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.

Curried Scrambled Tofu with Wilted Arugula

I’m starting to realize that Mondays are becoming my cray cray (that’s Dawnspeak for crazy) days. Work and meetings right after and not a lot of breaks means there’s a lot less time to get creative in terms of putting dinner on the table. Thankfully, we are the proud owners of a large vegan cookbook collection, many of which have recipes that come together quickly. The oft-used and appreciated Appetite For Reduction is one such cookbook.

Having prepped brown rice ahead of time, I knew I needed to make some type of bean/tofu/protein side to make a meal with it. The Curried Scrambled Tofu with Wilted Arugula got my eye, and thankfully we had all the ingredients on hand to get it going even quicker, (we were starving by this point).

Tofu, curry powder and cumin all getting to know each other.

Add in the arugula, (or the mixed baby greens which also contained arugula, in our case!).

And finished! The spices gave a great color and the arugula added some needed green to the meal.

Add a grain, and you’ve got a super quick, spicy, healthful dinner on your plate in less than a half an hour. We added the max amount of curry recommended in this dish, and we both loved the flavor that it delivered. And though we served this dinner style, this scramble would be a great way to put a spin on your traditional breakfast/brunch scramble.

Do you have Appetite For Reduction? What are some of your favorite recipes to make from it?


Cookbooking: Chickpea Picatta + Caulipots from Appetite For Reduction

A few weeks back I was feeling stuck in a major food rut. We are generally pretty content rotating through the same few, tried and true meals throughout the week, but sometimes we feel the need to break out one of my many (many) vegan cookbooks to shake things up. And sometimes we end up making something that lands a spot in our recipe repertoire.

Enter Appetite For Reduction, vegan cookbook goddess Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s newest book, highlighting low-fat and healthy lunch and dinner recipes broken up by categories such as Full-On Salads, Totally Stuffed Sides, Comfort Chilis, Curries and Stews and more. While I’m not trying to eat strictly low-fat meals, I will pretty much buy any book this woman pens and was lucky enough to receive it this past Christmas. But if you are looking to watch your intake of fat, calories and more, this book will definitely help you do so all while still ensuring that you’re getting adequate nutrition as well as flavor in spades. We’ve made a few recipes so far, (Classic Black Bean and Veggie Chili, Hottie Black Eyed Peas and Greens, Curried Chickpeas and Greens, and many more) and all of them have been absolutely ace, which is what I’ve come to expect from any and all Isa recipes.

Recently we tried our hand at creating the book’s Chickpea Picatta and Caulipots recipes. I’d never had a picatta dish prior to going vegan, so I didn’t know that it means a caper-lemon-garlic sauce. I love all of those things, so I knew that this was going to be a match made in heaven. Caulipots is a word Moskowitz made up that means exactly what it sounds/reads like: half cauliflower, half potatoes, mashed together into tasty, slimmer oblivion. It’s genius, actually. No more, ugh, my tummy hurts because I ate too many mashed potatoes feeling. The cauliflower definitely lightens this side dish a great deal. The following is a photographic journey through our first time making this meal.

One of the first steps: sauté shallots, garlic and bread crumbs.

Third-ish step: add vegetable broth, white wine and spices. Look at it boil away!

Looking at this combination just makes me happy.

We made the caulipots concurrently with the picatta. Here's a sweet mashing action shot.

The picatta and caulipots are served over arugula, and it’d make the perfect romantic or special occasion meal when plated nicely, (or an everyday meal combined into a bowl).

Both recipes combine to form the finished, most delicious product, which we promptly scarfed before heading to a party.

Needless to say, this recipe delighted our tastebuds and is one that will be made regularly in this apartment. Here’s the picatta recipe if you’d like to try making it yourself, though I honestly suggesting going out and getting the book if you haven’t yet. Locally, King’s Books definitely has them in stock.

On the horizon: recap of Caffe Dei’s one year anniversary party, replete with photos of giant, homemade veggie burgers!