Monday, August 22, 2016

Book Review & Giveaway: Vegan Bowl Attack!

When I went to Portland Oregon for the first Vida Vegan Con, I fell in love with "bowls." When I think of a "bowl," I think of a complete meal all in one bowl: some veggies, some grains, some protein, some kind of sauce to hold it all together, and a few tasty garnishes. Ahhh. Yummy, beautiful, satisfying, full of diverse flavors and textures... a proper bowl is a great meal.

Speaking of Vida Vegan Con, that's where I first met my pal Jackie Sobon, who blogs at the excellent blog Vegan Yack Attack! You've probably also seen her recipes and photos in VegNews Magazine, because she is so fancy and talented. Jackie is the author (and photographer) of the excellent new cookbook "Vegan Bowl Attack!"

I've been cooking up a storm from Vegan Bowl Attack! and absolutely loving it. VBA has many bowls like I described above, but also creatively stretches the definition of a "bowl" to mean "pretty much anything delicious that you can eat in a bowl." I am in favor of this!

A champion of a book!

Mezze Fusion Bowl

Oh Swoon. This just had to be the first recipe I made from the book, because this is my power cuisine, and this delicious meal did not disappoint. Mezze Fusion Bowl has: quinoa tabbouleh, Herbed Tofu Feta, olives, artichoke hearts, and some super delicious babaghanoush. The recipe calls for pita chips, which would be delicious, but I didn't have any -- so I threw in some cherry tomatoes from my garden instead. Even though this bowl combines several components, it was quick and simple to assemble. The Herbed Tofu needs to marinate for several hours before hand, but only takes seconds to assemble. The result was briny and salty and herby! 

White Bean Beer Fondue

This was one of our favorite meals (so far!) from Vegan Bowls Attack! When I first told Mr. VE&T that I was going to make something called "White Bean Beer Fondue," he was a little confused and didn't know what to expect. But after the first bite, he was an immediate fan! This is a rich and warm beany dip that's filling, nutritious and delicious. We loved the dippers too - especially the bread cubes, the pretzels, and the broccoli. This was a super fast and super easy dinner to assemble and was so satisfying. It's also really fun to dip little goodies into the fondue and eat dinner that way. I think it's a new family favorite!

dipping dinner is super fun! 

Grilled Romaine Chop Salad

I've never grilled lettuce before! This salad was delicious and summery - grilled lettuce, grilled tomatoes and corn, grilled eggplant, with fresh cucumbers and tomatoes -- just a glorious combo! The dressing is a light vinaigrette with a little nooch and dijon mustard for added vegan power! I love a good super summer salad full of all the best produce that summer has to offer, and this salad will definitely go into regular summer rotation for us.

Orange Cauliflower Soba Chow Mein Bowl

This was a super fun meal to make - definitely unlike anything I make or eat on a regular basis. I love that! This bowl consists of two separate components: Orange Cauliflower and Soba Chow Mein. The orange cauliflower is cooked with garlic, ginger, orange juice & zest, seasoning, and a little sugar (though I reduced the sugar quite a bit and was still happy with it! ~ from 2 Tbsp to 1 tsp). The Soba Chow Mein is super delicious -- soba noodles are stir-fried with veggies and seasoning for maximum yumminess! Mr. VE&T especially loved the chow mein and ate all of it, so I had the left over Orange Cauliflower with lunch the next day. What a great dinner. 

prepare yourself for the attack of the bowls!
be victorious with the help of this magnificent cookbook! 

Roasted Cauliflower Tomato Soup

This was probably Mr. VE&T's favorite from Vegan Bowl Attack, because if you make any form of tomato soup, it will always be his favorite. I like tomato soup okay, but sometimes I think it's a little plain. This recipe however, is a tomato soup that I can really get behind! I LOVED that it was chock full of roasted cauliflower, chard, and chickpeas -- the result is almost more like tomato stew than tomato soup and I loved it. I think this is a tomato soup we can both agree on with enthusiasm! 

the family that bowls together stays together

Grilled Mango Peach with Raspberry Coulis

This dish is from the Lil' Snack Bowls section, and since it's easier to find peaches than mangos, I took Jackie's suggestion to try this recipe with peaches instead of mangos. It's so quick and tasty: grilled peaches tossed with a lovely raspberry sauce. I was a renegade and converted this snack bowl into a breakfast bowl - after taking this picture, I mixed my grilled peaches into my homemade yogurt (with cereal underneath, which you can't see) and it was such a delicious and satisfying Sunday morning breakfast! It's fun to grill in the morning!

Vegan Bowl Attack! is divided into several chapters:
Bountiful Breakfast Bowls 
~ recipes that catch my eye: Caramel Apple Slices, Loaded Potato Breakfast Bowl, Nectarine Quinoa Porridge, Peanut Butter Pretzel Granola
Lil' Snack Bowls
~ recipes that catch my eye: Spicy Sesame Brussels Bites, Mediterranean Layer Dip, Crudite Boquets
Satisfying Soup & Salad Bowls
~ recipes that catch my eye: Herbed Tofu Tomato Salad, Walnut Chorizo Taco Salad, Banh Mi Panzanella Salad, Smoky Corn Chowder Bread Bowl, Kabocha Squash Pozole, Sweet Potato Eggplant Curry
Enticing Entree Bowls:
~ recipes that catch my eye: Southern Comfort Bowl, Mediterranean Spaghetti Squash, Aloha Bowl, Kimchi Bowl with Red Curry Almond Sauce
Damn Good Dessert Bowls
~ recipes that catch my eye: Amaretto Cherry Ice Cream, Roasted Peach Parfait with Crumble and Whiskey Buttercream

falling in love with my new crush
a hot tub is kind of like a human bowl

Hoorah! I'm so happy to be able to offer a copy of Vegan Bowl Attack to one lucky winner (limited to readers in the USA and Canada), thanks to the publishers, Fair Winds Press. To enter the giveaway: leave a comment here and tell me about your favorite bowl, or your favorite thing to eat out of a bowl! And please make sure you leave an email or blogger contact, or I will just pick a different winner!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Three Cheers for the Joys of Summer Produce

Summertime is here and I am grooving on it! The farmers' market is bursting at the seams with everything good and wonderful: cucumbers, peaches, nectarines, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, eggplants, greens, tomatoes, summer squash AND winter squash, fresh peas... the list goes on and on. 

a typical farmers market haul

I go to the farmers market twice a week, all year long - and this time of year is the best and the worst! It's the best because EVERYTHING WONDERFUL is available at the market - and it's the worst because (sadly) I can only logistically eat so much in any given day, and I have to force myself to pass by blackberries and peaches and strawberries and kabocha squashes and so much more. It hurts to walk past all that beautiful produce!

me in Carmen Miranda form, celebrating summer veggies

This week I bought: corn, onion, zucchini, broccolitos, parsley, red scallions, dry-farmed tomatoes, a seedless watermelon, cilantro, a small eggplant, a poblano pepper, 2 cucumbers, celery, a jalepeno, white nectarines and nectaplums, kale, bell peppers, and more kale -- all organic! I love love love the farmers market and never take it for granted that I am able to buy almost all my produce locally and straight from the farmers who grow it. What a special thing.

My parents came over for a spontaneous dinner recently, and I wanted to make an easy dessert that was light and special. Nothing fits that bill better than chocolate-covered strawberries! They come together so quickly, and are so delicious and summery. I usually just melt some chocolate chips in the microwave, add in a few more and stir until those melt, and then add in about 1/2 tsp coconut oil and stir until that melts in. Then I dip my berries, and put them on a piece of parchment paper and into the fridge to set up. We all enjoyed them so much!

chocolate-dipped family members

some produce from my aunt's fruit trees

My aunt Laura brought me some beautiful fruit from her garden - Santa Rosa plums and King Figs. So much beauty and deliciousness and fruity glory all in one. Figs are definitely one of my all-time favorite foods. Who thought of figs, anyway? They're so weird and so beautiful and so magnificently rich and flavorful.

Long Weekend Grilled Salad from The Oh She Glows Cookbook

This grilled salad from the Oh She Glows Cookbook is one of my very favorite summer recipes and I always feel compelled to make it a few times each summer - while the gettin's good for corn and peppers and zucchini... Just looking at this picture makes me want to make it again. It's pretty much the epitome of summer veggies, in one huge, delicious dish. 

summertime vibe

slumber party brunch, part 1

My bestie and her 8-year old daughter came down for a slumber party, which is just about the most fun thing ever. For breakfast I made the "Perfect Puffy Pancakes" from Isa Does It. I had some apples from our neighbor's apple tree which hangs over our fence, so I made some sauteed apples to go on the pancakes too. I didn't know what my young pal would think of that, and she loved them!

slumber part brunch, part 2

Although my kiddo pal stuck to the pancakes, us grown-ups wanted something savory to go with our brunch... so I made the always-amazing Mighty Migas from The Taco Cleanse. Seriously that whole cookbook is worth it just for this life-changing recipe. Oh Mighty Migas, how I love you. A few days after this brunch, Mr VE&T and I decided that we needed to have migas again for dinner. Maybe I just need some intravenous migas. Plus, as you can see, I made a big bowl of guacamole! One of my yoga students gave me several beautiful avocados from her tree - and this was a perfect way to put them to use.

I'm so glad that there are still a couple more months of all this glorious bounty to be enjoyed and reveled in. What are you favorite summer fruits and veggies? 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Olympics KickOff Party!

olympics party
woooooot wooooot!
my homemade Olympic medals

Last weekend we had our biannual Olympics Opening Ceremony Party. It's always a super fun party, and it even comes with rules. The rules are: each guest has to select a country to represent and then bring a dish from that country to the potluck. Also, you get bonus points if you wear the national colors. Then we have silly games and have actual awards ceremonies complete with the winner's chosen national anthem. The whole thing is excellently goofy.
Yummers loves the Olympics because it means extra snuggle time on the couch for him.
He is an Olympic snuggler! 

olympics party
fun and games

This year we added an exciting new element -- a relay up and down the street with a tiki torch! Of course we handed it off from one country to the next, and then after a good prance-about in the street, we ran into the backyard and lit a second tiki torch... let the party begin! 

competitive rubber band shooting

We kicked off with a couple excellent sporting events: long-distance rubber band shooting in the driveway, followed by speed racing while using a golf club to propel an unripe lime down a zig-zag course. ha ha ha. Of course medals were awarded, anthems were played, podiums (aka step stool and bucket) were stood upon. It was excellent! Then it was time to eat and start watching the Opening Ceremonies & Parade of Nations. 

olympics party
International Selection of Drinks!

Of course you even need international drinks! I went to BevMo to look for a good selection of drinks. The thing is, I don't really drink alcohol, so I know truly nothing. I had to ask for help. Luckily I got a super helpful employee who was pretty awesome. The only dumb thing I did was that I bought Guinness beer (you can see it has been censored in the photo) - what a dummy! I just totally forgot that Guinness isn't vegan. I feel like a dope. And then no one at the party even drank it. ha ha. So, now I have 6 bottles of Guinness to get rid of. 

Other than my vegan failure, the other things I got were fun and good:
Jamaican Grapefruit Soda, Aussie Ginger Beer (actually soda), Italian fizzy water, French lemonade, Belgian raspberry beer, Tahitian light beer, and some California wine. 

vegan, cantaloupe, aguafresca
Mexico: Cantaloupe Aguafresca

Representing Mexico, my pal K brought a super lovely Cantaloupe Agua Fresca -- it was just cantaloupe, water, a little bit of agave, and a little bit of lime juice. So delicious and refreshing!

Olympic-level doggies! 

vegan, mango, jicama
Guatamala: Jicama, Mango & Mint Salad

Mr. VE&T's friend M. (representing Guatamala) brought a lovely mango & jicama salad. This was extra cool because M. isn't even a vegan, but he knows I am, so he brought a dish that he learned about when he took a "Vegetarian Cooking from Latin America" class. Isn't that neat? I loved this salad a lot!

vegan, teff love, ethiopian, injera
Ethiopia: Spicy Red Lentils & Injera

Representing Ethiopia, my friend S. brought a huge beautiful pot of Red Lentils in a Spicy Sauce and some Quick Injera (both recipes from Teff Love!). These were both SO delicious and they were big hits at the party! Three people asked me who made this and where was the recipe from! woooot! 

vegan brazilian, plantains
India: Southern Indian Curry
Great Britain: vegan Sausages

My two beloved aunties came to our party, which was great. Auntie L and her partner brought along a huge pot of a super delicious and veggieful South Indian-inspired stew with sweet potatoes, chickpeas, carrots, and more. Plus a giant bowl of cilantro for enthusiastic garnishing potential.

My Auntie S has some personal connections to Great Britain, and brought a long a big plate of Field Roast Sausages, to reflect the British appreciation for "bangers." YUM! There were just a few bits left over at the end of the night and since my auntie was heading out of town the next day, I inherited the leftovers. Lucky me! 

Brazil: Black Bean Soup with toasted pepitas and baked plantains

As the party hostess, I also usually represent the Host Nation for the Olympics -- so this year that gave me Brazil! I made the Brazilian Black Bean Soup from 30 Minute Vegan's Soup's On... I've made this recipe several times before and it is really, really good. I don't usually make the special extras that the recipe suggests, but since this was a potluck and I felt like making the extra effort, this time I did: I made a double batch of baked plantain slices and a whole batch of spicy pepitas. Oh man. I'm not sure I'll skip these in the future -- especially the pepitas! -- since they really added a lot! 

mom and dad's treats, in lieu of a photo

Not Pictured: My mom and dad came too -- but they had to be a little late and I forgot to snap pictures of their offerings. Bad daughter! My dad also chose to represent India and brought an excellent selection of frozen samosas and other Indian treats from Trader Joes. Good idea, dad! Those little samosas were very good! My mom was representing Greece (the original home of the Olympics!) and made a lovely platter of olives and dolmas and veggies -- it was a perfect compliment to the other dishes on offer. 

vegan, napolitanke
America: Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
Croatia: ample supply of Napolitanke cookies

Happily - we had two visiting nations that elected to bring desserts, which was just perfect. Representing the good ol' USofA, my friend M. brought along a Strawberry Rhubarb Pie. I'm not sure if I've actually ever had Strawberry Rhubarb Pie before, even though I've certainly heard all about it forever. It was so good! I loved the tanginess of the rhubarb and the super crumb topping! 

Mr VE&T chose to represent Croatia, which is where his ancestry is from. So, he went to the Croatian market and picked up 3 boxes of Napolitanke wafer cookies. When we were in Croatia we ate SO MANY of these. Ha ha. Also **important** -- only the hazelnut cookies in the red box are vegan. The other two have milk or lactose or something like that. We actually had some non-vegans at our party (whaaa??!) but I didn't take pictures of their food for obvious reasons. Anyway, don't be sad that the other two flavors aren't vegan, Mr. VE&T said the hazelnut ones were the best ones anyway. Duh. 

I'm already making plans for 2018

Bellies full, medals awarded, we watched the Opening Ceremonies and got started with the Parade of Nations... I just love the Parade of Nations, but it also goes on until about 2 in the morning... so at some point around the C's or E's, people started bowing out. It was great fun and I'm already looking forward to our next Olympics party 2 years from now. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Sirabella Vegan Cheesecake Rules This World!

I finally discovered cheesecake right before I went vegan. When I was a kid, I thought cheesecake just sounded super gross - I mean "cheese" and "cake" don't really go together, right? But then at some point, my mom had a friend who was really good at making cheesecakes, and I finally developed a taste for a proper cheesecake. And then I went vegan. Ha ha. No more cheesecake for me! Or, so I thought. 
O cheesecake, cheesecake, where art thou? 

Several months ago, I received a very special email from Sirabella's Vegan Cheesecakes, offering to send me a cheesecake to sample. I went and checked out their website, and was very stoked to see how amazing their cheesecakes looked. I wrote back with great enthusiasm and checked my mailbox compulsively for sometime. When the cheesecake didn't come, I thought maybe it had all been a cruel joke. And then! A second email arrived: "We're ready to send you your cheesecake!" YES. I was ready to receive that cheesecake! 

Holy Cheesecake, Batman! Look at that!!
Sirabella's vegan cheesecake, served with delicious fruits

This big, full-sized, beautiful, perfect-looking New York Style Vegan Cheesecake arrived... and suddenly I was responsible for a whole cheesecake! The cheesecake should be stored in the freezer until you're ready to eat it, so I popped it in the freezer and waited for a perfect opportunity. And waited. Finally, I got tired of waiting and decided to grab the bull (lovingly) by the horns. Barring any obvious festivity worthy of my sacred vegan cheesecake, I decided to create one. I invited all my local vegan pals over for a Monday night after-dinner Cheesecake and Coffee/Tea Party - whoever could make it would be a part of the taste-testing. It was so fun!
Houston, we have a cheesecake! 

my slice of Sirabella's miraculous vegan cheesecake

Among our cheesecake-sampling crowd, we had 3 vegans, 1 vegetarian, and 2 cheesecake-loving omnis. What was the verdict? 100% thumbs up!! I must say, I totally loved this cheesecake. Over my 16+ years of veganism, I've tried a few cheesecakes, but -- to be honest -- I've never really enjoyed any of them enough to go back for a second slice, until now.  This cheesecake was so delicious: tart and creamy and rich and pretty much everything I want from a cheesecake. As far as I'm concerned this cheesecake blows every other vegan cheesecake out of the water.

reviewing my vegan cheesecake report card

We had a party game and read the ingredients, and I must disclose that this is most definitely not health food in any way. This delicious, magical vegan creation is also highly processed. Unfortunately it does have some palm oil in the ingredients, which I generally avoid. The only other slight criticism I would give this cheesecake is that the texture was a little soft. That said - I did accidentally defrost the cheesecake one or two hours longer than indicated, and that was probably the issue. However, this did not prevent anyone from eagerly finishing their slice or going back for more. I enthusiastically endorse and recommend this amazing cheesecake!

Sirabella's is run by two fellas, one of whom is vegan and one of whom is lactose-intolerant, which is pretty cool. The cheesecakes can be ordered online, and if you buy two, the second one is 30% off. They last up to a year in the freezer, so that's something to consider! In addition to the New York Style Cheesecake flavor that I received to sample, they also have blueberry, cherry, strawberry, raspberry, and chocolate flavored cheesecakes (the flavored cheesecakes come with a sauce to pour on top). Each cheesecake serves 12 people with rich, generous, satisfying slices. I can totally imagine myself ordering one of these, especially for a special occasion.

It was such a wonderful treat to finally find a vegan cheesecake - after so many years - that had all the flavor, texture, and richness that I remember about dairy-based cheesecakes. I am a true Sirabella's fan! Now I can be vegan AND enjoy cheesecake! Have my ethics and eat cake too!