, like a condiment. I don't think I'll be eating it by the spoonful! ha ha. On the other hand, those Bulgogi Tofus were outta sight. Oh man. They are really, really good. I ate the leftover pieces straight outta the fridge the next day. I'll definitely make these regularly. I loved grilled and baked tofu, and I'm always looking for new ways to enjoy it -- this flavor profile was new to me and I instantly fell in love.

I look forward to putting my gochujang sauce to more uses, so far I'm a definite fan. Got any recipe suggestions for me?? Bring 'em on! Teach me about yummy Korean food!

Monday, April 25, 2016

A Cooking Hiatus!

vegan bolani
a super simple breakfast: A store-bought lentil bolani, a banana, some salsa, and the mandatory cup of hot coffee. I love these bolani breads so much, and I think the lentil one is my favorite right now. They're made with whole wheat flour and filled with lentils. They've got a lot of protein and they really feel like a satisfying and complete eating experience. Also, that salsa is seriously delicious. Thanks for the salsa tip from my friend Erika!

Obviously, I really love to cook. I probably wouldn't have a food blog otherwise. Two nights a week, we have giant salad for dinner, and I pretty much always cook dinner the other nights. Sometimes I make an old favorite recipe, but a lot of the time I make something new that I've never made before. I love trying out new recipes, and sometimes I'm cooking from a new cookbook that I've been sent to review. I'm sure you can tell that I really enjoy reviewing cookbooks too!

vegan ramen
Koyo Lemongrass Garlic Ramen, supplemented with kale sauteed with leeks and green garlic and grated carrot. Actually quite YUMz

vegan eats and treats

And yet, last week I just wasn't feeling it. I was sitting on the sofa, thinking about what to make for dinner for the new few nights... and all I really wanted was just to blow it off. So I did! Woo hoo! Such a luxury! I spent several days and nights just scrapping up various meals with things from the pantry and random veggies from the farmers market. Mr. V&ET always appreciates my culinary creations, but he was also such a good sport about fending for himself for a little while. So, I made myself various little odd ball creations and he would get take out or something pre-made from the grocery store -- and then we would eat dinner together.

ha ha - glorious culinary creation

Many meals were like this - steamed veggies, some fresh veggies, and some yummies to go with the veggies. In this case it was some canned refries from the pantry, some salsa, and some spicy Heidi Ho cheese sauce. Simple, super easy, and actually quite satisfying!

simple eats, vegan
A similar creation: sauteed broccoli rabe, refries - salsa - spicy Heidi Ho, sliced avocado, and an Obi probiotic "soda." A great dinner and super simple to make. I actually eat lunches like this fairly often, but I don't often also eat like this for dinner. I usually follow a recipe and make something more "cohesive" for dinner. 

vegan eats and treats

I know eating whatever you want from the pantry is normal living for most of you, but it's so rare for me. I lead a pretty structured life, which usually works pretty well for me. Twice a week, I sit down and go through my cookbooks and pick out recipes for the next several days, and then I religiously follow my list, and cook my pre-determined meals on the appointed days. Ha ha. It makes me sound like a nut, but it helps me to be organized like this because then I don't end up buying a bunch of random veggies and then watching them rot in my fridge. All that said, it felt super luxurious to just eat weird little combos of whatever I randomly found in the fridge and pantry. Somehow these didn't seem like meals worthy of feeding to someone else, so Mr. VE&T was happy to fend for himself.

vegan mexi wrap
One of my more excellent creations during my cooking boycott: A wrap made with: canned refries with lime juice / avocado / salsa / Heidi Ho / cilantro / more kale sauteed with leeks and green garlic /  all semi-rolled in some leftover lavash from the freezer. Quick and delicious!

some of the fun things I did with my extra time!

It was fun and relaxing to have so much extra time in the evenings since I didn't have to cook whole meals. In fact, I think I might take little cooking boycotts more often, just the joy of a break in routine, a chance to catch up on odds and ends in the fridge/pantry/freezer, and for all the free time it opens up. I enjoyed my little holiday! 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Jambu! Jambu! Cute Vegan Shoes

 little flower designs on my shoes, little flowers in my garden

 It's always such a joy to find the perfect pair of shoes AND have them be vegan! For a while now, I've been wanting a pair of shoes that met a few specific criteria.  I was looking for something along the lines of a "substantial sandal," not too clunky to wear with skirts or shorts, but also secure enough that I could use them for a quick spin on my bike or a long walk with the dogs. When Jambu reached out to me about reviewing a pair of shoes from their new line of spring shoes, I had no idea I was about to find my missing mystery shoe!

Jambu makes a bunch of shoes, and only some of them are vegan, but they are always coming out with new designs even in their vegan line. I first stumbled across Jambu brand many years ago at a local sporting goods store. I found a super cute pair of shoes there, and then couldn't believe my eyes when they were actually vegan! It even said the word "vegan" on the label. So Cool. I've been a Jambu fan and loyalist ever since then.

Cruising through the Jambu spring line up of women's vegan shoes, I decided to try out the Deep Sea Vegan Sandal in Charcoal color. They also have some cute little slip-ons that look super comfortable. I'm glad I made the choice I did though, because I really love these shoes!

feeling snazzy!

It turns out that these Deep Sea Vegan Jambus are just exactly what I was looking for. First of all, I think they're really cute. I like the cute out flower designs, and the little floral print on the ankle strap, and the contrast stitching. So I feel fun and sassy when I wear them. The upper part of the shoe is made with a comfortable feeling and nice-looking vegan leather.

this is usually what happens on a leash walk with the doggies - two pulling in one direction, one pulling in another direction! ha ha. Stevie loves to go-go-go, and Snoopy and Dottie love to sniff and pee! These are great walking shoes.

They're also super comfortable. The inserts are made with memory foam, so they're smooshy and luxe-feeling on my feet. As soon as I got them, I got all excited and wore them for a dog walk. Of course I got a little blister on my pinkie toe (you'd think I'd know by age 42 about the art of breaking in a new pair of shoes), but the soles of my feet felt great. Now that my feet are used to these shoes, I don't get that blister anymore either. 

joy ride with jambus! wooooot! 

Lastly, I really like how these shoes feel like a sandal, but are secure like a shoe. I mostly wear flip-flops, but supposedly that's not great for your feet. Also, sometimes Mr VE&T and I like to go for little joy-rides on our bikes, and I don't necessarily feel like using my fancy bike shoes and "clipping in," especially since he just has a basic cruiser for a bike. I don't love riding in my flip-flops because my darling little toes feel so vulnerable and exposed. But these shoes are great for joy rides! They stay on nice and firmly, and also with the closed toe - my little toes are protected and looking cute all at the same time!

doggies helping me with my shoe pics

The local store where I used to be able to find Jambus went out of business, but luckily, Jambus are easy to find online, like at Planetshoes. The internet is pretty cool for a lot of reasons, including reading vegan blogs and shopping for vegan shoes. Plus! The folks at Jambu created a 10% coupon code for VE&T readers: the code is jambuveganeats and it's valid from now until May 31. Yippee! Let's be shoe twinsies.  

Monday, April 11, 2016

Troll-Themed Slumber Party!!!

teens talkin' on the phone

Well, I'm 42 years old, so my teenage years were a while ago. But way back in high school, I made a super, super special friend. JJTWH and I just fell in love - we had such a rich and intimate and vibrant friendship. We spent as many hours, days, and nights together as possible. We pretty much always wanted to be together, and when we weren't together we were probably talking on the phone with one another. 

JJTWH lived quite a ways out of town, whereas I lived right in the center of town-- just one block from our high school. It was inconvenient for our parents to drive us to one another's houses... so we managed to work this situation into countless sleepovers, even on school nights. We spent so many nights talking, listening to music, laughing, adolescent fretting, and - in particular - singing along to the super-cheesy Dolly Parton album "White Limozeen." ha ha ha

bedroom door closed for teenaged privacy, lights down low, red chili lights plugged in -- time for a dance party! I loved those lights so much - they were like christmas lights with bright red plastic "chili peppers" that glowed when they were plugged in.

Pretty soon, she was part of our family. After JJTWH and I went to prom together, my grandparents hung our prom picture on their wall and there it remained, until they both passed away. One summer during college, her parents had moved away from Santa Cruz, and I was off studying in Italy, so she came and spent the summer living with my parents. So, you see what I mean! 

Happily, all these years later we are still very close -- I even asked JJTWH to be the officiant at our wedding, and she did! We live about an hour's drive away from one another -- which isn't as great as being next door neighbors, but is pretty damn great. JJTWH has a most excellent daughter, who is 7 years old and is super fun and funny and smart and I love her so much. Now I get two friends for the price of one! 

So, after all those nights together as teenagers, something pretty great happened recently... we had a slumber party again! JJTWH and her kiddo came to our house and spent the night! AND it was JJTWH's birthday so I got to cook for her!! You guys, this was SO FUN for me. 

Vegan African Peanut Stew
Oh She Glows African Peanut Stew. and mystery trolls

For dinner, my friend requested something with interesting spices, since her daughter's lack of interest in spicy foods has changed the way they eat at home (at least for now). I had so many ideas, I couldn't decide what to make! Most of all, I wanted to be able to spend all my time with them and not cooking, so I decided on things that I could make in advance. One of my favorite recipes from The Oh She Glows Cookbook is this African Peanut Stew ~ recipe shared online here. It's so flavorful and delicious and chock full o' veggies. Everyone I've ever made this soup for has loved it, and so did my friend.

Don't worry, I made La Kiddo a bowl of spaghetti since I knew she wouldn't be interested in the other food I made. She loved her spaghetti, so everyone was happy!

Oh She Glows Kale Salad
The Best Shredded Kale Salad from Oh She Glows with mysterious troll tablecloth

To go along with the stew, I also made this kale salad from the OSG website and it was spectacular! We all loved it! Well, the grown-ups did at least. I don't think La Kiddo even gave it a go. I hadn't ever made this recipe before, but I thought it looked good and it was. Will definitely make again. I wish I had made a double batch, because it totally disappeared. It's amazing how huge batches of kale can just wilt into such a small salad... kinda like how a giant duffle bag of fresh spinach gets steamed and turns into barely half a cup. ha ha. The "parmesan" is made with pecans and nutritional yeast. It's really delicious. I recommend this recipe! 

This recipe is on her blog, but Angela at Oh She Glows is actually about to launch a new app - and I was one of many testers for it... so I actually made this salad using the app, on my ancient iPhone4s - and it worked great. I've never cooked from an app before now, but this one is so beautiful and easy to use and I'm really excited to see the final product (it launches today, April 11!). I plan on buying it because I found it really useful and fun to use. Some of the recipes are from her site, but others will be unique to the app. Also it has cool features, like you can take notes and you can cross ingredients off after you've added them... so it's different than just working off the blog. 

birthday trolls!? what is going on here??

So, uh... I guess it's time to address the elephant in the room. Ha ha. What's up with these cheezy trolls in my otherwise charming food photography??? WELL. At some point in high school, JJTWH and I decided that these trolls were just so ugly and so sometimes we would try to hide one of them at the other person's house. I don't even know how it started, but it was a little challenge between the two of us. Remember how I mentioned that JJTWH spent a summer living with my parents while I was overseas in Italy? When I came home from that trip, I quickly discovered that JJTWH had somehow come across an entire pack of troll-themed valentines (those little cheapo ones from grade school) and she had meticulously hidden them all over my bedroom. I mean, honestly, I continued to find them for several months. It was an unparalleled triumph.

my mom, the final victor

But then, I think maybe my mom got the last laugh. My mom loves to scour the thrift stores for good finds and somehow, somewhere, she had found this *complete* troll-themed Birthday Kit: hats, cups, paper plates, paper napkins, and even that hideous paper tablecloth. I guess she's just had this stuff tucked away for some time now... and when I mentioned how excited I was to have JJTWH over for a bday slumber party, my mom's eye's lit up. Ha ha. So, of course I had to surprise JJTWH with a beautifully prepared birthday dinner, plated on troll-themed paper china. PERFECT. 20+ years later, my mom takes the troll trophy!

Birthday cupcakes!

Of course there was dessert! I didn't get a glamorous, fancy picture of the cuppers I made, but I did get a totally adorable picture of La Kiddo before she surprised her mom with a birthday cupcake. I checked in with JJTWH before our big weekend, and asked her what kind of birthday treat she was in the mood for -- the directive I received was "something lemony or fruity." Fun! I always love fruity desserts. So, I turned to the trusty tome of vegan cakes, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, and made a recipe I'd never tried before: Lemon Cupcakes with Blueberry Filling (and lemon buttercream) ~ recipe is reprinted online here. Oh man they were sooooo good! We all loved them!

Actual picture of the cute scene. La Kiddo showed up for our slumber party with a change of clothes, a toothbrush, and about 10 "stuffies," or stuffed animals. SO CUTE. Snoopy and Footie *always* sleep with us, but as soon as there's a kid in the guest room, we lose all our appeal. They both slept all night with JJTWH and La Kiddo. I knew our guests were awake the next morning when I heard them giggling because Snoopy was trying to lick their faces. It was so darned sweet. 

Fiesta Scramble, Vegan Protein Book
Fiesta Scramble, lime slices, and Guacamole
savory component of our morning birthday feast

I cannot even tell you how fun it was to wake up and have two of my world's favorite people right there in my own house!! SO FUN. Especially since we had a super breakfast feast ahead of us, and then plans for a fun day together.

JJTWH and I are in agreement that a proper breakfast has a savory, protein-y component AND a sweetie component, so I did not let her down. Following her request for spicy food "and lots of avocado," I decided to make the Fiesta Scramble from The Great Vegan Protein Book. I had read kzcakes' post about this scramble, and decided to go for it -- even though I'd never made it before. (One of my real specialties is making completely new-to-me recipes when I have company over, ha ha). To go along with it, I made a batch of Guacamole *food of the gods* -- using the recipe from Viva Vegan. I love that recipe because it's simple and perfect.

Let me just say, that scramble was an instant favorite. It was a big hit with all of us ~ full of well-balanced flavors, and packing a serious punch of heat from adobo sauce and fresh jalepenos. Sooo good. Probably not kiddo-friendly, but it was 100% adult-approved. In fact, I have already made it twice more since then for dinner. We really love it.

Vegan Carrot Cake Pancakes
Carrot Cake Pancakes
the sweetie component of our breakfast fun

For a breakfast sweetie, I made the Carrot Cake Pancakes from Isa Does It (recipe here). This is one of my all-time favorite breakfast treats, and I was so happy to share them with my special guests. They're packed full with shredded carrots, warming carrot cake spices, and pecans... and they are delicious and perfect and glorious. We were hoping that La Kiddo wouldn't object to "different" pancakes, and indeed she did not object! These were enjoyed and devoured across generational lines!

It wouldn't be a fancy breakfast without some fresh fruit: satsumas, navel oranges, and strawberries.

Vegan Brunch
My breakfast plate

My pal JJTWH and I share a great love of farmers markets and local produce. We often trade notes about our favorite vendors or our favorite variety of stone fruits or nerdy things like that. We like to bring each other foodie gifts all the time too. So, even though it was her birthday, JJTWH showed up with a jar of "Pearlicious" pear jam from a local farm called Prevedelli Farms. It was so delicious with the carrot cake pancakes! Actually, let's just say, it was so delicious even straight out of the jar. The whole jar disappeared so quickly... within days. It basically just tastes like a jar of pureed perfectly perfect pears. This farm also sells at my farmers market - but they're on a break until berry season. I plan on stocking up on pear jam ASAP (apparently you can also order off their website, if any of you are interested!).

La Kiddo, JJTWH, & me ~ in our jammies and bathrobes, wearing our troll hats, and ready for a day of fun together.

Santa Cruz is one of the winter homes for monarch butterflies, before they fly way, way back up north during the summer. It's pretty amazing. There were just a few left when we went, but it was still pretty neat. 

After breakfast, we headed off for some fun time at the beach and we saw the last of the monarch butterflies before they migrate north for summer time. It was a really wonderful weekend, and I missed them so much as soon as they left. I'm already dreaming of a future full of more sleepovers. 


ps. I followed my pal Cadry's advice and finally checked out Bloglovin, and added my blog to it. Do you use Bloglovin to follow blogs? If so: Follow my blog with Bloglovin And let me know if you have a blog there so I can follow you back. I'm just starting to use it. .