Saturday, April 26, 2014

Spring Holidays: Veganizing Easter and Passover

Much like Christmas and Hanukkah, Easter and Passover can be very near or relatively further apart- depending on the Jewish Calendar.


As a mixed tradition family, the time gap between the two usually dictates exactly how much cooking VM is willing to do in a short span of time.  This year, even though the holidays were in the same week, I lucked out because VM was up to the task of cooking for both.

As a non-religious family, we agreed years ago that it was the tradition of the seder we enjoyed, but- for us, it was more important for it to be cruelty-free rather than to abide with the food restrictions that Passover dictates (which Andrea explains here much better than I ever could).  So, our seder is decidedly NOT Kosher for Passover- by any stretch of the imagination.  Instead, it's a celebration of recipes that my Catholic-raised mom learned from my dad's Jewish mother...and veganized over time.

Charoseth: walnuts, apples, cinnamon and Manischewitz served with matzoh.

More matzoh:

Matzoh ball soup: in a veggie broth with carrots, etc.

Sweet noodle keugel (with Brussel sprouts and a sweet potato making an appearance in the background).

The whole shebang:

Roasted potatoes and onions with beet horseradish.

With no competition, I managed to find the afikomen.  I was told that it was the one I didn't find last year.  After all of these years, still $5.

For dessert, let's start with the bad.  Lilly's chocolate rugelah with an expiration date of 5/9/14.  Except for that it was covering an expiration date of 4/9/14.  Union Square Whole Foods fail.  I wrote to them and they haven't responded.

Moving Sweet and Sara!

mocha almond chip and cinnamon hazelnut:

Aaaaand, smores!

A video on how to take your smore from now to wow:

And then, just a few days later: Easter.
Early on Easter morning and I was already taking my life in my hands making 89 wear the bunny suit again.

My parents were coming over for the traditional (read: un-traditional) Easter brunch: matzoh brei.

They arrived while I was mid-preparation, so I let my mom take over.

Still smoking:

Plated with grape jelly (I've decided I like it better with maple syrup):

Brunch is served!

In lieu of my own basket (which is now 89's), a VM-decorated box from Vegan Treats!

89 the glom stalking my goods.

Check it out!!!

Sorry, but dogs still can't eat chocolate, 89.

This tiny little box contained two adorable, dark chocolate, cotton-tailed (not real) bunnies filled with caramel (real).

Also: twin caramel cookie bars, twin peanut butter cookie bars, foil-wrapped eggs filled with as-yet-uneaten so undetermined goodness, a  dark chocolate rabbit pop, and my fave: nonpareils.

In order to avert her attention from my goodies, it was time for 89's basket.

Nothing immediately impressed her,

so she grabbed the present from my parents and started to eat the bag.

Once I showed her the toy inside, she returned to the basket to steal two cookies.  It would have been more, but I took them away after that.

Later that day we headed over to their house for more spectacular eats.

For starters: artichokes!

For everyone!

Eggplant rollatini stacks:

Served with spaghetti:

While we were eating, 89 disappeared.  She'd gone to find the afikomen I'd neglected to search for on Tuesday night.  It didn't hurt her chances that two treats were tucked in with the matzoh.

Then, more dessert.  First up: Sweet & Sara veeps: vegan marshmallow peeps:

This is when I got a little delirious with the treats and the holiday napkins.
Vegan Treats' chocolate-covered cannoli:

And chocolate chip cheesecake on-a-stick:

One final photo op!

The end.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Oh She Glows Cookbook

It would seem that I am one of the few blog-reading vegans who is not intimately familiar with the Oh She Glows blog, so when I was contacted to review the new, companion cookbook- for which I'd been hearing rave reviews, I jumped at the chance.


Here it is moments after it arrived, already peppered with page markers.

I started with the crispy almond butter chocolate chip cookies because, well, hello; I'm me.  The recipe called for making your own almond and oat flour.  At first I thought that was crazy; you can just buy those things.  But when I realized how easy it was I felt pretty accomplished and found myself wondering why you'd buy something you could easily make at home.  I liked where this was going.

Here's the dough, which came together easily: exactly as outlined.

Here's the kitchen supervisor, 89.

She was openly judging me for using a scoop for the cookies instead of my hands and she was right. 

I rounded the next batch in my palms and they came out much better.

This is as close as she got.

You can get a bit closer.  I've never made a gluten-free cookie before; the texture of this one was definitely different: more crumbly than a typical cookie, yet still somehow moist.  My cookies looked and tasted a lot less crisp than those pictured in the book to accompany the recipe, but I didn't mind the soft texture.  The chips really delightfully punctuated the almond butter and flour.

They were packed up right away and brought to a large potluck where they were well appreciated- particularly by the gluten-free folks.

Since even I know that we can't survive on sweets alone (though I may try), I randomly decided to try the quick and easy chana masala next.  I do have a long history with chana masala: growing up, my best friend's mother used to make it for me by the quart.  Those days are long gone, yet I've never so much as attempted to make it myself...until now.

The recipe is written casually- as though it is from a friend.  It calls for a yellow onion: not a small, medium, or large yellow onion-  just a yellow onion.  At one point it instructs to "cook for a few minutes or so" (emphasis mine); there is no pretense or unnecessary pomp and circumstance.

It was superbly simple to bring together and it was done in no time. It had a very pleasant flavor on its own, but I couldn't help but to think that the flavors hadn't melded quite as well as I had hoped; even after sitting overnight it remained very much a chickpea and tomato dish as opposed to the chana masala I've grown accustomed to as a fan of Indian cuisine.

This was never more evident than alongside my aloo ghobi and bhindi masala takeout, where it stood out as an extremely mild (in both flavor and spice) version of the staple dish. 

Perhaps this recipe was not intended to be an authentic replica; I probably would have enjoyed it much more had I not expected it to be.  Maybe it would have been preferable for there to have been an Oh She Glows twist that would have better suited the dish to the audience and the tone of the book. 

The publisher has allowed me to share the recipe at the end of this post; try it for yourself to see what you think.

I'm not one for reading forewords; ever since I dodged a bullet by skipping the one in Lolita that would have ruined the whole book by basically spelling out the ending, I'm spoiler-shy.  Not sure how the same could possibly happen with a cookbook, but you never know.  However, after making these couple of recipes I decided it would be safe to peruse the book's introduction; I'm glad I did.  The author is a relatively new vegan (5 years), whose blog sparked something both in herself and her audience that has quickly allowed it to expand as far as this cookbook.  I offer her a heartfelt congratulations on her success and an especially respectful tip-of-the hat for acknowledging the animal rights component of veganism.

I have neither the capacity or inclination (or invitation!) to parlay my own blog into a book anytime soon, but I think Angela Liddon has quite a lot to share- particularly with new vegans.  This old vegan looks forward to exploring it a bit more as well.

quick & easy chana masala

1 tablespoon (15 mL) coconut oil or olive oil
1 1⁄2 teaspoons (7 mL) cumin seeds
1 yellow onion, diced
1 tablespoon (15 mL) minced fresh garlic
1 tablespoon (15 mL) minced peeled fresh ginger
1 green serrano chile pepper, seeded, if preferred, and minced
1 1⁄2 teaspoons (7 mL) garam masala
1 1⁄2 teaspoons (7 mL) ground coriander
1⁄2 teaspoon (2 mL) ground turmeric
3⁄4 teaspoon (4 mL) fine-grain sea salt, plus more as needed
1⁄4 teaspoon (1 mL) cayenne pepper (optional)
1 (28-ounce/793-g) can whole peeled or diced tomatoes, with their juices
1 (28-ounce/793-g) can chickpeas, or 3 cups (750 mL) cooked chickpeas (see page 290), drained and rinsed
1 cup (250 mL) dry/uncooked basmati rice, for serving (see page 302 for cooking  instructions)
Fresh lemon juice, for serving
Fresh cilantro, chopped, for serving

I’m a huge fan of chana masala, a spicy Indian chickpea dish, but I always thought that it would be too time-consuming to make at home due to the long list of spices the recipe requires. Once I purchased a few spices to add to my collection, there was no excuse not to make this easy, budget-friendly dish, and as it turns out, throwing them into a skillet really isn’t very time-consuming after all! You’ll be wondering why you didn’t make it sooner. To streamline this recipe, be sure to prep all the ingredients before starting; the cooking process for this dish moves quickly and it helps to have everything ready to go.

Serves 4
PREP TIME: 15 to 20 minutes
COOK TIME: 20 minutes
gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free, sugar-free, grain-free option

1.    In a large wok or saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. When a drop of water sizzles upon hitting the pan, reduce the heat to medium-low and add the cumin seeds. Stir and toast the seeds for a minute or two until golden and fragrant, watching carefully to avoid burning.

2.    Raise the heat to medium and stir in the onion, garlic, ginger, and serrano. Cook for a few minutes or so, then stir in the garam masala, coriander, turmeric, salt, and cayenne (if using), and cook for 2 minutes more.

3.    Add the whole peeled tomatoes and their juices and break them apart with a wooden spoon (skip if using diced tomatoes). You can leave some chunks of tomato for texture.

4.    Raise the heat to medium-high and add the chickpeas. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes or longer to allow the flavors to develop.
5.    Serve over cooked basmati rice, if desired, and garnish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and some chopped cilantro just before serving.

Tips: To thicken the tomato gravy, add a ladle of the curry into a mini processor and process until almost smooth. Stir this back into the curry to thicken.

For a grain-free option, serve the chana masala atop a baked potato.

Reprinted by arrangement with AVERY, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © GLO BAKERY CORPORATION, 2014.