Monday, April 25, 2011

Black Bean Brownies

I asked a room full of people what they thought the "secret" ingredient in these brownies were. No one could guess. Well, that's only half true - someone guessed banana, which is true, but that wasn't the ingredient I was looking for.

These brownies are really, really good. And really good for you (fiber, protein, chocolate - I mean, come on). And they are super easy.

Basically, the recipe looks like this:
  • 1 can black beans (15 oz)
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tbs agave nectar or 1/4 cup sugar (or a mixture of the two)
  • 1 large, very ripe banana
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup chopped nuts/1/4 instant coffee/1/4 cup oats (all optional - I used nuts in this recipe)
Preheat the oven to 350

Put all of the ingredients (except the nuts) into the food processor and blend until smooth. I drained the beans but then realized I needed a little more liquid so feel free to add about 1/6-1/4 a can of water back into the mix.

Mix in the nuts/optional ingredients and pour into a greased 8X8 pan.

Place in the oven for about 30 minutes. Be careful not to overcook them because they will continue to bake and firm up after you remove them from the oven. But don't undercook them either. This is a science, people.

  • 1 can black beans (15 oz - drained and rinsed and then can refilled with water)
  • 1 large, ripe banana
  • 1 box brownie mix - try this one, it's good:
  • 1/4 cup chopped nuts/1/4 instant coffee/1/4 cup oats (all optional - I used nuts in this recipe)
Follow all the steps from "Preheat oven to 350"

It's just like the first recipe - only easier.

Cheers! And try to make people guess what the ingredient is - unless they have had these brownies before I bet they won't be able to :)

Live long and prosper.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Vegan German Food Cart

When Colin and I first met, one of the things we bonded over was our mutual obsession with food carts. Portland is one of the epicenters for food cart action and almost every one has a vegan option, meaning we have taken it upon ourselves to try them all. But what we really want to do is (someday, between my law school and Colin's masters and the myriad of other projects we take on) is to start our own.

Our idea? German food. The good stuff. And all vegan. Like this:

And I figure, Colin is 75% German and I'm 98% vegan (with the exception of chickie eggs) so I figure that makes our food cart mostly authentic and 100% unique.

So we've been experimenting with menu ideas. A lot. This picture above shows the following
  • Green Beans with "Bacon"
  • Kartoffelsalat (potato salad)
  • Whole wheat Spätzle
  • Schnitzel (Chick pea schnitzel!) With vegan sour cream on top.
  • Sauerkraut 
Also we made this:

It's a German dumpling soup, sometimes made with semolina but we made it with cornmeal. Also it has a chickie egg in it so it's not 100% vegan - we'll have to figure that out later. But it's SO SO good. It's like the best comfort food in the entire universe and it's incredibly easy to make. Probably the easiest thing on our menu.

Definitely a success.

The potato salad was moderately successful. It's basically just potatoes, vinegar, parsley, red onion, olive oil, salt, Bragg's and vegan bacon bits. We learned that it is best with red potatoes - any yellow skinned potato is just too mushy (I like it that way but Colin doesn't think it's authentic enough).

The spätzle (pronounced "shpets-le") tasted fine but doesn't form up very well with whole wheat flour. I keep trying and trying but it really needs to be made with white flour - the whole wheat is too starchy and doesn't allow it to ball up properly. I'm going to keep experimenting. We have a spätzle maker which is really handy, so there is no excuse for not having our delicious German pasta properly formed.

The Schnitzel was also really good, but it needs a little more playing around with. It's an adapted recipe from Veganomicon's Chickpea Cutlets but pounded out a little more. Next time I am going to add more vital wheat gluten flour to make them a little meatier and I am going to try breading them on the outside to make them look more like the real thing (I'm trying to get away from breading and frying and butter but it's GERMAN FOOD. I need to lock it up if I'm ever going to make it anything like the original).

Lastly - the green beans. I wanted to make sauteed apples and turnips as our veggie, but the green beans were on sale and looked so bomb and they really did turn out great. Part of the problem that I struggle with is that I love vegetables so so much and there aren't enough of them in German food. If we ever do open a food cart, I will make sure that there are several veggie options. Because it will make me feel better.

Also I have a reciple for Apfelkuchen that I want to try (that's apple cake in case you were wondering) but I didn't get to it this time around. No German food card would be complete without Apfelkuchen.  Or potato pancakes. More to come! So many delicious options!

So that is our idea so far! Still experimenting but it's going well. If anyone wants to be a test subject, please let us know! We can use as much feedback as we can get :)

One final picture:

(See what I mean about spätzle? No whole wheat flour for you, spätzle!!)

Live long and prosper. German style.

Monday, April 18, 2011

RIP Mayhem. 2010-2011

My beautiful girl passed away on Saturday.

It seemed like she was getting better - I thought she was going to be fine, but she took a turn for the worst and didn't make it.  I feel like I should have done more, but I'm not sure if there was anything else to do.

I love you May. I'm sorry you had to go this way. But all chickens go to heaven :)

The teenage months

Livin' the free range life
When I first got them. They slept in my room for like a month - glad that is over with!

If I didn't put the cover on their box, this is how they would sleep :)

Makin' friends with Wyatt.

I'll miss you May.

In May's honor I'm donating $20 to Farm Sanctuary. It's an amazing organization, I wish I could give more but that's all I can do right now :)
If you would like to make a donation or just check out the work this amazing non-profit does, their website is here (scroll down and click "donate").

Live long and prosper. And help animals do the same.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Grilled Polenta topped with Roasted Root Vegetables and Vodka Sauce

This photo is courtesy Colin's iPhone
It is farmer's market season again! I frequent the farmer's market virtually every weekend, regardless of which town I happen to be in. There is nothing better to me than walking around, chatting with farmers, picking out your own produce, discovering whats in season, feeling good about where your food is coming from AND supporting your local economy. It's warm fuzzies all around.

These past two weeks at the farmer's markets have provided a ton of root veggies and greens (my favorites) as well as lots of apples and pears. So, as I try to cook with what is in season as much as possible, I have been making a lot of root veggie based dishes. Which is A-OK with me because I love sweet potatoes almost as much as I love beets. Actually that's a lie. I love beets more than almost any other food. Also Colin has made German potato salad (vegan style) like 3 times so that has been in our fridge non-stop (for a later blog post).

Sticking with the in-season theme, I decided to make roasted veggies with polenta and an experimental sauce that closely resembles a spicy vodka sauce despite the fact that it doesn't have cream. Or even vodka...

But it was delicious and shockingly filling (thanks starch!). Winter vegetables have a special place in my heart. And stomach.

  • An arrangement of about 6-7 root veggies including (but not limited to): Beets (I used italian because they are so fun looking), carrots (I got purple carrots at the farmer's market - they are my favorite kind of carrot), sweet potatoes, red potatoes and fingerling potatoes (did you know that the scientific name for potato is Solanum tuberosum? Now you do.
  • About 1/2 cup of olive oil (I also used braggs to give the veggies a little more juice)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp curry spices (I cheat and use the Trader Joe's Indian Curry Blend)
  • 1 tbsp agave nectar
  • 1-2 tsp salt
Preheat the over to 425

Chop all of the veggies so that they are about the same size - not too fine but you should have no pieces larger than an inch in any direction.

Lightly oil a cookie sheet and arrange all of your veggies out so that they are evenly spread over the surface

Brush them down (remember that nifty basting brush from my last post - yeah, use that!) with the olive oil, adjusting with more or less as you see fit

Sprinkle the curry spices over top of the veggies so that they are completely covered - again, add more or less as you need

Drizzle the olive oil over the top with a spoon and then finish off with the salt

Bake at 425 for about 30-40 minutes or until they look slightly shriveled (but not burned)


I totally made this recipe up. Completely. I didn't measure either so I am giving you approximate measurements but the sauce was really really good so I felt a moral obligation to at least do that. For this sauce, you will need approximately:
  • 1 can stewed tomatoes (if you can get the ones already spiced with basil and stuff, even better)
  • 1-2 small/medium heirloom tomatoes (I used like 8 cherry herilooms)
  • 2 tbsp Sriracha (never gets old - ha!)
  • 5-6 cloves of garlic
  • 10 large leaves of fresh basil (or you can used dried - about a tbsp)
  • A quarter can of black beans (gives it a thicker consistency)
  • 1 tbsp vegan sour cream OR 1/4 cup vegan creamer OR 1/2 block of silken tofu
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
Combine the tomatoes, Sriracha, garlic, basil, black beans and sour cream and salt in the food processor. Pulse until fully combined but not purified because you don't want this sauce to be too liquidy - you will add in the cider vinegar.

Transfer the ingredients into a medium saucepan over low heat.

Stir in the apple cider vinegar and cook over low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  • Preformed polenta (looks like the photo below) 
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
Cut the polenta into slices that are about a quarter to half inch thick
Bring the oil up to medium temperature and then lightly grill the polenta on both sides until golden (about 2-3 minutes per side)

Then comes the best part! You put the polenta on the plate, followed by the veggies, followed by the vodka sauce (followed by taking pictures when you are really hungry if you are me) and eat it! It's full of delicious vitamins and the flavor combos are just perf.

Another delicious vegan meal to help you live long and prosper.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Tofu, Portobellos, Quinoa and Salad - Vegan 101

Thought I'd throw some stereotypical vegan foods atcha. And make them look seww good.

As much as I love to experiment with food, there is something so satisfying about some vegan staples like baked tofu, roasted BBQ portobello mushrooms, quinoa with peanut sauce and a fresh salad - it's like the amalgamation of stereotypical vegan foods all smushed into one delicious and satisfying spread (also my computer keeps putting those annoying red lines under QUINOA. I know how to spell quinoa silly computer - someone needs to update your word library to include this delicious goosefoot grain). There's a reason we vegans like these things.


This is extra firm tofu. I buy it pretty much any establishment in which groceries are sold that isn't also a gas station.
Then I cut it into squares or rectangles or really any shape I feel up for
Then I dip it in soy sauce or Braggs
Then I "bread it" in nutritional yeast
Then I put some spices or garlic on it
Then I put it in the oven for about 30 minutes or until golden and delicious


These are portobello mushrooms. I buy them in a two pack at Trader Joes for like two dollars.
Then I wash them lightly with warm water and cut off excessive stemage
Neat little basting brush
Then I take a neat little baster brush like this one
<------- (picture a mushroom instead of corn)
Then I baste each mushroom on both sides with BBQ sauce (that I also buy at Trader Joes)
 Then I put them (still whole) on a greased cookie sheet (or grill if it's nice out!)
Then I bake them at 425 for about 30 minutes-ish. Really until they look cooked but not shrivelled
Then I cut them into delicious slices to be displayed over Quinoa


This is tri-colored quinoa. I buy it in bulk at Market of Choice.
Then I put it in a pot with equal amounts of vegetable broth (or 1/2 water 1/2 veggie broth)
Then I bring it to a boil.
Then I let it simmer until it is fluffy and translucent (about 25-30 minutes)


This is peanut sauce. It is not like the peanut sauce I use for salad rolls. It is thinner and more savory. I start with a delicious creamy peanut butter like the one by Earth Balance (the best peanut butter EVER)
Then I put a couple of spoon fulls in a saucepan with the stove on medium low
Then I put about a quarter cup of soy sauce in
Then I put a couple tablespoons of Sriracha in
Then I put about 1.5 tablespoons of rice vinegar in
Then I put about a tablespoon of Agave Nectar in
Then I put a couple tablespoons of lemon juice in
Then I put some finely minced garlic in
Then I raise the temperature slightly and whisk it all together, adding up to a cup of water as it starts to thicken. I like my peanut sauce a little thinner for the purpose of this meal.

These are the things that I do and the foods I eat as a vegan.

So there is a little Vegan 101 meal for ya! Tastes so good when it hits your lips. And it'll make you feel good too.


Like Bill Clinton. Who recently said this after his by-pass surgery:

“Since 1986, several hundred people who have tried essentially a plant-based diet, not ingesting any cholesterol from any source, has seen their bodies start to heal themselves — break up the arterial blockage, break up the calcium deposits around the heart. 82 percent of the people who have done this have had this result, so I want to see if I can be one of them.”

Live long and prosper! And make it taste delicious.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Injured Chickie

Dizzy, Hedwig, Mayhem (May May) and Maude
I love my chickens. I do. I really really love them. But they are not the brightest creatures and they get themselves into all kinds of precarious situations. Mostly, getting stuck behind a bush, flying into a roommate's closet when she leaves her window open, or trying and failing to fly up onto the deck and whacking into the railing instead, is amusing and harmless but sometimes - like this past weekend - they actually hurt themselves. One of the girls either a) impaled herself on some sort of sharp object and ripped a gash in her right side under the flap of her wing or b) was attacked by something that ripped a gash in her right side under the flap of her wing. Either way she was hurt, and still is hurting. Fortunately, I have a boyfriend and a father who are troopers and who, unlike myself, won't pass out anytime someone gets a paper cut (alright, I've never done that - but I did pass out at the optometrist once). Chicken medics to the rescue!
Holding my injured girl

Chickens in shock are much easier to handle than chickens in their normal state of being (what with the pecks at anything even remotely shiny or buggy-looking) which is simultaneously helpful and disconcerting. Our injured and shocked chickie was so cooperative as we poked and prodded her, trying to assess the damage, and then as we sprayed and gooped her down with anti-biotics and wrapped a bandage all around her feathery little body. (By we I mean my dad held her, and Colin assessed the damage and bandaged her up while I played nursing assistant and made sad little squeaking noises). After the medics had completed their work, I fed her some special treats (raisins and corn bread) and gave her some water laced with unflavored Pedialyte (to help her gain back electrolytes and ease her through the shock) and put her by herself in the coop for some recovery time.

Meanwhile my dad and Colin attempted to move a giant, broken television from the basement to the back of a mid-size vehicle so it could be donated to Goodwill. I don't know what Goodwill wants with it considering that as they moved it, the parts fell out all over the lawn. Television vomit. Literally.

By morning my sweet injured chickie seemed much more alert and responsive and she seems to be on the mend. I am keeping my fingers crossed for her and will update with her status. But I'm guessing she has many eggs left to lay in her lifetime. Which is great for me because they are the only eggs I will eat and look at the delicious creations that said male partner can make with them:

 This is an omelet in case you couldn't tell. And a BOMB one at that. Happy chickens make delicious eggs!!

Yay for chickens! They are the greatest.

Update: The wonderful house sitter that my parents hire when they go places like HAWAII (grumble) has been texting me with updates. The bandages on the injured chicken have been removed and it seems as though she's healing, although she isn't moving around much. She mostly just stays in her coop which could be either because it is painful to walk around too much or just because she is unbalanced because of her wing. But she's still hanging in there! Day 5 little girl! Keep pulling through!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Salad Rolls! And Peanut Sauce!

These are the single most popular vegan potluck item in the history of veganism and potlucks. That claim is backed by a significant amount of research and trial and error with a variety of different control groups (sort of). But seriously, I have never ever taken home a left over salad roll and once someone told me that he could "drink my peanut sauce by the gallon." And the best part is they are SO cheap and SO easy once you get the hang of the actual rolling part.

Alright so let's get real. Here they are:

Gorgeous huh? There are a couple important ingredients that you need to have to make traditional salad rolls and then the rest is kind of up to you. 

For the Salad Rolls (Recipe makes about 15 rolls)
  • 1 package Vietnamese rice paper circles (you can get these pretty much anywhere these days)
  • 1 package vermicelli noodles
  • 1 14 oz package firm tofu cut into about 4 inch long, 1/2 inch wide strips
  • 2 small or 1 large avocado sliced lengthwise into about 1/4 inch slices
  • 15 good sized and pretty looking basil leaves
  • 3 cups shredded cabbage/bean sprouts/lettuce/carrots/whatever else you have around
Start by slicing up your tofu because you will have to lightly pan fry it while your vermicelli noodles are cooking. Bring about 6 cups of water to a boil and toss in your vermicelli noodles. Cook them until they are soft but not mushy (should bb no more than 5-6 minutes depending on the thickness of your noodles. They are rice and they are thin so they cook quickly)

While those are going, coat the bottom of your pan with vegetable or canola oil and bring the heat up to medium. Throw in your tofu and fry it lightly until one side is golden brown and then use tongs to flip each piece over to pan fry the other side. Add more oil as needed.

While the tofu is frying and the noodles are cooking, slice up your avocado and whatever additional veggies that are not already pre-sliced. Also prep your basil leaves. Have everything handy so that when all the ingredients are ready you can just get right on rollin'.

To cook the rice paper circles, all you have to do is soak them in hot (but not boiling -  you should be able to stick your hand in it without feeling uncomfortable) water for about 30-45 seconds until they are soft but AGAIN not too soft because if they get too mushy they won't roll up properly. I almost want to use the word tacky here. They should be tacky and flexible. They should NOT a) rip apart in your hands b) mush into a solid mass as soon as you remove them from the water or c) be so hot you can't handle them.

Once all the ingredients are prepped, start on your rice paper. I usually use a wide and shallow bowl but you can use anything that is larger than the circumference of the rice paper circle and that will hold hot water. When the first sheet is done, place it on a flat surface. About a third of the way from the bottom place the basil leaf horizontally - this will serve as your guide for placing the rest of the ingredients. Then place 2-3 strips of tofu and a slice of avocado in the nest of the basil leaf. Then place your lettuce/cabbage/bean sprout fixin's and finally place your cooked and drained vermicelli noodles on top. When all the ingredients are in to your liking (don't over stuff the rolls or you will make your life difficult when it comes to the actual rolling part) roll each roll as follows:

  1. Fold the bottom third of the rice paper over the ingredients so that it covers them. 
  2. Fold the left side in
  3. Fold the right side in
  4. Holding the sides so that they don't come unrolled, finish rolling up your salad roll and then place it, vermicelli noodles down and basil up, on whatever type of tray you plan on using to serve it.
It's kind of like folding a burrito. It takes some practice to get the right consistency for the rice paper and the right rolling technique, but once you get it down you will be whipping these things out like Willow Smith. 

Continue trial and erroring with your rice paper (you should have MORE than enough - I think I went through a whole package on my first time making these and still came out with like 20 good ones). Arrange in an aesthetically pleasing way and you are nearly ready for your pot luck.

I say nearly because no salad roll is complete without a nice dip in a pool of peanut sauce.

Peanut Sauce Recipe (It's fool proof, I promise)

Ingredients required:
  • 1/2 cup of peanut butter (the higher the quality the peanut butter, the better tasting the sauce)
  • 2 Tbsp agave nectar
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp lemon Juice
  • 1 Tbsp Sriracha sauce
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1/4 cup water
Blend all ingredients in a food processor until smooth and peanuty.

Note: This sauce is not particularly spicy. If you like it spicy (as I do) double the amount of Sriracha sauce or EVEN BETTER just adjust the ingredients to your liking. If you like your sauce a little sweeter, add more agave. Heck sometimes I just totally mix things up by adding in fresh ginger or teriyaki sauce. Do what you feel is right. That is my cooking motto.

So are you ready to be the most popular person at your potluck?! Good. Because you will be. Everyone loves salad rolls and so it naturally follows that everyone will love you.

Love long and prosper, fellow vegans.