Sunday, February 27, 2011

Oatmeal Breakfast Bars

A week or two ago, I decided to start having green smoothies for breakfast every day. The upside to this is that I'm getting in way more raw greens than ever before (and have noticed a positive change in how I feel!); the downside is that I'm usually hungry two hours after I eat. While perusing FatFreeVegan, I came across these oatmeal bars. They sounded like a delicious and perfect mid-morning snack.

This recipe came together quickly and turned out really tasty. They were a little crumbly, but I think this was because I took them out of the oven prematurely. Another minute or two probably would have avoided the crumbly problem. These bars are a nice alternative to muffins in the morning, and also serve as a great snack. A dual purpose food in a single recipe? I'm sold.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Roasted Butternut and Cauliflower Soup

On Groundhog Day, Punxsutawney Phil predicted an early spring, and since the weather this week supports his prediction (sunny weather in the 60s? YES, PLEASE!), I'm trying to get in as many soups as possible before the weather becomes too warm to tolerate hot soups.

I came across this recipe on FatFreeVegan. The picture looked so lovely, I had to try it out. Although I was on the fence about cauliflower - my last go-round with it was when I was a child, and our interaction wasn't amiable - I love butternut squash! I omitted the sherry, and the soup wasn't lacking for it. And it turns out cauliflower and I actually can be friends.

If you're trying to make the most of the end of hot soup season, add this to your rotation!

You'll need:
1 butternut squash
1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, smashed or chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
2 teaspoons mild curry powder (see note)
4 cups vegetable broth
1 tablespoon sherry or vermouth (optional)
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
dash cayenne pepper (optional)
juice of one orange (or 1/2 cup orange juice)

Preheat oven to 400 F. Cut the butternut in half lengthwise, and scrape out the seeds. Spray or rub a rectangular baking dish with oil (lightly) and place the squash in it cut-side down. Put the squash into the oven and set the timer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the cauliflower florets into a small, oiled baking dish of their own. After the squash has cooked for 15 minutes, put the cauliflower in with it. Bake, stirring every 10 minutes, until the cauliflower is beginning to brown and the squash can be pierced easily with a fork. (They will probably be finished at different times.) Remove from the oven and set the cauliflower aside.

Allow the squash to cool until it's easy to handle, and scrape the flesh out of the skin and into a bowl. Use a fork or masher to mash it a little.

In a large saucepan, sauté the onion in a little water until it is translucent. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for about 3 more minutes, adding water as necessary. Add the squash to the pan along with the curry powder and the vegetable broth. Using a hand blender, blend the soup to a smooth puree. (Or, if you don't have a hand blender, puree the soup in your blender in batches.) Reduce the heat to low, and cook for about 15 minutes.

Add the cauliflower to the soup. Taste for seasoning, and add sherry, salt, cayenne, and additional curry powder as needed. Cover and allow the soup to simmer until the cauliflower is tender. Add the orange juice, cook for 5 more minutes and serve.

Makes 4 servings. Each serving provides 234 Calories (kcal); 1 g Total Fat; (2% calories from fat); 6 g Protein; 58 g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 560 mg Sodium; 9 g Fiber

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Land of Kush

One day last week, I was suffering from a bout of "I'm-starving-but-nothing-appeals-to-me-and-I-don't-want-to-cook." After over an hour of moping around, wallowing in my misery (and hunger), I decided to get carry-out from a restaurant I hadn't yet been to. I searched, and decided to go with Land of Kush. I'd had some of their food one summer at Artscape, where they were the only vendor to serve vegan food. There were several vegetarian options, but only Land of Kush remembered us vegans!

Land of Kush serves vegan soul food, and their online menu can be found here. I had a hard time deciding what I wanted, but eventually settled on the BBQ chick-un (served over rice and black beans), smoked collard greens, and mac & cheese. It was all so delicious. The mac & cheese has a different flavor, but if you eat it without expecting it to taste like Kraft, it's so yummy. The portions are obviously generous, so  I had plenty of leftovers for lunch the next day.

On top of the great food, the staff was super friendly and warm and welcoming. Greg, who I believe serves a dual purpose as owner and chef, was helpful in answering my questions about their food. When I came in to pick up my food, he was just as cheerful in person as over the phone.

Land of Kush definitely came to my rescue with this meal.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Baked Falafel

So, this baked falafel from Appetite for Reduction was supposed to make lettuce wraps, but the wrapping part was kind of a failure. I think the lettuce leaves were too small, but the romaine looked gross when I went to the store. Oh well, the end result was still delectable.

These came together really quickly; I think the total active time was 15 minutes. When they were fresh out of the oven, they were so perfectly moist and delicious. When I used them today, they were a little dry, so I've made a note to use less flour next time to hopefully rectify this situation.

You can eat these in pita, by themselves, with dips, whatever. I opted for the lettuce wraps as I'm trying to up my raw veggie intake. I spread a little hummus on the leaves (which was kind of chickpea overload but I also discovered that yellow mustard paired with these suits my palate just fine) and chopped red onion. The taste/texture was satisfying and filling and not too heavy, unlike fried falafel. Be warned, however, that because these are on the tiny side, you'll be tempted to pop them like candy. I'm already wishing I had made a double batch...

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Black Bean Hummus

Forgive this picture; I forgot to snap one pre-party, so here's one post-party.

Over the weekend, one of my favorite friends had a game night at a house she's house-sitting for the next year. I was excited by the prospect of making a finger food/appetizer because that's probably the least frequently made food in my kitchen. I was also kind of anxious, because there were going to be new and non-vegan people there, so I didn't want to make anything too scary for non-vegans.

After browsing all of my cookbooks and coming up empty-handed, I started looking at Whole Foods' website. I came across this black bean hummus, and given my love of hummus and beans, decided on this, praying it was a happy medium between vegan and non-vegan.

It was super easy to make, and really tasty. I served it with sliced baby carrots, celery, and tortilla chips. You could easily substitute any sort of raw veggies for the carrots and celery, and pita is an obvious pairing. I actually meant to get some at the store, but forgot, thus the chips.

Black Bean Hummus


2 cups no-salt-added cooked black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/4 cup tahini
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons reduced-sodium tamari
1 teaspoon ume vinegar or 2 teaspoons lemon juice (or to taste)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro


Combine black beans, garlic, tahini, cumin, water, tamari and vinegar in a food processor. Pulse until smooth and all ingredients are combined. Transfer to a serving bowl, fold in cilantro and serve.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Garlicky Broccoli, Corn, and Bean Burritos

This week was my first full week of work since the middle of December. No, I'm not kidding. Between Christmas break, snow days, a holiday, and a sick day, it's been a good while since I've worked a solid 40 hours. And I'm feeling it. I feel like an 80 year old woman admitting that, but this week kicked my ass more often than not. As such, I was motivated to spend as little time in the kitchen as possible tonight. And thus I present these little babies from Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan.

This recipe relies on a lot of kitchen staples, so I only had to pick up the hoisin sauce (in the Asian foods aisle for those who are new to it like I was!), tortillas, and broccoli. Aside from having to wrestle open a new bottle of balsamic vinegar, this was so simple and the end result left my tummy totally satisfied. Mission accomplished.

The recipe says this will make four servings, but I made five burritos because I had so much filling. And honestly, I should have made it six because the last two burritos I rolled were on the brink of explosion.

I was able to find an online recipe for this, but I've got a few comments/suggestions, per the printed version.
  • If you don't want to make the beans yourself, you can opt for a can of vegetarian refried beans (I use Amy's Kitchen from Whole Foods when necessary, but made my own for this recipe). 
  • I added the tamari to the bean mixture, but I'm not sure if it makes a huge difference.
  • Be sure to use vegan worcestershire sauce. I use Annie's Naturals.
  • Use 2 tbsp worcestershire sauce and 2 tsp hoisin sauce.
  • If you use the nutritional info listed with the recipe online, I'm not sure how accurate it is. It says it makes four tortillas but six servings? Not sure how that works out, so you might want to calculate it yourself.
Aside from all that jazz, everything else appears to be correct. So go forth and cook.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Birthday Part II

My mom's birthday was yesterday, so naturally, my day was filled with lots of delicious food. For dinner, we went out to one of my favorite places - yes, that's right, one of my favorite places on her birthday, how nice is my mom? - Mr. Chan's, a Chinese restaurant in Reisterstown. Unfortunately, they don't maintain any sort of website, but I promise visiting it in person will worth it! It's kind of a drive from our house, too, but their friendly waitstaff, fresh food, and variety of vegan options make up for it.

 Each meal starts with a cabbage salad and ginger dressing and those fried noodle things (seriously, what are they called?) with duck sauce and hot mustard. The cabbage salad is amazing, and I'm generally not a fan of ginger.

I ordered the veggie wonton soup for an appetizer.

My favorite meal here is the warm protein salad served with brown rice. It's made of seitan, yuba, and healmey with mushrooms and toasted pine nuts. Be warned, if you don't ask for it to be made otherwise, your meal will be chock full of mushrooms. I'm not a fan of them, though, so I always order "just a little bit." They're pretty accommodating. The food is always fantastic and fresh, and the servings are so generous, I always have leftovers for lunch the next day. Those leftovers turned out to be the best part of my work day, too, but that's neither here nor there...

Then we came home and I made chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World for dessert. Yes, I just bought a half dozen cupcakes, but Mom prefers my cupcakes to those. Birthday Girl gets what Birthday Girl wants. 

And I can't find a link to the pb frosting, but here's the book's recipe for a basic buttercream frosting. What's a cupcake without frosting? Tip: Make sure everything is room temperature!!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Ain't nothin' a vegan cupcake can't cure.

Oh, cupcakes. How I love thee. Is there really anyone who doesn't like cupcakes?

I first heard about Emily's Desserts a few years ago, but at the time, the bakery was operating as an appointment/request-only joint. Since even I can't justify placing an order for a single cupcake, I hadn't felt particularly motivated to try them out. Until a few weeks ago, that is, when I learned that the bakery now has a kiosk in the Towson Town Center, which is where I happen to buy my contacts.

After an exceptionally obnoxious day at work, I was doubly pleased to receive a phone call that my contacts were available for pick up: I could now discard my sandpaper-esque contacts and finally give Emily's Desserts a try.

The kiosk was insanely cute, as should be all things cupcakes, and the woman working was super friendly and nice. There were at least 10 flavors to choose from, including several gluten-free options, so I settled on a mix half dozen. From top, around clockwise: chocolate with peanut butter frosting, cookies n cream, Valentine's... something (?), chocolate chip, chocolate with peanut butter frosting again, and chocolate and strawberry frosting.

I've already sampled two. I couldn't help myself. They both were so, so good. The cake is really moist and fluffy and flavorful - achieving all three of these qualities can be difficult for some people. I know it seems blasphemous to pair the word "bad" with the word "cupcake," but I've had some vegan cupcakes with the flavor/texture of what I imagine cardboard tastes like. The frosting was also light and fluffy, but not so overly sweet it sent my system into shock. I've also had frosting, of the vegan and non-vegan variety, that could send me, a non-diabetic, in a diabetic coma. It was also obvious these little babies were fresh (it was about 6PM when I bought them) and weren't yesterday's leftovers - dry, day-old-tasting cupcakes are the worst.

Emily's Desserts totally warrants the Charm City Vegan Seal of Approval. If you're in the Towson mall, or are in need of amazing vegan cupcakes, Emily's Desserts is the obvious choice.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Quick & Easy Potato Soup

Winter is getting to the point where it's no longer cute. The initial excitement of wearing wool-free sweaters and gloves has worn off; I now curse any time I have to leave the house because of the 10 minutes required to bundle up appropriately. If I get my scarf stuck in my zipper one more time, I'm turning it into a cat toy. The near constant clouds and/or precipitation are nothing short of depressing, and the occasional few hours (or sometimes, if I'm really lucky, entire day) of sunshine feels like Christmas in February. I'm sick of looking at mucky lawns and dirty snow.

In short: winter at this points leaves me with little creativity and energy at the end of a long work day. And the longer winter drags on, the longer each work day feels. I think my students sense my discontent with the current season/weather, and view this as the most opportune time to go crazy.

When I was browsing FFV last week, I came across this recipe and my only choice in the matter was obvious. Quick and easy? Potato soup? Must add to menu for next week. This came together so quickly and so deliciously; it even got the Omni Mommy Seal of Approval and earned a permanent spot in my recipe box.

This recipe was obviously a godsend from the Gods Who Aren't Fans of Winter in February.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

A Birthday and Sticky Rice

My mom's birthday is this week, so my brother came up for the weekend to celebrate. I'm the only vegan in our family, so we're continuously looking to expand our repertoire of good restaurants for vegans and non-vegans alike. We had originally planned to go to an Italian place near Downtown, but upon our arrival, we noticed we were the only patrons in the entire place. When we were given a menu with half the offerings listed on their online menu (apparently they were "out of a lot of stuff"...?), none of which interested the birthday girl, we decided to go elsewhere.

Earlier in the week, a couple of friends introduced me to Sticky Rice, a new sushi restaurant and bar in Fells Point. I really liked the place, so my mom and I added it to our list of places to try out. So, for the second time in a week, I found myself at Sticky Rice, but I wasn't complaining - I love Chinese food.

Fells Point in general is always insanely busy on the weekends, and Sticky Rice was no different. The hostess originally estimated our wait time to be about 40 minutes. At this point, we were all hungry and kind of annoyed and not in the mood to wait around for over half an hour, so I asked Mom if she wanted to go elsewhere. We decided to stay, and the wonderful hostess sat us in about 15 minutes.

I'm not generally one for appetizers and a real meal, but whenever I go someplace new, I like to sample a few things to get an idea of what their food is like. For starters, I ordered the tofu bites, pictured above. They're fried tofu triangles served with a teriyaki sauce. They were really good, which says a lot because I'm kind of touch-and-go with tofu. I ordered the mock chicken szechuan, and I loved it. It has a bunch of veggies (broccoli, carrots, onions, peppers) served with your choice of noodles and mock chicken with a spicy sauce. So good. The upside to ordering an appetizer is that I was able to bring home lots of leftovers for lunch today, too.

Both times I've been to Sticky Rice, I've been impressed with their service. Everyone is friendly, the waitstaff is always attentive and accommodating. I especially appreciated the hostess quickly seating us yesterday despite not having a reservation. Their menu features a good selection of vegan and vegetarian options, and they're willing to make substitutions per your request.

If you want to try Sticky Rice, I'd suggest going during the week when it's a little less busy, or just be sure to make a reservation for a weekend night!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Broccoli-Potato Soup with Fresh Herbs

Source: Veganomicon

It's no secret that I love potatoes. In fact, I'd say potatoes are the vegetable equivalent to apples, because they're pretty versatile, and also undeniably comforting and yummy. Broccoli has always been one of my favorite veggies, so this recipe was a no-brainer when I came by it.

My only concern with this soup was, "Is it supposed to be this green?" A Google images search revealed that yes, being this green was reasonable. And really, once you taste the delicious blend of herbs, color becomes a moot point.

Unfortunately, I was unable to find an online recipe for this, so you might just have to suck it up and buy a copy of this book, but I promise it will be money well spent!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Spaghetti Squash with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Chickpeas

This was my first rendezvous with spaghetti squash, and it went amazingly well! I wasn't sure why its called spaghetti squash, especially since Susan at FFV said to not expect it to taste anything like spaghetti. Obviously, it doesn't, and equally obvious, once you cook it, is its insane resemblance to angel hair pasta!

This recipe required a wee bit of prep, but the bulk of prep is the hour used to roast the squash. I busied myself with laundry and making soup for lunch for the rest of the week while the squash was in the oven. Once the squash was finished, everything came together pretty quickly. The flavor was so yummy and the contrast in texture between the squash, chickpeas, and almonds was really nice.

If you're feeling adventurous or are an avid fan of all things squash, I say give this one a go!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Johnny Rad's

Last Sunday was the AAP benefit at Johnny Rad's. I'd nearly forgotten about it, but luckily I have fantastic friends who remembered.

It was my first time there, and it was a good time. We ordered The Vortex, which I unfortunately forgot to photograph, for an appetizer. It's essentially the world's most delicious black bean hummus. It was served with carrot and celery sticks and pita bread. I could have easily devoured the whole thing myself, but I don't think my friends would have appreciated not sharing the noms.

I ordered El Gato, which was a white pizza with fresh basil. The pizza was pretty good - the crust was so good - but I could have used more cheese for sure.

The place had a cool vibe, and I appreciate the variety of vegan options. They serve Teese cheese and a few vegan meats (chicken and pepperoni, and I think maybe also sausage) and they're more than willing to substitute whatever vegan options you want. You can order an 11" or 15" inch pizza, which means yummy leftovers for lunch the next day.