Book Review: Vegan Finger Foods

Vegan-Finger-FoodsFinger foods are, well, food you eat with your fingers. Sometimes called “tapas” or “small plates,” and they can even be appetizers. The recipes in Vegan Finger Foods by Celine Steen and Tamasin Noyes are perfect for serving at parties, taking with you to potlucks, or to eat yourself as a light meal or snack.

 

Tempeh SkewersVegan Finger Foods explores the many types of bite-size munchies – from elegant to casual and savory to sweet. The book’s recipes are divided into 4 chapters: Veggie-Centric Finger Feasts, Stuffed and Dipped, Bread-Based Bites, and Sweet Little Somethings. Veggie-Centric Finger Feasts is a chapter where vegetables are the main star. There you’ll find recipes for such veggie-based treats as Rainbow Root Veggie Chips, Marinated Mushrooms, and Kale Cucumber Cups. In Stuffed and Dipped, you find recipes for all kinds of snacks that are stuffed with a tasty filling as well as delicious dips and sauces. Some standouts in this chapter are the Baked Mini Frittatas, Baked Buffalo Tofu Bites, and the Nacho Sauce Dip. The Bread-Based Bites chapter is full of recipes for crackers, breads, scones, and sandwiches. In Sweet Little Somethings, you’ll find lots of recipes for sweet treats, such as Better Buckeyes, Vanilla Cream Tartlets, and Brownie Nut Butter Cups.

 

Potato SkinsVegan Finger Foods arrived in April, shortly after I had major surgery, and I couldn’t quite make it into the kitchen to start cooking yet. I had originally planned on making some of the dishes in Vegan Finger Foods for a little birthday party I had in June, but I still didn’t really have the energy for it, so I set it aside for when I was feeling better. Once I started to feel like my old self again, I decided to tackle the book, and it’s a good thing I waited, because I just couldn’t stop myself from cooking more! Everything I made was eaten at home for dinner rather than served as party fare, and I discovered that the book’s recipes have a great amount of versatility to them. Rather than making The Jamaican Jerk Tempeh Skewers on toothpicks and serving them as an appetizer, I made them on large bamboo sticks and had them as the main dish for a dinner outside. Nacho Potato Skins are usually served as a snack or party dish, but I swapped the russet potatoes for sweet potatoes and served them for dinner, alongside a large salad. I made the mayo-based Pantry Raid Ranch Dip and used it as a sandwich spread rather than a dip.

 

Baked Jalapeño PoppersTwo of my favorite recipes in Vegan Finger Foodswere the Baked Jalapeños and Corn Fritters. Back in my cheese-eating vegetarian days, I probably ate my body weight in jalapeño poppers, but I haven’t had them in at least 13 years now. In this much healthier recipe, jalapeños are filled with a rich “cheese” made with cashews and white beans, and coated in a crunchy “batter” made with cornflakes and panko breadcrumbs. The Corn Fritters come together so quickly and easily that it would have been silly of menot to make them. Instead of making 16 small fritters as the recipe suggests, I made 6 larger ones, and I had to stop myself from eating them straight out of the pan.

 

Corn FrittersI know I say this often when reviewing a book, but there really is something for everyone in Vegan Finger Foods. Whether you’re planning a big bash and are looking for delicious finger foods to create a buffet with, hosting a tapas dinner party, or are just looking for some tasty munchies to enjoy by yourself, you’ll find what you’re looking for here. The book is also full of Celine Steen’s gorgeous photos, which will have everyone drooling.

 

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Nava Atlas Guest Post, Recipe and Giveaway

Plant power

I’m super excited to be hosting Nava Atlas on her Plant Power blog tour today. Nava’s cookbooks were among the first I bought when I went vegan, and because of them, I found going vegan to be relatively easy. I wish I had a copy of Nava’s new book Plant Power back when I made the transition to vegan (or even vegetarian) eating, as it’s packed with tons of tips on how to transition to plant-based eating, and it’s full of delicious, yet simple recipes. Plant Power focuses on the basics, from setting up a plant-powered pantry and fridge to choosing the best fresh foods for each season and streamlining daily meal preparation. Whether it’s a stir-fry using leftover veggies in the crisper, a fajita dinner to please different taste buds, yummy hummus wraps, or a pot of chili to savor on a cold winter evening, Plant Power takes the challenge out of meal-planning and makes it fun. Each of the fresh and flavor-packed recipes is easy to make and customizable, with tips on variations from turning up the heat and mixing up ingredients, to kid-friendly, gluten-free, and seasonal options.

 

Nava’s here today with a guest post, a recipe from Plant Power, and a chance to win a copy of her book. Without further ado, here’s Nava…

 

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Favorite Cookware and Tools for the Plant-Based Kitchen

The plant-powered kitchen need not be magazine-gorgeous and outfitted with the latest gadgets and appliances. These things would be nice, of course, but they’re not required to create delicious meals. Still, an assortment of basic tools can make life in the kitchen easier and, in some cases, more enjoyable. Just as with pantry items, you don’t have to run out and buy all these items at once—or at all. These are tools I enjoy having in my kitchen and that you might, too, as as you begin to enjoy more plant-based meals. Everyone has their favorite kitchen helpers; for me, these first four items are must-haves:

Food processor: A food processor’s multiple uses—chopping, grating, and pureeing— make it your best friend among kitchen tools. If you get one of the name brands and take care of it, it may outlive you! I’ve had the same Cuisinart food processor for at least fifteen years, and it shows little sign of slowing down.

Wire whisk or coated wire whisk: This inexpensive tool helps make sauces, dressings, and gravies, and it helps when cooking fine grains (such as polenta) to lump-free textures. For cake and pancake batters that come out smooth without overbeating, a whisk is a must.

Kitchen shears: Shears, or kitchen scissors, have endless uses in the kitchen—cutting long Asian noodles, thinly slicing scallions and basil leaves, opening packages, even cutting pizza into wedges if you don’t have a pizza wheel.

Stir-fry pan: This type of wok-shaped pan will serve you well if you enjoy making stir- fries. It’s easier to deal with, in many ways, than a traditional wok—from cleaning to storage. If you make plenty of dishes involving quick-cooked veggies, you’ll get a lot of use from a good stir-fry pan. The one made by Circulon, with a hard-anodized surface, has served me well. Here are a few more items that are quite useful; while they’re not absolute necessities, having any of them adds to the ease and enjoyment of your life in the kitchen!

Immersion blender: If you have no room for a full-fledged blender, or don’t want to spring for one, an immersion blender can do a lot of the same tricks. My favorite way to use it is for pureeing soups in the same pot in which they cook. With it, there’s no need to transfer hot ingredients in and out of a food processor or blender. Easy to use, even easier to clean, and costing a fraction of what a food processor or blender costs, immersion blenders like this one by Cuisinartare also good for making smoothies and velvety sauces.

Pizza pan or pizza stone: A pizza pan is nothing more than a large round pan designed for baking pizzas. And a pizza stone is just that—a smooth round stone used for the same purpose. A stone ensures crisper crusts and is more tolerant of sharp pizza wheels. With veggie-driven pizzas in regular rotation in our home, both these tools have seen much use. If you like to make pizza, they won’t break the bank.

Salad spinner: A salad spinner isn’t an absolute must have. Even as a huge fan of salads of all kinds, I did without one for a long time. But once I finally got one and started using it, I was sold! I regret all those paper towels I wasted, blotting delicate leaves for salads and wraps and pressing liquid from kale before massaging it or making kale chips. Asalad spinner works kind of like the spin cycle in your washing machine, except that it needs no electricity.

Nut chopper or grinder: I enjoy my nut chopper, which grinds a few nuts at a time into a container, making the process easy and neat. While you can definitely live without it, nut enthusiasts will enjoy this item. It’s handy for turning nuts into a tasty topping for noodle dishes, grains, salads, and cereals.

Tofu press: Despite the fact I’ve been using and enjoying tofu for ages, this is the most recent addition to my roster of favorite kitchen tools. Tofu presses are simple devices using springs or tightening bolts to extract water from tofu efficiently, without any further weights and using no paper towels whatsoever! I enjoy both theEZ Tofu Press and the TofuXpress, which work a bit differently from each other but are both quite handy.

Produce keepers: Especially in the summertime, when garden are bursting with greens and farm market season is in full swing, produce keepers (such as the ones pictured in the first photo above) really do extend the life of produce. Of course, it’s ideal to use produce as soon as possible after you harvest or purchase it, but these kinds of containers extend freshness when need be.

 

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Black Bean Tostadas

A tostada is a crisp tortilla piled generously with any variety of toppings, often including beans, crisp lettuce, and salsa. Good accompaniments include: baked potatoes or sweet potatoes; or fresh corn on the cob. Add a salad and/or a simple steamed veggies, you’ve got an easy weeknight meal or fun quick fare to serve company.

 

Serves: 4 (2 tostadas per serving)

 Ingredients:

  • 8 good-quality corn tortillas
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil or 3 tablespoons vegetable broth or water
  • 1 medium onion or two shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Two 15-to 16-ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed,
or 3 to 3 1/2 cups cooked black beans
  • Juice of 1/2 lime or lemon, or more, to taste
  • 1 to 2 small hot green chili peppers, seeded and sliced, optional
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin

Garnishes:

  • Shredded lettuce, baby greens, or baby spinach
  • Plenty of mild, medium, or hot chunky salsa, such as chipotle, peach or mango
  • Store-bought or homemade Vegan Sour Cream or Cashew Cream

Directions:

To toast the torillas in the oven: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spread the tortillas on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, or until crisp and dry and just starting to be touched with golden brown spots. Remove them from the oven and place on a serving platter.

To toast the tortillas on a stovetop: Heat a large skillet. Toast the tortillas over medium heat (two or three at a time, depending on the size of the skillet) for about 5 minutes or so on each side, until crisp and touched with golden brown spots. Don’t be afraid to let them get nice and crisp—that’s better than ending up with a soggy tostada.

Heat the oil, broth, or water in medium skillet. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until golden, about 5 minutes.

Add the remaining ingredients (aside from the garnishes, of course) along with 1/4 cup water and bring to a simmer. Using a potato masher, mash some of the beans so that the liquid becomes thick and saucy.

Place the shredded lettuce, sour cream, and salsa in separate serving bowls and let everyone assemble their tostadas as follows: A layer of shredded lettuce; the black bean mixture; salsa; and sour cream. Pick up the tostadas and eat out of hand (with plenty of napkins!).

 

Recipe and excerpt from Plant Power: Transform Your Kitchen, Plate, and Life with More Than 150 Fresh and Flavorful Vegan Recipes by Nava Atlas. ©2014, published by HarperOne, reprinted by permission. Photos by Hannah Kaminsky. 

 

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What I Ate Wednesday: What I Ate Last Week

I’ve had quite the culinary adventures over the course of the past week, with several trips into New York City, meals with friends, and a even few chefs cooking for me. Rather than spend too much time talking about it, I’ll just jump right into showing you the highlights of what I ate!

 

Sacred ChowLast week Cadry from Cadry’s Kitchen was visiting NYC, so I hopped on an NJ Transit train and visited her! We spent a day walking around lower Manhattan and wearing ourselves out. We started out at Sacred Chow, where we split a Thai-Ginger BBQ Seitan panini and a Roasted Black Olive Seitan panini.

 

Ice CreamI accidentally took us the wrong way at one point, but it was a happy accident, as we found ourselves outside Van Leewen Ice Cream, and they just happen to serve vegan ice cream. I had a cup of dark chocolate and salted caramel.

 

V Note AppetizerA few days later we had an amazing dinner at V-Note. I started with Mushroom Scallops and Potato Crisps.

 

V Note MealMy entree was Seitan Cordon Blue. Perfection on a plate!

 

V Note DessertFor dessert I had Chocolate Ganache Cake, which was had a peanut butter filling and came with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. A chocoholic’s dream!

 

Grilled YummiesOver the weekend my meetup group had a potluck, and there just happened to be a chef in attendance. He grilled up an incredible array of tempeh, eggplant, and mushrooms, which were marinated in a pesto-like sauce and drizzled with a spicy tahini. Amazing!

 

Potluck Plate 1There were lots of tasty dishes at the potluck, as always. There was so much food that I ended up having two plates!

 

So Delish popLast week So Delicious sent me not one, not two, but three boxes of new products to try. These candy corn bars made quite the splash on social networking sites.

 

Killer VeganLast weekend also saw the much anticipated opening of the Killer Vegan diner in Union. They kicked things off with an all-you-can-eat brunch. I had biscuits and gravy, french toast, kale, tofu scramble, home fries, vegan sausage, and tempeh bacon. It was super delicious and I can’t wait to see what the rest of their menu is like!

 

Chocolate CakeIn addition to health coaching, I also do a little work for Fran Costigan, the queen of vegan desserts. A few days ago she plopped down a slice of her Chocolate Cake to Live For in front of me and told me I didn’t need to eat it. Um, what? That cake doesn’t stand a chance with me in the room!

 

Blossom DuJourAfter my visit with Fran, I stopped by Blossom Du Jour and picked up some sandwiches to go. Dennis and I split an Avocado UnChicken Griller and a Midtown melt, and I and a tiny caesar salad.

 

That’s what I’ve been eating. What have you been cooking up?

 

 

 

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Raw Taco Salad with Spicy Chipotle Aioli and Cashew Sour Cream

Raw Taco Salad with Spicy Chipotle Aioli and Cashew Sour CreamThe “meat” for this taco salad is so simple it almost seems like there are ingredients or a few steps missing, but it really is just sunflower seeds, sun-dried tomatoes, and some spices mixed together in a food processor. The end result is super tasty, and it can be used in traditional corn or flour taco shells, as well as raw lettuce leaf shells if you’d prefer handheld tacos instead of a salad. The combination of chipotle aioli and taco “meat” can be a little on the spicy side, so I’ve included cashew sour cream to cool things down.

 

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Raw Taco Salad

Ingredients:

For the Taco “Meat”

  • 1 cup sunflower seeds
  • 6 sun-dried tomato halves (not the oil soaked type)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons taco seasoning mix (recipe follows)

For the Spicy Chipotle Aioli

  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ + 1 tablespoon cup lime juice
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle powder
  • ½ crushed red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt

For the Cashew Sour Cream

  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt

For the Salad

  • 6 cups romaine lettuce, shredded (about 1 large head or two small heads)
  • 2 cups red cabbage, shredded
  • 1 cup carrots, shredded
  • 1 cup tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 avocado, chopped
  • 1/3 cup black olives, chopped

 

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Directions:

For the Taco “Meat”

Soak the seeds and sun-dried tomatoes in water for two to four hours. Rinse and drain well. Place the sunflower seeds and sun-dried tomatoes in food processor fitted with an S-blade, along with the taco seasoning. Process until sunflower seeds are well ground and all of the tomatoes are chopped. Set aside.

For the Spicy Chipotle Aioli

Mix all of the ingredients together in a high powered blender. Set aside.

For the Cashew Sour Cream

Mix all of the ingredients together in a high powered blender. Set aside.

For the Salad

Divide all of the salad ingredients among 4 plates. Top with the taco “meat”, spicy chipotle aioli and cashew sour cream. Enjoy!

 

Serves 4

 

Taco Seasoning

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

 

Directions:

Mix everything together in a small jar. That’s it!

 

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Book Review: Salad Samurai

Salad-Samurai-CoverI was once at a book signing Terry Hope Romero was doing in my hometown in NJ where someone approach her and ask about making salads. Terry said that she’s not a big salad person, and she doesn’t eat them very often. So last year at Vida Vegan Con, I was quite surprised to learn that she was working on a cookbook devoted solely to salads. But she said the book would be about “salads that don’t suck”, and that made a lot of sense to me. When Lisa Simpson decided to go vegetarian many years ago, Homer and Bart paraded around the living room chanting, “You don’t win friends with salad! You don’t win friends with salad!” but if Lisa had a copy of Salad Samurai back then, I’m sure she would have won quite a lot of friends, because the salads recipes found within its pages most certainly do not suck.

 

Pepperoni Pizza SaladI’ve received quite a few new vegan cookbooks to review recently, and Salad Samurai is definitely the standout in the bunch. It’s full of drool-worth photos, creative recipes, and the book design is gorgeous, which, as a graphic designer, I really appreciate. Terry starts the book out with some basics, such as meal planning, recommended kitchen equipment, how to press tofu, and a glossary of ingredients that might not be familiar to the vegan newbie. The first few recipes chapters are full of recipes for dressings and salad toppers, including marinaded tofus, homemade croutons, and even a hemp seed parmesan.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe salad recipes in Salad Samurai are divided by season, which makes total sense, since produce is seasonal. I most certainly wouldn’t want a butternut squash salad in the middle of July, just as a dish featuring blueberries wouldn’t appeal to me in the dead of winter. It also makes it possible to continue with the healthy habit of eating daily salads through the cold months, when lettuce is probably the last thing on your mind. Some of the really creative dishes include Pepperoni Tempeh Pizza Salad (which is on my list of recipes to make this week), Grilled Goji Seitan Salad, and Chimichurri Chickpeas & Chicory.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe first recipe I tried in Salad Samurai was the Asparagus Pad Thai Salad. The combination of rice noodles, baked Lemongrass Tofu and Toasted Shallot Dressing cried out to me when flipping through the book’s pages and I wasn’t disappointed. This dish had a crisp, springtime flavor to it, and was hearty enough for dinner. After that, I made Pesto Cauliflower and Potato Salad. This dish was a refreshingly light spin on the classic potato salad, which can often seem heavy and a little too dense for summer meals, when it is traditionally served. I took this salad on a weekend picnic along with vegan sandwiches, and it was the perfect side dish.

 

Buffal-Caesar-SaladBackyard Buffalo Ranch Caesar Salad was next on my list. There was a bit of buzz in the vegan blogosphere about this salad, so I had to find out what the hubbub was. This salad seems simple, but the combination of spicy tofu, creamy cashew dressing, crunchy croutons, and fresh vegetables is out of this world. Backyard Buffalo Ranch Caesar Salad is the reason I haven’t tried more recipes fromSalad Samurai – I just keep making this one.

 

Salad Samurai is a great book for everyone who loves fresh veggies and wants to go beyond salads full of limp lettuce, mushy tomatoes and bland vinaigrette. With Salad Samurai, you most definitely will win friends with salad.

 

 

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Vegan Tacos Guest Post, Recipe and Giveaway

Vegan Tacos CoverI’m thrilled to be hosting Chef Jason Wyrick on his Vegan Tacos blog tour today. Jason is her with tips on pairing drinks with tacos, a recipe for margaritas from his new book, and a chance for you to win a copy of Vegan Tacos.

 

If you don’t have a copy of Vegan Tacos yet, run, don’t walk, to the nearest bookstore and buy one, because this is one cookbook you’re going to want in your collection. Chef Jason Wyrick says this book isn’t just about tacos, “it’s about bringing the authentic Mexican taco experience into the vegan world.” He did tons of research, improved his Spanish skills, and even traveled to Mexico in order to write about and veganize traditional tacos. Some of the tasty tacos you’ll find within the pages of Vegan Tacos include Vampire Tacos (named after the way the tortilla curls up and resembles bat wings), Guacamole Tacos, Cactus Tacos, and Tacos Veracruz. There are fusion tacos, dessert tacos, and even breakfast tacos. You’ll also find recipes for everything that goes with tacos, from fresh tortillas and drinks to hot sauces and salsas. It’s not all just recipes though, Jason also delves into taco  history and anthropology, and taco culture, and he also talks about his family’s personal experience with Mexican cuisine.

 

Without further ado, here’s Jason…

Tacos, Tequila and Mezcal

Tacos, Tequila, and Mezcal: How to Pair Your Tacos with the Right Drink

While there isn’t really a wrong drink to serve with tacos, the right drink can make the experience truly memorable. Coffee, tea, handcrafted sodas, beer, tequila, mezcal. Where to start? When it comes to choosing the right drink to serve with your delicious taco creations, a few simple guidelines can point you in the right direction.

 

1. Choose Similar Flavor Elements, Not Combative Elements

I think a good drink should serve as a palate cleanser between bites, but it should absolutely never serve as a palate fighter. More important than choosing a drink that contains elements found in your food (high notes, citrus notes, caramelization, etc.) is choosing one that does not actively fight those notes. For example, a crisp vanilla soda served with some spicy tacos tempura dressed with lemon or lime sounds pretty good. A crisp vanilla soda served with tacos topped with pickled onions sounds, let’s just say, not so good. That’s why this rule is the most important of all.

 

2. Dark Roasted vs. Smoky vs. Crisp Beers

While there are seven different major flavor-profiles for beer, I typically parse them down into these three categories when deciding what to serve with my tacos. Here’s a simple set of rules. If a taco has heavy, deep flavors, like caramelization, roasted garlic, grill char, etc., then go with a heavier flavored beer like a dark roasted beer or a smoky beer. If the tacos have bright, clean flavors that you get from ingredients like lots of lime, pickled onions, or fresh herbs, pair them with a clean crisp beer. This way, the flavors of the beer complement the flavor of your food instead of fighting with it.

 

My Recommendations: Stone Smoked Porter and North Coast Brewing Brother Thelonious Ale for the heavier flavored tacos. For the brighter tacos, Dogfish Head 90-minute IPA is perfect.

 

3. Two Types of Heat Call for Two Types of Drinks

I find there are two types of heat. There’s that intense heat that hits you right up front. It makes your tongue jump and if you’re a spice addict like I am, you can’t wait to take another bite. Think chiles de arbol, fresh serranos, and habaneros. Then there is the type of heat I call a back-end heat. It takes a few seconds to build, but when it does, it feels like it suffuses your entire mouth. Think chipotles, roasted guajillo chiles, and fire-roasted chiles.

 

For the up-front heat, I prefer crisp light beers and wines. Like the intense up-front heat, they tend to show their flavor profiles right away. For the back-end heat, I prefer full-bodied beers and wines. These drinks tend to take a few seconds to assimilate, just like tacos with a back-end heat. It’s all about matching elements.

 

My Recommendations: For the up-front heat, I like Dos Equis, Tripel Karmeliet, or a Gewurtztraminer or a Sauvignon Blanc. For the back-end heat tacos, I like Bohemia Obscura, Gulden Draak, or even a strong Riesling. The wines are all white because they tend to play nicer with all the elements of a taco.

 

4. Tequila or Mezcal?

Tequila typically has a smoother taste than mezcal, while mezcal is a little more complex and smoky. When a taco has grilled, smoky, or caramelized flavors, I prefer the smoky complexity of mezcal or tequila anejo. Tequila anejo has been aged one to three years, allowing it to develop fairly complex flavors. When a taco has citrus flavors, fresh herbal flavors, or lighter veggie flavors, like lightly cooked zucchini, I prefer tequila blanco or tequila reposado. Tequila blanco has only been aged for about a month and is pretty straightforward and clean in taste and reposado is right between a blanco and an anejo. The cleaner flavors of these tequilas seem to pair well with fresher flavors in tacos.

 

Note: Don’t waste your money on expensive tequila or mezcal if you are serving those with your tacos. Your tacos will overwhelm some of the nuance of those drinks. Either serve those higher end drinks before or after taco time so you can fully appreciate them. During taco time, I typically go for a mid-range tequila or mezcal. Keep in mind that because mezcal is not as popular as tequila, it’s produced in small specialty batches, so it’s a bit pricier. Finally, make sure your bottle does not say “gusano de maguey.” That means it has a worm.

 

My Recommendations: The Casa del Sol and Casa Noble lines of tequila are reasonably priced, outstanding tequilas. For Mezcal, I’ve been enjoying Los Amantes and Del Maguey.

 

5. Playing Nice with Capsaicin Means Stronger Drinks!

Capsaicin is the molecule in chiles that generates heat. The more capsaicin, the hotter the taste. Capsaicin, however, is not water soluble. That means if you drink your tacos with water, tea, coffee, or soda, they are going to taste spicier because the water will wash the capsaicin molecules all around your mouth. Because soda is fizzy, it will pop that capsaicin around even more! If you want your food to taste spicier, these drinks are perfectly fine.

 

Capsaicin is, however, alcohol soluble. That means the more alcoholic your drink is, the more the heat will be toned down, and not just because you consumed copious amounts of it. The alcohol will dissolve the capsaicin and tone down your food. To notice an effect, though, you’ll need a drink with a strong alcohol content. Beer does not usually do the trick. Plus, it’s fizzy and mostly water.

 

One exception to this is agua frescas. Agua frescas are cold, sweet, smooth drinks. Usually, they are based on pureed fruits or berries. Because they are cold, they are refreshing and because they are sweet, they balance the sensation of heat.

 

My Recommendations: Consider a sipping drink like tequila blanco or even something strong like whiskey. My real preference, though, is to keep a pineapple or mango agua fresca on hand.

 

 

 

Grilled Lime Margarita

Grilled Lime Margarita with Mesquite Smoked Salt

Margaritas are great when they are made with fresh lime and good alcohol. It’s a classic drink that’s now part of the Mexican experience. I wanted to change things up a bit and make something a little darker, a little more mysterious and alluring. That’s what the mezcal and the smoke are to me. It permeates the entire drink, from the char of the grilled limes to the smoky mezcal to the shot of smoked salt on the rim of the glass. You can, of course, forgo grilling the limes and just use regular salt and good tequila blanco to make the classic margarita, but I hope you find the smoky version I created here to a sultry companion to your tacos.

 

Makes 4 Drinks

 

Ingredients:

  • 8 large limes, cut in half diagonally (see note)
  • 1/4 cup agave nectar
  • 4 shots mezcal or tequila reposado or añejo
  • 
6 tablespoons (2 shots) Cointreau or other good quality orange liqueur
  • Mesquite smoked salt
  • Sprinkle coarse sugar
  • Option: Make it spicy by placing a dried chipotle meco at the bottom of each glass

Note:

I cut limes in half diagonally because it exposes more surface area of the lime to be grilled and it also makes them easier to juice.

Preparation:

Grill the limes until they develop blackened char lines. This will take about 5 minutes. Ideally, you should do this over a wood fire, but you can still do it with a gas grill. Flip the limes over and grill the round sides of the lime halves. This will further cook the lime and mellow out the flavor. Juice the limes into a pitcher or a bowl. Keep the lime rinds Stir the agave into the lime juice until they are thoroughly combined. Mix in the shots of mezcal and Cointreau. Take the inside of the juiced lime rinds and rim 4 margarita glasses. Sprinkle mesquite smoked salt and just a touch of sugar around the rim of the glasses. Add the margarita mix to the glasses and serve. This should be served at room temperature and not over ice, which does not play well with the smoky components.

 

From Vegan Tacos by Jason Wyrick. ©2014 Jason Wyrick. Used by permission from Vegan Heritage Press.
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What I Ate Wednesday: What I Ate Over the Weekend

Anything You Can Eat I Can Eat VeganI’ve been hit with so many negative comments about what I eat from internet trolls that a few months ago I almost stopped doing What I Ate Wednesday. The comments ranged from “you didn’t really eat that garbage, did you?”, to “you eat way to many carbs”, and “that corn is probably GMO.” If I had that much spare time, I most certainly would use it for something a little more exciting than leaving negative comments on blog posts and Facebook, but hey, that’s just me. Because of the trolls, I’ve actually stopped posting photos of what I’ve been eating on Facebook (but with the way Facebook is operating now, I don’t think people would see them anyway), posting them rather on Instagram, where the users seem to be far more friendly.

 

I have noticed, however, that people really are genuinely interested in what vegans eat, so I decided to continue on with What I Ate Wednesday. Last week at the Bethlehem VegFest, I was quite surprised at the amount of people asking Gene Baur and Matt Frazier what they eat on a daily basis, as well as asking for dietary advice for themselves. It’s pretty strange that someone would have the opportunity to speak with the co-founder of Farm Sanctuary and his question of choice would have to do with flax seeds, but I guess that just goes to show that people are still confused about the vegan diet.

 

The truth is that vegans eat pretty much whatever non-vegans eat, just without the meat, milk, and eggs, so there’s really not very much to be confused about. “Anything you can eat, I can eat vegan”, as the t-shirt says. This What I Ate Wednesday post is not to show off how healthy (or unhealthy depending on who you ask) my diet is, how many carbs I eat, or how much “garbage” I eat in a day. It’s simply to show off some delicious food photos and show what vegans really eat. This is what I ate over the long holiday weekend. I did quite a lot of cooking this weekend, getting recipes ready for Vegan MoFo, as well as making things from new cookbooks that have been sent to me to review.

 

Breakfast TacosI made super yummy Veggie-Good Breakfast Tacos from Going Vegan by Joni Marie Newman and Gerrie Lynn Adams for breakfast one day. You’re pretty much guaranteed to have a good day when you start it with tacos.

 

 

PicnicWe went on a picnic (that needed up getting rained out) one afternoon, and I packed us a lunch that included my Greek-Inspired Salad with Tofu Feta and Tahini Dressing, Herb-Crusted Coconut “Chèvre” (also from Going Vegan), and champagne grapes. Perfect lunch!

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI made a trip to Trader Joe’s last week, so we grilled up some of Joe’s Tofu Burgers with lots of veggies, and I made a slaw using Trader Joe’s Cruciferous Crunch.

 

Tofu ScrambleLike the veggie tacos, another yummy breakfast that came from Going Vegan was the Down-Home Country Tofu Scramble made with Sweet and Smokey Tempeh Strips.

 

Raw Taco SaladEven though summer is coming to an end, it’s been kind of hot and humid here, so we ate raw for several meals. I made raw taco salad with spicy chipotle aioli and cashew sour cream on Sunday. I’ll be sharing the recipe for this simple dish soon.

 

Kale ChipsAnd of course, there were kale chips. This is another recipe that will be coming soon.

 

SmoothiesWe also enjoyed Lemon Raspberry Cheese Smoothies from The Blender Girl cookbook by Tess Masters. These were super delicious! I’m looking forward to trying more of her smoothies and shakes.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis Twisted Caesar Please was also from  The Blender Girl cookbook and was super hearty and filling for a salad. I added Tess’s Macadamia Feta to it, and the “cheese” gave it tons of flavor.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI ended the weekend with this super-messy-yet-well-worth-it Seitan Gryo. I’ll be sharing the recipe for in the upcoming weeks.

 

That’s what I’ve been eating. What have you been cooking up?

 

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Greek-Inspired Salad with Tofu Feta and Tahini Dressing

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA A few years ago, I was sent some soy feta samples to try, and I quickly became addicted. I made greek-style salads for lunch for weeks on end. When I ran out, I was able to find the vegan cheese at both my local Whole Foods and Fairway Market, but either both stores discontinued it or the manufacturer started making it. Earlier this year I decided to try to make my own feta using tofu. The end result wasn’t a 100% match for feta, but it had a nice taste and worked well with my favorite salad. My Greek-Style Pizza with Tofu Feta recipe is actually based on this salad, and is pretty much the same dish in pizza form.

 

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Greek-Inspired Salad with Tofu Feta and Tahini Dressing

Tofu Feta

  • 1 pound extra firm tofu, drained and pressed
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon mellow white miso
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt 

Tahini Dressing

  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon chopped parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

For the Salad

  • 6 cups romaine lettuce, shredded (about 1 large head or two small heads)
  • 2 cups baby spinach, chopped
  • 1/2 cup red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1 cup cucumber, chopped
  • 12-14 ounce can or jar artichoke hearts, quartered (not the oil packed kind)
  • 4 or 5 pepperoncini peppers, sliced
  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas
  • 1/3 cup kalamata olives, chopped
  • 1/3 cup toasted pistachios, chopped

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Directions: For the Tofu Feta:

  1. Crumble the tofu into large chunks and place in a shallow bowl or baking dish.
  2. Mix together the rest of the ingredients and whisk until smooth.
  3. Pour the lemon juice mixture over the tofu. Toss gently to combine.
  4. Place the dish of tofu in the fridge for several hours or overnight. The longer it sits, the better the flavor.

For the Tahini Dressing:

  1. Mix all ingredients together until smooth.
  2. Set aside until ready to use. Sauce will thicken after sitting for a while. Add water when ready to use, if necessary. 

Assemble the Salad

  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. Top the salad with the tahini dressing, and toss to coat. Add the tofu feta.
  3. Divide salad into 4 bowls and enjoy! 

Serves 4

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Vegan MoFo Begins!

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I’m so excited to be participating in Vegan MoFo once again this year! I don’t have a particular theme – other than food of course! –but I do have a schedule.

 

Mondays – Cookbook reviews

Tuesdays – My own Recipes

Wednesday – What I Ate Wednesday

Thursday –  Guest-post recipes and blog tours

Friday – Foodie Friday restaurant and product reviews

 

When it comes to recipes, I will be focusing on easy to make dishes with simple ingredients. I’ll have recipes for salads and sandwiches, since that’s what I’ve been eating myself lately. As we move into fall, there will be more warming dishes.  I will have giveaways and other fun stuff too, so stay-tuned!

What I Ate Wednesday – The Bethlehem VegFest

Beth Veg FestOn Saturday Dennis and I hopped in the car and drove to Bethlehem, PA, for their annual VegFest. It was a day long celebration of all things vegan, with lots of food, vegan health and beauty products, clothing, food, accessories, notable speakers, cooking demos, and even more food! I did a cooking demo myself, and I showed how to make Indonesian Broccoli with Tempeh in Spicy Peanut Sauce. I over indulged a little on food from The Cinnamon Snail and Vegan Treats, and I was happy to see old friends and make new ones. I got to chat with Farm Sanctuary’s Gene Baur, I gave my friend Jaime from Save the Kales a hug, and I was fortunate hear No Meat Athlete’s Matt Frazier speak.

 

Vegan Treats CakesOur first stop was at the Vegan Treats table. There were so many delicious treats, and they all looked almost too go good to eat. Almost. Quite a lot of it came home with us. (And no, we didn’t eat it all at once. We still have some of it left!)

 

Seitan al PastorFrom there we went to The Cinnamon Snail and waiting on a massive line for lunch. I usually Creole Grilled Tofu Sub, but this time I had the Seitan al Pastor. It was made with beer battered jalapeños, grilled pineapple, arugula, and chipotle mayonnaise on grilled baguette, and it was 100% delicious.

 

Cinnamon Snail DonutAlso from the Cinnamon Snail, I had the world’s most amazing donut: peanut butter chocolate chip cookie dough. 

 

Freakin VeganSomehow, several hours later I was hungry again, so I had a broccoli and “cheese” empanada from Freakin’ Vegan. I went back for another – a “cheesesteak” one this time – to hold me over for the drive home.

 

Chickn n WafflesAt home, Dennis and I split one of Vegan Treats’  now famous Chick’n and Waffles donut. It was a strange mix of sweet and savory and it was delicious!

 

SaladIn addition to all of the sweets and treats, we left with a giant bag full of produce from the farmers market stand that was set up at the VegFest. To make up for the indulging, on Sunday we I ate lots and lots of greens!

 

What have you been eating lately?

 

 

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Dr. Fuhrman