Tuesday, September 30, 2014

MoFo Day 30: Carrot cake progress

Today is the last day of Vegan MoFo. I made a decent showing with 22 posts and I've really come to enjoy sitting down at my table to eat meals without distractions, so I'm happy. And I found a bunch of new blogs and really enjoyed reading the awesome, hilarious and informative posts the vegan blogosphere came up with this year.

Speaking of enjoyable meals, the GIANT piece of carrot cake I had for dinner tonight was great. I made it for dessert when my parents were over on Sunday and this was the last of it. I've eaten a lot of vegan carrot cake over the years, but this was my first attempt at making one. I've always read rave reviews of the recipe for Ginger Macadamia Coconut Carrot Cake from Vegan with a Vengeance. I never made it, though, because I have very specific ideas about what a carrot cake should be, and that doesn't include ginger, macadamia nuts, or coconut. While searching for a recipe, I realized I could just substitute walnuts for macadamia nuts and raisins for coconut and leave out the ginger. And it worked perfectly! I like a lot of "stuff" in my carrot cake and the recipe's proportions didn't disappoint. I also made the cream cheese frosting from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, which was good, but was I thought it tasted too much like sugar and not enough like cream cheese. This was definitely a step in the right direction, and maybe now I'll stop spending $5 on the Chicago Diner carrot cake slices every time I go to Whole Foods.

Monday, September 29, 2014

MoFo Day 29: Pumpkin mac

When I initially chose my MoFo theme this year, I was intending to have guests and cook for them much more often than actually happened. Realizing that, I invited my parents and sister over for dinner last night. I took zero pictures, but I did learn an important lesson - I need more entertaining practice, because having people over AND cooking is stressful!

I decided to make the Pumpkin Baked Ziti from Veganomicon because it's one of my favorite foods ever, it's omni-friendly, and can be prepared in advance. But instead of preparing it Sunday morning as planned, I went on an (awesome) kayak tour of the canals along the Detroit River, so I was scrambling to get it done as my family arrived. Regardless, it turned out amazing and all the omnis cleaned their plates. Seriously, if you haven't made this yet, do it! It's like macaroni and cheese, but 100 times better. And don't be worried about the huge pan it makes. You'll want to eat it all. I did ration a bit out for lunch today and it was just as good reheated. 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

MoFo Day 27: Bagel Sandwich v2

In yesterday's post about my bagel sandwich, I had intended to mention that I'd been craving a "turkey swiss bagel" all week. Instead, the post turned into a love letter to Tofurky. (Incidentally, I'm rushing to post this because I'm heading to Seva, where I will likely order a club sandwich made with Tofurky). Anyway, while I was flying home from Vegas last weekend, Delta mentioned they had a turkey bagel sandwich for sale and it sounded SO GOOD. Not in a "I want to eat that" way, but in a "I wish it was Tofurky on that bagel" vegan-way. For a week, I thought about that sandwich, and when I finally made it to the grocery store yesterday, I got the fixins'. After my mediocre attempt yesterday, I researched what actually goes into a turkey bagel sandwich. I decided to try a hot version and this was 100 times better than what I had before:

Since I don't have a toaster (I have three kinds of blenders but not a toaster), I heated up a skillet with a little Earth Balance and grilled the cut sides of the bagel. I also threw on a stack of Tofurky slices and a Daiya provolone slice, and topped it with some dijon mustard. I mentioned yesterday that I thought the Daiya was too sweet, but it was much better melted.

Friday, September 26, 2014

MoFo Day 26: Bagel craving

Tofurky Deli Slices have always been among my favorite vegan 'novelty' foods. I vividly remember the first time I tried them - on a sandwich at Seva in Ann Arbor shortly after going vegan. It had Tofurky slices, roasted red peppers and Vegenaise on multigrain bread. (That was ten years ago. I wish I could remember useful information as well as I can remember meals.)

Over the years, I've made countless Tofurky sandwiches. My current favorite is Hickory Smoked Tofurky, avocado, tomato, sprouts and lettuce. That's a special occasion sandwich, though, because it's a lot of work. Seriously, there are so many steps in slicing an avocado! Plus tomatoes and rinsing lettuce? Ain't nobody got time for that. Today, I opted for a much easier version of Tofurky, Daiya provolone, Vegenaise and dijon mustard on a bagel. I tried the provolone once before and thought the flavor was too sweet. And surprise, I still thought it was too sweet. Next time I'll skip the cheese, but this was still a solid (super-processed, non-nutritious) sandwich.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

MoFo Day 25: Mac and PEAS

Whenever I'm going on vacation, I try to leave an empty refrigerator. The downside is that I come home to an empty refrigerator, like this:

I'd forgotten about that Amy's mac and cheese in the freezer (otherwise I would have eaten it much sooner). I think mac and cheese tastes a million times better when peas are involved, so I added A LOT. On a plate, it looks like a fancy dinner:

Sunday, September 21, 2014

MoFo Day 21: Back to the Grind

I returned home yesterday from my week-long trip to the southwest US. Coming back Saturday afternoon gave me a nice chance to ease back into normal life cuddle/nap with my cats for 36 hours. This is how I've spent most of my time since returning to Detroit:

I did take a break from cats and napping-with-cats to go to Wasabi in Midtown Detroit yesterday for dinner. I ordered the tofu dolsat bibimbab and it was delicious, as always. I took another cat-break today to sit at my table and eat leftovers for lunch.


The long awaited day has finally arrived. VEGAN DONUTS!!!! For those who don't know, Ronald's Donuts in Las Vegas is a regular mom-and-pop donut shop that happens to have mostly vegan donuts, and theirs are the real deal. I've tried a handful of other vegan donuts over the years, but they all tended to be of the "healthier" type. I like whole grain cookies and muffins, but when I want a donut, I want it to disintegrate in my mouth and leave grease marks in the box. Ronald's definitely delivered on both of those.

I was a bit overwhelmed by all my choices and anxious that I had to choose wisely because I wouldn't be back for a long time. I ended up with:

4 boston cream - my absolute favorite pregan donut, Ronald's was every bit as good as I remembered
2 apple fritters - a coworker used to bring these in every Friday and I would watch enviously as they were devoured. Ronald's were even better than I imagined those to be.
2 jelly - these were good, but the jelly was kind of viscous. Maybe all jelly donuts are like that?
2 sugared - a nice snack in-between donut binges
2 chocolate long johns - another in-between snack

I picked these up on the way to the airport at 5:30am. Let me tell you, these were totally worth all the comments and stares I got lugging a pink bakery box that smelled like donuts through the rental car return/shuttle, security, on a plane, through baggage claim and my apartment lobby. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

MoFo Day 19: Living the dream

Room service is one my favorite things about vacation. I know it's lazy and expensive, but the idea of having precooked food delivered to my bed is too tempting for me to pass up. After driving from Flagstaff to Las Vegas today, and a week of hiking, and an early flight tomorrow morning, going out for dinner just wasn't appealing. A quick scan through the in-room dining menu revealed pasta primavera and my plans for the evening were cemented.

This is a poorly-lit phone pic, but I think it covers all the essentials: pasta, bed and pajamas.

Of course, no trip to Las Vegas is complete without a stop at Ronald's Donuts. I'll be there when they open at 5am tomorrow to pick up a dozen (and probably three or four to eat in the car).

Thursday, September 18, 2014

MoFo Day 18: BBQ Chicken Pizza (finally)

Years ago, I read a post (on Vegansaurus, I think, but I can't find it now) about all the great things about being vegan. It covered the basics (animals, environment, health), but also some of the unexpected life aspects. One point that struck me was the joy of finding vegan things and that "grocery shopping becomes a treasure hunt". To me, eating in general is a treasure hunt. Sure, sometimes that means finding a lot of empty treasure chests, but other times what you find was more than worth the trek.

As I've mentioned, my vacation food this week has been less than stellar, but that all changed tonight. A last minute change in plans led to a night in Flagstaff, Arizona. I checked Happy Cow and found Picazzo's Organic Italian Kitchen was a ten minute walk from my hotel. When I saw they had Daiya AND Beyond Meat chicken strips, in the form of a vegan BBQ chicken pizza, I was sold.

These phone pics don't even being to convey how beautiful and delicious this pizza was. It looks like Picazzo's has locations throughout Arizona. It was a bit pricey, but worth every penny.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

MoFo Day 17: Best wrap ever

As I mentioned before, I'm currently on vacation in the southwest US. I haven't been keeping up with my MoFo posts because I did a poor job of planning ahead and the best meals I had all week were Goober PB&J sandwiches. For those who don't know, Goober is peanut butter and jelly in the same jar. I know, it's ridiculously lazy, but Goober has earned its place as a travel staple in my book. On multiple camping and bike touring trips, I've found myself in a small-town grocery store looking for meal options. A loaf of vegan wheat bread and a jar of Goober costs $7 and makes 10 sandwiches that will fuel any activity and won't spoil (I'm sure eventually they will, but not in the three day span I've ever carried Goober and bread in my bike panniers or suitcase).

Anyway, this post was not intended to be a love letter to Goober. Today I went hiking in the Grand Canyon. Afterward, we stopped at a coffee/deli stand at the visitors center. I looked in the "grab and go" sandwich case purely out of boredom, not because I thought I'd actually find a vegan sandwich. Much to my surprise, the case was full of veggie hummus wraps (likely because by 3pm, everyone had bought the meat ones). I was initially suspicious that a wrap of tortilla, hummus, carrot and lettuce could be good. But this was delicious! So delicious, in fact, that I scarfed it down before I thought to take a picture. So instead, I present you with a photo of trash.

And a picture of the Grand Canyon, as seen from halfway down the South Kaibab Trail

Sunday, September 14, 2014

MoFo Day 13: Another sad veggie wrap

As I mentioned, I'm deviating from my MoFo theme since I'm on vacation. A friend and I flew into Las Vegas last night, then rented a car and got out of town as quickly as possible. We spent today hiking to Angels Landing in Zion National Park. Don't let the short distance fool you -- it was one of the most intense hikes of my life. See that narrow ridge behind me? That's part of the trail. As harrowing and exhausting as it was, it was totally worth every minute. 

On the way into the park, I noticed a brew pub just outside the gate. An hour into the hike, I decided nothing would feel better at the end than drinking a cold beer. Because this is Utah, we had to order food with the beer, so rather than go to the restaurant down the street that had delicious sounding tofu dishes, I ordered a veggie wrap. The wrap was about as good as you'd expect, by which I mean, not-good-even-after-five-hours-of-hiking. The saddest part? I didn't even drink half of that beer before leaving. Totally not worth it.

Friday, September 12, 2014

MoFo Day 12: On the road again

When I initially committed to MoFo this month, I knew I was going to be on vacation for a week in September. I had planned to backlog enough posts to keep up with my theme of sitting down to nice meals through the month. As with most things I ambitiously plan to do, that didn't happen. So instead, I bring you a vegan travelogue.

I had also ambitiously planned to pack in advance of my departure, but that didn't happen either. So after racing around like a crazy person, I was a bit frazzled by the time I got on the plane and hadn't had a chance to eat before the four-hour flight. I was pleasantly surprised to find a "tapas" snack box on the Delta in-flight menu. They even have symbols for vegan and vegetarian. This was vegetarian, but I figured I'd just give away anything that wasn't vegan. In a great stroke of luck, everything except the cookies was vegan. And I'd just inhaled their Biscoff cookies, which are better than any lemon cookies could possibly be.

Of course $9 is a bit steep for some hummus and pita chips, but it saved me from being annoyed at the world on a four-hour flight, and that's priceless.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

MoFo Day 10: Cereal Defense

Breakfast today:

I realize a bowl of Raisin Bran and almond milk is a pretty lame MoFo post. BUT sitting down at the table to eat a bowl of cereal is a huge step for me. For my entire day-job-working life, I ate cereal in the car on my way to work. Yes, I know the dangers were clearly displayed in Reynolds vs. Reynolds: The Cereal Defense on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. But Dennis didn't realize the secret is a Pyrex two-cup measuring cup. Easy to hold, hard to spill.

Since I started walking to work two months ago, it's been a huge adjustment for me to make five minutes in my morning routine to eat breakfast (because the only thing I love more than eating is sleeping). When I do eat breakfast at home, I've always set it on the counter and taken bites between picking out clothes, lint-rolling them (damn cats), and getting dressed. This morning was a major accomplishment, and it felt good to calm down for a few minutes and get ready for the day.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

MoFo Day 9: More leftovers

I can't take much credit for preparing tonight's dinner. My sister cooked it over the weekend and I took home leftovers. She is a great cook, and fortunately a great person, so she always makes sure I have a delicious vegan option when she cooks. This was no exception - black bean tacos, Mexican rice, refried beans and pico de gallo. She fried the tacos, so they didn't have the same crispy exterior this time, but still a solid dinner. I put them on a plate, per my MoFo theme, and enjoyed my dinner.

Monday, September 8, 2014

MoFo Day 8: Vegan Coneys

If you visit Detroit as an omnivore, one thing at the top of every suggested itinerary is to sample the coney island hot dogs (aka "coneys") at American and Lafayette Coney Islands. People have a Coke-vs-Pepsi-type allegiance to the places. I was vegan before going to either, so my preference is American simply because they have salad AND fries, while Lafayette only has fries.

I realize my vegan version is blasphemous to die-hard coney fans, but I think it's amazing. If you want to recreate them, I have just one piece of advice for you: use the cheapest ingredients you can find. Whole wheat bakery buns and Amy's Chili don't work. You need supermarket-brand buns and Hormel vegetarian chili:


Procuring those ingredients is the hardest part. The chili is sometimes hard to find, but I did recently see it at the Detroit Meijer. Once you have the ingredients, you just heat up some vegan hotdogs (I used Lightlife because that's what Meijer had) and the chili, spoon the chili on the assembled hot dogs, and add some chopped onion and mustard. White onion is preferable, but I only had red. I also like a ton of mustard on mine. And because in a coney island, these would be served a fried side, I threw in some Ruffles chips.

I've served these to omni's in the past and always had good reviews. Saturday night, I made them for my omni boyfriend (a very romantic dinner) and he cleaned his plate. He actually told me to blog that he liked them, so I'll interpret that as approval.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

MoFo Day 7: Impromptu Breakfast

When people ask me what I miss from my pregan days, the main thing I think of is "breakfast." Not breakfast food, because I've found veganized versions of everything I could want. By "breakfast," I mean the ability to go out for breakfast. Now I live within biking distance of a number of places with great vegan brunch options (PJ's Lagerhouse and Seva are my top picks), but going out while traveling or in the suburbs generally means hash browns and dry toast. I don't mind eating that, but I think it makes veganism look really sad to the people I'm with, especially as they scarf down their Grand Slam or eggs benedict and keep looking over guiltily to ask if I had enough to eat.

To restore balance to my vegan universe, I vowed to start cooking more breakfast food, especially when people (i.e., my boyfriend) spend the night. I hadn't planned ahead this morning, but I did have half a loaf of bread that had been in the refrigerator for two weeks. Fronch Toast from Vegan with a Vengeance is one of those awesome recipes that I always have ingredients for (just bread, almond milk, cornstarch and chickpea flour), and it's quick and easy and tastes better than I remember regular french toast tasting. With some Tofurky Tempeh Bacon and sliced pears, I had a delicious and fancy breakfast ready in ten minutes.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

MoFo Day 6: Fancy Leftovers

In keeping with my MoFo theme, I ate restaurant leftovers on a plate for possibly the first time in my life. I would normally eat noodles like this straight out of the container while standing in front of the refrigerator, but MoFo is forcing me to be a civilized human, so I put the food on a plate, waited 60 seconds to warm it up in the microwave and ate at the table, even using my fancy chopsticks.

I went to Wasabi in Midtown for dinner on Wednesday. I was starving when I got there, so I inhaled a few gyoza and a Sapporo beer upon arrival. Once my blood sugar returned to normal and I was no longer hangry (hungry+angry) at the world, I tried the tofu yakisoba. I normally get sushi or a bibimbab, but I wanted some noodles, so I ventured out. It was good, and I think it actually tasted better as leftovers.

MoFo Day 5: Desperation cookies

Sadly, I LOVE peanut butter and will eat it by the spoonful, so I generally don't keep it in the house. I'd been craving PB cookies for a while and finally got desperate enough to not only make them, but to make peanut butter as well. I had some roasted peanuts in my cupboard, so with 1.5 cups of those + 60 seconds in the Vitamix, I was ready to bake.

My favorite PB cookie recipe (and believe me, I've tried a lot) is the Thin and Crispy Peanut Butter Cookies from Vegan Cookie Connoisseur (the recipe is visible on Google Books). The recipe says to refrigerate and slice the dough, but when I want cookies, I WANT cookies, so I always just roll them in balls and press them so I don't have to wait for the dough to chill. They sometimes turn into funny shapes, like this one with cat ears. Regardless of how it looked, it tasted delicious crumbled over vanilla ice cream.

Also, I know dessert is kind of a departure from my MoFo theme of sitting down to meals. But of all the things that I should eat without distractions, dessert has no other value than the taste, so I should concentrate and enjoy it.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

MoFo Day 4: Kale - it's not just a garnish

Prior to going vegan, my only experience with kale was using it to cover the metal on the salad bar I worked at in high school. I don't think I even knew it was edible back then. The first time I ate it, at Om Cafe in Ferndale in spring 2005, I was blown away that it could taste so good.

I've never been able to replicate the steamed kale I had back then, but I did find a really good recipe base for a raw kale salad here. The proportions are way off in that link, but it's a delicious concoction that covers all the basic tastes - bitter (kale), sour (lemon juice), sweet (tomatoes), salty (miso) and umami (nutritional yeast). The idea is that you take kale, massage in some lemon juice and white miso (about 1/4 cup of each), add nutritional yeast (another 1/4 cup) and as many cherry tomatoes as you have. It tastes healthy, but in a "wow this is delicious. I'm so happy I'm eating it" kind of way. I threw in some baked tofu from AFR and sat down to a delicious MoFo dinner.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

MoFo Day 3: BLTs - even better than the real thing

Bacon is the bane of my vegan existence. Not because I want to eat it, because I don't. But because of all the "what do you mean, you don't eat BACON???" and "OH MY GOD, how do you LIVE without BACON?" remarks I've heard over the decade I've been vegan. To be fair, when 19-year-old-me first decided to try veganism, I remember thinking "this will only last a few months. There's no way I can go the rest of my life without bacon." Much to my surprise, within a month, I had no desire to eat it. And within a year, I found the smell disgusting. I'd argue it's not bacon people love, but the smoky, salty, sweet flavor combination. I even argue (though no omnivores have ever agreed with me) that a BLT is just as good with tempeh as with bacon. The BLTs I grew up eating were bread, tangy mayo, lots of lettuce, and thick slices of garden tomatoes, plus maybe two pieces of bacon. The bacon just gave flavor, but it wasn't a huge part of the sandwich. So naturally, I don't even notice swapping out something that gives the same flavor (but is easier to bite and doesn't splatter animal fat all over the kitchen when I cook it). Here's all the ingredients, ready to become a delicious TbLT:

One of the myriad perks of living within walking distance of work is being able to come home for lunch. In keeping with my MoFo theme, I sat at the table and ate my lunch like a civilized person, rather than a cube-jockey at my desk, eating while staring at spreadsheets.

I made the mistake of grabbing an apple from my apartment lobby. It's September in Michigan. In a month, we'll have amazing apples everywhere. Sadly, this mealy thing was from New Zealand and I threw it away after eating two pieces. Yuck!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

MoFo Day 2: Capellini Pomodoro (aka tomato noodles)

Tomatoes are my favorite thing about summer. When I opened my CSA basket and saw a bazillion, I was ecstatic. Then I saw the basil and imagined myself in a Tuscan paradise of (vegan) caprese salad, panzanella and margherita pizza. Sadly, I soon remembered that I'm lazy and didn't want to buy any more groceries, or make fresh mozzarella or pizza crust. So I used my stand-by noodles+grease+garlic recipe and made an approximation of Capellini Pomodoro (or cap-pom, as we called it at The Olive Garden during my brief stint as a waitress there. Lasagna will always be "lasa" and fettuccini alfredo will always be "fet-alf" to me.)

I just used what I had, which ended up being not nearly enough basil or garlic, and spaghetti instead of angel hair pasta. I mixed the pine nuts with some nutritional yeast and almonds in the food processor to attempt a parmesan-like topping. It somehow turned out more reminiscent of bread crumbs, but whatever.  Paired with a glass (or three) of wine, it made a quick, easy dinner after a ridiculously dumb day at work.

Apparently Bill-cat approves. He snuck a longing glance while being shooed off the table.

Monday, September 1, 2014

MoFo Day 1: Undistracted eating is not easy

Happy Labor Day and Happy first day of Vegan MoFo! As I mentioned in the previous post, my plan for MoFo this month is to sit down and have a real meal, even if by myself, every day. That means setting the table, then sitting and eating the entire meal without distractions. I must admit, it took more willpower than I was expecting NOT to start writing this post while eating. But I soldiered through and ate while composing it in my head, but not on my computer.

Over the years, I've subscribed to a few CSAs. When I lived in Nevada, Great Basin Basket was fantastic. They had a huge variety of produce (from watermelons to pine nuts) due to the micro-climates in the area. When I first moved back to Michigan in 2011, I subscribed to the (now defunct) Royal Oak Community Farm. Last year, I heard about City Commons and vowed to sign up for the 2014 program. I love that the produce is all grown in Detroit, but even more importantly, they have a bi-weekly share. That's perfect for me because, let's face it, being dressed before 1pm on Saturday EVERY WEEK isn't feasible. They also have multiple pick-up locations and times, and it's the least expensive of any I've joined. I'll definitely be joining again next year and I'd recommend it to anyone who lives near by.

This week's share was a bonanza! There was chard, kale, arugula, parsley, basil, pickling cucumbers, pears, cherry tomatoes, slicing tomatoes and mild peppers:

I vowed not to waste any of that beautiful produce, so I immediately got to work creatively using what few things I had on hand to make a ton of meals. I had some tempeh and an onion, so I made a variation of Basic Scrambled Tempeh from Vegan Brunch. Unlike almost all of Isa's (the author, foundress of The PPK and Vegan MoFo) recipes, I didn't like this one as written. I'd made notes in my cookbook to halve the tempeh, double the chard, and add soy sauce and water at the end. That worked out perfectly since I only had 8 oz of tempeh and a huge bunch of chard. I didn't have a red pepper, so I added some of the mild peppers from my basket and cherry tomatoes. 

not pictured: soy sauce

With some Avalon toast, this made the perfect Labor Day breakfast.