Thursday, October 30, 2008

VeganMoFo: Birthday Lunch & Dinner

Okay, today was my birthday, and we went out to eaten at my place of choice, so I thought it was the perfect opportunity to blog about it for the second last day of VeganMoFo!

First though, there was lunch. Today was one of the very rare days that I had work. I'm an exam proctor for an international English college located in downtown Vancouver, and I work anywhere from 0-2 times a month. Anyway, since I was going to be in the area, I decided to treat myself to a raw meal at Gorilla Food.

The entrance to the restaurant was half-hidden from the view of the street, but it wasn't difficult to find. Entering the slightly subterraneous restaurant, I immediately felt the friendliness of the cafe. The kitchen workspace is big and open, and though the tables were small and few, there were already a number of customers. It seemed like a calm oasis, its raw earthy energy a nice constrast (and a good break) from the concrete city beyond its doors.

After studying the interesting menu, I decided on the Maui Waui pizza and a Choco Gorilla shake. You know, one thing I think I really like about a raw food restaurant - at least this one - is how fast food comes, since most of the menu items are easily prepared. The pizza slice was delivered immediately, and the shake came soon after. May I add now that the people there were super nice! Everyone had a genuinely friendly smile.

The Maui Waui pizza had pineapples, a marinara sauce, seasoned tenderized kale, mixed veggies, and a walnut/pine nut "cheez" topping, served on a sprouted buckwheat, sunflower seed, and flax seed crust. My general impression of this very first raw meal: pretty much awesome! The crust was amazing. I might even love it more than traditional pizza crusts. Also, I've never had raw kale - I wasn't sure whether I'd like it raw, but boy, do I like it tenderized! Whatever that means. However, I love my pineapples on pizza, so I wished there were more. On the other hand, there was too much of the nut "cheez" topping, and the nut pieces were bigger than I would have liked. Still, two thumbs up.

The Choco Gorilla shake was the owner's self-professsed favourite. It had raw cocoa, banana, dates, coconut oil, and almonds. The consistency of the shake was perfect: thick, creamy - just the way I like it. I also liked how it wasn't overly sweet and chocolatey. Also, the glass was massive. I wish I had a picture of it to show off how awesome it was. Definitely something I'll get again.

I left with a very positive feeling about raw food. I was a little nervous before, unsure of what to expect, but I was really impressed with Gorilla Food and I'll surely go back and support them again. I told my sister about it, and I must have sounded super excited because now even my sister, usually skeptical about vegetarian and vegan food, wanted to try the restaurant next time. Other things that caught my eye in Gorilla Food: the Thai wraps (collard leaves filled with seed and veggie pate, and served with raisin chutney!) and the row of raw desserts to choose from.

This post turned out longer than I expected. Part II of my birthday/end of VeganMoFo post will come tomorrow, with details about my first experience at Radha!

Monday, October 27, 2008

VeganMoFo: Chocolate Fantasies

I've been craving chocolate like crazy lately. I consider myself a chocolate fiend, but I don't just eat any old piece of chocolate. I'm quite particular about what kind of chocolate and how it gets eaten - in other words, I'm only seriously crazy about eating chocolate in certain shapes and form.

One of my most favourite form lies in the shape of this type of container:

Oh yes. Ice cream. I love ice cream, not because it is ice cream, but because it is the medium between me and my chocolate fantasies. I hardly - and I mean never - have a hankering for the ubiquitous vanilla; when we used to buy the neopolitan kind when I was a kid, I would make sure that I would get as much chocolate as possible while touching as little of the vanilla as I could, without detection from my sister. (Speaking of neopolitan: why does the chocolate portion always seem to be less than the others?)

But chocolate. Ah. The possibilities of rich and sinful flavour combinations are endless. (I have to quibble: I like my ice cream without the crunch of nuts, thank you!)

We were eating out near my favourite local food store on Thursday night, so I took the opportunity to skip in and buy some essential the Purely Decadent ice cream pictured above. Previously, I've tried a few flavours including Peanut Butter Zig-Zag, Mocha Almond Fudge, and Chocolate Obsession. They were all good, but the flavour I was really hankering after was Chunky Mint Madness. It was my awesome luck that I finally found this very flavour combination at the food store. Now, I bought this Thursday night and it is now Monday night, and I've polished off the whole thing by myself as of an hour ago. That's how good it was. It's minty, it's chocolatey (I tried to ignore the vanilla swirls in it - I loved how chocolate outnumbered vanilla, thank you!), and I adore the squishy bits of chocolate cookies. It was like eating cookies and cream, but not, because it's chocolatey and minty and not vanilla-y and milky.

Thank you, Purely Decadent for Chunky Mint Madness! I also appreciated that it was not the rock-hard block of ice cream I experienced with the other flavours aforementioned. Perhaps it was that my freezer was actually sort of full this time. I want to try the Peanut Butter Zig-Zag another time again. With a sort of full freezer.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

VeganMoFo: Snapshots

I've been making stuff - yes, I have, but you couldn't tell with the amount of blogging I've been doing for VeganMofo. The pictures I take just kind of sit there in my computer, and the words stay locked between my ears and never reach the tips of my fingers.

I've also been shooting lots of pictures of the food I make. I have a simple Canon digital camera (I couldn't tell you the model if you asked; that tells you a lot about how awesome I am at photography) and I don't think I have a lot of options when it comes to wanting to focus for a good picture - yes, I just follow the green rectangle on the screen, which doesn't materialize where I want it to most of the time. I end up taking picture after picture of the food, from different angles, playing with different camera functions, turning on more lights and opening the blinds, dressing up the "set", adjusting the food into more aesthetically appealing arrangements... If you're not a blogger/flickr/ such online communities foodie, you wouldn't understand what I'm talking about here.

In the end, I only have about a ton of pictures to scan through. The blurry ones and the accidental flash ones are the easiest to sort out. Those automatically get the honour of the delete button. It's the middle of the road pictures that make a hard decision. I always end up having several pictures where the difference is in the slightest - a hair's width - change in the frame. That makes life hard, at least when life's asking you to post more MoFo'ings.

This post is dedicated to the prolific life of voluptuous food photography:

One of my mother's co-workers grows apples in her backyard. Jealous! Luckily, my mother brought back a bag of them for us to eat...for me to eat. I eat about 3 of them every day. They are possibly the most delicious apples I've ever eatn. Yay for home-grown!
This one's cute; it looks kind of bashful or something:
I thought it would be clever to take photographs of the apple on top of some of my school books:
Can you tell I'm taking a Gothic fiction class? We're reading Dracula at the moment:

I made "The Best Pumpkin Muffins" from VWAV. I haven't eaten too many pumpkin muffins in my day, but there are definitely kicking butts from my humble perspective. I'm fantasizing about chocolate chips in them, next time. I do have leftover canned pumpkin in the fridge...

My personal favourite shot of the bunch:
You can't tell, but Pippin (my dog) is in the picture, top right corner:
My mother commissioned another apple pie. I used the gingerbread filling from VWAV, coupled with the pastry crust recipe from Veganomicon. My mother spirited the pie away the next morning, and the reviews so far are even better than the first one (from my Thanksgiving post). I'm making the pastry crust again, because I just love pastry crusts, and this time, I'm making sure I get to eat it. Preferably, eat it all.

The horridness of late-night baking and thus late-night food pictures - the lighting sucks!

So there you have it. If you felt at any time frustrated due to the repetitive nature of the line-up of pictures, then you've just felt the imposition of my own secret loathing of favouritism. What, I like all (not really) my pictures; I refuse to choose only one to share. Here's another secret: I'm slave to one of Picasa's editing features. It's called "I'm Feeling Lucky". If the pictures look off in colouring, shade, or highlighting, blame Picasa and Google for the product. I'm only the person propping the digital camera.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

VeganMoFo: The Old 'Fu

Since there were no pictures of my kickass new tofu scramble, here are recycled pictures of the old scramble, not so in favour:

With mixed greens:
I ate them with mashed yams:
And the very first tofu scramble so long ago:

VeganMoFo: Tofu Scramble, Love!

Oh my god, wow it's totally awesome. I can't stop gushing! I don't know what I did differently that would have made the difference, but - oh my god - it's perfect. I just made a tofu scramble - I've been pre-making food a lot lately, because it's so much more fun to cook when you feel like cooking, and to just heat up food in the fridge when you feel like kicking back. Anyway, I basically used the VWAV recipe, but with less cumin - maybe a bit more than 1/2 of what it calls for. Also, instead of firm tofu, I used traditional Asian tofu for the local market. It's much softer; it's almost silken, but not quite. My last significant change was the addition of a cornstarch-dissolved-in-soymilk mixture at the very end for an extra gooey touch. I like my tofu scrambles soft and moist. Oh, instead of mushrooms, I added corn, because I didn't like the mushroom taste last time. I realize my dislike is weird, especially since I love mushrooms in everything else. It's possible that my dislike was because of something else, so next time I'll try the mushrooms again. Yay! I love tofu scramble! I have breakfast for the next 3 days!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

"Vegan Blog Survey": aren't my titles great?

I haven't been feeling very creative lately. I got sick right after Thanksgiving. It rained all week. I had a background paper due Friday that I began Thursday after dinner.

So. I Googled "vegan blog survey", hoping for something useful. And the first hit was a VeganMoFo survey apparently from this year. Score!

1. Favorite non-dairy milk? For sheer economy, my family buys plain Silk in a carton of three from Costco. But I love the chocolate-flavoured So Nice. I also really loved an almond milk I tried, but I don't recall the brand.

2. What are the top 3 dishes/recipes you are planning to cook? Yikes. I don't know if I have a plan in place for the rest of the month...or if ever.

3. Topping of choice for popcorn? Huh. I haven't had home-popped popcorn since I was a wee kid. And haven't had any popcorn for...a long time. I would choose EB and salt, I guess. I'd try nooch on it too.

4. Most disastrous recipe/meal failure? My sister and I make cookies for our extended family every Christmas, and I remember one holiday we mistook teaspoon for tablespoon and ruined a batch of cookies. It is so sad when cookies meet the dumpster.

5. Favorite pickled item? Pickled ginger with sushi and pickled cucumbers in a burger.

6. How do you organize your recipes? I have a binder for web-printed or handwritten recipes. I also have a bunch of recipes that I either bookmarked or saved on file.

7. Compost, trash, or garbage disposal? Trash, though I want to eventually learn to compost.

8. If you were stranded on an island and could only bring 3 foods...what would they be (don't worry about how you'll cook them)? That's so hard. I love all my food. If these will magically provide all the nutrients I need to survive: peanut butter, banana, and (going out on a stinky limb here) durian.

9. Fondest food memory from your childhood? My mom baking! That seems like years ago. She must have stopped when I was still pretty young - before I was 8 or 9 - but my perception of the past in time kind of sucks. She would bake chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter cookies, jam thumprints she called "bird's nest cookies", banana bread, carrot muffins...Mmm. Nowadays, baking is sporadic, and I do all of it, more or less.

10. Favorite vegan ice cream? Out of the kinds I've tried, I like the taste of Purely Decadent the best, but it gets so rock hard in my freezer. Flavours: Chocolate Obsession and Peanut Butter Zig-Zag. I really want to get my hands on Chunky Mint Madness. Also, I want vegan soft-serve.

11. Most loved kitchen appliance? You know, I really love the feel of a good strong wooden spoon.

12. Spice/herb you would die without? Basil, though it's not something that finds a place in my meals too often.

13. Cookbook you have owned for the longest time? My very first cookbook: Vegan Vittles.

14. Favorite flavor of jam/jelly? Blueberry, strawberry, or raspberry. Actually I like all jam.

15. Favorite vegan recipe to serve to an omni friend? I like to switch it up for variety, but I'll go with lasagna.

16. Seitan, tofu, or tempeh? Tofu's closest to my heart, as it's a part of my cultural background.

17. Favorite meal to cook (or time of day to cook)? Dinner, because I have all day to plan and shop for it.

18. What is sitting on top of your refrigerator? Random cardboard boxes.

19. Name 3 items in your freezer without looking. A lump of pizza dough. Cake trimmings from the cake I blogged about earlier this month. Tempeh.

20. What's on your grocery list? Cornmeal. I made cornbread today and used up the last of it. I am the queen of cornbread.

21. Favorite grocery store? Choices.

22. Name a recipe you'd love to veganize, but haven't yet. Cheesecake, but I'm spoiled with Chi Cake, so I'll probably never get around to that.

23. Food blog you read the most (besides Isa's because I know you check it everyday). Or maybe the top 3? I've been looking through too many!

24. Favorite vegan candy/chocolate? None. I'm impartial to candy - don't buy, so I don't even know which ones are vegan. If someone gave me vegan candy though, I'll eat it! As for chocolate, I prefer it in something, like a baked cookie or muffin, or a milkshake.

25. Most extravagant food item purchased lately? Dutch-processed cocoa powder.

26. Ingredients you are scared to work with? How about something I'm sacred to make? Seitan.

Monday, October 13, 2008

VeganMoFo: Thanksgiving

It was okay. My sister disliked it, but she also said she dislikes "all things with tofu". Are you, my sister, even Asian? My mother thought it was a good thing to have, if only for the sake of having something that looked that part of the usual centrepiece. She said it made it more exciting. The texture was okay, but I couldn't really taste anything. There were tastier things on my plate...

Yum! I can't believe how easily the potatoes fluffed, and the spinach was a nice touch.

The gravy was delish, but it would have been better. It was my fault - I forgot the 1/4 cup nutritional yeast at the very end, so there was quite a distinct lemony taste that the nutritional yeast would probably have mellowed. All the diners enjoyed it though. I think my dad actually prefered the extra sour lemony flavour. Ha!

It's for certain: homemade stuffing is much better than any storebought (including the over-salted mush inside Tofurky's Roast). The apples and raisins were nice additions to the traditional recipe. The ingredients are so varied and all-encompassing that I think that we can forgo a Tofurky next time and just eat stuffing, which is the best part anyway. I think I'll add more vegetable broth - I do like my stuffing a bit mushier. Speaking of vegetable broth, I made my own today! I've always been totally intimidated by homemade broths. I don't know why now, because it was so darn easy! I had a few vegetable scraps I'd saved up before in the freezer. So easy. So adaptable. I kept dumping in various scraps from the vegetables I was chopping up for other dishes throughout the simmering process.

This was the not-as-sweet Isa recipe, which I still found plenty sweet. I think I love all cornbread, so this was a no-brainer yum!

I got rave reviews! Our friend said it was professional, to which I said aw shucks, it was only the recipe. And really it was. I had no idea how to make a pie, and ta-da! a pie! With a pie crust that doesn't require rolling!

I didn't get indivdiual pictures, but here's a picture (with poor lighting, unfortunately) of the spread:
In the middle of mixing the stuffing ingredients, and my proud vegetable stock in the background: Stove-top action (big silver pot: mashed potatoes; saucepan in foreground: gravy):

Happy Thanksgiving, Canada!