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Preview: just the food. blog

a vegan blog. recipes and rantings about my adventures in vegan cooking

Updated: 2018-02-23T04:23:10.727-08:00


Chili Con Jackfruit...because REAL chili has NO beans!


Last weekend I competed in the Long Beach Vegan Chili Cook Off at 4th Street Vine on 4th Street in the heart of Retro Row. Growing up in Long Beach, it's amazing how this strip of boutiques, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, and vintage stores have not only kept their doors open over the years, but have been flourishing! That section of Long Beach is so popular these days! It's pretty exciting to see (and rather difficult to park!)I was super excited to participate in a vegan event in my own backyard, so I began pondering what to make. I didn't want to do TVP (delicious, but way too obvious) and I just knew my chili wasn't going to have beans in it! (I mean, do people really think beans belong in chili?) And I definitely wanted to be different than the other competitors. To stand out in the crowd. And a crowd it was! Hundreds of people showed up! The competitors, including myself, all prepared a minimum of 3 gallons of chili. Most of us had about 3 crockpots full. It was all gone in an hour as hungry chili tasters milled around with towers of tasting cups and smiles on their faces. It's true that all of the chilis were delicious. And all of them were different.In the end it was a Jackfruit Chili Verde that took home the Judge's prize, and my chili came in 2nd place in the People's Choice category by only two votes! (I'm looking at you Dan, Mike, and Caroline...who just couldn't be bothered to!) So I am pretty happy with the result. And, after all, we are all winners at a vegan chili cookoff that is so packed it's standing room only! Yay for veganism in the LBC!Chili Con Jackfruit*Soy Free *Nut Free *Gluten FreeThis recipe makes about three gallons of chili. So...either cut down the proportions to those that make sense for your needs, make the whole batch and bring it to a potluck or large gathering, or, it also freezes well. And, as all good chili does, this one takes a few hours to make. To make things easier on you, you can do it in stages. For instance, you can fry the jackfruit ahead of time, make your pico and corn salsa ahead of time, roast your peppers ahead of time...but that kind of takes the fun out of "chili-making-day" if you know what I mean.8 (20 ounce) cans Young Green Jackfruit packed in brine, drained and rinsedCanola oil, enough to fill the pan about 1/8-inch deep1 (3.5 ounce) jar McCormick Smokehouse Maple Seasoning (or your favorite mesquite BBQ Spice blend)6 whole Pasilla Peppers9 whole jalapenos1 cup canola oil (or other mild flavored vegetable oil)2 pounds pico de gallo (home made is best, but store bought also works...tomatoes, yellow onion, jalapenos, and cilantro)2 pounds fire roasted corn salsa (recipe HERE or use store bought, for the cookoff, I used corn, yellow onion, bell pepper, cilantro, and lime juice)1/4 cup minced garlic6 (14.5 ounce) cans diced Fire Roasted tomatoes with the juices1 (28 ounce) can tomatillos, drained and chopped1/4 cup sweet paprika1 tablespoon ground cumin1 tablespoon medium chili powder8 cups water1 2/3 cups masa flour (I used Maseca brand)Smoked salt, to tasteAfter rinsing your jackfruit, pat it dry.In a heavy bottomed skillet or frying pan, add oil to cover the bottom of the pan and equal about 1/8-inch deep. Heat over medium high heat. Add Jackfruit in a single layer and fry until crispy and brown. Flip and repeat on other side. Remove from oil and place in a large mixing bowl to cool. Repeat until all of the Jackfruit chunks are fried. Once cool, shred (or chop) the jackfruit until it resembels pulled pork.Add the smoked seasoning and massage it into the jackfruit. Set aside.In a dry pan, or hot grill, place Pasilla and jalapeno peppers directly in the pan or grill and cook until blistered on all sides. Remove and cover to soften and cool. Set aside.In a large stock pot with a lid, heat 1 cup oil over medium high heat.Add in the pico de gallo, corn salsa, and garlic. Stir often. Cover and simmer, while you prepare the peppers.Chop the stems off of the peppers, cut lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Dice.Add in the seasoned jackfruit, c[...]

Holiday Helpers! Mandarin Orange Bundt Cake


Mandarin Orange Bundt Cake
This moist cake is not overly sweet, and therefore, I find it perfectly appropriate to eat for breakfast!

3 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 ounces soft silken tofu, blended to a puree
1 cup sugar
1 (15 ounce) can mandarin oranges in light syrup, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup full fat coconut milk
1/4 cup oil
2/3 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon orange zest

Preheat oven to 350 F.
Grease a standard bundt pan.
In a large mixing bowl, mix together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In a separate bowl, mix together tofu, sugar, 1 cup (235 ml) of the syrup from the mandarin oranges (reserve the orange segments for later use), coconut milk, and oil.
Add wet to dry and mix to combine. Do not overmix.
Mince the orange segments, and fold into the batter.
Pour batter into the bundt pan.
Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Remove from oven.
Allow to cool and invert onto a tray.
In a small bowl, whisk together powdered sugar and orange juice until smooth.
Drizzle all over cake.
Sprinkle orange zest over the top.

Yield: 1 standard bundt cake, or 8 slices

Holiday Helpers! Sweet and Sour Bean Balls


One of my favorite things about the holidays is the food. From appetizers to the main event to dessert to cocktails, I love celebrating with vegan food!

These sweet and sour bean balls are a great appetizer during the cold holiday months. Poke in a toothpick and your ready to go!

Sweet and Sour Bean Balls
These little balls have a nice bite to the outside, but are soft and chewy on the inside. They taste awesome served on their own or over rice.

3 cups (2, 15 ounce cans) prepared white beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup vital wheat gluten
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 cup finely chopped green onions
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup Hot, Sweet, and Sour Sauce (see below)

Preheat oven to 350 F.
Line a baking sheet with parchment or a reusable baking mat.
Add beans, gluten, garlic powder, onion powder, and soy sauce to a food processor and process until a crumbly dough forms.
Transfer dough to a mixing bowl.
Using your hands, knead in the green onions, and form a ball of dough.
Allow to rest for 20 minutes so that the gluten can develop.
Roll about 1 tablespoon (22 g) of dough into a ball and place on the baking sheet.
Repeat until all dough is used.
Bake for 30 minutes, flipping the balls halfway through.
Remove from oven.
Preheat oil in a frying pan.
Add balls to hot oil and saute until a nice crispy crust forms, about 2 minutes, constantly shaking the pan so the balls roll around and don't get cooked only on one side.
Add in the Hot, Sweet, and Sour Sauce and toss to coat.

Yield: About 30 pieces

Hot, Sweet, and Sour Sauce
*Quick and Easy *Low Fat *Nut Free
This sauce works well as a dipping sauce, tossed with your favorite protein to coat, and is an essential ingredient in the Sweet and Sour Bean Balls above.

2 cups (470 ml) pineapple juice
1/4 cup (68 g) ketchup
2 tablespoons (30 ml) soy sauce
2 tablespoons (30 ml) lemon juice
1 tablespoon (15 ml) rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon (15 ml) Sriracha sauce
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/4 cup (32 g) cornstarch mixed with 1/2 cup (120 ml) cold water to make a slurry

In a pot, stir together all the ingredients except the cornstarch slurry, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and simmer for 10 minutes.
Stir in the slurry and remove from the heat. Stir to thicken.
Keep warm until ready to use, or pour in to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Yield: 3 cups (705 ml)

Holiday Helpers! Bar Nuts


Bar Nuts! From Vegan Food Gifts (Fairwinds Press)
Bar Nuts
These nuts are pretty addictive. I love them during the holiday season. I try to keep a bowl out on the table whenever I have folks over. If you are a DIY gifter, I recommend making a few batches of these and packing them up in reusable jars with cute ties and tags.

1/2 cup (120 ml) olive oil
1/4 cup (60 ml) maple syrup*
1 tablespoon (2 g) dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon sage
1/2 teaspoon rosemary
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup (112 g) cashews
1 cup (140 g) almonds
1 cup (133 g) brazil nuts
1 cup (99 g) pecans
1 cup (120 g) walnuts
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

*No maple syrup on hand? Go ahead and sub with agave, or corn syrup!

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment or aluminum foil.
In a small bowl, mix together oil, maple syrup, herbs, and spices.
In a mixing bowl, add all of the nuts.
Toss nuts with herb mixture to coat completely.
Arrange in a single layer on the baking sheet.
Rinse and dry mixing bowl.
Bake for 30 minutes, turning every 7 or 8 minutes.
Remove from oven, return to mixing bowl.
Add salt and pepper and toss to coat and cool.
Package in an airtight container or sealed bag.
These last about 2 weeks in an airtight container.

Yield: 5 cups

Holiday Helpers! Herb Crusted Coconut Chevre


Herb Crusted Coconut Chevre from Going Vegan (Front and Center: Smoky with Dill, Top: Smoky with Black Pepper, Right: Smoky with Paprika, Chipotle, Parsley and Smoked Salt) With this batch I made mini Chevres and wrapped them individually so that I could give them away to friends at work. I wrapped each chevre in waxed paper.
Every holiday get together deserves a yummy cheese plate! This one is nut-free and uses coconut flour. Get creative with your herbs and spices. I share a few of my favorite combos below, but there is no limit to what you can do here...

Herb Crusted Coconut Chevre
*Soy Free     *Gluten Free     *Nut Free
Trust me here. It really does work! The mild flavor and smooth texture of coconut flour lends itself nicely to this cheese. It also makes it suitable for those with nut allergies. You can shape this cheese in many ways. As a log, in a large wheel, mini chevres (perfect for gifting!), in blocks, or pretty much any way you want.

1 ounce (28 g) agar flakes or powder
3 cups (705 ml) water
2 cups (224 g) coconut flour
1/4 cup (30 g) nutritional yeast
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
3 tablespoons (45 ml) fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons (30 ml) mild flavored vegetable oil
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
Assorted dried herbs and spices for crust

In a medium pot, place agar in water over high heat. Bring to full boil. Boil five minutes, whisking frequently.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together coconut flour, nutritional yeast, salt, onion powder, and garlic powder.
Into the boiling mixture, stir lemon juice, oil, and mustard.
Add dry mixture into the water-agar mixture and mix until well combined and resembling play-dough.
Remove from heat. Allow to cool enough to handle, but still warm and pliable. Keep covered, to prevent drying out while working.
Form into desired shapes and coat with herbs and spices.
Wrap with waxed or parchment paper or store in an airtight container and refrigerate overnight. (The mixture will harden into a semi-firm “cheese” that’s perfect for crackers.)
It will last one week in the refrigerator and up to four months in the freezer.

Some of my favorite combinations:
-Add 1 teaspoon of liquid smoke to the entire batch at the same time as the mustard. Coat with BBQ dry rub.
-Paprika, chipotle, parsley, garlic powder, smoked salt
-Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme
-Garlic, lemon pepper, basil
-Fresh cracked black pepper

Yield: 2 pounds (908 g)

Holiday Helpers! Roasted Butternut Squash with Fennel


Check out this super easy, super tasty, super seasonal side dish to add to your holiday table!

Roasted Butternut Squash with Fennel
Such a simple list of ingredients! And when you have great ingredients, it's best
to let them do the work. A tad of olive oil, salt, and pepper is all it takes to make this lovely side dish that will add a punch of color and flavor to the plate.

1 butternut squash, Skinned, cored and cubed
2 medium yellow onions, roughly chopped
1 full head of garlic, peeled and each clove cut in half
1 bulb of fennel, roughly chopped
Salt & Pepper
Olive oil to drizzle

Preheat oven to 350 F.
Line a sheet pan with parchment or a reusable baking mat.
Prep all produce and arrange in a single layer on the baking sheet.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil.
Bake for about an hour, or until fork tender, tossing half way through.

Yield: 6 to 8 side servings

Holiday Helpers! Easy Vegan Cheese Ball


This purty little gal was originally featured in The Complete Guide to Even More Vegan Food Substitutions. (Fairwinds Press, 2015) by me and Celine Steen. But I have been making a variation of this ball since way back in 2006 when we were working on 500 Vegan Recipes. What can I say? I love balls!

This is a simple stunner that is perfect to bring along to holiday potlucks and parties, and of course for your own festive gathering (even if it is a gathering of you and your furbabies spent on the sofa binge watching the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt!)

This is it. In it's very plain and unadulterated state. Which is fine. It works. People like it that way. But, when I want to get really festive, I add in some dried cranberries or currants to the outside. I also like to use a variety of dried herbs and spices tossed with the almonds before coating.  Once I made a cracked peppercorn crust and that was a reeaaalllllly good one. Get creative! Have fun with your balls!

Sharp Almond Cheese Ball
*No added oil
*No added sugar

8 ounces (227 g) extra firm tofu, drained and pressed
1/2 cup (120 ml) vegan milk
1/2 cup (48 g) almond meal (raw almonds ground into a fine powder)
1/4 cup (30 g) nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons (16 g) arrowroot powder
1 to 2 tablespoons (18 to 36 g) miso to taste (the more the miso, the sharper the cheese)
1 tablespoon (15 ml) apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon (15 ml) tamari
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 onion powder
1/4 cup (20 g) quick cooking oats
1/2 cup (45 g) sliced almonds (toasted or un-toasted, your call!)

Place all ingredients, except for the oatmeal and sliced almonds, into a blender or food processor and process until smooth. The mixture should be thick, not runny, about the same consistency of creamy peanut butter.
Transfer to a pot and mix in oats.
Heat over medium high heat for 10 minutes, constantly scraping and turning with a rubber spatula to prevent the mass from sticking to the bottom and scorching. The mixture will not boil. 10 minutes over medium high heat should be plenty of time to cook the oats, and activate the arrowroot, as well as evaporate excess moisture.
Remove from heat and cool completely in the refrigerator to thicken.
Place sliced almonds on a plate
Once cold, roll mass into a ball about the size of a navel orange in the palms of your hands. It will be sticky, but manageable.
Set ball on plate of almonds, then wash those hands clean.
Press almonds all over the ball by rolling the ball in the almonds on the plate.
Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Yield: one cheese ball

Smoky Pub Cheese


Smoky Pub Cheese from 500 Vegan Recipes by Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman (Fairwinds Press)

Smoky Pub Cheese
Have you been craving a vegan cheese that isn't made by blending cashews (or other nuts) and then having to wait a week (or more) while it funk-tifies? Yeah, that artisan vegan cheese making is best left to the professionals if you ask me! I like my homemade vegan cheese fast and easy!  And it seriously doesn't get easier than this. If you follow the microwave instructions you could be on the couch bingeing season 2 of Stranger Things in two minutes!

This one is a throw back to 500 Vegan Recipes (which is 8 years old already!!!) and is one of those recipes that was inspired by a product I used to buy and adore by Wayfare Foods. It was a hickory smoked cheese dip. I know the company still exists, but it doesn't look like they make this flavor anymore. So, I thought I would share this ridiculously easy recipe so you can get your smoky cheese dip on whenever you want to!

1 cup (235 ml) vegetable broth or water
2 tablespoons (32 g) tahini
2 tablespoons (15 g) to 1/4 cup (30 g) nutritional yeast to taste
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 cup (78 g) quick cooking oats
3 tablespoons (45 ml) canola or other mild flavored vegetable oil
1 tablespoon (12 g) diced pimiento, or piquante, or pepadew peppers
1 teaspoon liquid smoke

Mix together water, tahini, nutritional yeast, salt, onion powder, and sugar in a pot and bring to a boil. Stir in oats, oil, peppers, and liquid smoke. Remove from heat, cover and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes to cool.
Using an immersion blender (or transfer to a tabletop blender) blend until silky smooth. The consistency will be that of thick peanut butter.

Microwave method:
Place all ingredients in a blender, and blend until smooth. Transfer to a microwave safe dish. Heat on high for one minute. Stir. Heat at additional 20 second intervals until thick and creamy.
Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Yield: 1 1/2 cups (12 ounces, 336 g)

Eating Vegan on a Budget in a Food Desert Part 2: 7-Elempanadas


"7-Elempanadas" made with only ingredients available at 7-Eleven in North Long Beach.Welcome to North Long Beach, California.  Northtown (aka Northside, Norf Norf, or Uptown) is a community of 17 diverse and colorful neighborhoods, and filled with about 93,000 diverse and colorful residents.*Northtown is a working class neighborhood. Many families live here. In fact, it is home to roughly one fifth of Long Beach's entire population! The main streets are lined with small businesses, apartment buildings, and churches while the interior neighborhoods are filled mostly with modest two and three bedroom single family homes and duplexes. The homes and apartments here range from historic Spanish, and California Bungalows, to classic post World War II era little boxes, with a few unsightly (imho) ginormous stucco apartment buildings built in the 80s and beyond.North Long Beach is a vibrant part of the city. Full of diverse cultures, art, and hard working folks. From Left to right: A shiny new North Town firetruck from new Fire Station 12 on Artesia, The Harmony mural, Xochi Mochi reading to kids as part of the Drag Queen Story Hour at the Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library, Jordan High School.It is also home to 84 fast-food type restaurants, at least 33 liquor stores, 17 gas stations with snacks and/or liquor, 6 mini-markets, and at least 2 dollar-type discount marts. Oh yeah, to serve all 93,000 men, women, and children, we also have four whole grocery stores. One Big Saver Foods, one Superior Grocers, and two Food for Less markets. We also have a Walmart and a Target. Just outside the line is a WinCo foods, but technically, that is in Lakewood.*According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the neighborhood was home to over 93,000 people. Roughly 54% of the population was Hispanic, roughly 21% were black, roughly 8.7% were non-Hispanic whites, and roughly 11% were Asian. There is also a significant Tongan and Samoan population.As I mentioned in the previous post, a food desert is when in a low-access community, at least 500 people, and/or at least 33 percent of the census tract's population, resides more than one mile from a supermarket or large grocery store. The concept behind this is that it is reasonable for a shopper to be able to carry groceries one walking mile.The below map shows a grey circle mapping a one mile radius with my house dead center. You can move that gray circle all over the map and see that the MAJORITY of the people in this census tract, are indeed living in a food desert. Those two blue dots represent La Bodega Mexicana #1 and La Bodega Mexicana #2 (also Mentioned in my previous post) and they hang-out just on the edge of my one mile radius, and are the two markets I frequent most regularly when I need some produce and don't feel like trekking all over town.7-Eleven is a pretty much a staple in Long Beach. There are four I can walk to in my one mile radius and a total of thirteen in the city. I'm not gonna lie, it's where we stop most often when we just need a thing or two. And believe it or not, there are quite a few vegan options there. And while it is indeed a convenience store, they have stepped it up, lately, with their own private label products to offer some healthier options. Check out their "Better for You" (though not all vegan) page on their website. (I've purchased those watermelon cups on several occasions when making watermelon poke!)So I will give credit where credit is due. 7-Eleven saw an opportunity to offer a few fresh produce items and a few healthier options to their customers that will benefit everyone, not just those living in a food desert. But here's the thing. A watermelon cup at 7-Eleven costs about twice as much as watermelon from a grocery store. That's the real rub. It's not their fault. It simply costs more to sell fewer items in a small retail spac[...]

3rd Annual SoCal VegFest Cooking Demo: The Monte Cristina


The Monte Cristina from Vegans Go Nuts! by Joni Marie Newman and Celine SteenLast weekend was the 3rd Annual SoCal VegFest held at the OC Fairgrounds. Thousands upon thousands upon thousands of vegans, vegetarians, and veg-curious folks filled the humongous venue and enjoyed a weekend of learning, shopping, music, community, and of course, eating!As one of the Event Coordinators, my job is to organize and execute all of the Featured Chef cooking demos. It is a lot of work, but it is sooooo much fun. All day Saturday and Sunday the demos were packed and everyone had a great time.All nine of us vegan chefs! Left to right, and top to bottom: Chef Tanya Petrovna of Chef Tanya's Kitchen, Chef Lemel Durrah of Compton Vegan, Chef Jackie Sobon of Vegan Yack Attack, Chef Gwenna Hunter of Vegans of LA and Vegan Outreach, Chef Brian Manowitz aka the Vegan Black Metal Chef, Chef AJ of Eat Unprocessed, Chef Rod Rotondi of Leaf Cuisine, lil' ol me, and Chef Jenee Claiborne of Sweet Potato SoulWe had such an amazing and talented group of powerhouse vegan players in the group this year, and every single dish was not only delicious, but totally and completely different than the next. From sauteed greens to raw kelp noodle mac and cheese to a whole cauliflower feast to chili verde to seitan buffalo bites to maple mustard tempeh buddha bowls...My oh my did we teach some folks how to cook some awesome food this weekend!When it was my turn to get things started on Sunday, I did a brand new Monte Cristina from Vegans Go Nuts! The crowd loved it, and I promised to share it here today, so without further ado...The Monte CristinaA Monte Cristo sandwich is two slices of French toast filled with fried ham and cheese. It is then sprinkled with powdered sugar and served with fruit preserves. This is Cristo’s Latinx cousin, Cristina. She’s spicy and sweet, with a touch of sass.For the blackened tofu:1/2 teaspoon onion powder1/2 teaspoon garlic powder1/2 teaspoon turmeric1/4 teaspoon black salt (kala namak)1/4 teaspoon paprika1/4 teaspoon chipotle powderSalt and pepper1 block (1 pound, or 454 g) extra or super firm tofu (I love to use smoked tofu for this recipe), drained and pressed, then cut into 8 thin squaresFor the Spicy French Toast :8 slices of bread (this is a great way to use up stale bread)½ cup (120 ml) prepared Peanut Chipotle Ranch (see below)For the Sandwich:1/2 cup (128 g) peanut butter1 cup (30 g) mixed baby greens,tightly packed16 slices of cucumber1/2 cup (120 ml) maple syrup1/4 cup (28 g) chopped peanuts¼ cup (30 g) nutritional yeastTo make the tofu: Add the spices to a re-sealable plastic bag or a shallow dish with a lid. Shake to mix. Add the tofu and shake to coat.To cook the tofu, you can panfry in a bit of oil, or bake at 375°F (190°C, or gas mark 5) for about 15 minutes per side, or until blackened . . . but we love to use a waffle maker to cook the tofu so that it’s crisp and blackened on the outside, but soft, moist, and chewy on the inside. To do this, spray nonstick spray on the waffle iron, then place one layer of tofu inside and lock closed. It cooks perfectly, and you won’t have to heat up the entire oven to make it.To make the spicy French toast: Spread 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of the Chipotle Peanut Ranch on each side of the 8 pieces of bread. Cook on a flat pan or griddle over medium-high heat until browned. Flip and repeat on the other side. Repeat with all 8 slices.To assemble the sandwich: Spread 1 tablespoon (16 g) of peanut butter on 1 side of each of the pieces of French toast.Layer 1/4 cup (7 g) mixed baby greens, 2 squares of blackened tofu, and 4 slices of cucumber to 4 slices of French toast. Then top with remaining 4 slices.Cut in half, if desired, and plate. Drizzle each sandwich with 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of maple syrup, then sprinkle with 1 t[...]

Eating Vegan on a Budget in a Food Desert Part 1: Roasted Potato Tacos with Radish Pico


Roasted Potato Tacos with Radish PicoFirst let me explain how I ended up living in a food desert. I grew up a few miles down the road from where I am currently living in a typical suburban neighborhood. A standard three bedroom house in a post-war tract of homes built in the late '40s and early '50s. Lakewood, California. I grew up in a middle class family. My parents were divorced by the time I was four years old, and I visited my father, who lived in the neighboring city of Bellflower, on the weekends and holidays. I had a very happy childhood. I never wanted for anything, and was safe, well fed, participated in after school sports, and was in lots of school activities. Yes, I was indeed a band geek. So, you could say I pretty much grew up in a very privileged home.As soon as I turned 18, I moved into an apartment with some friends. I moved to Long Beach (right next door to Lakewood) and knew from the first night I spent alone in my apartment, that Long Beach was my home. This place has such a gritty, colorful, creative, and diverse spirit, and over the years it has progressed into quite the amazing place. When I finally moved in with my boyfriend (now husband) we decided to get an apartment in Huntington Beach. From there we continued south into Orange County and lived in several places around the county before moving to our cottage in the woods of Trabuco Canyon for 6 years. All in all, we left Long Beach and lived behind the Orange Curtain for 15 years.Vegan Staples at 99 Cent Only StoresBut all of our friends, family, even work, brought us back to Long Beach almost daily, and we just knew in our hearts that it was time to go home. So in 2014, Dan and I decided to do just that. Move back home. But we are all grown up now. We are far too flipping old to be living in an apartment searching for parking and taking our clothes to the laundromat. Plus, as we were both encroaching on our forties, we were set on not paying someone else's mortgage anymore, and we wanted to own our own home. We began searching for a home we could afford with our salaries that wouldn't make us house-poor. We already learned that lesson once, and wanted to be much more responsible this time.We met with a Realtor and told her our budget and began looking daily at homes in our price range. We found some cute places in neighborhoods closer to the "hip" parts of town, but they were really tiny, with virtually no yard for the pups, and were surrounded by giant apartment complexes looking down on us. No thanks. Then we found the house we fell in love with. In North Long Beach. Like, really north. The area known as Northtown. Our house is not too far from Compton, but the house is nice, and the neighborhood seemed quiet. Mostly houses, ample parking, and in our price range. So we went for it!Great deals on produce at La Bodega Mexicana #1 & #2 on Atlantic Avenue in North Long BeachOur family and friends kept asking us, "Why would you move there?" My dad even scolded me for it. Told me it was a bad idea, and that our neighborhood was unsafe. And maybe that's true. Maybe it is unsafe. But, as soon as we moved in, I knew I was home. I mean, I fit in here. Not like in the OC where I constantly felt less than. Here, I know my neighbors by name, and we bring each other treats on holidays and attend each other's BBQs and baby showers. There is a real sense of community here. We look out for each other.There are absolutely no grocery stores close by. Plenty of liquor stores, 7-Elevens and "convenience" stores, greasy hamburger joints and Mexican Food restaurants, but no real grocery stores. Now, I used to work at Whole Foods Market, so I didn't really feel the pinch, I got what I needed after work and brought it home. And, to be honest, as a person of privilege, with the luxury of time,[...]

Peanut Butter French Toast Dippers with Peanut Butter Maple Pecan Dipping Sauce


It's getting to be that time of year, even in sunny Southern California, where it's still tipping the therm at over 80 during the day. But mornings and evenings are indeed starting to get chilly, and the fall flavors of maple and pecan just feel right. This recipe originally appeared in Celine and my newest book, Vegans Go Nuts! (Now available wherever books are sold.)Peanut Butter French Toast Dippers with Peanut Butter Maple Pecan Dipping Sauce*Soy Free*Quick and EasyThis is a great breakfast treat when you have a big family, or the kids are having a sleepover, or you want to make a fun, casual breakfast. If you want to make a smaller batch, feel free. The dipping sauce is made with equal parts maple syrup and peanut butter, so adjust accordingly!For the Peanut Butter French ToastDay-old french baguettes (You can use any type of bread, but I like French bread for French toast!)1 1/2 cups (180 g) whole wheat pastry flour, or all-purpose flour (185 g), spooned and leveled1/4 cup (24 g) powdered peanut butter*1/2 teaspoon cinnamon1/4 teaspoon salt1 1/2 cups (355 ml) nut milkOil for fryingPowdered sugar, as garnish, optional*Powdered peanut butter is ground peanuts with the oil removed. For the Peanut Butter Maple Pecan Dipping Sauce1/2 cup (120 ml) pure maple syrup1/2 cup (128 g) peanut butter1/3 cup chopped pecans, roasted or toastedTo make the french toast, first cut the baguette on the bias into slices 1-inch (2.5 cm) thick.Mix together flour, powdered peanut butter, cinnamon, and salt in a medium sized mixing bowl. Mix in nut milk and stir until well combined. The consistency should be that of a thin pancake batter.Add enough oil to equal 1/2-inch (1.3 cm) deep and preheat oil to 350°F (180°C).Line a platter or plate with paper towels to absorb excess oil.Dip slice of baguette into the batter and remove excess batter.Carefully add battered bread to the oil and fry until golden, flip and repeat with the other side. Carefully remove from pan and transfer to lined platter. Repeat with remaining slices until all batter is used.Garnish with a sprinkle of powdered sugar if desired.To make the dipping sauce, stir together maple syrup and peanut butter until well combined. Fold in pecans. (If you are using raw pecans, chop them, then lightly toast them in a dry pan. This process doesn’t take long, so be careful not to burn your nuts!)Serve on a plate with a small dish for dipping. Alternatively, you can serve traditionally with the dipping sauce drizzled all over the top.Yield: Servings will vary, depending on the size of your baguettes and how small or large you cut them.[...]

What Should I Get My Vegan Friends for Christmas? Vegan Cookbooks! Duh!


Squash Blossom Pizza from Bold Flavored Vegan Cooking (page 63) by Celine Steen. Photograph by: Celine SteenI have never been so excited to do a cookbook review then I am to do this one. Celine Steen of Have Cake Will Travel fame is a long time dear friend and co-conspirator in the vegan cookbook scene. Her and I go way back to when we penned 500 Vegan Recipes together in 2008, and then went on to write several more cookbooks together. Even when we weren't partnering up to write, I still made sure to have her gorgeous food photography grace the pages of a few of my solo efforts. It's fair to say I had VERY high hopes for this tome.Nothing could make my heart swoon more than flipping through the pages of Celine's solo debut, Bold Flavored Vegan Cooking! From the cover, to the font, to the photos, and, of course, the recipes...just everything about this cookbook makes me squee!Make sure to read all the way to the bottom of this post to enter for a chance to win a copy of Bold Flavored Vegan Cooking for yourself!Let's break it down a bit...first let's just talk about the book in it's physical form. Just shy of square, the book is 8-inches wide x 9-inches tall and 208 pages. The pages are a semi-gloss and almost every recipe is accompanied by a full color, drop dead gorgeous photos. The binding is strong and sturdy, and lays flat when opened, which is helpful considering how much use it's gonna get in the kitchen!  I love them. The recipes are well laid out and easy to read. The fonts are, dare I say, even a little punk rock?Now let's get to the vegan meat of the book: Broken down into 4 chapters, Savory, Spicy, Sweet, and Staples, I really love the idea of grouping the foods together this way instead of breakfast..lunch...dinner...dessert. It makes the book so much more interesting to thumb through. Besides, who's to say we can't have Piri Piri Pizza for breakfast anyways? (It's on page 73 in the Spicy chapter if you were wondering.)The book kicks it off with a sweet dedication, "For the Animals, Always." Which, gawdamm, brought a tear to my eye. Then a quick introduction and guide to the recipe icons in the book (recipes are labeled if they are gluten-free, soy-free, oil-free, or in a hurry) and then she' starts right in on the recipes.The recipes in this book are elevated vegetable based dishes that are packed with a depth of flavor, layers of depth, really. Respectfully inspired by world cuisines, the recipes combine spices and texture in a way I haven't seen done before in a vegan cookbook. Celine isn't veganizing here. She is creating some really beautiful and flavorful dishes. Harissa, miso, sesame, chilies, ginger, homemade pomegranate molasses, and maca are just a few of the bold flavor components you will find here.I highly recommend this book to any flavor lover. Vegan or not. I also recommend this book to seasoned, experienced vegans, who are looking to take their flavor game up a notch. Seriously! This is all new stuff here. Some excellent techniques, and really great recipes that will impress anyone you cook them for.But you don't have to take my word for it...Celine was kind enough to share one of the recipes with you so you can taste it for yourself!Bold Flavored Vegan Cooking by Celine Steen.Squash Blossom Pizzafrom Bold Flavored Vegan Cooking by Celine Steen (reprinted with permission from the publisher)This is a deliciously savory pizza made gorgeous with the use of squash blossoms. If you cannot find any at the market, replace them with any zucchini or summer squash of choice, thinly sliced into rounds. You will need approximately 1 large squash or 2 smaller to cover the surface; have extra handy just in case. I could see adding minced fresh rosemary, thyme, oregano or[...]

Harvest Butternut Squash Stuffing and Seitan Roulade En Croute


Thanks to everyone who came out to Tanaka Farms on Saturday for the Plant Powered OC Vegan Holiday Cooking Demo and Talk. It was a great turnout and we had a super fun time!A couple of notes about the following recipes. THEY ARE FLEXIBLE! Don't like pecans? Use walnuts. Don't like yellow onions? Use red ones. Don't like cranberries? Use raisins. Don't like wild rice stuffing? No worries, use your favorite stuffing recipe instead. Don't want to put the puff pastry on? Don't! It's all about making food that YOU like. Not me. So have fun with it.Harvest Butternut Squash and Wild Rice Stuffing with CranberriesWhether you serve this up as a side dish or use it to stuff your holiday roast, this wild rice dressing is full of holiday flavor.2 cups uncooked wild rice blend5 cups vegetable broth2 tablespoons refined coconut oil1 pound cubed butternut squash (about 3 cups)2 cups diced white or yellow onion2 tablespoons minced garlic2 ounces chopped kale (about 2 cups tightly packed)1 cup dried cranberries1 cup pecans1 tablespoon ground cinnamonSalt and Pepper to tastePrepare the rice in a rice cooker using vegetable broth instead of water.If you do not have a rice cooker, bring veggie broth to a boil in a pot with a tight fitting lid. Stir in the wild rice. Return to a low simmer, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until broth has been absorbed.While rice is cooking, heat coconut oil over medium high heat in a large pan or deep pot with a lid. Add in butternut squash, onions and garlic. Toss to combine.Cover, reduce heat to medium low and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until squash is fork tender and onions are translucent and fragrant.In a large bowl (or in the pan if you have enough room) add cooked rice, cranberries, pecans, kale, cinnamon, salt and pepper to the butternut squash and toss to combine.Serve. Stuffed Seitan RouladeThis center of plate roast is sure to have your guests bellies full of holiday flavor.2 cups vital wheat gluten1 cup wheat flour½ cup nutritional yeast2 tablespoons garlic powder2 tablespoons onion powder½ teaspoon paprika½ teaspoon sea salt¼ teaspoon black pepper2 cups vegetable broth1/2 cup refined coconut or olive oil4 cups Harvest Butternut Squash StuffingIn a mixing bowl, mix together dry ingredients.Add water and oil and knead for 5 minutes until an elastic dough is formed.Lightly cover and let stand for 20 minutes.Preheat oven to 350 F.Roll or press dough into a large rectangle. Use a rimmed baking sheet as your guide.Spread stuffing evenly on top of the dough leaving about a one inch border on all sides.Roll up tightly and place seam side down on a large sheet of aluminum foil.Wrap tightly in foil. Place seam side down on a baking sheet and bake for 90 minutes.Remove from oven and allow to stand for 10 minutes before unwrapping.Slice and serve.Seitan En CrouteTime to take it to the next level! Add a beautiful crust to this roast guaranteeing this will be a center of the table showstopper at your next holiday get together. (You can use this en croute technique on any seitan roast!)1 prepared Seitan Roulade1 package (2 sheets) vegan puff pastry3 tablespoons melted vegan butterThaw puff pastry according to package directions.Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment.Preheat oven to 400 F.Lay roast in center of baking sheet.Carefully stretch one sheet of puff pastry over the entire roast, tucking in the edges under the roast. Cut the remaining sheet into strips and arrange in a basket weave lattice over the top, tucking the ends under the roast.Brush the entire top with melted butter.Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown and flaky.Remove from oven and serve.[...]

Texas Hold 'Ems (BBQ Pecans and Ranch Salad Tacos) from Vegans Go Nuts!


Photo Credit: Susan and Ryan Asato of BigTentVegan.comOver the last few weeks I have been cooking up a storm. Nope, not at home. But for people interested in learning how to cook vegan! Nothing warms my heart more than teaching people how to cook without animal products and then hearing them afterwards telling me how much they loved the food. Its the best feeling in the world.A few weeks ago I had the privilege of sponsoring the Food Demo Stage at SoCal VegFest. Eleven vegan chefs from Southern California teaching thousands (You read that right...over a thousand people attended these demos over the weekend!) of vegans, vegetarians, and open minded omnivores the art of plant-based and vegan cooking. People from all walks of life attended and taught. We had chefs teaching all spectrums of animal-free cooking. From the oil-free crowd, to the superfood crowd, to the super fancy schmancy crowd, to the easy home cooking crowd. It was glorious.My demo was last (not because I am full of myself, but because I had to make sure all of the other chefs were taken care of before I could worry about myself. And I expected a very small crowd at the end of the day on day two of the festival. I was sure that people would be tired and head home by then. But I was wrong! I had a full house! There was even a couple who drove all the way down from Bakersfield (!!!) to attend my demo. I almost broke down in tears. So, thank you to all of those who came out. I had a blast. And I apologize for looking a mess. It was a long weekend, and I was all but too tuckered out to worry about whether or not my hair and make-up looked okay before I took the stage. Lol.Yesterday, I taught a similar class to a smaller group at the California Vegetarian Food Festival. About 40 to 50 attendees. But only 3 or 4 people raised their hands when I asked how many people in attendance were already vegan. I live for these crowds. The non-vegan crowds. The people who are seriously considering making a compassionate lifestyle change. After class was over I had many people come up to me to tell me how much they liked the food and how much they enjoyed my class. Many of them telling me how easy I made it look. I had to kindly explain that what I did in front of them WAS easy. I just did it in front of them with basic home cook equipment, using fairly "normal" ingredients. This way of cooking can be done by ANYONE. Just follow (even if loosely) the recipe.I ran out of hand outs and promised to post this for those who attended. Sorry for the delay to the folks who attended October 30. Below you will find a few recipes. The BBQ Pecans, the Almond Buttermilk Ranch Dressing, The Chopped Salad, and for those who attended SoCal VegFest, the Spicy Peppercorn Ranch Coleslaw using my easy tofu mayo technique. The Texas Hold 'Ems recipe is straight from the pages of Vegans Go Nuts! by me and Celine Steen. Please feel free to share this recipe, just make sure to give credit (and linkbacks) to myself and Celine when you do.TEXAS HOLD ‘EMSIf there is one thing Texas is known for, it's BBQ. And tacos. But Texas is also known for it's pecans! You don't always need a "meat" substitute. Sometimes it's fun to enjoy things for what they these pecans. Smothered and simmered in a sassy barbecue sauce then stuffed into a hand-hold. Think pita, wrapped up in a tortilla, piled into a French roll, or, of course, as tacos! These pecans work perfectly along with the tangy almond buttermilk ranch chopped salad. As written this recipe makes a bunch. But it holds well in the fridge, and if you make a big batch of the pecans, you can definitely use them in all sorts of ways in addition to the ways mentioned above. A[...]

Easy Pea-sy Vegan Chicken Pot Pie


Just a week ago I was denying the fact that summer was coming to an end. I was determined to enjoy the most sunshine and blue skies possible. I love summer. It's my favorite season. I love tank tops and sundresses, the feeling the sunshine on my shoulders, and wearing less make-up so my freckles can shine through.Then it happened. Yesterday, as I was on my lunch break, it happened. A drop of rain hit my windshield. Then another. And another! And just like that, my brain went into fall mode. "Must. Have. Comfort. Food." I began daydreaming of what I could make for dinner that would satisfy my urge to create in the kitchen, and also satisfy my husband's 12-year-old-I-only-eat-yummy-foods palate. Not to mention, I wouldn't be home until about 6pm, and it needed to be on the table by 8pm or it would be a no-go.As soon as I got off work, I called him. "Hey! What do you think about pot pie for dinner?" And he immediately said, "Mmmmm." And I knew what he was thinking. Maybe I could swing by Fox Coffee House and pick up a whole Vegan Pot Pie on my way home from work. And it's true, they have AMAZING vegan Pot Pie, and if you call in advance, you can pick up a whole one to go. But I wanted to cook! To turn on the oven. I mean it's under 80 degrees (if only by a few) and that means it's time to get cozy in the kitchen, right?To my surprise, Dan offered up an amazing idea. "Buy everything in cans...even the you won't be cooking all night." Boom. Brilliant. Mad at myself for not thinking of it first. So I stopped by the market on the way home and picked up a few things. I went to Ralphs (Kroger in other parts of the country) and found everything I needed. Isn't it so great that options like Morningstar Farms Vegan Chicken Strips are available at main stream grocery stores now?Enough chit-chat. Let's get to cookin'!Easy Pea-sy Vegan Chicken Pot PieThis recipe can be made in parts...if you don't have the time to do it all at once. You can make the filling ahead of time, then assemble and bake the pot pies the next day. Just as a side note, you can also use this filling all on its own as a hearty stew. A big bowl of this, while curled up in the corner of the couch, under a snuggly blanket just might be my idea of heaven.*For this recipe I used 5-inch pie tins. You can use whatever size you want. You can even make one huge casserole sized pot-pie. The directions are still the same, you will just have a different yield depending on the size baking dish you use. The cook times given here are based on 5-inch pies. Larger pies may require slighly longer cook times. Just look for that puff pastry to be golden brown and crispy, then you will know it's done!I am also trying to cut back a little bit on food spending, so I was happy to report that this recipe, which makes enough for eight 5-inch pot pies*, rolled in at a total cost of right around $25, or about $3.15 per pie. And believe me when I tell you each pie is definitely big enough for a meal!2 (10-ounce) packages of vegan puff pastry (Pepperidge Farms is accidentally vegan!), thawed according to package directions3 ounces vegan butter (about 1/3 cup) or oil3 ounces all-purpose flour (just under 3/4 cup)4 cups vegetable broth1 teaspoon dried parsley1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper3 (15-ounce) cans white potatoes, rinsed and cubed1 (15-ounce) can green peas, drained and rinsed1 (15-ounce) can carrots, drained and rinsed1 (15-ounce) can yellow corn, drained and rinsed1 (10-ounce) package of Morningstar Farm's Meal Starters Chick'n Strips (or any other of your favorite vegan chicken substitutes...and to be honest, you could totally leave this out and it would still be [...]

Watermelon Poke Bowls


Over the weekend I was out at Tanaka Farms teaching the third and final of my Summer Cooking Series classes. (Don't worry, next up is the Fall Harvest Cooking Series!) It's kind of a weird time on the farm...I mean it's the end of Summer, so our Fall harvest is not quite ready for picking and the Spring harvest has long since gone. Ripe seasonal produce is mostly tomatoes, corn, and melons. And when I do these classes, I really like to focus on celebrating the season's bounty, so my recipes always center around what's in season. I chose to focus on watermelon. After all, there are a lot of folks heading to the farm for the Melon Tours and to get their hands on a sweet yellow watermelon. "Perfect!" I thought to myself. "But what am I going to cook with watermelon?" I mean I already did a kids class on Watermelon Agua Fresca a few weeks back and other than grilling it (which isn't much of a recipe) watermelon pretty much is a fruit that stands alone.Back in my Whole Foods Market days, a few of us creative types used to do some fun experimenting and I do remember using watermelon as a stand in for tuna to make a sashimi, and then I remembered seeing my friend Erin's post on her beautiful site Olives For Dinner where she made a Watermelon Poke Bowl inspired by a recipe in Bon Apetit Magazine. And I know Erin doesn't mess around when it comes to vegan-izing seafood. I mean she's a genius when it comes to that stuff!Inspired by Erin, and a host of other recipes from the old internet machine, I set out to create a very simple recipe for traditional Poke that would be easy to make and impress the very-much-not-vegan crowd at the farm. I am limited in cooking equipment out on the farm, so it had to be something I could pretty much make in one pan on a single portable gas burner.I am happy to report...this one really hit the mark! Not only was it simple to make, but the taste was spot on! Not exactly like tuna (I mean it IS watermelon, after all!) but according to all that gave it a try, it certainly was reminiscent of Poke, and had the right flavors and components found in a traditional Poke Bowl. Even Farmer Tanaka himself gave it the thumbs up.Okay, okay. Enough chit chat. On to the recipe!Watermelon Poke BowlsFor a downloadable PDF of this recipe CLICK HERE.This recipe can definitely be made in parts and it can be made ahead of time so that all of the components are ready in the fridge when you are ready for some serious Poke Bowl action.Watermelon in MarinadeThis marinade will transform your watermelon from sweet to savory. The vinegar will help soften the fruit and prepare it for cooking which will soften it even more making it the perfect substitute for ahi tuna in this vegan version of a Poke Bowl.¼ cup rice vinegar2 tablespoons sesame oil2 tablespoons Tamari or soy sauce1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar2 pounds cubed red seedless watermelon (cut it into small cubes no larger than ½-inch)Mix together marinade in a shallow dish with a lid, or a re-sealable plastic bag.Add watermelon and refrigerate for at least one hour, but it’s even better if you can do it overnight. Transfer marinated watermelon to a pan with a lid.Cook covered on medium high heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.Remove the lid and continue cooking for about 10 minutes more, or until deep red and translucent and most of the liquid has been absorbed.If you have a really juicy watermelon, you can drain off any excess liquid. Chill until ready to serve.Watermelon PokeHawaiian Poke was made popular by fisherman who made this fish salad with the trim and scraps leftover after the prime[...]