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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Get Your Smoke On!

One of my go-to ingredients for veganizing recipes or adding more complexity to dishes is smoke. Grilling with natural charcoal (yep, it's vegan, since it's made from wood) is my favorite way to infuse food with smoky goodness. I highly recommend grilling portobello mushrooms or asparagus. I sincerely believe there is no better way to eat asparagus than lightly oiled, grilled and served with a pinch of salt.

Even if you don't own a grill or smoker, there are plenty of ways to add delicious smoky flavor to your favorite recipes.

Liquid Smoke
The idea of liquid smoke might sound a bit strange, but it's nothing to be scared of. Smoke from burning wood chips is cooled and condensed into a liquid. One of the most popular brands is Colgin— pictured above are apple, hickory and mesquite flavors. A little goes a long way. Start with 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon, depending on the size of your dish.

Smoky Hot Sauce
Believe it or not, there is a bacon flavored hot sauce. The funny thing is that it's actually vegan! Garnish your favorite dishes with bacon flavored hot sauce or hot sauce made with chipotle chiles for a touch of smoke and heat. (Pictured above: Bacon Hot Sauce and Chipotle Tabasco Sauce) A great place to use hot sauce is my Smoky Black-Eyed Peas and Greens.

Chipotle Chiles
Chipotle chiles are actually smoked jalapenos. You can buy them dried (whole or powder), or canned as "chipotle en adobo." I like to add chipotle chiles to salsas, enchilada sauces and the like. Here's my recipe for Potato Enchiladas with Smoky Chipotle Sauce.

Smoked Paprika
The flavor of smoked paprika is a bit milder than some of the other options listed, but it has a beautiful red color. You can swap out sweet paprika for smoked paprika measure for measure. Try adding smoked paprika to creamy sauces and gravies, mac 'n' cheese, tofu scrambles or pan-fried potatoes. Sometimes I like to add a little smoked paprika to my Creamy Thyme-Pepper Gravy.

Smoked Vegan Cheese
Recently Daiya introduced a Smoked Gouda Style Block. This vegan cheese is super melty and goes great on burgers, makes a great grilled cheese sandwich and works well in mac 'n' cheese for a mildly smoky white cheese sauce. I would imagine you can use the Aged English Smoked Farmhouse from Miyoko's Kitchen (pictured above) in cooking as well, but honestly this stuff is so good that I always eat it plain on crackers.

Smoked Salt
This item might be a little harder to find than the others. I stumbled upon apple wood smoked salt at Whole Foods by accident while trying to track down some kala namak (black salt). A little smoked salt goes a long way, so sprinkle a little on at a time and omit any other salt from the recipe you're using. I often add smoked salt to chili or sprinkle it on baked potatoes. For a real treat, put some smoked salt on a baked potato with chili and top with chopped avocado. Delicious!


Friday, February 13, 2015

Incredible (and Edible!) Body Butter

This body butter is super creamy and moisturizing. If you use food grade cocoa butter, it's even edible, so feel free to use it as a lip balm! I like to use it on heels, elbows, knees, lips and anywhere you need mega moisture. Best of all, you only need 2 ingredients.

Since it's made from coconut oil and cocoa butter, this body butter is very melty. You'll want to store it at a cool temperature, so if your house is hot in the summer, the fridge might be the best place.

Just about any small container with a lid will be fine if the container is stored upright and won't tip over. I would suggest using one with a tight-fitting lid to be on the safe side.

Coco-Cocoa Body Butter
1 part virgin coconut oil
1 part food-grade cocoa butter
a few drops of oil-based flavoring (you can find these with candy-making supplies at craft stores), optional

Determine how much body butter you want to make to fit the container(s) you have. If you're not sure, start with a tablespoon of each. Add all ingredients to a double boiler and stir until melted. If you don't have a double boiler, you need a way to gently melt/mix the ingredients. Pour the melted body butter into your container(s) and allow to cool.


Sunday, September 28, 2014

Vegan Bread Machine: Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Time sure flies when you're raising up the next generation of vegans. My daughter is now 9 months old, and I haven't found a lot of time to experiment in the kitchen. We've been eating lots of pasta, stir-fries and other simple dishes since the baby was born. I'm all for the super quick and easy type recipes right now :)

Which brings me to the bread machine — we cashed in our credit card reward points on a T Fal Balanced Living bread machine. When we first got it, I was worried I might have to work a lot of veganizing magic to use any recipes that came with the machine. Much to my surprise (and delight), almost all of the recipes were already vegan, including a sweet bread recipe. I promptly used it as a jumping off point to making cinnamon raisin bread in the bread machine. This bread is wonderfully moist, fluffy, delicious and cinnamon-y — perfect for autumn!

Update: I forgot to mention that I prefer to weigh flour for the best results when baking bread and have updated the flour amount to also include a weight measure. Also, when working with yeast breads, you should be extra careful in measuring flour and liquid ingredients. You need the right flour to water ratio to get a great loaf. This might require seasonal adjustments too due to changing humidity levels (i.e. use less flour in winter, more in summer.) For more information and tips on bread machine baking, check out the tips at King Arthur Flour.

Cinnamon Raisin Bread
Makes one 1.5 lb. loaf

1 cup + 2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons canola or other neutral-tasting oil
1 teaspoon non-iodized salt
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 teaspoons cinnamon
3 cups (13.5 oz) bread flour
1 teaspoon instant yeast (you can probably substitute quick-rise yeast)
3/4 cup raisins

Add the water, oil, salt, sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon and bread flour to the bread machine pan, in that order. Sprinkle the yeast over the top or add to the yeast dispenser if your machine has one. (Note: Depending on the brand of your bread machine, you may need to add the ingredients in a different order, such as the dry ingredients first, etc.)

Choose the sweet bread cycle, 1.5 lb. loaf setting and medium crust browning. If your machine doesn't have a sweet bread setting, try using something as similar as possible, such as a "white bread" setting. Press start.

Add the raisins during the second kneading cycle. Many bread machines will beep to let you know when to add extra ingredients, such as dried fruit and nuts. If your machine does not, you may need to look up the table of cycles for your machine or watch it carefully to see when to add the raisins.

Once the bread is done cooking, remove it from the loaf pan and cool on a wire rack. Let the bread cool completely (if you can stand it!) before slicing. I tend to cheat a bit and slice it while it's still warm, because let's face it, nothing beats a slice of fresh warm bread!


Friday, February 14, 2014

Vegan Pregnancy: Second Trimester and Beyond

It's been a long time since I've posted...blame the hormones! The good news is that I survived pregnancy and have a healthy, (mostly) happy baby girl. Since the last post on vegan pregnancy, I ended up switching brands on all my supplements, ventured into the world of maternity clothes and dealt with the lack of vegan food options during a hospital stay (didn't get to have the natural birth I wanted due to baby's positioning).

I switched to Rainbow Light Prenatal One Multivitamin after realizing I was having a reaction to the chamomile in the Deva brand prenatal. I really like the Rainbow Light multivitamin and am still taking now, since I'm breastfeeding. It's coated, so it's easier to swallow than other similarly large pills. I also like that it's a food-based vitamin. Doesn't have a weird taste either.

For the DHA, I currently take Ovega-3, which is actually is an EPA and DHA combination supplement. Reason for the switch? It's more economical to take one Ovega-3 rather than two of the DHA pills I was taking before.

Also, I have been taking alfalfa tablets since the third trimester. It was highly recommend by the group of midwives I was seeing to reduce postpartum bleeding. I also read somewhere (sorry, no link) that it fortifies breastmilk, so I'm continuing to take it. Only the tablets are vegan. I was unable to find alfalfa in vegetable-based capsules. You should be cautious when taking alfalfa tablets as a vegan though! It's basically like taking fiber pills.....you get the idea.

As for maternity clothes, it's not hard to find vegan items. The only non-vegan item I encountered was wool coats, and there are probably some wool maternity sweaters out there too. I never bought a maternity coat because one coat I already owned miraculously fit all the way through pregnancy, and I even wore it to the hospital on baby's birth day. If you don't mind the "puffy" down-alternative style coats, they can work well in pregnancy if they are short enough and have elastic to adjust the size. All my long coats didn't fit around my bump, but I occasionally wore them unbuttoned (weather permitting).

Surprisingly, some of my favorite clothes weren't maternity clothes. Jersey knit shirts easily stretch over a growing baby bump and snap back into shape in the wash. As for actual maternity shirts, those with ruching on the sides will fit throughout pregnancy depending on the brand and shirt material. Yoga pants are probably your best friend in pregnancy, but if you need to look presentable, I recommend wearing full panel jeans or pants late in pregnancy or skirts with a wide, soft, stretchy waistband. In the first half of pregnancy, the hair tie trick does wonders.

If you want to be more environmentally friendly in purchasing maternity clothes or want to save money, then buying secondhand is worth considering. I even found used maternity clothes online (at thredUP), but I didn't like everything I bought. Some clothes didn't fit right, and some items didn't look as good on me as I was hoping, so definitely use caution if going the online route. That being said, I did really like a few of the items I bought, including a black dress and a gray hoodie.

If you're lucky, you might have a secondhand store nearby that sells maternity or have a friend/family member that wears the same size who will let you borrow their maternity clothes. For anyone in the Lawrence, KS area, Doodlebugs  is a great option. It's a babies/kids store, but they also sell some maternity clothes.

Feel free to leave me your vegan pregnancy questions, and I'll try my best to answer them!


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Classic Macaroni Salad

I first tried deli macaroni salad when I was a toddler, and I've loved it ever since! It's a little sweet, a little tangy and full of crunchy diced veggies. Macaroni salad always makes me think of summer — it's a perfect side dish to go with sandwiches, veggie burgers or other cookout fare.

I first published a macaroni salad recipe back in 2009 (Gluten-Free Macaroni Salad), and now I'm bringing it back with a few flavor tweaks. This time I used elbow-macaroni that's made with Jerusalem artichoke, but you can make this dish gluten-free by substituting gluten-free pasta such as rice, quinoa or corn. I also changed up the veggies and the dressing a little...totally delicious!

Classic Macaroni Salad
Serves 6-8

8 oz. elbow macaroni (I used De Boles)
1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon vegan sugar
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
a pinch of cayenne
salt and pepper, to taste
1/3 cup each of diced red bell pepper, diced red onion, diced celery and chopped pickles (I used bread 'n' butter pickles)

Cook pasta according to package directions. While pasta is cooking, make the dressing by whisking together the mayo, vinegar, sugar, celery seed, cayenne, salt and pepper in a small bowl. After pasta is done, drain thoroughly and transfer to an appropriately-sized serving bowl. Add the dressing and the veggies to the pasta and mix until evenly combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least a couple hours before serving.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Vegan Pregnancy: First Trimester

If that title doesn't make it totally clear, yep, I'm having a vegan baby :-) And if anyone has been wondering where I've been for so long, I simply have been taking a break from the blog. Mostly because my stomach has been so fickle...I can't even imagine trying to develop new recipes right now. But what I can share is some of the vegan-friendly resources I've discovered during these first few months of pregnancy!

One of my first pregnancy-related purchases was DEVA Vegan Prenatal Multivitamin & Mineral. I like their regular multivitamin, so I figured the prenatals are probably good too. Nutritionally, they have you covered on pretty much everything except DHA. Unfortunately, they're not the most pleasant vitamins to take. They are not coated like the multivitamins, so they are not as easy to swallow. In fact, sometimes they'll get stuck in the back of my mouth because they've started to dissolve and get sticky. The taste is a little funky too. Like many prenatal vitamins, they can also make nausea/morning sickness worse. I don't blame DEVA though -- It's a common problem with taking prenatal vitamins. I've found that taking them with the largest meal of the day seems to help a lot with the nausea.

If anyone knows of a better vegan prenatal multivitamin (must be coated), please let me know in the comments. These were the only vegan prenatal vitamins I could find locally (I prefer not to order online unless I really need something), but I'm open to other brands if there's something better out there.

During my first prenatal appointment at the birth center, I was told to start taking DHA as well. I couldn't find a lot of vegan DHA options locally, but the NOW Foods brand was affordable and is vegetarian/vegan. So far so good! These "softgels" are fairly small and easy to swallow. No weird taste. I would definitely recommend them.

(My disclaimer: I am not a nutritionist or dietician. These are just the supplements I am taking in addition to my usual vitamin B12 supplement. Ask your doctor/midwife/dietician/nutritionist if you have any questions about which supplements to take.)

And finally, The Everything Vegan Pregnancy Book By Reed Mangels, PhD, RD, LD, FADA has been a handy resource for vegan-related pregnancy concerns. While it doesn't go into a lot of details about body changes or cover week by week development, I do think it's worth adding your personal library. No one pregnancy book is going to have everything (I have a stack of pregnancy books!), but I do find myself referring to this one often for the nutritional information.

Other good sources for vegan pregnancy nutrition info:

Becoming Vegan by Brenda Davis, RD, and Vesanto Melina, MS, RD
Vegan for Life by Jack Norris, RD, and Virginia Messina, MPH, RD

Websites / online articles:
Pregnancy and the Vegan Diet
Vegetarian Diets for Pregnancy

Please feel free to share any other resources in the comments!


Saturday, March 23, 2013

BBQ Tofu Scramble

I absolutely love barbecue sauce! Even when I ate meat (a looooong time ago), I really just liked the sauce. These days I will dip fries in it or make vegan barbecue sandwiches (see BBQ Sandwiches Two Ways), or order vegan barbecue pizza to get my fix.

On one of my recent shopping trips, I picked up some hickory-smoked tofu without thinking twice. I really had no idea what to do with it until yesterday, when I decided a smoky tofu scramble sounded really good. Then I thought it should be a barbecue tofu scramble...and I took a peek through the fridge to see what would go well. Luckily, I had some frozen corn, onions, and mushrooms on hand, and today this scramble was born.

Notes:  If you can't find smoked tofu, try adding smoked salt instead of regular or add some liquid smoke. This recipe is gluten-free as long as you choose a gf barbecue sauce and use a gf tortilla if making a wrap.

BBQ Tofu Scramble
Serves 2-4

1 small onion (any kind is fine), diced
1/2 lb. white button or cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 cups corn (I used frozen)
1 lb. smoked tofu, drained and crumbled into bite-sized chunks
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
cayenne, to taste (optional)
vegan barbecue sauce (such as Organicville — I used half a bottle of their Original BBQ Sauce)
neutral-flavored oil, such as canola, for cooking

Preheat a skillet over medium-high heat with a little bit of oil. (I highly recommend using a cast-iron skillet if you have one.) Once the skillet is nice and hot, throw in the onion and saute until translucent. Reduce the heat to medium. Next, add the mushrooms, corn and tofu and continue to cook another 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until everything is heated through.

Add salt, pepper, cayenne (if you like a little heat) and enough barbecue sauce to coat everything. Stir until scramble is evenly coated with sauce and continue to cook another minute or two until the sauce is hot. Serve with additional barbecue sauce or hot sauce, if desired. Serve it as a main dish, side dish, or wrap the scramble in a tortilla for a BBQ breakfast burrito.