Thursday, February 28, 2013

Brunch on!

This is an early bird post for the March VegCookbook Club selection, Vegan Brunch, because I couldn't wait until tomorrow to start brunching! This beautiful, colorful cookbook by Isa Chandra Moskowitz is a hoot, filled with her usual humorous voice and 175 homestyle, comfort food recipes. It's like having a friend dish all her "hostess with the mostest" brunch secrets.

The recipes are divided into the following sections: The Savory, The Sweet, The Sides, The Bread Basket, The Toppings, and The Drinks. There are also glorious food porn photos that make you want to drop everything and get your brunch on, 24/7.

I made both of these brunch dishes for dinner but I'm looking forward to having some lazy weekend brunches in the near future. (Maybe even a brunch picnic, if Spring ever arrives.) This book has me breaking out the tofu blocks until then.  
Basic Scrambled Tofu with Roasted Portobellos
I'm not usually a tofu scramble fan. Often I find these breakfast scrambles to be dull and dry. However, this recipe was super tasty, as promised. I added onions, carrots, and cremini mushrooms to the scramble. Because it was nicely seasoned with cumin, thyme, turmeric, and garlic, I didn't need to drown my plate in condiments. In the future, I'd recommend doubling the recipe in order to make seconds or leftovers.
Scrambled tofu close-up
I topped the scramble with roasted portobellos, a side recipe. This easy and tasty mushroom preparation is also a keeper. It simply calls for cooking wine, soy sauce, garlic, oil, and balsamic.  I wonder if I could roast the mushrooms in a toaster oven rather than heating up the "big oven?"

Classic Broccoli Quiche
This quiche looked so pretty. However compared to the scramble, the tofu here tasted bland. This might be because I forget to add Dijon mustard to the tofu and cashew blend. (I served the mustard on the side with hot sauce and ketchup.) Also I didn't have any tarragon on hand but I added some dill as a substitute green herb. The cherry tomatoes were a nice decorative touch.  
Quiche cross section

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

#100 = Mexican hot chocolate pop

Isa Chandra Moskowitz and The Post Punk Kitchen recently released their PPK 100 for 2012. (The 2011 version of this now annual list is here.) These 100 items are a vegan celebration and would make an awesome bucket list. Once again, the list includes some crazy new food ideas (kale mojitos!), a few rediscovered classics (like composting and pickling), and mouth-watering culinary finds (someday, LA's Vegan Beer Fest, someday). This year the PPK gang left the final slot empty for the people. I'd like to suggest filling #100 with this swoon-worthy vegan treat available at DC's Pleasant Pops shop.
Originally a farmers' market stand and food truck operation, Pleasant Pops opened their Farmhouse Market and Cafe in September. Located at 1781 Florida Ave NW, the tiny Adams Morgan shop has a coffee bar vibe with many patrons permanently parked with their laptops. The cafĂ© has light offerings and to-go food items, including Soupergirl soups, Uncle Brutha's hot sauces, and other local favorites. It's a great shopping spot for slow food gifts and quick take-out items. I recommend taking the item below.
Vegan Mexican hot chocolate pop
Pleasant Pops specializes in paletas, traditional Mexican ice pops. They have diverse flavors listed on a chalkboard in helpful dairy and non-dairy columns. The vegan Mexican hot chocolate flavor naturally caught my eye. This pop is the bomb. The decadent popsicle is spicy, peppery, bitter, and sweet, just like Mexican hot chocolate should be. I enjoyed this ice cold pop in the dead of winter but I can't wait to revisit the pop shop come warmer weather. And try some of their fruity flavors. I do hope that this hot chocolate flavor is an all-season menu item.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Six Shades of Red Soup

This isn't a Fifty Shades of Grey joke. At least, I hope not. Instead, "Six Shades of Red" is another alluring soup from Color Me Vegan. I still haven't been able to get my hands on this red hot cookbook, the February VegCookbook Club selection. It would be cool if my library stocked as many copies of this title as they do for the E. L. James bestseller. (I may just have to skip ahead to the Club's March pick, which has just been announced.)
Lucikly, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau posted this crimson soup recipe on her website. I changed things up slightly, substituting sweet potatoes for the red potatoes and white miso for red miso. Plus, I added some white mushrooms and white beans. (Both quickly turned pink.) I didn't have any vegetable juice on hand, so I opted for vegan bouillon instead. What a sweet, tasty soup this made! The miso at the end made it taste quite different from borscht. It's a vivid cure for winter doldrums.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Mango Lassi Smoothie

Dental woes have been keeping me on my steady diet of morning smoothies. Also my cousin Willa gave me a nifty nutmeg grater for Christmas and my friend Liz recently hooked me up with two bottles of rose water. Hence this new smoothie is born. It's a "No-Yo" Mango Lassi, aka no yogurt. The rose water is a little intense at first. Maybe start small and work up to a full measure. (Or you could pretend it's the vermouth in your martini and just use it to coat your glass.)

Mango Lassi Smoothie
Blend the following:
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup frozen mango
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 1/8 tsp rose water
  • freshly grated nutmeg to taste
  • 1 Tbsp ground chia seeds (optional)
  • 1 tsp amla powder (optional)
Serves 1.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Chocolate Cherry Cookies

Chocolate cherry cookies
I'm still "cyberstalking" Color Me Vegan, the VegCookbook Club's February selection, until my library has an available copy. (Update: one of their two copies is now reported "lost and paid." Maybe a reader was smitten with the cookbook and didn't want to part with it?)

Just in time for Valentine's Day, I decided to try this adaptation of Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's chocolate cherry cookies, posted by another blogger, Niki of Meet Your Treat.
Cookie close-up
These cookies tasted much better than they looked, which was slightly turd-like. In hindsight, I think it would be better to bake and fully cool the cookies before adding the chocolate coating. Then the sauce wouldn't slide off the top of the cherry and puddle around the cookie. Otherwise the cookies provided a fine excuse to eat chocolate and Maraschino cherries together. They did make me hanker for a Shirley Temple or similar fizzy cocktail.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Coloring outside of the cookbook

My library hold for the VegCookbook Club's February pick, Color Me Vegan, still hasn't arrived. The library has two copies. However the first one went missing and the second is still checked out with another patron. It must be a popular cookbook!

Here is a colorful soup recipe that I found posted on Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's website to tide me over in the meantime.

Minestrone with Kale
Minestrone is one of my staple weeknight dinners and Colleen Patrick--Goudreau's version isn't too different from the soup that I usually improvise. The addition of kale gives the rainbow of colorful veggies a healthy green glow. I added green lentils here and doubled the tomatoes.

Some other items that I often add to my own minestrone include: mushrooms, peppers, quinoa, sweet potatoes, squash, and broccoli. And I usually load on the Italian spices: oregano, thyme, basil, etc. Plus some balsamic vinegar to taste. This version is clean and simple with just parsley and bay leaf.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Top o' the Morning juice recipe

For my visit home last week, I packed my smoothie arsenal, which was recently restocked by Kris Carr's Crazy Sexy Kitchen. My Dad matched my mixology efforts with his own inventive juice recipes. He's really the "Juiceman," as my parent's first juicer was called. (They've since moved on to a different brand.)

Here is my Dad's current favorite recipe. It's a gingery, sweet and sour blend that gets your blood flowing. He didn't have a name for it, but I'm giving it one here, based on his usual bright morning greeting.

Top o' the Morning Juice
Wash, prep, and juice the following ingredients:
  • 5 carrots, peeled
  • 2 inch-piece ginger root
  • 2 oranges, peeled and quartered
  • 2 apples, quartered
  • 1/2 lime, peeled and quartered
Serves 2.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Chili in PA

I'm home for a visit to my family's farm in chilly Pennsylvania. Here's a photo of my Mom's spicy and nourishing black bean chili. She freestyled this vegan recipe with black and broad beans, veggies, and chipotle chili pepper. Plus a secret ingredient: orange zest. Serve over brown rice and/or quinoa. It's the perfect bowl for snowy weather.  

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Sticky Fingers eats, part 1

I'm remiss to have posted so little about Sticky Fingers, DC's most excellent all-vegan bakery and cafe, located at 1370 Park Rd NW. Sticky Fingers was established in 1999 by Doron Petersan, who has penned a cookbook recently. The bakery also has won a couple of Food Network Cupcake Wars battles. 
For me, Sticky Fingers is like that beloved, local band that finds national fame. Now they are hugely popular--often with lines out the door and little available seating. I don't want to begrudge them their success. It's deserved: they are one of the hardest-working bakeries and have high-quality goods. However sometimes I'm nostalgic for their past incarnations, like the funky old location on 18th Street. (I think that was the first vegan bakery I ever visited.) But maybe I need to get over my "I knew them when..." bias and celebrate Sticky Fingers for its present awesomeness.

In fact, one of my New Year's Resolutions was to visit Sticky Fingers more often. (In Baltimore, I was trying to do the same with my favorite vegan restaurant in that city: The Land of Kush. Sadly, I moved away before I achieved "regular" patron status.) I've noticed that Bianca, at the blog Vegan Crunk, often posts about Imagine Vegan Cafe, her local favorite in Memphis. Maybe Sticky Fingers can be my repeat visit spot in the District? 

Here are photos from a recent visit to Sticky Fingers for lunch. Above is the hot cocoa, with foam made by a skilled barista. The cocoa wasn't too sweet, which is fine in my book. (The chalkboard menu also listed drinking chocolate, which I may have to try next time.) Below is the hot Tempeh Reuben sandwich, with tangy sauerkraut and Russian dressing on rye bread. It wasn't the hippie-style version with sprouts and avocado that I've had from other places. Instead it was reminiscent of a grilled cheese, very compact and flaky. I do wish they'd serve it with a pickle.  
I enjoyed this sandwich at the sunny window counter. It's a good people-watching spot, looking out at the entrance to the Columbia Heights Giant. The cafe also has ample outdoor seating for nicer weather and some killer to-go offerings. Plus a whole bakery case of sweets, including those famous cupcakes. Yes, this post will be "part 1" of many for 2013.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Pho for the Win: Pho 14

It's hard not to get punny when writing a review of pho places but I'll try to limit it to the title of this post. I've never had non-veg pho, so I'm no expert on how pho should taste traditionally. Devoted purists would probably have a beef with veggie pho. But the chay option works for me, when it's vegan. (Warning: sometimes the chay isn't even vegetarian. Check the broth. I've been burned once before, namely at Pho DC in Chinatown.) Anyway, real pho addicts would probably stick with suburban pho spots for authenticity and affordability.
Pho Chay
Now with two locations, Pho 14 is the winning veggie pho option in the district. I recently visited their new location in Adams Morgan at 1773 Columbia Rd NW. It is a large space, rather chilly on the night my boyfriend and I visited. Perhaps that encourages diners to order extra large bowls? That's what I did. Next time I will probably downsize to a regular large size. Because the pho was super-sized to the brim, filled with tofu, veggies, mushrooms, and noodles. My boyfriend though the broth was too bland. I found it subtle and slightly fruity. However the toppings plate with lime wedges, fresh basil, jalapenos, and sprouts helped add more flavors. And I added Sriracha, which is readily available on all the tables, along with hoisin. 
Pho toppings
We also tried the bahn mi, which wasn't much to write home about, but had a chay version. Pho 14 seems to be more about the pho than their other Vietnamese fare. I'll have to revisit their Columbia Heights location at 1436 Park Rd NW to compare the dining atmospheres.The Admo location was surprisingly uncrowded with mood lighting and quick, attentive service. No alcohol.  
Bahn Mi Chay