Monday, November 25, 2013

Bunzzzzz: More Cinnamon Snail Recipe Testing

Did you think I was done recipe testing for the Cinnamon Snail  I was not!  The upcoming Cinnamon Snail cookbook will also include recipes for assorted Baozi buns, the likes of which my friends and I have referred to as bunzzzz ever since a particularly humorous incident at Vegetarian Dim Sum House a few years ago.  But, I digress.

You might not be surprised to learn that I'd never made buns before; I was both excited and nervous to give it a try.  As someone who never ceases to amaze herself when she makes a loaf of bread, I found this to be an interesting and surprisingly similar process.  Well, to a point.



Once you've got your bunzzzzz, there's no shortage of what you can do with them:

Sesame Bean Paste Bao Buns with pea shoots, minced scallions, and toasted black sesame seeds.  I know you might be thinking, "bean paste?" but these were really good!

Oyster Mushroom Bao Buns with Kimchi and sriracha mayo.  I'm generally not a huge fan of oyster mushrooms, but the preparation and accoutrements gave these a really unique bite.

Peking Seitan Bao Buns with baby arugula, minced scallions, mint, microgreens, and wasabi mayonnaise.  These were my favorites; they reminded me of my fave buns from Franchia.

I hope this gives you even more of an idea of what a variety of delicious and interesting recipes and combinations to expect in the upcoming Cinnamon Snail cookbook.  Spoiler alert: there will also be donuts.

Somehow 89 missed out on trying a bun.  She did eat a pancake the next morning, so don't feel too bad for her.

More recipe testing posts in the works, so needless to say I'm very much looking forward to Thanksgivukkah when someone else will handle the cooking.

Friday, November 22, 2013

VEGAN LONDON: Bumblebee Natural Foods

Disclaimer: I promise I'll be finished blogging about London by the year mark!  There was nothing on our "must-see" (tourists!) or "must-eat" (vegans!) lists for nearby The Third Estate, but we spied Bumblebee Natural Foods as soon as we turned onto the street.  It was only a few doors down from our destination, so we figured we may as well stop in for a nosh.  It couldn't hurt!

There are actually three separate Bumblebees in the same vicinity: two one side of the street (but not connected): "the bakery" and "the veg shop," and one across the street: "the nut shop."  We spent most of our time in the bakery (duh): that's where you'll find "breads, cakes, pastries, cereals and flours, biscuits and baby foods, grains and breakfast cereals."  They also had a prepared food section: both hot foods and salads, as well as snacks.  Although it was of no use to us, this is also where they also had a frozen section.  And what they call "free from" products (i.e. gluten, soy, nuts, animal products).  The veg shop was mostly organic fresh fruits and vegetables, organic dairy (gag), household items, and herbs & spices.  And the nut shop was mostly bulk food, packaged items, and supplements (if I recall correctly).  Apparently they've expanded non-traditionally as they've grown.

So, yeah; Bumblebee is not vegan.  In some instances they were very vegan-friendly: see the vegan chocolate section here:

In some sections a little less-so: the hot and prepared sections weren't clearly marked and they didn't exactly relish our inquiries.

As for the actual baked goods: nothing was marked and after asking separately about the ingredients in 5 items without anyone taking the initiative to just tell me what was vegan, I gave up.  Vegan-friendly doesn't necessarily imply actual friendliness to any degree.

Bottom line: I did manage to score this slice of cheeseless, roasted veggie pizza.  It was good, but not great.  It was barely lukewarm and the crust was, curiously, phyllo dough- which would have been a fine idea if it had been executed in such a way that it was actually crisp and not soggy.  The prepared food is all takeaway and, as there is no seating in or outside the shop, we ate our snacks standing on the sidewalk as the wind blew sesame seeds off my pizza and into my Third Estate bag.

Lest you think I bypassed the vegan chocolate section: dark chocolate covered marzipan came home with us.  The ratio of chocolate to marzipan was much too low for my taste, but it was better than the pizza.

Bumblebee obviously fills a niche in the area- otherwise they wouldn't have any justification for their continuous expansion.  Based on our experience, that niche isn't necessarily vegan and definitely isn't friendly.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Flawless (and simple) Baked Tofu

You may recall the splattery tofu incident of  MoFo '13.  All that is a distant memory now, as I've taken the advice of a pal and used this baked tofu recipe to great result.


A shout-out to my Tofu Xpress for being rad, per usual.

Don't forget to use the marinade lid for double duty!

After not too long:

PERFECT texture:

The cubes are delish; you can use them for dipping, in salads, to jazz up leftovers, whatever! 

They also reheat nicely and taste good cold or at room temperature.

Tofu gets a bad wrap.  Sure: it doesn't look ultra appealing out of the package, but have you seen non-vegan alternatives?  It's just a matter of opening your mind to new tastes and allowing yourself to be amazed.  

I've been told that it's surprising that I'm "so into" food since there's so much I can't eat.  Make no mistake, the things that vegans don't eat aren't food: they're animal parts and secretions.  And, for the record, most people on a Standard American Diet have a far less varied diet than your standard vegan.  

Finally, a correction: I CAN eat whatever I want.  I choose to adhere to a vegan diet and lifestyle that eschews animal exploitation.  No matter what anyone says, you can't claim to love animals while continuing to eat them (wear them, use them for entertainment, etc...).  MAKE THE CONNECTION.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Shakes on a Train: Parts 2, 3, and 4

I'm a big fan of butterfinger shakes Terri, so when they announced that their second location would be located in the financial district, I was a little disappointed; I'm rarely that far downtown (and it's all about ME!).  VM and I have been obsessed with the butterfinger shakes from their original location from the moment they opened, then expanded our shared affinity to include their chickpea tuna melt and other assorted goodies.


While I wished them a ton of luck, the new location wasn't going to increase my own personal Terri quotient any time soon, so I forgot about it...until it was discovered that my dad's dentist was within walking distance of the new Terri.  Shakes on a Train was born in April when he went for his half yearly cleaning.

Six months later, we all of us benefited again.

My massive chickpea "tuna" melt: chickpea salad, Daiya cheddar, tomato, red onions, Vegenaise. Wrapped: 

And unwrapped:


With potato salad.

About to feed my face.


Dessert time!  Here's 89 blocking my light.

I don't share my shakes!

She tried desperately to make a case for a taste of the banana bread.

And then the chocolate chip cookie.  I can't really blame her because these cookies are awesome; they taste like the giant bakery cookies I remember as a kid.

Gimme gimme gimme!

And then she tried to take a big bite.

not really; it was only a well-timed yawn

VM and I were extremely grateful for the special delivery, and then OD shared the good news that he needed a root canal three weeks later!


So, soon after we enjoyed a repeat performance:





Leftovers the next day for lunch (the sandwiches are massive!):

I've never even had a cavity, so I had no idea that after a root canal you have to revisit the dentist a week later.  You know what that means: he's coming for you again this Friday, Terri FiDi...


He's the guy with his own caddy!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Scenes From a Cinnamon Snail Recipe Testing Adventure

Sorry for the abbreviated posts of late (or perhaps a "you're welcome" is in order instead); it's been a busy few weeks- what with recipe testing for an exciting new cookbook, the implementation of a Facebook page for my blog, and simultaneously preparing for Halloween. Did I mention recipe testing for an exciting new cookbook?

What exciting new cookbook, you ask?  Why, the Cinnamon Snail, of course!  Yes, it's true.  It's not enough that the folks at the helm of the Snail dish out phenomenal food day in and day out; they're also hard at work creating a cookbook.  So, soon (I'll keep you posted) you will be able to make some of your favorites (and much, much more) within the confines of your own kitchen to amaze your friends and family.  Or, to consume in large quantities in the privacy of your own home- your call.

I was intending to have a 48-hour recipe-testing marathon, so I fortified myself with a healthy, convenient breakfast.

Then I buttered up my sous chef (with arugula) to endure a looooong cooking session.

And then I got started.
five-spice fried sunflower gomasio prep:

 Major props to the bullet for whipping up sauces like a champ.


89, moments after she heard the unmistakable sound of the last sheet of paper towel ripping off...

The first masterpiece I completed: the astonishing miso teriyaki seitan with grilled onion, arugula, wasabi mayonnaise, and five-spice fried sunflower gomasio on a toasted baguette.  Show of hands; who doesn't want this in their belly?

More bullet action in full view of cashews about to skinny-dip.

This is what passes for a bunch of kale some days (I know you feel my pain, JD).


In action:

And Snail-marinated!

Smoked chili roasted peanuts, I will eat all of you.

Breaktime: kettle korn and a G&T, extra lime:

Mason jar action: pickled Thai basil and onions.  And just like that I'm mesmerized by pickling.

You can never have enough onions.  How about some slow roasted smoked onions:

Or perhaps some chilies preparing to morph into grilled aioli?

Recipe testing is serious business; it takes heart and devotion- both of which are exemplified by the Snail through the impeccable, original creations they invent and serve to an ever-growing public.  I often find myself in a huge Snail line marveling at the fact that most of the customers are not vegan... not even vegetarian.  The thought of how many people they reach daily and how many more people will be reached by a cookbook- through interest; curiosity; or friends sharing recipes, is exhilirating and I'm happy to have the opportunity to play even a small part in helping them to further spread the vegan word.

That being said, the day before testing commenced found me hitting up 8 stores for a ton of food shopping in advance of about 40 recipes/recipes-within-recipes preparation.  I felt like I was embarking on an adventure!


After all the groceries made it inside, a quickly thrown together dinner was called for: it involved celery (more on that later) and, in my haste, I cut my finger while intending to cut the celery.  So, mid-recipe testing I learned that a double band-aid does not shield such a wound from the evils of citrus; so, the universe sent me some love as I was wincing whilst zesting and juicing countless limes (or maybe the universe was suggesting I carve a lime instead of a pumpkin?).

Unfortunately 89 can no longer be tricked into lime-licking for my entertainment.

"I am going to disembowel this tiny toy because you continue to ignore me."

If you think things were getting a little silly, you'd be right.  It was my coping mechanism for this VERY messy kitchen.

What better time to break out the booze (again)?  I've never had bourbon before.  Do yourself a favor: buy some, sit on your couch, and wait for The Cinnamon Snail cookbook to come out so you can make brown sugar bourbon glazed seitan with smoked slow roasted onions, arugula, and grilled ancho chili aioli on a grilled baguette.  You can thank me later.  With bourbon.

Words can not adequately describe the succulence of this sammie.

I know what you're thinking, "What about the famous Korean barbecue seitan?"


What about it? Ta da:

All wrapped up and ready for eating...

Or perhaps lemongrass 5-spice seitan with curried cashews, Szechuan chili sauce, and wasabi mayonnaise is your jam.  Just try not to eat all of the cashews before you finish preparing your sandwich; it will be worth the wait.  Ok, sneak a few.

For the record, after co-taste-testing all of these recipes, OD has been officially introduced to seitan worship.

While all these impossibly delicious seitan dishes have persuaded me otherwise, I generally prefer tempeh. 

just keep swimming...

I'm not yet sure when exactly the cookbook is expected available (or when the launch party is: holla at your girl!), but you should prepare in advance to have your socks knocked off with maple bbq smothered tempeh with beer batter fried pickles, roasted garlic cabbage slaw, marinated kale, & roasted habanero aioli.  Did you get all that?

Aaaand, end of recipe testing, day 1.

(Consecutive) recipe testing day 2 commenced with roasted tomatillo salsa verde and smoked chili coconut bacon in the works.

Also, fried sage leaves

If you've not had them before, you'll want them all the time once you're hooked on sage tempeh sausage sliders with olive tapenade, truffled cashew cheese, fried sage leaves, and lavender roasted shallots: another mind-bogglingly outrageous but totally amazing concoction.  I really wish I had a shot of those beautiful shallots roasting with the lavender, but it was getting late...

Look familiar?  A perennial favorite of mine: gochujang burger deluxe with pickled leeks & daikon, black sesame gomasio, kimchi, arugula, and sriracha mayo.

Howzabout a Thai BBQ tempeh sandwich with pickled Thai basil and onions, sriracha mayo, smoked chili roasted peanuts, and arugula on spelt bread?  Yet another of my perennial faves!

And, finally: blue corn hempseed crusted tempeh with smoked chili coconut bacon, roasted tomatillo salsa verde, beer simmered onions & garlic, chipotle mayo, and arugula on spelt bread.   You know, just a little something I threw together.

These recipes are no joke; they are descriptive and require your full attention.  They are also better than most things you've ever eaten, so well-worth the effort.

Once you see them come together- let alone taste them, you'll be reminded of how much more the Cinnamon Snail is than simply a food truck.  And while these recipes are only a small portion of the total goodness to come in the cookbook, they are wholly indicative of the innovative, global tastes that have taken the tri-state area by storm via the Snail.

I am not particularly skilled or courageous in the kitchen.  But with the Cinnamon Snail's ingenuity relayed in easy-to-follow directions, I amazed everyone- including myself.  You will too.  Rock on, Cinnamon Snail.