Thursday, June 28, 2012

TWV (Traveling While Vegan)

I am excited! For the first time in over a year, I get to jump on a plane with my beautiful husband. Yes, one of the days we are working, but we also get a few days away together. For those of you worried about it, our dear friend Eric is cat sitting, so even that detail is taken care of. Still, being vegan, it can be a bit nerve wracking to head to the airport where you may or may not find much to eat.

Don’t get me wrong – things are much better for we vegans than they used to be. Six years ago, I was traveling every few months, and I couldn’t find much. A Lara bar or Luna bar would often be what I had for the trip. I didn’t even have Trader Joes! It was sad. Now, there are many more options. Jason, who travels all the time, both nationally and internationally always finds something, and sometimes those things are amazing. In Chicago he discovered that Frontera has vegan tortas! He brought me one last trip and they were good, but not as good as the ones he makes.

That is part of my issue. I am a vegan food snob. I not only want it, I want it to be done well. Do not give me a green salad with two pieces of iceburg and a few grayish carrot shreds and tell me to be nourished from it. I will tell you something in return, and it will not be pretty.

Part of my answer is just to take a few packaged foods that I love and know are airline friendly. I also take fruit. Tomorrow I am taking Lara bars, nuts, cherries, some tempeh bacon, and pineapple chips. Yes, I will only be trapped in airport hell for a total of 5 hours, but I will also have some munchies for afterward if we can’t get to a proper eating place soon. The gum is essential to keep the ears clear, and give my jaw something to do while I work on reading some of the many books I downloaded on my iPad.

Thanks to my food cache, I feel that much more confident traveling. Now, if only I were a little more toned for those annoying scanners….

Monday, June 25, 2012

Falling in Love

Café Lalibella is a treasure of the Phoenix Metro Valley. Located on Hardy and University at 849 West University Dr. Tempe, AZ 85281, it is easily my favorite restaurant. Though it is a 45 minute drive for us, Jason and I go at least once a month to eat delicious Ethiopian delicacies. We always order a #17 platter with two orders of shiro wat. Even thinking about their shiro wat makes my eyes roll up in my head a little.

But, Café Lalibella and I did not always have this relationship. Jason first took me there within our first month of dating. He beamed as the platter was set down, and proded me to try this new cuisine. I had been vegan for a while, but this was my first Ethiopian food. I was excited to try it (and to be on a date with this beautiful man I was already in love with), but I was sick to my stomach. Due to the stress of a failing friendship with my best friend of years, the decision of leaving graduate school, and trying to split my time between Flagstaff and the valley, my ulcers were tap dancing. I took a few bites of food, and decided that I was close to it leaving my body. I picked at it so I didn’t have to let on how I felt and realized I hated Ethiopian food. But, I never told Jason. A few months later, he wanted to go back. By now, I knew I loved him. I could pick at food I didn’t like for my fiancé. However, when I started picking, a weird thing happened. I wolfed it down. I liked it a lot better this time. The next time, I ate even more and fell in love with the food, culture, smells, and sounds of the little Tempe restaurant.

More often than I care for, I have students in my cooking classes tell me that they tried being vegan for a week and didn’t like it, so they’re going to keep eating meat. Because of where I work, I smile and nod, and tell them they need to make their own choices, because they do. At the same time, I think having an open heart, and open mind and trying things more than once is key. When you’re giving up meat, eggs, dairy, and fish, it can be scary. You get a plate of beans that might be bland because you don’t know how to prepare them yet and you might just decide you don’t like being vegan. Go back. Love yourself and your family enough to keep picking at that food, and soon, you’ll fall in love.  

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Skillet Tostadas, with RECIPE

Hi Everyone! This is one of those magic recipes that is quick, easy, and was born out of needing a quick meal out of what I had in the house. The key to this seems to be a new tortilla I found, which was half wheat and half corn, Handmade Style Tortillas from La Tortilla Factory.

Heat your skillet to medium high heat, and place your tortillas down. Add ½ cup of cooked black beans, and ¼ cup of daiya cheese or other shredded vegan cheese. Cover and while the tortilla is steaming and cooking, dice tomato, slice green onions, and  mince cilantro. Once the ‘cheese’ is melted, transfer your tortilla to a plate, top with veggies and salsa.

Really, that is it. I love it, love it, love it. It makes a delicious breakfast and I can’t wait to make more. Word.

Monday, June 18, 2012

A True Breakfast Delight!

I’m back! After a week of fighting against my own stomach, I won. Lots of vegan yogurt helped win the war, so yesterday I was back in the kitchen, making food for our meal service. One of our customers has gluten free, vegan children. Vegan and gluten free is nothing new, there are even cookbooks on the subject out there. Still, it takes some creativity to come up with food that is appealing to children, gluten free, and still makes the adults want to push their kids out of the way for a small bite. This ‘bacon’ was so good Jason and I had to stop eating it so there would be some left for the customers!! I do suggest going a bit heavy on the salt, since bacon is salty. Always taste the marinade as you go, because if it is so salty you won’t eat it, you’ve gone too far.  

Smokey Plantain ‘Bacon’

Serves 1-2

1 yellow and black plantain, large
1 generous teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon browning
2 teaspoons maple syrup, grade B preferred
10-15 drops of liquid smoke, hickory preferred
2 teaspoons of paprika
Salt and pepper to taste

Remove the skin from the plantain. Slice on a slight diagonal, to make large ‘chips’ about ¼ inch thick. If some are thicker, and some thinner, don’t panic. In a bowl, combine all ingredients except the plantain chips and whisk until thoroughly combined. Gently add the plantain chips, toss, cover, and allow marinading for about 4 hours if possible. Toward the end of the marinade time, line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or other non-stick mat. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the chips on the sheet in a single layer, and bake for about 30 minutes, until the chips have absorbed all the coating. Remove from heat and allow cooling slightly before eating.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Garlic Naan

Usually I have been better about posting, but I have been under the weather for the last few days. It is my ulcer, nothing contagious, but I have still spent a fair amount of time sitting around feeling sorry for myself instead of getting much done, including blogging.

That being said, having a mildly sore stomach gives me weird cravings. One of those cravings was Indian food and specifically, naan bread. Never being one for taking things easy, I chose to make garlic naan. Yes, it was delicious. No, it didn’t sit 100% well, but nothing has been and it was satisfying, which was awesome.

So here is my recipe for naan, a delicious bread that is perfect with a wonderful, mild hummus. Enjoy.

Garlic Naan Bread

Makes 8 naan breads

2 cup warm vegan milk, unsweetened

2-3 teaspoons sugar

2 tablespoons of yeast or 2 packages

¼ cup of oil

5 cups of flour

2 teaspoons kosher salt

6-10 cloves of garlic, roasted and minced

2 tablespoons oil, preferably garlic infused.

Combine the vegan milk, sugar, and yeast. Allow to rest for 5-10 minutes until it has a foam. Once it is foaming, combine with the flour, oil, salt. Kneed and mix together until smooth, then knead for an additional 10-15 minutes. This can be done with a stand mixer.  Then, cover and allow to stand in a warm place for an hour. Towards the end of the hour, preheat to 450 degrees, or start your grill. After the hour, cut the dough into eight pieces, and roll each one into an oblong piece using a little extra flour to prevent sticking. Coat each one with a teaspoon of oil and press roasted garlic on top. Place on the grill or cookie sheets. IF GRILLING: Cook about 2 minutes on each side, pressing down with a spatula if they start puffing up. IF BAKING: Bake about 15-20 minutes. Then remove.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Cooking for Health


Today and yesterday, my stomach hurts. The harsh reality is that ulcers run in my family, and I had mine when I was 12. Yes, seriously. An ulcer isn’t something that really ever goes away, and it can flare up. That is what mine is doing these last few days. In order to fix it, I am resting more, trying to worry less, and eating foods that sooth my stomach. But it got me wondering what people eat when their stomach hurts?

Jason said that growing up, his family ate canned chicken noodle soup for colds and stomach upset, or Sprite soda. My family also drank soda, but ours were 7 up and ginger ale. To this day, I will often reach for a ginger ale when I am feeling a little queezy. Now I like the extra ginger beer offered by Reeds to anything in an actual can. Give me a nice bottle of ginger beer, please. My mom had her own unique cure for any stomach ache. She called it the “Kill or Cure”. She could put cheese on crackers and use the hottest hot sauce that she could find. To this day, now that I am vegan, sometimes a bean burrito with Daiya and spicy salsa will settle my stomach, too. That gives me all the comforts of the past without any cruelty or bad health effects.

I think that all families have their own home grown cures, their own traditions. Some of us have had to alter a few to make them vegan, but it is great we can keep our traditions alive. After all, a dish prepared in the same way that you had it when you were a kid can be as healing as the actual food.

Monday, June 11, 2012

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

I love cookbooks of all shapes and sizes. Well, almost all cookbooks. I love ones with pictures, without pictures, ones with age and ones fresh off the presses. All of them hold their own wonders. Actually, as I type this at my local Starbucks I discovered I have two new beauties waiting for me, both on doughnuts. (Yes, once I experiment, I will post pictures, and yes, Eleanor, once you move here, doughnut girls nights!) If I know what I am looking for, I love the older cookbooks even without pictures. But, when I am unsure what I am going to make for one of the cooking classes I run I have to admit that pictures are pretty nice. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words. If you find one that grabs you and makes you want to reach in and eat it, chances are good that it can affect students the same way. I know that with the Vegan Culinary Experience, we try to give pictures of everything. I also have friends that will not make a recipe without seeing a picture of it.

How about all of you? Do you buy cookbooks without pictures? Do you find pictures more inspirational than the written word?

Just in case you’re one who likes a view, I am including one of my recent creations – Thai Peanut Tofu with Cashew Vegetables. Hopefully it makes you want to reach into the glass of the computer and grab a nibble.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Feeding Your Passion

Right now, I am on a couch with a few of my kitties, and a pile of cookbooks. I also have a cocktail and I am ready to make my plan for my week’s meals. During the week, I will leave myself room to experiment, because inspiration will hit, but it is great to plan out at least some of them. My pile of inspiration cookbooks are whatever strikes my eye from our large collection. Tonight I grabbed Street Food of India by Bergerson, The General Foods Kitchens Cookbook by General Foods Kitchens, and Rick and Lanie’s Excellent Kitchen Adventures by Rick and Lanie Bayless.

I will page through, look at each recipe, and try to find ones that catch my eye. I will then work to veganize them, after all, these are all ‘omnivore’ books. This is how I am inspired, but for you it can be different. For you, it might be a file of Vegan Culinary Experience back issues (another thing I love), or it can even be flipping on the Food Network to see if they are actually showing some tempting veggie or fruit.

Whatever inspires you to make great food, do it. People can taste the love and inspiration in your dishes. If you are drudging something together to just put food on the table, it happens to us all. Still, don’t let it be everyday because it can damage your passion for cooking, and that is a relationship you want to nurture and feed, because to do so will help you nurture your body and soul.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Sushi Salad with RECIPE!!

Sometimes I feel like sushi, but without the work. I mean, it can be difficult for me to everything properly with my lifestyle and having a few minutes to eat. This salad is my solution for when I am craving sushi, but I want it now. Best of all, it looks impressive so you can serve this to guests and they will never know this was the quick alternative to making all those rolls! By the way, I like a lot of soy sauce. A lot. Seriously. I have made my husband stare at me while I down food in the stuff. If you are not like me, cut the soy sauce in this recipe by half.

Also, if you can track down real wasabi powder you will not believe the difference! It is sweet, mild and wonderful. If not, use the American ‘wasabi’ and enjoy, because this salad still kicks. Also, vary the ingredients based on what you eat in your vegan sushi. I had these items around my house, but you can use carrot sticks, different sprouts, sprinkle it all with sesame seeds… the possibilities are endless!

Sushi Salad with Soy Wasabi Dressing
Serves 1

2 strips of pickled daikon radish
¼ an avocado, cut into strips
About 2 tablespoons sprouts
6-8 small nori strips
½ cup of sushi rice  


2 tablespoons soy sauce
1-2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
½ teaspoon wasabi

On a plate, lay out your nori strips. On top, place your rice. I molded mine in a measuring cup. Then dice your daikon, and sprinkle around the base. Place your avocado on top of the rice. Lastly, place your sprouts on top of the avocado or on the side. In a small bowl or cup whisk together all your dressing together, then pour over your rice stack. Serve immediately, because the nori will start to get soft.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Blast from the Past

Last night, I was looking through old photos for pictures my cat Mortisha for my new website. Mo as we know her is a beautiful Persian/Manx combo. She is black as midnight and has a flat face and no tail. She does have a lot of personality and tummy to make up for this. I adopted her while I was in grad school, and until Lindsay moved in with me, Mo was my only constant companion up in the cold isolation of Flagstaff.

I found another picture that just made me laugh and smile. Six months before I knew that anyone named Jason Wyrick existed, I was in grad school for psychology and miserable. While I was TAing a class (Assistant Teaching) I flunked a student who posted white male supremacist rants instead of his homework, as he should. He threatened my life and instead of backing me, NAU passed him. The joys of the modern school system in action. Before it all resolved, he sent a package to my apartment, so he knew where I lived. School was hard, it was cold, and I was bored.

I watched a lot of Supernatural. The show was good (Seasons 1-3 were, damn it!!) and it was a great escape. One day in January I was anxious about starting the new semester. After all, the last one blew up in my face. I needed a diversion, so I decided to celebrate Dean Winchester’s birthday. He is one of the characters from Supernatural. Out came the cupcakes. I made lemon cupcakes, filled them with coconut custard, and topped them with lemon buttercream frosting (all of it vegan). I served a drink called purple nurples on the side, after finding a recipe. Dean drinks them in one episode. I topped the cupcakes with sparkler candles, and little flags that had a picture of Dean’s Impala, his prize possession. Mortisha, Lindsay and I had our little celebration that night. Mo got extra cat treats and an extra can of wet food, which she approved of. I got cupcakes and a little drunk, but for one night I forgot how much I hated school.

Four months later, I met Jason and quit school. With season 7, I quit Supernatural. Without the picture, I might have forgotten the magic of those cupcakes. I am damn glad I  have it.

When you have celebrations, take pictures of the food, too. Today, with digital photography it doesn’t cost extra. That way, you can look back not only at the memories of who was there, but what you made. It can fill you with a little pride and that “I made it feeling” and bring that moment back much more clearly.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

It Has Begun!

Tonight, I started working on our new website! Yes, the blog is great and will remain, but for a long time now I have wanted to do a website. Think of it, a way to search recipes, ideas, and grab new information! It will also be a great place to load up images and stories of some of the great rescue kitties in the Bad Kitty family. After all, we do get our name for a reason!

I am also working on getting more pizza recipes together for the upcoming issue of the magazine, and figuring out what I want to make for our meal service tonight. Luckily, the new Keurig coffee maker I ordered for my birthday (thanks, Mom!) came so I can be caffeinated through this process. After all, there are also gaming plans to get done, stories to write, and housework to do.

When I get like this, I think that eating good vegan food helps. After all, it gives a body lots of energy to do all the tasks life demands. Making lists also help. What kind of food or drink gets you through a busy time when everything needs to be done yesterday?

Food, Fun, and Family

Earlier today, at kind of the last minute, Jason and I decided to have two of our dearest friends over. Normally, this involves cleaning, planning, and cooking on my part, but tonight was different. We broke out board games, I made some Zoku pops (blueberries and cream) which everyone ate, even our super picky friend Jon! Eric brought a bottle of wine, and we proceeded to play and bicker as only family can.

Food doesn’t always have to be big or formal. Tonight it was just ice pops. However, it brought us all into the kitchen for a few minutes between games and made a sweet memory of everyone laughing about their blue teeth. Just remember, sometimes it is the simple little moments with food that turn out the best.