Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Turkish Tempeh Whole Wheat Lahmacun (kinda)

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We got back from Istanbul a few weeks ago and since then it's been one project, road trip and Valentine's day after another. I've barely had a chance to catch up on my stories. Mostly I've been working on upgrading this blog into something a little fancier but I've also been baking a lot, figuring out my trip to Minnesota to visit The Betty Crocker Test Kitchen and veganizing recipes from the cookbooks we brought home from our trip.

I feel like I should tell you - I was unprepared for what an amazing city Istanbul is. I knew Turkey would be one of my favorite parts of our trip and that it would be freezing. What we didn't see coming was how we would feel when we walked into the Hagia Sofia for the first time. For a place so remarkable - there just isn't words. Here's the slideshow of the photos from the part of our trip we were in Turkey if you want to see for yourself.

Get the flash player here:

But that brings us to today and this recipe... You can find Lahmacun in shops and stands all over Istanbul.  Usually made with ground lamb meat, this portable meal is usually rolled up like a New York slice or folded like a taco and wrapped in paper. We actually didn't have one of these in Istanbul for pretty obvious reasons but we started with this recipe because we wanted an excuse to use the new spices we bought in The Grand Bazaar and I was craving pizza. That's why our Lahmacuns are more like personal pizzas you'll need a fork to eat than flatbread wraps but they're still a great dinner and an excuse to expand our spice inventory.

If you're also looking to expand your spice rack - here are the two items you'll need to locate:

  • Sumak/Sumac : This is a dark red powder made from a berry sourced in Anatolia. It has a bitter flavor similar to lemons. If you can't locate it - you can replace it with Cumin or Paprika in the recipe below. 
  • Green Bazilicum/Fesleğen : I hope you get a little laugh out of this - I did. Behind these foreign names, this green herb that we found in a small spice shop hidden in the winding streets of The Grand Bazaar is just a type of basil. I mean it's a different type than the one we commonly use in The US and it has a very subtle fresher flavor similar to mint but it's basil none the less. So if you can't locate this particular type of basil - I'm sure you'll be able to find a substitution.
Tomorrow there will more Betty baking but tonight we recommend making yourself something kind of different and undeniably delicious! 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Super Chocolate Vegan Hootenanny! Episode IIII : Girl Scout Cookies Remix & VegNews

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I know we disappeared there. I've been working on our new page layout and things are just taking longer than I thought. I know I keep saying it but I think it will all be worth it. That being said there were three pretty awesome things that happened last week that I kind of have to share! I mean I have to. This is my job now.

1. Dan and I took a road trip to New Jersey! We were invited to attend a Betty Crocker themed potluck held by Montclair Vegans. See nestled in this charming little town that Thomas Edison called home is a vegan friendly mecca. I have to tell you I was so impressed with the potato saladjalapeño corn bread, 3 bean salad and well just about everything. We haven't been to a potluck this impressive since we left Peta-ville (Norfolk). Thanks again MVs for the invite! It was really pleasure to get to meet so many of you in person and of course eat your food.

2. VegNews asked us to veganize our favorite Girl Scout Cookies! Can you imagine a better email to get?   I mean not only was this an excuse to add to one of our favorite spots The Super Vegan Hootenanny but we got to work with VegNews again - which is always a pleasure and honor! To get the recipes and see the spot just click here.  We've been enjoying the tester cookies for a week now and it's been the best chocolate hootenanny so far!  Please take a few minutes to check them out, make a few and show us a little love with a "like" or Tweet!

3. We've added a fully operational Pinterest button! You can find it at the top of every post with the the other share buttons. (insert cartwheels there)

Fingers crossed the new site will be up this week!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Betty Crocker Project : Cuban Beef-Less Steak Dinner (similar to Ropa Vieja)

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Our Cubanelles began to ripen while we were away - making them them beautiful and multi-colored.  
So there's this thing that happens when you get back from an adventure: you realize how many little things you do every day in your regular life. I came home with a small stack of Italian, Greek, and Turkish cookbooks, and dreams of bringing our adventure to your kitchen and tummies, but sadly this required fresh vegetables and bread, which we didn't have. It also required time that was quickly eaten up by catching up on emails and news, following up on our new blog/website, unpacking, and various other forms of being "productive."

Which brings us to today. I had planned to post a recipe today for Carciofi alla Romana (Roman-Style Artichokes) but yesterday I burnt the first and second batches. I know. I can't believe it either. But those little jerks were singed beyond being pretty - although I admit I cut off all the crunchy leaves and still enjoyed the filling and hearts with lemon, all while being reminded the hard way that even the easiest recipes require your undivided attention. So today I have a new bag of artichokes and we're going to try again, because this is a recipe I really believe will improve all your lives. 

So today I'm posting a recipe that I was saving for our friend Cassandra's birthday this summer. Right now our beautiful vegan friend is in medical school in Cuba and making the world a better place. We had planned to add this recipe to our New Friday Philosophy; which usually involves Mexican food, but sometimes you just have to get a little crazy and mix it up*. This recipe is similar to a Cuban dish called Ropa Vieja, except we skip the cows. It may look like something you've had before, but there's a unique fresh flavor from the Cubanellle peppers that really comes out with the lime juice and a subtle sweetness from the rum. It's a lot like our Cassandra. It's also super easy and can be made using things you have hanging around your house; well, except the fancy peppers that you can easily replace with green and red peppers. So tomorrow night when you get home from work, all cold and kinda beat, you can treat yourself to something a little more exotic than the typical soy cheese pizza or veggie burgers** before hitting the town. 

May the New Friday Philosophy be with you! 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Special Edition: Vegans on Valentine's Day! Episode II

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The Betty Crocker Project : Shortbread Cookies

I know we're behind on posting this. We left the country at the end of January for a long overdue escape and found ourselves in a few situations where the internet access could have been better. It's probably a good thing. We aren't very good at that whole "unplugging" thing. So while I do feel pretty bad for not being able to post this sooner, part of me knows that having more time to enjoy Rome, Athens and Istanbul was a good thing - in the big picture sense. But more about that later. 

Today we're here to talk about St. Valentine's Day! Tonight, you might find The Shannons at Soy and Sake in Manhattan or maybe we'll camp out at home with a bottle of wine and some Doctor Who... maybe both. Here's what some of our favorite vegans are doing for St.Valentine's Day with their significant squeezes: 

I would bet even the newest vegan knows Colleen Patrick Goudreau. Her numerous books and 30-Day Vegan Challenge have made her a reliable resource for vegans and not-yet-vegans for years! What you might not know is that she is a pretty romantic lady. Here's a little glimpse into  her plans and her dreamy marriage: 

To be honest, we're probably more romantic throughout the year than we are on Valentine's Day. We're sappy dorks and do lots of lovey dovey things on a regular basis, including doing "planned surprises" for one another. We alternate each month - one month he says "I have a surprise planned on X date, so don't make plans," and I'll do the same the next month. HOWEVER, on Valentine's Day proper, David and I are treating ourselves to the Prix Fixe romantic dinner at Millennium Restaurant in San Francisco along with another couple, our good friends John and Randy. We recently renewed our vows for our 10-year wedding anniversary, and John and Randy led the ceremony. Friends and family came to our home to celebrate with us, and Chef Barry from Local Love catered an amazing (vegan of course) dinner. The weekend before Valentine's Day, we're going up to Farm Sanctuary (the CA shelter, which is just 2 hours from our home) to visit a newly arrived baby goat who has been named after my dear friend, Michael Scriber, who died tragically and unexpectedly in July of last year. Scribbles (a nickname given to Michael) is adorably adorable, and we can't wait to spend the day with him and the other rescued critters. Can't think of a more love-filled way to celebrate Valentine's Day!

Most people know Chole Coscarelli from her historical win for vegan baking on The Food Nework's Cupcake Wars in 2010 but what they might not know is that she is a cruelty-free pro at more than just pastry and she has a book coming out in March that we're looking forward to checking out! This year, she has two new loves in her life, her brand new adopted chihuahua puppies! So she will probably stay home on Valentines day with them and cook something delicious. Most likely Fettuccinne Alfredo for the humans and Peanut Butter Dog Cookies for the pups (both recipes from her upcoming cookbook Chloe's Kitchen)! She feels and we agree "Home-cooked food is the best way to celebrate love."

Of course, this year I was thrilled beyond belief to see Doron Petersan from Sticky Fingers Bakery not only on The Food Network's 2011 Cupcake Wars defending the title for vegan bakers everywhere but kicking some serious culinary tuckus and taking the crown! When I lived in DC, I was a loyal fan of her exceptional bakery and was thrilled to she her get the recognition she deserved. As if things couldn't get more awesome for this compassionate cooking powerhouse - Doron's book Sticky Fingers Sweets comes out this week! So tonight she's going to be taking it easy after some pretty busy months following her win. "It will be an at-home love fest this year.  No better excuse to make our favorite dish; fettuccine pasta, porcini mushrooms, garlic, rapini, and a touch of  truffle oil.  And cupcakes, of course!"

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Senior Campaigner Ashley Byrne and Green is The New Red's Will Potter live in different cities (DC/NYC), so they had to celebrate Valentine’s day a couple of days early with Will visiting NYC. Their plan was to start the day with donuts and coffee at Dun-Well Donuts in Brooklyn, and end it with sundaes at Lula’s Sweet Apothecary.  And since Ashley's birthday was on February 11th - they actually had an excuse to visit Lula's a few times. If last year is any indication of what she can expect, they'll also be enjoying a birthday cake from Headless Horseman bakery (featuring her handsome dog Mongo), chocolate from Sjaak’s from Will, and an amazing vegan birthday dinner at John’s on 12th. All this a side of sleeping in with food and sugar comas by the time Valentine’s day actually rolls around!*

Of course, no Vegans on Valentine's Day post would be complete without mentioning Florian and Shannon Radke, the sweethearts behind Cinnaholic Bakery in Berkeley, CA. This duo is pretty much the definition of romance and cruelty-free sweets! But here's where I suck. See at the beginning of the month - They had this extremely cool project they were working on with the incredibly cool Beagle Freedom Project in Los Angeles. They were donating $5 for every Valentine's Day order that came in before February 9th. But we were in Europe then and this post didn't go up in time. So! Please consider donating to help those beagles anyways and/or ordering your sweetheart a dozen spicy and sweet rolls as a "just because I love you" treat. Both are rewarding in their own way... 

Happy Valentine's Day everybody! See you tomorrow with more about our travels, a Betty Crocker update, upcoming Vegfests, new vegan products and yet another belated Good News Monday! XO 

* We approve! Dan calls this type of weekend "Eating to win!"

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Chicago Beer Dogs

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I was never a hot dog person. Even when I was a little eater that hadn't gone vegan yet... hot dogs were just never my thing. Which I'm actually really happy about - meat based hot dogs aren't really food. So you can imagine my surprise when years ago I had Tofurky Beer Brats and actually liked them. I mean I loved them.

Over the years, Dan and I have been exploring new and exciting ways to add a little variety to our beloved cruelty-free brats. This is one of my favorites thus far. I know you're probably wondering why I'm not posting Manhattan Dogs since NY is going to the Super Bowl this weekend... well it's like I said - this one is kinda my one of  my favorites.

The Blueprint by Hawk Krall - from Serious Eats
Now we did tweak it a bit like we skipped the neon relish because sweet relish is just superior in many ways. We also used celery seeds instead of celery salt and just sprinkled poppy seeds over the top rather than using a poppyseed hot dog bun because I couldn't find a brand that didn't have eggs in it and baking my own seemed like more work than most people are willing to put into a hot dog.

Like many of our posts - I feel weird even calling this a recipe since it is so easy and is kind of more of an ingredient combo magic trick.

Are you ready to be amazed - with hot dog magic?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Chocolate Strawberry Whoopie Pies

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We live in a world with rules. Now it may not seem like it because the world rarely follows these rules. Evil often goes unpunished and sometimes the hero doesn't get the girl but the rules exist nonetheless. Things do happen for a reason and to paraphrase the genius Ian Malcolm immortalized by Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park: Life finds a way.

The same goes for Vegan Baking. Vegan Cupcakes have yet again dominated in Cupcake Wars. Vegan donuts, cheesecakes and various other sweets are popping up in mainstream groceries and bakeries all over the world. There seems to be nothing that can't be made cruelty-free! This is the story of how one little batch of vegan whoopie pies came to be.

The cakey cookies in this recipe were easy enough. I wanted something that would recreate a dark chocolate flavor so that the sweet tanginess of the strawberries would really shine through. I also wanted fluffy cakey cookies so that the whoopie pies would be a bit more rounded like a chocolate covered strawberry than a cookie sandwich. The funny thing was that I thought the frosting was going to be the easy part.

I wanted to use real fresh strawberries for the frosting rather than using strawberry extract and red food coloring. Right now some of you are nodding your head and know where I'm going.

See, strawberries, while a lovely berry that is just beautiful, happen to have a subtle flavor that can be easily overpowered. Perhaps that's part of their charm - like cucumbers and star fruit. Strawberries don't show off. Which brings me to the frosting that I made with fresh strawberries. The frosting that was an amazing pink without using any food coloring while still having small bits of strawberries you could spot swirled in. The rosy frosting that tasted just like a spoonful of sugar. Our fresh strawberries flavor was completely lost and adding more strawberries only made the frosting have an unpleasant texture.

So I thought back to a trick I remembered from our good friend Betty Crocker. See Betty has had a number of cakes with strawberry frosting and fillings over the years. In almost all of them she recommends mixing strawberry jam or strawberries in syrup with vanilla frosting. In there seems the key to our success. So yesterday, I bundled up and went to Whole Foods to buy a jar of organic jam with the least amount of sugar I could find.

I tested one whoopee pie with just the jam before I committed to another batch of frosting and couldn't believe how absolutely perfect it was. Messy and sticky? Yes! But the flavor was spot on what I was hoping for and kinda actually better.

So please enjoy these whoopie pies that combine both sweet and bitter in a way that is chocolatey and has actual strawberries in it!

Vegan Baking finds a way!