Sunday, December 16, 2012

Vegan Cheese Party

Since moving to Houston, I've made some new vegan friends. One of them received a copy of Artisan Vegan Cheese as a birthday gift recently. She was planning to host a party where each person brought a cheese from the book, but her landlady is being totally nuts. I offered to host it, which made me really anxious. I can't even describe how much cleaning I did before anyone came over. My house is usually pretty clean anyways, because I'm a bit OCD, but I was moving furniture out of the way to vacuum all the tiny spaces any dust could accumulate. I even changed the air filters in my AC unit and my air purifier. My friends arrived and it went so smoothly. I provided some fresh baguette and crunchy bread from Whole Foods, as well as some Back to Nature crackers (Ritz-type crackers without the hydrogenated oils). I baked some little biscuits too, using this recipe, but they basically tasted like Earth Balance. All together, the guests brought cashew chevre, lentil crackers, gruyere, fruit, boursin, pita crackers, wine, olives, and the apple harvest cake from Whole Foods. We had a great time! So many interesting conversation topics - animal rights (duh), religion and faith, the nature of happiness, and other random things. We ended up spending 6 HOURS together! I figured people would be gone in just a couple hours, so I was pleasantly surprised by how late we were together. The first photo shows the cashew chevre (sprinkled with sumac), the gruyere, and the cheddar. The second photo shows the boursin. The last photo shows the whole spread.
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Friday, December 14, 2012

Spicy Peanut Sauce #2

I'm calling this sauce #2 since I made another spicy peanut sauce recently (here). I was planning to have tofu, broccoli, and rice for dinner last night. I wanted to make sweet and sour sauce (using VeganDad's recipe), but thought peanut sauce might be better. Peanut sauce would help clear out the pantry a little. I grabbed a couple cookbooks from the shelf and decided that the recipe in Authentic Chinese Cuisine looked the most interesting. It calls for Chinese black vinegar or balsamic vinegar, so I used balsamic. I used the spicy peanut butter instead of regular peanut butter and chili garlic sauce.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Pepper Tree - Houston, TX

I've written about the buffet at Pepper Tree before, likely writing that it was a little bland. One of my new friends asked me to join her and some other people at Pepper Tree on Sunday night. She has been talking a lot about the cashew chick'n listed on the regular menu. I decided to order a menu item too, thinking I'd get the cashew chick'n too. When her boyfriend described the kung pao tofu, I wanted that. I had some steamed dumplings as an appetizer, the kung pao tofu combo (without the soup), and some sesame balls with chocolate sauce for dessert. It was a fun night talking with some new people. I had basically written off Pepper Tree because the buffet was a little bland, but now I know that the menu items are much better!
Also, I'm a little surprised to write that I went out with two different friends over the past weekend. I guess I am successfully, although slowly, making a new set of friends here in Houston. :)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Quan Yin - Houston, TX

My friend invited me to go to Chinatown last Friday night. We were driving on the 610 interstate when we were rear-ended. Thankfully, it was a very minor accident, since the lady was trying to brake when she hit us. The paint on my friend's car was scratched, but there was no major damage. We had been debating whether to go to Quan Yin or Pine Forest Garden. She had printed the directions for Quan Yin, so we went there after all that drama. The crazy part was that another accident happened after we finally managed to pull of the road and the police came. We ordered the fried dumplings and "egg" rolls for appetizers, which we shared. My friend ordered a Cajun soup, instead of her usual pho. I ordered the kung pao "shrimp" entree, mostly because I'm too cheap to buy Sophie's Kitchen products at Whole Foods. I will say the mock shrimp were rubbery and I won't buy them in the future. They were just so weird-looking that I had to give them a try. We had a great time at dinner and then headed over to the Asian market. We bought some agar for future vegan cheese experiments, and she bought tofu claiming it was so cheap. I noticed that it's the same price I pay at Fiesta, which is a cheap grocery store in Houston (it's rather plain inside, but it has fresh produce, a huge international section divided by region, and some natural body products).

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Creole Black-eyed Peas

I am trying to cook more from my pantry, which has a nice stockpile of dried beans. I use red beans, chickpeas, pinto beans, and black beans pretty regularly, but I don't use lentils, white beans, or black-eyed peas often. I decided to pick the black-eyed peas since I had just made the lentil chili in the previous post. I found this recipe on FatFreeVegan, which is a pretty great source of southern dishes. I enjoyed this without making rice, because I forgot to start some rice as I left the beans to simmer on the stove. I cooked the beans on low in the slow-cooker all day, then added them to the other items and left it all to simmer. I also used sriracha as the hot sauce, since I'm out of regular hot sauce.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Tex-Mex Lentil Chili

I made this chili recipe a couple weeks ago, but forgot to post it. This lentil chili has black beans and corn in it, plus the usual chili items. It's topped with a little cilantro (added after the photo) and avocado. Simple, but pretty tasty. It's easy to add more spice if you're into spicy foods. I'm going to keep this short, since I would like to try scheduling several posts since this week is going to be busy at work. :)

Sunday, December 9, 2012


I made that homemade white chocolate to make a bar cookie recipe for the monthly vegan potluck. However, it melted and made my bar cookies an oily mess. I was bummed, but decided to be persistent. I tried to make a danish earlier in the week and it was too dense. I decided to pick recipes from a cookbook that would have been tested extensively. I picked up my copy of Vegan with a Vengeance. I decided to make the pumpkin oatmeal cookies and the carrot-raisin muffins, which would be perfect for the cookie exchange and breakfast-themed meal. They both turned out well, making me feel better after a week of bad luck in the kitchen. :)
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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Latest Adventures in the Kitchen

I tried to make the sharp cheddar from Artisan Vegan Cheese, but it got a fuzzy spot on the third day of fermenting. I'm unsure where things went wrong. :( I am going to try again though, since our cheese party isn't for another week. Wish me luck!

On the upside, I made white chocolate tonight. I'm going to use this for my potluck dish and cookies for the cookie exchange this weekend. If I try it and it's delicious tomorrow, I'll have to get more cacao butter from Whole Foods. I don't know if the amount I made today will be enough for both dishes. I bought the Artisana raw cacao butter, not the one linked to in the recipe. The one linked in the recipe I found in the body section, not the food section. Weird, since she wrote about picking food grade cacao butter. Also, did you know that cacao and cocoa are the same thing? They come from the same bean, but cacao seems to be used in every other language and it is now used mostly to indicate minimally processed cacao. I'm way excited about the vanilla powder I bought, I can use it to keep vanilla frostings all white!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Enchilada Casserole

I've tried making this casserole once before (here), but it wasn't quite right. I decided to give the recipe another try. I crisped my corn tortillas in the oven while the beans were cooking. I used Isa's no-fat refried beans from Appetite for Reduction, black beans, peppers, corn, tomatoes, and onion. I sauteed the vegetables so they wouldn't have so much moisture to make the tortillas soggy. I skipped the salsa layer, but did make the linked enchilada sauce to put on the top. It was much better this time.
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A piece of the ceiling at work fell into my labmate's chair last week during the Thanksgiving holiday. The contractors worked this weekend to repair it. I decided that it was a sign to take the weekend off work. I met up with a friend for rock climbing for a few hours and ran a 5k in about 30 mins (my first race!) on Saturday, and went to a friend's to hang out and have pumpkin cheesecake on Sunday. I also took some of her rejuvalec to start my contribution to our Artisan Vegan Cheese party. :)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Pumpkin-Coconut-Tofu Curry

I had half a can of coconut milk and half of a giant can of pumpkin left from making Thanksgiving desserts. Also in the fridge, I had an onion, some tofu, and frozen veggies. What on earth could I make with coconut milk, pumpkin, and tofu? I turned to Google for an answer, narrowing it down to curry, and then finally selecting this recipe. It turned out pretty darn well and was a great reminder of why having a well-stocked spice cabinet is important. I even had curry leaves, because my old lab neighbors gave me some after they returned from India. :) I served it over quinoa, but forgot to add the cashews on top.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Tempeh & Red Bean Jambalaya

Since I had Thanksgiving at a friend's house, I did not have leftovers last night. I ended up going to Chipotle since I didn't really want to cook. Funny, I know. I rode my bike for 1.5 hours yesterday and then watched a bunch of movies. Anyways, I didn't want to go out for dinner again tonight, so I soaked some red beans for tonight's meal. (Although I admit, I did go to Starbucks in Rice Village with my labmate today so I'd have a hot drink while we window-shopped.) I saw this recipe in Vegan Planet and it's been a long time since I've had tempeh. I made a little bit of rice to serve with this dish, although you can't see it under the jambalaya. The recipe calls for file powder, which I recently found at Whole Foods. :)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Vegan Thanksgiving

Now that I'm a postdoc, there are some rules about vacation time. I'm not allowed to use my vacation time until I've been employed for 6 months, it has to be approved by my boss, and I have to log it on my time sheet. So lame. This means that I didn't get to go home for Thanksgiving this year, because it's so far away and I have to drive with the cats. I was planning to cook a Tofurky and all the sides for myself, then maybe get together with my labmate who is also single and living far away from family. I got invited to an all-vegan Thanksgiving at a friend's house though, so I went to that. (My labmate got invited to her former advisor's house so I didn't feel bad that she passed on my invitation to the vegan dinner.) I met the girl hosting dinner at the vegan potlucks, so I trusted that everything would be tasty and I would be safe. We had mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, cranberry bread, mushroom soup, corn pudding from Veganomicon, walnut mushroom pate from Veganomicon, a Turkish dish made with bulgur wheat (guest contribution), couscous and chickpea salad (guest contribution, purchased at Whole Foods), Field Roast en croute, a Gardein roast, and my desserts - pumpkin pie with Mimic Creme whipped cream and fudge from Chloe's Kitchen. I'll try to find out the recipe sources for the cranberry sauce, cranberry bread, stuffing, and mushroom soup.
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The most ironic part of the day was the fact that the religious guy, who talked about his faith quite a bit and tried to sound smarter than everyone, stole a bunch of the mushrooms in the soup. The market he bought them at provides paper bags for mushrooms, instead of the usual plastic produce bags. He put a bunch of fancy, expensive mushrooms in with the cheaper cremini mushrooms. You weigh produce and print your own label at that market, so he claimed all cremini mushrooms and essentially stole the other mushrooms by being undercharged. Just another reminder why I despise organized religion. "Listen to me blab about my church, even though I'm a klepto!" I commented that I would feel uncomfortable doing that and I frequently correct people when they over/under-charge me at the store. He justified his actions because the store provides a paper bag that you can't see through.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Pumpkin Alfredo

I had some leftover pumpkin in the fridge again, so I found this simple pumpkin alfredo sauce recipe. I used less pasta, since I didn't have a full box in the pantry. That's why the sauce looks so thick. I served this pumpkin alfredo sauce with wheat pasta, a Gardein turkey-style cutlet, and broccoli. This was a quick meal thrown together on Sunday night. I just wasn't feeling cooking something complicated after having to work part of Sunday afternoon.

Monday, November 19, 2012


On Saturday night, I attended VSOP's Thanksliving. I sat with a few other girls that I've met at previous events. We laughed and had a good time. Next year I'll know to bring my own servingware. I felt SO guilty using paper and plastic! I'm pretty tired today, so I'll keep this short. :)

Appetizer - raw mushroom pate served on a mushroom and some flax crackers made by Pat Greer's Kitchen, there was some spinach-artichoke dip from Radical Eats but it didn't last long (so no photo of that)

Main dish - Gobble roast (homemade seitan roast) with gravy, sweet potatoes with Dandies, cornbread stuffing, green beans, salad, and cranberry sauce by Chef Sabali of Vegan Comfort

Dessert - mini cupcake from Zibble (perhaps pumpkin flavored) and pumpkin pie from Sinfull Bakery
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Friday, November 16, 2012

Pumpkin Cornbread & Baked Beans

As soon as I saw this recipe, I knew I had to make it! Baked beans and pumpkin cornbread! I used wheat-based all-purpose flour, so I didn't need to use the xantham gum listed in the recipe. I slow cooked my white beans, instead of using canned beans. I found the BBQ sauce listed at Target for just over a dollar. Talk about a great deal! Served this with a side of broccoli and enjoyed it for several days. NOM NOM NOM.

Tomorrow I'm going to a catered vegan Thanksgiving dinner and I hope to see the new Twilight movie this weekend too!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Southwestern Mac (& A Rant)

I attended my work's Thanksgiving luncheon today. I had placed a vegan meal request two weeks ago. The admin I initially contacted denied my request, as did someone ranked above her. Instead of wallowing in rejection, I contacted the admin for the institute's director. She got his permission to accommodate all special requests, and we spent an entire day getting my meal selected. Surprise, surprise - it didn't arrive at lunch today. There was only a salad for me. I requested a pasta dish, side salad without dressing, and fruit for dessert. I was livid. Eventually, the mean admin that initially rejected my request tried to offer to have the little cafe next door to make my lunch. I told her that I didn't even want that dish at that time because I was so annoyed. I said I was planning to leave for lunch at Chipotle, which she offered to reimburse me. After that conversation, a meal was brought to my table. They *almost* got it right. They soaked the pasta dish in some vinegar-based dressing, even though I specifically said I don't like dressing (and mustard) in my initial email request. Thanks for trying, but the food was brought me to an hour after everyone else's food was served and it was wrong. To make it worse, she wanted to hug after our conversation. I hate being touched by people that I don't know, so that made me a bit uncomfortable. The highlight of the day was my vegan mini pumpkin pie from Sinfull Bakery.

OK, thanks for letting me whine about that. I've been meaning to post this photo for a couple days. I made this over the weekend, since it's definitely not the healthiest dish. So much Daiya cheese! Two cups! I found the recipe on Pinterest and veganized it using Daiya vegan cheeses, Helen's Kitchen soy chorizo, and plain soy milk. I added some green onions and avocado cubes since they were lurking in the fridge. I didn't bake it since I was hungry.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Cookie Butter Cups

Last night, there was the monthly vegan potluck. It seemed like more people came a little late this time, so my plate photo doesn't do justice to some of the items that ended up on the buffet table. I was able to get a couscous and chickpea dish, a rice dish, and a nutritional-yeast based mac and cheese dish on my second plate. The little cupcake in the middle is likely from Zibble, a local company. I brought cookie butter cups, but mine did not have the fleur de sel listed in the recipe. They turned out fine without the salt. One of the cups is at the front of the plate in the little white wrapper. They were all gone at the end of the night! This was pretty simple, so I can see making peanut or almond butter cups in the future.
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Friday, November 9, 2012

Little Tacos

I recently saw natural corn tortillas at the grocery store. No preservatives! I thought this was a great excuse to make something like a street taco. But by the time I made tacos, they had developed little mold spots. Lesson learned! Use them immediately. I went to a closer grocery store and bought some more corn tortillas. I pressed a block of tofu using my Tofu Xpress, then marinated it using a Mexican-style marinade. I cut the tofu, a bell pepper, and an onion into cubes before tossing everything into a heated skillet. I warmed the tortillas in the microwave and cut an avocado into cubes while everything was cooking. These were easy to assemble and fun to eat. :)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Friday, November 2, 2012

Pumpkin Mac!

I had some canned pumpkin and plain soy milk left in the fridge from the pumpkin spice cupcakes (see post here). I remembered seeing butternut squash and pumpkin cheesy sauces on Oh She Glows. I decided to give the pumpkin recipe a whirl. I served my mac and pumpkin cheese sauce with wheat pasta, broccoli, and Gardein seven grain tenders (not in the photo). So yummy and pretty simple to put together. I think I saw canned squash next to the pumpkin at Whole Foods, so I'll keep that in mind for a future dinner idea.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Double Take Dip!

Seriously, if you look at this photo, you'll think I melted some Velveeta with my salsa. NOPE! I had never tried Velveeta-based queso in my life until 2006. My mom never cooked with Velveeta at home, but my brother-in-law made the Velveeta mac and cheese from a box a few times when he was first married to my sister. However, in my last year of college, my roommate introduced me to queso made with Velveeta and salsa in the microwave. Since going vegan, I have tried to melt some vegan shredded cheeses with salsa, but the consistency was never what I remembered. I found Wayfare vegan cheese spread recently. When I opened the container and saw that it was fairly dense, I knew what I had to try... Ta-da! QUESO LIVES! The color and the consistency were so similar to my favorite unhealthy snack. I served the dip with some chips, avocado cubes, and fat-free refried beans (recipe from Appetite for Reduction). NOM NOM NOM!!1!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

MoFo #31: Halloween!

It's Halloween! I went to Radical Eats to make popcorn balls and candy apples with some other vegans. One of the girls came dressed as a tofu cube, but she looked more like a marshmallow. I wore a mod-inspired dress/tunic with tights. Anyways, I bought a bunch of tamales and a piece of chipotle chocolate cake to use the local deal coupon I had. I made sure to buy a real sugar Coke so I could pay for that with my card and leave a tip. There was even a little tunnel for kids to climb in, with lights, sounds, and plastic rats. As I walking back into my apartment, I saw some very young kids trick-or-treating in my complex. I was bummed that I wasn't home to hand out candy, although I think it was just my neighbors taking their kids out. Happy Halloween, everyone!
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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

MoFo #30: Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

Finally a pumpkin post! MoFo achievement unlocked! ;) I made these cupcakes tonight for tomorrow's lab meeting. Our lab doesn't normally have food at meetings, but it's Halloween... And I found the cutest cupcake wrappers at Target that I *had* to buy and use. I followed this recipe, except that I will reduce the frosting amount since I'm not going to pipe the frosting. I appreciate the fact that this recipe was written by a Houston blogger and chef Jody (known for her JodyCakes vegan baked goods).

I also wanted to use this post to share a few vegan baking tips. I'm not an expert baker, but these are a few things that have helped me. Use an oven thermometer! They're cheap and it really helps. My current oven is off by at least 50 degrees. (*sigh #renterproblems) I keep little boxes of plain soy milk around for baking, but I have made many baked goods successfully using powdered soy milk. These boxes are 1 cup volume. (I've also seen vegetable broth and other non-dairy milks sold in 1 cup boxes.) I also keep individual portions of unsweetened natural applesauce around for baking, since these single serving cups are ~1/2 cup volume. I keep my powdered sugar and brown sugar in air-tight containers in the fridge, so that they don't dry out. I keep baking items (baking powder, baking soda, extracts, etc.) grouped together too, but they're in the spice cabinet. In general, my pantry is sorted in clear acrylic containers so I can see how much stuff I have. This helps when it's time to consider making a recipe or to write a grocery list, it's easy to see if there's enough flour or sugar.
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Monday, October 29, 2012

MoFo #29: Impulse Desserts

If you know me, it's no secret that I have a sweet tooth. I love desserts. My love for desserts has only been amplified over the last two years. My love of desserts fueled the 2011 Weight-Gaining Diet of Champions and it's the reason the infamous diet was a little too successful. (Yes, I intentionally was trying to put on weight after losing some in 2010 from stress/anxiety attacks.) I was in Whole Foods last week to get a few items and saw this cake and pudding dessert near the express checkout line. There are no vegan donuts here, so I had to settle for this cake as my weekly treat. These days I'm trying to have one treat a week, instead of a daily treat, and I'm almost back to my normal size without much extra effort. Yay! :)
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Sunday, October 28, 2012

MoFo #28: Mission Burrito in Houston, TX

Given that the potpie leftovers were not the most tempting dinner option, I decided to go out for a burrito. My friend and I met up this afternoon for some pumpkin carving, then we walked over to a nearby Mission Burrito. It's not the best burrito ever, but it was good. Nice warm dinner after pumpkin carving! I, of course, carved a cat design. Meow! Tomorrow I'll pick up a little electric light for my pumpkin. :)
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Saturday, October 27, 2012

MoFo #27: Potpie Explosion

I would call this a deconstructed potpie, not a potpie explosion, but I didn't write Hearty Vegan Meals for Monster Appetites. The recipe lacks vegetables. It only calls for chopped cauliflower and sliced button mushrooms. That seemed a little weird to me, so I added frozen peas and some carrots (chopped using the food processor). The flavoring for the broth was quite good, but basic - vegetable broth, coconut milk, nutritional yeast, dried basil, and salt & pepper to taste. Instead of having a crust, the recipe calls for bacon onion biscuits, another recipe in the book. The biscuits seemed a bit dry (maybe I cut the butter into the dough too much?), the onion powder was a little too strong, and there weren't that many imitation bacon bits. There's potential in this recipe, but it just wasn't the caliber of the other recipes I've tried from Joni and Celine (well, the orange chipotle tempeh wings sucked too). Although not shown in this photo, I sauteed some tofu to mix in for a protein source, but I think white beans would have been a great choice too.
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Friday, October 26, 2012

MoFo #26: Cookie Butter Brownies

When I went to Trader Joe's a few weeks ago (posted here), I picked up a jar of their Cookie Butter. I've seen this, and the original Biscoff spread, all over the internet. I picked up a jar, but had no idea what to cook with this stuff... Enter Pinterest. I saw a brownie recipe with cookie butter swirled into the batter. I didn't swirl mine enough, so it took some extra time to cook the middle all the way. I also didn't use shortening, because 6 Tbs of shortening sounded a little icky. I went with coconut oil instead as a way to use some of the jar lurking in the pantry. I had several of these ingredients lurking in my pantry - Hershey's Special Dark cacao powder, Ghirardelli semi-sweet chips, coconut oil (Whole Foods' store brand), and cookie butter. I used regular all-purpose flour instead of spelt flour, since I have never bought spelt flour. Once the middle section cooked through, I decided to dive in! Yum! The cookie butter adds a hint of sweetness to the dark chocolate flavor from the cacao powder. The weather today was perfect for baking, it's only about 60*F outside! That's COLD for a southerner like me!
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