Friday, April 30, 2010

Peanut Avocado Unroll

Inspired by a combination of (1) the fact that I was pining for my Soy & Sake peanut avocado sushi roll and (2) the sushi rice salad recently posted on VegNews, I decided to assemble an original concoction.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you:

Peanut Avocado Unroll (serves 4)

sushi rice
2-3 avocados, cubed
wasabi paste
pickled ginger

Both because it is the most time consuming aspect of the recipe and because I like the idea of assembling your unroll with chilled rice, I would suggest making the rice the previous day. So, start by following the VegNews recipe's instructions for preparing the rice and allow to cool completely before refrigerating.  Then simply remove from the fridge when you begin to prepare your other ingredients and it will be room temperature by the time your unroll is assembled.

  • Spoon a shallow layer of rice onto a dish (If you serve in a bowl, it's more likely that you will over-rice).
  • Liberally sprinkle furikake.
  • Generously toss on peanuts.
  • Add your avocado
  • Toss on more peanuts (not just because I like peanuts, but because you need to achieve crunch proportionate to the smushiness of the avo & rice)
  • Prepare shoyu with wasabi and ginger as you would for sushi.  Drizzle sparingly over unroll, and serve extra on the side with additional pickled ginger and wasabi.  Simply mixing and serving like salad dressing will cause you to over-pour out of habit: too much for soy sauce!
When you are assembling your unroll it is imperative that you keep in mind the proportions of a sushi roll.  Otherwise, you will be tempted to portion ingredients as you would a typical salad, and that will not work as successfully.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Sweet Charity: WFAS Vegan Bakesale

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Vegan Bake Sale benefitting the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary at MooShoes.  Having never attended a bakesale, I had no idea that it was going to be such a monumental event.  Framed by rows of beautiful vegan shoes and handbags, every available bit of floor space was taken up by large tables covered in an extremely varied assortment of beautiful baked goods flawlessly presented.  The sheer magnitude of the generosity was evident, and the offerings were literally irresistable.

The always generous Sweet and Sara donated packaged marshmallow assortments and individually wrapped s'mores for the cause.  Relative newcomer Cafe Terri sent along their perennially friendly staffer, Sarah, to volunteer, along with shop favorites: oat date bars and mocha chip brownies.  Cocoa V was represented by cupcakes and chocolate chip cookies.  But perhaps most incredible was the feast of goodies that had been charitably donated by an apparent army of vastly talented, selfless bakers.

Cookies, cakes, scones, brownies, bars, muffins, danish, cupcakes, biscotti, and even a ciabatta loaf and pepperoni pizza pretzels!  The hungry crowd was shopping and chewing...and shopping some more.  The faster goodies were sold, the faster they were replaced by a seemingly endless stream of donations of baked goods in every shape, size, color, and flavor; it was hard to keep up with the selections.

Kind souls Jenny, Doug, Rebecca, and Stevie were all on hand during the festivities representing the well-deserving Woodstock Farm Sanctuary.  They were clearly touched by the outpouring of support from the vast crowd which was deftly handled-- per usual-- by the volunteers and MooShoes' staff.

This was my booty; I'm pretty sure you can figure out what's what:

Tri-color/"rainbow" cookie: I haven't had one of these for ten years, so I was super excited to finally get my hands on a vegan version.  It was incredible and I'd love to know what patient, detail-oriented genius created it (extra points for the two colors of jelly!).  The esteemed tasting panel chose this as the hands down, collective favorite item brought home from the bakesale.

Psychedelic green dinasaur iced sugar cookie: Yes, it's missing it's tail and head; I'm only human, people!  It tasted even better than I could have imagined; I should have bought a purple one too!  Easy 2nd place.
Peanut butter, white chocolate chip, oat cookie: I was mesmerized by the peanut butter/white chocolate chip combo, but if I had realized that this cookie contained oats I wouldn't have selected it.  It wound up being a very happy accident, though, as the oats were super crisp and lent an unexpected and highly delicious crunch to the already ridiculously tasty cookie (Evan McGraw's creation).

Double chocolate chip cookie: Like a freezing cold sunny day, this cookie was deceiving: it did not live up to it's visible chocolateyness in the least (Cocoa V).
Chocolate chunk cookie: Beautiful, soft cookie full of chocolate chunks, but the cookie had absolutely no taste (Cocoa V).
Chocolate hazelnut cupcake filled with mocha cream: Gorgeous and impeccably presented, this cupcake hit each flavor mark.
Minano: As a longtime Milano fan, I was disappointed that these cookies were so heavily laced with citrus (No fruit in dessert, people; how many times do I have to say this?).  However, my bakesale companion thought it was a really nice accent and highly enjoyed them.
Lemon poppyseed muffin with pastel Whizzers: Where oh where were the advertised Whizzers?  False advertising!  I cannot review!

These goodies are not pictured because they were admittedly eaten in a frenzy of excitement (and goodwill!) before they could be photographed:

Twinkie: completely moist, yummy, and filled to capacity with cream.  As a bonus, it even boasted the three requisite cream punctures on the bottom!  Extra points for authenticity.
Chocolate peanut butter pillow: deliciously peanut buttery and a much better version than I could ever make; this was my peanut butter fix for the event.
Chocolate-covered mini-donut: completely adorable, and also available with sprinkles.

Raspberry danish: My bakesale companion and I agree that this was the favorite item consumed at the bakesale.  I thought to photograph only the final bite, so I went back to snag a picture of the plate because I wanted to give Evan an appropriate shout-out.  I actually hadn't remembered what a danish was until I tasted this...and then I wondered why I hadn't thought about them more often since becoming vegan.  Evan's repertoire is clearly varied (cookies, danish, banana bread, etc.) and I am as impressed with his execution as I've always been of his droolworthy photos.

The overwhelming vibe of the event was truly sweet charity: the sheer deliciousness of the goods really shined, but lest I not forget to applaud the extreme generosity of all of the bakers who submitted donations, as well as the kind-hearted folks who were there to buy and enjoy them all.  I can't think of a better way for vegans to come together for a wonderful cause.

Extra credit to MooShoes for having this cool sign posted in their window:

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Enormous Gone Pie Peanut Butter Cups

Shockingly, I am the only chocolate & peanut butter fan on the esteemed tasting panel.  This is at once deplorable (who doesn't like chocolate and peanut butter?) and glorious (more chocolate and peanut butter for me!).  So imagine my excitement at the prospect of having a bounty of Gone Pie peanut butter cups all to myself.  Sure, I could share with friends...but I probably won't.  Could this be why I don't have many friends?  What's better, anyway: friends or peanut butter cups?  (hint: peanut butter and chocolate are friends with each other, and they can be your friend too!)

For starters, this is not your ordinary peanut butter cup.  As you can see, I have gone to great lengths in an effort to scientifically illustrate the sheer magnitude of a Gone Pie peanut butter cup; it is HUGE!  If a Gone Pie peanut butter cup were to come to blows with a mainstream peanut butter cup, the Gone Pie version would effortlessly annhilate the opposition: ethics intact.

The background:  I love peanut butter.  Do I love peanut butter more than chocolate?  That's a good question.  Yes.  But peanut butter and chocolate together are a combination in a different league. 

The tasting: Is it just me, or does everyone have their own way of eating things?  I mean, who didn't spend their childhood eating fudge stripe cookies off of their pinky in a rotating motion?  So, despite the imposing size of the jagunda cup I wasn't at all intimidated; this was familiar territory, simply on a larger scale.  I approached Gone Pie's vegan peanut butter cup exactly the same way as I did traditional peanut butter cups in my non-vegan days: nibbling all of the chocolate from around the perimeter and then savoring the peanut butter center with only the chocolate top and bottom remaining for accent. This was quite a feat, as the proportion of chocolate to peanut butter is quite high.

I'd like to say that it was a completely authentic experience and that I enjoyed it equally, but not so.  It would seem that, once again, Gone Pie's stellar ingredients have lent an incredible flavor punch to something I thought I already knew and loved, thusly improving upon it.  I checked the ingredients and, what do you know?  There I sat savoring this humongoid mound of deliciousness that can mainly be described as...peanut butter (!), thus begging the question: what kind of crap must have been in those mass-produced "PB" cups anyway?  Shudder.  As a bonus, my peanut butter seemed to be of the chunky variety...and me loves me some chunky bits of peanuts in my peanut butter! 

In order to assuage my guilt for hogging all of the PB cups, For research purposes I decided to do a taste test of the peanut butter cups at varying temperatures. 

  • First, room temperature: solid PB cup eating situation.  Nom, nom, nom. 
  • Second, refrigerated: my goodness! Who knew it could get even better?  I was able to break the chocolate perimeter off in a chunk, thereby saving the precious energy and calorie burning I would have wasted actually nibbling it off.  AND it afforded me the opportunity to eat mostly the peanut butter without all of the chocolate, which was of a lighter variety than I expected after the dark, richness of the cherry cups.
  • And last, frozen: okay, I haven't tried the frozen version yet (what do you take me for, some kind of glutton?); but I have nothing but high expectations.  If Gone Pie can get me to enjoy a chocolate/fruit CANDY combination, I can't imagine that there's any way something as wondrous as a peanut butter cup could be negatively affected.
So, there you have it: 3 Gone Pie selections, 3 rave reviews.  I look forward to trying just about everything else in the Gone Pie arsenal and reporting back: 'tis my duty.

Oh, and what is better: friends or peanut butter cups?  Friends who bake peanut butter cups!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Gone Pie Cherry Almond Chocolate Cups

It's no secret that I eschew fruit as dessert, so when I was gifted a Gone Pie Cherry Almond Chocolate Cup I suspect it was with a bit of a snicker. Certainly all in good fun, but that didn't prevent the pressure from building.

After having been so ultra impressed by Gone Pie's coconut brownie, I knew that I owed it to myself to taste the Cherry Almond Chocolate Cup; but doing so required significant mental preparation.  There it sat, mocking me from the counter in a way you'd never expect from something so seemingly innocuous.  I was so intimidated that I didn't even dare to photograph it "intact".  At first I ignored it, then I tentatively cast sidelong glances in it's direction.  I pondered.  After a while I approached, inspected, and considered.  Finally I couldn't resist; it is chocolate after all.

So, I cut it into quarters in order to share with the esteemed tasting panel: 1 vegan (me), 1 vegetarian, 1 token omni; the fate of the extra piece to be decided upon after the preliminary tasting.  I should note that no other member of the panel acknowledges the general misnomer of fruit desserts.  In fact, the vegetarian seeks out any and all chocolate/berry combinations and the omni obsesses over Lula's banana splits (Fresh fruit on ice cream? Gag.).  Unlike me, they were not approaching this tasting with trepidation.

Unsurprisingly, the vegetarian went gaga.  Dark chocolate, cherries, almonds, and pine nuts; had a cannoli somehow been incorporated it would have hit upon all of her favorite things.  And, in a rare display of both cooperation and excitement, the usually un-opinionated omni proclaimed it "even better than the brownie".  And then it was my turn.

Let me start by saying this: I am in no way, shape, or form condoning the unnatural union of fruit and dessert.  HOWEVER, this cup was the jam (no pun intended).  I was mortified by very surprised at how much I enjoyed the melange of contrasting tastes and textures; every element* added a layer of flavor intrigue I never would have expected.  So much so that no sooner had I enjoyed my share did I take it upon myself to commandeer the remaining quarter for myself, only remembering at the last minute to be mannerly and share with the vegetarian.  (Yes, the omni had voiced his very positive opinion as well, but he's still an omni and thereby forfeits any claim to bonus goodies on that merit alone.) 

My justification explanation words of wisdom:
It would seem that the Cherry Almond Chocolate Cup should not, under any circumstances, be considered a dessert consisting of fruit and chocolate.  Blech.  Instead, it should be noted that it is, in fact, CANDY.  That's right, candy.  And candy is not dessert because you can eat candy any time.  Yes, the Cherry Almond Chocolate Cup is, in fact, a wondrous, gigantoid, extra-ordinary, finely crafted, deluxe candy.  Go get you some!

*Gone Pie utilizes the finest [candy] ingredients: vegan bittersweet chocolate, organic almond butter, organic cherries, dates, agar agar, organic agave nectar, almonds, pine nuts, organic coconut oil

Stay tuned for more Gone Pie from A Soy Bean!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Decadent Gone Pie Coconut Brownies

Truth be told: unless they are covered in ice cream, I have never been particularly fond of brownies.  If faced with a dessert buffet I would choose cookies, donuts, cakes, and pastries over brownies any day.  But it would seem this has been because I have not met the right brownie.  Until now.  Behold the Gone Pie coconut brownie:

I have recently had the good fortune of befriending the talented, ethical vegan baker behind the genius of Gone Pie.  Along with her innate talent for carefully sourcing superb ingredients with which to create her goodies, I can attest that she is also incredibly generous: having gifted me a number of her treats to sample in a most humble and thoroughly thoughtful gesture.  I admit that while I have been eyeing Gone Pie offerings for some time now, besides my traditional brownie sundaes from Lula's, I had yet to experience any of the other goodies first hand- in a manner condusive to focusing on the baked good (as opposed to enjoying it as part of the monster sundae assembled atop).  It seems, however, that the NYC population is way ahead of me in their appreciation of the goods; establishments carrying Gone Pie do not stay stocked for long!

Needless to say, I anxiously dug in to the booty with my carefully selected panel of esteemed tasters.  Including myself: 1 vegan, 1 vegetarian, and 1 dreaded omni.

The scent tantallizing and the untouched pan a sight to behold, the coconut brownie beckoned to us all.  As for the taste, in short: RIDICULOUS.  Neither the chocolate or the coconut competes for attention; they simply coexist in a magnificent way.  As you enjoy every aspect of the brownie's center, edges, and topping, you are struck by the overall quality, which is impeccable and unmistakable.  I am the farthest thing from a foodie or a food snob, but one bite told me that this brownie was not your typical cocoa and extract concoction- far from it.  Containing two kinds of chocolate and a combination of coconut oil, coconut flour, coconut milk and toasted coconut shavings (among other things, of course), the result is astounding.  As a lover of sweets I've never understood how some indulgences are described as being sufficiently satisfying with only a finite portion; now I do. 

The vegetarian's response to the brownie tasting opportunity as a whole can only be described as gleeful.  As soon as she took her first bite she reiterated her typical Lula's comment, "I love these brownies" repeatedly.  The omni, well, he pretty much just scarfed it down.

As if the brownies themselves weren't enough, brownies from Gone Pie come equipped with a bonus: "rich, dark frosting".  To be honest, I'm finding it hard to fully articulate my reaction to the "frosting".  For starters, surely there is a more appropriate word in the english language to describe it's decadence.  I do not like frosting; it's stiff, unnatural, and sometimes even grainy.  I do not like chocolate syrup; more often than not it tastes like a chemical contrivance.  As for sauce, it can taste burnt and/or fake.  But this, this "rich, dark frosting" Gone Pie concoction is some kind of inimitable, decadent chocolate delight!  I tasted it and fell into a sort of trance from it's pure rich, chocolateyness.  When I emerged from the fog of deliciousness, I looked up at the vegetarian in inquiry.  My incredulous gaze was met with an immediate nod and a barely audible, "I know"; no further conversation was required.  This suited the omni just fine, as he wordlessly smeared his brownie with more delight.

Obviously, the Gone Pie coconut brownies were a smashing success amongst the entire panel.  It's hard to decide what was the favorite: the coconut brownie, the coconut brownie enhanced with chocolate delight, or the chocolate delight on it's own.  Yes, you read right; I ate it "plain" because it's that good.  I dare you to resist!  Ultimately I would have to recommend the coconut brownie with the chocolate delight on the side so that you could alternate "with" and "without" bites.  Yes, that should definitely be your game plan.

Oh, and did I mention that the brownies were gluten-free?  Yep, yep they were.  Gone Pie offers "regular" and gluten-free brownies, along with many other gluten-free options.  I am not gluten intolerant myself, so I had no idea these folks had it so good!

If you haven't done so already, click over and order yourself some brownie goodness from Gone Pie.  While I unequivocally recommend the coconut, they come in other flavors as well: traditional, pumpkin (!) and walnut.  Additionally, they are happy to work with you on special orders/requests.  Whatever your preference, you won't be dissappointed.  And, if you truly can't contain yourself, indulge in a brownie sundae if you must.

Stay tuned for more from Gone Pie on A Soy Bean.

5/30/10 note: At the time of the original post, two small squares of brownie were frozen by decree of VM in a professional effort to establish the durability of the GP brownie; they were thawed in the refrigerator overnight and tasted today.  One was enjoyed at room temperature: it was agreed that while the fresh crispiness of the edges was sacrificed, the gain was a considerable increase in fudgyness.  The second was heated in the toaster oven: resulting in an almost inexplicable decadence of warm fudginess.  Highly recommend.  It would seem that Gone Pie brownies freeze extraordinarily, with the result simply another dimension of deliciousness.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Pasta Fagioli Casserole with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Greens

A long time ago I was given a recipe for a delicious, nutrient-packed noodle casserole that contained sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, and cannellini beans.  Finding myself with most of the ingredients on hand (or similar subsititutions), I decided that I would make it again.  Unfortunately I couldn't find the recipe.  This is my improvisation:

Pasta Fagioli Casserole with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Greens
serves 6
prep time: 1/2 hour, cook time: 1/2 hour

3 cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
8oz sun-dried tomatoes, quartered and rehydrated
handful of fresh basil leaves
1-2 cups water
3/4 cup olive oil, divided
4 cloves minced garlic, divided
juice of two lemons, divided
1-2 bunches fresh kale, de-stemmed and chopped
40 oz. plain tomato sauce
red pepper flakes
1lb ziti (or pasta of your choice)
olive oil for cooking

  • Puree cannellini beans, sun-dried tomatoes, and basil with 1 cup of water, 1/2 cup olive oil, juice of 1 lemon, and 3 cloves of garlic; salt and pepper to taste.  It should have the consistency of thick hummus; add water if you find that it is pasty, keeping in mind that the tomato sauce will thin it as well.
  • Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in frying pan.  Add 1 clove garlic and lightly saute kale until shiny and bright green: sprinkle juice of 1 lemon over leaves while cooking.  Set aside. 
  • In large pot, heat hummus mixture with tomato sauce: seasoning to taste (resist the urge to over-season; the taste is in the mixture).  It should look similar to penne vodka sauce, but more orange than pink.
  • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. 
  • Boil pasta al dente (I don't like it that way either, but there is more baking to come), then toss cooked pasta with your sauce, and then your greens.  Mix gently, but well.  You want each noodle fully saturated, but you don't want to break the pasta.
  • Lightly oil a 9X13 baking pan, fill with mixture, cover with tin foil, and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.  Serve immediately.
I'm not sure if the original recipe mentioned the inexplicable cheesiness, but it really does taste cheesy.  It is a nice hearty, healthy dish, and doubles as a great way to get more kale into my greens-hating dad, who- for some reason- has an affinity for the curly veg. 

Note: the top picture is light on sauce, bottom: heavy.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Vegan (Chocolate) Baklava

I had some phyllo dough left over and I wasn't really certain if it would survive, uncooked, as a leftover ingredient.  So, I quickly made the best use of it that I could think of considering the time crunch: I made baklava!

I loosely based the concoction on Christine Waltermyer's recipe. By "loosely based", I mean that I essentially used it as a guideline. By "guideline", I mean that I thought about it fondly as I:

  • Made a random mixture of brown rice & maple syrup.
  • Loaded it up with chopped walnuts, almonds, and gads of chocolate chips.
  • Haphazardly layered the whole concoction between phyllo sheets.
  • Hoped for the best (how can you go wrong with chocolate, nuts, & phyllo?)
Don't judge me: my phyllo was drying out; it was a race against time.

My inability to follow directions poor planning and execution is in no way a reflection on the original recipe, though, which I happen to know turns out flawless (when baked by Christine, not by me).  

As for my results, it is possible that I may have over-chipped, since it was pretty oozy when I took it out of the, and then, when cooled, turned out pretty much like a solid bar of chocolate with flecks of nuts & phyllo speckled throughout. 

And what's wrong with that?  Nothing.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Vegan Whoopie Pies

As I tend to do in various places around the city, I stuck my head into Viva the other day to see what Vegan Treats delicacies they had to offer.  I was excited to find that they had been stocked with pumpkin whoopie pies, which I've never tasted from VT.  I tried to resist the traditional whoopie pie that I've enjoyed many times in the past...but I couldn't.  In my ongoing attempt to try everything that Vegan Treats has to offer, it's still hard to ignore my favorites.

The pumpkin whoopie pie was as fresh and yummy as I expected, but I was disappointed that the creme was standard issue even though the cake was pumkin spiced.  The first pumpkin whoopie pie (and the second, third, etc.) I ever tried was at Back to Eden Bakery in Portland, Oregon and the creme was just as, if not moreso, pumpkin spiced than the cake (no, they don't ship).  The Vegan Treats version was delicious in it's own rite, just not nearly as pumpkin-y as I was expecting.

Next up was the delightful traditional whoopie pie: chocolate cake filled with vanilla cream.  This is what I eat to remind me of devil dogs, except for that these are super-moist, much more delicious, and cruelty-free: reminiscent of devil dogs, but far superior!  So, my recommendation is to go for the Vegan Treats' traditional whoopie pie.  You will not be disappointed; it is exquisite!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Leftover Matzoh = Mom's Vegan Matzoh Brei

With her uncanny ability to veganize just about anything (still waiting for a Whatchamacallit! and a yodel), this is my vegetarian Mom's veganized matzoh brei*.

Mom's Matzoh Brei (serves 4)
prep time: ten minutes, cook time: ten minutes

1 block firm tofu: rinsed, drained, cubed or crumbled (not pressed)
1 cup water (plus more for soaking matzohs)
3/4 cup maple syrup, divided
2 tbsp cinnamon
2 tbsp cinnamon sugar (more for sprinkling)
8 matzohs
1 tbsp butter/margarine
grape jelly

  • Puree tofu with water, 1/2 cup maple syrup, cinnamon and cinnamon sugar.  Consistency should resemble thin pancake batter; pour into a bowl.
  • Break eight matzohs into shallow bowl of room temperature water to soak for a few minutes.  Drain in a colander, pressing to remove the bulk of the water. 
  • Add matzohs to mixture and combine.
  • Melt butter in large frying pan on low to medim heat and pour in mixture.  While the bottom is browning, generously sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top.  Once bottom is brown, use spatula to turn in sections.  Neatness doesn't count; you will wind up with ten sections of varying size. 
  • After that side has cooked a bit, drizzle 1/4 cup maple syrup on top of brei.  It will seep between the sections and sizzle for a bit; that's good. 
  • Cook until as dry or soft as you like your eggs (runny isn't really an option for brei).  Serve sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and accompanied by jelly (I used blueberry, but grape is standard).
Repeat until your free five pound box of matzoh is no longer taking up space in the pantry.

*For those of you who don't know, matzoh brei is a dish served in Jewish households primarily after Passover when there is an abundance of matzoh in the house and the charoseth** is long gone. The "original" version is kind of like a matzoh-filled omelette, but since it's sweet it is usually compared to french toast. No matter what, it was surely invented by someone overloaded with matzoh and running out of ideas.

**Charoseth is a mixture served with matzoh on Passover that usually consists of apples, walnuts, wine, and cinnamon.  It is delicious and always causes people to wonder aloud why it's only enjoyed at the holiday since the ingredients can be found all year round.  Yet, inevitably another charoseth-free year passes and the same remark is repeated.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

More Little Lad's Cookie Flavors

I was recently gifted major Little Lad's booty by my Dad, who thankfully goes to the dentist a block away (score!).  He picked up some popcorn, which I'll get to in a later post, and a couple of flavors of their toaster oven cookies.  Having previously tried the delicious blueberry flavor, I was anxious to try more.

I'm not usually a fan of oatmeal (it's breakfast, not dessert!), but the Oatmeal Raisin was very nice and not too oatmeal-y.  Plus, it was filled with plump raisins that only improved with toasting, as raisins will do.

The Pumpkin Raisin was very similar in that there wasn't an overwhelming taste of pumpkin, but plenty of raisins.

Finally, the oddly named Pumpkin Variety was the crowd favorite, as it contained not only raisins, but walnuts and carob chips.

Don't pick up any of these cookies expecting to stuff them in your face and be blown away by their sweetness; that's not what they're about.  Instead, do yourself a favor and warm them in the toaster as suggested; you'll be glad you did.  Enjoy it not as a cookie, but more as a freshly baked muffin top!  While remaining soft on the inside, the edges will get nice and crispy and you will be able to savor the healthy cookie alternative and wonder why there aren't more places like Little Lad's.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Can't Get Enough of Lula's

How can you not love Lula's? Adorable shop, great people, incredible goodies. I could post about them all the livelong day, but eventually it would just read, "Yum. yum. YUM. yummmmmmmmmm" So, I will instead simply regal you with yet another set of pics of Lula's fine creations:

This gorgeous sundae is mine; you're looking at: chocolate, cookies & cream, mint chip, and maple & waffles ice cream flavors covered in hot fudge, sprinkled with ginger cream cookies, topped with coconut whipped cream, dusted with rainbow sprinkles, and set off by a cherry.  No, I'm not messing around.  Lula's get's extra credit for always remembering to give me a "catch" plate so that I don't lose any of my precious toppings as I scarf my sundae, crumbs flying everywhere.

My noshing companion is addicted to the brownie sundaes at Lula's and never, ever deviates.  Please excuse the sub-par photo and know that it does not in any way reflect the quaility of the deliciousness.  What you see is a precisely warmed Gone Pie brownie nestled underneath orange cream and mint chip ice cream, covered in hot peanut caramel sauce, Sweet & Sara mini-marshmallows, enhanced by coconut whipped cream and a cherry. 

If you haven't been there yet, what are you waiting for?  I don't care if you live in New York, across the country, or across the world; this place is inimitable in every way.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Quinoa Cookies

While dashing through Whole Foods on my lunch hour on a fruitless search for pre-packaged Daiya, I happened passed a display of samples for Andean Cookies: made with quinoa.  Quinoa?  In cookies?  I grabbed a few as I made my way to customer service to inquire- yet again- as to when they expect the Daiya.  Same drill: I have to explain what it is whilst they look at me quizzically, then spell in a million times and wait whilst they call people from "dairy", pre-packaged goods, etc., only to ultimately be told that Daiya doesn't come pre-packaged.  I suppose they're right in the if-we-don't-carry-it,-it-doesn't-exist way of thinking.  Argh.  At least my annoyance was slightly hedged by the unexpected cookie booty.

I went back to my office and googled Andean; it seems they offer three types of quinoa pasta and five flavors of quinoa cookies.  I had snagged chocolate chip (score!) and cocoa orange (skeptical), but the other varieties available are orange essence (too fruity for me), raisins & spice (crumbled on pumpkin pie?), and coconut (yum!). 

Although the website lists ingredients, there was no mention of the word vegan (although gluten-free is prominently displayed) that I could find.  I emailed the company and received a response from the owner practically immediately, confirming that all of the products are vegan.  A+ for customer service, A+ for being vegan, C- for not clearly and proudly proclaiming vegan status.  Say it proud, people:  **update: A+ for printing "vegan" on the packaging.  And an F for me for not noticing; thanks to Anonymous for pointing out my error!

I tried the cocoa orange first, expecting not to like the fruitiness.  Surprisingly, the citrus flavor was so subtle that it merely added a pleasant layer to the overall chocolatey taste of the cookie, instead of a gag-worthy fruit/chocolate combo.  The taste and the texture reminded me of those little chocolate cookies that came in kid-sized boxes with a string handle in the 70's; you know the one, the front of the box had a picture of a chocolate cookie with a drawing of a cat-face on it?  ** update: Nabisco Chocolate Snaps from the eighties!  Anyhoo, the cocoa orange was suprisingly yummy.

Next up was the chocolate chip.  I am a big fan of chocolate chip cookies, yet I rarely find one that I like.  This cookie was good!  Not only was it full of plenty of chips, but the little quinoas were like tiny crispies; much better than I could have imagined and definitely my favorite of the two tasty varieties.  I think that this is what is referred to in the ingredients as "quinoa pop grains".  Pop, crunch, crispy: whatever; they added a delicious crunch to the otherwise sufficiently yummy cookie.

The texture of both of these cookies was crunchy, but not dry; I wouldn't have guessed they were gluten-free.  Overall this was a nice find and I wanted to give the company a little shout-out on my tiny blog.  Good looking out for the vegans!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Finally, Soy & Sake

I never ate sushi as a non-vegan, so my sushi experience is relegated mostly to corny cucumber/carrot/avocado rolls, or some variation thereof.  Sure, some swanky sushi bars might offer a special veg roll, but there's always the possibility of cross contamination, the inadvertant sprinkle of bonito, or lifting up your avocado dragon wrap and finding heinous orange roe lurking beneath (it's happened).

Enter the beauty of Soy & Sake.  As a big fan of Red Bamboo and the now defunct Red Bamboo Brooklyn, I really didn't doubt that Soy & Sake, with the same owner, would deliver.  Instead, it blew me away. 

The menu is huge.  There are plenty of options that can be found at Red Bamboo, a lengthy sushi menu, and a zillion other offerings ranging from Chinese and Japanese, to Thai, Indian, American, etc.  It's hard to decide where to start, so we agreed to a few ground rules:

  • forego anything we can order at Red Bamboo
  • make selections that would generally be found in an Asian restaurant
  • concentrate on the sushi for our entrees 
We each chose a drink from the bar menu and neither of us were disappointed.  My companion went with the Bahama Mama and I chose one of my favorites, the Lychee martini.  Both were perfect: not too sweet, and neither too weak or strong.

The appetizers in and of themselves were a feast.  The chicken tempura came with a generous amount of chicken and a nice assortment of veggies.  Even my analog-hating vegetarian companion enjoyed the chicken along with her vegetables; it was that good.  The tempura batter was non-greasy and pretty authentic.  Ok, I cheated and ordered the Red Bamboo fried shrimp, but I hadn't had them in a while so I was glad to confirm that they were just as delicious as ever with either cocktail or tartar sauce.  Again, the analog-hater herself enjoyed all of the crispy ends!  Finally, the fried vegetable gyoza was a more than respectable entry into the city's gyoza wars (I made them up; it just seems that my companion is forever ordering dumplings!).

Onto the sushi!  The first roll we tried was the simple, yet unique, peanut avocado roll.  I love both, so it sounded win-win, but we were also aware that the combo could go terribly, horribly wrong.  It so did not; it was exquisite!  This is so easy, yet so delicious; why haven't I ever seen this anywhere before?

Next up was the mixed vegetable tempura roll.  Absolutely stuffed with hunks of sweet potato, broccoli, and asparagus tempura: the pieces of this roll were huge and incredible.  Nothing like the dinky, non-vegan, veggie tempura rolls I've seen served elsewhere; this was packed with high quality ingredients instead of just eggy batter and some veggie crumbs.  The decorative condiments only added to the literal explosion of tastes; I think it was possibly the dumpling dipping sauce and sriracha mayo: delish.

The veggie lover's roll sounds ubiquitous, but it was astounding.  The special roll was filled with cucumber, avocado and asparagus, then topped with scrumptiously marinated mushrooms and some kind of crunchy flakes that resembled parmesan but tasted more like flavorful rice noodle shreds. 

Soy and Sake does offer all kinds of tuna, salmon, scallop, crab, eel, etc. rolls, but we decided to stick with the veggie options on this, our inaugural visit.  We could not have been more impressed with every choice.  Each veggie role was a unique combination enhanced by perfect accoutrements.

Finally, for dessert we shared the Hawaii roll.  We actually ordered it as part of our meal but immediately realized it would be better enjoyed as a finale and saved it till last.  The roll was filled with the surprisingly delicious combination of seemingly oddly paired, but similarly textured banana and avocado, and set off by crunchy Korean pear.  Topped with mango slices and mango sauce, this roll was an unexpected delight and I would definitely recommend it as dessert (even though their dessert options include Vegan Treats and fried ice cream (!) made with Kleins).

In conclusion, the food was entirely fresh and exquisite; the service was friendly, unobtrusive, and well-timed; the prices more than fair; and the restaurant beautiful (a far cry from the short-lived Dragonfly): light and welcoming.  The fish tank is certainly an attractive centerpiece, but I'm at odds with a respectful vegetarian/vegan establishment choosing to use an aquarium as a decorative element.  Here you are enjoying a cruelty-free meal whilst living beings spend their lives relegated to a relatively miniscule, man-made habitat solely for aesthetic purposes.

That aside, you will not be disappointed with anything you order at Soy & Sake.  In fact, you will find it difficult to concentrate on your own tasty selections as equally delicious options go by your table, intended for other diners.  Consider this display the coming attractions for what you might order on your next visit, which will surely be soon.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Crazy Croquettes (Teese Challenge: Cheddar)

For my second submission to the Teese Challenge, I had a tube of cheddar to utilize.  I decided to make Teese-filled croquettes, and enlisted the help of my now-vegetarian-Mom, who served me decidedly non-vegan croquettes as a kid.  In my mind, not only would these croquettes improve upon her version by being cruelty-free (stuffed with crushed chick-peas instead of tuna), but they would be made only better with the addition of melty cheese at the center.

Crazy Croquettes (yields 36 11/2" X 2 1/2" croquettes)
prep time: 1/2 hour, cook time: 1/2 hour

1 tube cheddar style Teese, cut into "sticks"
1 lb. cooked, peeled potatoes
1 cup soy milk
1 can chick peas, rinsed and crushed with a fork
1 medium onion, chopped small
4 cups breadcrumbs, divided
salt, pepper, cayenne, wasabi powder to taste
oil for frying (we used Canola)

  1. Mash potatoes in large bowl using potato masher.  Add soy milk as needed, but maintain a somewhat dry consistency.
  2. Add in chick peas, onions, 1 cup breadcrumbs, and season to taste.  You can add more breadcrumbs if you find that your mixture is too wet.
  3. Make a palm-sized patty of the potato mixture in your hand, lay a piece of cheese in the center, and then squeeze so that you have completely wrapped the cheese in the potato mixture (you'll probably have to add a little more mixture).  Pack tightly and set aside, repeat.
  4. Once all croquettes have been assembled, tumble them in bread crumbs.
  5. Heat oil in frying pan on very high heat.  Cook croquettes a couple at a time, making sure to turn constantly (beware of hot oil spatter) until browned.  Set aside to drain.

You may choose to serve them at this point,
but we were disappointed to find that the Teese center had not melted even slightly.

Heating them further in the oven and microwave 
sufficiently solved that problem, but only if the croquettes were halved. 

Heated whole, the cheese melted but the previously intact croquettes fell apart.  The consensus, however, was that we much preferred messy croquettes with melted cheese than beautiful croquettes containing a stick of unmelted cheese. You decide*.

Overall it was a bit of a bust considering the amount of time it took to assemble the croquettes, only to have to heat them to bursting in order for the cheese to melt. Next time I think I'll just invent some kind of one corningware casserole of the same ingredients mixed up and baked, thus saving the time that was, in this case, for naught.

This picture was taken victoriously before the realization that the cheese had not melted.
serving suggestion: horseradish

* Frying them longer on lower heat caused them to disintegrate into the oil.  Baking them at high heat produced edible messy/melty versions, but they were missing the browning/crispiness of the frying.