Monday, February 19, 2018

Cupcakes and Corndogs for Valentine's Day

Last week I was up in Berkeley for a 5-day long yoga course. The yoga learning was really amazing, but I was also happy to do lots of great vegan eating while there... and to stop by the all-vegan grocery store Republic of V. As you can see, I stocked up on all sorts of goodies that I've heard good things about and aren't for sale in Santa Cruz. There may have also been a Rescue Chocolates Peanut Butter Pit Bull and some Sam's Jerky that didn't make it home with me. Hee hee.

One thing I've been longing to try were the Field Roast mini Corn Dogs. I mean, COME ON. I haven't had a corn dog in 30 years (what.) and the Field Roast Frankfurters are by far my favorite vegan hot dogs. I've been waiting for these to come to Santa Cruz... and waiting. I was so happy to nab a bag of them at Republic of V.


Nothing says romance like corn dogs, amirite? Ha ha.

I got home late at night on the 13th, and had to teach class on Valentine's evening... so it wasn't gonna be a fancy date night out - which suits us just fine. We decided to splurge and have mini corn dogs for dinner. True Romance, I tell ya. We had 'em with lots of mustard, red cabbage sauerkraut, and a hefty side of steamed broccoli. 

I loved these little corn doggies! The corn bread batter is a nice balance of sweet and savory, and has perfect cornbread texture. And of course the frankfurter mini dogs inside are perfect because they are made by Field Roast and it seems like everything they touch just turns to gold. We had so much fun with this goofy Valentine's dinner... who needs fancy food and red roses?! Hopefully these will find their way to Santa Cruz soon. I want to eat them again!

clinking mini corn dogs instead of champagne flutes

Valentine's evening isn't a super popular time to show up for yoga class, but I promised my students that if they showed up, I would bring some special homemade goodies. So, I made a batch of mini chocolate cupcakes with chocolate buttercream frosting. They were perfect - rich and delicious! It's always so fun to bring treats for my students. 

The week before Valentine's Day, I asked "Is anyone actually going to come to class next week??" and two of my beloved committed students said that they would be there AND that it would be their wedding anniversary. How sweet is that? So, instead of regular ol' mini cupcakes I made a special mini cake just for them to take home and enjoy. I have these cute mini-cake papers that I got at Cost Plus at Christmas time... so they had Christmas designs on them (ha ha, oops), but they are a great size. I think they're probably equal to about 3 regular size cupcakes. 

While I was at it, I made one for us too! So, after our seductive mini-corn dog dinner, we enjoyed our very own mini cake together while we watched Olympics on TV. For a couple goofballs like us, this was actually a pretty perfect Valentine's Day! 

what if Cupid was a cute little angel pup
with mini corndogs on the end of his arrow???

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Festive Family Dinner

Recently we had a very festive family gathering to celebrate a few special events:
my brother's birthday ~ my niece's birthday (16 years old!)
my aunt being home for a long visit
and... my nephew getting into all seven of the colleges he applied to!!
That's a lot of good news, right? 

You may recall from previous posts that feeding my extended family is no small task -- to put it mildly, we have a very wide array of dietary preferences between the lot of us. ha ha. Everything from "I would rather die than eat a vegetable" to "no fat, no salt, no oil vegan." So, usually we settle on taco night - in fact, we kinda figured out that taco night is one of the only solutions to this crazy situation, where everyone can eat according to their preferences and still have it feel like we are sharing a common meal. 

Tabbouleh, Turkish Salad with White Beans, Bowls of Hummus

But! My brave and clever mom came up with a great new menu idea: Mediterranean Feast! And, my mom did all the work of cooking dinner - with such an incredible spread. First up, two beautiful salad options: a big bowl of my mom's tabbouleh, which is always great... and a big bowl of the salad that my mom calls "Turkish Salad." This salad is based on the salads that my parents enjoyed on their trip to Turkey. I love it too - tomatoes, cuke, olives, red onion, white beans, and vinaigrette. 

Big basket of bread choices, more hummus

My mom is a highly skilled hummus practitioner and she has been making homemade hummus long before it was a hip thing to do. Everyone in our family loves her hummus and so she had a few generous bowls of hummus out on the table. And, where there's hummus, you're gonna want a big basket of bread - regular pita, whole wheat pita bread, and a special olive bread. A basket of bread is pretty much my happy place. 


These are actually the dolmas straight from the can at Trader Joes. Have you ever had them? They are surprisingly delicious! I often buy them for Mr. VE&T as a treat. He is huge dolma fan, and is actually quite picky about his dolmas. So we were both happy to see a couple plates of these familiar friends on the table. Mmm. Just thinking about the dolmas makes me wish I could be eating them again right now! 

Veggie Kabobs!!

Deliciousness on a pointy stick! Of course there were non-vegan kabobs on offer, but I averted my eyes! My sweet mom made a platter of vegan kabobs for the vegans in the family, and a plate of non-vegan kabobs for the others. I am so lucky. These were marinated veggies roasted in the oven, and they were so delicious! 

My plate of gorgeous yumminess

Here's my beautiful dinner plate, the first pass at least - kabob, tabbouleh, Turkish salad, rice pilaf, hummus, and dolmas. What a lovely dinner! 


I was in charge of desserts -- which is so super fun for me! I haven't been baking much lately, but I love it so much. My brother's not a huge desserts fan, but he is a fan of chocolate chip cookies - and he and his family are all crazy about my vegan chocolate chip cookies. I use the Soft Batch Chocolate Chip Cookies recipes from the Aquafaba Cookbook. If you don't have that cookbook, check out Somer's similar and amazing recipe online. 

So, I made a big double batch of birthday cookies, and they got to take home all the leftover cookies after dinner. Their special cookies were presented on a plate with a candle stuck in the cookie and their names written out in chocolate frosting. Fun! 

And a college cake! 

And I really wanted to recognize my nephew's amazing accomplishment of getting accepted to all seven schools that he applied to. We are all SO proud of him, and I wanted to make sure that he got some very special recognition of his own. I asked him what kind of cake he wanted, and he asked for chocolate. Ask and ye shall receive! I made some mini chocolate chip cookies to decorate it, which is a trick I learned from the fancy people on Instagram! We all had a little piece of cake, and then he had several pieces! Ha ha. Good to know it was appreciated. 

I hope there's a little good news in your life too! 

Thursday, January 25, 2018

A Lasagna Potluck Party! (& Vegan Richa Winners!)

You all know how much I love a good potluck! And I also love lasagna almost more than anything else in the whole wide world! So, you know what's super cool, is when your friend invites you to a vegan potluck and tells you that she is going to make lasagna! And that's just what happened. My friend Connie invited us over for a special pot luck with several of her vegan pals. 

We had a super fun evening together and I got to meet several cool new people, and see a couple familiar friends who I really like. Lots of great food and fun conversation. I always enjoy the opportunity to meet new people, especially new vegan friends! For a proper potluck experience, we split up the various responsibilities of a complete meal - each of us brought something to make a whole feast. 

I think I might actually need a "Lasagna Lover" tshirt! 

For appetizers C. made some some amazing bell pepper spread - this was extremely delicious: rich and creamy. In truth, I am not always a super fan of red pepper spreads, but this was especially good and I ate a lot of it! It was served with some fancy crackers and fresh bread. We had a nice little cocktail hour before the lasagna was ready - chatting, enjoying this good stuff, and enjoying some good conversation too. 

Glorious Creation! 

Look at that lasagna!! Mmmm. Connie actually used my recipe for lasagna, which was extra fun! Unlike most foodie bloggers, I don't actually make up too many recipes. In fact, several of the component parts of my lasagna recipes are directly inspired by other recipes! So it was a real thrill to have someone else make a recipe that I shared! Also, bonus for me, I just happen to really love my own lasagna. Ha ha ha. It's very good, if I do say so myself. I usually make it for myself for my birthday and for Christmas. It was really a super fun and special treat to have my very favorite lasagna without even having to make it myself! 

I think I got super excited about the lasagna, because I neglected to take a picture of the beautiful salad that D brought to the party. I always love and appreciate a good salad as part of a big meal - it feels so good and balancing to have a whole heap of fresh salad on the plate along with all the other good stuff. There was also some great bread from a local bakery that L. brought - I don't often buy bread from that bakery, and it was so good! Perfect with the salad and lasagna. We ate like royalty! 

high fives!
Thanks Connie for a great lasagna and a great evening! ha ha! 

Mmmm... Peanut Butter Hazelnut Lover's Chocolate Tart
with Hazelnut Caramel Sauce

When we were doling out the responsibilities for the dinner, I jumped at the chance to bring dessert! I love making desserts, but I don't do it all that often anymore. What a fun opportunity to make something special and decadent. I've had my eye on the Peanut Butter Lover's Chocolate Tart from Oh She Glows Everyday for a while now. But peanut butter isn't really a very Italian flavor, to go along with our lasagna. So I tweaked it and used hazelnuts everywhere that the recipe called for peanuts - in the crust, in the ganache, in the caramel sauce, and in the garnish. Because hazelnuts and chocolate definitely is a classic Italian flavor combo! I even roasted a bunch of hazelnuts and made fresh roasted hazelnut butter in my Vitamix. I was a little embarrassed at how easy that was. ha ha. I guess there's a whole world of homemade nut butter awaiting me! 

slice of heaven

Gentle reader, this dessert was SO DARNED GOOD. I highly recommend it! I'll definitely make it again with the peanut combo because I bet that's pretty perfect too - though I was quite smitten with my hazelnut adaptation. I bought some cappucino ice cream to go with the tart, which was a great flavor combo. This tart is especially good straight out of the freezer, when it's pleasantly firm, but it's also good out of the fridge. It's super rich, velvety smooth, and 100% delicious. 


Bonus picture of Connie's adorable and awesome little doggie, Champ! I love him! He was a very gracious host and did an excellent job of making the rounds and spending time with all of the guests, so that we all felt special and all got a little quality time with his cuteness. What a good boy! 

Champ and Snoopy also support the Lasagna agenda.

Also! I used the random number generator to select two winners from my Vegan Richa giveaway - 
In the United States, @girlrunner will receive a copy of Richa's excellent new book Vegan Richa's Everyday Kitchen
Internationally, @Josiane will receive Richa's bonus recipe bundle

Friday, January 12, 2018

Vegan Richa's Everyday Cookbook: Review & Giveaway

I'm a bit delinquent in this long-overdue book review... but what it lacks in promptness, it will make up for in sheer enthusiasm!! By now, you've all probably hear about Vegan Richa's newest cookbook "Vegan Richa's Everyday Kitchen." What a fun and special book this is! 


There are so many great things about this book. First of all, and I think this is so cool, many chapters of the book are built around the idea of different sauces as a starting point: like Peanut Butter & Coconut, Sweet & Sour, Masala & Saag, Buffalo & Firecracker. Each time a sauce recipe is featured it has a cute little graphic up top that says "Awesome Sauce!" Ha ha, so cute. Then, for each sauce that's featured, several variations are suggested, and recipes to put your delicious sauce to use. This book is infinitely creative, and really encourages your own creativity - with variations, substitutions, gluten-free options, soy-free options, and on and on. It's really cool!

There are all sorts of diverse recipes, and not just the same recipes over and over that you've already made 100x. In addition to the chapters devoted to different "awesome sauces," there are also chapters devoted to burgers, deep dish pizzas and casseroles, breakfast ideas, and sweet desserts! Indian recipes, Chinese recipes, tacos, pizzas, so much to explore!!

Gobi Manchurian!!!

Crunchy Baked Cauliflower with Manchurian Sauce 
I think my blood stream is probably made up almost entirely of roasted cauliflower. I love it so much, and I eat it all. the. time. So, I'm kinda like a pro. And I have to say, I really loved this way of preparing cauliflower - as promised, it was seriously super crunchy!! The breading mixture was lightly seasoned, and honestly these little stinkers were so yummy all on their own that I had to stop myself from eating them all before I added the sauce.

There are so many great suggested sauces to go along with these crunchy cauliflowers: Kung Pao, Buffalo, Sweet and Sour sauce... but I had my eyes set firmly on Manchurian Sauce. For some reason, I'd been having fond Gobi Manchurian memories from my time in India and I was absolutely fixated on that plan of action. I made a beeline for this recipe as soon as I received my review copy in the mail. It was soooo good! In case you don't know, Manchurian sauce is an Indo-Chinese sauce (there is an excellent subset of Indo-Chinese cuisine in India - a playful and delicious mash up of flavors!) -- it's an incredibly flavor-packed sauce with a good kick to it as well. The relative neutrality of the breading and of the cauliflower itself was a great vehicle for this spicy, spiced power sauce! 

Tikka Masala Chickpeas with Tikka Masala Sauce

Variations variations every where! This is such a fun book for cooks who like recipes (like me!), and for cooks who like to tinker and change things around. I love to have a recipe, but I also love "permission" to switch, experiment, and swap. I think this book might even help me learn how to be more fluid and experimental in the kitchen!

This meal uses the Tikka Masala Sauce, which is a variation on the Makhani Sauce -- with a little extra touch of tomato sauce and unsweetened yogurt. The sauce is rich with a myriad of spices, fresh ginger and fresh garlic. Creamy and rich and SUPER good. I also used the suggested variation to add a couple cups of extra veggies, because I love veggies forever!

Smoky Crisped Lentils over Creamy Greens

Oh man, we loved this dinner so much!! This night we had a friend spontaneously drop in to stay the night, and he had been out kayaking all night, and he was hungry. I was a little nervous to have a brand new recipe on deck, rather than a tried and true favorite to offer him. I needn't had worried!! This was a hit with all three of us. The recipe gives you two sauce choices for the greens, and I chose the Creamy White Masala Sauce. This is a lovely creamy sauce, spiced with Indian spices, and it was a great compliment to the greens. 

Star of the Show Alert! Smoky Crisped Lentils are the best thing ever!!! Oh man, I just really want to eat these tasty little lentils all the time from now on. I've already made them a couple more times to nibble on and to sprinkle on my salad. 

I took a cue from the photo in the book, and served it all alongside some roasted cauliflower. A good choice!

Black Pepper Tofu

Every time I flipped through this book, the photo of the Black Pepper Tofu caught my eye, so I had to make it! Simple, spicy, and delicious!! Tofu, spices, celery & bell pepper, and lots of black pepper. This is such an easy and satisfying dish to make. I loved how it was spicy, but not too spicy, and the celery provides a good crunch as well as a good balance to the peppery heat.

Spinach-Artichoke Lasagna with Cauliflower Alfredo
(before going in the oven - and a big piece after being baked!)

I am a devout lasagna lover, and I have my own usual favorite recipe - but I am also always in the mood to try a new spin on vegan lasagna. I'm glad I expanded by lasagna horizons because this is a wonderful recipe, and I never would have thought of using artichoke hearts in my lasagna! Very good! Once the sauce was prepared - which was quite easy- the whole lasagna came together very easily. I love that, because I generally think of lasagna so labor-intensive. This was a lot faster than the recipe I usually use, and just as delicious and satisfying. It's also chock full of veggies, which is just how I like it! Why is lasagna so perfect??

Here's a picture I snapped of the Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce that I snapped while preparing the lasagna. This is a thick and lovely sauce made with blanched cauliflower, and a perfect balance of spices. It's so smooth and delicious, and is a perfect component in the lasagna. It adds creaminess and body, without being super fatty or heavy. 

A few more thoughts about this great book:
~ I think this is a really fun book for people who are new to cooking and/or new to veganism, but it's also a really great and creative book for home cooks who aren't at all new to cooking or to veganism. That's pretty rare to find that in a cookbook! The recipes are very clear, the instructions are clear, no surprises!

~ The layout is lovely and easy to use. The recipes are presented one per page, with tons of beautiful pictures. Each recipe includes information about prep time, as well as nutritional breakdown information. Many of the recipes also include suggestions for variations. The font is clear and easy to read.

I still have so many recipes from this book that I want to try:
Massaman Curry Vegetables
Kung Pao Tofu and Vegetable Stir Fry
Firecracker Chickpea Salad with Peanut Dressing
Buffalo Chickpea Tacos
Tinga Black Bean Soup
Tempeh Broccoli Wraps with Jalepeno Popper Sauce
Deep Dish Pizza
Samosa Stuffed French Toast
One-hour Cinnamon Rolls
and the list goes on and on!!!!

Great news for you! Two Giveaways! 
Richa and her publishers are letting me offer a copy of Vegan Richa's Everyday Cookbook to one lucky blog reader in the US. AND! for international readers, one lucky winner can win Richa's "Bonus Bundle" ~ featuring 3 recipes from the book, 2 new recipes, and 3 videos of 3 more recipes from the book! 

To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment here on this post and tell me about one of your favorite sauces, or anything else nice you feeling like saying! And if you're a non-US reader, let me know, so I enter you in the right giveaway!