Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Popsicles and a shake to finish HIAV!

Popsicle prep - DIY-style
The month of May has almost arrived and with it comes another VegCookbook Club pick. Vegan on The Cheap: Great and Simple Strategies that Save You Time and Money by Robin Robertson is next month's selection. Being a cheap vegan myself, I've placed it on hold at the public library.

Here are the last two recipes that I made from April's VegCookbook, How It All Vegan! Both appear in the "Meals for the Picky" section of the Vegan Kids Stuff chapter.
Rabbit Shake
This seems more like a smoothie than a shake to me. However, I've never thought to grate a carrot or put silken tofu into a smoothie before this recipe. These two additions made one of the thickest drinks I've ever encountered. If viscosity is the top criterion, perhaps it is a shake after all?

The recipe also calls for orange juice and frozen banana chunks. Because I'm an adult, I threw in some ground flax seeds and a handful of spinach, which I doubt kids would even notice taste-wise.

I liked this sweet, creamy rabbit shake so much, I made it twice. However I did substitute vegan milk for the tofu on the second round. I'm going to keep this drink in my arsenal, especially for when I'm running low on berries.

Basically, you make a silken tofu pudding (not unlike the one I made earlier this month). Then you freeze it. I froze these ice pops overnight but I think they were probably ready after an hour or two.  

The recipe calls for Popsicle molds, but I decided to be DIY, using only what I had on hand. So I dug out some little plastic picnic cups from my cupboard. Then I inserted some stray bamboo To-Go Ware utensils for the "sticks." Finally, I used plastic wrap to position the sticks upright. Amazingly, this DIY trick worked!

The ice cold pops were messy and delicious. Next time I would like to play around with the spices and try to attempt a Mexican hot chocolate pop, just like my beloved Pleasant Pop paleta.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

ve = vegan at Ping Pong Dim Sum

It had been awhile since I visited Ping Pong Dim Sum, located at 900 7th ST NW, at the north end of DC's tiny Chinatown. A global restaurant chain, Ping Pong has locations in London, São Paulo, and Dubai. "Little steamed parcels of deliciousness" is the dim sum restaurant's motto and promise. They focus on small plates, kind of like an Asian-style tapas experience. There is no steam cart, rather you are given a pencil and a set list menu to mark your selections. (It's not unlike placing a sushi order.) In theory, this is a nice way to sample and share a variety of little dishes. In practice, it often results in a light, expensive meal instead of an ample, cheap smorgasbord.

Happily, since my last visit, Ping Pong's dim sum menu now denotes vegan dishes, as well as vegetarian ones. The letters "ve" mean "vegan." ("V" still stands for "vegetarian.") This minor notation puts significant questions to rest (e.g., eggs and honey). Now a vegan can fearlessly order dish after dish. Ping Pong's online menu takes this a step further, providing filters for different diets, including "gluten friendly" and "no nuts." These excellent menu clarifications are certain to please many customers.  
Little parcels of deliciousness
Here is a photo of our parcels of deliciousness from the night that my boyfriend and I visited. As usual, the food was attractively arranged. However the restaurant's mood lighting made taking glamorous photographs difficult. We started with a soothing vegetable wonton soup (left). Followed by a flurry of bamboo baskets, containing: (middle row, top to bottom) steamed vegetable buns, pak choi dumplings, and broccoli with celery salt. The fried spinach and mushroom dumplings (right) were my favorite items, with an intensely vinegary sweet and sour sauce.

In general, menu items arrive in threes, so be ready to negotiate if sharing. (I've become adept at cutting with chopsticks. My boyfriend is better at taking half bites.) Also be forewarned, the bustling servers always bring two types of hot sauce to each table. The servers will tell you which of these hot sauces contains fish and, therefore, isn't vegetarian. Meanwhile, the vegan hot sauce is great stuff--spicy and fiery red. I took a photo of it too.
The vegan hot sauce
Ping Pong Dim Sum has a vegetarian prixe fixe menu, but they do not currently have a vegan one. They do have an impressive beverage selection. They offer inventive cocktails, fine teas, wine, saki, Asian beers, and other cooling concoctions. Their Chinatown location features a sleek, modern decor with a sunken dining area, posh bathrooms, and a long side bar. The restaurant is often packed and has a tendency to get loud. Ping Pong has a second Washington D.C. location, close to Dupont Circle.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Snack attack from How It All Vegan!

Here are two easy snacks that I made recently from How It All Vegan!, the April VegCookbook Club pick. The poll for the May VegCookbook is now open. I'm crossing my fingers for Dreena Burton's cookbook to win and continue the Canadian trend.

Oi-Vey! Mock Chopped Liver
I prefer to think of this as a nutty mushroom spread, rather than as mock chopped liver. I've never had actual chopped liver before but it is pretty gross to contemplate. For this spread, you sauté mushrooms and onions and then blend that mixture with walnuts, adding salt and pepper to taste.

I decided to cook extra, because I knew the aromatic mushrooms and onions would be hard to resist. (You can spoon this combo directly over toast for a fast fix before blending the remainder.) The walnuts did add a sweet nuttiness to the spread, which took on a pleasant, smooth texture when thoroughly chilled. I served it with some sesame and flax seed crackers.

Chickpea Nibbles
This was another easy snack to prepare, with only one main ingredient--chickpeas--tossed in oil and seasoning. I used Penzey's Forward! salt-free spice blend, which features an "extra bold" black pepper with plenty of kick. The blend also has paprika and turmeric, which gave the chickpeas a reddish hue. I didn't roast these beans for quite as long as the cookbook suggested. I thought a full hour would make them too dry, so I pulled them out of the oven after 40 minutes. The nibbles were delicious and addictive when fresh out of the oven, but I tucked them away, saving them for future salad making.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Dangerously Delicious Tofu Curry Pie

Tofu Curry Pie 
Baltimore-born Dangerously Delicious Pies now has a third DC location, at 675 I Street NW in Chinatown. My doctor's office used to be on this quiet block, close to bustling 7th Street. The facade of the new pie shop is unassuming, although they do have an awesome welcome mat. Inside you'll find a small, clean space with: a counter, display cases, a restroom, and limited seating (four window stools).

There was a modest lunch-time crowd when I visited. And some folks wandered in off the street just to express their pro-pie opinions. (The staff must get that a lot.) It seems like the cold pie sales happen quickly but having the pie warmed-up takes a bit of time. The staff was playing peppy rockabilly music when I visited, which helps with the wait.

The handmade whole pies are cut into six impressively large slices. A savory slice comes with a green side salad and simple balsamic dressing. This combo lunch deal, priced at $7.50, is packaged in an eco-friendly box with a plastic fork. They also have bottled drinks and coffee available.
When I lived in Baltimore, I often tried to score some Dangerously Delicious pie at the Farmers' Market, but their stand always seemed to be sold out, especially for the vegan pies. At the Chinatown location, there was only one vegan pie option available, Pamela's Tofu Curry. I had to inquire, as it was unlabeled on the main chalkboard. (The menu describes it as a typically vegan pie, but it is also available with chicken. I recommend asking the staff.)
View inside the pie
The pie was tasty. The mild tofu curry was hippie-style with brown rice, onions, peppers, and cauliflower. This nicely spiced filling wasn't too heavy, although it did feature rich coconut milk. The softness of the tofu and cooked veggies worked well with the sturdy, dense crust. And I tried the red hot BBQ sauce, which seems like a winner condiment, although perhaps not for this particular pie. They also offer a green sauce, ketchup, and agave.

Currently the shop has limited lunch hours (10-4pm Mon-Sat) but plans to expand to breakfast and dinner. I do hope they have some more vegan pies in the future. And that they start using handy vegan symbols on their chalkboard.

Dangerously Delicious Pies has a popular late-night location at 1339 H Street NE and occupies a stand in the lower level of Union Station. You can also check out their roving food truck for lunch.
Welcome mat      

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A trio of childhood classics

Here are three more recipes that hark back to some favorite foods of childhood. Both are from How It All Vegan!, the April VegCookbook Club pick.

Vegan Sloppy Joes
For this filling sandwich, you make a tomato sauce in the food processor, rehydrate the protein, and then add both to a sauté of veggies and spices. I used some textured soy protein that I've been trying to finish, rather than the textured vegetable protein called for in the recipe. (You could probably also use tempeh or cooked beans for a less processed meal.)

The finished mash is rather spicy, calling for both chili powder and cayenne. The secret, surprise ingredient is chopped pickle (genius), which adds a nice crunchy bite. I used the sloppy joe mixture to fill tidy pitas, rather than serving it on a sloppy bun. No condiments required.

Spicy Creamy Tomato Soup
Another classic recipe. Like many kids, I, sadly, had an aversion to tomatoes. Luckily, I've been cured. This spicy soup is very adult, with a nice mix of spices and lots of garlic. I ended up using unsweetened almond milk rather than soy milk or soft tofu. I'd like to try the tofu version another time, to see how that might change the thickness. The fresh tomato garnish is a nice final touch. I'll make this soup again.
Fabulous French Dressing
This French dressing didn't taste like the bottled version that I had in my childhood but it did have the appropriate orange hue. The oil and vinegar dressing gets its color from dry mustard and paprika. However, with no sweetener included, I found it rather tart and unpalatable. I think I'll stick to the You-Must-Make-This Dressing from the Go Vegan! app (review).

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Faux "chicken" and a pudding

Here are two more comfort food dishes from How It All Vegan!, the VegCookbook Club's current book.

Linda's Ginger "Chicken"
This wheat gluten recipe appears in the special 10th Anniversary Edition of the cookbook. However, it is also featured on the Go Vegan! app, which I reviewed (here and here). The seitan was easy to prepare and became very chewy and "meaty" in texture. It was on par with many mock meats that I've had at Chinese restaurants.

I was worried about using so much ginger (3/4 cup!) in the sauce, but the finely sliced coins did soften and took on a milder flavor. However I did think that the dish was way too salty. Both the broth and the sauce called for excessive amounts of tamari. I served this "chicken" atop quinoa with a side of roasted broccoli and mushrooms.
Faux "chicken" close-up
Sinful Chocolate Pudding
Another simple, pleasing recipe that requires only six ingredients: soft tofu, oil, sweetener, cocoa powder, salt, and vanilla. I decided to cut the oil and sweetener in half. (I used canola oil and brown sugar.) You could probably adjust these amounts even more to taste.

The photo below is of the just blended pudding before it had a chance to chill. Cold, creamy, and chocolaty, this recipe fulfilled all of my pudding requirements. My boyfriend said he could eat about six bowls.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Ginger tea and a book

Cure-All Ginger Tea
Here's a quick photo of the Cure-All Ginger Tea from How It All Vegan, the VegCookbook Club's April pick. This tea is a spicy tonic. It requires only four ingredients: water, fresh ginger, cayenne pepper, and sweetener. (I even skipped that last one and enjoyed the peppery warmth plain.)

I'm also enjoying Life After Life, an enthralling new novel by Kate Atkinson. It's a grand spring read. No caffeine required.
Meanwhile, outside...

Thursday, April 4, 2013

How It All Vegan! in April

"Get happy, go vegan!" reads the back cover of the April VegCookbook Club pick, How It All Vegan!: Irresistible Recipes for an Animal-Free Diet. I forgot how joyful and fun this book is. It's a great selection for spring, a time of growth and renewal. 

This book is also an excellent gateway for newbies to plant-based diets, with its easy recipes, powerful personal testimonials, and loads of "Veganism 101" info. There are even sections on making natural household cleaners and beauty products. And a chapter on feeding kids, featuring silly recipes like "Fart Sandwiches" and homemade play dough.
I do wish the cookbook had photographs of the food, in addition to those kitschy black-and-white photos of 1950s-era homemakers. However, even without glossy pics, the DIY aesthetic from the book's handmade zine beginnings conveys a lot of energy.

In fact, I first remember finding Kramer and Barnard's cookbooks in an anarchist book store and thinking that they were so punk rock. These were books to start the revolution! Yet they were also suitable to share with loved ones due to the authors' totally pleasant, non-threatening, and self-deprecating style. (Well, they are Canadian.)

I also learned the term "vegan police" here and continue to resist joining that police squad. So, yeah, there are some recipes in the book that call for honey. But just swap maple syrup or agave; no biggie.

Here's what I've made so far:
Spicy Black Bean Burgers
This truly spicy vegetable and bean burger is simple to throw together. You sauté veggies and then add them to mashed beans, bread crumbs, and spices. I did swap mushrooms for the corn. The hardest part was keeping the patties from falling apart. It felt like they could use some type of binding ingredient. Packing each cooked patty into a pita helped them hold together. I also added watercress and the spread below.
Sunflower Seed Avocado Spread
It's been a while since I played with avocado. This recipe kind of gilds the lily. I don't think avocado needs sunflower seeds and tahini. It's got enough healthy fat and flavor going for it, straight up. Also the turmeric gave the spread a sallow hue. This recipe made a lot; so I'm saving some for burritos later in the week. 
Faux Feta
My Mom is a fan of this recipe. So I made it after her fashion, in a wide-mouthed Mason jar. Basically you flavor tofu (cubed or crumbled) with oil, vinegar, and dried spices. Due to poor planning, I ran out of basil. So I added dill, which is another fresh-flavored dry spice that perked up the marinade. I don't think this tofu trick would satisfy real feta enthusiasts but it works for me. It's excellent atop salads.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Cherry blossom foodie resources and a smoothie

Okay, these are magnolia blossoms.
Every year I forget how crowded cherry blossom season is in the District. The entire city is overrun with tourists, even far from the Tidal Basin. I always wonder what guidebooks or travel apps these travelers are using to navigate the city's foodways?

For hungry veggie tourists, I'd recommend:

And here is a smoothie recipe to celebrate the cherry blossoms. It's made using my new favorite item from Mountain Rose Herbs: Hibiscus Flower Powder (see photo below). 

Cherry Berry Flower Smoothie
Blend the following:
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup frozen cherries and black raspberries mix
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 1 tsp hibiscus flower powder 
  • 1 Tbsp ground chia seeds (optional)
  • 1 tsp maca powder (optional)
  • 1 tsp amla powder (optional)
Serves 1.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Green at Pete's APizza

Pete's New Haven Style APizza must be on many recommended DC trip itineraries. (Perhaps because their pizza is a favorite of the Obamas?) My boyfriend and I visited Pete's original location* at 1400 Irving Street NW. This handy spot is located directly above the south exit of the Columbia Heights Metro Station.

*Pete's APizza now has locations in Clarendon and Friendship Heights as well. Silver Spring is coming soon.
On a Saturday night, the place was crowded with hungry tourists, including large groups and families with strollers. Pete's can really pack in the customers around their long, communal tables. There are excellent people-watching opportunities both inside and out, especially if you sit on the high stools by the window.

One remarkable thing about Pete's is their clarity on vegan diets. They even have a chalkboard sign that specifies, "vegan = no animal ingredients." (They also have a wide range of gluten-free options.) On the night we were there there were several vegan antipasti items available. However we went straight for the "apizza."
Here is The Green, a thin crust pizza with artichoke hearts, sauteed spinach, tomatoes, Kalamata olives, and Daiya cheese. The pizza comes in 14" and 18" sizes. We opted for the latter and it was extra large. And rather pricey with the vegan cheese surcharge. However it is an artisanal, quality pie that could feed three or four.

The pizza was properly cooked in a high temperature oven that produced a lovely amount of char. The Daiya was melty and the sauce was tangy. The only weak points in terms of the toppings were the tomatoes, which were supposed to be oven-dried but tasted normal. The other veggies were fine but I do wish that The Green was, well, greener in terms of its veggie to vegan cheese ratio.
My boyfriend noticed that Pete's has a tomato pie, which I'm eager to try out. However I think they'll have to hold the pecorino-romano for us. (Traditional tomato pies are commonly cheeseless. This dairy version must be a Connecticut thing. At least the menu warns you in advance.)

Pete's has a great selection of microbrews and wine, plus an affordable happy hour. They also carry some fancy waters and sodas. If you have room for dessert, I'd recommend nearby Sticky Fingers.