Posts Tagged ‘misadventures’
Vegan in Vegas
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A few weeks ago, we spent a long weekend in Las Vegas, which remains one of my favorite places in the entire world. The first time I went to Vegas after going Vegan, I was apprehensive. I was worried that there wouldn’t be anything to eat, and did a lot of research into the matter. That first trip went fairly well, but I stuck mostly to pasta with tomato sauce (and a side trip to Ronald’s Donuts). This past trip, I had the advantage of safety in numbers. Since my boyfriend and I are both vegan, we got to share the challenge and adventure of feeding ourselves in a city known for it’s all-you-can-eat shrimp cocktail. The following is meant to serve as a brief guide of some places that we managed to find food.

We Jammin’
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My boyfriend has been practically begging me for weeks to make him a batch of homemade jam. He keeps dropping little hints, like putting post-its that read “fill me” on all of the jam jars in the refridgerator. The other day I was getting ready for work and say that he had hung a basket and a sunbonnet on the hook in my closet. He keeps sending me links to articles about canning and the benefits of making your own jam from scratch. He bookmarked the pick your own berry farm in my google maps. When I found the DVR full of Little House on the Prairie episodes, I decided it was time I did something about this behavior. Saturday just happenned to be a beautiful day, although it was sunnier than I expected and I ended up getting a little color. I drove all the way up to Moorpark, CA and the Underwood Family Farm. It was a quaint little farm with lots of picking options and a full-service farm stand. They had everything from sweet potatoes to string beans, and I am definately going back in October to pick my own pumpkin (meetup outing, anyone?).

The next time I go to a farm, I am bringing some children. There’s a reason why schools had summer vacation, and it’s that kids are really useful when it comes to harvesting crops. They are low to the ground and have little hands. I, on the other hand, ended up with a sore back and scratches all over. The strawberry field was amazing, and there were so many ripe, delicious strawberries that I had a hard time choosing. The raspberry field was a little picked over, but I was determined to get enough together for a jam, and I managed to get an entire pound of them. It just took an hour and a half. I also picke dup some boysenberries, but I don’t think they were quite ripe enough, as evidenced by the disastorous consistency of my boysenberry jam.

I managed to find a basic jam recipe that worked well for all three of my berries.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups fresh berries
  • 2 c. of sugar

Use a potato masher to break the berries down into a pulp. Add sugar and stir well to combine. Pour into a saucepan over medium-high heat.

Over the course of about 10 minutes, stir the mixture frequently while it begins to boil. It will darken in color. The way to test the jam is by keeping a spoon in ice water and scooping up little bits of the jam. Blow on it to bring it to room temperature, and when it’s thick and gloopy, you have jam.

At this point, if you know what you are doing, you can pour it into sterilized jars. This is what I did, but I have no idea whether I did it right, so I can’t really dole out advice on that topic. For the record, I will be keeping my jam in the refridgerator and finishing it as quickly as possible.

Spring Rolls
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I really was super-excited to make spring rolls with a peanut dipping sauce. The main reason why I was so excited was that I got to make a trip to Mitsuwa, Mitsuwa is none other than the largest Japanese supermarket in the West, and it is also right down the street from my new house. Walking into Mitsuwa, I imagined finding tons of hidden vegan jewels and walking out with a full cart. Instead, I left shell-shocked, bewildered, and generally shaken, but with spring roll wrappers.
It was very, very strange to be in a store where I literally could not read the labels. Most of them had english on the back, but it was so tiny and indecipherabl, that I was not really sure of what went in anything. I perused the produce section, which had so many umeboshi products that a macrobiotatian would have thought they had died and gone to heaven. On the other hand, I do not much care for umeboshi after a particularly nasty incident with a weight-loss tea consisting of umeboshi, daikon, carrot, and (wait for it) soy sauce. Surprisingly, it was not as good as it sounds.
Back to my trip. I wandered shell-shocked up and down the aisles, occasionally picking up funny-looking boxes and straining to read the ingredients. Definitely NOT vegan-friendly. Even the breads seemed to all have either milk or butter in them. I’m sure I would have had more luck if I had gone with someone more familiar with the cuisine or the language. Fortunately, I did make it out in one piece and with my spring roll wrappers. I got home and was very excited to make my peanut dipping sauce with fresh peanut butter from the Whole Foods. Unfortunately, the peanut butter had some hard, grainy substance in it. Now, I was never emo enough to eat broken glass (I just walk on it), but if I had, this is what I imagine it would have been like.  I was very much into these spring rolls when we had them for dinner, and very much not into them the next day. So the lesson there is that they do not keep well. The other lesson is that Whole Foods puts plastic or something in their fresh-ground peanut butter, or at least they did that day.

Summer Spring Rolls

  • 6 spring roll wrappers
  • 1 bunch cellophane noodles (a.k.a glass noodles)
  • 1 c. Trader Joe’s broccoli slaw

Prepare the spring rolls according to the package instructions and layer with cellophane noodles and broccoli mixture.
Fold up like a burrito.

Peanut Dipping Sauce

  • 1/4 c. peanut butter
  • 2 TBSP. lemon juice
  • 2 TBSP. soy sauce
  • 2 TBSP soy milk
  • water as needed

Heat the peanut butter, lemon juice, and soy sauce over a medium flame. As it heats, it will be easier to mix.
Stir in the soy milk and let the mixture come up to a very low boil.
Reduce heat and stir in as much water as you need to reach your desired consistency.
You can season with fresh ginger if you like.

Alternative Pizza
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Sometimes I get to share my great successes with my readers, and sometimes I feel the need to own up to my mistakes. The following is an account of a pizza gone wrong:

During the week that I stuck to the McDougall plan, I decided to play around with their concept of replacing the cheese on pizza with hummus. It seemingly makes sense, hummus is delicious, oil-free, and easily spreadable. My pesto recipe is also oil-free, delicious, and easily spreadable. Throw either one of them on top of a pizza crust, top with vegetables, and you’re in business. Or so I thought.
My first mistake was in the cornerstone of any good pizza: the dough. A good pizza dough is made of yeast, flour, and water. It only uses olive oil to coat the bowl it rises in and prevent sticking. This adds a negligible amount of oil to the recipe, and I should have just accepted it and moved on with my pizza making. Instead, I allowed myself to be seduced by the novel idea of crafting a pizza crust out of whole wheat pastry flour and beer. Yes that’s right, beer-crust pizza. It sounds like a great idea, because the two usually make for an excellent pairing. On this particular occasion though, the two did NOT go together. The crust was hard without being cooked through and lacked any flavor whatsoever. Fail.
The second shortcoming of said pizza was in the lack of cheese. The hummus and pesto would have been ok, if I hadn’t cooked them within an inch of their life while waiting for the beer dough to solidify and the vegetable toppings to cook. In the future, I would probably pre-cook my veggies and crust, so that I didn’t inadvertently suck all the moisture out of the sauce.
The final shortcoming of these pizzas came in the form of the Most Cursed Vegetable. I’m talking about the artichoke. I did my internet research. I trimmed the leaves. I steamed it with lemon. I ended up with a purple-tinged artichoke heart. Now I’ve never worked with fresh artichoke before, but purple food is just weird. I learned a very important lesson, however. That lesson is to never try to cook fresh artichokes, because I will end up with a mess of purple leaves and very weird pizza.
We ate it anyway.

Blueberry Bliss
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My coworker Kristin is a ray of sunshine. Even though she spends her days ,like me, as a warden at the mental institution, she has a great sense of humor about the whole thing. Yesterday, Kristin gifted me with two recipes for blueberry bread as well as a recipe for Indian Batata Nu Shaak and a collection of carefully labeled Indian spices. It was like a culinary Christmas. One of the blueberry bread recipes comes from her friend Jess Thomson, who has her own very wonderful health food blog. You can check it out at jessthomson.wordpress.com/. However, you have to promise to come back to this blog, because hers is much better and I wouldn’t blame you for wanting to spend the whole day browsing over there.

Anyway, Jess’s recipe for Almost Unforgettable Blueberry Breakfast Bread incorporates some really great healthy ideas, like a hearty walnut topping, whole wheat flour, and yogurt instead of some of the oil. I took some steps to veganize it, omitted the flaxseed because I didn’t have any, and further reduced the fat content by using applesauce instead. I’ve had great success cooking with applesauce lately, as it makes my cakes and breads deliciously moist and has about 1/10th the calories of margarine or oil. If weight isn’t an issue for you, I reccomend using the original recipe, just using soy yogurt and ener-g egg replacer. If you, like me, need to watch what you eat in time for swimsuit season, I hope that my recipe will do the trick.

Let me be straight with you, gentle readers. My real motivation behind this recipe is to come up with something very delicious and very vegan for February 28th, when I am attending my very first vegan potluck, with a great group of Vegan Foodies I found on meetup.com. It’s going to be my first event on the Los Angeles vegan “scene”. Sure, I’ve been to Golden Mean and shopped the Whole Foods salad bar, but on the 28th I’m going to become a real part of it. Needless to say, I’m suffering from a bit of “performance anxiety”, and really want to come up with a brunch recipe that is simple, delicious, travels well, and is super-healthy. I ordered business cards, and I am hoping 1: that they will arrive on time and 2: that I won’t give anyone food poisoning because they will be able to trace me back here.



Vegan Blueberry Bread with Walnut Topping
adopted from Jess Thomson
Topping

  • 1 TBSP. light brown sugar
  • 1/8 c. walnuts
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 TBSP. earth balance or other vegan margarine

Bread

  • 1 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 c. agave nectar
  • 1/2 c. applesauce
  • 1 TBSP. vegetable oil
  • ener-g egg replacer for 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 6 oz. vegan soy yogurt (check the label on this one)
  • 1 c. fresh blueberries

1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly spray the sides and bottom of a loaf pan.
2. In a food processor, pulse walnuts, brown sugar, cinnamon, and earth balance until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs, set aside.
3. In a mixing bowl, mix whole wheat pastry flour, baking powder, and salt until well incorporated.
4. In a separate bowl, beat together applesauce, vegetable oil, and agave until smooth and light in color.
5. Pre-mix egg replacer and add it and the vanilla to your applesauce mixture, whisk for 1 minute.
6. Add yogurt and beat until smooth.
7. Add all but 1/4 c. of the flour to the applesauce mixture, and blend. There should be no streaks of white flour. You can use a kitchen mixer for this if you want.
8. Add blueberries to remaining flour and toss to coat. Gently fold them into your batter by hand.
9. Pour into your greased pan and smooth out with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle topping over the batter. Bake at 60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center of the bread.
10. Cool in the pan for 30 minutes, then remove it from the pan and allow it to cool completely on a wire rack.

8 servings at 207 a slice

The Verdict: I totally screwed up what was a good non-vegan recipe. After baking it for an hour, a toothpick came out perfectly clean, but after cooling the bread, it was still mushy on the inside. I tried putting it back in the oven for 15 minutes, but it didn’t help much. Maybe adding the agave was a bad idea, maybe I needed more flour. Anyway, the bread still tastes AMAZING, which is why I’m willing to post the recipe up here for you guys. I’m going to just cut it into slices and toast each one before serving, so no harm no foul.