Thursday, October 15, 2009

Vegan Month of Food: Vegan Cheesy Mushroom Risotto

I know I've been writing alot about Daiya vegan cheese lately, but I had to share this delicious creation with you, too. In case you needed further proof that Daiya is awesome.

So boyfriend and I, like most of the country, are trying to cut back and save some money. This means more "pantry meals," and fewer extravagant vegan feasts. Luckily, by adding a few fresh ingredients to the inexpensive pantry stuff, I've learned to cook up some pretty tasty grub. This week, we decided to use up some of the Aborio rice by making a risotto. I made it special by adding fresh mushrooms, fresh arugula, and some Daiya that had been sitting in the fridge. It made a delicious, gooey, and warm dish that filled our tummies to capacity. So good!

So here's what I did.

1 cup arborio rice
4 cups vegetable broth
2 cups sliced mushrooms
2 tbsp chopped onion
1/4 cup Earth Balance
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 white wine
1/4 cup soy milk
1 cup Daiya
Salt & Pepper to taste
2 cups fresh arugula (optional)

Start by melting your Earth Balance in a large pan over medium heat. Once it's melted, add your onion, garlic, mushrooms, and rice. Continue heating and stir frequently for about two minutes, and be sure everything has been coated with the Earth Balance. Deglaze the pan with the wine and use your spoon to scrape up the good bits at the bottom of the pan.

With the lid off, add the vegetable broth and the soy milk, and mix well. Allow the mixture to simmer over medium-low heat until the liquid has completely absorbed, about 25-30 minutes. Keep a close eye on it, and stir it often. Once the liquid has absorbed, stir in the Daiya, and add salt and pepper to taste. Daiya is pretty salty, so be sure to season after adding it. Better safe than sorry! Remove from heat. Finally, gently stir in the arugula until it has slightly wilted. Serve and enjoy!

If you ask me the arugula brings a really interesting flavor and bite to the dish that's really tasty. Granted, it's sort of unheard of to wilt greens into a risotto, but whatever. I'm living dangerously.

So, this may not be the epitome of a "pantry meal" in everyone's mind, but it is for me. I pretty much always have these ingredients on hand because they're versatile and are great to turn to when you want to whip up a good meal on the fly. This dish turned out to be a lot of fun, super satisfying, and very delicious. And best of all, it was easy on my wallet! Perfect for a chilly day during a recession!


Monday, October 12, 2009

Vegan Month of Food: Meals By Genet

For vegans, eating in restaurants can be tricky. I'm lucky enough to live in Los Angeles, where there's a good number of vegan restaurants to choose from when my tummy rumbles. But I have a lot of omnivorous friends, and when we choose to dine together, part of me always worries a little bit. It's on occasions like last night, when vegan boyfriend and I dined with omnivorous friends, that I am very grateful for a very-vegan-friendly restaurant like Meals By Genet.

Meals By Genet, a well-reviewed Ethiopian restaurant nestled in the heart of Little Ethiopia in Los Angeles, is the place that introduced me to Ethiopian Cuisine. And boy am I grateful. If you're not familiar (and don't worry if you're not, this type of cuisine isn't too common in the United States), Ethiopian cuisine is mainly made up of vegetable and meat dishes served on top of Injera; a large, spongy sourdough flatbread that's not too far off from a pita. Lucky for me, an amazing amount of these dishes are vegan, and if they're not, they can easily be altered. The staff at Meals By Genet was more than happy to oblige us by veganizing our tofu dish (it is normally made with Ethiopian butter).

So basically, here's how it works. You get a huge plate that is topped with a piece of that delicious sourdough-like Injera bread, that is then layered with all kinds of delicious veggie concotions in a circle around the perimeter. In the center is your main dish (in our case, tofu, in our friends' case, a meat dish). You're each provided another piece of Injera that you then use in place of your utensils. Just rip off a piece and scoop! Boyfriend and I ate off the same plate, and it was outrageously yummy. What's fun, too, is that when you're done with your piece of Injera, you can eat the one that is on the plate. It soaks up all the delicious juices from the food and is extremely flavorful. Below is a photo of Genet, the chef, holding one of her meals.

So I think we've learned a nice little lesson here. When choosing a place to dine with your omnivorous friends, think out of the box. It's been my experience that ethnic cuisines are often "VVF" (very-vegan-friendly, it's an official term now, k?) and can be a lot of fun for everyone. Just be sure to call beforehand so you're not left eating dry lettuce leaves. We've all been there, right? Oh, and next time you're in L.A., hit up Little Ethiopia. Next week, boyfriend and I are hoping to go to Rahel, a completely vegan Ethiopian restaurant! I'll be sure to report back. But for now, grab that friendly omnivore you've been meaning to eat with and head down to Meals By Genet. You won't regret it!

Meals By Genet
1053 S Fairfax Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90019-4402
(323) 938-9304

photos courtesy Meals By Genet website.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Vegan Month of Food: Mac n' Daiya!

Ah, Mac n' Cheese. Ooey gooey warm and delicious, and SO not vegan... until now! Daiya, my newest vegan cheese obsession, helped me to make an absolutely delightful mac n' daiya cheese casserole that could have fooled an omnivore! In fact, my three guests for the mac n' daiya extravaganza were not vegan at all, but all three wholeheartedly approved of the dish. See the lovely tasters below.

Every Tuesday, my girls (from left: Ruby, Sierra, and Estefania) and I get together to share a meal. I look forward to this night every week, mainly because it gives us all a chance to catch up on a regular basis. It also provides me with a perfect opportunity to cook something I normally wouldn't make, and to share it with my friends. See: huge dish of mac n' daiya.

Now, I'm not going to claim credit for the recipe, this was a creation of a fabulous food blog called To Live and Eat in LA. To my delight, the recipe was easy to follow and turned out spectacularly. I made the recipe a little larger, about 1 1/2 cups to every cup. It was super simple, and really quite delicious. Boyfriend Mack and I even heated it up the next day to spectacular results. Here's a close up of the ooey gooey goodness.

Also pictured is Sierra's Salad (delicious spinach with cherries and walnuts), Estefania's Tofu (ok, she was running late this week, it was store-bought. Still delicious!), and Ruby's Mashed Sweet Potatoes. All together, a wonderful collaboration as usual!

Thanks to To Live and Eat in LA. I highly suggest you check out the blog ASAP if you haven't already!

Have a good weekend!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Vegan Month of Food: Easy "Meat"ball Subs

Over the weekend, Mack and I did some major shopping around town (we just moved, and needed some stuff), and since we live in L.A., this means we also logged some serious car time. This, of course, can lead to strange conversations while sitting in traffic. Among other things, Mack and I learned that before going vegan we both had a serious appreciation for meatball subs with provolone cheese melted on top. As you may be able to guess, I was immediately inspired to veganize this old favorite of ours.

And so! Last night's dinner was ooey-gooey cheesy saucey vegan goodness on a bun. And all kinds of simple!

This meal was so easy to throw together, I'm not sure you can call it a recipe. I started by grabbing some Whole Kitchen Vegan Meatballs from Whole Foods, which I heated up in a sauce pan with some plain old jarred pasta sauce. Just use enough to cover the meatballs in sauce. While that's heating up, slice open some soft sandwich rolls, and heat your oven to 350 degrees. When the sauce and meatballs are simmering, spoon the desired amount of meatballs into the rolls. Then cover with your favorite vegan cheese. I used Daiya, which I am obsessed with. It's available pre-shredded at Whole Foods.

Place the sandwiches on a baking sheet and place in the oven for about ten to fifteen minutes, or until the cheese has completely melted. Keep an eye on the bread, too, because depending on which type you choose, it may get too crispy.

Obviously, vegan cheeses won't melt the same way dairy cheeses will, so be sure to look closely- your cheese may not look completely melted, but it may be ready to eat. Burning is a possibility as well, so make sure not to over cook. The Daiya on our sandwiches was gooey and melty in the center, even if it may not seem that way in the photo.

These sandwiches were absolutely delicious, and proved (once again) that just about anything can be made vegan. Also, you can whip them up in less than 30 minutes. Perfect for a work or school night!


Monday, October 5, 2009

Vegan Month of Food: Icepan Adventures!

Happy Vegan Month of Food! I'll say, I've always loved October, but now that it's Vegan MoFo, I love it even more.

Since it still feels mostly like summer here in Los Angeles, I decided to use my lunch break on a chilly treat: vegan ice cream! After reading about Icepan on, I knew I had to check it out; it's just a few blocks from my office! I was not disappointed.

Icepan offers ten different flavors, each of which can be made with one of four kinds of milk: whole, low-fat, non-fat, and soy (hooray!). From there, you can add toppings in or on top of the ice cream. What's really cool is that they actually create the ice cream from scratch, right in front of you! Click here to read about their technique.

Being a chocolate freak, I went with chocolate ice cream with walnuts mixed in and Oreos on top. Completely delicious.

The dessert was creamy, chocolatey, and very satisfying to the sweet tooth. It was rich and delicious. Tastes like the real thing! I highly recommend.

If you're in L.A., check them out!
7100 Santa Monica Blvd. #135
West Hollywood, CA 90046
Phone: (323) 883-0267
Fax: (323) 883-0726
Hours: 11am - 10pm
11am-11pm Friday & Saturday