Posts filed under ‘Food and Recipes’

A Letter to Tofu

Dear Tofu,

I have one question for you. When will we be friends? I have tried many times and no matter what I do, you just won’t be my friend! Why? WHY?!

Love, Briana

You might have guessed that I tried another tofu recipe and it didn’t quite go as planned. I got the recipe through Pinterest. It is well documented that I am obsessed with Pinterest and I try several recipes found through it; despite the fact that these recipes sometimes fail miserably, I keep trying. That seems to be a pattern. I’m obviously a glutton for failure. Still, I’m determined to make tofu work because it’s so easy to make flavorful and so many vegan dishes use it.

I blame my inability to cook tofu on the fact that I don’t have a tofu press. I know you can stack books and bricks and plates on top of tofu to smoosh it, but that didn’t work in the past. On Tuesday, I attempted to just smoosh it with my hands, which just smooshed the tofu. This made it super difficult to cut into the neat little strips that it was supposed to be cut. So right out of the package, this was already going wrong. In short, feel free to buy me a tofu press.

Saturday, I’ll be using the left over tofu in a scramble and I honestly (somehow) believe that this cannot go wrong! I mean, how simple can it be? Break it up, add in spices and veggies..BOOM scramble. Just everyone do me one favor: Friday night when you’re cuddled in bed, say a prayer for me to vegan gods. “Dear Vegan God(dess), please let Briana enjoy tomorrow’s breakfast so she doesn’t have to turn her back on tofu forever.” I’ll appreciate your thoughts!


September 14, 2012 at 3:13 am Leave a comment

Football Season with Non-Vegans

First, I’ll start off by saying I still consider myself to be non-vegan, as I have not fully made the switch. Maybe I should refer to myself as exploratory vegan, instead? I like the sound of that. So I’m explatory vegan while everyone I know and see on a daily basis is non-vegan. It’s not a big deal, really. But I deal with plenty of comments. The comments and digs are multiplied when I’m at a gathering and I bring a dish. Everyone wants to know what it is. It’s football season, so I’ll be dealing with this every single Sunday!

Yesterday, for the first Patriot’s game of the season (or, official season, right?) I brought over chili and Oreo Cheesecake Cookies. Everyone is familiar with the chili, as I made it several times last season, but there were still questions. “What is it?” I replied with, “It’s the same chili it always is. If you liked it last year, you’ll like it this year.” Naturally, I would scoop out my serving, take a bite and look to the other person in the room eating the chili (who also happens to be the one most known for making comments). “This doesn’t taste the same,” I say. And he says “No…it doesn’t.” Now, he’s a spicy food addict, so he went into the kitchen, added a dash of super spicy Thai spice and devoured the bowl. I was left wondering why the hell it wasn’t the same.

I decided it was the fact that I had gone to a different supermarket, which meant I had different store-brand tomatoes, I used 3 different brands of beans, Boca crumbles (which have egg whites in them, BOOOO) instead of MorningStar, and I had added flaxseed oil. Eating it leftover today for lunch, it tasted better, but I guess those changes were enough to make it totally different from last year.

The cookies, however, were a hit. I got asked the “What are these?” question and I answered “Oreo Cheesecake cookies.” Of course, the mention of cheese meant another, “Yeah, but what is it really?” “Well, it’s vegan cream cheese and Oreos are already vegan.” Then there were the questions about what vegan cream cheese could possibly even mean because there’s no cheese if the word vegan is in front of it. More digs.

I can take the digs when the dish is a crowd pleasure. It’s when something goes awry, that the digs kind of suck. To me, it’s just another reminder that I’m still not that good at cooking. And I feel like it doesn’t put vegan cuisine in a positive light. I could look at my mistakes as challenges to get better, and I suppose that’s exactly what I should do. Football gatherings are going to be every single Sunday for the next few months, so I have plenty of chances to prove them all wrong.

The Oreo Cheesecake Cookies recipe came from This Can’t Be Vegan. They are sweet and soft and defintely a crowd-pleaser. I found the recipe via Pinterest, which is how I find pretty much every recipe these days. Some are knockouts and some are complete disasters. Thankfully, these were a knockout. I think there were two left out of twenty-four by the end of the night.   I take that as a success.

For next week’s gathering, I think I’ll tap into the flavors of Fall. I’m feeling very pumpkin-y these days.

September 10, 2012 at 6:40 pm Leave a comment

Vegan in Newburyport

Last week was unseasonably warm in New England. It was in the 80’s for most of the week, and then Mother Nature hits us with rainy weather in the 30’s for this week. She just doesn’t quit.

Since it was so beautiful and I have two days off during the week, I had to do something. Having never been to Newburyport, I decided to visit. A cute seaside town with adorable local shops and even an organic, gluten-free, vegan cafe!

After strolling about, stopping in whatever store caught my fancy (including one called Best of British. The entire country might as well been in there because everything British is the best!), I found Revitalive Cafe. It was small, with no seating in the downstairs. There was an upstairs, but I didn’t venture up to find seating, since there was seating outside and I wanted to enjoy the sun.

Having looked at the menu the night before, I decided to order the Un-Tuna Wrap, which came with a side of their homemade kale chips. I have been wanting to try some “tuna” since the beginning of this vegan journey and I figured having it at a restaurant was a safe bet. It’s described on the menu as seed-based and mixed with romaine lettuce, pickles, tomatoes, and onions. I found that the pickles overpowered the rest of the flavors in the tuna, but I like pickles, so I didn’t mind. The gluten-free  coconut flax wrap had an interesting texture and flavor. It was my first taste of gluten-free bread and I’m not sure that I liked it. It was slightly sweet (from the coconut flavoring, I assume) and it kind of just fell apart in my mouth immediately. It’s something I would have to get used to, but I’m willing to give it another try. I was very excited to try the kale chips, since I’ve seen tons of different recipes. I found these to be too salty and cheesy. If I ever make them, I’ll definitely use more garlic flavors over cheesy flavors.

Revitalive had a great menu with a ton of choices. They had a whole section of quinoa bowls, which I really wanted to try, but opted out since I’ve been eating a lot of quinoa lately. They also had a ton of very appetizing treats. There were even shelves with bags of their homemade kale chips and raw granola, raw crackers, and more. Overall, the food was not bad – it was just flavors that are still new to me. I would definitely love to go back to try something else, maybe a fresh-made smoothie, fresh-pressed juice, or quinoa bowl.

March 29, 2012 at 3:27 pm 3 comments

Asian Feast

Monday night was Asian feast! I love Chinese food, and rice, and sushi, and mmm…but none of it is very healthy and a lot of it isn’t vegan. So, it’s time to learn to make my own Asian-inspired delights! Monday’s attempt was a success.

On the menu was General Gau’s Cauliflower (officially titled Gobi Manchurian Cauliflower), Soba Noodles with Sweet Ginger Scallion Sauce, and Crispy Edamame.

The tastiest part of the meal was definitely the cauliflower. To be honest, it might not have been all that healthy since it was fried. It was dipped in a batter of whole wheat flour, corn starch, and other seasonings, then fried in extra virgin olive oil. That being said, they were definitely NOT fried as much as the General Gau’s chicken you get from the corner Chinese takeout. Plus, it was cauliflower!

The edamame was mixed with a little extra virgin olive oil, granulated garlic, pepper, and nutritional yeast (the recipe called for parmesan cheese, but I opted for the nutriyeast), then banked. SO yummy! I love eating edamame plain, but some extra flavors (especially my BFF garlic) only added to it’s natural deliciousness. If you haven’t tried edamame, you should. My mother tried it for the first time on Monday and described it as, “it’s like a nut, only it’s not.” That’s exactly it! You can buy them shelled (they look like pea pods) or you can buy them out of the shell. I always buy them frozen out of the shell because it’s easiest. Yum!

Now, the soba noodles. I’ve never cooked them before and, although I thought I followed the directions, I think I cooked them too long because the noodles were very sticky. I also wanted to cook more than the recipe called for, but I may not have made enough of the sauce. I expected them to be more saucy, which they weren’t, but they did soak up the flavors of the sauce, especially the spiciness! Next time, I just need to cook them less and sauce them more.

The only downside to this meal was that it took a LOT of various bowls and kitchen utensils. I made the biggest mess – you would think I cooked a Thanksgiving feast for the entire New England Patriots with the amount of dishes that filled the sink. Ridiculous. And it took me two hours. That’s just excessive! And in my haste to finish (since it was after 8:30 by the time it was all completed) I forgot to take any pictures! Just look at the pictures of the links above – mine would have looked almost as good.

March 14, 2012 at 2:36 am Leave a comment

Staples: Nutritional Yeast

Going vegan has been quite the journey. A lot of flip-flopping and a lot of reading. A lot of saying “Okay, let’s do this!” and then not doing it. I’m not vegan yet. I’m not even fully vegetarian. I’m experimenting. I’m looking up recipes and trying them. I’m finding out what I like and how to make it. It’s going to be a long process, but I’m okay with that.

Blogging has also been a learning process. I’ve found a lot of recipes off of some really fantastic blogs (to name a few: Clean Eating Chelsey, Chocolate Covered Katie, and Running off the Reeses – that last one isn’t really for recipes, but she’s hilarious). A lot of the blogs I’ve been reading have segments or themes, so they post on the same days and each post has a general topic or idea. Springing off of that, my newest segment is Staples. Staples posts will discuss vegan staples – ingredients, nutrients, etc that are essential to a vegan diet. As I said, I’m still learning and I’m certainly not a nutritionist, so this is just what I have learned are important to include in a vegan diet.

My first Staple post is all about nutritional yeast. First, I’d like to say it’s difficult to find, at least in my area. I don’t have a Whole Foods close and Trader Joe’s isn’t close either. There are a couple stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, but I’m not really satisfied with them. I’ve been finding a LOT of ingredients in my local supermarkets, specifically Market Basket and Hannaford; however, nutritional yeast does not exist at either store. Market Basket has employees who literally know where every single products exists. “Hi, I’m looking for ___” and they’ll find it for you. Whatever you can think of, guys. And if they don’t have it, they know they don’t have it. This was the case with nutritional yeast. I did find it at the Vitamin Shoppe! In fact, I took the last tub, and had this panicky feeling as I left that they’d never restock it.

So every blog you’ll ever read that discusses nutritional yeast will tell you that it has a nutty smell and a cheesy flavor. I’m going to tell you the same thing…because it really does. The color is not attractive. It’s yellow, but not a bright, happy, let’s-paint-the-baby-room-in-it yellow. I guess you could call it mustard. The first thing I did when I opened the container was smell it. Yep, nutty! The first recipe I used it in was the Quinoa Pizza Casserole, but it was mixed in, so I couldn’t taste it at all.

With the snow day last week and having absolutely nothing to eat, I decided to make macaroni (or pasta, for all of you that aren’t from New England) and butter. Pasta, Earth Balance, Garlic. YUM! And then I remembered every vegan blog I’ve ever read says that they sprinkle it on top of food for a parmesan flavor (and inspiration from Clean Eating Chelsey’s recent post on it). Hot diggity! Poured on a scoop, mixed it in and, yes, cheesy flavor! It was actually really tasty and I know it’ll be something I use often. Below is the exact brand I used – yum!

The reason it’s a staple is because it’s contains protein and is fortified with tons of vitamins, especially B12. It’s the one nutrient that vegans can’t get from other foods because it only comes from animal products, so it’s important to either take a supplement or eat foods that are fortified with B12. I really enjoyed the flavor and can’t wait to use it again.

March 5, 2012 at 7:44 pm Leave a comment

Snow Day!

Those crazy farmers who write the almanac…they were right! They said we wouldn’t give significant snowfall (after the crazy Halloween blizzard, of course) until February. The Leap Day Snow Extravaganza! Go ahead and take that one for free news anchors – so catchy. And guess what? Next year, yesterday didn’t even happen, so this snow doesn’t count. Accordingly, I’m pretending it doesn’t exist.

On such a snow day, one would think to spend the entire day cozy and maybe cooking? Especially since I’m slowly discovering a joy in cooking, but no, I spent the day writing and getting distracted by my adorable cats and Pinterest. Plus, we literally have no food. We live in New England and knew about this blizzard, but didn’t run frantic to the grocery store for bread and milk and other snowed-in-for-God-know’s-HOW-long essentials.

Let’s discuss what I cooked over the weekend to eat this week.

For lunches, as a side, I made Quinoa Pizza Casserole. I ate it today with leftovers from Saturday. This was my first dive into vegan cheeses. Not disappointed in the cheese at all! I find that shredded mozzarella cheese kind of has a fake cheese taste anyway, and Galaxy’s mozzarella chese has the exact same flavor. When it was baking though, I did notice that it doesn’t get as gooey-melty as regular cheese, which is a common complaint amongst vegans. As long as it tastes similar, I can get over the non-meltiness. Before I baked it, the casserole was yummy, but when I ate it on Monday (after baking, obv) it tasted burnt and just…strange. I didn’t finish it and I was so disappointed.  And I haven’t tried it again since Monday, so that was an unfortunate waste. I may have just cooked it too long, due to the non-meltiness of the cheese. I’m sure I’ll give it another go some time.

For Monday’s dinner, I made Happy Herbivore’s Hippie Loaf with mashed cauliflower and a reappearance of the ginger garlic string beans. So much went wrong with this. The cauliflower calls for milk, so I poured in my almond milk. Yeah, that milk is VANILLA flavored. So, I made vanilla, cream cheese, garlic mashed cauliflower. Sound appetizing? And to top it off, they got ice cold instantly, so when I served dinner, they were basically frozen. No one liked them. The hippie loaf wasn’t bad, but it was very plain. I’m not sure what I can do to spice it up, but I’ll figure something out because I really love quinoa. The string beans, though, did not fail.

I already know what I’m making next week, and I’m very excited. It’s pretty basic and I’m telling myself it’s a no-brainer.

On another note, I need to do a quick advertisement. My name is Briana and for years I have tried very hard to like hummus. It’s a healthy dip for vegetables. It’s spreadable on sandwiches. Everyone I know is all, “Oh, I LOVE hummus!” I’ve tried many flavors – plain (vomit), hot pepper, spinach and artichoke. They all failed me, even the artichoke one, which I still can’t believe. Hummus has rejected my efforts until I found Roasted Garlic Hummus. Rainbows spread across the sky, Heaven opened up, and God said, “Here, Briana, be at peace with hummus.” It’s from Good Neighbors and their slogan is “Hummus the way it should be.” Yes, my thoughts exactly! It’s just so garlicky and I’m truly in love. So thanks Good Neighbors for making me wish I could be your neighbor.

March 1, 2012 at 10:24 pm Leave a comment

More Cooking Success!

So I’ve had more success the past week with two new recipes! Honestly, it’s a miracle that these recipes are working out for me. And not only do I like them, but other people do, too!

On Tuesday, I made Spinach & Artichoke White Bean Chili. You can’t go wrong with artichokes. If a recipe has artichoke in it, I’m probably going to make it. I love artichokes. Every Thanksgiving, my grandmother would make stuffed artichokes. I would scoop off the stuffing and just eat the leaves – well, not eat, but whatever you do with the leaves of an artichoke. And basically, that would be my Thanksgiving. SO GOOD! And this chili? Wicked, crazy delicious. And spicy. Spicy to the point where I microwaved it for lunch at work, brought it back to my desk, and my boss asked, “What IS that?! It’s burning my nose!” I think the smell was more intense than the actual level of spiciness because I didn’t find it uncomfortable to eat. I HATE eating overly spicy foods that just burn off my tongue. This also had quite a lot of cumin. Kind of stunk up the house a bit. I might use a tad less cumin next time. Other than that, it was perfect.

On Wednesday night, I made Sweet Potato White Bean Veggie Burgers with a side of Blistered Ginger & Garlic String Beans. Apparently, I was on a white bean kick this past week.

Anyway, the burgers came out pretty good. My little sister liked the taste of these burgers more than the burgers I had made the previous week. I favored the previous burgers, though, because they had more flavor. The good thing about making your own burgers, though, is that you can add as much flavor as you want, so next time I’ll spice it up a bit more. Sweet potatoes are SO good for you, so they’re worth another shot. AND they freeze well. The recipe made nine burgers, so I froze the rest. You have to have patience making your own veggie burgers, though. They break apart very easily and I find that I need a LOT of oil to cook them. I have to pour in a fresh tablespoon every time I put a couple more into the pan. If anyone knows any secrets to cooking your own, please let me know! Still, knowing exactly what is in the burgers is worth it. There’s no preservatives or anything fake when you make it yourself.

Now, the string beans. SO FREAKIN’ GOOD. If you like garlic (um hi, I would marry garlic) then you will LOVE this recipe. My sister described the flavor as “like Auntie’s chicken wings.” My aunt is Korean and she makes these really good chicken wings. They’re so good that when I decided to go veg, I thought “Dear wings, I’m really going to miss you.” They’re killer. Man. Somehow, these very simple to make string beans mimic that flavor. SCORE! I cannot wait to make them again.

February 26, 2012 at 5:08 am Leave a comment

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