Friday, December 24, 2010

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Cookies

It's time for Christmas office parties. It didn't take me long to figure out what I wanted to bring in -- cookies. Cookies were a big part of our Christmas tradition when I was growing up. Every year my family (including my grandfather) spent a whole day making mountains of cookies to give to friends and relatives. We always made two kinds -- a butter cookie and an oatmeal chocolate chip. My parents mixed the batters and manned the oven, while my brother, my grandfather and I dropped spoonfuls of cookie mix onto the trays. 

I haven't had these cookies in years, not since my father passed away, but it felt right to make a few batches of them this year. I veganized the butter cookie recipe for the party tomorrow, and will make the oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for Christmas Eve. 

Here's a picture of the butter (or non-butter!) cookies. They were always my favorite -- not too sweet, with a nice crunch to them.  
Non-Butter Cookies

4-5 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 lb Earth Balance, softened

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat the Earth Balance in a large bowl until creamy. Add sugar and flour, one cup at a time, until you have a crumbly cookie consistency. Roll batter into balls and flatten onto greased cookie sheets. Bake for 9-10 minutes. The tops of these cookies will not brown. 

Make 3 dozen small cookies. 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Loving Hut

Loving Hut is coming to Pittsburgh!! The website is here. I've wanted to go to this restaurant since reading about it on other vegan blogs, but thought I'd have to wait for another visit to Hawaii to try it. According to the City Paper, the grand opening is December 19th. I'm so excited!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Scotch Broth and the Dilemma

It's winter. I'm not really for winter yet, so I'm trying to prepare for the bracing cold with some nice hearty winterish meals. Scotch Broth from The Vegan Table is a new favorite. It's got split peas, red lentils, barley, and potato chunks in it, so it's very hearty.Other highlights of the week have been J's perfected vegan chili and borscht. All served with slices of rye bread.
So I've been a vegan for nine months now. My vegan diet has definitely made me healthier, helped me shed some pounds and maintain my weight, and made me a better, more adventurous cook. Pre-vegan, I'd cook the same six or seven things, over and over again, and almost all of them contained hamburger. Now, I try at least one new recipe every week. Cooking is fun rather than a chore. 

But I've come to a dilemma in my vegan lifestyle. Which is this. I knit, but I stopped for about a year. I'm back with a vengeance, just in time for the holiday gift-making season, but remembered something about myself: I'm a tactile knitter. I can't bring myself to knit with a yarn that isn't completely wonderful and soft. I'm inexplicably drawn to merino wool, mohair, cashmere (not that I've ever been able to afford cashmere) ... well, you get the picture.

I also have a stash of woolly/mohairy yarn goodness. In fact, there is nothing in my stash that isn't animal-based except for these babies:
It's a sock yarn made out of corn fiber and elastic nylon. It's neat to think of a pair of socks made out of corn fiber, isn't it? And the yarn is soft, so it gives me some hope. 

I also know there's yarn out there made out of soy and bamboo, though it's tricky to find these without a blend of wool added in. Acrylic is out, pretty much. I hate the feel of acrylic. And cotton? I went to my LYS (local yarn store) earlier this week, to scope out their cotton yarn. Maybe I haven't found the right brand yet, but every single ball of yarn felt unpleasant to touch. I did find a super-soft skein and got really excited, until I looked at the label and realized it was wool yarn that had accidentally gotten misplaced. Oops.

So this is a real challenge for me. I'm content without hamburgers, leather, and chicken nuggets. I understand and accept why supporting the silk industry is wrong. But a good skein of wool yarn is very hard for me to put down.

I've decided to use my stash up -- I think it would be silly of me to throw or give it all away, and I don't know enough knitters to arrange a yarn swap. Anyway, it's the perfect time to knit woolly presents. I already finished a sweater for my mother, and am 50% done with a pair of superwash wool socks. After the New Year, I'll cast on the Maizy yarn for a pair of socks for myself. I'll  let you know how the journey goes.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Hello again! I haven't been posting much lately, but that doesn't mean I haven't been cooking lots of great vegan food. 

Here's a sampling of what's been simmering (or baking!) in my kitchen: (oh, and just to let you know, I'm not in Pittsburgh right now with my cookbook stash, so the recipe names might not exactly be accurate. But rest assured, I'll come back and make corrections!)

Today is my mother-in-law's birthday. I decided to make cupcakes for her instead of a big ole cake. Cream cookie cupcakes from 500 Vegan Recipes with an agave chocolate frosting. This is a very moist, delicious cupcake. Definitely chocolate overload.

Here's a picture of the cupcakes, pre-frosting.
And a picture of my mother-in-law with a frosted cupcake and her birthday candle!
Now, I don't want to mislead you into thinking that I just make desserts 24/7. There's also breakfast food ...

Like the tofu scramble I made the other day (I used the recipe from Vegan Brunch) with Perfect Pumpkin muffins (Vegan with a Vengeance) and diner potatoes (Vegan Brunch).
I've also been delving a bit into macrobiotics, like the Nishime recipe from The Kind Diet.
And a polenta seitan casserole, also from The Kind Diet!

Finally, the tortilla poblano casserole from Viva Vegan! Can I just say again that I love this cookbook?

I'm actually planning a Tex-Mex/Latin American vegan Thanksgiving dinner, so stay tuned for pictures from that!

Monday, October 18, 2010


Hello everyone! We were on vacation last week, visiting family in Kentucky and then travelling on to Asheville, North Carolina. I had some good vegan food in Kentucky, but took no pictures, as most of the places we went to were chain restaurants.

Not only Asheville is a lovely city, but it also has a buttload of amazing choices when it comes to vegan food! I did some research beforehand, writing down a list of restaurants and cafes with vegan choices, but I really didn't need it. Great vegan food was literally everywhere.

Our first stop was at Rosetta's Kitchen, a cute, laid-back cafe. Everything on the menu is vegetarian or vegan, which meant there was an incredible amount of choices. J decided on the cornbread and greens. I sneaked a few bites and can vouch that it was yummy, but the picture I took was way too blurry, so you'll have to use your imagination! 

I ordered the tacos, filled to the brim with vegan chorizo, and a side order of mashed potatoes with amazing  gravy.
Really, the potatoes were kind of overkill, but I ate almost everything. Rosetta's Kitchen also had some tempting looking vegan desserts, but I managed to restrain myself! 

We visited Biltmore, which is the Vanderbilt family's mansion and grounds. The mansion itself was crazy opulent, but I preferred the gardens, which were so infinite and vast we didn't even get to see everything.
The Biltmore had extremely limited dining choices for vegans, and everything seemed very expensive, so we waited to have lunch in downtown Asheville. We went to the Jerusalem Garden Cafe. I had a falafel sandwiches with fries, which was good but not very exciting.

J, on the other hand, had the Moroccan Couscous, which was so pretty. The tomato sauce was amazing!
We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around downtown Asheville, stopping for a drink at a bar (for J) and frequent shopping excursions (for me). We passed an impressive looking Mellow Mushroom, and I remembered hearing from different blogs that they had started carrying vegan cheese.

Inside, the place was merrily decorated. I particularly liked the bear statue with a pizza box in its mouth.
And the pizza was great. I ordered mine with artichokes and black olives, yum! So good. I wish we had a Mellow Mushroom in Pittsburgh ...
The next day, we decided to try a Mexican place called Salsa's we had walked past the night before. It had been packed (always a good sign), and we glimpsed lots of delicious-looking food through the window. Like all the other restaurants in Asheville we'd tried, there were tons of vegan options.

I had the 2010 Nachos, pictured below.
Look at those lovely chunks of squash and zucchini! And the homemade refried beans were delicious. Really, everything was fresh and amazing, down to the salsas.

We have a vegetarian friend in Asheville who recommended we try Sunny Point Cafe in West Asheville, a neighborhood we hadn't yet explored. So for our last morning in town, we had an amazing breakfast! I had vegan hot cakes. But not just any hot cakes. No, these were Orange Scented Gluten Free Cornmeal Hot Cakes! They were light and deliciously orange flavored. I wish I could have these every week for brunch. Thanks for the recommendation, Kathleen!
What impressed me so much about Asheville, besides its super-fresh and delicious food, was the city's emphasis on buying local, and supporting local businesses. Almost every restaurant we went to had a list of the local produce or products used to create their dishes. And most businesses had 'buy local' (or maybe it was 'buy Asheville,' I don't remember) stickers in their window.

And I believe it would be really easy to buy local in Asheville. There are so many cute boutiques and independent bookstores, reminiscent of New York City. It made me think about how many of my own dollars are spent on big box stores or clothing chains in Pittsburgh, all because I was too lazy to seek out local and independent businesses. Granted, I don't have as easy in Pittsburgh, where there aren't entire city streets lined with independent stores. But I could definitely make more of an effort.

So I came back to Pittsburgh with a personal challenge. From now until the beginning on January, I will only buy from local businesses,  second-hand stores, or independent businesses online (like Etsy!). This doesn't include food, although I'm going to make an attempt to go to the Farmer's Market more often, or holiday presents (mostly because of my brother, who heard of my challenge and made me promise not to buy his gifts from little boutiques). I know this is a food blog, but I thought it might be fun to make occasional updates on my progress.

Anyway J and I were very sad to leave Asheville, so we consoled ourselves by going to the Quiet Storm Coffeehouse for breakfast. I also made the Sweet Potato Pie with Three-Nut Topping from Vegan with a Vengeance as a special treat.  

I was feeling out of sorts when I made the sweet potato pie, and accidentally used a cake pan instead of a pie pan! And okay, I don't actually have a pie pan -- I usually buy the disposable ones from the grocery store. So maybe it's time to invest in a glass pie pan.

I also forgot to add 1) brown sugar to the graham cracker crust and 2) silken tofu to the sweeet potato filling. Despite this, the sweet potato pie (or in this case, sweet potato cake) turned out really well. The hazelnut, almond and walnut topping was especially decadent.

Here's another picture.

I bought a copy of Vegan Soul Kitchen at a secondhand bookstore in Kentucky, so expect some soul food pictures soon!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Comfort Foods

I must be insane. This is the only excuse I can come up with for why I haven't tried more of the recipes from Viva Vegan! Everything I've made from this cookbook has been ridiculously good. This includes the latest foray, Sweet Potato-Chipotle Bisque. Look at how beautiful this soup is!
The coconut creamer I chose to use gave the soup a great creamy taste, which went very well with the smokiness of the chipotles. I made a quick batch of Rustic Olive Rolls from Students Go Vegan. Kalamata olives and chipotles might sound like a strange combination, but they actually went very well together.

For tonight's meal, I turned back to Veganomicon. Chili sounded good, but I didn't want a garden-variety type of chili. Manzana Chili Verde was definitely what I was looking for.

Here, green tomatillos and granny smith apples are the star in the show. And for an added bonus, there are white beans in this chili too! It tasted a lot like a green salsa with lots of yummy goodness added to give it a stew-like consistency. And really, what's not to love about that?  
Both of these meals were fantastic, and something that will definitely end up on our table again.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Veganomicon Extravaganza

I've been making a lot of meals from Veganomicon lately. I can't help it, it's such a great cookbook!

I try to make at least one soup every week. This time around I decided on Veganomicon's French Lentil Soup with Tarragon and Thyme. Unfortunately, there was an apparent shortage of french lentils in the Pittsburgh region, so I subbed green lentils instead. I don't think it mattered. It was delicious!
Honestly, there's nothing better than a good lentil soup. Please ignore my garish nail polish color in the picture! Some things look better in the bottle ...

Anyway, I'm always up for white beans and mushrooms, so it was inevitable that I'd eventually try Rustic White Beans and Mushrooms (from Veganomicon, of course). This recipe made an enormous amount of beans. It was a very meaty dish (partially because of the beans, but also because of the spices), with the smoky taste of mushrooms. A little less flavorful than some of the other dishes in Veganomicon, perhaps, but still a hearty and comforting meal.
Okay, and sometimes I pick up pre-packaged stuff. I used to have an obsession with the chicken salad from the Giant Eagle Market District. Even now I still sometimes get a craving for chicken salad. I know there are great faux chicken salad recipes out there, but I get lazy. Luckily, I found a great faux chicken salad at Whole Foods. It tastes yummy with a slice of tomato and lettuce, and a little salt and pepper.
They have a faux tuna salad as well, but I was never much of a tuna salad sandwich person.

Tomorrow I'm making something from Viva Vegan, and will definitely post pictures.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Catching Up

Hello again! I had to post a new entry in celebration of all the great new dishes I've been cooking (and eating) lately. There hasn't been a lot of adventurous cooking, as I haven't been in the mood to make homemade pasta noodles or elaborate desserts. But easy-to-prepare food doesn't have to mean boring food.

I continue to be amazed with 500 Vegan Recipes. I've tried half a dozen recipes already, and not one of them has disappointed me. The lemon thyme quickbread recipe is worth the price of the cookbook alone. So, needless to say, I had very high expectations for the Red Jambalaya.

I haven't had jambalaya since becoming a vegan, and I was a little concerned about the lack of sausage or shrimp. I considered adding a link or two of fauxsage, but it turned out that this dish didn't need it. It was perfect all alone, with okra as the shining star ingredient. To make the jambalaya a bit healthier, I used brown rice instead of the suggested long white rice. It was very, very spicy the first day, a little less so the next. This is definitely something I'll make again!

I love white beans. Cannellinis, navy beans, it doesn't matter. I try to make something with white beans at least once a week. This time I tried the White Bean Aioli from Veganomicon. Here's a picture of it spread on French bread.

This dip was very strong, so a little went a long way. It was maybe even (dare I say) a little too strong for my taste, but J loved it.

I celebrated my birthday last week, which meant receving several great presents, including my very own copy of The Urban Vegan. Thank you, Reg!! The funny thing is, I bought this cookbook just the week before for Nina's bridal shower present. I was kind of sad at the time that I didn't have my own copy ... and now I do!

I had to make something from this cookbook right away. I chose Modular Pakistani Kima, which sounds quite exotic but is basically a curry. And wow, what a curry!!! Dynise gives you a few options when making this dish: I chose to add mustard greens for the green vegetable, and a can of garbanzo beans for the protein.There was also a few potatoes, carrots, peas, and an ungodly amount of curry powder. 

I can always tell when J loves a dish, because he exclaims, "Mmm!" This kima rated several "Mmm"s. I agree wholeheartedly.    

My mother and brother came to Pittsburgh for my birthday weekend, and Mom tried her hand at vegan baking with the Peanut Butter Pie recipe from The Kind Diet. I love peanut butter pies, and this one was exceptionally sweet with a melted chocolate base. Unfortunately, the pie had been prepared the night before and then refrigerated, solidifying the chocolate into a hefty chunk. This made it pretty hard to cut the pie into slices. It was still very good, though.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

More Food!

I've been slacking off with blog entries lately, for two good reasons. One was that our friend Dan came to visit for a week.  
And the second is that I'm finally buckling down and writing my novel. I have a MFA in Writing, so it's not like I have an excuse for not doing it ... I'm just a slacker. With that in mind, I'm making myself write a least an hour every day. No breaks, no exceptions.

This means there's less time to cook. We don't want to resort to take-out food, so J has picked up the slack and cooked a few meals this week. Both of them turned out great!

Okay, here's a breakdown of the new dishes we tried:

Enchilada Casserole from 500 Vegan Recipes. This one was nice and spicy, with the faux chorizo and the green salsa I added to the mix.

J made Black Soybean and Kabocha Squash Stew from The Kind Diet. This was delicious!! Even with the substitution of butternut squash for kabocha, it was amazing.

J also made the Veggie Mash-up Casserole from Manifest:Vegan. You can get the recipe here. It's been awhile since we've had mashed potatoes, so the casserole was a nice treat. Love that Daiya!