Last Meal (Vegan MoFo #21)

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I decided to end Vegan MoFo with an entire book-based meal. Main dish, sides, drinks, and dessert are all mentioned in the book, so I cooked it all! I’ll miss the challenge this month has been, but it will also be nice to be able to not worrying about blogging five days a week. I’m already planning my theme (*cough* Disney movies *cough*) for next year.
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The genre of vampire fiction has grown rapidly these last few years. But the first vampire series I remember getting truly invested in (before all the Twilight hubub took over)  was Cirque Du Freak by Darren Shan. The first book in the series is A Living Nightmare, in which the main character is a young boy, Darren. Darren’s obsession with the supernatural and outlandish prompts him and his friend, Steve, to visit a traveling freak show that has just rolled into town. Due to their encounters at the show, Darren and Steve end up over their heads and thrown from their mundane everyday lives into being involved in the dangerous vampire world. Now Darren must choose between saving Steve’s life and sacrificing his own human future.

In the same vein as Goosebumps, but with much better writing, A Living Nightmare (and the rest of the Cirque Du Freak books) tells a harrowing story involving vampire mythos, a dash of sarcastic humor, and good old fashioned gore. Great for anyone wanting to read a vampire story that does not involve romance or sparkles.

This would be my last meal with them and I wanted it to be special. When I was looking back on it in later years, I wanted to be able to remember us together, at home, a happy family.

Mom cooked my favorite food: chicken, roast potatoes, corn on the cob. Annie and me had freshly squeezed orange juice to drink. Mom and Dad shared a bottle of wine. We had strawberry cheesecake for dessert. Everybody was in a good mood.” – Cirque Du Freak (A Living Nightmare) (paperback) page 225

I won’t tell why (I hate spoilers), but Darren is having his last meal with his family. Because of this it’s a very important dinner and I wanted to make sure I captured that in my last Vegan MoFo meal. For the chicken I used PETA’s cruelty free Chick-fil-a recipe, the potatoes were just thinly sliced and baked with Lawry’s seasoning salt and pepper, and then some fresh corn on the cob. I served it with barbecue sauce and orange juice.

cirque du freak mealThe best part of this meal though was the dessert. I decided to adapt my lemon-berry cheesecake recipe and make it into strawberry cheesecake. I wish I’d done this recipe earlier in the month when strawberries were more in season, but it still turned out well with the mediocre selection that was available.

strawberry cheezcake

Strawberry Cheesecake

Serves 8

Ingredients:

One graham cracker crust (store-bought or home-made)

1 cup silken tofu

2 cups fresh strawberries

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 tablespoons cornstarch

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a food processor blend together all the ingredients (except the pie crust) until smooth.

Pour the strawberry mix into the crust, place on a cookie sheet, and bake for 60-75 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Chill for at least 5 hours and then slice and serve! This is also great garnished with strawberry sauce or vegan whipped cream.

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Sandwiches, Scones, and Game of Thrones

The weather was extremely nice last week, so Peter and I had a picnic at the park. There we munched on these grilled pizza sandwiches (which had pizza hummus and Daiya inside) and cucumber slices dipped in Italian salad dressing.
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I made a batch of Mom’s Chili, which I ate with crackers. I skipped using canned beans though, and cooked up some dried black beans and red beans the day before in the slow cooker. Then I mixed them with the rest of the ingredients to make the chili.

???????????????????????????????The next day the leftover chili was turned into a “Frito pie”. With layered crushed Frito corn chips and chili then smothered in healthy cheese sauce.

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Tomato-rosemary scones from Vegan Brunch. I’ve actually never baked scones before, but these were extremely easy to make and very delicious. My favorite way to have these is warmed up with a pat of margarine in the middle.
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Soft tacos with Upton’s Naturals chorizo seitan, Daiya pepper jack, lettuce, and tomatoes. It was my first time trying the Upton’s seitan. I really liked the taste and texture of it, but the small amount of seitan per package for a fairly high price (at least at my local Earth Fare) was not worth it.
???????????????????????????????“Chicken” parmesan, made with soy-tan dream cutlets from 1,000 Vegan Recipes (which I breaded and pan-fried), with melted Daiya mozzarella, all on top of spaghetti in a creamy marinara sauce, and sprinkled with nutritional yeast.
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Lentil and veggie soup, which I mostly made because I needed to clean out my refrigerator’s produce drawer. It has lentils, onions, corn, carrots, tomatoes, green beans, peas, potatoes, and lima beans which were all cooked in a garlic tomato broth.

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For our three-year anniversary, Peter got me (along with a few other things) The Unofficial Game of Thrones Cookbook. I’m a big fan of the television show and hope to begin reading the books soon, so I was super excited to have these recipes based on the series.

Our local gaming group is actually starting a GoT roleplaying campaign, so for our session I made Arya’s Apricot Tart to share. Except there are no fresh apricots available around here, so we settled for peaches. To veganize the recipe I subbed Earth Balance for butter, coconut milk for heavy cream, and I used this recipe for the crust. It turned out delicious with a flaky crust, juicy peaches, and buttery crumble topping. I can’t wait to try more recipes from the cookbook.

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Summer Food Lovin’

Summer is upon us! So now is the time to be free and spend my days cooking, baking, crafting, blogging, and playing with my new kitten (who shall get his own post later).

I moved out from the dorms and into a lovely apartment with my friend, Ryan. We have a nice kitchen with plenty of space, and I plan on trying at least one new recipe a week over the summer break. This should give me plenty to blog about and, hopefully, add a few good recipes to my repertoire.

Below are the meals I’ve made from the last two weeks of school up until I moved into the apartment (except the last one).

Chilled rice salad made with brown rice, corn, carrots, tomatoes, and water chestnuts, all tossed in an olive oil and vinegar dressing and placed on top of mixed greens.
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Spaghetti with “meaty” marinara sauce, and a side salad.
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Slow cooker refried beans. Not particularly pretty, but delicious and much cheaper and healthier than the store-bought canned kind.
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Homemade salsa verde made by blending tomatillos, cilantro, lime juice, and garlic in the food processor. ???????????????????????????????Soft tacos with black beans, corn, tomatoes, onions, spinach, and salsa.

???????????????????????????????Homemade chick’n seitan patty with ketchup, a side salad, and Spanish rice.

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And now I bestow upon you, my faithful readers, the most delicious vegan mac and cheese in existence. I tried the recipe on a whim, but this butternut squash mac and cheese is totally amazing. A lot of vegan cheese sauces are close, yet not exactly what I remember mac and cheese to taste like. But this recipe is so creamy and cheesy tasting, I bet you could even trick an omnivore. It reminds me of the Cracker Barrel mac and cheese I loved during my pre-vegan youth.
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Veggie salad with saffron couscous.???????????????????????????????One of the first meals I made in my new kitchen was seitan tetrazzini, mashed potatoes and squash, and fresh corn on the cob (take note of the awesome pig corn holders). I changed the tetrazzini recipe by adding an onion, Mrs. Dash garlic and herb, and using Morningstar chick’n meal starter strips instead of seitan. It was good, but a bit dry after baking it. Next time I’ll probably skip baking it and just broil the Daiya on top.

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Post of the S – Spaghetti, Sandwich, and Soup

Okay, so I have a hard time coming up with cute titles for these posts. So there are others meals in here that don’t start with S, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t just as yummy as the food included in the titles. 😛

I am way behind on posting regular food pictures, so don’t be too surprised when I mention Halloween in this post.

Tomato herb couscous (recipe coming soon!) and barbecue  Morningstar chick’n strips

Mushroom spaghetti and salad with balsamic vinaigrette.

The glorious thing you are about to see below is an artichoke-bacon chicken salad sandwich. This is probably the best sandwich I’ve ever had. It’s not very healthy, so it will have to be only made on occasion, but anyone who likes chick’n salad should try this.

Peter’s family made a wonderful dinner the other day. I had a Boca burger patty with A1, roasted sweet potato, steamed broccoli, and fried green tomatoes.

The Family and Consumer Sciences Student Group at UM had a Halloween bake sale and so of course I had to make lots of vegan treats!

Carrot cake cupcakes with cheez cream frosting
Peanut butter cereal “bars”, which fell apart so I just mooshed them into balls

Cookie dough bites (from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar) dipped in chocolate

Soy-Tan Dream Cutlets (which are amazing!) with buttery pasta
Potato soup with bacon bits

Fall is the Season of Blogging

Well  summer has come and gone, thank goodness! As much as I like having nothing to do, I have desperately missed school and Montevallo. And for some reason when I have nothing to do, I don’t blog either. It may seem strange, but when I’m back at school (even with homework and projects to do) I have much more drive to blog just for the fun of it.

But just because I didn’t write this summer doesn’t mean I didn’t photograph all of my good meals. Here’s what I enjoyed:

Super veggie salad with mixed lettuce, avocado, tomato, cucumber, kalamata olives, a chopped Boca chick’n patty, and drizzled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

Baked tofu that had been dipped in a simple coating of flour/soymilk with tons of seasonings and topped with caramelized onions.

I realize this salad (can it really be called a salad if there’s no lettuce?) isn’t the prettiest dish around, but it sure was tasty. A tortilla bowl with beans, spiced veggie crumbles, nacho cheez (made with Daiya) and guacamole.

I also found out that the cardboard braces in the tortilla shell box make fantastic crowns! That is me modeling it below with my serious face on.
Summer is the perfect time for an ice-box pie. So I made this cherry cheez-cake pie. It’s just a simple homemade graham cracker crust layered with a mix of cream cheez, vanilla extract, and powdered sugar, then canned cherry pie filling. Super simple and fast, but really good.

Here’s yet another salad. This one has mixed lettuce, red onions, tomato, smoked tofu, and kalamata olive Greek dressing. I (sadly) can’t remember the name of the dressing brand, but I bought it at Earth Fare. It is by far the best salad dressing I’ve ever had, so if I can find the name I’ll be sure to share it here.

And this summer I also experienced something wondrous: I ate my first peanut butter cup since going vegan four and a half years ago. My traveled to Cullman, AL to visit my friend Seth and while we were there we found Justin’s organic peanut butter cups. They are less sweet than the traditional Reese’s Cups that I remember, but the dark chocolate and natural peanut butter were phenomenal together. Definitely worth the long wait to find something this good.

Gardein Reviews

Recently, the people at Gardein were kind enough to send me some coupons to try three of their products for free. I’ve reviewed one of their products before, and I’m glad to have the opportunity to do so again.

BBQ Pulled Shreds 

(available in the refrigerated section)

When I saw this package of vegan barbeque I was immediately excited. I loved eating barbeque in my pre-vegan days, so when I saw how good the Gardein BBQ Shreds looked in the package, I couldn’t wait to try it out in a sandwich.

I got home and decided to eat some of the barbeque for lunch. I cut open the package and was hit with a smell. It smelled sorta like barbeque sauce, but way sweeter, like they had added too much sugar. Not willing to let the off putting smell ruin it, I followed the instructions on the back and cooked the pulled shreds in a small pan on the stove. I toasted the bread, opened some pita chips and ended up putting together a quick and delicious looking lunch. Sadly, the sandwich wasn’t as yummy as it looked. I took a bite and was shocked by how sweet the barbeque sauce was. It tasted pretty much like brown sugar, tomato sauce and some seasonings were just mixed together. To make matters worse, the taste stays in your mouth for a while afterwards. On the other hand the texture of the shreds were great. Slightly chewy, but still with the a soft shredded feel, it reminded me a lot of pulled pork. So all in all, the sauce was gross and over powered the entire meal, but the shreds were good. If Gardein would sell the shreds dry, I would totally buy some, but as long as they continue to add that barbeque sauce, I won’t be buying this product again.

Seven Grain Crispy Tenders

(available in the freezer section)

I have to say, these breaded strips are the best vegan “chicken” product I’ve ever eaten. Boca, Morningstar, Gardenburger, nothing from these brands even compares to these tasty crispy tenders by Gardein.

 They taste so much like chicken that you should be able to trick any omnivore into thinking these are the real thing. They taste how I remember chicken, and have an amazing texture. They’re chewy and juicy with a crispy breading that pulls everything together.

Whether you eat them plain with a dipping sauce, put ’em in a casserole, or put them on top of a salad, there’s no wrong way to eat these tasty chick’n strips. Since they’re low in fat (only 1.5 grams per serving!) and also high in protein (9 grams per serving), you can indulge in these without having to worry about your waist-line. So if these are available in your area, go buy them now! If they aren’t available in your area… Well then, I hope for your sake that they come soon, because these are truly delicious.

BBQ Skewers

(available in the refrigerated section)

I previously confessed my love for barbeque while reviewing BBQ Shreds and I’m glad to say this barbeque product does not disappoint.

 Each package comes with four skewers (each with four pieces of “meat”) in a sauce. I was warily eyeing the sauce, afraid that it was the same kind that the BBQ Shreds had come packed in, but thankfully it wasn’t. The barbeque sauce was quite yummy, with a hickory smoke flavor. The “meat” itself reminds me of roast beef. It’s very tender, but doesn’t fall off the stick after being cooked. I tried it first by putting the pieces of “beef” on longer shish kabob skewers along with slices of zucchini, fresh apricot, red onion, and drizzling it with balsalmic vinegar and olive oil. I then baked it at 400 degrees for 16 minutes, flipping half way through the baking time. The result was sooo good. The meat was tender and moist, with a smoky kick under the sweetness that came from it being baked next to the apricot slices. I would seriously recommend trying it this way, because it was delcious!

The second way I tried the bbq skewers was in a shepherd’s pie. I baked the skewers as instructed on the back of the package and added it to mushroom gravy (I was lazy and used Campbell’s canned mushroom gravy, which is accidentily vegan) along with corn, lima beans, peas, green beans and sauted onion. I added the gravy mixture to a casserole dish, then topped it with colcannon (mashed potatoes + sauted kale = colcannon). I placed it in an oven pre-heated to 400 degrees and let it bake for 15 minutes. This too was very yummy. Pretty quick and easy to throw together (especially if you’re using left over colcannon), I can see myself eating this quite often in the future.

So all in all, Gardein had two hits and one miss. The Crispy Tenders and BBQ Skewers were very yummy and I would definitely recommend that you try them. The BBQ Shreds on the other hand need their sauce changed, before I’d recommend it to anyone.