Friday, October 24, 2008


Sorry y'all! I want to post and even have high res pictures of my Unfortunately, my job stepped things up lately and Lance and I have had barely any time to eat, much less post about said food.

In the meantime, I'll take this moment to say that we're visiting Ethos Vegan Restaurant in Orlando tonight on the way to a professional certification exam for Lance. It'll be our first time eating at Ethos, so I'm really excited. =)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

VeganMoFo - Totally Surprised

I'm really surprised and grateful that my job has been able to get us vegan lunches two days in a row! We're currently under the gun with a software release and needed at our desks for much of the day, so it's been a real relief that a corporation could actually get vegan lunches right two days in a

First day - salads and gyros minus the meat and sauce -- doable and almost sweet in the execution of the meal...kind of like, "They don't like eggs, meat, or milk, but who doesn't like Gyro bread!? That plus veggies - voila!"

Second day - amazing wraps from Robek's, a smoothie/wrap place nearby. The wraps came stuffed with carrots, lettuce, tomato, avocado, roasted red pepper, and, I kid you not, jicama!

This is so much better than the years of people saying, "You don't eat meat? So, we can get you fish?" Sigh.

Monday, October 13, 2008

VeganMoFo - Improvisation

Knowing that I had a busy week ahead, I jam packed the weekend with cooking from my new copy of "Veganomicon"...I finally bit the bullet and bought it!

Wow! The recipes I've tried so far have been amazing. Lance is in food heaven.

In the midst of preparing my Baja Tempeh Tacos and my Pumpkin/Caramelized Onion Ziti, I realized that I had a gigantic half a purple cabbage left over and no recipe to use it. Normally, I would've wrapped it up in plastic, put it in the crisper drawer and, to be honest, forgotten about it until the entire fridge smelled like a dead rat. But something in me said, "Who needs a recipe? Just make something out of it, put it in a pretty Pyrex container, and stash it away for lunch or a snack."

But what to make?

Well, I had some huge Fuji apples looking for friends. And a nice purple onion who plays well with others.

So, into the cast iron pan they went, the cabbage chunks, the diced apple and onion. I sauteed them in canola oil with a dab of Earth Balance. A sprinkle of sea salt, a dash of balsamic vinegar, and a stir finished them off before I dropped the mixture into a Pyrex container (antique Pyrex makes everything I cook seem more fun).

I would just like to say: improvisation = yum. I would say that the cabbage dish reminded me of my winters in Moscow, but I've only been in Moscow up to November, so I wouldn't know. =)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

VeganMoFo - Dr. Soymilk (Or How I Learned To Love The Bean)

I was a sickly, nerdy kid. You wouldn't know it now, but I was way tall and way skinny, with a big bushy head of hair, sallow complexion, and deep-set brown eyes. I was allergic to almost everything and, as I put it facetiously, all my mom fed me was blue corn cereal, soymilk, and acorn squash.

Tempeh tacos, too, but it's fun to gripe.

Enter elementary school. Now what is a conscientious mom to do about sending her kid to a school full of dog-food-sausage pizza and daily chocolate milk?

Well, buy a huge case of soymilk, drive it to the school, and demand that they give me one every day, whether or not I buy my lunch that day.

Thus started my love/hate childhood relationship with soymilk. "Ah Soy!" brand to be exact.

I loved that it was slightly sweet and that I could have chocolate soymilk whenever I wanted and no one cared the slightest.

I hated that NONE of the other kids had heard of it and, thus, would watch me like hawks when I drank it, just in case I dropped dead halfway through. I also hated that "Ah Soy!" was really gritty, so, when I grew out of my allergy and started eating more animal products on my own, I treasured the smooth, fatty quality of cow's milk, but something always tasted off. And then the lactose intolerance kicked in.

Long story short, they introduced "Silk" brand soymilk, way before I even considered becoming vegan, and my fight with grit ended immediately. In fact, it seems like all soymilks have gotten less gritty since then.

I really can't think about cooking or drinking anything else now...well, besides almond, cashew, rice, or coconut milks ;)...but I could never go back to cow's milk.

It's crazy -- I went from being the weird kid to being the vanguard kid, just because of my silly allergies...score one for the sickly nerds!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

VeganMoFo - The Converted Tart of Greatness

So, I love cookbooks, of all kinds. I don't know if it's the same gene that makes me like blogs, but from the moment that I could get my own library card, I came home with at least three cookbooks every trip to lovingly read, page by page.

Since making the transition to vegan eating, I find that reading non-vegan cookbooks takes on a whole other feel. Not only am I adoring the chef's creativity, I'm VEGANIZING their hard work, especially when it comes to desserts.

Now when I read: "3 eggs whites, whipped", I'm thinking, "Okay, don't think egg replacer will work...but maybe flax seeds...wait, whipped silken tofu! That's it!"

And, of course, all the chocolate gets upgraded to vegan dark chocolate, which, in my humble opinion, is a replacement that every omnivore should make as well, but I don't want to open THAT can of beans. (People are so protective of their favorite chocolate...maybe if we put that on the ballot, EVERYONE would vote. But I digress.)

My mom has this series of cookbooks called "La Brea Bakery". One of them is for bread, the other for pastries. Just the thick paper in the La Brea cookbooks screams "heirloom", but the recipes themselves scream "EGGS, BUTTER, AND CREAM!!!" about as loud as possible...almost to the point that I think it would be safer to invest in butter than gold in these economic times.

Well, deep in the middle of that pastry book is a recipe for a Triple Almond Tart, with bittersweet chocolate glaze. I found it and I was transfixed for half a day. People would ask how work was going and I'd talk about veganizing that tart. My mom asked if I wanted coffee and I said that the almond tart would go great with coffee, thank you very much. Every trip to a grocery store was "can I find pure almond extract, you think?"...

So I did it...and it was ALMOST there. So, I figure I'll give the recipe and then I'll tell you how I want to improve it. =)

Triple Almond Tart - Veganized!
(Adapted from a recipe by Nancy Silverton)

Crust: Spelt Shortbread recipe from my blog

3/4 cup whole *roasted* almonds - buy them roasted or toast in oven beforehand, allowing to cool
1/2 cup vegan sugar
3/4 cup vegan powdered sugar
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup silken tofu (like Mori-Nu), blended smooth
1 Tbls. pure almond extract
1 tsp. vanilla extract
6 oz (I know, yikes!) vegan margarine, melted and cooled slightly

2 Tbls. water
2 Tbls. brewed coffee or espresso
3 Tbls. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 Tbls. vegan sugar
1 Tbls. agave nectar
2 oz. vegan dark chocolate, as bitter as you can stand =)
1 Tbls. Disaronno amaretto

Prepare crust by directions, but instead of spreading it out on a cookie sheet, press into the bottom of a springform pan and build a two-inch side around the bottom of the tart. Put in the fridge until ready to fill. (Note: Part of my problem with the crust was how dense it was after cooking, so you might want to do my recipe testing for me and blind bake it for about 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven...let me know how it turns out...should be

For filling, in the bowl of a food processor, put in almonds and granulated sugar. Pulse until you get a fine "almond sugar". Add powdered sugar and flour and pulse until combined. Drop in the silken tofu, extracts, and melted margarine. Process until it makes a thick, well-combined paste.

Pour the almond mixture into the crust and bake for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until the mixture becomes a dense, marzipan-like're mostly just cooking it until the flour cooks through and thickens. Check periodically, because the tart will want to puff up. Pop these puffs with a fork periodically so that the tart remains flat.

Remove from oven and cool completely before trying to glaze.

For glaze:
In a saucepan on medium-high heat, mix water, coffee, cocoa powder, sugar and agave. Stir until the mixture starts to boil, remove from heat, and then mix in broken dark chocolate pieces. Once the chocolate pieces are combined, add in amaretto and stir until smooth. Pour over tart and allow to cool.


So: YUM! And veganized! Score one for the "no butter" crowd. =)

Note: I should've added almond extract to the crust, but I can try that next time. Also, I think a vegan-friendly whiskey or bourbon would give a good depth to the glaze, rather than amaretto.

Monday, October 6, 2008

VeganMoFo - Pizza, the Final Frontier

I'd like to say that the first year of bliss for Lance and I was based solely on puppies and rainbows, but I'm pretty sure it was based mostly on red wine and pizza.

We once looked up at the shelf above his kitchen cabinets at the pretty wine bottles we had cleaned after drinking and displayed proudly.

"How long have we been hanging out at your place?" I asked.

"Two weeks," he said, and pulled me in for a hug.

I sighed contentedly. And then I counted the bottles.

"Um, there are twenty bottles up there..."

Let's just say that we slowed down on the wine.

But the pizza! Pizza! For two vegetarian lads, it was the greatest luxury. The oily cheese enrobing every, the sheer amount of seratonin a pizza could create almost blasted us totally out of our already-blissful minds. Little did we know that we'd consider making the leap to veganism and away from our daily dairy explosion.

Transitioning to non-dairy options has been fairly easy, but, to be honest, pizza has been the third rail: don't touch it, just forget it exists. The vegan option couldn't possibly be as good as the past. We were just going to have to deal with it.

That was, until last night.

All the great posts I've been reading during VeganMoFo inspired me to try my hand at some new things. On top of it, my new favorite cooking show on the Food Network, "The Cooking Loft", did a show about pizzas made in a cast iron pan. So, with those images in my mind, I broke out VwaV ("Vegan with a Vengeance") and made some crust and tofu-ricotta.

The crust: I followed the recipe almost exactly, but I substituted whole wheat pastry flour for one cup of the flour in the dough. I probably should've added a bit more water, but the dough finally succumbed to my kneading after awhile. For a basic cast iron pan (is it 9 inches?), I got four pizzas out of the dough.

I made two types of pizzas:
-Caramelized onions and sauteed gimme-lean "sausage" pieces, with a drizzle of olive oil infused with grated garlic, and a sprinkling of tofu-ricotta from VwaV.
-Tomato basil sauce, topped with the tofu-ricotta.

I lightly oiled the cast iron pan each time, rolled out the dough, and cooked it for a minute or two on each side before topping and heating up in a 350 degree oven until bubbly and crisp.

Can I just say: the pizzas were freaking amazing! The tofu-ricotta, especially when put in the oven for a bit, came out completely creamy and amazing...dare I say *better* than a pizza piled with greasy mozzarella!

Lance, who definitely has been missing pizza, gave them five stars...he kept sighing contentedly and saying, "this is the best pizza! Oh my gosh!"

So, if you've been holding back on making pizza, because "it just wouldn't be the same"...try it! You'll be surprised!

Friday, October 3, 2008

VeganMoFo Day 3 - Argh! Sprouts!

My name is Keith and I need to confess something: I really don't care for sprouts.

I know that the raw food restaurant down the street, Grass Roots, is printing up a most wanted poster with my face on it as I type. (As an aside, how LUCKY are we in Tampa to have such a place, especially in such an economically challenged neighborhood!) But there's just something about sprouts that evokes this feeling: MEH!

I think my first experience with sprouts was at a vegetarian-friendly restaurant my parents would bring me to when I was very young. It was called "East India" and it was in the really ritzy part of Orlando, Winter Park. East India had all sorts of great veggie meals and my parents would invariably order me something drenched in alfalfa sprouts. It was like pulling aside a mohair veil from your food, one that you'd have to eat eventually if you wanted some of East India's awesome homemade ice cream.

Throughout my high school years, my mom and dad homeschooled me. During this time, my mom rediscovered her love for vegetarian, vegan, raw, and macrobiotic cooking. She also discovered her love for sprouting. If it could be sprouted, I think we ate it, sprinkled in salads, put on tacos, cooked into innumerable dishes.

It was like some Nightmare on Elm Street sequel, every time I thought the sprouts had gone away to their grave, they'd reemerge to taunt me.

Now that I'm 30, I'm past my finicky stage of eating and I can actually appreciate the crisp, watery, nutrient-filled bite of every type of sprout -- and, really, what is phad thai without an inordinate amount of mung bean sprouts? But, still, I have to sit back in wonder at the fervor of sprouters across the globe. Even Lance, my love, more often than not, has a jar sitting on an upside-down angle in the kitchen, filled with little culinary contrarians to grace my every bowl of chili, scrambled tofu, curry, and so on and so on.

Even when I'm out, they show up. I don't think anything can be labeled "Californian" without a sad little avocado slice and half a pound of sprouts on top. Just like my tempeh hoagie friend up there from Mellow Mushroom (hold the pesto mayo!).

Sprouts are the cousins that will never leave after Christmas. I am destined to share my life with them...I better get used to it!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

VeganMoFo Day 2: Fact of Life - Eating Out

Between Lance's full schedule of teaching all day and classes each weeknight (besides Friday), and my work in Software Development (notorious for lunchtime envoys to local restaurants, which is great for business, but not so great for finding vegan-friendly things to eat), I find that we sometimes have to brave the ominous concept of "eating out" (insert ghostly voice if it elevates drama).

But, if you stick to your guns, it can actually be kinda easy. I've found out a few things that really helped me:

1) Servers really don't mind breaking down dishes by ingredient if you approach them with a good attitude. I've seen them cringe when someone starts the conversation with "you're gonna really hate me, but...". However, when I just start asking questions, like in the case of that Pad See Ew up there in the photo, they are more than happy to get the message to the chef. Like last night, when I took that photo, all I said was, "I'll take the Pad See Ew. Do you use eggs? Okay, then no eggs, only rice noodles, no fish sauce if you use it." It worked!

2) Anecdotal, but I really can't find anything remotely healthy and vegan at the same time when it comes to late night diners. Besides oatmeal. Sigh. It's better just to invite everyone over after going out.

3) For Lance and I, we find ethnic restaurants to be the easiest place to find vegan fare. In Tampa, there are quite a few choices of vegetarian-only Indian, Vietnamese, and Thai menu items.

Oh, if you're ever in the Tampa area, you have to visit Trang Viet Cusine...half of the menu is totally vegan, from summer rolls, to noodle dishes, to clay pots, to dessert. While nothing really beats a home-cooked meal, those kind of nights out are pure luxury.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Veganmofo: New Habit - Farmers Markets

Photo by Ron1478 on Flickr - Creative Commons License

So, Lance and I have found something out that will ruin us forever: produce at Farmers Markets.

I guess I was living under a bucket, because, honestly, all I thought farmers markets had going for them was "charm". Charming stands, charming kids running all around, charming bouquets of flowers, and oh-so-cute and colorful piles of vegetables. I really didn't think that the prices could possibly be competitive with the supermarket, with its promise of the lowest prices I had ever seen, ready to blow my socks off at every turn.

Well: bucket removed.

Lance and I stopped by a farmer's market, completely run by the farm workers from the rural areas surrounding Tampa, on the way home a few Sundays ago. First, it was just to pick up lemons, because Lance swears by a whole lemon in his morning water to start the day. I swear by a gigantic cup of coffee, but I digress. 8 lemons for something ungodly, like $1. So I thought: limes! Limes for Cosmos! 8 more, one more dollar. Well, I could make a big bowl of guacamole, so a Florida avocado, some tomatoes, jalapenos, squash, cucumbers, and nectarines for other purposes. I think we possibly hit 8 dollars for all of that.

A fridge full of veggies for 8 bucks. I felt positively criminal when I mixed up our 2 buck guacamole that fed us for two days. Vegan never seemed less expensive.

Fast forward to an impromptu party for Lance's school friends. I wanted to put together a nice salad, fresh juice for drinks, and a shepherd's pie. After gathering all the produce, a similar amount to what we got from the market, the cashier rang me up. I almost passed out. 25 bucks for a similar haul at the grocery store!

After Lance talked me down from my leftist critique of out-of-control corporate capitalism, we decided to make a trip to the farmers market a weekly habit. Armed with a ten dollar bill, I'm sure we'll do great.