Monday, October 28, 2013

Athens of the South

I went on a business trip to Nashville last week, so I hopped onto the Happy Cow website and checked out where to eat while I was there.  I had a free night, and it looked like The Wild Cow needed to be on my agenda.  It did not disappoint!

The Far Eastland Bowl
Holy yum, Batman!  I had the Far Eastland Bowl, and it was delicious!  Brown rice, sauteed kale, grilled tofu, carrot-daikon slaw, peanut sauce and avocado. Awesomeness!  It was also really cool to eat at a restaurant that is totally vegan - we don't get that around my house!  On the other hand, I felt like a totally old fart eating dinner by myself there.  Not that anyone was rude to me - the staff were super friendly. I sat at the bar up front near the register and the kitchen, which was fun in itself -  it's just that everyone else in the place was twenty-something... and I'm 46.  I mean, I've got cool graying temples and four different pairs of glasses depending on what I'm trying to read and I looked like someone's mom who wandered in there by accident.  Oh well, it was fun!

I'm not really very adventurous when I travel by myself - I much prefer to have a companion when I'm banging around a new city.  So I was proud of myself for even going.  (But damn, I'm old.  I wish I had made it to Grins at Vanderbilt, but I think going to another college-age restaurant would have seriously demolished any ego I had left at that point...hahahaha!)

SO, to celebrate my middle-aged mom-ness and love of vegan food, I bring you some Halloween cookies I made with my kids:

I veganized my Mom's recipe for Vanilla Cookies, which I would share with you here, but I'm not satisfied with my veganizing on this recipe yet.  The original recipe calls for FOUR eggs, so I used Ener-G to replace them, and as Isa Chandra says, well, they had a taste.  I've never noticed Ener-G taste before, but I've never tried to replace four eggs worth of ingredient before either.  My family didn't notice; they gobbled them up!  But I need to work on this one before it's share-worthy.  The frosting is from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, and the decor are just vegan chocolate chips and walnut pieces.  They were good, just not great.  I'll try to get these right by Christmas.

Happy Halloween, everyone!  I've got four more nights to squeeze in scary movies before my family tells me to knock it off!  How about you?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

You're vegan? Well, here's your salad!

Ah salad, how I love thee.  Let me count the ways.

Okay, well not so much when it's the crappy bowl of lettuce starting to turn brown with a few shreds of purple cabbage and dried out carrot pieces.  Maybe a flavorless cherry tomato for garnish?  Or a big chunk of bitter, old, unpeeled cucumber.  What?  You don't want that?  You're so difficult.

Now THIS is a SALAD:
Friday Salad.

This is based on a salad from a deli located on campus.  This deli has a different main salad offered every day of the week, and they are pretty damn popular, with good reason.  They are huge salads, they load up the toppings, they're cheap, and they're delicious.  Of course, they're also NOT VEGAN.  Heck, they're not even vegetarian.  They're not good for you either, but that's a different story.

So here is my "recipe" for Friday Salad (even though it's only Thursday).  You need this salad in your life.  The original was loaded down with chicken, bacon, candied nuts, feta, and hard boiled eggs.  Mine's close, but a little healthier, and definitely more compassionate!

Friday Salad

Lettuce mix (I used romaine and baby spinach)
toasted walnuts (handful)
dried cranberries (handful)
coconut bacon (about 2 Tbsp)
One serving's worth of Meatless Griller Strips (you know, Chicken-y strips.  Pick your favorite vegan brand), cooked and chopped up
One serving's worth of Daiya Jack-style block cheese, crumbled
Agave-mustard dressing (which is basically just dijon or yellow mustard mixed with Agave syrup)

Enjoy!  And to send you on your way, here's a pic of my kids' jack-o-lanterns. Don't they look like they're having a good time?

So the first pumpkin says to the second pumpkin...

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Book I Never Wrote

Mise En Place

A novel by

 Chapter One

             She is grinning like an idiot as she quickly swirls extra virgin olive oil around the skillet.  A sprinkling of minced garlic, crushed red pepper, salt and black pepper are tossed into the pan and the oil begins to sizzle and pop.  Now, a splash of white wine and the fragrant liquid begins to steam and the sizzling intensifies.  A stream of relentless chatter is bubbling out of the hostess’s mouth, which is still stretched impossibly wide by her unnatural smile.  This is the same sauce my grandma made me when I was young. Make sure not to burn the garlic! Ooooooo, it smells so yummy!  See how simple this is?  Cream, butter, and a mound of fluffy, shredded, and intensely flavored imported cheese are added in a final burst of exuberant cooking mania, and the rich, velvety sauce is complete.  She tosses in the soft pillows of gnocchi which have been gently boiling in a nearby pot and flips the contents of the skillet into a thoughtfully chosen ceramic dish.  An artful sprinkling of chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley (never curly!) and more cheese complete the rustic masterpiece.  A few minutes under the broiler and you’re sure to please your entire family! Now, on to the salad!

            Sometimes I fucking hate the Food Network.


            I love being The Opener.  There is a stillness and sense of wondrous possibility I feel about the restaurant like no other time of day.  Great food will be cooked here today, and I will initiate the orchestration of flavor, texture, smell and sensation through my actions.  Later, when I am tired, achy, sweaty, and my clothes smell like a delicatessen, I will forget the love of the food.  I will want to be hosed down the drain like all the other crud that has been smashed and ground into the floor mats.  But for now and the next hour, the kitchen is mine.  Everything is clean and where it belongs, and the morning routine can begin.
            One of the best things about opening is I get to pick the music in the kitchen.  The soundtrack for today is XTC’s anthology, Chips from the Chocolate Fireball.  It’s wonderfully psychedelic and fun musical poetry, but most importantly it sets a good pace for the prep work ahead.  Other current favorites include Tom Wait’s Rain Dogs; the Cole Porter tribute album, Red, Hot, and Blue; and just about any Talking Heads album.  This is Food Network Falsehood Number One:  no one ever listens to music while they are cooking.  I know it’s so you can hear that gently sizzling garlic, or the rhythmic chopping of the chef’s knife against the cutting board, or the delightful crooning of the beautiful hostess as she babbles incessantly about the virtues of fresh tarragon, but it still pisses me off.  

End of page 1

Thursday, October 10, 2013

What's happening, hotstuff?

No recipes today, but food and life continue to happen.  Egad!  Please enjoy this photo essay.

Been a busy week or so.  James had eye surgery last Friday, although I delighted in telling everyone that they injected the eggs in one go and we expect them to hatch any day now.

Sesame Kwachik at Asian Wind.  Nom nom nom.
Tired boys take a nap together. Ain't they sweet?
Chocolate-Raspberry Blackout Cake from VWAV.  Because everyone needs cake after surgery, right?
Homemade English muffins from Vegan Brunch.  My first time making this recipe (I'm really a bagel gal), and they were perfect!  
Poppy hates having her picture taken.  She is about to kill me here.

Homemade Cobb Salad, L-R: Cherry tomatoes, turkey-style seitan a la Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day, Onion, Coconut Bacon, and Jack-style Daiya, topped with avocado.  Romaine on the bottom, dressed with homemade Ranch.  Yum!  This was totally inspired by The Vegan Cookbook Afficionado's' great Vegan MoFo Brown Bag posts, but hers is much prettier.  You should go check it out!

Monday, October 7, 2013


I survived my first Vegan MoFo, and I'm back for more!  Sorry for the absence for the rest of last week, but I needed some time to recover from September.  Whew! 

I needed some comfort food in my downtime, and today's recipe fits that bill to a tee:  Lasagna Soup!  This is a recipe I veganized from the Disney family website, Spoonful.  They have so many cute and fun ideas over there - if you have kids I definitely recommend checking them out, especially with Halloween coming up. I got the idea for our best Halloween costumes ever from Disney's Family Fun/Spoonful:  James was the Big Bad Wolf and the kids and I were the Three Little Pigs. And we wore them to go trick or treating in Walt Disney World!  I'm not proud, or shy.

The kids were asleep in the stroller at this point.  This is pre-gan, so please excuse my ice cream.

Okay, back to Lasagna Soup. This recipe is really yummy:  it's got all the flavor, sauciness, creaminess, and pasta-y goodness you're looking for in a lasagna, without all the work or calories.  This one is definitely going in the family Christmas Recipe Zine I've got planned.  Enjoy!

Lasagna Soup

1 package Gimme Lean sausage
2 tsp olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, chopped small
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp tomato paste
6-8 cups veggie broth (I use water and Better Than Bouillon Not Chicken flavor)
1 - 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 bay leaves
8 oz. fusilli or rotini pasta (or whatever shape you like!)
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh basil, or 1 tsp. dried basil
1 recipe of your favorite Tofu Ricotta (I used the Cashew Ricotta recipe from Veganomicon)
Vegan Parmesan for sprinkling (I used Galaxy Foods Go Veggie! grated topping, which I got in my Vegan Cuts snack box, and is delicious!)
Optional:  Vegan Mozzarella shreds

 In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the sausage and saute, breaking it up into small pieces (an old-fashioned potato masher is really good for this!) and cook until lightly browned.  Add the onions and saute another five minutes or so until softened.  Add the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes and saute another for another minute.  Add the tomato paste and cook for about 3-4 minutes.  Add the tomatoes with their juice, the veggie broth, and the bay leaves and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for about 20-30 minutes (depending on how big a hurry you're in!).

Add the pasta and turn the heat up to medium-high.  Boil until the past is tender to the bite.  Discard the bay leaves and add the basil.  Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, mix up your tofu ricotta in separate bowl. 

To serve, you can either put about 2 tablespoons of the tofu ricotta in the bottom of each serving bowl, and then ladle in some soup.  Or, you can just dollop the tofu ricotta on top of the soup.  Sprinkle with vegan parmesan and/or vegan mozzarella shreds.  I'm not a big fan of a lot of vegan cheeses, so I just went with the vegan parm.  Stir and enjoy!  We had some crusty bread on the side, and a salad would be nice, too!

All mixed up!