Sunday, March 31, 2013

East Coast coffee cake and West Coast shopping

East Coast Coffee Cake
Vegan Brunch, the March VegCookbook Club selection, has been impossible to put back on the shelf. Here's a final sweet baked item from The Bread Basket chapter: East Coast Coffee Cake. I opted for a double variation, using blackberries and chocolate chips. I also swapped white whole wheat flour for the all-purpose.

The coffee cake was easy to assemble. You make the topping and cake separately and then add the variation ingredients. The cake smelled divinely of sugar and spice while baking. The hardest part was waiting a full hour for it to cool. My boyfriend kept feeling the sides of the pan to assure me of its rapid progress. But I made him wait and it was well worth it. Holy sugar bomb! This is another decadent holiday treat.      
Hot out of the oven.
Meanwhile, Britt Bravo has announced the April VegCookbook Club book. It's a classic, How It All Vegan! by Tanya Barnard and Sarah Kramer. The pick is kind of a tribute too, to Sarah Kramer, Queen of Vegan Cookbooks (and apps). Sadly, Sarah has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. She is blogging about her experience at her awesomely titled website and asks that folks shop at her online store, Sarah's Place. I'm definitely going to shop there for Mother's Day and upcoming spring birthdays. And I'll be sending healing energy and virtual vegan gratitude out towards the West Coast too.
In an online shopping mood? Please visit: Sarah's Place

Friday, March 29, 2013

Finishing Vegan Brunch

Roasted Root Vegetables
Here are the last few things that I've made out of Vegan Brunch, the March cookbook pick for VegCookbook Club. First, I decided to take on the potato, which Isa Chandra Moskowitz says is a must-have brunch item. And since it is close to the holiday weekend, I roasted up some root veggies and made the tempting navy bean gravy.
Home fries close-up
Diner Home Fries
Boiled potatoes were a comfort food for me when I was in college. So I decided to be a potato purist and use the Yukon Gold potatoes that are called for in the recipe. But bland, nutritionally underwhelming white potato varieties just don't thrill me anymore. Maybe I could make a healthier version with sweet potatoes? I did swap a red pepper for the green one, which added some sweetness. And I sprinkled on some paprika for further color. Malt vinegar, ketchup, and mustard were the condiments that I used copiously.
Root veggies close-up
Roasted Root Vegetables
Roasted veggies are my go-to holiday dish. I guess I'm used to a more saucy style of roasting. (Making a sweet/sour marinade and cooking the veggies in a glass or ceramic roasting pan.) However these roasted root veggies are prepared in a drier fashion, spread on a cookie sheet. Simply dressed with olive oil and salt, the cooked veggies were simple and tasty.

The parsnips, turnips, and carrots were excellent root veg choices. I couldn't find golden beets, so I subbed sweet potato. I also added mushrooms and whole cloves of garlic toward the end of the cooking time. I topped the veggies with the gravy below.
Best gravy ever?
Navy Bean Gravy
I'd make this recipe for any holiday because this gravy is the bomb! Super savory, thanks to the thyme, onion, and garlic. And thick, thanks to the navy beans and flour. However eating this sauce doesn't leave you with the heavy, woozy feeling that gravies made with vegan margarines often do. In fact, there were no leftovers because my boyfriend started eating it with a spoon. He thought the gravy tasted "bready," in a good way.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Sticky Fingers' Breakfast Sandwich

As I wrote in February, I've been meaning to post more often about Sticky Fingers, DC's popular vegan bakery and café. The hot news is that they've recently applied for a liquor license. I can't wait to see what that brings to their tables. Maybe some wild and crazy alcohol/dessert concoctions? Or just a finely curated selection of microbrews?  
One of my favorite Sticky Fingers items is their perfectly sober breakfast sandwich. It's a "tofu egg" and veggie sausage combo with a nutritional yeast spread in a whole grain English muffin. Sold in the to-go case, this seemingly simple, plastic-wrapped bundle is a pocketful of flavor.
This is my favorite sandwich to pack for trips because they are sturdy and discrete. It also makes an excellent quick brunch item, especially if you have out-of-town guests to impress. When I'm serving them at home I usually warm the sandwich and add hot sauce. However, the sandwich also is fine cold or room temp. Enjoy it for breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner, or late-night.  
Opened-faced sandwich with hot sauce addition

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A sweet brunch and a spinach smoothie

Continuing on the Vegan Brunch bandwagon, I decided to copycat Britt from the VegCookbook Club blog and make this sweet, egg-free take on French toast. Next week I'll have to offset this sugar kick with something savory from the cookbook.
Banana Rabadana (Brazilian French Toast)
I don't normally make French toast because I never have stale bread on hand. But I lucked out, finding a stale loaf at my local natural food store. The baguette label listed whole wheat as an ingredient too, although after white bread flour. So I'm pretending this dessert is slightly healthy.

The banana custard was easy to blend up and smelled strongly like baby food. Toasting the dipped bread on the skillet was harder, but I didn't use a nonstick skillet. (My trusty cast iron was too wee for the job.) I also over-dusted the crispy toast with cocoa powder and cinnamon. So trust me, there was toast under that spice layer.

The rabadana tasted sweet and rich, especially when paired with fruit and the sweet cashew cream (below). I guess this dish traditionally uses a port wine syrup. That would definitely add a tangy kick. Perhaps you could just serve it with a glass of port?    
Just blended cashew cream
Sweet Cashew Cream
Here's a close-up of the creamy topping that I added to the French toast plate above. It's a simple blend of soaked cashews, almond milk, maple syrup, and vanilla. I added cinnamon, a suggested variation. The cream firmed up a little in the fridge but I only refrigerated it for a few hours, not overnight.

P.S. Here's a belated photo of my St. Patrick's Day green smoothie. I simply took my dandelion smoothie recipe and swapped spinach for the dandy greens. A fine Sunday detox drink.
And a spinach smoothie for luck

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Baking for Vegan Brunch

Muffin close-up
Here are two recipes from The Bread Basket chapter of Vegan Brunch, the VegCookbook Club pick. Both involved firing up the oven. These may be some of the last items that I bake until fall. DC has such a brief springtime window that it'll probably be no time at all before the long hot and humid summer stretches before us. I do hope our next few club cookbooks have some raw recipes.  
Toasted Coconut and Chocolate Chip Muffins 
These tropical muffins called for mango but I opted for the chocolate chip variation on the back page. The toasted shredded coconut perfumed my kitchen delightfully. The muffins came together easily after that key toasting step. The resulting muffins were nicely spiced with nutmeg and allspice. The white whole wheat flour also gave these muffins a sturdy texture and made them taste slightly wholesome while still being a sweet treat.  

Cornbread Biscuits
Another simple and quick baked good. I ended up halving the recipe and using white whole wheat flour (in addition to the cornmeal) for these biscuits as well. I added a little more liquid to compensate. And, of course, I had to add jalapeños, the suggested variation. In fact, I "forgot" to halve that step and made the biscuits extra peppery. This is a recipe I'll return to for sure. Sweet, spicy, and savory.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Firehouse Deli in Gaithersburg, MD

Note the Vegan sign!
Located at 6 Montgomery Village Ave., Firehouse Deli is tucked away in an unassuming corner of Gaithersburg, MD. It's on the ground floor of a nondescript office building that also houses a realtor and a bank. What strikes you about the storefront first is the large flashing lighted sign in their window that reads "Vegan." (And also "Gyros" at times.) Yes, talk about a tractor beam.

Inside the deli, you'll find a friendly owner and attentive staff who really bend over backwards to help their customers. And they do a brisk take-out business at lunch, although there are some seating options inside and inviting outdoor tables. If this deli was in downtown DC, there would be lines out the door and around the block.

The deli menu is a little confusing for ordering in terms of the vegan options. (With so many choices, it might be overwhelming for the non-vegan options too.) However the deli displays good signage to indicate that these options exist. And they have an extensive, up-to-date pdf list of vegan choices on their website.
Vegan reuben with pickle
I ordered a vegan Reuben, that was full of mock meat (Cedar Lake Vege-Corned Beef) and melted vegan cheese (Teese) on rye with extra sauerkraut. This messy and delicious Reuben compared favorably with the tempeh one that I had at Sticky Fingers in February. It also came with a pickle, natch.

There was another cheery "vegan" sign in the dessert case. So I got a chai cupcake, made by a local Gaithersburg bakery, Caked Up. (They feature a cute naked pear logo on their packaging.) The cupcake was nicely spiced and not cloyingly sweet.

The deli has many beverage options available, but I stuck with the free water. They also have fresh fruit, hummus, and chips. You could score a decadent picnic lunch and head off to explore the non-office park spaces of Gaithersburg.    
Chai cupcake from Caked Up

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The brunch goes on...

Here are two new favorite recipes from Vegan Brunch, the March VegCookbook Club selection. I'm enjoying cooking from this book and hope to bake something from The Bread Basket chapter next.   
Sesame Scrambled Tofu and Greens with Yams
The other Clubbers are right; this tofu scramble is a keeper. So easy to prepare and tasty! It has a refreshing sesame flavor. (I didn't even add hot sauce.) I used dandelion greens here, as I had a spare bunch thanks to my Whole Foods snafu. The greens really cooked down and were tender and sweet. The yams were also super sweet and complimented the garlicky tofu. I did use tamari instead of soy sauce and totally forgot to add the ginger.
Chorizo Sausages
Made with mashed beans and vital wheat gluten, these chorizo sausages were like some that I prepared last year. (They don't photograph well.) Above are two sausages fresh out of the steamer. These sausages have a spicy, tomatoey exterior with a lemony, chewy interior. The sausages develop an even firmer texture when they're cooked. I halved the recipe and still had plenty of chorizo. I used some of the links as a side for the tofu scramble (top) and others as a "meaty" pizza topping. Here's how they looked when sliced and sautéed:

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Dandelion smoothie = sunshine in a glass

We have dandelions blooming outside our window, so spring is officially nigh. Inspired by the arrival of flowers, weeds, and rainy weather, I decided to invent a dandelion smoothie. I've been meaning to play around with herbal teas in my smoothies. Traditional Medicinals' organic Roasted Dandelion Root tea makes a subtle cold brew.
Whole Foods receipt detail
I also went to Whole Foods for some dandelion greens. Behold this crazy receipt (above), as the cashier mistakenly rang me up for 11 bunches! My sad confession is, it being Whole Paycheck, I didn't puzzle out the overcharge until I got home with my single bunch. (I figured the total was due to other high ticket grocery items in my basket, like vegan dental floss and ginger root.) When I went back to the store, the customer service staff graciously refunded my purchase and gifted me a second gratis bunch of greens. Dandy!

The tea-infused smoothie came out sweet and only mildy "earthy." You could also substitute spinach for dandelion greens. Garnish with a lemon wedge.

Dandelion Smoothie
Blend the following:
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 cup cold brew dandelion tea
  • 1/2 cup frozen mango
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • a good handful of dandelion greens
  • 1 tsp matcha
  • 1 tsp maca powder (optional)
  • 1 tsp amla powder (optional)
Serves 1.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Spring things

Smoothie, amaryllis, and book tournament
We've survived the snowstorm rain in DC. Now here's a trio of my current spring things. A freshly blooming red amaryllis, which was a late Christmas gift from my folks. The Morning News Tournament of Books--like March Madness for books--which is keeping me glued to my laptop. (Go Mantel!) And a purply glass of the Smoothies Supreme recipe from Vegan Brunch, the March VegCookbook Club pick.

The Smoothies Supreme is super simple smoothie that tastes rather like a potluck punch. It's frozen bananas, berries, water, and juice. Isa Chandra Moskowitz recommends pineapple juice but I could only find an 100% juice orange pineapple mix, which has apple juice in it too. (Drat!) For berries, I used a "Cherry Berry" blend of blackberries, blueberries, black raspberries, and dark cherries. (Watch out for pits.) I also added amla powder and ground chia seeds to add a little more nutrition. Best enjoyed near an amaryllis.

I'm going to be downing more smoothies as the TOB bracket plays out on weekdays this March. Below is a full list of the current contenders, with links to my short Goodreads reviews for the titles I've read. I can't recommend the tourney highly enough with its smart, funny judges; zombie books (!); and the best comments section on the Interwebs. Here's their excellent primer FAQ.

The 2013 Tournament of Books Finalists
HHhH by Laurent Binet
The Round House by Louise Erdrich
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Arcadia by Lauren Groff
How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti
May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Homes
The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson
Ivyland by Miles Klee
Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Dear Life by Alice Munro
Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
Building Stories by Chris Ware

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A brunch pie and cheesy sauce

Here are two more Vegan Brunch recipes, from the March VegCookbook Club pick. By the way, Britt Bravo, the Club founder and guiding force, was recently interviewed on Tranquility du Jour, a podcast by DC's own Kimberly Wilson. In the episode, they discuss the Club and some time-saving strategies for weeknight veggie dinners.

Mushroom, Leek, and White Bean Pie
I had an extra store-bought whole wheat crust on hand (total time saver), so I decided to try Isa Chandra Moskowitz's solution for a tofu-less quiche. While not as pretty as the classic quiche, this savory pie tasted and cut better.

The leeks in the pie were rather subtle. I think if I made it again, I might try onions in their place. I also didn't have extra thyme sprigs, so I used some pickled dilly beans for decoration. I served the pie with hot sauce and malt vinegar, which was an odd but effective condiment combo.

Cheesy Sauce
This cheesy sauce is a simple stove-top recipe. It tastes strongly of nutritional yeast, or "nooch" as Isa has christened it. I love nooch, so I can image pouring this sauce on everything. Which is good because the recipe made three cups. Sadly, I didn't serve this savory sauce with the pie above. Instead I made it in advance for burritos (my time-saving, go-to weeknight meal) later this week. We'll see how this sauce reheats and if I can keep my tasting spoon out of it until then.