Monday, December 20, 2010

Holiday Cookie Baking/Round One

It is time, once again, for me to bake for my trouble shooters. They do so much for me throughout the year, it is nice to be able to do something for them and who doesn't love some cookies for the holidays? This year I am taking a little bit different tact. My oven was out of commission for a while, so it messed up my baking schedule. I was not able to bake on my days off, so I have to get it done while I am working. This can prove challenging as most of you busy folks know. I've decided the best plan of attack is to break my baking into two rounds.

Last night was round one. I also decided to give love to two different authors this year (well technically it will be three). For round one, I featured Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. The cookies were from Vegan with a Vengance and Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. I try to get a good balance of flavors, colors and textures. For round one the selections were City Girl Snickerdoodles.These made the cut for their ease of making and they just happen to be a special favorite of one of the guys. Next we have the Ginger Sparkle Cookies from VwaV. They epitomize the smells and flavors of Christmas baking to me. They are soft in the middle and crunchy on the outside. The molasses and ginger make you feel all elf like and happy. I had a bit of a problem with the dough this year for some reason. It was super sticky. I ended up having to add 2-3 extra tablespoons of flour to be able to work with them. Last but certainly not least are the decadent Chocolate Fudgy Oatmeal Cookies from VCIYCJ. These are a simple cookie that produce decadent results. They are rich, but I pretend they are healthy. They do have oatmeal after all!

I hope you enjoy round one of my Christmas baking frenzy! For round two, I plan on featuring cookies from the Vegan Cookie Connoisseur by the adorable Kelly Peloza. What to make, what to make? Stay tuned.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Thanksmas Pasta Bar

Happy Holiday season to one and all! Whatever you celebrate, I wish you health, happiness, joy and peace.

Sometimes in all of the hustle and bustle of the commercialized Christmas season, it is easy to lose sight of the real joy of Christmas - Love. This year all of the adults in our family agreed to forgo gift giving with each other so that we could focus instead on giving to needy families and children. The company I work for is huge into community outreach. Our employees give time and money to hundreds of local organizations. Each year different departments each adopt a local family in need. We had a family of seven. Their requests were mostly for necessities like blankets, space heaters and warm clothes. Of course the kids had some toys they were hoping for as well. We were able to get just about everything on their wish list donated. I was fortunate enough to be able to be part of the team that delivered the presents to the family this year. I can't adequately describe how grateful and excited the family was. The kids were allowed to open one present while we were their. The joy on their faces was a sight to behold.

This year I became involved with a group called Dining for Women. We get together once a month for a potluck. We write a check for what we would have spent going out to dinner and donate it to DFW. The money is used to empower women and girls who live in extreme poverty all over the world by funding programs to educate them and improve their lives. This fabulous group of women have touched the lives of so many other people in our community and all over the world through their volunteerism and giving. This month we banded together to give to a local childrens home called Sunshine Acres. We put together several gift boxes that were filled with gift items, party favors and cake mixes so that the children could have presents and birthday celebrations throughout the year. It was a fun gathering of friends that also happened to be a great way to give back to the community.

With all of the gift giving and donations out of the way, it was time to focus on family. It can be pretty stressful and difficult to get growing and extended families together over the holidays. Fred's kids have so many places to visit over the holidays. Everyone wants to see the grandkids, including us. Fred and I have never had traditional work schedules, so actual holiday dates don't really mean a whole lot to us as far as celebrations go. We are used to being VERY flexible with our dates on these occassions. To alleviate the stress of having to try and see everyone on the actual holidays, we decided to have a Thanksmas (thank you Tyler for coining our new holiday) celebration between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Fred proposed doing an afternoon into evening celebration so that we could play games both outside and inside. What a splendid idea! This way the family and friends could pop in anytime.

Family Time - Generations

The big question for me was what to make for dinner? I wasn't sure when our guests would be coming and going. I also wasn't sure how hungry the crowd would be. My daughter in law offered to bring a salad and our daughter brought some tasty beverages. We also had some noshing materials set out. For the main food event, I thought it would be fun and handy to do a pasta bar. I got busy making Lachesis' incredible Alfredo sin Mushrooms, Frecklefoot's killer Vodka Sauce, and my own version of meaty spaghetti sauce. I cooked up three different types of pasta and sliced and diced a variety of veggies and Julie Hasson's Italian Sausage. It worked out swell, with people coming and going all day. Everyone got a hot and fresh dinner. Oh, and I must not forget the garlic bread. Our son-in-law was in charge of cooking the garlic bread; lest we have the ADD induced tragedy of last year's burnt loaves. I made a mixture of olive oil, tons of garlic, fresh herbs and Carla's Cheezy mix for the garlic bread. I could have eaten a whole loaf myself...and I may have. I don't think anyone went home hungy and everyone got to custom order their pasta. It was a really fun way to do a holiday dinner. This may be a new tradition for us!!

Pictured here are the pasta bar fixin's

Here is a view from the other side. You can sese the sauces simmering.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Waiting for Appetite for Reduction and Giveaway Winner!!

While I anxiously await my tester copy of Isa Chandra Moskowit's LOW FAT book, Appetite for Reduction, I am going down a tasty and healthy memory lane of my testing experience. I will do a full on review when my copy arrives, but for now, I'd like to share one of the recipes that I honestly wasn't expecting much from and was pleasantly surprised at how truly wonderful it was. I bring you the Goddess Nicoise Salad. This baby packs in a slew of flavor and texture without a boat load of calories. As an added bonus it is very filling so you don't leave the table feeling deprived. Make sure you try it out!

Ok, now lets talk about food at the other end of the spectrum. COOKIES! I want to thank all of you who commented. It's nice to see that you are out there reading the blog and loving cookies!

The winner of the VIT home made cookies is #3! Steph. Steph, please e-mail me at vegintraining at gmail dot com with your address so I can mail you some sweet treats. I will be sending it USPS so if you have a post office box it can be shipped there. Thanks again to everyone who commented. There will be more giveaways coming up!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Product Review - Queen Creek Olive Mill

Queen Creek, AZ used to be a small county island in the middle of nowhere. There were a sprinkling of farms, horse properties and a backdrop of the San Tan Mountains, but not much else. We took a drive out there last week and much to my amazement it has become quite the metropolis. On the outskirts of town there sits the Queen Creek Olive Mill. The olive mill is owned and operated by the Rea family. The land was previously vacant when they purchased it. Today they have  They have been experimenting with different varieties of olive trees for over a decade.

We decided we'd pay the $5.00 per person and take the guided tour. It is a very small operation so my use of the word guided may not be an accurate description of the "tour". It was, however, very informative. A lovely young lady educated us about the history of the property and more importantly about the olives and olive oils produced there and elsewhere. She explained that the trees at the mill are still considered very young for olive production, so their yeilds are fairly small. They actually only produce the Extra Virgin Oil from their trees. The infused oils are sourced out of Italy. They have a big olive orchard to the north of the main building and they also have some trees planted in a small picnic grove pictured below.

The mill has a little deli counter. Most of the items are not vegan, but a few can be easily vegainzed. We didn't take the opportunity to eat on this visit, so I can't comment on the selections at this time, but I can tell you they use local breads and many other local ingredients, including herbs from their own organic herb garden.

The tour was short, but infomative and fun. After a 20 minute little talk outside in the lovely weather, we were lucky enough to be taken to the press room. They only harvest and press 2 1/2 months out of the year. We unknowingly picked the perfect time to visit. I'm not sure the tour would be worth it when they aren't pressing because there is not much to see. However, you do get a complementary olive tasting. It was really nice to be able to sample a few varieties before purchasing. During the presentation, we were told they have a specific percentage of each type of olive. We noticed that the mix in the press was a bit different than described. the green olives are very young, produce a peppery flavor and should comprise about 40 percent of the mixture. As you can see here, it appears there were more in this pressing.

The press room

The talk at the beginning of the tour is decidedly geared toward convincing you to go into the retail area and buy some of their product. Check this out. Have you ever expienced such a variety of olive oils in one place? There were a couple of rows just like this one. There is a tasting bar with a big variety of the oils they sell. The flavors are really interesting and the quality is excellent. I didn't buy any olive oil because I still have their vanilla and chile oils left over from a gift I recived last year. I need to whip the vanilla out for some holiday baking.

I did get some of their Vermouth Garlic Stuffed and Mexican Lime Jalapeno Stuffed olive. They are big and delicious on their own or in a martini. I also picked up some of their Spanish Fly dirty martini mix. It's a nice way to get your olive juice without having to strain it out of the can. Honestly, I 'm not that lazy, but I was amused by the label and couldn't resist owning the bottle.

They also sell many local products like baked goods, sauces, syrups and candies. I picked up a little bit of the organic Jalapeno pepper sauce. It was great on my buffalo wingz.

The retail area has a boutique type vibe and prices. The entire operation is very clean and the staff was very friendly. I'm looking forward to heading back out to check out some of the wine tastings and entertainment they offer. If you are in the area and want an atypical desert adventure I'd recommend stopping in. You're likely to drop some coin, but it is a novel and fun experience. We had a nice afternoon enjoying AZ weather in December.

As an added bonus we saw these very cute t-shirts that are perfect for our upcoming Martinis and Manicures fund raiser on December 16th! If you are in the area, come support the "girls"!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Holiday Baking - Giveaway!

Inspired by Celia at On Cardamom and Cast Iron, I've decided now is a great time to do a holiday giveaway. Coming off of a month of spicy treats, my sights are now turned to sweet treats.

Each year I do a massive cookie baking fest for all of the trouble shooters that work so hard for me each year. There are close to 40 hungry line men who do all they can to keep our customers in power all year long. It is always fun to bake for them. Many of these guys give Phat Freddie a hard time about his eating habits and tease us both about that "vegan crap". On one particular occassion PF brought a batch of cookies into his office. One of the trouble shooters (who shall remain nameless to protect the innocent) was spouting off about how he'd never eat that vegan stuff as he was scarfing down a delicious vegan cookie. Each year I try to introduce another variety. I haven't decided the selections for this year, but I have lots of options, what with Carla's Quick and Easy Bake Sale recipes and Kelly's Cookie Connoiseur Book? It's going to be hard to narrow it down.

In the spirit of the giving season, I offer to you a box (2 dozen or so) of home-made vegan cookies. Just leave a comment telling me about your favorite cookie and why it is special to you. I'll be drawing a name at random Wednesday, December 8th. This one is for US folks only as I'm afraid they wouldn't make the trip overseas. I'm hoping to do an international giveaway soon!

Happy holiday season!!!

Vcon Rumnog Cookies

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Final MoFo of 2010! Pepper Party!!

I want to thank you all for reading this month. It has been a long but fun food month. Every year at the end of MoFo I always have mixed emotions. I feel relieved that I can relax a bit and not try and come up with something worth reading for you every day. On the other hand I always feel like there is more I could have posted about. I really feel that way even more this year because I just think there are so many incredible ways to use chiles. We've gone from reviewing the fiery habanero to enjoying the almost sweet meatiness of the pasilla chile.  I have not even begun to tap into international cuisines and their uses of chiles. Celia and Gail...I have not forgotten your suggestions and have plans to bring it for you yet. So make sure to check in periodically. I totally want to get on the hot and sour soup and curry.

We decided to go out with a bang. A whole boat load of peppery chile thoughts were running through my head. All day long I kept thinking of all the things I could have done this month and what I could share on this last day of MoFo 2010. I'm pretty sure my mom and my sister think I'm a crazy cooking obsessed weirdo. But nonetheless they celebrated a fantastic day and a fantastic month of MoFo with me tonight. We covered a several peppers tonight: jalapenos, peppadews and piri piris. I tried to jam in chipotle, but my sis wasn't to excited about chipotle in her cosmo. Hee hee. I hope you had as much fun as I did this month. I am looking forward to sharing more with you so come back and visit often.

So here it is: the official MoFo Happiest of Happy Hours!

Here my mom (who is visiting from Illinois), my sister and I enjoyed a toast with Prickly Pear Cosmos and Dirty Martinis made with local Queen Creek Olive Company "Spanish Fly" dirty martini mix. Oh man so good...both of them...and yes I did drink both. MMMmmmm.

Here we have a nice shot of the fabulous ingredients of my dirty martini. Oh yeah, garnishing that bad boy with Jalapeno Mexican Lime stuffed olives (also from Queen Creek Olive Mill) and Peppedews! It was a local and truly special treat.

Check this out. Pepper/Chile Mania
The happy hour menu: 
Seared Tofu with Piri Piri Sauce, Jalapeno Wingettes, Artichoke-Peppedew Tepanade Bruschetta

Here's a closer shot of the tapas. The Piri Piri Sauce is in the white bowl. It is a Peruvian specialty.

Yet even more intimate shot of the seared 'fu with Piri Piri

I can't resist sharing this picture of multi-colored pepper action. So beautiful even in their simplest form.

Monday, November 29, 2010

MOFO - Day 29 - Anthony's Spices Arizona Jalapeno

There is a local dude here in AZ that makes some incredible spice mixes. I have to give some local peeps some attention. Anthony's Spices is based out of Phoenix. He makes some awesome spice blends using a variety of dried peppers. They vary from mild to an extremely hot habanero mixture. He kindly puts a heat scale (out of 10) on each bottle so you have an idea what you are in for. I'm a big fan of the jalapeno salt myself. Yesterday I decided to try another one of his jalapeno variations - Arizona Jalapeno. This one was rated 5/10. Personally, I thought it was on the mild side, but I'm not super heat sensitive. This mixture boasts jalapenos, rosemary, thyme and some secret spices.

My first test run for this flavor was a simple topping for popcorn. It had nice flavor and a nice little hint of heat. I'm looking forward to using this in many other dishes...I'm thinking about some nice BBQ sauce or tofu seared with a boat load of this on it. This stuff is awesome. It's a bit pricey at $4.99 a bottle, but I've spent a lot more on things I liked a lot less. If you live here locally, you can find this at the Guadalupe Market and Whole Foods for sure. You can also order online from their website.

Here is the magical mixture. Oh baby, a little bit of Earth Balance and a heathy sprinkling of Arizona Jalapeno and a good movie with my mommy. Great night.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

MOFO - Day 28 - Pablano Vinaigrette from VegNews

We're getting mighty close to the end of MOFO. I'm not running out of inspiration, but I am running out of steam. Last night we did a soup night. Fred was roped in to making a salad dressing. I haven't used any pablanos this MoFo and it just so happens that last month's VegNews was featuring this mild chile. It originates from the city of Puebla, Mexico. Here in AZ they are sold by the name of pasilla. You may be familiar with them in their dried form - ancho.  Rumor has it you can find a hot one here and there, but all of the ones I have had the pleasure of meeting have been very mild.

The dressing featured in VegNews was a bit sweet for my taste, but if you like a sweeter dressing, this one may be up your alley. It had both orange juice and orange zest as it's main ingredients. We served it with a simple salad of romaine, tomatoes, avocado, red onion and spicy croutons. I thought it might make a nice marinade for tofu.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

MOFO - Day 27 - Black Bean Chili

Just getting in under the wire. I tested a wonderful version of Black Bean Chili from Carla Kelly's upcoming "One Pot Wonder" book. It is smoky, mushroomy and black beany. You'll have to wait for a bit, but it will be worth it. Yummy for your tummy!!

Friday, November 26, 2010

MOFO - Day 26 - Product Review - Tofurkey Frozen Pizzas

The past couple of days have been jam packed full as I am sure they have been for everyone. I did not have even an hour to whip something up today, so I am going to do a product review of the new Tofurkey Pizza's. I bought 3 varieties and we have tried two of them so far: the cheese and the roasted vegetable. While I much rather make my own pizza's, these work pretty nicely in a pinch. I fed these to my mom and sister who are not vegetarian. Fred and I also tried them. While we all thought they were pretty tasty, my omnis didn't really think the cheese was very close to the real deal. I have to admit, on a cheese only pizza, Daiya is not nearly amazing as it is when it is used as more of an accent than a main attraction. We all very much liked the roasted veggie pizza. The veggies are chopped very small, I'd love to see them a bit larger so they are more distinctive. The sauce is a bit bland, but sprinkle of oregano and crushed red pepper livens it up quite a bit. We all agreed we'd eat the roasted veggie one again.

The cheese variety would need some doctoring to make it to the plate. All in all, I think these are a fine fall back when life gets really busy. It's nice to have a good vegan option in a frozen pizza. Tofurkey brand is the best vegan frozen pizza I've tried yet. I'll be keeping at least one on hand for those busy days.

Oh and so I don't stray from the chile theme, we topped half of the cheese pizza with jalapenos. Yum!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

MOFO Day - 25 - Happy Thanksgiving

I had a wonderful time with friends and family today and I hope you all did too! I had a rough day in the kitchen and every where else today. But my mood stayed good because there are so many things to be thankful for. I was not in charge of the whole meal today.

I was in charge of appetizers and took it upon myself to make a couple of other dishes. The apps turned out great, but I've already posted about that this month.

What I planned on sharing with you was a fabulous new recipe for au gratin potatoes. This is where things go south. I painstakingly sliced my potatoes paper thin. They were beautiful. I made a flavorful Southwestern bachamel with chipotle and green chiles. Here is where I'm not entirely sure what happened. The potatoes and sauce were carefully layered in my French White Pyrex casserole. I baked these puppies for almost and hour and a half total. Still, the potatoes rebelled. They were still crunchy, so I had to concede defeat. I do think this dish has promise, and when the bloat from holiday eating wears off, I plan to perfect it. I think the problem is that there were too many layers. On the remake I will use a larger pan and layer them more thinly.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

MOFO - Day 23 - Product Review Tacupeto Chips and Salsa

I have to be honest with you, I am a bit of a salsa snob. Not that I think mine is the best or anything like that, but I find many jarred salsas sub-par at best. Every once in a while I stumble across one that is truly worthy of a place in my fridge. I was pleasantly surprised to find just such a salsa in the refrigerated section at Whole Paycheck. The salsa is so fresh tasting. It has just the right amount of roasted, smoky goodness I crave in a salsa. The tomato goodness makes you feel like it was just a tomato in a garden recently.

Several weeks earlier I found a new love that has certainly made my pants fit just a little more snuggly, because yes, dear readers, I am a tortilla chip scarfer from way back. Again, most commercially produced chips leave me wondering why I'm eating them (not that I stop). Enter Tacupeto corn chips. Oh my beautiful crunchy triangles of corny joy, I am both thrilled and horrified to have found you. Thrilled because your texture and flavor make me want to eat a whole bag of you in one sitting. Horrified because my ever expanding posterior really didn't need the new addition. Tacupeto is based out of Encinas, CA. The only ingredients in the chips are corn, soy bean oil and salt. The easy to read and understand ingredient list with no artificial ingredients has added to my bliss. If you can find this brand, check it out. It will make your mouth so happy!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

MOFO - Day 18 - Red Hot White Bean Chili

Number two in the Red, White and Green Chili series features a delicious little number from Robin Robertson's  Vegan Fire and Spice. Robin has written many excellent cook books, but this one is by far Fred's favorite. He's actually made several different recipes from it. I needed something quick, hearty and tasty for today's post. This recipe filled the bill. If you use a food processor to chop the veggies as she suggests, it is super quick.

Now the first time I made this recipe, I had to do an emergency sub. I ran out of chile powder. The recipe calls for 3 tablespoons and I only had one. So I substituted one tablespoon of ancho chile and one tablespoon of chipotle chile powders. I actually loved the result, so I made it the same way this time. I only had two cans of cannellini beans, so I had to do yet another sub with one can of Great Northerns. 

It looks red, but technically it is a white bean chile, so I'm calling it white!! 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

MOFO - Day 17 - Chase the Chill Chili from AVK

I'm going to keep going with my American Vegan Kitchen love today. I have made this chili (and variations of this chili) a few times now. Fred and I love things a little hotter, so I used hot chile powder in this. I love the combo of both seitan and beans in this version. It is a stick to your ribs chili. It really will chase the chill. I made a whole batch of Tami's savor seitan and froze the leftovers for another tasty meal.

We ate this straight up this time, but it is excellent with jalapeno corn bread. It makes a good amount, but our whole batch is almost gone. Fred ate lots and we gave some to our good friend today. He is a hard-core meat eater, so I am excited to hear what he thinks.

I'm starting a sub-theme today: Red, White and Green Chilies. Today's chili is the red portion of the sub-theme. Check tomorrow for White!!

Just look at those beautiful chunks of veggies, seitan and the hearty beans. Oh yes, don't forget your organic beer!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

MOFO - Day 16 - Chipotles American Vegan Kitchen Style - GIVEAWAY!!!

I'm very excited to announce that I am going to be giving away a copy of American Vegan Kitchen!!! **

I always am so happy when I make things from American Vegan Kitchen. Tami knows her way around the kitchen there is no doubt. She also does spicy extremely well.

She has generously offered to send one of my lucky readers a free copy of American Vegan Kitchen!!!!! If you don't have this book yet, you should make sure you add it to your collection. Who knows, you might be the lucky winner and get it for FREE! Just make sure to leave a comment on this post about how you use chiles your favorite American dishes and you could be the lucky winner. If you have a favorite from AVK tell me about that too! 

Winner will be drawn at random for all comments posted by Friday at midnight. So make sure you comment before then!

Every time I open AVK I have a really hard time deciding what I am going to make. This time I was able to narrow it down because of my MoFo theme. I love smoky chipotles. So I found the perfect recipe for today's post. Smokin' BBQ Portobello Sandwiches. Tami's Smokin' Chipotle BBQ Sauce is really easy to make. It is smoky, sweet with a little bit of heat. It would be great for any type of BBQ recipe really. But I wanted to stay true to the book, so we had these as mini po'boy of sorts. I sauteed up the mushrooms, slathered them with the sticky, yummy sauce and served them on little slices of baguette with a touch of Vegannaise. They were the perfect quick easy chile filled snack for our mid-afternoon house cleaning break.

I am going to be featuring another dish from AVK tomorrow, so make sure to check back. Don't forget to leave your comments on this post for your chance to win. The winner will be drawn on Friday!

**Sorry to my international readers, this can only be shipped within the US.

Here they are in all their yumminess 

Smokin' BBQ Portobello Sandwiches

Monday, November 15, 2010

MOFO - Day 15 - Green Chile Grilled Cheeze

So this is not officially a recipe, but it is officially pretty tasty. I ran out of time today and had nothing ready for today's post. So I decided to ad-lib for today's entry. This will end up being something I will make again too.

Green Chile Grilled Cheeze

1 Sandwich

2 slices whole wheat bread
Vegan butter (enough to butter bread)
1 thick slice sweet onion
1 teaspoon olive oil
dash salt
1 - 1/2 inch thick slice large tomato or two smaller slices
1 whole roasted green chile, large enough to cover the size of the bread
1/3 cup grated Daiya cheddar (or your favorite vegan cheddar grated)
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives

In small bowl combine cheddar and chives. Butter one side of each slice of bread. Heat small iron skillet over med-low heat. Lightly salt and grill onions in olive oil until they are softened about 3-5 minutes. Remove from pan. Place one slice of bread buttered side down in same pan. Top evenly with half of Daiya mixture. Next layer in order with green chile, tomato slice(s), grilled onions, remaining Daiya mixture and second slice of bread with butter side on top. Grill on med low heat until bread it browned and crisp, about 3-5 minutes. Flip and grill other side until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Slice in half and serve immediately.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

MOFO - Day 13 - Chicken Nachos a la Lombardi's

This is going to be short and sweet because I have a hot date with my handsome honey. If you know me or have followed my blog for a while, you might know that I got my first cooking gig when I was 15 at a place called Lombardi's 2nd Effort. Oddly enough it was an awesome Mexican joint that also made pizza. The owner was definitely Mexican, but he loved Vince Lombardi and his philosophy. They gave me my first opportunity to cook and I fell in love.

The other day I was on FB and my very great cooking bud from this very restaurant had asked me if I remembered how we made these. It stirred up wonderful gastric memories and I developed an unbelievable hankering for their famous chicken nachos.

In this version I used chicken seitan cutlets cut into 3/4 inch pieces. They were coated with my favorite taco seasoning and seared until they were dark brown. I used some thicker and very crunchy chips. This is very important, because otherwise the chips will not hold up the the toppings. The chips were topped first with a small dollop (maybe 1/2 teaspoon) of toffutti sour cream, then one chunk of the seasoned chicken. I then placed very thinly sliced Daiya Italian blend over each chip and garnished with a thin slice of jalapeno. Slap these babies under the broiler for about 3 minutes until the chips start to brown and the Daiya is bubbling. Serve with your favorite salsa and share a great memory with yours truly.

Mucho Gusto y gracias Dan Cervantes, wherever you are.

Friday, November 12, 2010

MOFO - Day 12 - Chicken and Waffles with Jalapeno Gravy

12 days in a row. I feel good! I'm having a lot of fun with you guys. I hope you are enjoying chile mania. I know I've been a little heavy on jalapenos, but we are getting a good crop out of the garden. You have to run with that when you are so lucky.

Tonight I decided to go all fatty and decadent. My friend, the lovely Julie, just happened to have a brand new fryer and waffle iron she was getting ready to put in a garage sale. Instead she gave them to me! Well, out of courtesy of course, I felt I should take them and appreciate them immediately. Gotta show my gratitude.

I've been seeing and hearing a lot about fried chicken and waffles lately. Now this is a combo I would not normally think of eating. For one, I am not a big fan of waffles. Secondly it is certainly not healthy or light. But I do have to say, it was a fun plate to create.

The waffles are the Corn Meal Waffles from Isa's Vegan Brunch. I made the savory option. The "chicken" was from a previous Food Network Friday challenge. The recipe is here. I served the chicken smothered with a Cajun Jalapeno Gravy. You gotta have some green with all of this beige, so I quickly sauteed up some smoky collard greens.

Cajun Jalapeno Gravy

Makes about 1 3/4 cup

3 tablespoons vegan butter
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 large jalapeno, finely chopped (2 tablespoons)
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic minced
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon granulated onion
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1/8 teaspoon rubbed sage
2 cups vegetable broth

In medium sauce pan over med high heat, melt vegan butter. Whisk in flour. Stirring constantly to prevent burning make a medium roux by cooking until the mixture is light brown in color. The mixture is extremely hot so use caution. Add jalapeno, shallot and garlic. It will sizzle very loudly and may splatter a bit. Saute for 1-2 minutes until the vegetables soften up. Slowly pour in vegetable broth while whisking constantly until all the broth is in the pan. Stir with a spoon making sure to get all cooked on bits off the bottom of the pan. Turn heat to low and simmer, whisking frequently until gravy thickens up, about 10 minutes. If you like it thicker, you can let it simmer longer. Salt to taste. Serve over chicken or mashed 'taters.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

MOFO - Day 11 - Restaurant Review - 24 Carrots

It's not a total chile-ful post today, but I did order an extra dish just so I would have something with chiles in there!

Today Fred and I hit one of our new favorite places, 24 Carrots located at the NW corner of Chandler Blvd and Kyrene Road next to the Subway in Chandler.

Fred has been haunting this place for quite some time. He likes to stop in for a re-charging juice or smoothie to get him going after a good work out or for a quick pick me up at work. We both love this place for many reasons. They use local and organic ingredients whenever possible. The owner, Sasha, is a true food lover. She creates her recipes without tasting them. I asked her why she did this and she told me that she tends to over-spice things because she loves a ton of flavor. Instead she makes her creations and has others test the flavor. It seems to be a winning formula. Her passion is making healthy meals and snacks for our junk-food nation's inhabitants. They were originally a juice and smoothie joint but 24 Carrots has recently revamped their menu to include a slew of tasty and healthy food choices.

I was very excited to see they had VEGAN specials this fine day.

They are now offering a full breakfast menu. I don't have pictures of this, but you must try the Vegan Eggs Benedict. The garlic aoli is amazing! The avocados are fresh and plentiful. I never seem to make it in before 11am, but I plan on trying other selections like the Fruited Breakfast Quinoa and the vegan muffins.

Their lunch menu now boasts Salads, Wraps, Pita Pizzas, Sandwiches, Burgers and Raw Treats. There are always vegan options and very often gluten free options as well! he daily specials usually include vegan options as well. On our latest visit I finally remembered to bring my camera. I told Fred to strap the feedbag on because we were going to try lots of stuff!

First we checked out the appetizers. We started off with the Dolmas ($4.95). I don't often like a lot of dolmas because they are not executed well. These were delicious. They were flavorful and the filling was so creamy and delicious. The plate was garnished with fresh spinach and cherry tomatoes. We were planning on taking them home for a snack later, but they never made it out the door.

Next up we tried the Raw Papaya Noodle Bowl ($8.95). Fred had been wanting to try this for a while. We both adore kale, so we thought we'd give it a try. The kale was that beautiful emerald green and very fresh. It was a gorgeous looking salad. However out of everything we tried this was our least favorite. Part of the reason was just personal preference...neither of us is crazy about peanuts and this salad had peanuts as a garnish and it tasted like some in the dressing. The one thing we found odd was that the dressing was pretty warm. It just didn't work for me.

We moved on to the next adventure. We usually order different dishes and try each others' selections. Today was no exception and man was I glad! They offer two options for their burgers the Betty: served with just a deli dill pickle and the Veronica: served with organic tortilla chips or baby carrots, deli pickle and a choice of pineapple slaw or fresh garden salad. Because we were totally pigging out on so many other items, I got mine Betty style. I ordered the Wild Mushroom Tofu Burger ($6.95 Betty/$9.95 Veronica). I envisioned it coming with mushrooms and onions on top, but they were actually part of the patty. I thought it was very tasty. Like many of their burgers the patty is very delicate, so make sure to have napkins handy. My burger was grnished with a generous portion of fresh veggies. It was pretty as well as tasty. I have to put in a plug for the Veggie Masala burger I had on my last visit. It is a great Indian spiced option.

Fred's selection was the Vegan Egg Sandwich ($8.95). This is their version of an egg salad sandwich. The menu description doesn't tell you but it is speckled with dried cranberries, which I found to be a very nice addition. The sandwich is served on a delicious 9-grain bread it's soft and delicious. The sandwich came with a generous portion of avocado and tasty tomatoes. Fred opted for the combo with tortilla chops and a pickle. This is a generous portion for even the hungriest diner.

By now we were pretty darn stuffed. Fred had even tried to call for belly back up with no success. But because this is the month of the chile I had to order something with chiles in it. As luck would have it, the special of the day was Vegan Jambalaya. This was also a very generous portion and was served with a small house salad with house vinegarette. I asked what peppers were in it and she said they used chiles and serranos. She did not put a lot in because she was concerned most guests wouldn't like something too spicy. For us it was pretty mild (I could have used more pepper, maybe a splash of hot sauce), but pretty tasty! We were truly stuffed so we only had a few bites. But we both agreed it was pretty tasty. They were kind enough to bring us a box to take it home.

We always enjoy visting 24 Carrots. We usually run into some very nice diners when we are there. The staff is super friendly and the food is consistently fresh and tasty. One word of warning, this is not a run in and run out dining experience. Be prepared to take your time. Bring your laptop for some free WiFi if you are dining alone to kill a little time. The food is made to order in a very small kitchen and takes quite a while to appear at your table. We witnessed one customer come in for take out and leave before her food was ready. As long as you go in to the experience knowing and expecting this, you will be thrilled with this wonderful healthy little neighborhood gem.

24 Carrots
4140 W Chandler Blvd #2
Chandler, AZ 85226


Saturday, November 6, 2010

MOFO - Day 6 - Cayenne Pepper - Not just for savory anymore!

Ah cayenne pepper. This spicy pepper usually found in powdered form is a powerhouse of heat. Rating 30,000 to 50,000 on the Scoville Scale, it is wise to use caution when using it in recipes lest you painfully clear your sinuses and other things. The cayenne pepper is named after a city in French Guiana. The pepper is related to the bell pepper, but it is its sassy spicy trouble making distant cousin.

The pepper is not only powerful on the heat index, but it has been proven to have health and medicinal uses as well. Cayenne is believed to help prevent prostate cancer. It is loaded with vitamin A and also  has B6, E and C. I recently had an interesting and painful experience with cayenne. I had a nasty cold and made an elixer of agave, lemon and cayenne in hot water. It soothed my sinuses and I am sure burned out some of the nasty cold. Well, Fred, who is always trying to take care of me, made a batch for me. Unbeknownst to me, he loaded it with a very healthy dose of cayenne. I took a big swig and felt this incredible burn all the way down. Holy mama! I managed to drink about half of it before I had to claim defeat. Funny but true.

I love using cayenne in savory dishes. It is fantastic in many Mexican and Southwestern dishes. I can hardly imagine any type of chili without it. However I have also found that is pairs amazingly well with Chocolate (in small amounts). I have school in about 20 minutes. It is one of my classmate's birthday. I decided to make some cupcakes to wake the class up and secretly slip them some vegan awesomeness. I made cupcakes based on the Basic Chocolate Cupcakes from VCTOTW. I added 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and a very healthy pinch of cayenne to the batter. They are topped with the Chocolate Mousse Topping with a little cinnamon thrown in from the same book.

I hope my classmates gobble them up and I hope you enjoy checking them out. Have a great Saturday!!

Friday, November 5, 2010

MOFO - Day 5 - Chipotle Peppers

Chipotle chiles are all the rage these days. The chipotle is actually a smoked jalapeno. According to the Gourmet Sleuth website, these tasty smoky peppers date back to the Aztec civilization. The Aztecs took to smoking the chiles because jalapenos proved to be difficult to dry without rotting. All I know is that they are a delicious addition to many dishes and I am personally a little addicted them. The chipotle is considered medium heat rating 5000 - 10,000 on the Scoville Heat Index. You can use these delectables in soups, sauces, stews, dressing, marinades, shoot I've even used the powder in sweet baked goods. Speaking of powders, you can find chipotles in their dried pod form, chipotle powder (which is getting easier to find in many grocery stores) and my favorite form, chipotles in adobo (in a can). The canned variety is usually found in the ethnic aisle of your grocery store in little cans. If you haven't experienced the lovely smokiness of the chipotle, your life is just not complete. Find some, try them and your dishes will be transformed into smokey loveliness!

I will be sure to feature a few recipes this month with chipotles no doubt, But today is another very long day for me, so I leave you with a picture and a promise of yumminess to come.

Behold Robin Robertson's Smoky Chipotle Portobello Tacos from her upcoming cook book.

I always feel funny when I don't include recipes in my MoFo posts, so I'm going to share a soy free version of Chipotle Ranch I came up with. It is also really good as a dip on tortilla chips in it's thicker form. This is for all of the mayo haters in the house!

No Soy/No Mayo Version of Chipotle Ranch Dressing

Makes 1 1/2 cups

1 cup raw cashews
1/2 cup water (in addition to soaking water)
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon granulated garlic or garlic powder
1 teaspoon granulated onion or garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 chipotle chiles (canned in adobo sauce), leave seeds intact

Cover raw cashews with enough filtered water to come 1/2 - 1 inch over cashews. Soak overnight. Drain water and do not reserve. Pour all ingredients, including 1/2 cup water, in food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Let chill for at least for hours before using.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

MOFO - Day 3 - More Jalapeno Fun

Today's post is going to be short and just slightly sweet. I've got a busy day ahead of me: a full day of work and two school assignments to complete before midnight. So forgive my lack of inspiration for the day. Thankfully others are inspired and inspiring me! I am fortunate enough to be a tester for several talented and fabulous cook book authors. It keeps my fridge and my tummy full of all sorts of wonderfulness. This tasty looking post hails from Carla Kelley's upcoming project. I like to think she developed this recipe just for my MOFO theme...but that would be a bit egotistical. I can say that this was a nice change from normally sweet carrot soups. It has a spicy anti-oxidant kick! As an added boost it is believed that jalapenos have an anti-cancer quality. Yay soup!

Spicy Carrot Soup