Sunday, November 27, 2011

Vine and Dine - The Millennium Cookbook - Baked Madras-Glazed Tofu

Welcome back to the return of Vine and Dine. A fabulous cooking challenge where the players do their best to procure and match vegan wines with a delicious dish from a variety of cookbooks. Vine and Dine is hosted by the lovely Tami Noyes over at Vegan Appetite blog where she will be posting this round's great wine finds and recipe interpretations.

This time around she let me choose the book we'd be using. I chose the Millennium Cookbook. I had the opportunity to visit Millennium a few years back and was awed! The recipes in this book often times make me freak out when I see all of the ingredients and components, so the book gathers dust too often. I thought this would be a great opportunity to use it again! Tami selected the Baked Madras-Glazed Tofu with Saffron Basmati Pilaf, Sauteed Vegetables, and Peach-Lime Chutney. That title is a mouthful all on its own!

This recipe had several components: tofu that had to be marinated, curried onions and vegetables, chutney and rice pilaf. Nothing was overly complicated, but it did take a bit of coordinating. The marinade and chutney could certainly be made ahead of time, making this much more simple to pull together. I didn't plan ahead, so all was made last night.

I did have to make a few substitutions. How I ran out of brown basmati rice is beyond me, but I did have long grain brown rice. I know the basmati would have given the dish a more complex and aromatic layer, but with all of the other flavors going on here, it worked out just fine. I wasn't able to find fresh peaches or apricots this time of the year, so used the dried apricot variation.

Sadly I have a bit of a nasty cold, so my tastebuds are a bit off. This was a great dish for that though! There are a lot of bold flavors going on here that even I could taste! The tandoori marinade had a hint of bitterness that was nicely complemented by the sweetness of the chutney. I loved the hint of lime in both the marinade and the chutney. I thought they were a great match up. I think the tandoori may have been overpowering without the chutney. The saffron made the rice a gorgeous color and gave it a hint of grassy flavor. The curried onions and vegetables rounded this out beautifully. I used zucchini, carrots and broccoli. I'd get a hit of the tandoori, then bang, the curry, followed by the sweet flavors of the chutney. It was really amazing. Eric Tucker sure knows how to marry his flavors. The colors were so vibrant. It was a very pretty plate!

I made the full amount of the marinade and only half the rest of the recipes. I have some green beens and spinach that need to be used up. I may try simmering some tempeh with them in the leftover marinade...oh, and maybe kabocha squash.

Now here is Fred to talk about his wine pairing (which was quite lovely I must say).

This dish is a sea of swirling flavors, spices and textures, one that could wash away a weak wine or clash with a strong one. 

I found a Pinot Noir that turned out to be an island that held it's own but yet coexisted delightfully with everything in this dish. One sip gave me a smokey raspberry taste and the next was a light plumish aftertaste. 

She was not a cheap date at 27 dollars, but she was worth it. This 2008 "Duck Pond" from the Willamette Valley in Oregon has a strong presence but yet knows how to blend in with the crowd. This wine complimented this intricate dish at every level. It went well with Indian seasonings, held up to the heat, and seemed to really bring out the flavor of the veggies.  

It was like a couple dancing where the main course is leading but the wine really knows how to move and they both come off looking great together. I will buy this wine again as I think it would be fantastic by itself as well as an accompaniment to a meal.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksliving!

I was so excited today to experience my very first ThanksLiving at Green in Scottsdale. Honestly, it was totally weird to celebrate Thanksgiving and not cook. I truly missed spending the day in the kitchen. However, I certainly did not miss out on amazing food.

Today I was blessed by the company of friends for a gorgeous morning hike. Then I was doubly blessed to be able to have ThanksLiving dinner with my beautiful sister and some long lost friends. It was so fun to talk with young college students who are compassionate, kind, bright and as an added bonus passionate about vegan food! What a blast!

The folks at Green put on a fantastic event. There was music, crafts and a very informative presentation by Bruce Friedrich, from Farm Sanctuary. He did a great job at talking about the advantages of veganism by not only pointing out the animal rights issues (as would be expected from a Farm Sanctuary representative) but also providing information on how veganism is also a great way to help the environment and the world's poor. He is an excellent speaker.

The turnout was impressive. I heard one of the employees say 500 tickets were sold. When we arrived there was a huge line outside the restaurant.

There were tents set up outside with lots of people enjoying the entertainment, the food, the great weather and the compassionate company. People were encouraged to bring towels and blankets for the Humane Society.

My indoor pictures are a little blurry, but I am posting them anyway because I have to give props to the amazingly friendly and fun staff at Green! Here they are serving up dinner for the hungry thankful crowd.

Lets talk food. There was not a thing on my plate that I didn't like. As a matter of fact there wasn't a dish on my plate I didn't think was incredible. The crust on the seitan was beautifully crisp. The mashed potatoes had a beautiful mushroom gravy. The stuffing was dotted with fresh cranberries and had the perfect amount of earthy sage. Both my sister and I have never been big fans of brussel sprouts, but they were so delicious, I found myself wanting more...same with the asparagus. Cranberry sauce is often overly sweet in my opinion. I have to say theirs was perfect. 

There were three desserts to choose from: Pumpkin Pie, GF Pecan Pie and GF Cobbler. I only had the opportunity to taste the pecan pie. This was the only course I thought was just OK. It was a bit too soft and overly sweet for my taste. But the cobbler and pumpkin pie looked amazing. 

There are so many things that I am thankful for: great friends, wonderful family, a beautiful home, a gorgeous dog, the ability to give to those less fortunate...but I have to say, I am especially thankful to be blessed with the best sister in the world. I love you so much sistah!

Friday, November 18, 2011

The return of FNF! - Paula Dean's Turkey Pot Pie

It's been a couple of months but we are back at it. It is the return of Food Network Friday's hosted by Tami of Vegan Appetite. Make sure to visit her blog to see how the other participants created their dishes for the challenge.

This time we are taking on Paula Dean by veganizing her recipe for Turkey Pot Pie. She loves to poo poo tofu and thinks nothing can be made without full cream butter, heavy cream and fatty meat. Despite these shortcomings, I do enjoy watching her. She has a very sunny personality. Her anti-vegetarian bent made this week's conversion even more fun.

My original plan was to not only veganize the butter queen's recipe, but to make a healthy version. I was super motivated to also make it a hand pie. While my intentions were good, once I got cooking I ended up abandoning both of my ideas. I found a box of vegan creamy portobello soup, so instead of taking the lighter road, I ripped open the box and forged on! The hand pies were still on the agenda...until my puff pastry decided to be uncooperative. So what the heck, I cut the pastry into strips and carried on.

I thought the proportion of cranberries was too much, so I reduced them to 1 cup. I used TVP chunks re-hydrated in water with Bill's Chiknish Seasoning. I had to play around with my puff pastry. I decided to serve this as a deconstructed pie. The filling was placed in small ramekins and garnished with puff pastry strips. Alternately you could make the lattices like she does in her dish, but I almost think that might make it too heavy. The cranberries provided the perfect hint of tart to mellow out the richness of the rest of the filling. I served it straight up. It was so rich, I knew I wouldn't be able to eat anything else with it. Look how pretty it is! Wouldn't it be lovely on your Thanksgiving table?

The verdict is in. I took samples of this too work for my anything but vegetarian co-workers. They were amazed at how "meaty" and really delicious this was. One guy even had seconds! I say that's another win for vegananizing another FN recipe!!!

Deconstructed Thanksgiving Pot Pie

2 cups water
2 teaspoons Bill's Best Chik'nish Seasoning
1 1/2 cups TVP chunks
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 stalks celery, diced small
1 medium onion, diced small
6 oz white or cremini mushrooms, sliced thinly
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 cup broth (using liquid drained from TVP)
1 - 16 oz container of Imagine Creamy Portobello Mushroom Soup
2 cups butternut squash, cut into 1/2" cubes
1 cup fresh cranberries
1/2 cup soy milk
1 tablespoon arrowroot
1 sheet puff pastry, cut into 1 x 3 inch strips

In a medium saucepan heat water and Bill's Best Chik'nish Seasoning to boiling. Add TVP. Turn off heat and let re-hydrate for 20-25 minutes. Drain and reserve liquid.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place puff pastry strips on un-greased baking sheet, leaving about 1 inch between strips. Bake for 15 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and keep warm.

While the TVP is rehydrating in a large saucepan (or small stock pot) over medium heat add olive oil, onions and celery. Saute until just soft, about 5-7 minutes. Add mushrooms, thyme, sage, pepper and salt. Saute until mushrooms start to release their liquid, about 3 more minutes. Stir in flour and nutritional yeast, stirring to incorporate. Saute for about 2 minutes. Whisk in broth and simmer until mixture starts to thicken, about 5 minutes. Whisk in creamy portobello mushroom soup, butternut squash and rehydrated TVP. Simmer for about 20-30 minutes until squash is tender. Add cranberries and simmer for about 5 more minutes. Whisk arrowroot powder into cold soy milk until dissolved. Whisk arrowroot mixture into squash mixture. Simmer until mixture thickens. Ladle stew into 1 cup ramekins and garnish with 4-5 strips of puff pastry. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Martinis and Manicures for the Wellness Community!!!

I usually reserve this blog for blogging about food related subjects. However, today I am making an exception. A very monumental day is coming up. After an entire year of chemo, my great friend Piot will be celebrating her final treatment. Her wish is to give back to an organization that has given so much to her and other people affected by cancer: The Wellness Community - Arizona.

This organization is amazing. They offer support services for those dealing with cancer and their loved ones...absolutely free. If you have been affected by cancer, you know how important having sources and resources at your disposal during one of the most intense and life changing times of your life. We want to help them continue to be able to provide their awesome programs.

We also want to make it a great time. To celebrate Piot's last day of chemo we are hosing our second annual Martinis and Manicures soire brought to you by the generous owner of Party Nails! Those of you who attended last year, I am sure, will attest to what a great time we had! Drinks, free snacks (there will be vegan goodies available), beauty, friends, fun. Doesn't get much better than that.

Here are the details:

Date: Wednesday, November 30th (Piot's last day of Chemo!!!)
Time: Appointment times start at 4pm - Last appointment is at 830pm.
Place: Party Nails - 3875 W Ray Road #14, Chandler, AZ 85226

Manicure or Pedicure - $20.00 suggested minimum donation*
Deluxe Combo - $35.00 suggested minimum donation*
Martini or Wine (soft drinks are complementary) - $5.00 suggested minimum donation*

*Gratuity and additional services not included. Proceeds to benefit the Wellness Community - Arizona

To make things easier for you, you can book your appointment and pay online (see the top of the blog). Just choose the service you'd like (Mani/Pedi or Deluxe Combo for both) then choose your appointment time. It's that easy! If you don't want to pay online, please contact me at vegintraining at gmail dot com to pay by cash or check.

I'm looking forward to seeing you all again this year.

Space is very limited, so make sure you book as soon as you can!!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Bloody, Bloody Sunday - Marys that is!

My friend Darlene is always making me drool and making me envious of her Sunday Bloody Mary's. I am sure her recipe is ridiculously good, but sadly we live over 1500 miles apart, so often I sit here and just covet her delicious libations. Often this daydream includes a distant memory of the best bloody mary I ever put to my lips. My friends in Illinois may remember the old Castleview Restaurant in Fox River Grove? They had the most incredible bloody marys I remember ever tasting. The restaurant has been gone for years, but the memory still lingers...

This daydreaming came to a screeching halt last weekend. While at the farmer's market I was lucky to make the acquaintance of Fran Rons, the owner of Zorroz Brand Specialty Foods of Scottsdale, AZ. He was giving out samples of his incredible Bold and Spicy Bloody Mary Mix ($8.00 for a 32 oz. bottle). Oh, my friends, I was elated when I tasted it! It's beautiful bright red color, the rich tomato flavor, the perfect texture, not too thick not too thin, and the crowning glory? The perfect balance of flavors, nice and spicy! To add to my glee, their delicious recipe is all natural, has no preservatives and no it is VEGAN!! Yay!!

I couldn't wait to share my discovery with two of my very great friends. Fred and I packed up our new treasure, a bottle of Kettle one, some celery, picked red jalapeno peppers and spanish olives and headed over to their house. We spend an awesome Sunday afternoon in the kitchen making home made tortillas and vegan tacos, watching footballs and living the Bloody Mary dream.  We polished off almost the hole giant bottle! You can order their mix online or at some of the local farmers' markets.

Ah behold the ultimate Bloody Mary!!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Engrained Cafe - ASU Campus, Tempe AZ

My sister recently sent me an invitation to attend a talk and book signing by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. My niece is part of the School of Sustainability at ASU and their school organized the entire event.  I was pretty excited to check out the lecture and the venue. I was also very excited to get my copy of The Vegan Table autographed! The room itself had a seriously modern flair. The high ceilings make it feel even bigger than it is. They use sustainable materials throughout for decorating and functional purposes. It's quite an impressive place.

Engrained Cafe's goal is to reduce their environmental footprint by educating, sourcing locally (must be within 150 mile radius) and using eco-friendly products in the cafe.

I had the opportunity to speak to Executive Chef, Jerome Fressinier about the evenings menu and Engrained's vegan offerings. He told me that about 20% of their menu offerings are vegan, 25% more are vegetarian. I'm hoping the percentage of vegan offerings will go up as plant based foods certainly leave less of an environmental footprint than their animal based counterparts. But it is a good start!! I'm super excited to see such an emphasis on sustainability as it is one of the top reasons I love vegan cooking and eating!

This was my first visit to Engrained. It was a special event with all vegan food. They did a wonderful job with presentation and flavor, so I am looking forward to going back and trying the restaurant on a normal day. They are open for breakfast and lunch (11am-4pm Monday - Friday). They also offer catering options. I'm amazed and impressed at the effort put forth by the students who put this event together and the staff at Engrained for providing delicious vegan food that looked and tasted good by vegan or omni standards.

The tasting menu for this event provided a really nice diversity of ingredients and presentations. How I forgot to bring my regular camera is beyond me, so forgive my cell phone images, they certainly don't do the beauty of the food justice.

So be good to your body, be good to your planet and be good to the animals by getting yourself some local, sustanable and vegan awesomeness and Engrained.

Apache Fry Bred Sample Tube, Corn Coulis Tofu, Singh's (local farmer) Moringa

Singh's Tepary: Almond Hummus, Heirloom Sun Dried Tomato, Queen Creek's Olives

Potato Onion Present, Engrained's Catchup Amaranth

Vegan Brownie

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Giveaway - ThanksLiving at Green!!!!

OK. Drumroll please...the winner of the Thanksliving Ticket is #6 John Oberg!!! Congrats John!!!

John, please contact me at vegintraining at gmail dot com to arrange your ticket pickup!

If you have commented and are not yet a follower, please make sure to click the "FOLLOW THIS SITE" button to be eligible to win the awesome ThanksLiving ticket!!

I just love to give things away. It is just one more thing to be thankful for. Speaking of being thankful, what are you doing for Thanksgiving? The Fredster is working and we don't really have any plans during the day on Thanksgiving, so this year I finally get to attend Thanksliving at Green in Scottsdale. I've raved about them in a couple of reviews, so you already know the food is going to be good.

What you may not know is that not only will you finally get a Thanksgiving feast that is completely vegan (and delicious), you will also be treated to music, guest speakers and kids crafts. What is also really cool is kids under 12 get a discounted rate of $8.95 per kid! Click here to check out this year's yummy menu!

Here is the really exciting news! I bought an extra ticket to the extravaganza and I want to give it to one of you my fabulous followers. Here is all you have to do: make sure you are already a follower of the blog on blogger (click join this site button on the side bar), then leave a comment on this post about what you are most thankful for (make sure to leave only one comment, duplicates will be deleted). The winner will be drawn at random this Sunday, November 13th. Please make sure to check back to see if you are the winner and good luck!!!