Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Springtime Brunch Glory

I'm not totally sure why my family celebrates Easter, since not one of us is religious -- but someone a few generations back must have been? Anyhow, it's made its way down through the generations to the present day in the form of "an excuse to get together" -- which is certainly good enough for us. Plus, it gives me a chance to cook up yummy brunch food (my favorite!) and draw doodles of bunnies. This year we had such a wonderful morning together - perfectly low-key, full of happy chatter and conversation, zero fuss, lots of warmth. Then everyone left and Mr. VE&T konked out on the sofa and all the pets fell asleep and I did all the dishes and cleaned up the after-party. Very peaceful. 

 Fresh Fava & Dill Mini Quiches

One of my favorite things about a proper brunch gathering is the joy of having both savory and sweetie options. For years, I've had my eye on a Fava Bean & Dill Crostata recipe in "Silk Road: A Vegetarian Journey," so this year I saw fava beans at the farmers market and I seized the moment and veganized it. I used the Mini Muffin Omletes recipe from "Isa Does It" as a base, added in a dab of yellow miso, a dash of umeboshi vinegar, and a bit of "leftover" cashew chevre. From there, I prepared a big batch of fresh favas (about two pounds still in the husks), about a cup of fresh dill, and a bunch of caramelized leeks. The recipe calls for using lavash bread as the crust, so I cut up a piece into little squares and had a perfect excuse to use my fancy and frivolous square shaped muffin tin.

Boy, these were AMAZING. First of all, the fresh favas are just so special and spring-timey. They're quite a bit of work, so that makes it feel extra special when I actually do commit to cooking them. These little quiches were super rich and flavorful, and I also loved the lavash crusts for mini quiches. I'll definitely use that trick again.

 Carrot Cake Baked Oatmeal

I've made the apple baked oatmeal from the "Oh She Glows Cookbook" a handful of times, but I've been looking for a reason to make the Carrot Cake oatmeal from her website for a while. Carrots and Easter go hand-in-hand, right?! This was SO good, and luckily there was lots left over, so I got to enjoy it for leftovers for days. It's really good reheated with a dollop of homemade yogurt. Mmmm. I plan on making more soon for a week's worth of tasty breakfasts.

 Fresh Strawberries & Fresh-Squeezed OJ

Around these parts, no brunch-time gala is complete without an abundance of freshly-picked local organic strawberries. Miracle gems of yumminess. Also, I'm delighted to report that the oranges on our very own orange trees are finally beginning to sweeten and are actually quite good nowadays - they make especially good OJ. So, the night before Easter, I spent a good 45 minutes or so twist-twist-twisting and juicing a ginormous box of oranges to make some OJ. After that I borrowed my aunt's electric juicer to give that a go. My wrist was tired!

 Roasted Potato & Asparagus Salad

This recipe is from the Oh She Glows Cookbook and it is SO GOOD (you can find the recipe online here). As you know, during asparagus season, it is mandatory to eat as many asparagi as possible. Also, you must make this amazing salad at least once per asparagus season. The potatoes and asparagi are chopped up and roasted and then tossed with a totally fantastic creamy avocado dressing, and then a big mess of scallions. Just thinking about this recipe makes me want to make it again. I really recommend it.

Hot Cross Bunnies

For the last several years, I've had a pretty reliable hot cross buns recipe, but as I am unable to leave well-enough alone, I wanted to try a new recipe. Specifically, I wanted to make hot cross buns that kinda stick together as they rise and bake, and then you have to pull them apart. I like that phenomena, and the way it leads to golden tops and soft doughy sides. So, after much web-surfing, I settled on this recipe from King Arthur Flour. It was easy to veganize. Following the Hot New Thing in Veganism*, I used the liquid from my can of chickpeas as egg replacer. (I used 7.5 Tbsp of the goo, to equal 2 1/2 eggs).

(*If you are unaware of the chickpea liquid egg replacer phenomena, check out this Facebook page and be prepared to have your mind blown!!)

 All the comments on the recipe page said that the dough would be very sticky, but that the end result would still be good. Indeed, my dough was SO wet and sticky that I couldn't even "knead" it as much as "stir" it, and even after one hour, I couldn't perceive any visible rise. I forged ahead with trepidation. I had to put some coconut oil on my hands just to shape the "rolls." I had prepared the dough and the first rise the night before, and when I took them out of the fridge in the morning, you could barely tell one roll from the next, because the wet dough was so smooshy. I was not optimistic. I was doubting my decision to try a fancy new recipe and a fancy new egg replacer technique all at once. 

Hot Cross Muffins

So...fearing an imminent HCB disaster, I kinda freaked out and about 20 minutes before everyone was about to show up, I busted out a batch of emergency Hot Cross Muffins (using this recipe). These weren't yeasted, so they were quick to bake, but the flavors and spices were very similar to proper Hot Cross Buns. These muffins were still in the oven when everyone arrived, and as soon as they cooled off a bit, I used my leftover icing to X-up these guys too.

As you can see, though -- the final result of my Hot Cross Buns was actually quite lovely. I used dark raisins, golden raisins, chopped dried apricots, orange zest, and a little bit of candied lime peel for the dried fruit. The dough was just barely sweet, but the thick icing X gave just enough sugar blast to satisfy. Actually, after all my fretting and fussing, these were really really great and were exactly what I had hoped they would be. Success!

I make Hot Cross Buns every year for Easter because I really love them. But the real reason is because I know my mom and dad really love them too, and (of course) I love my mom and dad. So, once my mom took a bite and declared her HCB to be delicious, I felt a sigh of Easter relief. But when my dad went back for seconds, I knew for sure that Easter brunch was saved after all. Of course I sent a couple extras home with them, and now I've got a bunch of not-necessary-after-all hot cross muffins in my freezer waiting for a special breakfast moment.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Dinner With Jane

farmers' market cherry tomatoes for snacking

A while back, my friend Jane and her wonderful husband and daughter came over for dinner. It was so great. First of all, it's obviously just fun to have friends over for dinner. But Jane is one of my favorite people and we both have full lives, and we don't get to hang out together nearly as often as we would both like to. A whole evening to eat and visit together feels like such a gift. Plus, her husband and her daughter are wonderful and interesting and kind people - bonus friends! Spending time together with them, talking, sharing stories, continuing to get to know each other ... feels so good. They are the kind of people whose companionship leaves you feeling full and happy to be alive. 

Also, possibly on a related note, they always bring really good food.

Some sort of amazing farro salad with roasted winter squash and fresh tomatoes, over lettuce. 

Jane is such an inventive cook (and person in general!) and she just loves to fly by the seat of her pants and adapt and innovate and go with the flow. It is one of her most wonderful and exceptional qualities. According to her, she was just winging her way around the kitchen with this salad, and the result was a perfect autumn dish - with hearty grains and roasted squash combined with fresh tomatoes and lettuce. I love dishes that have this nice balance of warming and fresh, and I always love grains and cooked veggies in salads, though I often forget to do it!

Jane also brought this dish: peas and beets with pea shoots and avocado... I think there was a citrusy dressing. Practicing great personal restraint, she told me that she actually followed a recipe to make this (gasp!). ha ha. I don't know the name of the dish, but it's from Yotom Ottolenghi's new vegetarian book and it was crazy good. Mr. VE&T was totally in love with it! I'll have to get the recipe just so that I can make it again for him. I have Ottolenghi's book "Plenty," and I like it quite a bit, but when I flipped through the new one it seemed as though every recipe was loaded with cheese and eggs, so I put it back. Maybe if I ever see it at a garage sale, I'll pick it up. This dish was certainly great!

I made another casserole from Julie Hasson's book "Vegan Casseroles." This was the "Boozy Baked Penne with Caramelized Onions" - one of many mac and cheese type dishes she has in the book. So far I've tried 3-4 different variations. They all have something in common as far as the foundation flavors and sauces, but each is slightly different, and I want to gradually try them all -- mostly just so that I'll know which couple recipes are my top favorites. I liked the crunchy buttery topping on this one a lot.

Kitchen Sink Cookies from "Isa Does It"

I wanted to make a quick and easy dessert - and in my book that means one thing: Cooooooookies. I love cookies. Flipping through my various cookbooks, I noticed this recipe for "Kitchen Sink Cookies" in Isa Does It. I already had all the ingredients on hand - oats, raisins, chocolate chips, roasted peanuts, cocoa powder, coconut oil... YUM. They're like trailmix cookies! And, I guess I always make my cookies smaller than everyone else because I got a lot of cookies out of one recipe. These cookies were chewy and filled with all sorts of exciting tidbits of crunch and texture. I'll definitely make them again! 

Monday, April 06, 2015

Beyond Tofutti Cuties ~ Yours Truly Cones

Most of us vegans (at least those of us in the United States) have enjoyed a Tofutti Cutie or two in our time. Tofutti Cuties are those delicious little mini ice cream sandwiches that you can find in a surprising number of grocery stores. They come in quite a few flavors and they are tasty and fun. But did you know that Tofutti also makes a bunch of other vegan frozen treats? Where I live, they are not readily available, but by some magical stroke of good vegan fortune the mainstream grocery store closest to my house* carries Tofutti "Yours Truly" ice cream cones. I love these little treats so much. (*Nob Hill, for any local readers)

a Tofutti "Yours Truly" cone
the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow

The other night, after a fully physically exhausting day (workout with trainer, two-hour yoga practice, 3 hours of gardening, dog walk)... I was ready for a big pasta dinner. After dinner, Mr. VE&T asked "Is there anything else I can get you?" -- so I said "Yeah! Go get me those little Tofutti Ice Cream Cones." I was just joking, or fantasizing, but that sweet fella jumped right up off the sofa, drove to the store, and returned home in minutes with a box of chocolate-dipped vegan ice cream cones. Huzzah!!

they aren't huge, but i think they are perfectly-sized

Boy, did we have a good time eating those little ice cream cones! In all honesty, I don't buy them all that often, but when I'm in the mood for a special treat, this is pretty much as good as it gets.

Each Your's Truly cone has 220 calories, which isn't too much for such a satisfying experience. I think I love these so much because they are totally tummy-satisfying and emotionally-satisfying all at once. When I was a little girl we didn't have sweeties very often, but I loved those "Drumstick" frozen cones. Who would have ever guessed that I could still have something like this as a vegan?! As for nostalgic satisfaction, these Tofutti cones totally deliver. The chocolate topping has some crunchy little bits on it, which are a super fun combo with the creamy ice cream inside. And the inside of the cone is coated with chocolate, which is pretty much mandatory for a treat like this.

I'm really grateful for companies like Tofutti that make such fun and tasty treats that resemble the foods I loved as a child. These days I eat a lot of raw veggies and protein powder and steamed kale and stuff like that -- but being able to enjoy a vegan chocolate-dipped ice cream cone like the ones I loved as a kid makes being a committed vegan feel that much easier, more rewarding, and accessible.

as magical as a unicorn with a Tofutti horn

the goodies I was sent to review ~
actual ice creams sent to my doorstep!

All of this got me thinking that a loooong time ago, Tofutti actually sent me some frozen treats to review and I never got around to it. It was right when some big things came up in my personal life, and I didn't have much energy for my blog. Ever since then, it has been weighing on my conscience that I received those treats and never reviewed them. Especially since I had enjoyed them so much. One of my barometers for doing reviews on my blog is whether or not I would actually buy the product again. Clearly, in this case the answer is a resounding "yes." Pictured above are the treats they sent - a box of Yours Truly cones, and some fun little sugar-free ice cream pops called "Hooray! Bars." I was skeptical of those stevia-sweetened bars, but I recall that I really liked them. If they carried those at my grocery store, I'd definitely buy them again too.

My local store only carries a couple flavors of Cuties and these Yours Truly cones. According to the Tofutti site, they make a load more of amazing-sounding treats -- a triple chocolate cone (!freak out!), chocolate dipped ice cream bars, fudge bars (only 30 calories!), and even coffee-flavored frozen bars! Phew. I wish I could try them ALL. That said, I feel super fortunate to have these fun ice cream cones available at a grocery store just a few blocks from my house. No complaints, for sure!

good times! 

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Hummus Nachos

Hummus Nachos 

I was cruising the vegan blogs, like you do, when I came upon One Arab Vegan's excellent post about Vegan Fattet Hummus. Voila! First of all, her dish looked amazing and perfect as it was. But also, it got me dreaming of Hummus Nachos... and decided to go for it. In particular I had a bunch of goodies left over from NoRooz that needed to find a happy home (in my belly!): flat bread in the freezer, emergency carton of hummus in case the children rejected my Persian food (they did not, so it remained unopened), a slew of fresh herbs, cherry tomatoes, and even a little bit of left over cashew chevre. And thus, this delicious dinner was created unto this earth. Yea, and it was received happily.

This doesn't really count as a legit recipe, since it had a few store-bought items as a starting point, but here's what happened:

Hummus Nachos
Serves two hungry people.

A few sheets of Trader Joe's Lavash bread
Some hummus (I used one carton of Trader Joe's eggplant hummus)
1/2 cup unsweetened vegan yogurt (I used my homemade soy yogurt based on Miyoko's recipe)
2 small Persian cucumbers - seeded, peeled, scored, sliced into half moons
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
some kalamata olives, chopped up
a little red onion
a drizzle of fresh lemon juice
a sprinkle of minced fresh parsley, oregano, mint (or whatever herbs you've got on hand)
crumbled cashew chevre (I used some leftovers made by Heidi Ho and Treeline)
2 Tbsp pine nuts

Make it happen!
Preheat your over to broil or low-broil. Lay your lavash breads out on a cutting board and use a knife or pizza cutter to cut them into diamonds or squares. Lightly spray or brush your lavash pieces with olive oil and sprinkle on some kosher salt. Spread that whole biz out on a large cookie sheet and pop in the over. Check on them every couple of minutes and toss them around with a spatula a few times... Broil until they are mostly golden and toasty brown in areas.

In a small bowl, mix together the hummus and yogurt. Have your veggies all sliced and ready to go.

Spread out the lavash chips evenly on two separate dinner plates. Pour half the hummus + yogurt mix on each pile of chips. On each plate, sprinkle on half of the cukes, tomatoes, olives, and red onion. Then, drizzle a little fresh lemon on each plate, and garnish with the pine nuts, crumbled chevre and fresh herbs.

Dig in!

nacho night

This dinner was a total hit! We both loved it so much. Also, we both got hummus all over our hands and it was super messy fun. I loved the crispy toasted bread and the creamy hummus and the fresh crunchy veggies, and the salty olives and the fatty pine nuts and chevre bits. A totally lovely and satisfying combination of flavors and textures. Mmm. Will definitely make again. Possibly quite soon, since I still have one more carton of hummus to repurpose.