Seaweed-Banana Sandwich: approved by vegan toddlers

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My daughter’s not even two yet, but she’s already developing her own recipes.  I thought I’d share her latest creation with you:

Seaweed-Banana Sandwich
Serves 1

Ingredients

  • 1 strip of Nori paper
  • 1 slice of banana

Directions

  1. Wrap banana slice in Nori.
  2. Eat.

I’ve gotta say, I’m kind of grossed out by her creation, but she seems to like it.  I suspect it’ll be the cornerstone of her first cookbook.

Watch out, Isa!

[ratings]

Three Reasons Why Miso Rules the Planet

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Sometimes miso gets overlooked.  That’s sad.  Because miso rules the planet, and here’s why:

  1. Forget chicken soup, miso rules when you’re feeling under the weather.  And it doesn’t require dead chickens.
  2. Eating miso will ensure you survive the fallout from a nuclear attack.  You can share some with the cockroaches.  (Yeah, so maybe this is overstated a tad.)
  3. Refrigerated miso has no expiration!

Here’s an introduction from NPR to the world’s greatest fermented soybean paste, our beloved miso.

Cookbook review: The Damn Tasty! Vegan Baking Guide

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damntastylarge Cookbooks that focus on baking take me a little longer to get to since I don’t bake as often as I cook, but that’s still no excuse after having had this one around so long waiting for a review.

Portland’s Kris Holechek, who you may know from Squirrel’s Vegan Kitchen, self-published this fun collection of breads, cookies, cakes, and other assorted goodies.  The first thing I noticed and loved about The Damn Tasty! Vegan Baking Guide was the "baking basics" section where she expounds on why she just uses the term "milk" throughout the book rather than "soy milk," "non-dairy milk," or some other similar term:

As I refined the content, I truly agonized over the way to write about milk.  I’ve seen books that assume soy milk for the milk and I’ve seen books where the word milk is in quotes, calling for "milk."  Now just think of coconut milk.  No one protests calling that milk.  Alternative milks date back hundreds and hundreds of years to different regions of the world, so they aren’t a new invention, they are just newly recognized by western society.  Because of my strong views on the linguistics of eating, I chose to simply write the word milk.  This is a vegan book, so clearly the use of cow’s or goat’s milk is unacceptable.  But people have preferences, allergies and limitations to what is available to them, so the milk you prefer, be it so, almond, rice, it’s up to you.  If there is one kind or another that I’ve found works best, it is noted in the recipe.

She also points out that something like Boston Cream Pie isn’t called Boston Cream Pie with Eggs and Cow’s Milk, so a vegan version isn’t any less "real."  "Let’s stop playing semantic games and not allow mainstream eating habits to make us feel like our vegan "food" is any less enticing than it is."  Well said!

Onto the food.

I still haven’t had a chance to try as many recipes here as I had hoped, but we’ve had good success with the ones we’ve made thus far.  The Raspberry-Lime Muffins are every bit as awesome as they sound and the Pumpkin-Cinnamon Zig-Zag Bread is excellent, even when made with whole wheat pastry flour.  The simple white icing recipe has become a go-to when making anything that needs a quick icing.  The recipe for garlic rolls has a great little side note about a very easy cheesy topping made with raw cashews and nutritional yeast that tastes absolutely perfect on popcorn (go just a smidge lighter on the salt, though).  Our recipe queue includes: Polski Apple Crisp, Blueberry Streusel Muffins, Basic Biscuits, and Danish.  I look forward to trying each of those in due time.

The only less-than-success I had was with the Baked Chocolate Glazed Donuts, which I made as donut holes instead (dropping the batter into a mini-muffin tin).  They tasted OK but were… weird.  The consistency was off and they didn’t come out in a very appealing way.  I suspect, though, that this may be due to baker error.  Baked goods can be hard to review for this reason — they’re generally not as forgiving of mistakes as recipes made on the stovetop.

There’s a lot to like in Damn Tasty.  There’s a good variety of recipes (they’re not all sweets) and the voice is conversational and a pleasure to read.  Though there’s no food photography, its absence didn’t bother me; the descriptive text was often enough.  If baking is your thing, you’ll certainly want to put Kris’ book on your wishlist.  Good stuff.

Review of Wheeler’s Ice Cream

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Man, this review’s overdue.

Back at the beginning of the year, I sat down with my wife (not vegan, but nearly so) and my sister-in-law (straight omni with a serious dairy addiction… I’m sure she’d love that classification) to try out a handful of flavors sent down by the kind folks up at Wheeler’s.

Buzz started forming about Wheeler’s from the moment they started handing out ice cream in 2007 at the Boston Vegetarian Food Festival.

Here’s a compiled summary of our comments on each flavor:

Pumpkin

This was my favorite of the bunch.  It’s a really unique idea for a flavor and tastes exactly what you’d imagine pumpkin pie in ice cream form would taste like.  It’s super creamy and intense.  Love it, love it.

My wife liked the richness and thought it was thick, much like pie.  Sis-in-law said the taste lingered a little too long afterwards, but still liked it because it wasn’t overly sweet.

Butter Pecan

Seriously: vegan butter pecan!  It’s been ages since I’ve had butter pecan ice cream, but this is exactly how I remember it.  Creamy, nutty… just great.  Sister-in-law tasted a sourness and indicated a preference for its dairy counterpart.

My wife said, "I could eat a whole tub of this."  I didn’t ask her to clarify if she meant an ice cream tub or a bathtub because I know my own preferences would have tended towards the latter.

Black Raspberry

Not normally my favorite flavor, but I enjoyed this.  My sister-in-law liked this one a lot, comparing it to a sorbet.  She said the sour taste she was getting with the other flavors was less out-of-place here.  My wife said she liked it a lot, but missed the bits of berry.  "Might have been good with bits of black cherry, too."

Pina Colada (with alcohol)

Good, but not my favorite.  Nice chunks of pineapple and coconut.  Not as smooth of a consistency as the other flavors.  Both of the other tasters liked it a lot, ranking it among their favorites.

Double Chocolate Chip

Uber-chocolatey.  Smooth and creamy with nice, small chunks of chocolate.  I thought there was a very slight aftertaste, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  My wife loved this one, liking both the taste ("a chocolate lover’s dream") and crunch.  My sister-in-law said it was very rich and that it "tastes like [dairy] chocolate ice cream" even though she prefers a sweeter chocolate.

Overall impressions of Wheeler’s

We’re at an interesting point with regards to vegan ice cream in the US.  We’ve pretty much reached the peak with companies like So Delicious (their mint chocolate chip and pomegranate chip are awesome) and Temptation (everything is awesome), but Wheeler’s every bit as good.  So, it’s awesome.  And more awesomeness is a good thing.

Where I think Wheeler’s will really succeed is in their niche of custom specialty flavors. Check out some of the flavors they’ve perfected already.  I’m really curious to see where they take their business and what they do in terms of distribution.  Because, really, the world needs to taste their pumpkin ice cream.  And I want to be able to get some at a moment’s notice.

Like, now.  Now would be good.

You can visit Wheeler’s site at icecreamproject.com and keep an eye on their blog for frequent updates about tasting events around the country.

Vegan Cooking in Northern Virginia

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A former co-worker of mine recently started teaching a vegan cooking class in Fairfax, Virginia.  Finding vegan-only cooking classes outside of a major city can be kind of tough, so something like this is really welcome in this area.  She comes from a background of French cooking, so I’m willing to bet her classes are going to be quite good.

Here’s the info:

HI06026   Transitioning to a Vegetarian or Vegan Diet

Learn how to transition to a vegetarian diet (lacto/ovo) or an animal product free diet (vegan). Learn how to manage proper nutrition and to prepare dishes such as spinach lasagna, couscous salad, upside down apple tart, and various hot and cold soups for both types of diets. Class includes demonstration and participation. 5 sessions @ 3 hrs each.

Course #         HI06026       
Fees: Tuition ($179.00) + Materials ($50.00) = Total ($229.00)     

Fairfax HS, room B115, 09:00 AM, starting 05/10/08

Note that even though it says “vegetarian or vegan,” the class will focus exclusively on veganism and will not deal at all with dairy or eggs.