Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Vegan Grilling Part 2: Grill Your Pizza

This week I started reading The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubino.  She writes,
My research had revealed that challenge and novelty are key elements to happiness.  The brain is stimulated by surprise, and successfully dealing with an expected situation gives a powerful sense of satisfaction.  If you do new things-- visit a museum for the first time, learn a new game, travel to a new place, meet new people-- you're more apt to feel happy than people who stick to more familiar activities... This is one of the paradoxes of happiness, we seek to control our lives, but the unfamiliar and the unexpected are important sources of happiness.  (74)
Going vegan has given me new challenges- from the early days of restocking the cabinets and reading food labels religiously to finding veg-friendly restaurants and ordering off not so veg-friendly menus.  I really enjoy trying out new recipes and putting together my own meals, and I haven't been doing enough of it lately.

That being said, I make pizza a lot, but I have never grilled it before.  I used my vegan pizza recipe and the steps for grilled pizza found here, which are basically the same regardless of which site you visit.  I was apprehensive about doing this, because I envisioned the dough dripping between the grates.  This actually didn't happen, but the dough did cook very quickly, so you must be ready to flip it fast.  This is the trickiest part.  We actually ended up using broiler pans for the second two pizzas, but then we sacrificed that "grilled" taste.  All three pizzas tasted incredible, though -- maybe even better than traditional oven-baked pizza. 

Here's what I'll be sure to do next time:
  • Shape the dough into personal-sized pizzas.  It was hard to flip the dough because it was too large.
  • Invest in a large spatula for flipping.  My brother actually wants to buy a pizza spade.
  • Make sure you have everything you need outside, including pot holders.  You have to work quickly so you don't end up with a scorched mess!
  • Work with multiple people.  Between flipping the dough and adding all the layers of ingredients, you need some assistance at the grill. 

Like most vegan challenges, this one was definitely worth all the work.  

Blogger's Soundtrack
Calvin Harris ft. Ellie Goulding - "I Need Your Love"

Homemade Vegan Ice Cream and Sorbet

I <3 ice cream.  My apartment is 1/2 mile from the vegan ice cream shop in Allston and that makes me very happy (yes, I've mapped out the distance).  Admittedly, however, vegan ice cream can be pricey.  A pint of soy ice cream typically costs at least $5, unless you buy Soy Dreamy at Trader Joe's, which is the best store bought vegan ice cream anyway.  I recently became interested in making my own ice cream after spotting some recipes in Chef Chloe's dessert book and Vegetarian Times magazine.  Therefore, for the past week I have been experimenting with a bunch of different combinations.  Once you acquire an ice cream maker, concocting your own ice cream and sorbet is simple and cheap. 

For one thing, if you puree enough fruit to fill your blender, that's pretty much all you need to make sorbet.  Next boil 3/4 cup water and 3/4 sugar, stirring until the water has cooled.  Combine the pureed fruit with the water/sugar solution and refrigerate for at least an hour, until it has cooled throughout.  The final step is to add this to your ice cream maker and follow the directions for your particular machine.  Most of them require freezing the mixing bowl overnight.  Being an impatient person, I only froze mine for six hours, so my first batch didn't turn out all that well.  So far I have tried this with fresh cantaloupe and watermelon.  The watermelon sorbet was particularly delicious and refreshing... and cheap.  You can use fresh or frozen fruit, in whatever combinations you like.  There are some more creative recipes herehere, and here in the Vegetarian Times this month- the avocado recipe looks pretty tasty.

Things I want to try: raspberry-lemon sorbet, substituting agave for sugar, and making ice cream using coconut milk and agave- specifically, mint-chocolate chip ice cream.  More to come on that soon.

(Pictures Coming Soon)

Blogger's Soundtrack
 "Your Love" - The Outfield

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Vegan Grilling

When I first went vegan, there was a lot of stress accompanying food-related events- each holiday and party meant a new meal to figure out.  Now that I've been doing this for a few years, I usually have ideas in mind ahead of time, but there are still "ah!  What will I eat?!" moments.  I've recently been doing a good amount of grilling with my family, and I realize that at one time I had no idea what to prepare for all those inevitable summer barbeque parties.  There are actually a lot of options, which I will share, but first, a few tips:

- Invest in a grill pan.  There are a few reasons for this.  First of all, I never feel completely assured that all of the meat and juices are completely gone, even if the chef scours the grill or even has a huge fire going, in the case of charcoal.  Something about it is just unsettling to me.  Also, veggie burgers can easily fall apart and vegetables will slip between the grates, while a grill pan keeps everything together.  Seriously worth it.

-Let people know ahead of time that you're vegan.  Even if you're planning on bringing your own meal, the hosts (hopefully) will be nice enough to at least have a veggie platter or some fresh fruit, which they might not have done otherwise.  I've attended two parties this summer where the hosts had a plethora of vegan food - quinoa, potato, and pasta salads that were really good!  Often I don't expect people to prepare anything special, but I forget that just because it's vegan doesn't mean everyone else won't enjoy it, as well.

Now for the recipes:

1.  Vegan Black Bean Burgers
This is one of my favorite vegan recipes, in general.  I got it from VegWeb and modified it a bit.  My family actually likes them more than eating meat off the grill, and that's saying a lot.  These have just the right amount of spiciness and definitely fall apart while you're eating them.  Topping with slices of avocado is a must and they're delicioso on a whole wheat bun.

  • 3 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 medium red onion, minced in food processor
  • 2 large stalk celerys, minced in food processor
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced in food processro
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup original hummus
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 cup quick oats
  1. Heat oil in a frying pan on medium low
  2. Sauté garlic & onion in oil until soft
  3. Add the celery & pepper, fry until softened
  4. Mix in the herbs & spices and heat through
  5. Mash or puree half the beans
  6. Combine all beans with cooked vegetables and quick oats.  Mix well by hand.
  7. Add enough of the hummus or liquid seasoning to moisten mixture fairly well
  8. Form 10-12 flat patties (this will get messy!).  Spray a grill pan and grill for about 10 minutes, until the burgers are warm and browned.  You can also fry them on the stove using olive oil.

 2.  Sweet Potato Burgers
These have also recently become a family favorite.  These burgers are not actually cooked on the grill, but are fried or baked instead.  They are still a great substitute for traditional burgers.  I made a batch, baked it in advance, and brought it to a party where more people tried it than I had anticipated.  These are also great with avocado, but I've seen people eat them with ketchup.  The recipe can be found here: Lunch Box Bunch

3.  Grilled Vegetables / Skewers
This one is super easy!  The other day I sliced up a bunch of zucchini squash and red and yellow bell peppers, keeping them in sizable slices.  I arranged everything on the grill tray, sprayed it with olive oil, and grilled for about 10-15 minutes.  The results were delicious.  If you want to get a bit fancier, buy some wooden skewers and include whatever you like- onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, pineapple, eggplant - there are lots of options.  There are many recipes online for vegetable combinations and marinades.  Here's one that looks great: Vegetarian Times

4.  Grilled Potatoes
It's so simple!  Here are a few ideas:
    -Slice sweet potatoes in half.  Wrap each half in foil.  Grill for 20 minutes.
    -Peel and slice a bunch of red skin potatoes into rounds.  Add a thinly sliced red pepper, green pepper, and sweet onion.  Wrap in foil, drizzled with olive oil.  Grill for 30-40 minutes.

There are so many options for vegan grilling - sometimes it's just hard to think outside the box of what you have eaten in the past.  All of these recipes are healthy and satisfying- you'll be glad you didn't eat that hot dog (gross).  So choose a recipe and get started!


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Vegan Food in the Neighborhood

While most who visit Boston travel to the North End for authentic Italian cuisine, I take visiting family and friends to healthy vegan places.  I'm sure they don't mind missing out on lasagna and canolis to partake in veggie wraps and smoothies.  It's an acquired taste.  Two new veg restaurants recently opened in the Greater Boston area, and in the past week I have recruited friends to try both.  Here's what I thought:

Walnut Grille
Newton, MA
I went to the Walnut Grille for lunch on a very hot day.  Unfortunately, the air conditioner was broken, and thought I was going to melt off my sparkly vinyl chair.  The menu had a wide selection, including smoothies and desserts, which always earn bonus points in my book.  I ordered the falafel wrap with sweet potato fries (obviously) and my friend had the quinoa and black bean burger with a salad and side of broccoli.  I haven't talked about this before, but I'm kind of obsessed with sweet potato fries.  I order them everywhere I go, and I'm definitely a snob when it comes to assessing the quality of said fries.  I also eat a lot of veggie wraps and falafel, since it's frequently the only thing veg-friendly item on the menu at traditional restaurants.  That being said, it was a delicious lunch.  The fries were amazing and the wrap was filled with greens, cucumbers, and tomatoes, and did not have too much tahini, which is another thing I'm picky about.  I ate half the meal and had an awesome lunch the next day, as well.  The owner offered us free ice cream since it was sweltering in the place, but we opted out and made a beeline for the car, where we proceeded to blast the AC.  I have since heard that the AC has been fixed, so I would definitely recommend this place - good food, friendly staff, and ample parking. 

Root - Inspired Food and Juicery
Allston, MA
I have been super excited because this place is within walking distance from my apartment, and a few doors down from Fomu ice cream (at the former location of Peace o' Pie).  I went for dinner on a weeknight, and arrived just before a big crowd hit.  When I walked up to the front counter, the girl working seemed kind of aloof and unfriendly.  She didn't greet me or even ask to take my order.  I guess I was expecting some more enthusiasm, since the place has only been open for a week.  I ordered the LA Wrap with herb fries, and so did my friend.  We seated ourselves near the AC, since again, it was a very hot day, and this place wasn't too cool, either.  On a side note, I appreciate environmental consciousness, but when it's 93 degrees out, I don't enjoy sweating through my meal.  Once we had our meals I noticed that a different person was working at the counter, and that she was actually smiling.  While we were eating, the place began to fill up with a mixed crowd of young professionals and tattooed hipsters, all of whom seemed to be enjoying their different varieties of juice in mason jars, salads, and sandwiches.  Overall, the meal was tasty, and I'm glad to have a vegan restaurant so close by, but in the future I will probably choose the take-out option.

All in all, the food was good at both places, and it's wonderful to have a few more veg-friendly establishments in the neighborhood.  Also, I need to order something besides a wrap and fries the next time I eat out.