Monday, March 31, 2008

The thrilla of the grilla

I had a hankering for grilled veggies last night.

That, and I had a bunch of produce from the farmers market that was about to turn bad.

For the grilled cabbage, I removed the core from the head, then coated the entire thing in grapeseed oil, salt and pepper. For the filling, I sauteed some onions with a big hunk of Soyrizo, then added some spicy BBQ sauce. (I went zesty for the filling, but I bet it would still work well with any other flavor combination.)

Somehow I made just the right amount of filling to cabbage, which made me feel like the master of all cookery.

To grill, you need to balance the cabbage head on a ring made of foil, like you see here. I also added little dabs of Earth Balance on top, but they weren't necessary. (I thought they would give the outside a buttery flavor, and I was wrong.)


Depending on the size and weight of the cabbage, it can take up to an hour-and-a-half to cook. You know it's done when you can easily poke it with a skewer.

Here we see that my cabbage made friends with some potatoes, baby eggplant and zucchini. Later a baguette joined the party. (It was late when I grilled, so this weirdly-illuminated photo was taken on a dark patio.)

Veggies cooking

Turns out my little cabbage didn't require much cooking time at all, so I ended up with some dark leaves on the outside. Still tasted OK, though.

Grilled dinner

Now that grilling season is in full swing, I'm eyeing everything else in the kitchen. Lettuce and radicchio, you guys are next.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Vegan par-tay in San Pedro

I've been psyched for weeks about the PPK potluck in San Pedro and have been yammering about it nonstop. Even total strangers have heard about all the excellent vegan food there's going to be and how I'm going to make so many vegan friends ...

And then the day finally arrived. It was time to meet everyone.

I immediately turned into a shy, awkward version of myself. I barely even spoke to anyone.

My excuse is that I was too busy inhaling all the food to make friends. The wealth of vegan goodies was almost overwhelming. Tempeh bacon strips, pancakes and blueberry syrup, apple sage veggie sausages, a basket full of tofu wontons, enchiladas, deep dish pizza, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, mimosas, fruit salad ...

And it was so nice to sample everything without asking, "Does that have chicken broth in it? Is that made with dairy?"

I'm a little pissed that I only took a few photos -- and they don't really showcase all the pretty vegans and their excellent food. Sorry.


Vegan potluck


I had never been to San Pedro before, but my friend Maria grew up there, so she played tour guide and showed off the peninsula

Maria and me

It's a charming and beautiful place, with crisp ocean wind, industrial grit and Dr. Seuss architecture, plus a ridiculous abundance of flowers and friendly people who throw their arms open wide as soon as they meet you.

Lazy Saturday in park


Sky cleared


We also saw Bukowski's grave:

'Don't try'

Afterward we went to Hermosa Beach and ate at The Spot, L.A.'s oldest vegetarian restaurant and an old haunt for Paul and Linda McCartney.

My entree -- brown rice, pinto beans, mixed veggies, tofu, salsa and savory sauce -- was much tastier than it looks:


Thursday, March 27, 2008

Because I'm German

Seitan and sauerkraut

It's a fact: If I don't eat sauerkraut at least once a week, I'll die.

Three out of four doctors agree.

Seriously, I was amazed when I moved here and met so many people who have never eaten sauerkraut before. I mean, what do you eat when you're drunk, if not glorious pickled cabbage? So I do my part by cooking it as often as possible for friends, family ... anyone willing to eat it, really.

For this round, I slow cooked the sauerkraut, which removes a lot of the bite and bitterness. (I'll admit -- sometimes I just eat it by the spoonful, straight out of the can/jar/bag. That is because I am gross. But when I'm cooking for others, I try to make it a little more palatable.)

I served the sauerkraut with grilled seitan sausages that were based on this easy and awesome recipe from Julie Hasson, though I changed the spices to be more like bratwurst. I also ground up dried wild mushrooms into a fine powder and added that to the mix -- it not only added a lot of earthy flavor, the powder also soaked up a lot of liquid while cooking, which made the sausage links plump, moist and firm.

And that sounds altogether too dirty, so I'll stop there.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Catching up from Easter weekend

This past weekend was overwhelmingly blah. A toilet leak turned into a much bigger issue, then the plumber crashed into Jason's car ... and that set a whole bunch of bad things into motion.

Thankfully, there was some good food along the way. That makes everything better, doesn't it?

First up, this latte from Buzz Coffee in Palm Desert. I don't have lattes very often, because the Starbucks soy variety tastes bitter unless I add a bunch of sugar.

This Buzz Coffee version was a whole different story -- it's made with almond milk (richer than soy and easier on the tummy) and sweetened with agave nectar. And it's 100 percent delicious.

Almond milk latte

After hitting up the Palm Springs farmers market on Saturday morning, we were both grumpy enough to deserve some cheery heart-shaped pancakes. I don't make pancakes very often, so I just played this by ear -- I just stirred a bunch of stuff together until the batter looked right, then I added dried cranberries and fresh blood orange juice and zest. Fabulous.

Heart pancakes

Next comes lunch.

We are a household of brussels sprouts lovers, but I realized we ALWAYS eat them roasted. No more. Sauteeing gives the veggies much brighter flavors and is so much faster.

This recipe came out of "Williams-Sonoma Eating By Color," which is not a vegan cookbook, but it does have a lot of easy recipes for cooking produce in new ways.

To make it, thinly slice a bunch of brussels sprouts and saute until bright green. (I added a tiny bit of garlic for good measure.) Add a generous splash of veggie broth and cook for another minute. Add a squeeze of lemon juice, salt and pepper and some capers.

Brussel sprout salad

I served it with Gardenburger riblets, because riblets are saucy and good.

Riblet and brussels

And finally, Jason knew I was sad because I can no longer eat Peeps, my favorite weird Easter candy. Unfortunately, Peeps contain gelatin. (Sad but true, kids: Gelatin comes from boiling cow bones, pork skin and/or fish bones.)

So that's why I was so happy to end up with these in my Easter basket ...

Vegan Peeps

Vegan because they're plush!

Friday, March 21, 2008


Today somebody said, "Being vegan is stupid. You can't eat anything, and you'll starve to death."


Broccoli and potato soup with fresh herbs

Poor me.

Leek and bean cassoulet

So weak and pale.



Corn chowder

With nothing to eat.

Taco salad

No variety.


No flavor.

Pasta Puttanesca ... kinda

And no fun at all.

Chai cupcake

May god have mercy on the vegans.

Comfort food

Veggie Tostada


So, the food situation at the Pacific Life Open was as expected. I walked into the fancy skybox and my friend Maria said, "Well, you just missed the vegan food -- potato chips."

So we went back downstairs and scoured the food court in search of anything veggie. There were some vegetarian options, but those were premade items that included cheese and/or eggs, so no dice.

Our only option was the vegetarian tostada at the Mexican food stand. When I ordered, I explained that I'm vegan and don't eat dairy, so no cheese please.

My tostada arrived with no cheese and a big dollop of sour cream.

I sent it back. And then I watched as the guy behind the counter dug two fingers into the tostada, removed most of the sour cream and covered the rest with additional tomatoes.

Uh, that didn't work for me either. So I sent it back again.

The tostada was passed around in the work area, and then I couldn't see what happened next, but somehow I ended up with a tostada that might or might not have been the original one. Or maybe the cook spit on it. But hey, at least that's vegan.

I should have stuck with the Larabar in my purse.

Anyway, to balance out all the sad tostadas and energy bars and whatnot I've been eating lately, I've been making some gorgeous juice. Check out this blood orange juice.

Blood orange juice

You know you want to drink it

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Precious cargo

Tonight I've been invited to hang in one of the skyboxes at the Pacific Life Open during the Roger Federer match and the Russian chick's match.

I think the skyboxes are supposed to be very schmancy, with food and wine and all that good stuff. Probably not vegan, though.

So dinner will most likely be some combo of these items from my purse.

Purse snacks

With late nights at work and the crazy schedule I keep, that's actually been my dinner an embarrassing number of times.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Dinosaur fruit

Does everyone else out there love the cherimoya?

I do. Mostly because they look like dinosaurs, if dinosaurs were made out of fruit.


When I lived in Cincinnati, I could only find them in the grocery store when they ran Cinco de Mayo sales. So, naturally, I figured that when I moved to Southern California it would be cherimoyas as far as the eye could see.

I was wrong. It's been almost three years now, and my first cherimoya sighting was last weekend at the Palm Springs farmers market. I immediately snatched up three of the biggest ones.

I don't do anything fancy with them. I prefer to just slice the fruit in half and eat it with a spoon. It tastes like bananas, pears and mangos all in one creamy, smooth bite -- so doing anything else with the cherimoya would be a waste of the delicate, tropical flavor.

What can I say? I'm a simple girl with simple fruit needs.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Tofu scramble

Tofu scramble

Saturday mornings are reserved for the Palm Springs farmers market -- which isn't the leisurely shopping trip you might find in, say, Portland or Santa Monica. It's just a handful of vendors who set up in the parking lot of a movie theater. And it's not always a pleasant shopping experience. You often have to do battle with a bunch of crabby old people who want to cut in line and fight over the last bunch of chard.

That said, this farmers market is all we have, and I already love the hell out of it. I find myself leaping out of bed way too early just to get there on time, so I can show my support to the local farmers.

So that's what I do every Saturday morning now. I literally roll out of bed and go, all unshowered and unsightly. And I guess fighting with old ladies makes me hungry, because I'm always starving by the time I'm done.

Last weekend I craved good ol' diner fare. Just a big platter of grease and salt.

"Sorry, you're screwed," said Jason.

"Well, we could go to ... uh ... or, um ... yeah. I'm screwed."

Until Palm Springs magically transforms into a forward-thinking, vegan-embracing town -- or until huevos rancheros becomes a vegetable -- I have no breakfast options.

The next best thing was to make something at home. I whipped up this recipe for scrambled tofu, which was pretty darn good. (Next time I'll tweak the seasoning a bit; there was too much thyme for my taste and not enough spice.) I served it inside a sprouted grain tortilla and some tomato slices, fresh from the market.

I had every intention of making pan-fried potatoes to accompany the tofu, but a hungry girl can only slave away in the kitchen for so long.

Hey, speaking of other breakfast foods, I'm looking for a decent vegan soysage. I used to love these Morningstar links, and I was waaaay disappointed when I found out they're not vegan. (Double whammy -- they contain both milk and egg.) Since then I've had the Gimme Lean sausage tube, but I didn't care too much for the flavor. I prefer links over patties anyway.

Any suggestions?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Native Foods night

Staying at home on a Saturday night and watching the complete series of "Freaks and Geeks" isn't THAT lame, is it?

No, I didn't think so.

Anyway, last night in the desert was cold and yucky and some sort of water was falling from the sky, so I didn't feel like doing much of anything at all. I was all set to stay in and make the kasha phyllo pie from "Veganomicon," but ... um, did you know frozen phyllo has to be defrosted before you can use it? Yeah, I'm an idiot.

So I flopped onto the bed and dramatically wailed, "I give up!" then covered my head with a pillow.

Something about that scene inspired Jason to go to Native Foods to pick up dinner, so I need to remember that trick.

I got the tempeh reuben, which is a boring choice, but it's so delicious I don't care.

Hooray for recycled cardboard takeout boxes!


I don't know what their Native "cheese" is made out of, but I could happily roll around in a vat of it for the rest of my life.


I got a side of spicy native fries with my meal, because Thai coleslaw sounded altogether too healthy.


Saturday, March 15, 2008

Vegan pozole

Huh. I don't even remember making this.

But I must have, since I just found the photo on my camera. Looks incredibly tasty, though.


That's one of my favorite flavor combinations right there -- the muskiness of cumin, zesty cayenne, bright lime juice, all brought together with creamy avocado in a salty, tomatoey broth. Yuuuum.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Two crappy tofu photos

Sorry for the poor picture quality -- both of these photos were taken with my iPhone.

Anyway, for Jason's birthday I took him to Okura Robata Grill in Palm Springs. I ordered the mushroom miso soup, which was incredible, and the Agedashi Tofu, pictured below. It was a sizable amount of crispy fried tofu in dashi broth. I could have used some vegetables too, but their salads are extraordinarily expensive.


And here's my lunch from today, rancheros tofu from Nature's Rx, which is a much more cost-effective meal. A pile of spicy tofu, squash, chard and carrots, a bunch of brown rice and black beans, plus sliced avocado, salsa and two corn tortillas, all for $8.50.

Rancheros tofu

Mint chocolate cupcake

Mint chocolate cupcake

These mint chocolate cupcakes (recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World), are supposed to have a melty chocolate ganache drizzled on top of the frosting. Me being the lazyass that I am, just chopped up a dark chocolate bar instead and sprinkled that on top.

As far as flavor goes, these made for a perfectly acceptable dessert until the day I said to Jason, "Hey, do these cupcakes taste kinda like toothpaste?"

And yes. They did.

That's what I get for using too much spearmint extract. Sometimes more doesn't equal better.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Italian job

It's difficult to be vegan at Donatella's in Rancho Mirage. It's not impossible, but it's not easy either.

Tonight was my second visit to the restaurant, which has a cult-like following for the authentic Italian fare.

During those visits I have learned:

1. All the pasta is homemade with eggs.
2. Ditto the gnocchi.
3. Ninety-nine percent of the menu includes one or more of the following: Meat, seafood, cheese.

The people at Donatella's make good food, and they're nice as can be. It's just difficult to get your point across. If you say you don't eat meat, the server suggests something with cheese. If you say you don't eat cheese, they suggest something with meat. And if you (again) say you don't eat meat, they recommend the fish.

In short, they simply don't understand vegan.

Last time I ordered the grilled veggie platter. It arrived with half the plate covered in what appeared to be a mountain of poached egg whites, (which turned out to be cheese). And that massive white lump was covered with layers of prosciutto.

This time around, I had to really stress that I only wanted vegetables on the grilled veggie platter. My table ended up with a decent plate of four eggplant slices, four zucchini slices, four tomato slices and one long hunk of roasted red pepper.

I also ordered a risotto that the owner assured me was dairy-free -- but I'm simply not 100 percent confident about anything I order at this place.

I might return just for the wine, which is imported from Verona and is excellent.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Typical lunch

Because my sister asked, "What DO you eat, anyway?"

Typical lunch

A typical lunch is something like this. Here I was trying out some faux chicken bites from Nate's. (They're good, but they actually taste a little too close to the real thing, so I probably won't buy them again.)

That's served with a mustard dipping sauce, also sauteed garlic and kohlrabi greens, and a simple salad of cucumber, tomato and red onion.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Snausage balls

Snausage balls

I'm still undecided about these snausage balls.

I made them as party food for Jason's birthday. I don't even know why I decided to go for these, because I wasn't much of a sausage fan even when I was omni. I guess they just sounded like retro and fun party fare, like something you'd put out next to the mini franks and the cheese ball.

I whipped up a batch as a test run the night before the party.

"So what do you think?" I asked Jason as he gnawed on one of the soft, bready balls.

"I don't know."

"Are they terrible?"

"I don't know."

"Well, do you like them?"

"I don't know."

I was frustrated by his ambivalence, so I tried one for myself.

Hmmm. It was the exact same experience for me, too. They're not good. And they're not bad. They're just there. They should probably be called Apathy Balls.

Anyway, I didn't end up putting them out for the party. I was too afraid people would hate it and it would put them off vegan food forever.

So it's just been me -- eating balls all week. (Ahem. No jokes, please.)

The recipe came from Freckle Foot, a poster on the Post Punk Kitchen forums.

Try them and let me know what you think.

Veganized Sausage Balls

14-oz pkg Gimme Lean Sausage
2.5 C shredded Follow Your Heart Cheddar
3 C Bisquick dry mix
1 large pinch sage leaves
1 to 2 large pinches fennel seeds
2 large pinches crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 TB extra-virgin olive oil
2 small cloves grated or very finely minced garlic (I use a Microplane zester)
1/2 to 1 C nutritional yeast flakes (optional, but EXTREMELY recommended)

Preheat oven to 350. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper, or spray with nonstick spray.

Mix all ingredients together by hand, until everything is well-incorporated. Form into balls (my mix made about 3 dozen) and place on sheets about a half to one inch apart. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until bottoms are browned, and tops are beginning to brown. Best served warm.

Dipping sauce:

1/3 C vegan mayo
2 TB dijon mustard
1/2 Tb paprika
1 tsp chili powder

Mix together.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Roasted veggies

Awww, yeah. Stereotypical vegan dinner, represent:

Roasted veggies

Leftovers will be had with brown rice.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Almost-sick soup

When I was little, my mother always fed me Campbell's Chicken & Stars soup when I was feeling sick or sad, so it's no surprise that I associate that can of food with love and comfort.
Sick day soup

Today, I've been hot and flushed and am starting to get that vice-like pressure inside my head, so I know I'm about THIS close to getting sick. Of course, all I wanted was to curl up under blankets on the couch and sip on some Chicken and Stars.

But since chicken has yet to become a vegetable, that stuff is not vegan.

I needed a new plan.

I whipped up the only recipe that sounded appealing in my feverish state, the Chickpea Noodle Soup from Veganomicon. The broth is made salty and creamy from miso, and the chickpeas make it hearty and filling. I also tossed in some chard for extra vitamins.

Oh, and instead of the soba noodles I tossed in a couple handfuls of pasta stars.

Stars have more healing properties. Three out of four doctors agree.

Awww. Itty-bitty cupcakes

Over the weekend I whipped up a batch of tiny chai cupcakes using this recipe from The Post Punk Kitchen. (Recipe also in "Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.")

Chai latte mini cupcakes

There's no good reason why I made them mini. Only that miniature things are adorable.

Also, the recipe makes 12 regular-sized cupcakes, but when you make them mini you get 24. This is simple math, people.

Secretly I like to pretend that they are actually full-sized cakes, and I am Godzilla.

I've made these a few times before, and it seems to be a solid, reliable recipe. No matter what kind of crappy chai tea I use or how drastically I mis-measure the spices, the cupcakes somehow always turn out great. They're Maggie-proof.

This time around I substituted raspberry soy yogurt for the vanilla soy, (since the bastards at Trader Joes were out of vanilla) -- but I actually think the raspberry improved the flavor. They were so good, in fact, that my friends wrapped them up in napkins and took some to go.

It's always a good sign when your friends steal your food. I think.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

'Lost' cake

We had a party for Jason's birthday, an occasion that called for a spectacular cake.

Except I don't really know where I could get vegan baked goods around here. So even though I'm not the most proficient baker, I figured I would give it a try myself.

For the cake, I doubled the basic chocolate cupcake recipe from "Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World." The icing is the basic buttercream, also from VCTOTW. And because Jason is a fan of the TV show "Lost," I went with a plane crash/stranded on island theme.

Here's how the full cake turned out.

'Lost' cake

I know I left out some of the characters, but you get the idea.

Cast of 'Lost'

To give the ocean waves varying shades of blue, I used food color spraypaint. I did not even know such a thing existed until two days ago.

'Lost' cake

And here's what the whole thing looked like with blue stripey candles. Apparently they crashed in the ocean too.

With candles

Overall, I think it went over very well. Almost everybody at the party said something like, "I can't believe it's vegan!" or "You can't even tell it's vegan!"

I'm not sure what they were expecting -- twigs and tofu maybe? -- but I'm happy they liked it.