Vegan Week, Day 6

If there’s anyone out there who’s actually reading this on a daily basis, you might be wondering, “Wait, what happened to Day 5?” Well, I did eat only vegan foods on Day 5 but I didn’t have time to cook anything or write about it, as my dog went in for unexpected surgery.

Spirulina almond milk banana shake

I threw together an almond milk banana shake with spirulina (I did find spirulina finally) – a small photo here. Yes it’s very green, and so good for you. I forced myself to eat some leftovers from the past few days while my dog was at the vet, and then we ordered in dinner so I could keep a close eye on the little patient. Actually, dinner is worth noting: we tried a vegan restaurant in Park Slope, The V-Spot, which has a wide range of Mexican, Italian, and Asian vegan food. It was good! We shared crispy nuggets with barbeque sauce as an appetizer, and then my boyfriend got the Philly Cheese”steak” (soy steak, onions, peppers, mushrooms and soy cheese), and I got a whole wheat quesadilla with soy cheese, chipotle black beans, sweet plantains, green peppers and onions. And the dessert menu sounded completely awesome. Anyway, on to Day 6…

Day 6: Brunch

Curry tofu scramble with wilted spinach

A few weeks ago, we went to a restaurant in my neighborhood that I love, Flatbush Farm, where I had a curried tofu scramble with sauteed kale for brunch that I dreamed about for the next few days. So I went looking for a recipe that sounded similar. There are several out there, and I decided to try this one. I didn’t have fennel seeds but I think that’s ok. It was really good, especially on top of a slice of whole wheat toast. The Flatbush Farm version had some kind of delicious sweetness to it though, so next time I’ll try adding honey (not vegan) or sugar or agave. Just a note – it is very spicy, so you should reduce the chili pepper flakes if that’s an issue.

Day 6: Dinner
We had planned to meet up with friends on the Upper East Side for dinner. At first, without thinking too much about it, we decided on an Italian restaurant, and I thought I could just find some sort of veggie pasta and ask them to hold the cheese. About three hours before dinner, the chef side of my brain woke up and I realized that I’ve made my own pasta before and there is usually egg involved. A quick call to the restaurant (which really made me appreciate what full-time vegans must go through all the time) confirmed that there was egg in all of their pasta dough. So it was either survive on a side salad for dinner or come up with plan B. Thankfully everyone was nice about changing plans at the last minute to accommodate my crazy food challenges, so we ended up at Tiny Thai.

Thai vegetarian “duck” in chili basil sauce

I felt adventurous and went for the “Vegetarian Duck” in chili basil sauce. I figured it wasn’t something I was going to make at home, so I should try it. Delicious! Of course it didn’t have the same consistency as duck, but if you’re prepared for that and like seitan, it’s really good. (But I have to admit I did want a bite of Chris’s red snapper).

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Vegan Week, Day 4

Day 4: Breakfast

Fat free vegan apple banana muffins

I had been trying to make everything so far without turning on my oven, because it’s summer and I didn’t have air conditioning, and in a tiny studio apartment you’ll basically bake yourself to death using the oven. However, on Tuesday when the temperature outside hit 98 degrees and humid, and the temperature INSIDE my apartment hit 95 even with three fans going, I broke down and ran out to buy an AC. So now I can use the oven! Time to experiment with vegan muffins for breakfast. I chose an apple banana muffin recipe because the ingredients were super simple. Preheat the oven to 325 and lightly grease muffin pans. Combine 2 cups flour, 4 tsp baking powder, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1/2 tsp cinnamon and mix (I also added a dash of nutmeg and cloves). In a separate bowl, mash two ripe bananas and combine with 1 1/2 cups of apple juice and a diced apple. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix just until blended. Fill each muffin cup about 2/3 of the way and bake for about 35 minutes or until brown on top. They didn’t rise very much, but I think they were pretty good for being fat free AND vegan!

Day 4: Lunch

Tempeh "chicken" salad sandwich

You can’t go vegan without trying to cook with tempeh and seitan, so today I went for a tempeh recipe: Tempeh “chicken” salad. When I got to the store, I realized there are many different flavors of tempeh – soy, flax, garden veggie, three grain, wild rice, or smoky strips (fakin’ bacon). I chose three grain; it sounded like the best option to me for fake chicken salad. I followed this recipe but used a little cilantro instead of parsley, added more celery, and reduced the amount of vegenaise. Served with baby arugula on a whole wheat pita. It was good, but didn’t taste a thing like chicken. Also, I would leave out the pickle next time.

Day 4: Dinner
It’s Thursday night Brooklyn Bridge Park free movie night (Ghostbusters!) so tonight’s dinner was a picnic with a group of six friends. My contribution was homemade hummus and pita chips and “tabouleh boats,” a quick appertizer idea I got from my friend Erika (it’s just boat-shaped endive leaves filled with tabouleh – a middle eastern salad of bulgur, parsley, tomato, onion, mint, lemon, and olive oil). I’ve made hummus before, but I wanted to see if there was a recipe that didn’t require tahini. It’s annoying having leftover tahini around, because the only thing I can think to do with it is, well, make more hummus. So of course, Heidi Swanson to the rescue – she has a recipe that uses ground toasted walnuts instead of tahini. Put 3/4 cup toasted walnuts (just toast chopped walnuts in a pan for a few minutes until they start to get that toasty smell) in a food processor and pulse it a few times. Add two cups of cooked drained garbanzo beans, a clove of garlic (or more if you like – I do!), 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil and the juice of half a lemon. Process until smooth and then add about 1/2 cup of hot water slowly until the hummus is creamy. Add more lemon and salt to taste. Serve with pita chips (I baked whole wheat pita in the oven for 15 minutes at 350 with olive oil, salt, and pepper) or veggies. Garnish with paprika, some extra garbanzo beans, a drizzle of olive oil, pine nuts, or any combination of those. I do think I like the taste of tahini hummus better, but the walnut version was cool to try.

Tabouleh boats and homemade hummus with baked pita


Vegan Week, Day 2

Day 2: Breakfast

Vegan french toast with peaches, bananas, and maple syrup

While I usually don’t cook a big breakfast except on weekends for brunch, you can’t have yogurt every day if you’re trying to experiment with new foods. I found several recipes for vegan french toast, but since I now have almond milk around, I decided to go with soaking whole wheat sourdough bread (same as the bread from yesterday’s portobello mushroom sandwich) in a simple mixture of almond milk, cinnamon, and nutmeg for about 15 minutes. I cooked it with a light spritz of canola oil, and topped it with peaches, bananas, and organic maple syrup. The nutty flavor of the almond milk works well with french toast, but you might need more oil than expected – I burned my pan a little! Almond milk does not react the same way as eggs in a pan, that’s for sure.
Day 2: Lunch

Avocado brown rice sushi

I’ve been reading The Story of Sushi by Trevor Corson , which I’ve found is torturous for me during Vegan Week, because after every chapter I just want to run out and have a few slices of sashimi. So for lunch today, I figured vegetable sushi was about as close as I was going to get to satisfy my cravings. Luckily the little Korean market across the street from me has about every Asian food product you can imagine, so I picked up some sheets of nori, some short grain Lundberg brown rice (my favorite) and an avocado. I cooked the rice with extra water to make it stickier, like sushi rice. When the rice was cooked and chilled, I mixed it with about 1/4 cup of rice vinegar and spread it evenly across the nori. I added slices of avocado, rolled and sliced it to the best of my ability, and ate the rolls with a dash of wasabi and a dipping sauce of soy and mirin. The rolls tasted delicious (I will definitely be doing this again, with more adventurous fillings when I have time), but the rolls fell apart a little when I dipped them. I have definitely not perfected my sushi chef skills yet.
Day 2: Dinner

Black Sesame Otsu

The ultimate challenge: cooking vegan food for my meat-eating (but veggie loving) boyfriend and his equally carnivorous best friend as they alternated between watching wilderness survival shows and “extreme” elimination game shows (not kidding). I went with veggie summer rolls with peanut dipping sauce, a recipe from thekitchn.com, and a Heidi Swanson’s Black Sesame Otsu recipe. The summer rolls were fun to make and the peanut sauce was completely addictive. The soba noodles worried me at first, as the black sesame paste looked a little unusual but the dish was super tasty and a few drops of sriracha on top added a nice touch of heat. And the reaction from the meat-loving men? They devoured it! And I quote: “I can’t decide which one I like better.” Success!

Veggie summer rolls with spicy peanut dipping sauce


grilled asparagus manchego breakfast quesadillas

This meal came about as a result of a few different forces and ideas joining together. Let’s start at the beginning…
1. A few months ago, I made a quesadilla recipe from one of my favorite food blogs, 101 Cookbooks by Heidi Swanson. Read the original recipe and you’ll see that this quesadilla isn’t at all about cheese. It’s unique and the flavors are stunning together.
2. At the Union Square farmer’s market on Saturday, looking for something simple to bring to a friend’s birthday picnic, we picked up a loaf of organic sourdough peasant bread and a nice chunk of manchego cheese.

Shaved manchego

Beth’s Rhubarb chutney

Then, mostly just hunting for samples, we stopped by a table full of jams called Beth’s Farm Kitchen. I was not expecting the variety we encountered – jalapeño jam, blazing tomato chutney, rhubarb, chili cranberry, garlic rosemary jelly… we probably would have tried all 40-ish flavors had we not felt like total pigs. I walked away with a jar of rhubarb chutney (I feel like you have to buy something if you eat samples for over ten minutes) and a frequent jam punch card – believe me, I’ll be back!

Brooklyn Salsa

3. Last fall, I discovered Brooklyn Salsa, probably one of the best salsas I’ve ever had, made with fresh local organic ingredients, at the Brooklyn Flea in Ft. Greene.  It comes in five flavors, one for each borough. Having only bought it at the Flea, I was ecstatic to see it on the shelves of my supermarket around the corner a few days ago! When I mentioned it to Chris, he said we should recreate one of our great brunches from last September – scrambled eggs with heirloom tomatoes, roasted red peppers, hot peppers, avocado, lime, and the “Bronx” (curry eggplant) Brooklyn Salsa. However, heirloom tomatoes aren’t quite out there yet (well, there were some tiny ones at the market for $4.75 a pound!) and I was up for trying something a little different.
So now that you have the back story, here’s the brunch. We took the egg-tortilla method from the 101 cookbooks recipe, threw in some grilled asparagus, and thin shavings of leftover manchego cheese from the picnic, and served them with both Brooklyn Salsa (the Staten Island “Green” kind) and the rhubarb chutney.
Beat three eggs well (I use Pete’s cage free organic large) and set aside. Wash a large handful of asparagus and trim them (just snap the bottoms – they will break where they are meant to). I like to use the skinny variety of asparagus for a recipe like this.

Grilled asparagus

Heat a cast iron grill pan and spray it with a light coating of olive oil. Grill the asparagus until just slightly browned and charred. Remove from the grill and set aside. Heat a small pan and spray with olive oil. Pour in about a quarter of the beaten egg and after about one minute, place a small yellow corn tortilla on top and press down gently with a spatula to help it adhere. When the egg is set, flip it over and place asparagus in the middle. Shave some manchego cheese (as much as you like; I use just a basic vegetable peeler for this) over the asparagus and flip one side of the tortilla over like an omelette. Give it a minute for the cheese to melt, remove from the pan, repeat steps for the remaining three quesadillas, and serve!

Don’t forget to add your favorite salsa or chutney. Our verdict?

The rhubarb won this round.