Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Veg - Little Rock, AR

As a still relatively new vegan, I get excited when there's something new to try in town.  So when I saw a post looking for vegan cookie taste-testers?  Let's do this!!

The Veg is just getting rolling, but it will be the first fully vegan restaurant in Little Rock.  I looked over the menu on the website, and I'm pretty sure I want to try everything on it.  I'm absolutely down with the part about "pushing the limits of what is traditionally vegan," since that's what I try to do with my own cooking.  Vegan soul food?  Sign me up!

 ...Back to the cookies.  When I responded to owner Shiem Swift's request for taste testers, I wasn't sure what to expect.  I would've been happy with a few little cookies in a Ziplock bag.  What I got was a beautiful overall presentation: four individually wrapped and sealed bakery-style cookies in a heavy, labelled airtight jar.  Nice work!

I'm proud of my restraint.  The cookies actually made it all the way home!  By the time I actually tried them, the anticipation was off the charts.  I'm a fan of cookies, and I had high hopes for these.

 I wasn't disappointed.  I've had run-ins with vegan cookies that left a little to be desired.  Between you and me, I'm not a fan of the dried-out hockey pucks.  I want cookies to be cookies!  The cookies I received are the pecan chocolate chunk (as also seen on their website).  They aren't kidding about "chunks," either.  There's a lot of chocolate in these cookies!  The cookies themselves are large, moist, and chewy; everything a good cookie should be.  Shiem mentioned that there was a little sprinkle of turbinado sugar on top.  Nice touch!

As of this writing, the website still has the link up to get your own free cookies.  If you're in the Little Rock area, I'd recommend giving them a shot!  They were so good, I'm tempted to put on a hat and scarf and go back for seconds.  Ha!

I can't wait to find out more about The Veg.  I hope it opens soon, because I seriously can't wait to try the food.  Those cookies were a great introduction.  I love that for a non-major city, Little Rock has some pretty decent vegan options.  I wish Shiem all the success in the world with his new venture.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Vegan Cinnamon Toast Grilled Cheese

Vegan junk food for breakfast?  OKAY!

This one is super easy and super good.

Vegan Cinnamon Toast Grilled Cheese

2 slices potato bread
1 handful Daiya shredded cheese
Earth Balance buttery spread

In a small skillet, toast both sides of bread slices.  Remove from heat and sprinkle one side with cinnamon and sugar.

Add cheese and press sandwich together.  Return to skillet.  Cover skillet to help cheese melt. Toast each side until melted.


Friday, November 30, 2012

Butternut Squash Pasta

I'd been wondering what to do with the cute little bag of pre-cubed butternut squash I'd bought on a whim.  The clock was winding down on it, and I needed to make a decision.  I saw an awesome recipe on ABC's The Chew earlier in the week, and everything fell into place.  Kinda.  Their recipe wasn't vegan.

Challenge accepted.

Vegan Butternut Squash Pasta

1 bag cubed butternut squash (mine came from Wal-Mart)
1/3 cup white onion, diced
1 pound penne pasta
2 tablespoons Earth Balance buttery spread
1/2 cup vegan parmesan
1/4 cup peanuts
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup parsley flakes
1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Toss butternut squash cubes with 4 tablespoons of olive oil in large mixing bowl.  Season with salt and pepper.

Cook squash cubes for ~20 minutes.  Keep an eye on it.  You should be able to easily pierce with a fork.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add pasta and cook for one minute less than package instructions.  Reserve a bit of the pasta water.

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat.  Once heated, add in the diced onion, stirring occasionally.  Season with salt and pepper and a small pinch of crushed red pepper flakes.

Once the onions are soft, add the butternut squash, the peanuts, and 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water. Add the Earth Balance and swirl in the pan.  Once the butter has melted and the liquid becomes slightly creamy, add the pasta.

Bread crumb topping:

Mix the parsley flakes, panko bread crumbs, and vegan parmesan in a medium-sized bowl.

Plate pasta, add bread crumb topping, and serve!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Steak, Please!

I made steaks today.  Literally made them...  No moo was harmed in the making of my dinner.

I guess today was a warm-up for Thanksgiving; I wanted to get back into cooking mode.  I spent a lot of time in my kitchen today!

I got the recipe from here, but my broth mix was a little different.  No dried chipolte pepper, so I used curry as a stunt double.  I didn't have regular hot sauce, so I subbed Sriracha.  The broth used up all of my onion powder, so a quick trip to the store later, I had the correct ingredient lineup for the dough.

 Rollin', rollin', rollin'...  Get that dough a-rollin'...  SEITAN!

Steak strips!

This is where I started getting excited...  They actually started looking like steaks!

Marinating.  I used Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce.  I let them rest while I started making my sides:  collard greens and millet mashed potatoes.

My kitchen smelled so amazingly good at this point.  HOWEVER: the recipe told me to fry them for 8 minutes on each side.  Yeah, no.  The first side got blackened and I had to cut off a layer.  I flipped them and  let them go for 3 more minutes, and they were good.  I'm sure I'll make these again at some point, so I'll know to only go 4 or 5 minutes on the first side, if that.

My sides turned out pretty good.  I'd reduced the amount of collard greens, so next time, I'll take them off the burner a couple of minutes earlier, but they were still edible.  The millet mashed potatoes were awesome!  I think that the steak would be along the lines of a medium-well regular steak, due to the recipe calling for such a crazy long cooking time.  I used a little of the leftover marinade over the finished product (after removing the blackened top layer).  Curry, Sriracha, hot sauce...  They were hot!!  Good, though.

Now I'll get ready for my first vegan Thanksgiving!  My mom told me to bring something sweet, so I'll have to find an awesome dessert recipe for everyone.  Good thing vegan sweets are SO good, huh? :)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Gettin' Crunk... Also, Beer Battered Sweet Potato Rounds

So today was pretty awesome.

I've been looking forward to today for awhile, once I found out that Bianca Phillips of Vegan Crunk was going to be in town, signing copies of her cookbook, Cookin' Crunk: Eatin' Vegan in the Dirty South.  That was the very first cookbook I bought upon making "the switch," and I've already made several recipes from it.

She had samples of her yummy recipe for vegan pimento cheese sandwiches.  They were quite good...  This is even coming from someone who never liked traditional pimento cheese at all.  Score!

Since I'm a camera nerd, I got a pic of some of the cool people hanging out this afternoon.  :)

By the time I got home, the little sammy snacks were wearing off, and I realized I needed actual noms.  My friend Jami has awesome timing; she chose that moment to post a recipe for beer battered sweet potato chunks.  Oh, hello.  I just bought some sweet potatoes yesterday!

I got to work.  I adapted the recipe from here.  Mostly because the chili powder was alllll the way at the back of the spices, and I didn't feel like climbing for it.  So I used curry powder instead.  I also used black pepper instead of black powder, because I didn't know if it was a typo, or if I had a pantry that was lacking.  I also opted for pretty little rounds instead of chunks.  Beer battered sweet potato chips?  Who knows?

No matter!  They fried up, all bubbly and yummy-like.  Hoegaarden makes for some awesome beer batter.   I added a couple of beer battered pickles to the mix at the very end, just because I was feeling feisty.  

All in all, it was a good day.  I bought a mess of collard greens at the store yesterday.  That might be my next experiment.  I've never had them before, so...  We shall see!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Peanut Butter Cups

I had a "moment" a couple of weeks ago, when I was at the store and saw all of the 50% off leftover Halloween candy.  Reese's Cups have always been my favorite candy of all time.  They had an individual pumpkin marked down next to nothing.  It wouldn't hurt to have just one, right?

I am amazed at my willpower.  I put it right back into the display and left it.

Fast forward to yesterday, when I started browsing through The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur.  Sure enough, there was a recipe for peanut butter cups!  I had to try them.


1 1/3 cups chocolate chips
1 tablespoon shortening

Peanut Butter Filling:

2 teaspoons margarine
3/4 teaspoon soy milk
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 tablespoons graham cracker crumbs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt the chocolate and shortening in a makeshift double-boiler or microwave.

Spoon a little of the melted chocolate into the lined mini cupcake pan, coating the sides with your finger.  Save the rest of the chocolate for the tops of the cups.

Filling:  Melt the margarine over medium-low heat.  Add in the soy milk and brown sugar and stir for 30 seconds.  Stir in the peanut butter, graham cracker crumbs, and vanilla.  Once mixture stops sticking to the sides and forms into a ball, transfer to a bowl.

Fill each chocolate mold with 1 teaspoon of the peanut butter mixture and smooth out the tops.  Use the rest of the chocolate to coat the tops of the peanut butter cups.

Let peanut butter cups set at room temperature, then store in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer.

I stuck the pan in the microwave and left it to set overnight.  They turned out great!

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Shiny!

Hi there!

  I'm Syd.  Some of you may know me from other parts of the internet.  I'm a music and fine art photographer, and the owner of Visible Sin Photography and Sydney Frames Photography.  As of October 1, 2012, I'm almost entirely vegan (no meat...using up the last bits of Morningstar bacon, though).  As a result of THAT, I dove headfirst into the wide world o' vegan cooking.

I *LOVE* it!!!

I always wanted to cook before, but I usually found myself without eggs, milk, and meat in the fridge.  They went bad before I used them, or I'd be terrified that I'd undercook chicken and die.

That led to a good long stretch of Sonic.  Daily.  Jr. burger and tots almost every day (sometimes twice), for at least two years.  Not even joking.

A good friend of mine went vegan in 2008, lost weight, changed her life, and just rocks in general.  That led another friend of mine to head down the same path.  Hmmm.  I started flirting with it when I was grocery shopping.  I was still going to Sonic every day, but wasn't really buying meat-type stuff for the house.  I switched to coconut (and almond) milk.  SO MUCH BETTER!  I was never really a fan of moo milk, so that one was easy.

October 1st was World Vegetarian Day, and there was a graphic floating around Facebook, asking people to pledge to give up meat for a day, a week, or a month.  I didn't know if I could do a month, so I said I'd do it for a week.  I haven't looked back!  I hit up the library and got a lot of cookbooks, and bought a couple to keep.  My favorite is Cookin' Crunk: Eating Vegan in the Dirty South.

I cook all the time now, and I've been posting so many photos to Facebook, some friends recommended I start a blog, so... Here we go!