Roasted root vegetables with roasted garlic-lime dipping sauce

Guys, I’m bringing Vegan MoFo back from its monthly end with this post. See, this was to be my last post for Vegan MoFo, but it wasn’t meant to be due to timing. And thus, here we are.

My last round of conquering food fears was three-fold: parsnip, rutabaga and turnip. So autumn it hurts.

I wanted to get a root veggie-heavy recipe to be a part of this challenge because despite the fact that I’ve eaten them in many forms in restaurants (parsnip soup, rutabaga and turnip in pasta dishes, etc.), I’d feared cooking them because they always seemed rough to prep. I also felt that they would not come out as well at home as at a restaurant that was used to seasoning them and cooking them thoroughly, so this trio was the perfect test of all three at once. So much to mess up…or get deliciously right!

I picked up my beloved, well-used copy of Vegan Soul Kitchen prior to heading to the store and immediately gravitated to the Roasted root vegetables with roasted garlic-lime dipping sauce recipe. I mean, can you count all the delicious-sounding foods in that recipe name? There are many, friends.

I’ve never made a recipe by Bryant Terry that I hadn’t absolutely adored, or that hasn’t wowed a group of people, so I knew that this would be a fitting recipe to try and knock out three cooking fears in one go. So I got to work making it, alongside some Roasted Rosemary Tofu (recipe also from Vegan Soul Kitchen).

Turnips education via Super Mario Bros. 2. Image by GameCola.net.

I went to Central Co-Op to grab these veggies for the recipe, and felt like an awful vegan. I literally had to ask the produce lady to help me differentiate between many of these vegetables, and I only knew what turnips looked like due to childhood memories of playing Super Mario Brothers 2, (nerd alert).

Parsnip, rutabaga and turnip, at your service.

I honestly had to look up online how to prep all of these veggies, minus the parsnip, because it basically looked like a bigger, white carrot. Peeling and chopping these took a minute. Once they were chopped, I set them aside and got to work on making the sauce.

Ready for roastin’.

The sauce was composed of fresh cilantro, fresh lime juice, olive oil and a whole head of roasted garlic cloves (mmm) among other spices. After roasting the beautiful garlic, my apartment smelled lovely.

Heaven, slightly burnt.

I then threw all the other sauce ingredients together into my trusty Vita-Mix, and it whirred together into this vivid sauce:

After this was complete, I got back to the veggies. I mixed them together with some olive oil and spices before roasting:

Here’s the finished plate, including tofu:

I made this dish a few weeks back, but the flavors are still memorable in my mind. The roasted veggies came out semi-sweet, but still nutty and autumn-inspired. Soft due to roasting and enhanced by the addition of the creamy olive oil/cilantro/lime sauce, this side dish was spectacular. A touch of saltiness in the sauce melded well with the near caramelized roasted veggies, and the roasted rosemary tofu ended up being this dish’s perfect partner. Honestly, these two sides would be perfect additions to your Thanksgiving table if you’re looking to switch things up from the traditional. I promise you won’t regret it.

What’s your favorite way to enjoy parsnips, rutabagas and turnips?

 

Spaghetti squash with mushroom cream sauce

My goal of one post per week was set slightly too high guys, as I missed my Vegan MoFo post last week. Laughably ridiculous, I own up to this. Thus, I’m combining two food fears into one post this week: white mushrooms and spaghetti squash.

Prior to this weekend I’d never experienced spaghetti squash, either by cooking or dining out. Last year was the year of conquering cooking squash, but there are a lot of squashes out there! I tapped the surface in 2011, but I will try them all in time.

My co-workers and the Internet love to sing praises of spaghetti squash. Some pro arguments I’d heard:

1) It’s really easy to make, hard to screw up (great news for me)
2) It’s a nice substitute for heavy pastas
3) It’s versatile
4) It’s delicious

All good things that made me feel better about attacking this gourd.

Mushrooms and I, we have a history.

They’ve always been one of those “I’ve hated these since I was little!” types of foods, (except fancy ones. I love me some Shiitake and portobello mushrooms and yes, I realize how weird this is). If they were covered in cheesy pizza or well-hidden in something, I didn’t mind them much. But whenever I bit into the rubbery, odd texture of one, I immediately gagged. I thought them to be flavorless, awkward and not worthy of my attention.

Then last month I was reading Eat to Live and thought that I should give mushrooms another try as, you know, I’m an adult. And I like trying “new” things now. We slowly worked them into our lives in the forms of salad toppers. And I didn’t hate it! I realized that their flavor/textures weren’t that weird, and I’ve enjoyed them. But I still hadn’t cooked them.

So I set out to find a recipe that integrated both of these ingredients into something delicious.

Most spaghetti squash recipes that I found were of the ‘add red sauce (replicating actual spaghetti) and be done’ sort. I didn’t want to make a different sort of spaghetti, so I searched for something hearty and creamy with mushrooms. And Daily Garnish‘s Spaghetti Squash & Vegan Mushroom Cream Sauce fit the bill perfectly. So I got to work.

I cut the squash in half and covered it in olive oil, 5 cloves of garlic, salt and pepper and roasted it an hour.

It comes out looking like this, with the tender flesh pulling away with the swipe of a fork.

Then I began work on the so-easy-it’s-silly cream sauce. First I sauteed them, and realized that it was the first time I’d smelled earthy, rich mushrooms cooking in vegan butter. I was missing out.

I changed this recipe up slightly by adding spinach towards the end, because I like a little green in my meals. I absolutely loved the result of the finished product.

I’m so glad we have leftovers.

Have you tried spaghetti squash? What’s your favorite way to prepare it?

 

Vegan MoFo 2012: Conquering my cooking fears

Yes, October! For many there’s excitement because fall starts getting into full swing, (though not here in the PNW with its 70-ish degree days and sunny skies – but I’m not complaining) and pumpkin everything is everywhere,  and for others there’s the impending fall activities such as apple picking, cider pressing and obviously – Halloween. But for us vegans, there’s MoFo.

Last year I participated in Vegan MoFo for the first time ever, and I was so happy that I did when the month was over. And this year isn’t very different, all except for the fact that oh yeah, I started grad school last week.

Full-time work and full-time school, plus new school blog and this blog and some semblance of a social life and trying to be a good cat owner = I don’t know, I hope some shreds of sanity?

In light of my new crazy schedule and life, I’m going to have to scale back majorly in terms of MoFo this year. Last year I successfully posted each weekday for the month, making that 20 full posts. Now I just shake my head at the idea of having that much “free” time.

This year, my goal is so low, it’s silly: one post per week, more if I can. One of the greatest things about Vegan MoFo is you can truly do what you want with it and make it your own month. So thankfully, I think I can handle that. I’m hoping there will be some weeks where I find extra time to dedicate to killer posts here, but I’m not counting on it.

For 2012, I have a central theme: cooking the foods that scare me. This was inspired by a few posts from last year’s MoFo, where I successfully cooked both acorn and butternut squashes. There’s still a whole lot of food out there that scares me for a few reasons, a few of which are: because I’ve attempted cooking them before and it came out horribly, because I’ve never cooked it myself, or because I’m just plan scared to try. Also, Halloween, boo, scary? Horrible joke, but I had to try. I often find myself cooking the same things because I know I make them well and they’re delicious, but every once in a while I need to kick myself out of my ruts and find new favorites. That’s what this month is all about for me.

And the first food that scares me for VeganMoFo 2012 is…eggplant!

I love eggplant. I love it in the spicy Indian dish Baigan Bharta, grilled, in creamy baba ghanoush, and any other way it can be prepared. The thing is, I’ve only had these amazing dishes in restaurants, and not in my home. I tried to roast eggplant once, and it was a sad, sad, attempt. Rubbery, dry and not at all appealing, I wouldn’t have fed it to an enemy. Pretty and bearing one of my school’s colors, I figured this vegetable a great place to start.

So tonight, I made the Eggplant-Chickpea Curry from Appetite For Reduction – a book that I love and utilized a ton during last year’s MoFo.

I didn’t remember what it was like to cut into an eggplant (rough, hard to slice through, squishy?), but thankfully the two I picked up from Central Co-op were perfect – not too hard, not too soft, and I sliced through them with ease.

Adding in some of my favorite all-time spices – garam masala, curry, cumin – tomatoes and a few other ingredients, my apartment started to smell pretty wonderful.

Tasting this dish for salt, I called it a success. The eggplant cooked down softly and created a sauce with the tomatoes and veggies. It was the perfect Monday night dinner for us when paired with some brown basmati rice and steamed kale.

Verdict? Eggplant accomplished.

Vegan Filipino cooking adventure

Last weekend, I got together with two friends, Helen and Madeline – both Seattleites, food bloggers (Helen is vegan, and Madeline is a vegan sympathizer), and alumni of the graduate school program that I’ll be starting next month – the Master of Communication in Digital Media program at the University of Washington.

One day, Madeline and Helen were chatting up the possibility of having a dinner party where they made vegan-friendly Filipino food so that Helen could experience it (and Madeline could veganize some of her traditional dishes) on Twitter. Madeline messaged and thought I might be interested in joining. Of course I was interested!

Growing up, one of my best friends in my hometown was Filipino. Her mom would make big batches of food for parties and just weeknight dinners and would always invite me over. She loved me, because I ate everything on my plate and always exclaimed how wonderful it was. It was definitely not vegan, but the impact of those very distinct flavor combinations and textures never left my memory. Thus, I was excited to take up the challenge of making some of these (veganized) dishes myself for the first time with great company.

We all gathered at Madeline’s lovely home with fresh ingredients, cutting boards, knives and Helen’s addition of authentic San Miguel beer in tow. Madeline was amazing and prepped separate “stations” (so very Rachael Ray of her!) so that we could each prep different dishes at the same time.

I was in charge of making the adobo – veganized by the usage of Portabello mushrooms. It called for whole peppercorns, which excited this diehard spice lover.

Here was the entire menu, written in order that it was prepared:

Sounds amazing, right?

Madeline was in charge of the afritada, Helen the filling for the lumpia, and Helen and I worked together to prep veggies for an Asian cucumber salad. While we each choppped and prepped, we all chatted about the nerdy things that we’re all passionate about: food/eating, Seattle and social media. The more that we hung out, the more I realized how much we all have in common.

Action shot of Helen prepping lumpia filling.

After most of our dishes were done or prepped, Madeline gave us a lumpia-rolling lesson. Having no prior lumpia prep experience, I was intrigued and also a little nervous that I was gonna mess it up. Thankfully, Madeline was an ace teacher, and after a couple lumpia, Helen and I were rollin’ em up like pros. See here:

Madeline was a great and patient as we learned the subtle art behind lumpia-rolling.

And she showed us the proper placement of the filling on the lumpia wrapper. This resonated with me, as it seemed similar to where you place filling on a tortilla when making burritos. Then came the rolling part, which seemed like it could be dicey, but we got the hang of it quickly.

Lumpia pile success.

I fried ‘em up, and I fried ‘em up good.

Madeline shared that the secret to perfecting fried food: adding kosher salt immediately after it comes out of the frier. Brilliant, and from what I could tell, it worked like a charm.

Big ol’ pot of adobo.

 

Our mighty, vegan Filipino spread.

Madeline had prepared a vegan coconut sorbet as our dessert, but it didn’t firm up as expected. With a slight of hand and amazing improv skills, Madeline and her husband whipped up this amazing dessert for us:

Banana and Jackfruit Turon, with coconut sauce as the topping.

Holy moly. I don’t really have many words for this dish, just delicious “mmms,” “ahhs,” and an assortment of other guttural noises of delicious contentment. It was truly that good.

A few days after we left, Madeline realized that a certain traditional flavor was missing from her afritada: fish sauce. Did she see this as an obstacle? No way! Instead she took it as an opportunity to make Helen and I bottles of vegan fish sauce, and brought some to me at work!

I have yet to use it, but I’ve been plotting all the ways I can integrate it into my cooking in my head since I received it. It was such a thoughtful gift and I’m so excited to use it and see the difference it makes in certain dishes.

I bet you’d like links to the recipes we used for prepping this vegan Filipino meal, huh? Head over to Helen’s post where she has all the tasty links.

It was an awesomely fun and delicious evening with some amazingly inspiring ladies. I can’t wait for our next veganized dinner party/cooking evening, where I’ll be showing the ladies how to cook a specialty from my Mexican heritage that I haven’t prepped in some time: veganized tamales. I’m already pumped.

 

 

 

 

 

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

If you subscribe to the Tacoma Food Co-op‘s monthly newsletter, you may have seen this pop up in your email yesterday:

I wrote a short little piece about some of my favorite TFC food products, how it’s easier than you may think to be vegan and about the ways the co-op can help you if you’re considering transitioning to the diet.

In addition to the article, I also created a recipe for said newsletter. I am more of an eat-and-review type of food blogger rather than the recipe writer kind, but sometimes creativity strikes. Or, I realize I’ve got some recipes I created and have been making for years and remember that I should share them with you all. This recipe for Mediterranean Quinoa Salad pertains to the latter.

Quinoa salads (or any grain-based salad, really) are great because they are a nice change from the traditional all-greens based salad, they’re heartier, and they’re also very customizable and you can make one with whatever you have on hand. I used to make a plainer version of this for potlucks/gatherings, but last week I was feeling the nicer weather and leaning towards more Mediterranean flavors and ingredients. I think it turned out pretty well! I’ll include the newsletter copy for those who aren’t signed up yet, (and if you’re local, you should be! Sign up here).

With spring in full gear and summer coming soon, we tend to focus more on lighter, nutrient-rich meals that call for less prep, and less reliance on our ovens. This Mediterranean-inspired recipe makes use of quinoa, a nutty Incan protein-filled grain that is a great addition to salads. When combined with beans, spicy Italian parsley, red onions and a rich tahini dressing, it makes a colorful main dish or a hearty side.

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

Yields 4-8 servings, depending upon whether served as a side or main dish. Gluten-free and vegan.

Ingredients

1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
¼ bunch Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped (The original recipe called for ½ bunch, but that was a typo! If you like spicy, you can use the original amount.)
½ cup red onion, diced
2 cups baby spinach, rinsed
Grape tomatoes
Kalamata olives

Tahini dressing:

Zest and juice of one large lemon
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup tahini
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons warm water
¼-½ teaspoon sea salt

Directions

Rinse the quinoa. In saucepan, combine quinoa and water and cook over medium-high heat until boiling. Reduce the heat and simmer until water is absorbed and quinoa fluffs up, which should take 15 minutes.

Prepare the dressing while the quinoa cooks. Whisk together the lemon zest and juice, garlic, tahini, olive oil, water and salt. This might take a few minutes if your tahini was refrigerated.

Toss the quinoa, beans, parsley, red onion, and dressing. Taste for salt and add more if needed. Serve garnished with tomatoes, olives and a bit more parsley.

Enjoy!

The TFC also has their “Spring Into the Co-op” campaign happening now. Check out the website or Facebook page for more info on discounts, prizes and more goodies that you can receive by visiting the co-op five times by May 31.

Do you have any grain-based salads that you love to make during spring and summer? And do you have any fun plans for our 70-80 degree weather this weekend? Do tell!

 

 

 

Get your sweet treat on at the second annual Tacoma Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale!

Last year, two vegan lady friends and I (Joy and Lisa) thought that it was high time Tacoma was represented in Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale week, so we held what we believed to be Tacoma’s first vegan bake sale at the wonderful King’s Books. In our eyes, it was a massive success. We raised over $600 for Precious Life Animal Sanctuary, shared amazing vegan baked goods with friends and strangers, and brought more awareness to the vegan lifestyle and ethic in our town. And this year, we’re doing it again!

Sweet flier image courtesy of Dan Martin.

As you may have seen me mention via the VM FB/Twitter accounts, we’re holding the second annual Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale – Tacoma edition, (adorably titled “Sweet Eats!”) at King’s Books this Sunday, April 29, from noon to 4 p.m. This time around Joy, her man Dan and I are heading up the effort, and we hope to see some lovely faces come out and support this year’s cause: Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest.

Here’s more info from the Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale Tacoma Facebook event page:

We’re doing it again, baking up a storm of vegan goodies for charity. This year all the proceeds are going to Chimpanzee Sanctuary NW.
If you are interested in volunteering in any way, whether it be baking, set up or tabling, email me at: joy_clendening@yahoo.com
Of course anything you bake has to be vegan and it will have to be in sealed containers.
We look forward to tasty your yummy treats and giving a big donation to the Chimps!

Gracious sweet pea of King’s Books was kind enough to let us hold the event at his store again, and we’re amped to fill up as many tables as we can with sweet treats of all sorts. From loaded with sugar and flour, to gluten-free, raw and low-sugar, whatever your preferences, it’ll be represented at this bountiful spring vegan event.

Though the event is only a few days away, we’re always looking for/are welcoming of helpful volunteers. If you’re interested in contributing baked (and non!) goods or helping us set up the event, break it down or assist with the actual sale, please e-mail Joy at the address above. Our goal is always to raise as much funds as we can for the chimps, and volunteers are definitely an integral part of that happening.

Scenes from last year's Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale - 253 Edition.

I also want to make sure that everyone knows that you do not have to be vegan to come! You just have to love delicious treats! Though if you are baking, we do ask that you make your baked goods vegan, as not doing so would kind of defeat our whole purpose. If you’d like more info on Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale week 2012, want to get a glimpse of all the places participating, get some tips on vegan baking, or learn how to start a vegan bake sale in your neck of the woods, check out their amazingly resourceful website. And please be sure to let us know you’ll be attending the event by RSVPing to it on Facebook.

My goal is to bake espresso brownies, because the idea of the Valhalla brownies at Corina always make me swoon, but they’re sadly not vegan-friendly. I want to make another sort of brownie variation, and may whip up some Fudgy Wudgy Blueberry Brownies from “Veganomicon” that Roxanne made for our underground supper club, as they were a huge hit with vegans and non-veg people alike. Whether brownies are up your alley or not, please come out if you can, and I hope to see you Sunday!

The upcoming 2012 Tacoma Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale has been written about around the Internet! Check it out:

Post Defiance: Don’t be Scared, it’s just a Vegan Bake Sale

Tacoma Weekly: World Wide Vegan Bakesale in Tacoma on Sunday

King’s Books: Vegan Bake Sale

Wherein social media + vegetables + cocktails lead to educational dinner parties

If you asked me to compile the number of things that have come about in my life that began on the Internet, you’d get an exhaustive list. And I know I’m not the only one. This is a story of how awesome things can grow out of seemingly aimless discussions on the Internet.

Three Internet-turned-real life Tacoma friends and I were chatting on Twitter over a month ago regarding one’s week-long experiment with a juice fast. This friend isn’t extreme diet or liquid fast-prone, so I was genuinely curious when he brought it up. Our conversation went something like this:

Me: “Were you juice fasting?”

Brian: “Yeah, trying it out. I just need a better way to eat fruits and veggies.”

M: “I suggest cooking them (well).”

Etc. Soon, the two other friends that I’ve mentioned on here a few times before, Roxanne and Adrienne, chimed in with other tips on good, easy ways to integrate veggies into your diet. I think Adrienne mentioned throwing them in soup, Roxanne said steam them, and I said throw them in pretty much anything you’re cooking or making, (smoothies, pasta dishes, stir fries, etc.) and roasted Brussels sprouts, (because well, if you read this blog, you KNOW!).

Brian is a busy guy. He’s married, has a baby, works, partakes in the fine art of cocktail making and runs a cocktail blog that you should really check out. I totally understand how some may not know how (or just flat out don’t want) to cook with the little time we have left for the things we care about at the end of the day. That being said, sometimes you need something to go with your cocktails! I love cooking, and I didn’t learn how to until I became a vegetarian in college. I also love sharing, so as the conversation between the four of us progressed, I suggested this:

“How about we exchange some very basic cooking lessons for cocktail making lessons?”

And the rest is history.

Just kidding. Then Brian suggested we start a dinner club, (which I’ve fondly started calling our Underground Supper Club) started our Facebook group (*pushes back glasses*), and that’s when things really became history.

Last Sunday, we had the first of hopefully many of our underground supper club parties with partners (and baby) included, and it was lovely, delicious and educational. We decided to make the whole dinner vegan because apparently veggies outnumbered the carnivore (5 to 3, but who’s counting!), which was super rad of the group and convenient for us veg types. I sadly don’t have any pictures of people, (of course), but Roxanne snapped one and next time I’ll be sure to remember. Here are some snaps of all the food and beverages we enjoyed (and a recipe!):

This was how our evening started, which is to say it was a great foreshadowing. This is Brian's take on a Denny Triangle, originally created by Seattle mixer Jamie Boudreau of Canon bar. It contains gin and grapefruit juice among other ingredients, and was perfectly refreshing on a warm spring night.

Roxanne's photo of Adrienne (left) and I cooking on Brian and Brooke's amazing Viking Range, which I'm now coveting. Adrienne was at work on a soup, and I was making pasta sauce. I feel like we were both "in our elements" here.

Dinner is served! Adrienne's Root Vegetable Soup with Greens on the right, and my contribution: the Pasta e Fagioli with Spinach from "Appetite For Reduction." Both were delicious!

Adrienne created the soup recipe, and was kind enough to let me share it with you all. It’s posted up on her blog, A Big Mouthful, here. Go make it, soon! The original recipe contains beans, but she didn’t use them this time as we had a bean-based appetizer and my pasta sauce used navy beans. I suggest adding some vegan sausage to make it even more hearty for a main meal.

Roxanne's contributions were two wonderful iced teas and dessert (this is also her photo): these beautiful and amazingly rich Fudgy Wudgy Blueberry Brownies. You can find the recipe in "Veganomicon."

As we prepped the main parts of the meal, Adrienne and I coerced Brian into chopping and chatted with him about our processes/usual cooking steps. When it came to cocktails, it was his turn to teach. Here he poured Jamaican rum for our second cocktail: the Bywater, originally created by Chris Hannah.

Sadly, I didn't get a shot of the Bywater when finished, but here is a drink mixing action shot instead. This cocktail was just as excellent. It used green Chartreuse, which I'm a fan of due to local craft cocktail lounge, 1022 South.

Not pictured: Adrienne’s incredibly smooth, garlic-infused Rosemary White Bean dip. I kept running to grab some while cooking, it was so addictive and savory.

We haven’t planned any specifics for our next supper club gathering yet, but I am already looking forward to it!

Have any awesome food or drink-related events, gatherings or things come out of your online relationships and communities? If so, please share them!

“Internet” photo by Keith Ramsey, via Creative Commons

Friday Snippets – St. Paddy’s Day edition

Hello and happy Friday, friends!

The Internet has been rife with Friday Snippets fodder this week, so I won’t hold back any longer. Here are some cool things I read/found online this week that you may have missed, many of which just happen to be related to a certain Irish holiday coming up tomorrow:

Me, Katie, Becca, Taylor, and Brit hanging out at the Gala during the inaugural Vida Vegan Con.

- After sitting on pins and needles for what seemed like eons this week, the three brainy vegan babes behind the Vida Vegan Conference (VVC) decided where the next conference will take place: VVC 2013 will be in Portland again (yay!) and VVC 2014 will be in Chicago, (woo!). I was honestly hoping for Chicago, but this is the best of both worlds, as now I can attend 2013 just by driving down I-5 and I can finally experience Chicago in all its glory for the first time with tons of other vegans. More details will be announced in the coming weeks, so be sure to “like” the Con on Facebook.

O’Hara’s Celtic stout. Photo by Helen of Vegtastic.

- St. Patrick’s Day is tomorrow! Do you all celebrate? I was much more inclined to in college, (then again, who wasn’t?!) but this year has me waxing nostalgic on some fun times I had on the holiday in the past. Thankfully I’m getting together with family tomorrow eve for a big dinner and lots of Irish beer no doubt, and will be making some sort of vegan, gluten-free dessert to share. In case you’re looking for help on what to make for your own party, check out these great resources: Helen of Vegtastic put together a great list of vegan-friendly Irish beers; VegNews posted a whole menu of Irish delights to help you out; and the Family Kitchen on Babble posted a recipe for a vegan Shamrock Shake! I can’t remember the last time I had one, but they used to be a family tradition growing up. Maybe it’s high time I brought them back, cruelty-free style.

Gorgeous Black Bean Soup photo by Cat of The Verdant Life.

- As I recently purchased a new laptop, I’ve been doing some cleaning up of photos and organizing things related to the blog behind the scenes. One thing that I noticed immediately is how many soup-related posts I’ve written! I have no shame about this fact and honestly can’t help it – fall and winter and sometimes most of spring in the Pacific Northwest qualifies as soup weather, and thus I make and eat a lot of it. My friend Cat of The Verdant Life totally gets my soup appreciation and love, and shared some of her thoughts on just why it’s so amazing in a post this week. Go on, read it. I promise it’ll make you want to cook up a batch to eat for the next few days.

Silly fun times at Blubeard Coffee. Photo courtesy Tacoma Cash Mob Facebook page.

- There are so many great things about Tacoma, and one of them is the fact that its residents love to support each other and their businesses. A few days ago I saw chatter of a Tacoma Cash Mob on Twitter, and then it mysteriously jumped onto Facebook as well. Tacoma evangelist Katy Evans is one of the individuals started the project locally and it really seems to be taking off! According to a Tacoma KOMO story on the local movement, a cash mob is: “groups of strangers who descend on beloved independent retailers—bookstores, bakeries, wine shops—and spend at least $20 each.” The Tacoma Cash Mob Facebook page has created an impressive list of local businesses, and locals can “vote” for the next business that is to be descended upon by “liking” photos of their favorites. Many vegan-friendly spots are represented including Corina Bakery, Pho King and Bluebeard Coffee, as well as non-food businesses such as King’s Books and Orange on 6th Vintage. If you love supporting local Tacoma businesses too, check out the page and “like” your favorites, and keep up with happenings to see when the mobs will be scheduled.

I am going to go figure out what I’m going to bake for tomorrow now. Have a grand weekend, all!

Getting Over My Squash Fears: Acorn Edition

Today on my lunch break, I was at home – digging into my leftover nachos – when I noticed an acorn squash I’d purchased the week before staring back at me on the table. I remembered that I should use it soon, before it goes bad and I have to throw it out, (like so many squashes of my past). I’ve never purchased one before, let alone cooked one, so I was genuinely stumped. I felt like the two main veins of recipes I’ve seen for them in the past were stuffed or soup, so I went to my faithful friend Twitter and asked if anyone had any great suggestions on how a noob could successfully cook this particular gourd.

Fellow, (but non-vegan) Tacoma food blogger and avid tweeter, Adrienne, said:

“@veganmoxie Stuff it something like this,” and included a link to a stuffed squash recipe from a beautiful blog I’d never come across. And it just happened to be vegan. I looked it over and immediately responded, “that looks glorious!” When I got home, I peered around to make sure I had everything for the recipe.

I didn’t, so I made some changes. Like the name, for instance:

Roasted Stuffed Acorn Squash with White Beans, Walnuts and Cranberries

Adapted from The First Mess‘ Stuffed Acorn Squash with Pine Nuts, Sour Cherries and Sage recipe

Here are all the major changes I made to the original:

- Used cooked brown rice in lieu of wheat berries, (in the interest of saving time and not having to track down wheat berries)
- Used 1/4. onion instead of shallots
- Used dried versus fresh herbs, as I had them
- Swapped out the cherries for cranberries
- Used walnuts instead of pine nuts
- Added 1 c. rinsed, drained white beans

Laura suggested cutting the squash in half, seasoning with salt and pepper, and placing a smashed garlic clove underneath each half while roasting. I believe this step to be genius. The squash was incredibly flavorful as a result, and I threw the roasted cloves into the pan while making the stuffing. Never enough garlic.

Cranberries, some reserved squash and brown rice.

Stuffing!

The finish product.

This squash and stuffing combo really screamed ‘fall’ to me, from the first bite. The garlic and veggies added a savory nod, the cranberries mixed in a little sweetness while the walnuts added great texture and crunch. In my head I imagined this being made with barley instead of brown rice, and I think I’ll do that next time. Other than that the recipe did prove to be glorious, and I think my adaptations to the recipe came out as well in practice as they did in my head. Thanks for helping me get over my acorn squash fears, Adrienne and Laura!

What’s your favorite way to serve acorn squash?

Pumpkin Peanut Butter Smoothie

(Editor’s note: this post has been edited to add one ingredient that I forgot about – lost the note card that I wrote all the ingredients on – and to acknowledge the other food blog that inspired the recipe. Make sure to add the last ingredient if you wrote the recipe down on Wednesday. Thanks!)

Look at me, asking if you guys are sick of pumpkin yet, then posting two pumpkin-related posts in a row! All I can say is: ’tis the season. Pumpkin is tasty and, as many of us are learning, also incredibly versatile. So I’m going to share another way in which pumpkin can do backflips and splits and astound in your kitchen: in smoothie form!

Monday afternoon I got home from work and was in a snack-y mood. I went through my usual snack choices and decided I’d make a smoothie, but thought I might switch it up from my normal green (and typically breakfast meal) smoothie. I knew I recalled seeing a few recipes for pumpkin smoothies popping up in the MoFo feed, so I did a quick search to see what came up. All of them looked great and very similar, but I knew I wanted mine to also include another element that usually rounds out at least one meal a day, and sometimes my snacks, too: peanut butter.

After learning the pumpkin can join forces with other strong meal elements after making the Pumpkin-Daal Soup, I believed that peanut butter could only enhance the smooth and sweet flavor or pumpkin by balancing it out with a salty, unrefined crunch. The rest, my friends, is sweet smoothie history.

Pumpkin Peanut Butter Smoothie

Yield: 1 serving

Adapted from For the Love of Food’s Pumpkin Spice Smoothie and The Simple Vegan‘s Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

Ingredients

3/4 c. almond milk
1/2 c. canned or fresh pumpkin
1/2 banana (frozen is particularly great here)
2 ice cubes
1 T. flax seed meal
2 T. oats
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. ginger
1 T. peanut butter (any kind will do, but I use crunchy salted – aka, crack)
1.5 tsp. agave nectar, maple syrup, or an equivalent amount of stevia

Directions

Add all ingredients to your blender and blend until it reaches desired consistency.

Serve immediately, and maybe go crunch through some leaves down your block, carve a pumpkin or watch “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” after enjoying it. I promise it’ll just feel right.

And one last shameless plug: my giveaway for a copy of My Sweet Vegan ends tomorrow, Thursday, Oct. 20 at 9 p.m. PST. In order to enter, comment on the original giveaway post letting me know what your favorite vegan baked good to give non-vegan friends is. For extra entries, follow me on Twitter (@veganmoxie) and tweet about the contest, or linkback to the post on your blog. I’ll pick a winner at random tomorrow night, so get your entries in soon!