Five Minute Photoshop: Ms. Mac N. Cheeze

Ladies and gents, I’d like to introduce you to a new friend of mine. She’s comforting and reassuring and, um, delicious. Meet Ms. Mac N. Cheeze.

Mac N. Cheeze in da house!

I know, I know. You thought I couldn’t get any lamer after my Banana Muffin Photoshop stupidity. But, oh, I can, and I did.

It seems to me that making – and, ideally, enjoying – dairy-free mac and cheese should count as a rite of passage of sorts, a hurdle to be cleared on the way to vegan nirvana. I’m happy to say that I’ve jumped that hurdle and avoided any embarrassing falls.

While vegan mac and cheese has never exactly scared me, per se, I’ve always been a little reluctant to try it. I didn’t think I was a bit nutritional yeast fan, and I was never fond enough of regular mac and cheese to make finding a vegan substitute a pressing need. Truth be told, I always associated the rich, homemade versions of mac and cheese with tummyaches; my stomach has never dealt well with large amounts of fat (and probably dairy), and super creamy dishes never sat well with me. I did enjoy Annie’s white cheddar shells, but overall macaroni and cheese was never high on my list of all-time favorites.

That said, there came a point when I began to crave something creamy and warm and reminiscent of those cholesterol-laden dishes I used to occasionally enjoy. Tonight I decided to fulfill that craving. After perusing various mac and cheese recipes, I settled on this simple one from VeganYumYum. Although cashew-based “cheeze” sauces seem to be all the rage – and that VegNews recipe looks intriguing – I wanted my first vegan mac and cheese experience to be more traditional, meaning I wanted to try it with nutritional yeast, even though I was a little uncertain if I’d even be able to stomach it.

Happily, I was more than able to do that. I really and truly enjoyed this recipe. Even though I left out the miso, I thought it was wonderfully creamy and tasty. I think I may’ve used a bit too much tahini, as it was bordering on the verge of too sweet, but that’s my fault since I was halving the recipe and eyeballing measurements. I’m pretty sure my eyes almost bulged out of their sockets when I first tasted this “cheeze” sauce, I was so pleasantly surprised. I thoroughly enjoyed my bowl of penne and, um, yeast, and I’m happy to say that it didn’t leave me feeling full and sick like “real” mac and cheese used to do.

The only downside to this meal was its rather unflattering aesthetic. I didn’t bake it and top it with breadcrumbs, so it was pretty ugly… hence the Photoshop jobber. But other than that, it was a wonderful introduction to the world of vegan mac and cheese and I can’t wait to try more variations on this wonderful dish. Ms. Mac N. Cheeze, we’ll meet again soon – I promise!

Raw Wednesday: A Lack of Novelty

I failed to diversify this Raw Wednesday, by which I mean that I ate the exact same thing I had a couple of weeks ago. Maybe that makes me super lame and boring, but I appreciate a dish I can depend on, one that I know is going to satisfy me and taste delicious. If a raw meal can count as a comforting standby, then that’s a good thing, right? I think so, and Gena‘s Zucchini Marinara is well on the way to achieving that status. My meal tonight was both beautiful and delicious, as ever.

Raw deliciousness.

When I made this dish two weeks ago, I enjoyed mixing avocado slices with my zucchini noodles. Tonight, I used sliced mushrooms instead, and found that the marinara complemented them quite well. I wasn’t extremely hungry, so I had leftover sauce, and my brother ended up mixing it with some bottled marinara sauce and using it over regular ol’ pasta. We both enjoyed our dinners, and now I’m going to wrap up this short ‘n sweet post to go do some shopping with the aforementioned brother. Ciao!

Easy [Pumpkin] Skankin’

I was going to update my homage to Ancho Lentil Soup with a picture today, but when I reheated a bowl I remembered that leftover lentil soup pretty much looks like the inner contents of an infant’s diaper, and we can all imagine that without a photo. So I discarded that misguided plan.

Moving on – tonight the baking urge struck with a vengeance. That’s not a rare occurrence, obviously; this blog is pretty much 75% sweet baked treats. And I’m okay with that. Tonight I was in the mood for cookies, but I also wanted to try out an awesome new Halloween-themed mini cake pan, so instead I decided to take another route entirely and go for the Skanky Pumpkin Squares from Tahinitoo. Maybe squares are somewhere between cupcakes and cookies on the baked goods scale, maybe not. I don’t actually care because what these are is G-O-O-D.

Easy skankin'.

I used a blend of AP and 100% whole wheat flours as per usual, since I didn’t have whole wheat pastry flour, and I replaced soy milk with almond milk, aaand I just mixed up some spices into a makeshift pumpkin pie spice blend, but my minor alterations did nothing to de-skankify these babies. Nope, that is pure, unadulterated pumpkin skank you’re seeing. And that’s one kind of skankiness I can get behind any night of the week (twss).

Note: This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase something through my link, it costs nothing extra for you, but I get a few pennies.

In Which I Wax Nostalgic about Ancho Lentil Soup

Back in the dark ages when I was a college senior (by which I mean one year ago), I lived with my two best friends in an on-campus townhouse. It was pretty much the most ideal arrangement imaginable; we basically had our own apartment/house without all that pesky business of upkeep and monthly bills. My favorite aspect of the whole situation was that we had our own kitchen. After living in the dorms for three years – and therefore eating at the dining hall for three years – the fact that we could store our food without worrying about freshmen stealing it and then cook whatever we wanted seemed to open up new vistas of culinary freedom and possibility. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned in the past, this was a turning point in my path to becoming vegan.

When I began college, I’d been vegetarian for about half a year, and I appreciated the dining hall’s constant availability of decent vegetarian food. I had choices for every meal, usually, and for the most part it was pretty decent, as far as cafeteria fare goes. My friends were accepting of my lifestyle and dietary choices – after all, I did attend the most awesome college on the planet – but even so, I occasionally felt the need to assure them that vegetarian was as far as I’d go. “No way I could go vegan,” I’d say, “I love cheese!”

Wince all you want at that; I’m just being honest here. At that point in my life, I hadn’t really been exposed to much vegan fare. Eighty percent of the vegetarian foods in the cafeteria were decidedly non-vegan, so I still held a bit of that pesky belief that vegans really must not eat much at all. Sure, the salad bar had lots of  tasty options, and there was always a crockpot of rice available, and pasta with tomato sauce is always solid… but what about breakfast?! All those pancakes and baked goods were out, and most of the Malt-O-Meal brand cereals probably contained dairy, and I’d never be able to use that fun waffle maker with the batter in a bottle! Being vegan and eating well in the dining hall just didn’t seem possible.

In retrospect, I bet I could’ve been creative enough to come up with some fun dishes of my own with the basic ingredients that were available. In fact, I unknowingly did – I used to mix rice with sundried tomato pesto and various beans occasionally, and hummus and veggie sandwiches were always a solid lunchtime option. But it wasn’t until I had my own kitchen, did all my own grocery shopping, and discovered the vegan blogworld that I suddenly realized that being vegan didn’t mean limiting one’s options and condemning oneself to a life of bland, boring foodstuffs. Suddenly I realized that it was quite the opposite, in fact.

One meal in particular helped spur this epiphany. My housemates and I alternated making weekly dinners, so that at least one night a week we’d sit down at the table together for an extra-special meal. I began cooking vegan meals for my friends, not advertising the fact but just experimenting and enjoying the way my meals were appreciated by omnivores despite their lack of animal products. Ironically, though, the meal in question wasn’t cooked by me. It was made by my wonderful friend from Texas, my friend from the land of beef brisket and chicken fried steak. Although my housemates generally didn’t make vegan meals for their house dinners – I was still occasionally eating dairy and eggs then, although I never cooked them for myself –  my Texan amiga labored to make Isa’s Ancho Lentil Soup with Grilled Pineapple for us one cold winter night. I say “labored” because it was truly not an easy process for her; there was a mishap with a blender’s not-so-tightly-screwed-on bottom, and she had to make sure the soup was sufficiently spicy without overwhelming the delicate taste buds of our Wisconsinite housemate… that sort of thing. But she conquered adversity and served up a beautiful soup, complete with delicious pineapple rings topping the bowls.

As we sat in the living/dining room and slowly sipped our soup, my friend told us that she’d first tried the soup when she spent winter break on campus, working at the library. She had to stay in another house over the break, and thus met a real live vegan (!) who made this soup for a house dinner one night. My friend enjoyed it enough that she sought out the recipe once classes resumed and it was her turn to make dinner for us. Everyone enjoyed it, although my poor Wisconsinite thought it was slightly too spicy, despite all efforts to keep it tame. If any mention was made of the fact that it was a vegan soup from a vegan website, I don’t recall it. Mostly we just enjoyed our food.

I do recall, however, my friend coming into my room a couple of days before she was scheduled to make the dinner and saying that she needed to find a vegan soup recipe. I Googled it for her, and when it popped up on the PPK, I felt a strange blush growing on my face. It was an odd feeling, like my little secret had been found out. The PPK and all those vegan sites were mine! Nobody knew I was seriously considering veganism, and the fact that my Texan friend was sharing a chair with me and perusing PPK recipes seemed surreal and strange. But after we’d all shared that meal and enjoyed it, things suddenly seemed less strange and much clearer to me. Vegan food was delicious. Omnivores could eat it, enjoy it, and not have to think about the fact that it was vegan. Going vegan might not be so difficult, after all.

Although it took me a while after eating that meal to make the “official” switch, I still think of that Ancho Lentil Soup with fondness. It represents some sort of a turning point in my thoughts about becoming vegan, and it tastes damn good. So I made it for dinner tonight, to share with my wonderfully vegan-friendly family, and to warm me up on a chilly autumn evening.

As ever, the soup didn’t disappoint on any count. I didn’t photograph it as I was too hungry to get the camera, but maybe I’ll add a photo tomorrow – there’s about one serving left, and you can bet I’m going to thoroughly enjoy it for lunch tomorrow.

Rainy Sunday: Zombies & Panera

It’s a raaainy day – it’s rainin’ outside and I can’t go out to play… why do we need the rain anywaaay?

Any Sesame Street fans in the house? :) I just always think of this song on dreary, grey, watery days like this one. Of course, in true Sesame Street style, the song goes on to explain that every living thing needs water, and therefore rain is actually pretty necessary. True that.

Today I decided to escape the rain by hitting up the movie theater. I haven’t seen a *new* movie since the latest Harry Potter installment this summer, so I figured it was high time to change that. A friend and I saw Zombieland, which was both pretty hilarious and rather gory. Luckily I have a rather high gore tolerance level, but if you don’t, I’d use a little bit of caution. Other than that, though, I thought it was quite fun. I may be biased, though, since I do have a thing for zombies… Shaun of the Dead is one of my favorite movies. Anyway, Zombieland has likeable characters and amusing situations, and it’s doubly cool because Woody Harrelson is a vegan! It’s awesome to see vegan actors play majorly awesome ass-kicking characters, even if said characters are Twinkie addicts. Heh.

After our movie experience, my friend and I headed across the street for a late lunch/early dinner at Panera. I’m a big Panera fan for on-the-go eating; I used to love their broccoli cheddar soup in a breadbowl, but obviously that’s out of the question these days. Today I had the black bean soup, although the Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich (minus the feta) is another vegan option. Being vegan is easy AND yummy, even on the go! :)

In conclusion, zombies + Panera = the perfect way to mitigate the depressingness of a rainy Sunday.

On the topic of vegans & zombies, feel free to get me this shirt for Christmas; I wear an x-small. Thanks in advance. :P

Hooray, it’s Chocomole Day!

…sorry; I couldn’t resist the stupid rhyminess of that title.

After my big Raw Wednesday fail, I knew I had to make amends this weekend. The two extremely ripe avocados sitting on my kitchen counter this morning seemed to be looking at me reproachfully, asking why on earth I hadn’t cut ’em open and whizzed them into a bowl of chocolaty deliciousness yet. So who was I to resist their call? I quickly set to work whipping up a batch of Gena’s Chocomole.

Chocomole!

Dudes, it took a heckuva lotta willpower to resist eating this for brunch. But in an impressive feat of resistance, I put this in the fridge and decided to save it for dessert. All that anticipating and waiting just makes the final satisfaction so much better, don’t you think? (That’s what she said!) Whatever the case, this was one yummy dessert. I was surprised by how rich and filling it seemed! I could barely finish this smallish serving. It was creamy, sweet, and just slightly avocado-y. I used a mix of my favorite extra dark cocoa powder and carob powder, but I think I’ll stick to straight-up carob next time. I’d love to get my hands on some of the raw cocoa powder Gena used, but we’ll see about that. For now, I’ve got at least one more serving of Chocomole sittin’ pretty in my fridge, waiting to be gobbled up next time I get a chocolate craving. Mmm, mmm, good. :)

Five Minute Photoshop: Banana Muffins

Okay guys, I am being a big lame-o today.  I had a fun and enlightening time at my little bro’s frat party last night, but we didn’t leave his college until 3:30 this afternoon, and then the family went out to dinner, so… I’m feeling a little lazy and uninspired for this MoFo post. However, I will tell you that I made some kick-ass banana muffins the other night, based on this recipe. I modified it a bit and will continue to tweak it until it’s perfect, but I loooved the results of my initial experimentation. And I’m not even much of a banana muffin type of girl! But these were fantastic. I’ll definitely share my modifications next time I make them, but for now, here is a “photograph” of a yummy muffin.

EAT ME.

…yup, I am that lame. And generally my Photoshop skillz are way more advanced, but like I said – lazy and uninspired. I’ll do better next time, I promise.

Get Out of Jail Free: The Vegan’s 100 List

You knew it was coming.

Yup, today I’m using my MoFo version of a Get Out of Jail Free card and filing out that Vegan’s 100 List that’s been making the rounds. It’s not even that I don’t have anything about which to blog, but more that I didn’t have time this morning, I’m at work now (I work super part-time… three hours today!), and after work I need to get ready and then head up to my brother’s college for an end-of-term party tonight. Coming up in the near future will be posts about super awesome banana-oat muffins, super-garlicky baba ganoush, and possibly Chocomole. But for today, my list! Which is bound to be pretty pathetic. I’m a new vegan, but that’s really no excuse, since I was effectively vegan for ~9 months before making the official switch. Ah well. I’ll think of it as inspiration. Also. Sorry for the commentary, but I can’t resist adding my two cents. It makes posting the list a little less of a cop-out, though, right? Heh.

Rules:
1) Copy this list into your blog or social networking site profile, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out or italicize any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment on this post linking to your results.

1. Molasses (Regular and blackstrap. We used to eat it on pancakes… my cousins were weirded out by that!)
2. Cactus/Nopales
3. Scrambled Tofu (Duh.)
4. Grilled Portobella Caps
5. Fresh Ground Horseradish
6. Sweet Potato Biscuits (No, but these sound delicious!)
7. Arepas (…um?)
8. Vegan Coleslaw (I was never a huge coleslaw fan. Maybe a vegan version would change that?)
9. Ginger Carrot Soup
10. Fiddlehead Ferns
11. Roasted Elephant Garlic
12. Umeboshi
13. Almond Butter Toast (I suck.)
14. Aloe Vera
15. H and H Bagel NYC
16. Slow Roasted Butternut Squash
17. White truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Freshly ground wasabi
20. Coconut Milk Ice Cream (Heck yeah!)
21. Heirloom tomatoes (Love ’em.)
22. Orchard-fresh pressed apple cider (I’m pretty sure, at least…)
23. Organic California Mango
24. Quinoa
25. Papaya Smoothie
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet or Habañero pepper (It counts if it was in salsa, right?)
27. Goji Berry Tea
28. Fennel
29. Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies (OMG. I just realized I’ve never made straight-up vegan chocolate chip cookies! WTF.)
30. Radishes and Vegan Buttery Spread
31. Starfruit
32. Oven fresh Sourdough bread
33. Sangria made with premium fruit and juices (Okay… premium? Really?)
34. Sauerkraut
35. Acai Smoothie
36. Blue Foot Mushrooms
37. Vegan Cupcake from Babycakes NYC
38. Sweet Potatoes and Tempeh combo
39. Falafel (I fell in love with falafel in Berlin… mmm.)
40. Spelt Crust Pizza
41. Salt and Pepper Oyster Mushrooms
42. Jicama Slaw
43. Pumpkin Edamame Ginger Dumplings
44. Hemp Milk
45. Rose Champagne
46. Fuyu (aka persimmons)
47. Raw Avocado-Coconut Soup
48. Tofu Pesto Sandwich
49. Apple-Lemon-Ginger-Cayenne fresh-pressed juice
50. Grilled Seitan
51. Prickly pear
52. Fresh Pressed Almond Milk
53. Concord Grapes off the vine
54. Ramps
55. Coconut Water fresh from a young coconut
56. Organic Arugula (I’ve eaten a lot of salads in my day, so I’m going to assume that at least one of them included this!)
57. Vidalia Onion
58. Sampler of organic produce from Diamond Organics (Um?)
59. Honeycrisp Apple (Just yesterday!)
60. Poi
61. Vegan Campfire-toasted S’mores (Sigh.)
62. Grape seed Oil
63. Farm fresh-picked Peach (It counts if it was from a farmer’s market, right?)
64. Freshly-made pita bread with freshly-made hummus
65. Chestnut Snack Packs
66. Fresh Guava
67. Mint Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies (Okay, I love mint and I love chocolate and I love oatmeal, but together? I dunno… I’ll have to try it!)
68. Raw Mallomar from One Lucky Duck, NYC
69. Fried plantains
70. Mache
71. Golden Beets
72. Barrel-Fresh Pickles
73. Liquid Smoke (I just bought a bottle, though!)
74. Meyer Lemon
75. Veggie Paella
76. Vegan Lasagna
77. Kombucha
78. Homemade Soy Milk
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Lychee Bellini
81. Tempeh Bacon (Okay, honestly? I wasn’t a fan. But back then I didn’t really like tempeh all that much, so… maybe I should try it again.)
82. Sprouted Grain Bread
83. Lemon Pepper Tempeh
84. Vanilla Bean
85. Watercress
86. Carrot you pulled out of the ground yourself
87. Vegan In-Season Fruit Pie
88. Flowers (Dried hibiscus is icky.)
89. Corn Chowder
90. High Quality Vegan Raw Chocolate
91. Yellow fuzz-free Kiwi
92. White Flesh Grapefruit (I love grapefruit. SO MUCH.)
93. Harissa
94. Coconut Oil
95. Jackfruit
96. Homemade Risotto
97. Spirulina (It was in an Odwalla bar… hehe.)
98. Seedless ‘Pixie’ Tangerine
99. Gourmet Sorbet
100. Fresh Plucked English Peas

Well, that was fun… and embarrassing. I’ll see you all tomorrow with something more substantial, I promise! Wish me luck tonight – my college didn’t have a Greek system, and I’ve never been to a frat party! Yikes!

Raw Wednesday: Honeycrisp Heaven

I’m just going to level with y’all right now. I didn’t truly participate in Raw Wednesday this week. I know, I know. I’m properly ashamed and all. It’s just that I was in minor panic mode all day long (more on that later) and didn’t really eat much, and when I did, I couldn’t be bothered to do anything more than reheat a leftover vegan enchilada my wonderful daddy made for dinner a couple of nights ago. That was lunch; I skipped breakfast (I know!) and had a vegan burger for dinner… the kind from a box. I know.

I did, however, go raw for dessert. By which I mean I ate an apple. So… that counts, right? Counts-ish? Maybe? Okay, maybe not. But honestly, I couldn’t be arsed to make a more complex dessert, and Honeycrisp apples were on sale at the grocery store today, and they just looked so inviting in the fruit bowl… and you know what? I don’t think I’ve ever had a Honeycrisp before tonight. But they’re listed on that Vegan’s 100 List which seems to make for an excellent lazy-day MoFo post (mine’s coming, don’t you worry), and people have been blogging left and right about their deliciousness… so I had to try one.

Crispeh!

Ooer. I think they live up to all the hype. Honeycrisps are kind of my perfect apple, sweet but not too sweet, a little bit juicy, and, well, crisp. It was love at first bite.

On the topic of biting, fun fact – I can’t eat apples straight-up; I have to cut them into pieces because my gums are, um, slightly receding and biting into apples isn’t great for that. Oh, the joys of growing old (snerk). At least I’ll never fail to appreciate the joy of a simple raw treat, even if I do have to hack it up in order to enjoy it. ;)

Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles

I’m pretty sure that this might be the recipe of VeganMoFo 2009. Isa’s Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles captured my eye when she first blogged about them, and they’ve been dominating the MoFo cookie-related posts lately. It seems like every other blogger is making and then raving about these cookies, and this post is not going to be any different.

So I’ll keep it simple, I think. These cookies rock. Like hardcore, head-thrashing, wild dancing rock. The texture, the taste, the cayenne that slowly builds ’til it kicks you in the throat… it’s all perfect. And they look damn good, too.

Mexican YUM.

All I can say is, I’m totally buying Isa’s and Terry’s new book as soon as I can get my grubby little hands on it. Their cookies can invade my cookie jar any day of the week… if ya know what I mean. ;) Ohhh yeahhh.