Saturday, April 23, 2011

Chickenish Salad

Whenever I heard about someone making chicken salad I thought it sounded like the most disgusting thing ever. Apparently it was like egg salad, but with mushed up chicken instead of eggs. Gross.

Well. I came across this recipe for a vegan "chicken" salad and I thought I'd give it a try. After all, it isn't really chicken! It's meat-free of course, and made with my favorite bread spread ever -- Vegenaise. (By the way, it's pronounced like how you say the first part of vegetable, and then add "nayz." Some people thing it's pronounced like how you say "I'm a vegan." I mean, just look at the spelling. It's obviously a soft g. Anyway...)

I love anything you can put on a piece of bread or cracker and can call a "spread," so I was really excited to try this. I hoped it wasn't as nasty as I thought real chicken salad sounded like.

And boy did my dreams come true! I love this stuff! I've made it a couple times and eat it for lunch as a sandwich or on crackers or pretzels. It is so good! Not only that, but it's super easy to make and you can do so many different things with it. Here's the basic recipe I use, but feel free to modify it however you want. As you can see, the picture above shows a different version of the stuff on the crackers below. It all works, and it's all dee-lish.

2 cups dry soy curls
1/2 cup celery, finely chopped
1/2 cup onions, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1/4 cup green bell pepper, finely chopped
1/4 cup red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp McKay's Chicken seasoning

1/2 cup Vegenaise

1st -- Put soy curls in a large bowl, cover with hot water, and soak for 10 minutes
2nd -- Drain soy curls and dice finely, or chop in a food processor. I like to use my Tupperware Chop and Prep -- this thing is amazing if I haven't already mentioned that. I love it.

3rd -- Mix together the chopped soy curls and all the other ingredients.

Finally -- Indulge immediately! But try to save some for lunch this week!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Vegan Cheesy Pizza

Oh pizza, you are my friend and my enemy.

Before I was lactose intolerant (when I was like 10) I used to be a part of this book reading program where you could win a free personal-pan pizza from Pizza Hut each month if you read a certain amount of books. I loved that mini, cheesy, saucy, doughy goodness each and every month. That was pretty much my last memory of eating real pizza.

Because then I started getting really sick every time I ate cheese and ice cream. So forever after I was delegated to tasteless dough covered with dried sauce and veggies every time pizza was on the menu. Blech.

As we know, the options have expanded and most trendy pizza bistros will at least drizzle their whole-wheat dough with some olive oil and add some whole garlic cloves or something. But the whole idea of pizza just doesn't really appeal to me. At all. Until now.

Pizza places all over Southern California are starting to add VEGAN PIZZA to their menus! No, this does not mean "hi vegan, here's your baked bread with a few veggies thrown on top." It means wonderful, cheesey, gooey, pizza goodness!! Just like when I was a kid! I have never had a vegan-cheesey-pizza in a restaurant before in my life. I've made them at home a few times, but isn't it so nice to be able to eat out once in a while?

I discovered PizzaSalad in Thousand Oaks, which serves any of their pizzas with soy-cheese or soy-free-cheese. When I asked if their soy-free-cheese was Daiya, the guy said he didn't know the brand name, but "here's the list of ingredients." I looked at the soy-free-cheese ingredients and it was definitely Daiya. Sure enough, as soon as I tasted it, my assumptions were confirmed.

This stuff is amazing! It is a cheese subsitute that actually melts and tastes delicious. It's what I use in my mac and cheese recipe, and I love it.

At this awesome little Pizza place, I ordered the "Zesta" which had spicy sauce, roasted red peppers and jalepenos on it.

My coworker ordered the "Ftelia" which had green olives, yellow onions and
artichokes on it.

They were both smothered in Daiya cheese and were so amazingly delicious.

I finally researched some places in San Diego that also serve this kind of pizza and I am definitely going to try them. Pizza has returned to my life!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Vegan Chili and Lime Rice

While visiting my parents last month, my dad picked up this recipe from his local grocery store and thought I would like to try it.

I mean, hello! Of COURSE I would like to try it! Not only is it beans and rice which is practically my favorite combination of food ever, but I'll pretty much try any recipe you give me. If it's vegan, that is. And if it's not, I'll make it vegan -- dare me.

So here you go Dad! I wish you could have been here to taste the results!

The rice was definitely KEY to this meal. Something about the coriander and lime in the rice pulled all the flavors of the chili together. I added extra chili powder and cayenne pepper (which isn't even in the recipe) to give it a little extra kick. Otherwise, this recipe is right on. It was probably the best chili I have ever made -- and the lime rice is amazing. I'm definitely going to be making this again and again.

In case you can't read that horrible picture of the recipe, here it is. It's from:

1 cup brown rice (I used white)
2 cups water
dash coriander, garlic, pepper
2 limes, cut in wedges
1 can no-salt kidney beans (I used dry kidney and pink beans, soaked the night before)
1 can no-salt diced tomatoes (I used 1 large fresh tomato, diced)
1 tablespoon minced onion
1/2 can tomato paste (I skipped this)
1/4 cup water
1 tsp chili powder (I added 3 more teaspoons...SPICY!)
1 tsp cumin (another KEY ingredient! Do not leave this out!)
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Cook rice, water and coriander/garlic/pepper in a pan or rice cooker until done. Add the juice of one lime, fluff with a fork and allow to stand

Meanwhile, cook chili by adding kidney beans, diced tomatoes, minced onion, water and the rest of the seasonings to a medium skillet; bring to boil then lower to a simmer.

To serve the chili, mold the rice in a small cup and place in the center of a bowl. Surround with chili. (I just added the rice on top of the chili.)

Garnish with lime wedges.

Roasted Veggies and Polenta

This is a meal Aunt K often prepares for us when we visit. She likes to stress the importance of eating things that only have ingredients you can pronounce and know what they are. I think this is some of the best advice I've ever heard. I mean, even though you might be able to pronounce "maltodextrin," do you know what exactly that is? Why would you want to eat food that consists of mysterious ingredients? (What in the world is tartaric acid?) Also, it's important to look for food that doesn't have a mile long list of ingredients, most of which you can't pronounce.

Roasted veggies and polenta is completely all natural, with simple ingredients that everyone has heard of: vegetables and corn. That's it. My package of dry polenta has only one ingredient in it: corn.

I used Bob's Red Mill polenta, which was super easy.

This is how I did the roasted veggies:

1 red pepper
1 small onion
10 mushrooms
1 garlic bulb, cloves separated and peeled
10 stalks of asparagus
6 fresh brussel sprouts

Cut all the veggies into bite-sized chunks, put into large mixing bowl.
Drizzle olive oil over veggies. Sprinkle sea salt and pepper over veggies.
Mix the veggies and oil mixture together well.
Spread veggies onto a pan.
Roast in oven for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, follow the directions on the polenta package. Make sure to mold it in a bowl after it has cooked for awhile, so you can slice it into pieces.

Pile the roasted veggies on top of some slices of polenta and feel free to pig out. It is SO good!

This meal is comprised only of vegetables; it is so filling and so delicious! No guilt-factor at all. It is the perfect healthy meal for a weeknight when you just want to whip up something quick.


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Mac and Cheesey-licious!


My vegan bff JT showed this recipe to me months ago. I've made it about two times already, but this time I modified it a bit and it was seriously the best version yet. I know I say that every time, but it's for real this time.

Both my husband and I went back for, not seconds, but THIRDS! We actually had to stop ourselves from finishing off the whole pan in one sitting. Let's have some self-control! W said this version matched real mac and cheese the closest I've ever made, "and I don't have to worry about how much I eat!"

I used the already cooked whole wheat noodles and other ingredients from that unfortunate mac and cheese pancake disaster; and this is how I made it:

(Pre-heat oven to 350)

12 ounces cooked noodles (approximately one package of noodles)
1 1/2 cups daiya cheddar and mozzarella mixed cheese
1/4 cup chopped vegan ham or bacon slices

--put noodles and most of the cheese in a big mixing bowl. Set aside.

1 heaping tablespoon earth balance
2 small garlic cloves, crushed
Couple shakes of salt and pepper
1 heaping tablespoon flour
1 cup rice milk (original flavor)

--Heat the first earth balance, garlic, salt and pepper in a small sauce pan. Once butter is nice and melted, whisk in the flour, until it's pasty. Stir in the rice milk until you have a nice, thick liquid sauce.

--Pour the sauce into the mixing bowl with noodles and cheese. Stir very well.

2 teaspoons nutritional yeast

--Sprinkle nutritional yeast on noodles and sauce. Continue to mix well.

--Transfer to square baking pan.

--Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Add a few sprinkles of paprika and crushed red pepper. Finally, top generously with bread crumbs.

--Bake for 28 minutes.
--Move to top rack and broil on high for 2 minutes to crisp up the top. (This was W's suggestion and it was amazing!)

Friday, April 8, 2011

Vegan Vietnamese!

While on a work trip this past week, I discovered this amazing little restaurant in Reseda. I had read rave reviews about it on the blog,, so I was really excited to try it. Vegan Viatamese! I couldn't have asked for a better lunch.

When I walked in, the owner and chef, Kevin Tran handed me a menu. I literally had no idea what to order. I just stared. I love places where I can eat ANYTHING on the menu! Whatever I choose. Finally the chef said, "You new here? Sit down. I'll make you something. You want soup or noodles?"

I said noodles "and a roll please! Yes! Surprise me!"

The Ham Spring Roll was so amazing. I felt a little awkward sitting there by myself stuffing my face with the tofu roll, but I mostly didn't care. I had to stop myself halfway through the second one so I could make sure to have enough room for the surprise entree, whatever it was going to be.

It is called Udon Stir Fry 2011. It tasted so fresh and delicious. Noodles, tofu, and veggies. My favorite things all mixed together! So flavorful and wonderful! I can't believe I live 120 miles away from this place, because I want to eat here every day.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Pancake failure

Years ago I gave up trying to make pancakes or waffles, because they just never came out right. They were always too gooey or too burnt, or both. Gross. I even returned a waffle maker once, because of course it wasn't user error -- it was all the machine's fault!... until I tried to make pancakes and they still didn't come out right. That was the end of that. What a shame too, because I absolutely love Vermont Maple Syrup, and we have a whole jug of it in the fridge now after my recent trips to the Green Mountain State. But when am I ever going to use it if I can't even make pancakes or waffles?

Pancake batter is my Everest! I must conquer it!

Last week I found this recipe on for "vegan mac and cheese pancakes." It looked absolutely amazing. Especially because I love love love mac and cheese. And of course I love pancakes... if I could only make them.

Here's the recipe from quarrygirl:

daiya mozzarella shreds
daiya cheddar shreds

noodles :
1/2 box macaroni (i had a bit left over)

cook noodles according to package instructions – drain, then return to the pot. toss with about 1/2 tbsp earth balance

1 c flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp canola oil
1 1/4 – 1 1/2 c plain soy milk*

* i wanted a fairly thin consistency to the batter, but use your best judgment.

whisk dry ingredients together, add oil and soy milk, mix again. batter can be a little lumpy, nbd.

heat a griddle over med-high heat, spray liberally with canola spray. i ended up using probably 1/3-1/2c batter and my mac-cakes were huge. anyway. pour batter on to the griddle, letting it sit for ~20 seconds. sprinkle a small handful of noodles into the batter. cover with a fair amount of cheddar and mozz shreds. cook about 3-4 minutes or until the bottom is lightly browned. flip, cook until cheese is slightly browned. respray the griddle with canola oil as needed.

As expected, when I tried to make this recipe, the batter was gooey and it didn't get crispy like I was expecting it too. I am very frustrated with this fact that I can somehow not cook ANY kind of pancakes -- savory or sweet. What am I doing wrong? I always follow the directions to the T, so I don't get it. This time I even used an electric skillet, so I couldn't blame the inconsistent heat of our weird, flat-top stove. I don't know anymore. I can't figure it out.

Check it out: Looks good right?

Yeah, not so much.

I tried two pancakes with different batter consistencies before just giving up. Not worth it. Great idea, but I can't figure out the execution. I was so disappointed, because I really wanted these to work out! W didn't seem too thrilled either, although, like a good husband he said they were delicious.

I saved the rest of the noodles and cheese to make regular mac and cheese later this week.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Chinese Tofu and Lettuce Soup

This soup was the real deal. I'm not even joking. It tasted like a real Chinese soup you'd find in a really good Chinese restaurant... only better, because it wasn't made with fish sauce.

I again referred to my "Soup Bible" for this recipe. This is what the picture in the book looks like,

And this is what mine looked like:

Pretty amazing huh?

I only modified the recipe a tiny bit (sesame oil instead of sunflower oil and no dry sherry.) Here's what I did:

2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 package tofu, cubed and marinated in soy sauce
3 chives, slice diagonally
2 garlic cloves, cut into thin strips
1 carrot finely sliced
1 quart vegetable stock
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups shredded Romaine lettuce
Salt and pepper to taste

First: Heat the oil in a hot wok. We don't have a wok, so we just used a cast iron skillet. Add the tofu cubes and stir-fry until they are brown. Drain on paper towels; set aside.

Second: Stir-fry the scallions, garlic and carrot in the wok. (Again, I just used a soup pot for this step with a little bit of extra sesame oil.) Add the stock, soy sauce, sugar, lettuce, and fried tofu.

Third: Simmer the soup for 5-10 minutes. Season to taste.


We made some arborio rice on the side, and added a little to our individual soup bowls. Mmm, yum. I love rice in soup.

Best Snack/Dinner Ever!

Remember that other day when I talked about a new Korean place I found for lunch? Well, I ate so much Kimchee Jigai and banchan that all I wanted to eat when I got home after work was popcorn.

I love popcorn.

For as long as I can remember, I have loved popcorn. I love it so much that sometimes I will eat it for dinner. And that's exactly what I did on Thursday night.

I had warned my husband of my desire to have popcorn for dinner, so if he wanted something else, he would have to make it. He in fact did want something else, and a big fresh bowl of salad awaited me when I got home! How sweet!

And of course, the popcorn. Lightly sprinkled with garlic salt and nutritional yeast flakes, oh and few dashes of Tapa Tio. Yum.

Friday, April 1, 2011

March 31.

A bunch of us at work today decided to get lunch together. As we were driving away from our building, we realized we hadn't decided where to go.

There was talk of Mexican food of some kind, but we couldn't decide which Mexican restaurant... D, who was driving, took a wrong exit on the way to Rubio's, and that's when I saw a new sign in one of the shopping plazas. "There's a Korean/Japanese place!" I shouted from the back street, but didn't really think anyone else would want to go. To my surprise the others heartily agreed! Yay! My favorite food ever! Korean AND Japanese.

As it turned out, it was only Korean food. I even asked the server where the Japanese food was on the menu. That was okay with me! I was going to get Korean anyway. The server did point out all the vegetarian items, and I was extremely pleased when she said the Kimchee jigae was vegetarian! It's usually made with pork, and they'll take the pork out if requested, but it kinda defeats the point since they literally just scoop out the pork from your bowl before serving you. I can always taste it. I know.

This time, it was REALLY a fresh bowl of vegetarian jigae soup; I was ecstatic!
The banchan were equally fresh and tasty, and we asked for more of the marinated broccoli and kimchee of course. I am definitely going to be returning to this place for lunch again and again.

I am super impressed with "Country BBQ Korean BBQ Restaurant!" New favorite lunch spot for sure.