Sunday, February 6, 2011

PPK Cookbook Challenge Week 4: Vegan with a Vengeance

Week 4, Vegan with a Vengeance.

I have to admit, my non-vegan (at the time) mother turned me onto this book. When my sister and I went vegan, our mom did what she does best and got really into it. She bought a bunch of vegan cookbooks and during one of my visits home, she made the Raspberry-Chocolate Chip Blondie Bars. They never stood a chance, and I ordered the book right away.

For Week 4, I chose five recipes and made four of them on the same day.

Mocha Chip Muffins
I really like these, but they're more of a chocolate-chocolate chip muffin. The coffee flavor isn't terribly strong, but I think the chocolate flavors are enhanced by the coffee. I do like them a lot though, and they're a wonderful afternoon treat. In the future I'll reduce the number of muffins I make to get bigger muffins.

Curried Split Pea Soup
This soup is great. It's super easy to make, with most of the cooking time being down time. The flavor is lovely, and mellow. It's wonderful comfort food for a cold day and pairs well with toast.

Spicy Indian Rice with Toasted Almonds
This rice is worth the bit of extra effort (and it is such a very little bit it's hardly worth saying). It's flavorful without stealing the show, which makes it perfect as an accompaniment. Next time, I'll make it to go with Aloo Gobi. I will also double the amount of almonds in the future because I really like almonds.

Mushroom and Sun-Dried Tomato Risotto
This is so good that I ate way too much of it the first night, became too full, and didn't want anymore. I tried it with the truffle oil, and hated that. It literally tastes like dirt, which I guess is what Moskowitz meant when she called it "earthy." I can see how some people might like it, and I'll try it again one day, but my dishes will be truffle oil-less and my palate unrefined for now.'

Out of the four dishes I made on that one day, this was the most time-consuming, but it comes together easily. The biggest deal is all the stirring, but since I was multitasking and stuck in the kitchen anyway, it didn't seem like a big deal. It won't be on the emergency dinner list, but it's great if you want something filling and fancy without a huge investment of time an effort. I also think it would be nice during a fall or winter holiday meal.

Orange-Rum Tea Cake
This cake is fabulous. It's so orangey and sweet. My sensitive teeth don't like the cornmeal, but it's actually great. It adds a lot to the very fluffy cake. The almonds on top also add a lot to the texture. Perfect with tea or coffee, I'll be sure to make this when entertaining guests.

Friday, February 4, 2011

PPK Cookbook Challenge Week 3: Urban Vegan

Week 3, The Urban Vegan

The Pumpkin Daal Soup is definitely one of the best dishes I've made from this book. It tastes great and was crazy easy. It's pretty sweet, so next time I'll half the sugar, but it was great served over brown basmati rice. I also found the flavor mellowed by the next day and it was even better.

The Tuscan Braised Beans are great served as Balcavage suggests, with a drizzle of olive oil and some nutritional yeast, alongside a green salad and crusty bread. I found the lemon to be a bit jarring, and I'll reduce that next time, but the nutritional yeast really mutes the tartness, so it worked. This dish is wicked easy and will be in the regular rotation in the future.

I made the Microwave Satay Sauce to use in the Spicy Udon Noodles. The sauce was super easy and tastes good. I ended up eating it over steamed broccoli because I only needed a tablespoon for the noodles.

The Spicy Udon Noodles weren't spicy at all. They were super delicious, but you're going to need to add some extra curry paste and/or chili pepper if you want any heat. The dish came together really fast and is perfect for when you're short on time, and that takes making the satay into account. I subbed peas for the edamame, and they were great. Having the extra sauce on hand was nice since by the next day, the noodles needed a little extra.

The Portobello Burritos are easy to make and really excellent. They're filling and the stuffing is fairly flavorful. I used pineapple salsa and that proved to be wise. It provided a wonderful sweet contrast to the savory burritos, but next time I'll use two jars. I'll also marinate the portobellos, and add corn to the filling. Balcavage suggests vegan cheese as a filling option, and I didn't do that, but with the leftovers, I cut them in half and added a bit of Daiya before microwaving, and it's worth adding in the future.

Finally, I made the English Muffins. They took three days due to the rising times and my own schedule, but that was no obstacle with a little forethought. I had trouble getting them to cook through without burning them and had to play with the heat quite a bit. They ended up looking more like pancakes on the outside and were pretty flat, but the insides did look like the English muffins you might buy at the store. They were good with a bit of jam, but I don't think I'll repeat this recipe. It was a lot of work compared to the payoff.

In the past, I've made the Raspberry Pound Cake and the Def Jam Bars, and I strongly recommend those if you're looking to try a dessert. Both of them were super sweet, and I have a sweet tooth that disgusts my family and friends, so you may want to reduce the sugar a bit in each.