Sunday, April 18, 2010

New plot line and yummy food

It took me a few tries to get this post complete but I think I finally found my words. This week I kind of decided to use this blog as a bit of a food journal. Though I doubt I'll write solely on food, there's definitely a specific plot line in my life that I want to document.

It's an idea I've been hovering around since August, but over the past month I've been making an official move towards a vegan diet. I could easily devote an entire post to why I'm eating vegan, and I probably will at some point, but today it's not a tale I feel like typing. The reason I want to chronicle this, though, is because I hope to show that vegan cooking is not limited by the things you DON'T eat but opens up doors to the endless list of things you DO eat. From a psychosocial perspective I also am exploiting my story to show that eating vegan doesn't mean I'm going to stop shaving my legs or refrain from car dancing to Lady Gaga. And I also hope to answer that age old question loved by vegetarians and vegans alike: "But then where do you get your protein???" Spoiler alert: it's more than just beans and I can still easily keep up with my MWF weight lifting schedule. I might even give you free tickets to my gun show. Get excited.

But to the fun stuff: the food!! This weekend was a culinary success. My friend Emily and I have been working our way through this vegan cookbook, Veganomicon. I had been wanting to make some more quinoa (pronounced kind of like "keen-waah") which, for those of you keeping track, is a high protein grain, quite delicious and...not a bean. So I made a promising-looking recipe called chickpea-quinoa pilaf that I paired with roasted carrots and brussel sprouts and (on impulse because the meal screamed for it) a glass of merlot.

For dessert I enjoyed some chocolate-chocolate chip cherry cookies that I made earlier that day which I had also found a recipe for in Veganomicon. The experience of making these cookies can be summed up in a quote directly from the cookbook itself, "When the batter starts to get too stiff to mix with a fork, use your hands....Your hands will get covered in chocolate, but worse things have happened." Pluses of this cookie recipe: 1) you can eat the batter without fear of E. coli because there's no egg and 2) since it's mixed primarily with your hands you get dibs on licking the "beaters" clean. Score. I think they turned out quite nice and I'll be snacking on these all week.

Vegan or not, it was definitely one of the best meals I've made in a while, which is saying something. If you don't trust my taste buds though, hear this: my meat-eating roommate has been enjoying the cookies so much she had 4 this morning for breakfast before her coffee was even finished brewing and had leftover chickpea-quinoa pilaf for lunch today with rave reviews.

If you're interested in trying them out for yourself I've got both recipes below.

Chickpea-Quinoa Pilaf

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped finely (about 1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon coriander seeds, crushed (I used ground)
Several pinches of freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon tomato paste (I used ~1 1/2 Tbsp and was glad I did)
1 cup quinoa (make sure it's pre-washed or rinse well yourself)
2 cups cooked or 1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (more protein!)
2 cups vegetable broth or reconstituted bouillon

In a small stockpot over medium heat, sauté the onions in olive oil for about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 2 more minutes.
Add the tomato paste, coriander, cumin, black pepper, and salt; sauté for another minute.
Add the quinoa and sauté for 2 minutes.
Add the chickpeas and broth; cover and bring to a boil. Once the mixture is boiling, lower the heat to very low, cover, and cook for about 18 minutes, or until the quinoa has absorbed all the water; stir occasionally. Fluff with a fork and serve.

Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Cherry Cookies

2 cups AP flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 teaspoons ground flaxseed
1/2 cup soy milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (I completely forgot to add this and the cookies still tasted great)
3/4 cup vegan chocolate chips (just read the ingredients and make sure there's no milk fat; should just say chocolate liquor, cocoa, cocoa butter and soy lecithin or close to it)
3/4 cup dried cherries

Preheat the oven to 350 F
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt.
In a separate large bowl, mix together the oil and sugar. Add the flaxseeds, soy milk, and vanilla, and mix well.
Fold in the dry ingredients in batches. When the batter starts to get too stiff to mix with a fork, use your hands until a nice stiff dough forms. Add the chocolate chips and cherries, and mix with your hands again. Your hands will get covered in chocolate, but worse things have happened.
Wash your hands (especially if you "licked the beaters") and line two baking sheets with baking parchment. Roll the dough into 1-inch balls and flatten into disks about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Place about an inch apart on the lined cookie sheets.
Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.


  1. Yeah, I rave all the time about my friend Laura's AMAZING vegan cooking--like, this is seriously way better stuff!--and people look at me like "...Riiiight." They think that a vegan meal is a regular meal with all the meat and dairy taken out, leaving iceberg lettuce and a side of (not refried) beans. Little do they know...

    Dude, I ONLY like to make vegan cookies now (and all baked goods for that matter) because they are so much more delicious, AND BONUS BONUS BONUS points for safe raw batter! I also love how creative vegan food is. After 20 something years, isn't everyone just TIRED of meat and potatoes and all the same stuff? I love throwing in seeds and trying almond milk/butter/cheese (chocolate almond milk is the bomb!), and all kinds of bulk-section of the co-op ingredients that I've never had before. It's a whole new world of food!

    I'm not "A Vegan" (or really even vegetarian)--I am more of a "responsible omnivore", which means I indulge myself in the best of everything! Vegan food, vegetarian, local free range meats and seafood, as long as it is responsibly raised and procured. I love food. I'd love to eat a meal with you so you can see how far I've come since the days of spaghettios at Ashland Manor. And now I'm hungry. Damn!

  2. By the way, I love the substituting 1/2 banana per egg trick. This means you can go vegan with mixes and your old recipes. I've discovered it makes Toll House cookies WAY better and fluffier.

  3. Amber - I basically nodded my head smiling through your whole comment. Thanks for posting! I couldn't agree more. I've heard the banana trick, but have yet to try it. You might have inspired my baking selection for this weekend.

    And by the way...all this is payback for you introducing me to camper stew. The world's best all-but-the-kitchen-sink recipe!!