World Go Vegan Week — Vegan For Life

All I can say is–whew!  Yesterday was really quite something.  As I mentioned in my previous World Go Vegan Week post, I gave a presentation at my local library about the health and environmental benefits of veganism, as well as a  bit of information on the vegan lifestyle itself.  I have a whole new appreciation for what it takes to plan and host an event!

My local library (the Sand Lake Town Library) was kind enough to let me use their meeting room for the presentation, and allowed me to rearrange it to my liking in order to accommodate information and refreshments.

vegan for life tables 01
vegan for life tables 02
vegan for life tables 03
vegan for life tables 04

Some of the pamphlets and handouts were things I either found and printed or put together myself, and some were extras I picked up at the Veg Expo.  The rest came from the wonderful folks over at In Defense of Animals, who provide information to people hosting events for World Go Vegan Week.  Let me tell you, it was a big help!  So were the delicious oatmeal cranberry cookies and chocolate brownies from X’s to O’s Vegan Bakery.  In addition to the hummus, veggies, and roasted chickpeas, I knew I wanted to wow people with some vegan desserts, and X’s to O’s is definitely the place to go for that.  Big thanks to them, as well!

vegan for life crowd 01
vegan for life crowd 02

People started to trickle in a little after 1pm.  A few I know from church and Bible study who had mentioned they were thinking about coming, and I was glad that they were able to show up.  Others were family friends, people from around the community, and a couple fellow NaNoWriMo participants (hi guys!).  All in all, my mom counted about fifteen people who stayed for the talk.  Oddly enough, all of them were women, which I didn’t notice until Mom mentioned it afterward.  I wonder if this is indicative of the mindset in my area, or in general across the board?  Might be a statistic worth looking into!

presentation 01
presentation 02

I’m pretty sure it was divine intervention that got me through the entire presentation.  Things have been so crazy over the last week that I didn’t have any time for formal preparation of the talk itself.  I had a printout of the slides, some notes, and a few ideas–and glory be to God that it was enough!  I think it went well; I touched on most of the points that I’d jotted down in my notes, and people seemed to be genuinely interested.  There were several good questions at the end, too, which I hope I answered to people’s satisfaction.

vegan for life q&a

(If it looks like I’m chewing in this picture, it’s because I am.  I couldn’t resist grabbing some hummus, veggies, and roasted chickpeas for myself!) The literature and refreshments were both a big hit, which made me feel good.  I saw several people leaving with a decent stack of fliers and pamphlets, hopefully with a few extra to give to friends and family!  And everyone who tried the refreshments was impressed.  The cookies and brownies were especially well-received; no one could believe that they were 100% free of dairy and eggs.

vegan for life post-refreshments 01
vegan for life post-refreshments 02

By the time all was said and done, most of the roasted chickpeas, half the hummus, and all but two cookies and two pieces of brownie were left.  The juice got finished and the soy milk was tentatively sampled.  The stacks of handouts were appreciably smaller, and several people expressed thanks that I’d put on the presentation.  Given that I tend to be extremely self-deprecating, that made me feel good.  I’m glad that I was able to put the event together and share necessary, important information with a group of interested people.  It was definitely worth the time and effort that it took to plan!  I’m hoping to be able to do something similar in February when Eating Disorders Awareness Week rolls around.

Presentation photos by Karen Houghton.

Christening the New Stove: Vegan Alfredo!

Meet the newest member of the Quantum Vegan household:

new stove

To say that my mom and I were excited when this arrived would be a gross understatement.  Despite having a lot of good vegan food from the co-op and some delicious leftovers, we were sorely missing being able to cook.  This is our first time owning a glass-top range, so I was especially excited to use it.

I spent most of the day processing and canning more tomato puree, and decided to cook up some millet for lunch with a little Earth Balance, a drizzle of liquid aminos, and some fresh parsley.  It was a much more warming lunch than a couple of days ago, when I desperately wanted a nori roll and went the almost-raw route.

raw nori rolls

I say almost raw because the nori is the roasted kind.  But for the filling I used almond pate from The 30-Minute Vegan, some red pepper, carrot, and a bit of the kimchi that I made last month.  Wow is that good stuff!  Very spicy and delicious, with a bit of a kick to it.

For the first dinner on the new stove, I turned to two alfredo recipes for inspiration: pumpkin alfredo on Manifest Vegan and easy vegan spinach alfredo from Healthy. Happy. Life. I’ve been eyeing these recipes since Monday, as both have components I like but neither was exactly what I wanted to make.

I wound up trying a combination of both, using tofu and nutritional yeast as the base for the alfredo sauce, but spicing it more like the Healthy. Happy. Life. recipe to go with the spinach.

spinach alfredo 01

I also took the suggestion to brown some vegan sausage and add that, as well.  The end result was good, but not quite spot on.  I’d like to make it again with fresh garlic, less cumin, and perhaps a pinch of cayenne.  Oven-roasted tempeh would also make a good addition instead of the sausage, though the sausage was very tasty!

spinach alfredo 092

Needless to say, I love the new stove and will be putting it to good use!  The first test of the oven will be when I roast chickpeas as part of the refreshments for the talk I’m giving tomorrow.  I can’t wait to bake cookies or brownies at some point, too!

Slow Cooker = Life Saver

This is the stove currently residing in the Quantum Vegan household.

dead stove

Note the distinct lack of life.

This is the slow cooker that usually sits on the shelf and gets ignored, except for the rare occasions when (blech) stew meat appears in the house.

slow cooker

You may be able to guess where this is going.

On Saturday, I did some canning and had a few incidents with water boiling over.  Thus when an odd smell started coming from the stove, I figured it was just some of the water and omnipresent stuck-on food (you know, the kind that never comes off no matter how hard you scrub?) reacting to the heat.  But at around 2pm, hours after I’d finished canning, my mom and I noticed that the stove felt oddly warm.

Turns out the oven was running.  While it was turned off.  Thinking it might just be a glitch, I turned the oven knob to broil.  There was a pop, a flash, and then…nothing.  Dead stove, blown breaker in the basement.

Of course the first thing I did was panic.  No stove, no cooking, right?  No cooking, relegated to microwaved food and takeout!  Until my mom reminded me that we do, in fact, have the slow cooker pictured above.

(As a side note, literally everyone we told the stove story to asked if we were sure it was the stove.  We had an electrician come and check just in case…yes.  It was the stove.  Specifically, a mouse that had gotten into the stove.  Mouse tunnels in your oven are not good things!)

By a fortuitous twist of devine intervention, I also happen to have Robin Robertson’s Fresh From the Vegetarian Slow Cooker out of the library.  Flipping through it turned up a neat recipe for slow cooker pot pie, which I put together for last night’s dinner.

pot pie in slow cooker

I haven’t cooked much with slow cookers or Crock Pots in the past, and before this I’d never made a recipe written specifically for a slow cooker.  But it turned out to be as easy as, well, pie!

pot pie 01

The flavor was decidedly richer and deeper than something cooked in the oven.  I never would have thought that you could slow-cook something with a biscuit topping, but it turned out delicious and moist.  The filling was pretty traditional: onions, carrots, peas, potatoes, and some chickpeas for bulk and protein.

pot pie 02

It was definitely a lifesaver, and I’ll probably be pulling out the slow cooker again before our new stove is delivered.  It’s supposed to come tomorrow, but you never know what time the delivery service will announce they’re coming!  I think I’ll plan some chili, just in case…

Question for the comments: Do you cook with a slow cooker?  If so, what’s your favorite dish to make?

Happy World Go Vegan Week!

Holy tofu, guys, it’s World Go Vegan Week already!  It seems like just yesterday that I was spazzing out about all the awesome upcoming veg stuff in October (which, sadly, did not turn out to include Vegan MoFo since it got moved back to November this year), and now here it is, the big one.

I first found out about World Go Vegan Week last year.  No big surprise, since last year was the first year I was 100% vegan!  I wanted to do something to celebrate but never got the time to plan anything.  This year, I started planning enough in advance that I’ve managed to cobble together what I hope will be a fun and informative event.

After nearly dropping my teeth after finding out how much it would cost to get licensing for a screening of Food, Inc., I talked to the head librarian at my local library about putting on a presentation of my own instead.  Awesome woman that she is, she was totally on board with it and has been helping out a lot with promo.  The last time I stopped by, she had set up a table with a flier and some vegetarian/vegan cookbooks, and has been including the event as part of what the library submits to the local paper every week.

Basically what I’m planning to do is give a presentation and hold a short Q&A session in the hopes of spreading the word about both the health and environmental benefits of veganism.  Though there is a little bit of a subculture around here, it’s not nearly as big as those in even the closest cities.  I don’t think very many local people understand or even know about veganism, and I want to give them an opportunity to learn and to try some tasty vegan food.  I’m putting together some of the refreshments myself and getting the rest from X’s to O’s Vegan Bakery.

Are any of you doing anything special to celebrate or commemorate World Go Vegan Week this year?  I’d love to hear about it if you are!  I think it’s exciting to be able to spread the word about something that can have such an impact on human health, animal welfare, and the environment.  Too many people think that small choices make no difference, but I’m hoping to do my part to prove them wrong.

Teriyaki Tofu!

The other day, I had one of those days where I woke up and knew I wanted Asian food, but wasn’t sure what to make.  That meant only one thing…time to pull out The 30-Minute Vegan’s Taste of the East and browse the Japanese and Chinese recipes!

I settled on the Teriyaki Tofu, which is a variation on the theme of marinated tofu cutlets baked in the oven.  The marinade was pretty basic, with soy sauce (I used liquid aminos), garlic, ginger, maple syrup, and a couple other things, thickened with arrowroot.  It also called for mirin, which I never have on hand, so I used rice vinegar.

tofu in marinade

While that was baking, I cooked up some Jasmine rice and steamed a bunch of carrots, peppers, mushrooms, onions, and red cabbage to go with it.  Deliberately shooting for photogenic food?  Who, me?

teriyaki tofu 01

Made for a pretty combination, didn’t it?  The recipe called for quite a few more green onions than I wound up using, but I think it turned out okay since there were so many other veggies.  More of the sauce cooked off during baking than I expected, so my mom and I drizzled a little extra liquid aminos over the final product.

teriyaki tofu 02

It was definitely delicious!  My brother isn’t big on tofu, so I never got in the habit of making it all that often, but when I do I enjoy experimenting like this.

Speaking of experiments, the other night I was looking for something to do with the rest of the butternut squash and wound up going back to the African sweet potato and peanut stew in 1,000 Vegan Recipes.  But instead of sweet potatoes, I used an equal amount of butternut squash and also wound up substituting some sunflower seed butter for the peanut butter.  Wow, was that good!  My mom bought the sunflower butter at the Harvest Fest, and it has a more mellow flavor than peanut butter which wound up complimenting the butternut squash very well.  I’d definitely do that again, maybe even with a different kind of nut butter or tahini.

Question for the comments: What’s your favorite tofu dish and why?

Restaurant Review: Shalimar in Latham, NY

On a recent drive through Latham, my mom and I noticed a new Pakastani-Indian restaurant had opened up in the Peter Harris Plaza.  It’s called Shalimar, though apparently it’s not related to the other area restaurants with the same name.  We noticed that they offered both eat-in and takeout, including a lunch buffet midday.  I’m usually fond of ethnic restaurants, as they tend to have a few dishes I can eat without having to ask too many questions.  When I looked up Shalimar’s menu, I found they were no exception.  They’re not veg by a long shot, but they do have several veg-friendly dishes, and all the menu descriptions are clear enough that it’s easy to tell the difference.

Last night my mom and I went out to dinner there along with a family friend.  The interior was subdued in both decor and lighting.  The only exception was the music, which was upbeat, lively, and definitely Eastern.

shalimar inside 01
shalimar inside 02

It was early in the evening when we got there, and there was only one other table of people.  The staff was attentive, seating us right away with menus and taking our drinks order.  The menu had enough tasty-sounding veggie offerings that I had a bit of a hard time deciding.  The vegetable curry won out along with some mango chutney, but there were also tempting appetizers like vegetable pakora and samosas, Mulligatawny soup, seasoned naan, and a few veggie rice dishes.

My mom ordered the veggie samosas, onion naan, and basmati rice with vegetables; our friend got some roti and the vegetable korma, which had a “creamy sauce” so I stayed away from it.  It did, however, look very nice when it arrived (and, in all honesty, might have been creamy because of coconut milk, but I didn’t think to ask).

shalimar takeout

Speaking of, you know the food is good when you forget to take a picture of it until all that’s left winds up in a takeout container.  I wish I had remembered, because the presentation was a nice as the food.  Mom’s samosas, being an appetizer, came first, arranged on a bed of lettuce.  Then both the korma and the curry arrived in decorative metal dishes separate from the accompanying rice, which had its own small platter.  The roti and naan were in bread baskets, and the chutney came in a small plastic condiment container.

I liked being able to mix the rice and curry the way I wanted.  I was also able to put away half to take home without a problem, which I always do at the start of any meal out since I tend to have eyes way bigger than my stomach and have made myself ill on more than one occasion by trying to finish everything at once!  My only complaint is that the curry wasn’t hot enough in either temperature or spice, though I suspect I could have asked for them to turn the heat up spice-wise.  The overall flavor was very good, good enough that I ate the cauliflower along with all the other veggies without fuss. (It’s a well-known fact in my family that cauliflower is one vegetable I’ve never been able to warm up to.)

veggie rice

Mom’s veggie rice was priced like a side dish, but came in a meal-sized quantity.  The other dishes were comparable as far as value goes, and all three of us ate for around $36.  Since we all took away enough for at least one more meal, you could say dinner itself only cost $18!  Not bad for three people ordering a combination of appetizers, main courses, bread, and drinks.  One thing they could do better on, though, is including condiments with meals rather than making people order them separately.  I’m sure this is a budget measure, but it did seem a bit weird.

Overall, Shalimar is a nice place to go for a tasty Indian meal.  The staff were very friendly throughout the evening, asking us if everything was okay and not giving me any strange looks when I requested a takeout container before the food even arrived (which gets instant points in my book).  The menu is varied enough to satisfy omnivores as well as vegans, making it a good place to take a mixed party and perhaps introduce them to a new veg dish.

Return of the Homemade Veggie Burger

We all have those recipes that we eye but never get around to making.  For me, one of those was the black bean, seitan, and corn burgers from Vegan Yum Yum.

black bean seitan corn burgers cooking

Looking at the recipe the other day, there was nothing about it that struck me as something that would keep me from putting together a batch, except maybe that the recipe makes ten burgers and I wasn’t sure I wanted that many.

Fortunately, I had half a can of black beans left over from making some beans and rice; enough for an experimental half batch.  Though they look pretty similar to the last veggie burgers I made, the taste was appreciably different.  These call for black beans, chopped seitan, corn, bread crumbs, and a few seasonings.  The patties are small but hearty and have a good flavor.

The recipe called for chopping the seitan and beans in the food processor, then moving them to a mixing bowl before adding the rest of the ingredients.  I decided to blend everything in the food processor, which made a nice smooth texture without messing with the way the end result tasted.  I also didn’t have any bread crumbs, so I toasted a slice of millet bread, ripped it in pieces, and tossed that in with everything else.

black bean seitan corn burgers

I ate mine on dark rye bread with a little bit of the garlicky roasted red pepper spread that Mom bought at the veg expo.  I still haven’t figured out why I never made these before now, but I’m glad there are some left for another night!

Black Bean & Butternut Squash Chili — Because Squash is Awesome

Local squash has started popping up at the grocery store for ridiculously good prices and, food sucker that I am, I keep finding myself eyeing them and dreaming of what recipes to use them in.  My continuing quest to try new cool-weather recipes led me to bring home a butternut squash, part of which subsequently went into a batch of black bean and butternut squash chili from 1,000 Vegan Recipies.

black bean butternut chili

Robin Robertson remarks in the book that it’s a good chili for around Halloween because of the color.  There is indeed a lot of color interplay going on, which made this fun to look at in addition to smelling delicious.

black bean butternut chili served

I made a couple of substitutions to make it work with what I had on hand.  Instead of canned tomatoes, I chopped up about 1/2 cup of our fresh garden tomatoes.  The recipe also calls for apple juice, for which I subbed diluted apple cider vinegar mixed with a little agave.  That worked well enough, but having tasted the final product I think actual juice would give it more oomph.

black bean butternut chili w/ quinoa

It was delicious over quinoa.  My only complaint was that it didn’t have much zip.  I don’t personally find chili powder to be all that hot, and I’d add a little cayenne if I made this again.  All in all, not a bad way to use butternut squash!

Question for the comments: What’s your favorite fall produce and what recipe(s) do you use it in?

Fruit & Tang: Green Tomato Chutney

We had our first frost last week here in the Northeast, meaning that I had to pop out to the garden and harvest all the tomatoes before the plants died.  There were an astonishing amount, more than I had been expecting, and most of them still green.

green tomatoes

Ever since the first tomato appeared on the plants this year, I’ve been dreaming of green tomato recipes.  Don’t get me wrong; I love a good red, ripe tomato.  But I like quirky recipes, too, and a lot of people don’t seem to see the potential in green tomatoes.

Fortunately for me, Mira over at Grains & More does!  I mentioned on Twitter that I had picked the tomatoes (which I didn’t weigh but imagine amounted to 40-50lbs.), and was rewarded with this awesome chutney recipe. I always eye chutney at the co-op, but never buy it since it tends to be on the expensive side, so I was excited to take a crack at making my own!

chutney ingredients
chutney cooking
thickened chutney

This was a fairly easy recipe to throw together.  There wasn’t too much chopping involved, and everything cooked down nicely.  It gave the kitchen a nice smell, too; an unusual one, to be sure, but nice nonetheless!  Between the tomatoes, apples, raisins, sugar, and cider vinegar, it smelled both sweet and tangy at the same time.

finished chutney

I made half a batch and got about three and a half pints.  I know the flavors have to sit and mingle for a while, but I’m impatient to try it!  When the time comes, I’ll have to make lentil curry or something similar to serve it with.  Thanks for the great recipe, Mira!

Vegan Baking on Cold Days

I know I’ve mentioned several times that it’s getting cooler here in Quantum Vegan Land, but it’s hard not to mention it.  The difference between summer and fall in the Northeast is so sudden and pronounced that I’m almost always left feeling like someone pulled the rug out from under me.  One day I’m wandering around outside in shorts, then BOOM, it’s jacket-and-hat weather.  Around here, fall is the brief interlude between sweltering humidity and frigid ice storms!

The continuing upside of this is, of course, the food.  My mom had a long weekend for Columbus Day this past week, and we spent it doing a lot of fun food-related things.  First we spent a long time in the garden, grabbing the rest of the produce while the getting was good.  (This involved a lot of work with a giant garden fork, pitchfork, and bushel baskets, which resulted in an enormous yield of potatoes.)  Then it was on to the kitchen for some vegan baking!

I had a ridiculous craving for Russian tea cakes, a.k.a. Mexican wedding cookies.  Mom used to make them all the time for Christmas, and all of a sudden I had to have a batch.  Lucky for me Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar has what is pretty much a veganized version of the recipe I remember.

russian tea cake dough

baking russian tea cakes

baked russian tea cakes

They’re very easy to put together.  The most involved part of the dough was having to grind some walnuts in the food processor.  The rest of the dough pretty much consists of various forms of vegan fat, flour, and powdered sugar.  Then there’s the fun part: coating them!

coating the tea cakes

finished tea cakes

While they’re still warm, each cookie gets a generous coating of powdered sugar to finish it off.  This is the part that I always loved as a kid because it gives them a nice sweet flavor.  They also wind up just a tiny bit sticky to the touch.  Really all they are is a ball of butter and sugar, but we all need that once and a while, right?  They turned out just like I remembered them, making this a big vegan cookie win.

My mom was craving apple pie, so we made that, too.

vegan apple pie

It was our first time making pie since I went vegan, and therefore our first vegan pie!  We went with the recipe from The Joy of Vegan Baking and it turned out amazing.  The crust is delicate, the apples are cinnamon-y, and best of all it was Mom-approved.  She’s pretty open to trying vegan stuff, but after years of making “regular” pie, I was worried that this recipe wouldn’t stand up to expectations.  The only thing we agreed needed tweaking was the crust-to-apples ratio; that is, more apples, less crust.

All in all, it was a very productive weekend.  Between the fresh produce and all the baking, the house smelled amazing, and we’re going to have great food to enjoy pretty much all winter.  I’m hoping to use some of the potatoes in a recipe soon!

Question for the comments: What dessert to you absolutely have to have when the weather starts cooling down?

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