Thursday, October 13, 2016

UH-mazing Vegan Chocolate Hazelnut Spread: Nocciolata

Holy Yumtown. This biz is good.

I remember the first time I ever had Nutella. I was just a little girl, and someone gave us a jar. I called my mom to verify the details, and as we recall, it was probably my childhood friend Mariya - whose father was German. It's funny that I don't remember who gave it to me - because I remember eating it in the back yard of my parents' house, and I remember quite clearly that it was amazing. My young, impressionable mind was blown. Of course I knew about jam on toast, and even cinnamon-sugar toast, but chocolate on toast was totally next-level.

little kiddo amey learns about the joy of chocolates + hazelnuts

But as we all know, Nutella is not vegan, so I haven't eaten it for many years. There are a few vegan versions of chocolate-hazelnut spread out there in the world, but to the best of my knowledge, they all contain palm oil, which I avoid. I'm especially not willing to purchase palm oil for such a total luxury item as chocolate spread. (If you don't know about the issues around habit destruction involving palm oil, you can learn more here -- it's a really important issue).

hey, good lookin'...

So, when Rigoni di Asiago sent me a jar of their new vegan, organic, non-gmo, palm-oil-free Nocciolata Hazelnut & Cocoa spread to review for the blog, I was totally jazzed. The only thing I was concerned about was that I didn't find Rigoni di Asiago listed anywhere on the Food Empowerment Project list of chocolates that don't use slave labor. But then I read on Sistah Vegan's blog that Rigoni di Asiago replied to her inquiry and assured her that they even use a Fair Trade source of cocoa on this product (see her post here). Awesome sauce!! It's pretty freaking amazing to have such a delicious specialty item that also meets ALL of my many ethical preferences! (it's also gluten-free, soy-free, and kosher, in case those are concerns of yours). 

true love!

And, I'm happy to report that even with a high level of enthusiastic anticipation before opening my jar, my expectations were totally surpassed! This stuff is so fantastic: thick, spreadable, super chocolatey and super hazelnutty -- I was transported right back in time to my first mind-blowing bite of choco-hazelnut spread all over again. 

I have been seriously grooving on this jar of spreadable joy: I've enjoyed it on toast (the classic!), with pretzels, and (most commonly) straight out of the jar. Before this jar is empty, I gotta make some crepes though -- because crepes filled with chocolate hazelnut spread is something wonderful that I haven't had in years. Anyway, even if I "accidentally" eat my way through this whole jar before I get around to making crepes, that will be okay because it will just give me a "reason" to buy more of this amazing Nocciolata. 

I love this stuff and we enthusiastically give it 4 thumbs up! 
(if dogs and cats could eat chocolate, I'm sure they would also give it 20 paws up)

Vegans Go Nuts Winner: Charj! 
ps. I'm sorry I was gone from my blog for so long. It turns out that travelling to Italy for a month really throws me off my blogging game. Plus, as soon as I came home, our computer crashed and we had to buy a new one. Ack! I'm stoked to be back in action - AND I finally picked a winner for my giveaway of Joni & Celine's excellent cookbook "Vegans Go Nuts" - Comment #49 was Charj! 

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Book Review & Giveaway: Vegans Go Nuts!

My vegan pals Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman have a new cookbook out called "Vegans Go Nuts" and it is totally awesome! (full disclosure: I received a copy of this book to review) I have - and love - several books from this dynamic duo. One of the things I really appreciate about these two is that their recipes are always creative and unique -- and this book is no exception. I've already made several great dishes from this book and have lots more that I am looking forward to making.

Vegans Go Nuts! 

Every recipe in "Vegans Go Nuts" has at least one nut or seed in it, and many recipes have several -- whole nuts and seeds, nut and seed butters or oils, nut flour, nut milks, and so on! So many creative and delicious and ways to include these nutritious and yummy goodies in our vegan meals! The book has chapters on Breakfasts, Soups Salads & Sides, Main Dishes, Desserts, and more.

Left: Citrusy Cashew Baba Ghanoush
Middle: Pepita Pepper Hummus
Right: Pistachio Dukkah

I am usually quite a hummus traditionalist and I don't usually appreciate anyone messing with my beloved hummus. And yet, something attracted me to this recipe for Pepita Pepper Hummus -- and I'm so glad I made it. This hummus has roasted poblano, jalepeno and green bell pepper in it, along with roasted pepitas, herbs and spices... and it all adds up to a totally new and magical combo. We both loved this recipe a lot!

The Citrusy Cashew Baba Ghanoush was also a delicious and creative spin on a classic. Charred and smoky eggplant, bright lemon juice, spicy harissa, and fresh herbs... all add up to a very satisfying spread. 

Of course I also had to make some Pistachio Dukkah, because I love Dukkah so much -- it's a nutty, salty, spicy mixture that is a lovely addition to hummus and baba ghanoush, but is also great on avocado toast, with olive oil & bread, and also just by the spoonful!

I had a little Baba G., Pepita Hummus, and roasted veggies left over after our dinner, so I used it all together in one glorious and delicious summer sandwhich - which I am eager to repeat and re-eat again!! 

This Pea Scramble with Peanut Miso Dressing was unlike like anything I've ever made before -- it's so refreshing and exciting to find recipes that are so wholly new. Tofu and peas are scrambled together with seasoning, served over shredded cabbage, and drizzled with a lovely Peanut Miso dressing. As you can see, I also made the optional Carrot Pickles ... which I highly recommend. In fact, I made a half batch, and I liked them so much that then I made a whole batch and I have just been eating them out of the container in my fridge! They are spicey and briney and seasoned with vaguely Asian-inspired spices, and they pack a serious yum punch! 

Boom! Pow! Yum!

Vietnamese Peanut Tacos
drizzled with almond-lime sauce and sriracha

Here are those magnificent carrot pickles again! This recipe for Vietnamese Peanut Tacos is one of my favorites so far from this book : I loved this dinner!!!! On the left is my taco with the sauces drizzled on top, and on the right is a still-bare taco so you can see more what's going on. This recipe takes some time because the pickles and the tempeh both need to marinate - but it's inactive time. After all the marinating is done, the whole thing comes together pretty quickly. These tacos are just bursting with flavors and textures -- some highly seasoned elements (like the carrots and tempeh) along with some very fresh and raw elements (like the cabbage, cukes, and garnishes). I can't wait to eat these again! 

Sesame Za'atar Pepper Soup with Roasted Pepitas

Do you know about za'atar? It's a super delicious spice mix from the Middle East. One year I gave all my family members bottles of za'atar because I really wanted them all to love it as much as I do. So, when I saw this recipe for Sesame Za'atar Pepper Soup, I knew I was going to make it! It's a great recipe: spicy and rich with flavor. I added a can of drained chickpeas and a generous splash of almond milk too. Mmm. Mr. VE&T isn't a vegan, but he did actually go nuts for this soup, just like the book titled promises!

going nuts!

perfect late summer bowl of soup

Next I made the Cream of Pumpkin and Corn with Cashews and Lime Soup  -- a thick, pureed soup topped with roasted corn kernels and chopped scallions. Such a nice combo of a rich, creamy puree with the crunch and crisp of the garnishes. I also loved how this recipe combined perfect late summer season ingredients: corn and limes which are still available at the end of summer, and winter squash which are just starting to show up. 

Glorious creation that I cannot stop eating

Now. One last recipe that I must tell you about: Cashew Butter and Sesame Tomato Jam on Toast. Gentle readers, I love this delicious concoction so much. We had a lot of tomatoes in our garden, and so this recipe caught my eye. But I was a little unsure, because who's ever heard of tomato jam... so I just made a half batch. Holy bananas!! I loved it so much that I ate it all and had to make a full batch. This recipe is totally amazing -- avocado, tomato sesame jam, cashews, cilantro... It all adds up to something so special. The tomato jam is just magical -- so much umami and such unexpected and harmonious flavors. I am IN LOVE with it. I haven't actually made the toasts yet with the suggested cashew butter, but I've made them with just the avo + fixin's, and with Kite Hill Cream Cheese + avocado and all the fixin's. This is officially one of my favorite new things to eat for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I have literally eaten it everyday for the last week. 

please feed these toasts to me on a conveyor belt! 

In addition to all the great recipes I made so far, 
I also have several more recipes marked to make soon:
Cheesy Almond Gravy
Tangy Almond Herb Cheese Log
Lemon Tahini Scones
Peanut Butter French Toast with Maple Pecan Sauce
Cajun Roasted Chestnuts and Potatoes
Zhoug Cashew Thin Omelets
Loaded Potatoes with Pepita Guacamole
Sweet Potato Salad with Tahini Sumac Dressing
Roasted Cabbage with Almond Lime Sauce
Nut Butter Magic Candy Ice Cream Topping


Great news! Joni has offered to send a copy of "Vegans Go Nuts" to a lucky VE&T reader - WORLDWIDE!!! Because she is awesome and generous! So, to enter the giveaway, leave a comment on this blog post and tell me about your favorite nut, your favorite nutty friend, a good recipe with nuts that you love, or anything. Be sure to leave your email address or a blogger contact so that I can track you down if you win! 

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Eating & Harvesting from the Garden!

my two prized eggplants

This month has been a busy time in my little garden! Earlier this year I bought some veggie seedlings and decided to grow some eggplants. My plant got big and beautiful, and full of blossoms -- but I only got two eggplants out of the whole deal. If you only have two homegrown eggplants, you gotta do something special with 'em:

Grilled Eggplant Lasagna

So! I knew just what to do! I made the Grilled Eggplant Lasagna from The Abundance Diet. Oh man, we love this recipe so much, it's pretty phenomenal! Grilled eggplants, zucchini, and red onions - layered with sauce, tomato slices and super special cheesy sauce. ZOMG. Now I need to grow two more eggplants just so I can make this again. Or maybe I"ll just go to the farmers market! 

super major and amazing garlic crop

I've been growing garlic for so many years and this year was my best and most abundant and beautiful crop yet! I am so stoked! Almost all the garlic heads this year came out big and robust and hearty with large cloves. I braided all these up and now they are hanging to continue drying. The next step will be to trim the roots and then select the best cloves for replanting in the fall!
my best garlic ever! 

garden bounty

I saved a couple heads of garlic whose stems had broken off, and picked a bunch of tomatoes (these are my Early Girls) - and used them to make:

Roasted Garlic, Tomato, Rice & White Bean Soup from Veganomicon
(not sure if that's the exact name of the recipe)

This is another of my favorite recipes, and I hadn't made it in a while! Mr VE&T loves tomato soup and asks for it pretty much all the time. This is one of my favorite variations because it also has beans and rice in it, so it feels more like a complete meal. Plus, two entire heads of roasted garlic = obviously an excellent bowl of soup! This recipe is highly recommended.

full disclosure: this is actually an old picture that I lifted off my own blog. This time around I guess I was so excited about eating that I never took a picture. Oops! 

Cheery Cherry Tomatoes

Now let's talk about what's really going on in the garden: Cherry Tomatoes up the wazoo. Sooooo many. I have literally been giving away pints and pints of cherry tomatoes. I have red ones, orange ones, and a whole lotta yellow ones. Mostly I stand out in the driveway and eat them by the handful. That is my favorite thing to do with them, but the cherry toms pictured here became:

a summery tomato salad!

This colorful salad had halved cherry tomatoes, red onion, cucumber (peeled and scored, just the way Mr. VE&T likes it!), and kalamata olives -- with a very light olive oil and vinegar dressing. Such a delicious and perfect way to enjoy tomatoes in all their natural glory!

picking tomatoes off the plants, with Footie rolling around on the pavement
~ a daily scene

Apples?! Already?!

This year all the apples have arrived early -- and my tree is no exception. It's unexpected and weird - so strange to be canning tomatoes and apples at the same time!? Plus, I am preparing for a big trip to Italy and I think I'll miss most of the apples, unfortunately. BooHoo! Most of my apples get little bug holes or some other blemish -- so those are great for apple sauce or apple pies -- but every once in a while, I come across a perfectly blemish-free apple! All the apples on the cutting board are perfect! I wrap those in newspaper sheets and store them in the garage, where it's quite cool. They'll last a pretty good long while.

homemade applesauce

I've already made two great big batches of applesauce too - I made about 8-9 jars of "chunky" applesauce and another 8-9 jars of "smooth" applesauce. For the chunky sauce I mashed my applesauce with a potato masher, and I used a food mill for the smooth sauce. I like the chunky sauce better for straight up eating, but the smooth sauce is so much better for baking and such. I'm glad that I didn't miss my apple tree's harvest entirely! 

like a nut job, frantically canning tomatoes, applesauce and marmalade before going on a big trip. 
I can't stand to miss out on the harvest! 

top left: Bearrs limes
bottom right: Calamondin / Kalamansi limes

This year I've had a bumper crop of limes -- from both of my trees! My Bearrs limes are slowing down for now but I really wanted to use some of them to make lime marmalade again. I made it a couple years ago and loved it SO much that I was eager to make it again! That lime tree has a particular cycle where it goes into growth mode and the whole tree will be covered in little tiny baby limes, they'll ALL mature at once and it's totally overwhelming... and then a new cycle starts. So right now, my ripe limes are almost all gone, and the tree is covered in baby limes and for a long while now I will be limeless. Citrus fruits take a long time to ripen.

marmalade beauty

I made a big double batch - about 2/3 Bearrs lime juice & peel and 1/3 Calamondin juice and peel. As you can see, it is totally gorgeous and made a lot. I made lots of small jars so that I can give it away at holiday time for Xmas prezzies. As you can't see, it also has a lovely limey flavor, a little sweet, a little bright, a little bitter... just a perfect marmalade experience! I'm so happy I made the time to do this! 

Waltham Butternuts

One more crop I'm so pleased with this year: my Butternut Squashes! Aren't they lovely? This is the variety that my grandma and grandpa always grew. They used to harvest 80 squash a year or something wild like that. I grew 14, which still feels fun and exciting to me. A few of them are HUGE and a few are small, so that's nice because I can pick accordingly, depending on what I"m planning to make. Butternuts will last a long time if stored in a cold, dark area, so my butternuts are hanging out in the garage, waiting for me to be in the mood for fall flavors. It will be wonderful to eat these and think of my grandparents who I loved so much.

beautiful Footie on the fence

Last but not least, I leave you with this picture I took of Footie, balanced on the gate, and looking intently up into the jasmine bush. He is a great cat.

Vegan Bowl Attack Giveaway Winner! 

Footie also wants you to know who won a copy of Jackie Sobon's excellent cookbook "Vegan Bowl Attack!" -- I used the Random Number Generator and it chose comment #38, from KZCakes! Whooo hooo! Congrats, KZCakes! 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Book Review & Giveaway: Vegan Bowl Attack!

When I went to Portland Oregon for the first Vida Vegan Con, I fell in love with "bowls." When I think of a "bowl," I think of a complete meal all in one bowl: some veggies, some grains, some protein, some kind of sauce to hold it all together, and a few tasty garnishes. Ahhh. Yummy, beautiful, satisfying, full of diverse flavors and textures... a proper bowl is a great meal.

Speaking of Vida Vegan Con, that's where I first met my pal Jackie Sobon, who blogs at the excellent blog Vegan Yack Attack! You've probably also seen her recipes and photos in VegNews Magazine, because she is so fancy and talented. Jackie is the author (and photographer) of the excellent new cookbook "Vegan Bowl Attack!"

I've been cooking up a storm from Vegan Bowl Attack! and absolutely loving it. VBA has many bowls like I described above, but also creatively stretches the definition of a "bowl" to mean "pretty much anything delicious that you can eat in a bowl." I am in favor of this!

A champion of a book!

Mezze Fusion Bowl

Oh Swoon. This just had to be the first recipe I made from the book, because this is my power cuisine, and this delicious meal did not disappoint. Mezze Fusion Bowl has: quinoa tabbouleh, Herbed Tofu Feta, olives, artichoke hearts, and some super delicious babaghanoush. The recipe calls for pita chips, which would be delicious, but I didn't have any -- so I threw in some cherry tomatoes from my garden instead. Even though this bowl combines several components, it was quick and simple to assemble. The Herbed Tofu needs to marinate for several hours before hand, but only takes seconds to assemble. The result was briny and salty and herby! 

White Bean Beer Fondue

This was one of our favorite meals (so far!) from Vegan Bowls Attack! When I first told Mr. VE&T that I was going to make something called "White Bean Beer Fondue," he was a little confused and didn't know what to expect. But after the first bite, he was an immediate fan! This is a rich and warm beany dip that's filling, nutritious and delicious. We loved the dippers too - especially the bread cubes, the pretzels, and the broccoli. This was a super fast and super easy dinner to assemble and was so satisfying. It's also really fun to dip little goodies into the fondue and eat dinner that way. I think it's a new family favorite!

dipping dinner is super fun! 

Grilled Romaine Chop Salad

I've never grilled lettuce before! This salad was delicious and summery - grilled lettuce, grilled tomatoes and corn, grilled eggplant, with fresh cucumbers and tomatoes -- just a glorious combo! The dressing is a light vinaigrette with a little nooch and dijon mustard for added vegan power! I love a good super summer salad full of all the best produce that summer has to offer, and this salad will definitely go into regular summer rotation for us.

Orange Cauliflower Soba Chow Mein Bowl

This was a super fun meal to make - definitely unlike anything I make or eat on a regular basis. I love that! This bowl consists of two separate components: Orange Cauliflower and Soba Chow Mein. The orange cauliflower is cooked with garlic, ginger, orange juice & zest, seasoning, and a little sugar (though I reduced the sugar quite a bit and was still happy with it! ~ from 2 Tbsp to 1 tsp). The Soba Chow Mein is super delicious -- soba noodles are stir-fried with veggies and seasoning for maximum yumminess! Mr. VE&T especially loved the chow mein and ate all of it, so I had the left over Orange Cauliflower with lunch the next day. What a great dinner. 

prepare yourself for the attack of the bowls!
be victorious with the help of this magnificent cookbook! 

Roasted Cauliflower Tomato Soup

This was probably Mr. VE&T's favorite from Vegan Bowl Attack, because if you make any form of tomato soup, it will always be his favorite. I like tomato soup okay, but sometimes I think it's a little plain. This recipe however, is a tomato soup that I can really get behind! I LOVED that it was chock full of roasted cauliflower, chard, and chickpeas -- the result is almost more like tomato stew than tomato soup and I loved it. I think this is a tomato soup we can both agree on with enthusiasm! 

the family that bowls together stays together

Grilled Mango Peach with Raspberry Coulis

This dish is from the Lil' Snack Bowls section, and since it's easier to find peaches than mangos, I took Jackie's suggestion to try this recipe with peaches instead of mangos. It's so quick and tasty: grilled peaches tossed with a lovely raspberry sauce. I was a renegade and converted this snack bowl into a breakfast bowl - after taking this picture, I mixed my grilled peaches into my homemade yogurt (with cereal underneath, which you can't see) and it was such a delicious and satisfying Sunday morning breakfast! It's fun to grill in the morning!

Vegan Bowl Attack! is divided into several chapters:
Bountiful Breakfast Bowls 
~ recipes that catch my eye: Caramel Apple Slices, Loaded Potato Breakfast Bowl, Nectarine Quinoa Porridge, Peanut Butter Pretzel Granola
Lil' Snack Bowls
~ recipes that catch my eye: Spicy Sesame Brussels Bites, Mediterranean Layer Dip, Crudite Boquets
Satisfying Soup & Salad Bowls
~ recipes that catch my eye: Herbed Tofu Tomato Salad, Walnut Chorizo Taco Salad, Banh Mi Panzanella Salad, Smoky Corn Chowder Bread Bowl, Kabocha Squash Pozole, Sweet Potato Eggplant Curry
Enticing Entree Bowls:
~ recipes that catch my eye: Southern Comfort Bowl, Mediterranean Spaghetti Squash, Aloha Bowl, Kimchi Bowl with Red Curry Almond Sauce
Damn Good Dessert Bowls
~ recipes that catch my eye: Amaretto Cherry Ice Cream, Roasted Peach Parfait with Crumble and Whiskey Buttercream

falling in love with my new crush
a hot tub is kind of like a human bowl

Hoorah! I'm so happy to be able to offer a copy of Vegan Bowl Attack to one lucky winner (limited to readers in the USA and Canada), thanks to the publishers, Fair Winds Press. To enter the giveaway: leave a comment here and tell me about your favorite bowl, or your favorite thing to eat out of a bowl! And please make sure you leave an email or blogger contact, or I will just pick a different winner!