Thursday, October 08, 2015

"Vegan Bowls" Book Review & Giveaway!


The first time I really got turned on to "bowls" was during a trip to Portland, OR. I'm sure most of you already know, but just in case... a "bowl" isn't just the bowl itself - it's a complete meal all in one bowl: usually grains, veggies, proteins, and some sort of cohesive sauce. Portland is really the vegan bowl capitol of the world, and there are so many great choices there. Ever since my first "bowl" experience, I was ready for more... but it's not really a phenomena around here where I live. I make some pretty successful bowls of my own -- but when I heard that my internet-friend Zsu Denver was going to be writing a whole book of Vegan Bowl recipes, I knew I wanted to be in on that action! 

I received a copy for review, and was asked to participate in the Official "Vegan Bowls" Blog Tour... huzzah! Plus, I'll have a copy to giveaway to a reader here in the United States (at the end of my post). I usually make at least 5 dishes from a cookbook before reviewing it... but I just got home from my trip to NYC and I only had time to make 3 recipes. No worries though, because they were all good solid recipes and I don't have any doubts about this book.

 Hungarian Seitan Salad Bowl from the "Salad Bowls" chapter

I think Zsu's heritage is Hungarian, and there are quite a few Hungarian or Hungarian-inspired dishes in this book, which is pretty cool. I had some store-bought seitan in my fridge, so I saved time by using that, though I would like very much to try Zsu's recipe (in the book) for "Slow-Simmered Seitan." This salad had 4 components: the dressing, the potatoes, the seasoned seitan strips, and the salad veggies. Still, it came together quite quickly, because it was easy to make the dressing and the seitan while the potatoes were simmering. I especially loved the super garlic & paprika blast in the seasoning mix for the seitan, and I also loved that the dressing had caramelized onions in it. With the addition of the potatoes and seitan, this was a really filling lunch that felt healthy and nourishing.

 Braised Greek Kabocha Squash Bowl from the "Sauteed Bowls" Chapter

Mmmmmm. I can be a bit sentimental about saying farewell to the summertime produce, but Kabocha squash helps heal my spirits. I love it so much. This bowl had 4 components: quinoa, roasted squash, seasoning mix (with onion, garlic, fresh & dried herbs - yum!), and the veggie braise. A proper bowl should have multiple elements, in my opinion, and I appreciate that the preparation times can overlap for a satisfying meal without too much time required in the kitchen. We both really enjoyed this dinner - the velvety bite of the roasted kabocha cubes were a great contrast to the cooked quinoa texture, and the combination of light and hearty flavors was perfect. I'd definitely make this again!

 Chicken-free Goi Ga Bowl

Oh yeah! This veganized version of a Vietnamese salad bowl was a total homerun. We both absolutely loved its combination of heat (from sambal oelek) and bright citrus (from the lime juice) flavors - plus it's packed with flavorful and aromatic fresh herbs, crisp napa cabbage, crunchy peanuts, and toothsome tempeh chunks. I can't wait to make this again. It came together quickly and was completely devoured by both of us. The recipe said "serves 4" but we had it alone for dinner, and it served us two hungry piggies just fine. Ha ha.

Over-all thoughts about "Vegan Bowls":

This book has many different chapters: Grain Bowls, Sauteed Bowls, Pasta Bowls, Grilled Bowls, Salad Bowls, Soup Bowls, Breakfast Bowls (and a Basics chapter)... so you can basically live off bowls morning, noon, and night. 

The design of the book is very user-friendly: One page per recipe (no turning the page to continue the recipe); All the ingredients are in a column on the left, and sorted by component (example: All the ingredients for the dressing are grouped together, then all the ingredients for the veggie component are grouped together); Clear and well-organized lay-out of instructions; "Quick tips" are offered to help streamline the preparation process.

Recipes are marked if they are soy-free or gluten-free (or if such options are provided - there are a lot of recipes for both of these dietary needs!). Many, but not all recipes feature beautiful color pictures. 

I found the instructions all to be very clear, easy to follow, and didn't have any moments where my experience in the kitchen was not matching up with the directions in the recipes. I love that! 

Here are a few of the recipes I have bookmarked to try:
Whole Wheat Parker House Rolls
Tempeh Paprikash
Braised Butternut Bowl with Sage and Chard
Sausage-style Tofu Bowl with Squash and Potatoes
Green & White Chili Bowl
Hearty Sambal Bowl
Ful Medames Breakfast Bowl
and many more! 

Giveaway Time!
Soooo... if reading this review has put you in the mood to cook up some homemade bowls of your own, you're in luck! The publisher has offered one copy of Vegan Bowls to a lucky winner (open to readers in the United States only). To enter, please leave a comment on this post, and tell me about your favorite bowl recipe or even just your favorite actual bowl in your kitchen shelves. I really like bowls and I have far, far too many. I'll pick a winner one week from today, on Thursday Oct 15th! 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

VeganMoFo Day 30: Would You Like Rice or Waffles with That?

Today's MoFo Prompt: "Fusion Challenge!"

A couple of years ago, Mr VE&T was sound asleep... dreaming about Chinese food. In his dream, he was in a Chinese restaurant and the waiter was taking his order. As is often true in a waking state, Dreamland Mr VE&T was ordering Kung Pao Chickn. But, then, out of nowhere, the waiter asked him "Would you like that with rice or waffles?" And then - before he could even answer (tragically) - he woke up.

He told many people about this dream, because he was quite delighted with the premise.

So, naturally, when MoFo suggested a day of Fusion Cuisine, it was time to prove that Dreams DO Come True.

Kung Pao Tofu on a Waffle 

I made a batch of Kung Pao Tofu from 30 Minute Vegan: Taste of the East. It was good, but not quite excellent, so I also checked Bryanna Clark Grogan's "Authentic Chinese Cuisine" for its Kung Pao recipe, and got a few extra seasoning tips that really enhanced the dish. For the waffles, I turned to our most beloved family-favorite waffle recipe: the Raised Waffles from Vegan Brunch by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. These waffles are made with yeast, so they require a little time for rising, but they are SO GOOD and most deffers worth the extra time required.

So, waffle batter prepared, Kung Pao tofu in its final moments of sizzling... it was time to bring Mr. VE&T's dream to fruition. We each had two waffles, with a giant scoop of Kung Pao Tofu on top. We sat down and regarded our creation... and took a bite... Huzzah!! Guess what? It was really good! Like, for realz. Mr. VE&T noticed that it actually tasted a lot like fried egg rolls. Somehow the slight sweetness and the crispy texture of the waffles, combined with the pungent flavors of the tofu were quite harmonious together, and very akin to biting into a crisp eggroll filled with savory veggies. I have to say, this was so fun and tasty that I would actually do it again. How's that for a crazy hit inspired by the dream world?

dreaming up a plan for Dog #3

Speaking of the dreamworld... did you know that our decision to get a 3rd dog was inspired by a dream I had? We had Stevie and Dottie then, but it turned out that Stevie didn't actually like Dottie very much (she still doesn't), and it also turned out that Dottie really wanted a pal. So she was always harassing Stevie, and that just wasn't working out. It was sort of a bummer. Then, one night I had a dream where we had a third little dog and everyone was so happy and playing together. I couldn't stop thinking about it after I woke up!

Making big decisions based on dreams is not my usual modus operandi, but in this case I'm sure glad I followed my dreamy insight - or we never would have found sweet little Mr. Snoopy!! (It totally worked out with Snoopy. He and Dottie love to play and clean each other's ears, and Stevie loves to leave them both the hell alone. Everyone is happier now. Including us!)

The moral of the story: in the case of Kung Pao Tofu on Waffles, and in the question of whether to get a 3rd dog, I definitely endorse following your dream advice.

Congratulations to my fellow VeganMoFo'ers around the world, across the blogosphere, and on Instagram ~ We made it! I made lots of new friends, found a lot of new blogs to add to my blog roll (yay!), and still have many MoFo posts to go back to. If you had any favorite blogs or blog posts or even any favorite blog posts of your own that you were the most pleased with, please let me know! Now I will have more time for reading and commenting!

Also, I really want to thank those of you who read my blog posts, whether you left comments or not. I really enjoy writing my blog and drawing my doodles... but MoFo is a big effort, and it's much more rewarding and encouraging knowing that there are kind people out there taking in my efforts.

I'm actually off in NYC on vacation right now, but I have a series of Product Reviews posts coming your way soon... I promise not to drop off into a post-MoFo silence! 

Happy End of MoFo2015 to all!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

VeganMoFo Day 29: A Well-Prepared Vegan Never Goes Hungry

Today's MoFo Prompt: "What would you bring on a vegan road trip?"

I have a secret to tell you. I pre-wrote these last few MoFo posts, and by the time you read this, I will actually be on vacation with Mr VE&T in New York City! Wooo Hooo! It's been quite a while since Mr. VE&T and I went on a nice proper vacation together, and we are pretty jazzed. Of course I promise to blog about it when we come home.

All that is to say, I decided to show you what I'm going to take on the flight with me, instead of on a road trip. As you may have realized, Mr VE&T is not a vegan, or even a vegetarian. So, therefore, the world of snacks and gas stations and airports is pretty much his oyster. But, fellow vegans, you know that's not true for us.

For years, when we were first together, every time we went on a road trip, I would go out and buy so many snacks and treats and eats for the drive, and Mr. VE&T would get all weird and annoyed with me. I couldn't figure it out, and he couldn't figure me out! It's so funny. It took us so long to figure out that one of my favorite things about a road trip was having a whole stash of delicious pre-selected vegan snacks to enjoy. And for Mr. VE&T, one of the best parts was the freedom of stopping along the way and using it as a special opportunity to enjoy some junk food and non-vegan snacks. Ha ha ha. So, now I buy a bunch of my snacks for myself, and leave Mr. VE&T to his own devices. So there! Marital harmony at last!

All this is to say, I take the same approach to air travel. For this flight, we have to leave the house super early to drive to the airport, then we won't arrive until early evening in NYC. So, in other words, I'm gonna need to bring a lot of food with me! ha ha. I really enjoy mindless eating on the flight (and in the car), so in that event, I like to bring along healthy low-cal snacks. My number one travel snack is Carrot Sticks or Baby Carrots. If I have celery in the fridge, I'll also make up a bunch of celery sticks. Sometimes I also bring along a bunch of grapes, but any fresh fruit will do. I like that all of these snacks are healthy and low cal and especially that they keep me hydrated.

I also love these little Wild Garden Hummus Packets so much. First of all, they are just really good hummus. Plus, they are shelf-stable, and under 3 ounces, so you can put them in your little zip lock liquids-and-gels baggie. A long time ago, I had my Trader Joes Tofu Egg Salad taken away at the airport because it was deemed "a liquid or a gel." Such a drag. So nowadays I bring along baked tofus anyway. As a hard-core vegan, I am perfectly delighted to eat room temperature baked tofus like a pro. Eating hummus and veggies and baked tofus on the plane feels like real food, and doesn't leave me feeling like I filled up on icky junk.

Still, I might want a few goodies with me that feel like fun snacks too. I pretty much always have a major stockpile of snacks and bars in my house, so I can just rifle through my selection and pick out a few favorites, which is what I did this time. I picked out a few treats from my Vegan Tuck Box, and a few others from Grocery Outlet finds that I have been gathering like a squirrel gathers nuts. I'm pretty sure I won't go hungry on the flight, even if Mr. VE&T poaches on my snacks, which he often does! ha ha. After all that.

I'm hoping to get some other good ideas for travel snacks in today's posts! 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Vegan MoFo Day 28:The "100% Veggie with Tofu"

Today's MoFo Prompt: "Tacos vs. Burritos. Where do you stand on this important issue?"

yeee haw! Ride 'em, BurritoBoy! 

Hold on TacoTuesday devotees, I'm about to get political. Faced with this supposedly tough question, I stand proudly on Team Burrito. As a native Californian, I find tacos charming and interesting... but I have a life long commitment to burritos. A burrito has a certain gravitas to it. To know and love a burrito is indeed a gastronomic commitment, whereas tacos are dainty and flirtatious. No one ever ate a taco and thought "Oh good, now I am fully satisfied." But a burrito is a different story. A burrito brings about a deep relaxation of satiety.

burritos give you power to change the world

Honestly, when I went to Austin TX, we ate a lot of great tacos. I appreciated that you could eat several different tacos in one meal, thus having a more diverse eating experience all in one meal. But around where I live, there is no taco culture. Tacos here are sad and repetitive and tiny and on bland, flavorless little tortillas. Tacos in Austin were exciting and adventurous, but not here. Happily though, we do have some impressive burritos.

Hello Mr. Chipotle Friend! Nice to see you again! 

Right down the street from my house is a super-cute, family-owned Mexican restaurant called "El Chipotle" that has MANY appealing vegan options and delicious food. Plus, the exterior is bright purple and has this toasty anthropomorphized chipotle chili man on it. That's already a good sign -- both literally and metaphorically speaking.

Islands in the Sea, That is What we Are... Sail away with Me... To another land...
A Burrito is a Pal for Life

Here it is from the side. The side of the restaurant is painted with a giant mural of flowers. The man who runs this restaurant is so wonderful and kind and has a delightfully warm smile. I always love it when he's working because it is so positive to interact with him.

There's also a brand new park right behind this restaurant, so that would be a nice place to sit and eat if you weren't a homebody like me who prefers to be at home with all her beloved pets and her beloved burrito gathered around her. 

the mystery, the potential, the infinite wonder that lies hidden within the foil

El Chipotle even sells Kevita drinks, which is super rad. Whenever I buy a burrito, I am already buying myself a special lunch or dinner (I don't eat out very often), so I always throw in a celebratory Kevita while I'm at it. 

I just love the way that giant foil-wrapped loaf of yumminess and caloric density arrives all bundled up like a man of mystery. Or like a little swaddled baby with its whole life ahead of it. What's inside? Is all my guacamole hidden in one corner? What will each new bite reveal? Whereas a taco arrives all open to the world, the Stately Burrito is more reserved and mysterious -- at least until you get to know it.

practicing yoga with my Burrito Pal
(warning don't do headstand right after eating a burrito)

The burrito is shy and reserved at first impression, guarded and closed off. Gradually it reveals itself to you, and starts to open up a little. By the end of your relationship, it is literally pouring its insides out to you!

Once you tear open the foil seal and take the first bite, you begin a magical journey of discovery. Each bite offers a slightly different sub-selection of the total ingredients inside. To eat a burrito is an endeavor is steadfastness and perserverance. It takes a "I think I can, I think I can" attitude, and upon completion, one is filled with a sense of pride, self-worth and accomplishment. 

This here is my favorite burrito: the 100% Veggie, with added Tofu. El Chipotle offers so many vegan options and varieties of veggie combos and flavors, but the good ol' 100% Veggie is a true winner - especially with the added tofu. I have to say, in honor of MoFo, I picked myself up this beauty of a burrito for lunch the other day, and it was just about one of the best burritos I had ever eaten. I'm sure it helped that I was stark raving hungry and such, but really, it was superb. 

I know most of my readers are not from Santa Cruz, but to any local readers out there (hi!), check out El Chipotle in Soquel Village, on Soquel Ave, right near the Post Office. Let me know you're going and I'll come meet you there! 
Goodnight, Burrito.
I love you.

Viva los burritos!!