Sunday, January 20, 2013

J'ai cuit bouffées et j'ai mangé un croissant!


Just a couple of things on my mind today, that I wanted to share! First, I would like you to know that I made another item from my Vegan Things I Want That I Will Never Make Pinterest Board. And here they are!
Yes, 2 out of the 3 things I have made so far have employed my mini muffin tin...
 They are Savory Olive and Sun-Dried Tomato Puffs. And they were not premeditated, they just kind of happened out of necessity! You see, we are back on the ol' Let's Avoid Processed Foods Because It Makes Us Eat Really Healthy kick again. As part of this, I made a gigantic pot of Veggistrone soup the other night. Gigantic! And I basically never feed my husband leftovers for dinner, but the massive vat of soup demanded that I serve it for another dinner. Initially, I served it with a side of Quinoa and Parsley Salad, but I ate that all up (guys, when I am on the No Processed Kick, I swear I live almost entirely on quinoa, romaine, cherry tomatoes, chick peas and avocados). And my husband and I were planning to go out for cocktails, and I didn't want us to have drinks with nothing but some green beans and cauliflower in our bellies! So, I frantically ran to my VTIWTIWNM board, to find a nice treat (by treat, I mean something involving a sinful processed food like flour) that would go with soup, and that consisted entirely of foods I already had in the pantry. Savory Olive and Sun-Dried Tomato Puffs were the answer!

You know, I used to make a lot more biscuits, bread and savory muffins to enjoy with soup, but I got out of the habit.... surely because I got into the better habit of eating soup with some healthier option, like a nice salad.... but I should make them more frequently than I do. These Puffs weren't life changing, but they were actually super quick and easy to make, and we both enjoyed them!

And just so you know my heart is still true to the original purpose of this blog.... I ate a croissant today!
I'm actually going to Paris in June, so I figured I better practice!

Why, you may ask, is this worth mentioning?!? Well, because I spent the past 20 or so years insisting that I didn't like croissants! And I didn't include them in my list of food to conquer because... well, for one, it just didn't occur to me.... and this is because, where the heck do you ever even see a vegan croissant on this Earth?!?

The answer today was a new restaurant called LA Vegan Crepe. It's French, it's vegan, it's a rare combo! We had brunch there today, and I passed up on trying one of their crepes when I saw they had a Tofu and Cheese Croissant Sandwich. And I sure don't regret it! Wow, croissants are delicious! At least this vegan one was!!! I know I ate croissants as a little girl, but somewhere along the line, I got turned off by them (I don't remember what kind of traumatic croissant mishap made me suddenly afraid of them), and then I went vegan, and croissants were no longer even remotely part of my reality, so I stayed stuck in I Don't Like Croissants mode. I have no idea what my problem is. What a pain in the ass idiot I have been about food in the past!!! I am very glad that I have dealt with myself... and that I continue to deal with myself!!!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Pretzel, You Betzel!!!

My husband is not on Pinterest, for a simple reason. He doesn't have a vagina. Seriously, it IS For Women Only, right?!? Because everything I have ever seen on there is a recipe, a decorating idea, exercise tips, fashion / make up concepts, crafty things to make, and the occasional cute animal or shirtless hunk. In other words, Things Women Like.

So, to tantalize him, I showed him my board of Vegan Things I Want That I Will Never Make. And told him that I would make whatever things he wanted me to make, as a part of this cooking adventure. And this was the first recipe that caught his eye, inspiring him to say I WANT THOSE TODAY: Soft Buttery Pretzel Twists.

I know pretzels are not nearly as insane and exotic as those Vegan Deviled Eggs I made the other day. But they are a good example of something I just wouldn't bother making these days. I used to do a bit more bread baking / pizza crust making / etc. but I've been shunning making recipes that involve yeast for the past year or 2. No good reason for that, except I had it in my mind that Yeast Recipes Take Too Long, Because You Have To Sit Around Forever While That Stuff Rises!

You know, I need to get over myself! These pretzels really didn't take that long to make.... maybe 75 minutes from start to finish. The ingredients are simple and the process was pretty easy. And just check them out!!!
According to my husband, these were The Best Pretzels Ever!
Anyway, making these pretzels reminded me that, really, it's not a big deal to whip up some kind of yeast dough and make a delicious, bread-y treat. What else was I going to do with those 75 minutes? Watch a few episodes of Portlandia on Roku? Play that goddamn Vasebreaker Endless game on Plants vs. Zombies? Pin even yet still more Vegan Things I Want That I Will Never Make recipes on Pinterest? Gotta say, the pretzels were a much better use of my time, and gave both of us much more satisfaction. Because they really were some fantastic pretzels!

Here I am, extremely thankful that I learned to like beer! It's true; beer goes much better with a pretzel than a Manhattan would!
Oh, and I made the recipe as is, but with the obvious substitution that I basted my twists with massive amounts of Earth Balance Buttery Spread, and not actual butter!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Sympathy for the Deviled Eggs

I love Deviled Eggs. I haven't had an actual Deviled Egg in well over 15 years. And during that time, I thought about them very often.... more often that I'd like to admit! The problem is that there are suitable vegan replacements for almost every single non-vegan food I have ever had a craving for... the lone exception being Deviled Eggs. Until now!
This is me, in my dreams, for many, many, many years...
 I have given a lot of thought over the past decade to how one would make a vegan Deviled Egg. I never tried it, because I was convinced my idea wouldn't work. My main concept was using silken tofu for the whites, and regular tofu whipped up with a bunch of stuff for the yolk. But I knew in my heart that wouldn't taste eggy at all, and they would just look like tragic little awkward squares of soy.

A year or so ago, in my quest for the incredible, edible vegan Deviled Egg, I stumbled upon this recipe for "Potato Angels"... a recipe that uses new potatoes as the base for the eggs. Which seemed like a fun idea! They look cute, and I love potatoes. And I always meant to try that recipe, but I never did.... and then, about a month ago on Pinterest, I spotted this crazy recipe for Vegan Deviled Eggs... That Look Like Eggs, That Taste Like Eggs! And I KNEW I had to try them! In fact, this recipe is what gave me the idea to give myself a Once a Month Food Challenge for 2013.

Yesterday, I discovered what happens when you use 2 magical ingredients in Vegan Deviled Eggs: Agar Powder and Kala Namak. I was so skeptical of both! How would 2 tsp of agar powder in 2 cups of boiling almond milk really firm up enough so that one could mold it into egg shapes and pick them up with one's fingers?!? And I have long heard vegan rumors of the inherent eggy-ness of Black Indian Salt (Kala Namak), but really, how eggy can *salt* possibly be?!?

The results were stunning! When I opened that sack of Kala Namak, it smelled so much like eggs, it was actually unsettling! And the agar powder worked like a dream, giving me totally solid little egg cups (of course, I don't have any egg shaped molds, so I used mini muffin tins, which worked out perfectly!). Behold, here are my very first Vegan Deviled Eggs!
And unlike real eggs, these stand up all by themselves, without needing a special plate! :-)
But the million dollar question..... how did they taste?!? Is it really possible that one can transform almond milk and tofu into Deviled Eggs?!? The answer is a resounding YES! These are AMAZING! So, so, so realistic! Yes, I haven't had an actual Deviled Egg in a decade and a half, but these brought back so many good memories! And this is not just my skewed vegan perception. My husband was historically not a fan of Deviled Eggs..... however, you may remember that he also spent last year learning to like all of the foods he hated along with me, so he finally ate Deviled Eggs last year, and liked them just fine. So, as a non-vegan and a recent consumer of Actual Eggs, he confirmed they tasted exactly like Actual Eggs, and that if he were blindfolded, he would have thought he was eating Actual Eggs.
Here's my husband after his first bite of Vegan Deviled Egg... he was saying, "FREAKY!!!"
So, yeah. These were completely life changing! I'm thankful I found this recipe, and was able to FINALLY quench my craving for Deviled Eggs!!! This won't be the last time I make these delightful treats!!!

Oh, and I guess I need to close this particular entry with an explanation, because I know most omnivores are shaking their heads, and wondering why on Earth would anyone go through the trouble of making a vegan Deviled Egg instead of just eating a couple of goddamn real eggs?!? It's very simple. NO ONE is vegan because they don't like the taste of meat, dairy or eggs. We all have different reasons for eating a vegan diet, but it is never that we don't appreciate the flavors associated with animal products. As for eggs in particular, while I obviously do not wish to support conventional egg producing practices, I personally have no ethical problem with someone eating eggs from a well cared for chicken (meaning, if you have a pet chicken and you love her very much and take good care of her, I don't find it immoral to eat her eggs), but I would still not eat those eggs. Plain and simple, the concept of eating an Actual Egg disgusts me. They are chicken's periods and they are creepy, and thinking of eating them makes me feel yucky inside. So, Actual Eggs = disgusting, but tasty. A combination of almonds, soybeans, salt and olive oil made into Vegan Deviled Eggs = not disgusting AND tasty! :-)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

She's Baaaaack!


So, as you noticed, I stopped blogging. The reason is simple. I always envisioned this as a 6 month long project. And after 6 months, I just got tired of doing it. On one hand, I had conquered all of the major foods I wanted to, and it was getting more and more difficult to find weird things to eat (eg. vegan baklava, floral flavored foods, etc.). Then, I got distracted with a couple of other challenges / events. I spent a few months eating almost no processed foods (which is very healthy... and also, makes it nearly impossible to eat the remaining foods I needed to eat). I spent 6 weeks on an exercise challenge, in which I went to 30 Cardio Barre classes (which was 5 classes per week.... you should see my muscular legs!). I went to Australia! And yes, I took advantage of that to eat Vegemite, which I am happy to report is both vegan and quite tasty!!! So, that's what has happened to me lately.
My husband discovered that he liked Vegemite too! He thought he hated it, but he was wrong. We were both so happy!
Even though I didn't conquer EVERYTHING I set out to, mostly due to lack of availability, this project was a complete success, and my life is better for doing it. Mostly, it's a relief to have the mindset of I Like Everything Now, which has come in handy again and again. Guys, I'm NOT PICKY AT ALL anymore! If it's vegan, I'll accept it. Obviously, I still have preferences, as everyone does, but I can't think of a single vegan thing I would refuse if offered it. My husband is thrilled with the progress he made as well. It's funny, because 98% of people we told about this project looked at us like we were insane, assuming that there were some things people just don't like, no matter what.... and why would you try to like things you hate, when it is so much easier to avoid them? So, yeah, most people didn't get it. Oh well, we know it worked and we know we are better off for it! And we also know that when someone claims they hate a certain food, it's because they are close-minded and never really tried to embrace it, out of sheer habit or stubbornness.  ;-)
I'm just going to ask you one last time... please open your heart and stop insisting you don't like some foods and there is no way to change it!

Although I am very proud of everything I learned to like, there are several foods and drinks that really stand out as being shocking success stories. I mean, I love beer now! Which is CRAZY! I drink beer more than any other alcohol now, maybe about 4 beers per week. I like all kinds, the whole wide range. Even though I was hoping to be able to tolerate beer, I honestly didn't except to love it the way that I do! And when I'm not drinking beer, do you know what cocktail I drink about 80% of the time now? Get this: Gin & Tonic! It is now my Go To cocktail. Never would have believed I would crave them so much!!! And really, how on Earth did I live so long without sauerkraut? Or radishes? Or Everything bagels? Or hot dogs with mustard and relish?!? These have become some of my favorite foods, and a year ago, I hated them all. Or at least I thought I did!!!!

So, I consider this project to be, more or less, complete, but I am going to go through the rest of my life with an open heart, an open mind and an open mouth! If I come across any exciting new foods, I will certainly mention them on this blog..... because this blog is going to continue.... but with a new theme for 2013....

The Gal Who Cooked Everything Vegan

It's no secret that I've been a cooking fiend for the past 15 years or so. I cook for about an hour, pretty much every day of my life. And I almost never repeat recipes, so I have an incredibly large repertoire of things I know how to cook. But there are so many things I still find daunting.... I think they will be too difficult, too frustrating, too weird, or quite often, too caloric.

Like every other woman in my age bracket, I recently got on Pinterest. After I understood how it works (I was admittedly baffled by it at first) and figured out how to find 8554 ridiculous new vegan recipes every day, I got hooked on it. I cook at least a couple of new recipes from Pinterest each week. But there is an even more common occurrence that happens to me when browsing through the recipes. I see something that looks delicious, and I want it with my whole soul, but I instantly think, "But I'll never make that!" In fact, I have an entire board in Pinterest dedicated to Vegan Things I Want That I Will Never Make (and please go and follow it if you are on Pinterest. I find some crazy, beautiful recipes I post on there!). But I finally stopped to think, "Well, why won't I ever make these things?!? What is stopping me but my own fear and laziness?!?"

So, this is my 2013 plan. At least once a month, maybe more if I get really inspired, I'm going to make one of the recipes from my VTIWTIWNM board. And I'll write about the adventures here. And I hope to help inspire people to get outside of their cooking comfort zone and try to make some new and crazy things!

1st one is coming very soon..... stay tuned!!!