Archive for the 'Vegan' category

Shut up about your goddamn bacon, already

Jan 17 2013 Published by under Vegan

Pot-bellied Piglet

I iz ur bacon?

I get it. Bacon tastes good. It’s crispy, salty, and fatty. Just like other crispy, salty, fatty things, it sends “OMG, yum!” signals to the brain. French fries, potato chips, onion rings…they all have similar effects on our brains. One taste, and we instantly want more.

There is a biological reason for this. Fats are crucial for survival, and they were once hard to come by, when humans were hunter-gathers and had to search far and wide for adequate calories. Salt helps our bodies maintain an appropriate level of fluids.

Still, I am sick to death of people waxing poetic over bacon, like it’s the Holy Grail of foods, without which you will shrivel up and DIE, because life has no meaning without fried strips of tissue from a pig’s belly, back, or sides.

People will wrap anything in bacon, it seems. Seriously, have you seen this disgusting homage to over-consumption? It’s called the turbaconducken. Who the fuck needs to eat a chicken stuffed in a duck stuffed in a turkey and then entirely wrapped in bacon? Let’s see how many more animals we can kill and consume in one meal.

(Also…Bacon Today? Really? Do we really need an entire website devoted to bacon? With a sub-page called Bacon News? Apparently, bacon “news” is links to other websites that mention the word bacon.)

Look, I’m not saying that everyone should be a vegan. I know it isn’t practical for everyone. I just wish more people would stop and think about where their food comes from.

Pigs are very smart (smarter than most dogs), sensitive animals. In the U.S., more than 100 million pigs are slaughtered every year for food, and your precious bacon. Many of them suffer in factory farms, in quarters so small that they cannot move during their entire lives.

You may say you don’t care, and that animals were put on this earth for us to eat. Perhaps that’s true. I don’t believe it is, but does that really give anyone the right to treat them as nothing more than products on an assembly line?

If you’ve never had the opportunity to hang out with a pig, I encourage you to take a trip to a farm sanctuary and meet one. It may not change your mind about eating animals, but perhaps you’ll see that even farm animals have feelings and unique personalities. A pig is not an “it,” but a “who.” Find a farm sanctuary near you.

One last bit of advice. If you happen to find yourself in a conversation with a vegan, and his or her being vegan comes up (It might not. Many vegans prefer not to discuss such personal matters with people they’ve just met), and your first instinct is to say something like, “I could never do that, I can’t live without bacon,” just know that we’ve heard it dozens, if not hundreds, of times before, and that it isn’t funny, and that liking, or not liking, bacon, has absolutely nothing to do with becoming a vegan.

You could live without bacon. In fact, millions of people live exceptionally full, rewarding lives without the stuff. You simply choose not to.

And if you dare write “Mmm, bacon” or anything about “tasty animals” in my blog comments I will delete your pathetic attempt at wit and/or insultery, and then pray to Buddha every day until I die that you end up a factory-farmed pig in your next life.

Now, please excuse me while I eat this entire bag of jalapeno potato chips.

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Photo by Ellenm1 on Flickr

 

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My 3 favorite vegan cookbooks and 2 more I wish I owned

Aug 31 2012 Published by under Vegan

Cranberry Chick Pea Salad

The vegan cookbook market is exploding. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of vegan cookbooks available, including niche cookbooks such as vegan slow cooker recipes, raw vegan recipes, and vegan comfort food recipes. I recently pared down my cookbook collection, keeping only the ones I use regularly.

I enjoy cooking, but I don’t want to spend hours making complicated dishes, so beautiful books filled with fancy recipes I will never make got donated to charity. Here are the three vegan cookbooks I find myself referencing again and again, and two more that are on my wish list.

My three favorite vegan cookbooks:

1. The Vegan Table by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

This is my go-to cookbook, especially for soups and stews. Though it’s marketed as a collection of recipes for entertaining, I find Patrick-Goudreau’s recipes to be simple enough for everyday meals. There are a few tofu and tempeh recipes in this book, but the majority of recipes are based on fruits, veggies, legumes, and whole grains.

My most-cooked recipes:

  • African Sweet Potato and Peanut Stew
  • Aloo Gobi (Curried cauliflower and potatoes)
  • Three-Bean Chili
  • Yellow Split-Pea Dal
  • Traditional Vegetable Soup

2. Appetite for Reduction by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

I was shocked at my last check-up to learn that my “bad” cholesterol was a bit high, so I’m trying to cook more low-fat meals. I know it’s easy to assume that all vegan food is low-calorie, but that isn’t necessarily the case. So far, I’ve loved every recipe I’ve tried out of this book. It’s very well organized, loaded with nutrition and cooking tips, and there is even an entire section of gluten-free recipes.

My most-cooked recipes:

  • Hottie Black-Eyed Peas & Greens
  • Forty-Clove Chickpeas & Broccoli
  • Eggplant-Chickpea Curry
  • Mom’s Marinara
  • Red Lentil & Root Veggie Dal

3. Vegan With a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

An earlier cookbook by the same author as Appetite for Reduction, this is the first vegan cookbook I bought. I find myself gravitating toward my other two more often, but I still come back to this one for certain recipes. There is a nice section in the beginning about recommended kitchen tools, and how to set up a vegan pantry.

My most-cooked recipes:

  • Roasted applesauce
  • Garlicky Kale with Tahini Dressing
  • Mashed Potatoes with Punk Rock Chickpea Gravy

Two more vegan cookbooks on my wish list:

1. The Happy Herbivore by Lindsay S. Nixon

I’m a fan of Nixon’s blog of the same name, which is where I discovered her recipe for Low Fat Vegan Nacho Cheese. I had a hard time finding yellow miso, but once I did (Thank you, Whole Foods!), we found ourselves in nacho heaven. Her Chickpea Tacos recipe is another winner. Nixon has hundreds of recipes on her blog, including kid-friendly vegan recipes. I would love to support her further by owning one of her cookbooks.

2. Vegan Fire & Spice by Robin Roberston

We love spicy food. Invariably the first question my husband asks after I’ve cooked dinner is a wishful, “Is it spicy?” I would love to expand my cooking range beyond simply adding more chili pepper to a dish. This book includes recipes like Wasabi Miso Dressing and Jalapeno Tortilla Soup. Yes, please!

Did your favorite vegan cookbook make the list? Is there a cookbook you love that you think I should try? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

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Photo by Vegan Feast Catering on Flickr

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Black-eyed pea patties with blackberry-chocolate-chipotle sauce

Jun 24 2012 Published by under Vegan

My entry for the PPK “Chopped Vegan!” contest

Isa Moskowitz is one of my favorite cookbook authors. I have two of her cookbooks, Vegan with a Vengeance, and Appetite for Reduction. Moskowitz also writes the vegan cooking blog Post Punk Kitchen. Last Thursday, on the Post Punk Kitchen Facebook page, Moskowitz announced a vegan version of Chopped, a popular TV show on Food Network.

Tom and I love Chopped. We no longer have cable TV, but when we did, we watched this show a lot. On Chopped, accomplished chefs are each given a basket of mystery ingredients, revealed just seconds before the clock starts ticking. They must use all of the ingredients in the basket, and have just 30 minutes to complete their dish. There are three rounds: Appetizer, entree, and dessert (with a new mystery basket for each round). One chef is “chopped” from the competition after each round.

We used to try to guess the mystery ingredients before they were revealed. If either of us guessed correctly, the other person had to fork over $1. Neither of us ever guessed correctly, although Tom came close once. He guessed venison and the real mystery ingredient was elk tenderloin.

While fun to watch, Chopped is not a vegan-friendly competition. In fact, the show is kind of famous for, as Moskowitz puts it, “gross meats.” On one memorable episode, the chefs were tasked with using geoduck (“gooey duck”), a huge, disgusting-looking clam.

For Chopped Vegan!, Moskowitz revealed the mystery ingredients on Thursday, and asked all entries to be submitted by noon PST on Monday, June 25. Since I love vegan cooking and the show Chopped, I decided to go ahead and submit an entry.

The mystery ingredients were:

  • Canned black-eyed peas
  • Blackberries
  • Fresh mint
  • Bittersweet chocolate

Quite a challenge, right? You can read the compete rules here, but basically contestants had to create an entree using all four ingredients that takes 40 minutes or less to prepare. Here is what I came up with:

Black-eyed-pea patties with blackberry-chocolate-chipotle sauce

For the sauce:

1/2 cup blackberry juice
1 oz. bittersweet chocolate
1-2 Tbsp. adobo sauce (from canned chipotle peppers)
1 Tbsp. triple sec (optional)

For the patties:

2 cans black eyed peas
1/2 small zucchini, grated
4 oz. crimini mushrooms, chopped
1/2 medium onion, diced
3/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
6 sprigs fresh mint, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

For garnish (optional):

Arugula
Mango
Red onion

To make the sauce, I pureed a pint of blackberries in the food processor and then pressed the mixture through a strainer to remove the seeds. I was left with about 1/2 cup of juice.

I transferred the blackberry juice to a small saucepan (set over a larger saucepan of water to prevent burning).  Next, I added 1 oz. of bittersweet chocolate to the blackberry juice and heated the mixture over low heat until the chocolate was melted and smooth. Then, I stirred in the adobo sauce and triple sec. I heated for a few minutes more to cook off some of the alcohol. I set the sauce aside while I made the patties.

To make the patties, I sauteed the onions, mushrooms, and zucchini in a little oil until the veggies were soft and set the mixture aside to cool. Here’s what it looked like:

Meanwhile, I mashed the black-eyed-peas with a potato masher until about 3/4 of the beans were mashed.

When the onion-mushroom-zucchini mixture was slightly cooled, I added it to the beans and mixed well. Next, I added the chopped mint, bread crumbs, and a little salt and pepper.

I formed the bean mixture into patties, and fried them in a cast iron skillet with vegetable oil, about 3 minutes on each side or until lightly browned.

To serve, I placed a patty on a bed of arugula, topped it with a little diced mango and red onion, and drizzled everything with the blackberry-chocolate-chipotle sauce.

I don’t normally use fruit or chocolate with savory dishes, so this combination of ingredients was definitely challenging. I am happy with the result, and will probably keep playing with this recipe.

Here’s another view of the finished plate:

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Vegan pesto and vegetable casserole

May 02 2012 Published by under Vegan

Vegan pesto vegetable casserole by Peculiar Girl

This is a very forgiving recipe that’s easy to throw together if you have cooked rice and vegan pesto on hand. I make several large batches of vegan pesto each fall that I freeze in plastic baggies. It lasts me nearly all year. (If you are not a vegan you can substitute traditional pesto, which is made with parmesan cheese.) If you don’t have cooked rice handy, it’s still a simple recipe but you’ll need to allow extra time to cook the rice.

Ingredients

4 cups cooked white or brown rice
1/2 white onion, diced
8 oz. white or crimini mushrooms, thickly sliced
1 Tbsp. olive oil or vegan margarine
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
3 cups broccoli florets
1 15-oz. can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup vegan pesto
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large microwave-safe bowl, cook the broccoli and carrots in the microwave on HIGH power for 4 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil or vegan margarine in a large-size sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook a few more minutes, until mushrooms are softened. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the broccoli, carrots, onions, and mushrooms (along with any liquid left in the sauté pan). Stir in chickpeas and cooked rice. Add vegan pesto and mix well. Season with salt and pepper.

Spoon the mixture into a 3-quart casserole dish. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 60 minutes. If you like your casserole to have a browned, crispy top, remove the foil for the last 15 minutes.

Yield: 4-6 servings

As I mentioned earlier, this recipe is extremely forgiving. You can use almost any combination of vegetables. Try red bell pepper in place of carrots, chopped spinach or kale in place of broccoli, or toss in a small handful of chopped sun-dried tomatoes. Frozen or canned vegetables work well, too. You can also use white beans in place of the garbanzos, or leave the beans out if you are not a fan.

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10 favorite vegan convenience foods

Apr 04 2012 Published by under Vegan

alexia brand spicy sweet potato fries

If you scroll down this page, in the right sidebar you’ll see the heading “Top 10 posts.” The rankings are based on the total number of page views since I launched Peculiar Girl in 2010. Ten favorite vegan staple foods has held the No. 1 spot for as long as I’ve been tracking that statistic.

Vegan diets are rising in popularity, thanks in part to famous vegans like Alicia Silverstone, Ellen Degeneres, and Emily Deschanel. More people want to know what being vegan is all about, and they are searching the “Interwebs” for information. Through the magic of Google, some of those people land on my humble blog.

In that post about my favorite vegan staple foods, I promised a list of vegan convenience foods, something I just realized after re-reading the post. Oops! So, for those vegan-curious folks searching for ideas on what to eat, and for vegans who don’t like to cook or don’t always have time to cook, here is a list of my favorite vegan convenience foods. (These opinions are strictly my own. I did not receive payment, free samples, or any other form of compensation for writing this list.)

  1. Trader Joe’s soy chorizo

I am in love with this product. At $1.99 it’s a great value, since I can easily get two meals out of one package of chorizo. I use it to make chili, pasta dishes, and even breakfast hash with potatoes, onions, and peppers. If I’m really feeling lazy, I just throw some chorizo in a pan with a can of beans, heat it through, and eat it with a little hot sauce on top.

  1. Tofurky Italian sausage

I discovered Tofurky Italian sausage recently at a friend’s housewarming party. She cooked them on the grill and served them on hot dog buns with all the fixins. Delicious! They come four links to a package. This week I used two links to make vegan jambalaya, and the next day used the rest in a pasta dish with red sauce, peppers, and onions.

  1. Trader Joe’s meatless meatballs

I buy these occasionally to make spaghetti and “meatballs” or for party hors d’oeuvres. You can also use them to make a tasty vegan version of a meatball sub. You find them in the frozen section at Trader Joe’s. They are best heated in the oven, otherwise they can get mushy.

  1. Tofurky Italian sausage and fire-roasted veggie pizza

Few things are as convenient as frozen pizza, and vegans finally have more options. I’ve never been a fan of Amy’s cheeseless pizza, which used to be the only choice for vegans. Tofurky makes three versions, but I find the vegan cheese version too plain, and the sausage-only version too salty. These pizzas are small, and in Madison cost $7.99 each at the store, so we don’t buy them often. Plus, they aren’t exactly healthy. The box says 3 servings per package, which is a total joke.

  1. Silk Live! soy yogurt

Soy yogurt can be hit or miss. I’ve tried some that is nasty, and some that is so close to the “real” stuff I have to double-check the label. Silk Live! is my favorite so far. We buy the vanilla flavor in big tubs. It’s good topped with fruit and nuts for breakfast, or mixed into smoothies. Just the other day, a friend told me So Delicious now makes a delicious vegan Greek yogurt, but I haven’t seen it in Madison stores yet. I may have to update this list after I try it.

  1. 365 Everyday Value frozen entrees

365 Everyday Value is one of the Whole Foods house brands. The tofu ravioli and the vegan macaroni and cheese are both pretty tasty. As with most frozen entrees, however, the portion sizes are small compared to the price.

  1. Gardein Seven Grain Crispy Tenders

These are a little pricey, so I only buy them if we have a coupon or if they are on sale. It’s been a loooong time (21 years) since I had chicken, but I think even meat eaters would enjoy the Gardein crispy tenders, especially kids. I like to serve the crispy tenders with a dipping sauce made of Vegenaise and spicy mustard. (Trader Joe’s chickenless tenders are also quite good.)

  1. Alexia spicy sweet potato julienne fries with chipotle seasoning

Sweet potato fries are the bomb. I like the plain ones, too, but the spicy ones from Alexia are my favorite. They are available at most grocery stores in Madison (Copps, Hy-Vee, Whole Foods, Willy St. Co-op) as well as Target and Wal-Mart.

  1. Westpac vegetable stir fry

I always have several bags of these frozen stir-fry veggies in my freezer. I don’t even bother to stir-fry them. I just heat the veggies in the microwave and serve them with leftover rice or even plain, topped with a little stir-fry sauce.

  1. Nature Valley peanut butter granola bars

These are like crack to me, so I try not to keep them in the house or I’ll eat them all in one sitting. They are sweet and crunchy with a layer of peanut-buttery goodness on top. I always bring a few along when we travel, since vegan food isn’t always easy to find on the road.

NOTE: I usually have cooked rice on hand. I make a large batch on the weekend in a rice cooker, and use it throughout the week. The vegan jambalaya, for example, took very little time because I already had several cups of cooked rice in the fridge. If you want even more convenience, most grocers carry cooked white and brown rice in the freezer section.

Do you have a favorite vegan convenience food? Tell us about it in the comments.

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