Monthly Archives: October 2009

Veganmofo Wrap-Up

Let’s take a moment to think of all the great times we had this Veganmofo here at Lazy Smurf’s Guide to Life. NOTE this post is meant to be read with this video playing in the background.

I think the most exciting posts were about my trip to Chicago & volunteering at an organic farm. I was really excited to make a Top Ten list of my favorite things to eat in Austin and review a few local places that I have been to: Tarka, and Koriente and I even left our little blue dot and went to Mango‘s in Houston where I found tater tots, sandwiches, and cupcakes.I shared some recipes that I am very excited about, Black Bean & Plantain Empanadas, Sanguine Moon Curry, Ugandan Tofu Scramble, Risotto with Amaranth Greens, Raisins, and Pine Nuts, Chez Rolez Gumbo, Spicy Sesame Potato Saladand Soupa Za Moju Babu and I also added a new section for all my recipes on the toolbar. You can pick by picture but I think I might also do a second one by title of the recipe. I also posted recipes from Raw Food Real World, Hot Sour Spicy Sweet, and even the St. Sava’s Serbian Sisters cookbook.

I even wrote a few letters (actually I write a lot of letter’s in a similar way to Grandpa Simpson) but two of them were love letters, one was a letter to my workplaces sustainability comittee and I even ranted about the TSA stealing my peanut butter.

The best part about veganmofo is reading everyone else’s blogs and though it got overwhelming and my google reader still says +1000 I had a fun time checking out the other top 10 lists on Scratch & Sniff, Pulling it Together, Vegan Mom in LA, and a Bear’s Fare in Missoula. I also learned about Dancing Through Life when Ashley won the giveaway and I fell in love with her attitude and her blog. I made plans with Krys from Two Vegan Boys to volunteer at the farm and I went out with a bunch of Austin bloggers for pizza at the Parlor. I even found a blog, Funky Sunflower Foods from my hometown of Springfield which was really exciting I am hoping to find out about more restaurant options for the next time I go! I tried to hint at Mo that she should move back to Texas so I could go to her awesome parties. And I decided that I was going to make the Tempeh Sausage from Jes at Cupcake Punk, the garlic stuffed jalapeno poppers from My Veggie Kitchen, and the vegan solyanka from Seitan is my Motor.

I think that VeganMoFo is so important because it really encourages people from all over the world to eat vegan and blog every day about it. I read so many different blogs this year from people who were trying to eat vegan for the first time for the 30 days of VeganMofo just because they wanted to be a part of it.

The internet is just amazing for connecting people together. It can be really difficult for a person in a small town or other country that doesn’t yet have a vegan culture to figure out how to be vegan. At first, there is so much confusion because you don’t know what to eat or where to eat out or how to do it while traveling and now we can just link to others and see how they are doing it. It is so much easier for a lot of people to ask questions on the internet when you don’t have to be afraid of being judged.

I also love that people are documenting the vegan options in their town because now before I go anywhere I can usually find a vegan who lives there and has a blog or at least someone that has traveled there and learned about a fantastic little Thai restaurant or a place that accidentally has vegan donuts. Mmm Donuts……

Viva VeganMofo!

Tarka- Vegan Indian Food in South Austin

I have been really excited since I heard that the previous owners of the Clay Pit were opening a location, called Tarka in South Austin. The really great thing about Tarka is that they have all the vegan items denoted with a little V and you can easily tell what you want to eat. The first time I went a girl at the counter told me that the rice wasn’t vegan but then I spoke later with the owner he assured me that they use oil instead of butter. He was really nice and very gracious through the whole exchange and I really appreciated that. In fact, it is that conversation  that sent me to try it a second time. The vegan items are Vegetable Samosas, Vegetable Pakoras, Coconut Curry, Minced Vegetable Kabob, Vegetable Biryanis, Channa Masala, Tarka Aloo, & they also have perfect roti and a mango lemonade that was completely fabulous.

The samosas are the highlight. They kind of remind me of the samosas from the Cosmic Cafe that I miss with all my heart. Of all the places in town to close why did it have to be the Cosmic Cafe! The samosas are plump and fried just perfectly so that they don’t feel at all oily, just tender and crispy and wonderful. The chutney that comes with them is also divine.

I was so excited that they had vegan roti and it did not disappoint, it was perfect and there was plenty to share. Sadly, both of the entrees that I had haven’t been as fantastic. I first had an eggplant dish that isn’t on the menu anymore and then the second time had the channa masala. It was good enough but didn’t seem particularly exciting and I couldn’t help but think it didn’t justify 7.25 for the very small dish. It is chickpeas, and spices, and rice. And a small portion. Both times that I went I know that if I hadn’t also gotten the samosas I would have still been hungry when I left and that never happens to me at restaurants. I go to the Clay Pit quite often and for about the same price you get 3 times as much food. I usually have leftovers even. I think I would recommend that they put several of the dishes together with roti and a samosa and have a vegan plate for 7 to 9 dollars. As it is, the two samosas were $3.50 and the roti was a couple of dollars more so I ended up spending about 20 dollars. In actual food costs this dish was probably worth about 25 cents and to me it would have been worth it had I paid like 3 or 4 dollars or had the sides included.

In the end, the price point just does not match its location. I really hope that after they are open for a few more weeks they work out the kinks and maybe start a delivery service because I love samosas like I love this life but otherwise I don’t think I can afford to come back to Tarka any time soon.

Sanguine Moon Curry

So many things about cooking seem so obvious once you learn them. I think my grandparents knew that food that ripens together usually has complimentary flavors but I didn’t know that tidbit of knowledge until recently and it has made cooking so easy. I went to the store and I found persimmons which I have never cooked with before but they were on sale and they were ripe so I picked a couple up. I also had some local oyster mushrooms and the sweet potatoes and arugula that I picked at the farm. By the time I got home it was pretty late and I didn’t really feel look cooking so I did what I often do when I don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, I made Thai food.

Actually, I don’t even know if you can really call it Thai food since it is so inauthentic hence the name Sanguine Moon Curry. The Sanguine Moon is also known as the Hunter’s Moon which is what follows the autumnal equinox. With the fall colors and the autumn vegetables I thought it made perfect sense.  This was a very lazy dish where the sum of the whole was definitely more than the parts. The persimmon added tannins and a certain astringent quality that worked so well with the sweetness of the lemongrass and the sweet potatoes. The quinoa also added an interesting nutty note to the dish that made it seem perfect for this time of year.

For the Quinoa

Toast
1 Cup of Quinoa in
1 teaspoon of coconut oil
Add
2 Cups of broth or water,
Cover and steam for about 25 minutes

For the Curry

Saute until aromatic
1 Tablespoon of Massaman Curry Paste
Combine with
1/2 can of coconut milk
After a couple minutes Add
1/2 can of coconut milk
1 cup of broth
1 peeled & chopped persimmon
2 cups of chopped sweet potatoes
2 cups of chopped arugula
Cook until potatoes are soft about 20 minutes & Add
1 bunch of Oyster mushrooms
1/2 lime juice
1 tsp of sugar
Once the mushrooms are softened. Serve with a mound of Quinoa in the center and the curry around it topped with scallions. Enjoy!

Ugandan Tofu Scramble

If you try this recipe I swear you will start waking up in the morning craving something Ugandan. This is another dish that is inspired by Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian. In the recipe she makes a kind of dry stew with okra, tomatoes, and spices but she said that in Uganda they often topped it with eggs and so I thought it would work well as a tofu scramble. I am pleased to say that it turned out fantastic! I think it was the best scramble we have ever had so if you like okra try it out.

in a bowl Crumble & combine
1 lbs of tofu
juice of one lemon
1/4 tsp black salt
1/2 tsp salt

In a mortar & pestle make a paste of
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon of salt

Saute
1 lbs okra, sliced into rounds
after 5 minutes reduce heat & add tofu mix
When Tofu is browned add
2 cups chopped tomatoes (I used one big fat yellow heirloom)
spice paste

Cook until the scramble has reached the desired consistency and serve with mashed yuca, fried plantains, or roasted potatoes and toast or tortillas. Top with chives or scallions.

Enjoy!

Vegan Nuoc Cham (Vegetarian Fish Sauce)

One thing that can make eating out at Southeast Asian restaurants challenging for vegans is that they use fish sauce in almost everything. Luckily, the Vietnamese often do Buddhist fasts and so they have come up with some great ways to get around the prevalent use of fish sauce. In some specialty markets you can find veg fish sauce which I often call for in recipes that I post. But you can always use more soy sauce too and sometimes I use Oyster (mushroom) sauce as well.  If you want to make your own fish sauce, here is a recipe from Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet: A Culinary Journey Through Southeast Asia which is one of my favorite cookbooks. It isn’t at all fishy but it adds some complexity to Thai recipes and a little bit of that Southeast Asian flair.

Mix

3 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 Tablespoon rice wine (or rice vinegar)
1 teaspoon garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon lemongrass, chopped
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1 bird chili (or other hot little pepper or Sriracha)
1 teaspoon peanut oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

The key, of course, is to have really good soy sauce. Usually I have several different kinds that I get when I go to the giant Asian Super Market a couple times a year. I like to have both light and dark and I often use both in the same recipe. It doesn’t hurt to try different kinds!

In truly lazy style  I recently boiled some soba noodles, added some bok choi, drained and poured the whole recipe of fish sauce into a pot and mixed it with the noodles and greens and a little bit of oil. It was good enough to eat, cheaper than take out, and even healthier. Looking at those noodles is making me so hungry

Risotto with Amaranth Greens, Raisins, and Pine Nuts

Amaranth is a really interesting plant. It is native to the Americas and was a staple of the Aztecs. When the Spanish came to conquer they wouldn’t let people eat their pagan grain. They did the same thing to the Incas with quinoa. So many atrocities were committed against the people here but not letting them eat the food that grows all around them in favor of the more godly plants seems particularly sadistic. Especially when you consider that amaranth grain, like quinoa, has large amounts of protein and essential amino acids and can grow easily in all sorts of difficult environments. You can also eat the mild leaves which are similar to spinach. It was a vital plant to the region that kept people from starving. They had to grow it in secret.  The Aztecs celebrated Amaranth on the feast of Huauquiltamalcualitztli which I think we should revive as soon as possible. I am always excited for a new celebratory feast.

I got the greens when I worked in at the farm over the weekend. I really wanted to make something Jamaican since that is where this particular strain came from but I couldn’t find half the stuff that I needed to make Callaloo and so I started thumbing through World Vegetarian and I found this risotto recipe that used spinach and sounded very easy.

I am so glad I tried it! We both really liked it and the recipe was very simple and used ingredients that I normally have on hand. The last step was to add Parmesan cheese and butter which I switched to nutritional yeast and earth balance. I was a little worried it would have that noochy taste which wasn’t what I was looking for but it actually came out perfect. It made the risotto really creamy and rich tasting so if you try the recipe be sure to add it in at the end. The raisins got so big while cooking in this dish and I thought they really added a lot of flavor and I upped the cinnamon a little bit too from the original and I thought that was better as well but you might want to start with 1/4 teaspoon. The key to risotto is never stop stirring so make sure you have something to read or entertain you or it can get ruined.

Simmer
4 cups stock
separately Fry in Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Pine Nuts
Remove when golden and add
2 large shallots, chopped fine
Once golden add
1 Tablespoon raisins
after 1 minute add
10oz Amaranth, cut into ribbons or other mild green (like Spinach or Chard)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
after a couple minutes add
1 Cup Arborio Rice
fry for another minute and then add a ladle full  of stock. Stir until the liquid is mostly gone and then add another ladle full. Keep repeating this process until the rice is cooked, the stock is gone, and the liquid has been soaked into the rice.

Add
1/4 cup Nooch
1 Tablespoon Earth Balance

Season with salt and Enjoy!

Mango’s Cafe, a vegan haven in Houston

People talk a lot of smack about Houston. Maybe it is because I live in Austin, but, I don’t think I have ever heard anyone say anything positive about Houston ever. But look at this sandwich.

It is beautiful and bursting with vegan goodness. With some notable exceptions it is rare that you find a sandwich in Austin that is good much less one that has the perfect filing to bread ratio and a ton of vegetables. And I can’t think of one single sandwich that is fresh tasting AND you can have with a side of tots. Austin we have a problem.

This sandwich is “The Hulk” from Mango’s Cafe. It is fried tofu with a creamy cilantro sauce, avocado, cucumber and a whole mess of greens. They have a ton of different sandwiches there and it was hard to choose one! Mango’s is a tiny little place that also serves as a live music venue. Everyone there was ridiculously friendly and nearly everything could be made vegan. I couldn’t decide between the Hulk and the Tofu “Viet Now” sandwich. I asked the guy at the counter and he told me that the Viet Now used to be his favorite sandwich but then he tried the Hulk that day and loved it! It was such a tough decision. They also had a BBQ po’ boy, wingz, veggie wraps, and something called the Big Baby Jesus! And good beer! It was all too much. I forced my friend to take me back the next day and I got this Cuban Pizza. It should have come topped with vegan queso but I wanted it on the side in case I didn’t like it. I needn’t have worried because it was good! Just like the queso you get at Wheastville or Bouldin. The pizza was topped with a black bean sauce, plantains, chopped pecans, and fresh cilantro. I am totally going to borrow this idea and make my how Cuban Pizza because those are all of my favorite things! It was good at the restaurant but too skimpy with the topping. Luckily, that way I wasn’t too full to order dessert. They had a whole array of vegan confections but I chose the chocolate cream filled cupcake.

It was a good choice.

After Mango’s we went to the park for a sing-a-long.And I got to hang out with the Maska (Dinger’s feline brother)

So my opinion of Houston is that it is kind of awesome. But, that is just me….

Chez Rolez Gumbo & a day at the farm

In the past, I have participated with several different C.S.A.s by paying for my box of food every month. With a sick dog money has been tighter than ever so I decided to volunteer with my friend Andrea at a local farm in exchange for a box of food. Now this is a pretty extreme action for a lazy smurf such as myself to undertake. I had to wake up at 7 am on a Saturday to do 5 hours of manual labor! Usually I spend Saturday morning cuddled up with beagles and eventually mustering up the energy to make some brunch around 1 pm. With the sun just peeking its little head out of the night sky and a large coffee in my hand I drove to Johnson’s Backyard Garden to start of day of picking vegetables. We started with eggplant.Even though it is the middle of October the plants are still producing like crazy and some of them were too small to pick. After filling our baskets with eggplant it was off to the pepper fields to pick a wide variety of peppers. This was my favorite part because they smelled so good and were really fun to pick, especially since each one is unique and came in a different shape.After picking peppers we moved into the string bean field and this is when the serious work began. I found out that green beans are so labor intensive to pick that farmer Brenton said even if he charged ten dollars a pound it wouldn’t be cost effective. But since people like them so much (and he does too) they decided to start a small crop a couple years ago.

if you look closely you can see Andrea down there

if you look closely you can see Andrea down there

It takes forever to pick the beans, they grow like crazy all over the plant and you have to pull everything apart to get to them while being very careful to not compact the ground or step on the plant. After a couple of hours of work I still didn’t have a quite a full basket and had done maybe a third of my row.

So now I have even more respect for farmers, and I already had a lot! I spent the whole day thinking about my grandparents in their old village, migrant workers, slaves on cotton plantations, the true cost of food, and, of course, what I was going to make for dinner. When we got back to the farmhouse we each stood by a type of vegetable and filled them all into boxes assembly line style. It was really fun! I started to get so hungry because by then it was after noon and all I had to eat was a couple string beans! Note, if you ever volunteer on a farm bring a freaking granola bar or something because it is really hard work. So finally we got our boxes and headed home. I got so many organic vegetables I couldn’t believe it. Eggplant, peppers, hot peppers, amaranth greens, bok choy, arugula, basil, green beans, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, butternut squash, and lots and lots of okra! Here in the south okra is like zucchini in the north. It grows like crazy in the summer and people are always giving you some.

I became obsessed with the idea of making gumbo. I had recently seen an episode of Good Eats where Alton Brown made a dark roux using his oven instead of the stove top. I had been waiting for some okra to appear in my life to try the method and finally the time had come. I also made some Andouille sausage testing a spice combination from the ppk but it didn’t work out at all, the sausages were good enough to put in the gumbo but I will have to work on the Andouille recipe. You could use any other vegan sausage or other legumes in the gumbo, it will still be good. In fact, it will be so good that you might be inspired to sing about it. The Gumbo recipe is mostly from the Veganomicon, but it is really enhanced with the roux and the fresh stock.

Chez Rolez Gumbo

For the Roux, Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Whisk together
4 oz of flour (by weight)
4 oz of vegetable oil
bake for an hour and a half, whisking four or five times throughout the process. You want it to be a dark brick red without any black flecks.

For the Stock

add to stock pot on medium heat
8 cups of water
1 onion
1 leek (with green parts)
2 carrots
2 celery stalks
1 bay leaf
2 smashed cloves of garlic
handful Parsley
dash of Thyme
Simmer for 40 minutes or so. If you are making sausages you can steam them over the stock pot!

For the Gumbo
Put the Brown Roux on the stove top over medium heat
Saute for 10 minutes with
1 onion, chopped
3 shallots, chopped
2 bell peppers or equivalent (I used a whole mess of sweet and spicy peppers), chopped
Add
1 stalk celery, chopped
6 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 lbs okra, sliced
Cook for another few minutes and then add
5 roasted red peppers, sliced
1 recipe sausage or 1 can beans
the strained stock (about 6 cups)
1 cup of Ale
3 Tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons oregano
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 tsp liquid smoke
2 bay leaves

Cook for about 40 minutes and then add

juice of a lemon
Cayenne to taste
salt & pepper to taste
fresh thyme, oregano, and parsley

Serve with a pile of rice in the middle and some garlic bread on the side and Enjoy!

Soupa Za Moju Babu (soup for my grandma)

Last week I was cooking for my Baba and other family in Merrillville Indiana. The area isn’t know for its’ fantastic health food stores but the options are getting better all the time. Nonetheless, I have learned it is better to keep ideas pretty simple. My uncle bought me a head of lettuce so that I would have something to eat while I was there, isn’t that cute? It is sweet that he tried, but I have never been a fan of lettuce, especially by itself! I went to the store and I bought a ton of vegetables so that I could make the healthiest soup possible. It was good and it suited every taste and everyone was excited about trying turnip so the next time you are cooking for a family consider this soup!

Soupa Za Moju Babu

Caramelize

2 chopped onions
2 Tablespoons Earth Balance or oil

Saute

1 carrot
1 celery stalk
1 turnip
4 cloves garlic

After the vegetables are browned Add

2 cans of white beans
box of frozen spinach
box of frozen corn
2 bay leaves
red pepper flakes
water to cover

In another pan Saute

1 package of chopped mushrooms
1 Tablespoon Earth Balance or oil
cook until the mushroom liquid has evaporated and add
1 teaspoon of rosemary

Add the Mushrooms along with

juice of a lemon
salt & pepper
Serve with Parsley and Green Onions

Enjoy!

*Let me know what you think of the format I have been writing recipes, it is kind of the short hand way I do it in my notebook and a lot of times I copy recipes that way so you don’t have to list all the ingredients, and then later list them again. If it isn’t clear though I can go back to doing it the traditional way.