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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Thursday, October 25, 2012

MoFo #25: Curried Chickpea Balls

These are called Curried No-Meat Balls in Vegan Fire & Spice. I cooked my chickpeas in the slow cooker on low while I was at work today. Then, I chopped everything using the food processor. The recipe calls for mashing the chickpeas with a potato ricer, which seems impossible. Maybe she meant potato masher? I baked the balls instead of frying them in oil. I decided to bake them so I could prepare some rice in the rice cooker and let the sauce simmer on the stovetop. This is a very simple and incredibly flavorful meal. The spice mixture used in the sauce made the kitchen smell like an Indian restaurant, since I let the spices toast before adding the other ingredients. I used So Delicious plain Greek-style coconut yogurt for the vegan yogurt since I couldn't find a plain soy yogurt last weekend. Robin Robertson sure knows her stuff, as evidenced by the fact that Amazon lists this cookbook as the #1 best seller in low cholesterol cooking!
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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

MoFo #24: Chloe's Stuffed Shells

I'm returning to Chloe's Kitchen finally! I'm enjoying using some of my other cookbooks during MoFo, but I was working my way through this book during September. I decided to make the stuffed shells. The tofu ricotta does not call for nutritional yeast, which was a change from the way I learned to make it in Vegan with a Vengeance. I pressed my tofu using my Tofu Xpress, instead of just draining it, so I made less shells than the recipe intended. The recipe also calls for 3 cups fresh basil, but I used some dried basil that my labmate made with his garden's excess basil. I usually include some spinach in shells, but I forgot to grab some at the store. The arrabbiata sauce was quite good, even with my extra pinch of red pepper flakes. Overall, these were very good, but I'd include some spinach and a sprinkle of nutritional yeast-based parmesan cheese next time. Please ignore how awful the lighting is in this photo...
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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

MoFo #23: Pumpkin & Butternut Squash Stew

I decided to toil away peeling and dicing a little pie pumpkin and a butternut squash this weekend. Don't ask me why I'd find that an enjoyable way to spend an evening... This recipe is from Vegan Fire & Spice. The recipe calls for 2 lbs of pumpkin and the author's notes mention that other fall squashes could work. I decided to just get one pumpkin and one squash to use. I also used 4 jalapenos with the seeds, instead of 2 hotter chiles. I cooked my red beans in the slow cooker and then made this stew. It simmered on the stove while I did some dishes and other chores. I served this with some Trader Joe's crescent rolls. The rolls were hard to get out the tube, but they tasted fine with a sprinkle of garlic powder on them.
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Monday, October 22, 2012

MoFo #22: Oven S'mores

Today, I achieved internet fame. It's true. It's all downhill from here... Probably not quite as exciting as Cristin earning her PhD today, but hey, I'll take what I can get in the excitement department these days. ;)

I was watching an episode of The Pioneer Woman on Food Network recently. Although she loves butter as much as (or more than) Paula Deen, I couldn't resist watching Ree Drummond's show. She was making kids' food, including s'mores for a camping trip. She mentioned that you can wrap the s'mores in foil and bake them in the oven if you weren't camping. I decided to give that a try this past weekend. I used Nabisco original graham crackers (no honey, but they do have hydrogenated oils), Sweet & Sara vegan marshmallows (vanilla flavor), and an Endangered Species dark chocolate bar with cacao nibs. Yum! The marshmallow got soft enough to squish and the chocolate melted. I waited a few minutes after taking them out of the oven, so I wouldn't burn myself on hot chocolate. The crackers were softer out of the oven than after I let them cool, so they were crisp when I bit into the s'more. Yum!
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Sunday, October 21, 2012

MoFo #21: Simplified Pain au Chocolat & Hot Cocoa

One of my favorite things to do on a Sunday morning is to make a hot breakfast. It's been a little cooler in the early mornings lately, so it was a perfect chance to make a hot breakfast. I defrosted some puff pastry, which I cut into strips and rolled out a little. I added a spoonful of Justin's dark chocolate hazelnut butter and folded the puff pastry over, sealing the edges with a fork. This nut butter is a low-sugar, vegan version of Nutella. I baked these according to the instructions on the pastry box. I decided to serve these with some hot cocoa. I have posted about hot cocoa before, but today I used some different ingredients. I recently bought Ah!laska non-dairy cocoa (the purple one shown on the website) and Dandie's vegan marshmallows. I heated some vanilla soy milk in the microwave, then stirred in the hot cocoa mix and topped it with the marshmallows. Dandie's are smaller than Sweet & Sara's marshmallows and they're air-puffed, so they have a texture similar to the non-vegan jumbo puffy marshmallows. Yum! What a quick, but satisfying, hot breakfast! I've also put vegan cream cheese and jam in puff pastry, but please be patient when they come out of the oven. A blob of hot jam burned my hand last weekend and it blistered!
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Saturday, October 20, 2012

MoFo #20: Pepper Tree in Houston, TX

Pepper Tree is an all-vegan Chinese restaurant. There's a buffet for $15, but you can also order a regular item off the menu too. The food is a little bland, but the camaraderie of the vegan social group was the reason I went. I got a quick photo of my first plate, but I was thoroughly enjoying the conversations by the time I got a second plate that I didn't even reach for my phone.
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Friday, October 19, 2012

MoFo #19: Quesadillas with Upton's Seitan

Have you ever had Friday afternoon apathy? Once I got my Western blot running today, I felt like I just needed a nap. It happens sometimes. It's even worse than a normal Friday afternoon because I have to work tomorrow. I had a great stew recipe planned for tonight's dinner, but I forgot to start the beans this morning and had no desire to do prep work tonight. *sigh* Thankfully, I had a few things in my fridge that I could throw together for a quick dinner. (That's the upside of living in a city where I can find new vegan products!) I started with wheat tortillas, some Daiya cheese (both mozzarella and cheddar shreds), and Upton's Naturals Seitan in chorizo flavor. The seitan is the new item, since I have found Daiya cheeses in many different places in Florida. The chorizo flavor tasted perfect for tacos. I put the Daiya cheese and Upton's seitan on one half of my tortilla, then folded the other half over the top. I baked these for ~15 mins at 350*F, enough to melt the cheese and make the tortilla crispy. If I wasn't totally apathetic today, I would have served this with some type of vegetable on the side. I had some dark chocolate instead. :)
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Thursday, October 18, 2012

MoFo #18: Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins

I made these muffins a few days ago, but I'm not entirely satisfied with them. The recipes calls for a banana or apple sauce, so I used apple sauce. All my bananas are frozen for smoothies, but I had somehow had apple sauce in the pantry. I cut the agave back to 1/2 cup, because I really don't care for the stuff and I've never used it in a quantity greater than a tablespoon. I couldn't taste it in the final product, but the muffins also weren't sweet. I think I would use 1/2 cup sugar and some extra soy milk for sweeter muffins. Another thing I'd change in the future is to omit the coconut oil and use all peanut butter, so that the PB flavor is stronger. I wanted the PB to be the prominent flavor with hints of chocolate chips. These muffins were OK, but not what I would have expected when considering the recipe and photo. Live and learn, right? Baking is an adventure.
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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

MoFo #17: Simplified Shepherd's Pie

As I mentioned yesterday, I had leftover mashed potatoes. I really had no idea what to do with them. My labmate suggested shepherd's pie. It was a really great idea, surprisingly from a woman that never cooks. I told her thanks and looked for some simple recipes. I found a VeganDad recipe that looked really good. I decided to use a box of tofu, frozen mixed vegetables (2 cups), and some dried minced onion instead of the fresh vegetables and chickpeas in the recipe. I used the soy milk, flour, and nutritional yeast in the amounts listed in the recipe. I heated the tofu and frozen vegetables in a skillet, then added the liquid and some seasonings. I put a layer of potatoes in a pie pan, topped that with the heated tofu and vegetables, and topped it with another layer of potatoes. The recipe calls for vegetable broth powder. I used VegeBase since it was lurking in the spice cabinet, but Bryanna Clark Grogan has a well-known recipe too. You'll need powdered soy milk in her version.
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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

MoFo #16: Chick'n Fried Seitan with White Gravy

Let me get this post up before tonight's debate starts. This weekend I made chick'n fried seitan with white gravy from Hearty Vegan Meals for Monster Appetites. The seitan recipe is pretty basic, but I decided to use panko bread crumbs instead of the sweet corn cereal suggested. I don't like cereal, so the idea of coating the seitan cutlet with Captain Crunch grossed me out a little. One of the seitan cutlets doesn't get breaded and fried, instead it is minced to serve as sausage in the white gravy. I made this American classic, even frying it for authenticity, and served it with mashed potatoes and broccoli. I made too many mashed potatoes, so I need to find a creative way to use them up. Overall, these were good and they reheated well.
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Monday, October 15, 2012

MoFo #15: Vegan at Costco

Last year, I blogged about menu planning and my love of Costco. I can't say enough good things about Costco and the savings. I live alone, but I can take advantage of the deals if I try to avoid buying fresh produce or very perishable items. I stick to the Clif bars, flax seed, vanilla soy milk, frozen produce (lots of organic options!), bananas, natural PB & organic jelly, and quinoa. (And Coke Zero! It's my last bad habit, dang it!)

Latest Costco addiction is Mary's Gone Organic crackers and Tribe hummus snack packs. I bought Sabra brand hummus packs at my old Costco, but several of the containers were open. My new Houston store has Tribe brand and the sides of the box allowed me to peek in and make sure they were sealed. This hummus is so garlicky and the 20 packs are perfect for the 20 servings of crackers! As a note, I do wash the hummus containers out for recycling. :)
I also took notes on what's available at my new Costco. I buy a 3-pack of House tofu there, even though there's really no cost savings on this item since the single blocks are only $1.50 at my local, cheap grocery store. However, there are lots of normally expensive items available at Costco - almond butter, agave nectar, real maple syrup, rice milk and soy milk (plain varieties), refrigerated Silk soymilk, refrigerated So Delicious coconut milk, hemp hearts, coconut sugar, organic sugar (which is vegan by default), organic ketchup (HFCS-free! Simply Heinz is too, if you don't want the jumbo organic bottles from Costco), sun-dried tomatoes, pitted Kalamata olives, and fresh produce (if you can eat all that!). I bought edamame and falafel in the refrigerated section, but I haven't looked for these items at my new store yet.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

MoFo #14: Vegan Potluck

Last night was the monthly potluck for Houston's Vegan Society of PEACE. Honestly, it was the best potluck I've been to since moving here (and not just because I won a copy of Tofu Cookery). There's always a mix of people, but last night I met some girls in my age range who were talkative. Sometimes I have felt like I'm practically forcing people to have a conversation. Nothing wrong with being an introvert, but come prepared with a few talking points to get conservation flowing. There was a film and a cookbook discussion section. I kept interrupting (or "adding to the discussion"), but I did try to raise my hand and wait to be acknowledged. Thanks to MizzB for leading the discussion! The theme was autumn foods with an emphasis on pumpkin and lentils. I brought the candy corn and it was almost all gone by the end of the night! Here are pictures of my dinner plate and desserts. The dinner plate has nacho bake, shaevd brussel sprouts, gumbo, spicy corn pudding, spinach and tofu in coconut curry sauce, chickpea and kale mash, lentils, lentil enchilada square, and sprouted lentil salad. On my second dinner plate, there were a few different items - blackeyed peas, a goulash served out of a pumpkin, and more spicy corn pudding. For desserts, there were a few options that I didn't try, including pistachio ambrosia, carrot cake, Whole Foods' apple harvest cake, and Halloween Oreos (the orange filling). I decided to try the whoopie pies, a healthy looking puffed cereal bar with seeds and nuts, and chocolate zucchini cake. The whoopie pie filling tasted like Ricemellow.
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Saturday, October 13, 2012


Yes, you read that right. VEGAN CANDY CORN! You can buy some from Vegan Store if you've got some extra money to spend ($6 for 15 big pieces). I decided to go the DIY route and used this recipe from the Urban Housewife. I saw a recipe adaptation that used agave nectar instead of corn syrup. I bought Karo (the light colored one), which is supposed to be free of high fructose corn syrup. It's my understanding that corn syrup can be made and then further processed to make HFCS. Karo even addresses the removal of HFCS from their products on their site here.

I admit, I was a bit nervous when I saw the mixture bubbling and boiling. I kept using a silicone spatula to stir it, hoping to prevent a burnt layer on the bottom. I sifted my powder mixture in advance, so that it would be ready. I found the powdered soy milk on the very bottom shelf of the non-dairy milk section of Whole Foods. I did wear gloves to incorporate the food coloring, but not to roll out the dough. This made my hands slippery and I almost dropped a knife on my foot. I'd recommend using a sharp pizza cutter if you're working with kids (or clumsy, ha). These seem softer than I remember candy corn being, instead they remind me more of those little pumpkins which weren't as waxy and hard as the candy corn pieces. Urban Housewife did make the little pumpkins, but I didn't go that far.
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Friday, October 12, 2012

MoFo #12: Seitan & Bok Choy with Hoisin Sauce

This recipe for seitan and bok choy with hoisin sauce is from Vegan Planet. The recipe calls for 12 oz seitan, so I decided to use a baked seitan recipe from FatFreeVegan. Since the seitan recipe includes peanut butter, I used the spicy peanut butter lurking in my pantry. I used 1/4 cup hoisin sauce with some splashes of water to lightly coat the seitan chunks, instead of the 1/2 cup sauce called for in the recipe. My only concern is that this recipe says it will serve 4, but it only calls for 12 oz seitan and 4 baby bok choy bunches. I used 6 bunches that I bought at the farmers' market last weekend and split this into 2 dinner portions. I served this with a little rice to round out the meal. I don't see 4 people getting full off a serving of 3 oz seitan and a single bunch of bok choy. I sprinkled on some sesame seeds to make it pretty.
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