Food Blog Vegan MoFo

#VeganMoFo Day 16: You Can’t Reinvent the Color Wheel

Let’s keep this real simple: purple cabbage linguine (one of my favorite monochromatic easy meals, from Color Me Vegan), plus some slices of roasted ‘carnival’ squash, which as a nice yellow flesh and edible skin.

I s’pose I could’ve arranged the plate so it was rah-rah my alma mater, University of Washington, whose colors are purple and gold, but as much as I enjoyed my time there, I have no such color-centric loyalties.

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#VeganMoFo Day 14: Chim Chiminey, Chim Chimichurri

For today’s ONE COLOR challenge, I cooked an all-green dinner. Look, I know there is a SIMILAR prompt on the 20th, but I am gonna go with the OTHER meaning of “green” then. Stay tuned.

My all-green platter includes: green seitan, kale, avocado, chimichurri, pepitas, and jade green rice.

How do you make seitan green? Take the steamed white seitan recipe from Viva Vegan, blend the 1 ½ cups of broth with a handful of spinach plus herbs (I used basil and cilantro), and violà! Green – well, olive greenish – seitan. It’s nice and dense and flavorful.

How do you make chimichurri? Throw a bunch of stuff in a blender and be happy. Stuff includes cilantro, parsley, garlic, onion, jalapeno, red wine vinegar, and olive oil. It manages to stay a nice bright green.

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#VeganMoFo Day 13: Aliens Dream of Noodle Soup?

Honestly, who knows what aliens would like. Who knows what their taste/smell/other senses prefer, or what kinds of limbs they’d use to eat it with! Maybe they don’t “eat” in a way we recognize at all.

But let’s say it’s a very Star Trek-like alien visiting, the kind that looks basically human with funny ears or extra ridges on the face, something like that. Maybe we’re in some fabulous utopian future where “exotic cuisine” means tasting the native foods of other worlds and not just, say, visiting a hawker center in Singapore. What kind of food might be a good representative of the tastes, smells, textures, and style of Earth food?

I went with pho. It’s got fragrant, hot broth, textures  galore, slurpy noodles, and a certain amount of customization. Maybe aliens will go nuts for hoisin sauce and bean sprouts–it’s not for me to judge.

Since, in this case, there were no aliens, just two Earth-dwelling humans, I made it the way I like it, more or less. Broth that’s a little sweet and salty and spicy. Plenty of chewy rice noodles. Vegetables and mushrooms–bok choy, tree oyster ‘shrooms, thinly sliced white onion–plus, of course, lime juice, jalapeno slices, crisp bean sprouts, and zesty basil leaves. Sliced homemade seitan (it’s green! I made it with spinach, basil, and cilantro). Really, too much for its bowl, but still good.

An aside: I ain’t trying to culturally appropriate, just respectfully make tasty, veggie-filled food for myself. I love learning how to make new foods and have some fun sharing the results on here/Instagram/etc. Lately there’s been a lot of back-and-forth about white people claiming expertise in pho and Vietnamese people being like, huh? Maybe you heard about it. A tone-deaf video was made and posted to a major food site; a response was made by an Asian-American comedian, Jenny Yang. If you haven’t seen it, please enjoy it now.


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#VeganMoFo Day 11: One of My Favorite Foods

All vegans love falafel, right? And I haven’t really made other Middle Eastern-type dishes this month. So today’s the day.

I’m writing this post ahead of time, the day after the US election. I am not happy about the result. It’s a distressing day. I’m not all that hungry, if I’m being honest. But I do have some leftover baked falafel that I plan to eat with a simple yogurt dressing (Kite Hill, please and thank you) over salad greens.

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#VeganMoFo Day 10: Making Fusion My Own

I mean, I guess, kinda. I love Indo-Chinese food, which is already a fusion, so I tried to make some of that at home: gobi manchurian and salt and pepper tofu with roti. Why reinvent a pretty good wheel?

OK, well, I did try to make it “me,” too. So it’s Indo-Chinese-Emily fusion. I baked the cauliflower in its batter – and threw in a few halved brussels sprouts, just to see if it’d work. (Verdict: kinda!)

I figured eating it with roti would lean into the “Indo” part of the fusion, but added a nicely minced scallion in the dough. I really like making flatbread. It takes some practice to roll the dough out perfectly thin and reasonably well-shaped. The way it puffs up when it hits the hot skillet is impressive. And really, it just tastes good for something that is so simple, ingredient-wise.

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#VeganMoFo Day 9: Something Borrowed, Something New

Last month, my boyfriend and I trekked up to Oakland to check out the Vegan Soul Wellness Fest and had the great privilege of watching a demo by Astig Vegan on making Filipino food vegan-style. Until then, I’d been under the impression FIlipino food was synonymous with “contains pork,” so it was eye-opening to hear her discuss the flavors, ingredients, and techniques that are 100% plant-based. Also, the food she made and shared was crazy-delicious.

So what better time to actually give her recipes a try than today’s challenge to cook something you haven’t tried before?

The menu included tempeh adobo with spinach (I couldn’t get to the Asian market to get water spinach), squash and beans in coconut milk (which she demo’d), and garlic fried (brown) rice. The preparation is very simple and requires only a handful of ingredients. I often avoid coconut milk-based dishes because they’re so heavy, but it works as a nice, creamy side to contrast the sharp, tangy tempeh adobo. I also used *so much* garlic. I should have counted how many cloves, but it was enough to justify using the food processor to expedite the mincing and end up with about â…” cup of yum.

I’d definitely make Filipino food again, and recommend checking out Astig Vegan if you haven’t already!

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#VeganMoFo Day 8: On the Other Side

According to Antipodr, the direct opposite of my locale in Northern California is somewhere in the middle of the Indian Ocean – but near enough to Madagascar to … well, let’s say I wouldn’t want to be left in open water here, but we’ll make Madagascar our “dig a hole through the Earth” destination for today.

I went searching for Malagasy cuisine and found a few simple, vegetable-based recipes to try: pumpkin stew with peanuts, and avocado salad. The ingredients were all familiar, fresh, and colorful. And the result… lovely.

To make a complete meal out of it, I served the stew over brown rice and added some simple braised kale on the side. The tangy tomato “dressing” (more like a salsa) really tied things together. And the peanuts in the stew were a nice, gentle crunch – it wasn’t super heavy like other peanut stews I’ve made.

Whether or not this is remotely representative of the food eaten on that faraway (to me) island, it was a nice lunch here in California.

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#VeganMoFo Day 7: Remind Me of Home

I grew up along the Oregon-Washington I-5 corridor. Unfortunately, food-wise, the PNW is BEST known for amazing seafood, shellfish, Tillamook cheese, and beer. Since I don’t drink and I’m vegan, that narrows it down a bit. OK, a lot. There’s always marionberries – but they’re out of season… and hazelnuts (OK, mom, filberts), but it isn’t really something you can build a whole entree around.

What else do we have? Umm… foraged mushrooms? I wasn’t able to pick up chanterelles or other super-fancy “wild” mushrooms this time around, but I did get a variety of ‘shrooms, which I seasoned and roasted all together.

Then, in a vague nod to my boyfriend’s hometown of Santa Cruz, I prepared the fixings for some nice tacos to put the mushrooms in – I spiced them with cumin, coriander, and cayenne, so I also made some simple black beans, lime juice-marinated shredded cabbage, guacamole, and fresh-pressed corn tortillas.

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#VeganMoFo Day 6: There, There, Have Some Pizza

Since going vegan, I’ve taken time to develop my own take on pizza that doesn’t require cheese. I miss real, melted, pizza cheese – Daiya and its ilk DO NOT work for me – so I had to re-work what makes pizza “yummy” to me altogether.

A few things I’ve figured out:

Need a protein. Faux sausage/seitan is good, but seasoned tempeh crumbles are often even better: I dice up a package of tempeh, simmer it in a shallow bath of broth, soy sauce, wine or wine vinegar, red pepper flakes, oregano, fennel seeds, and lemon zest, then mash it and let it brown a bit with olive oil.

Sauce is simple. Usually I just put a little bit of tomato puree directly on the rolled-out crust – a tablespoon or two, it should be a thin layer – plus microplaned garlic. I’ll add herbs/spices if they aren’t in whatever layer goes on top, but with tempeh, I don’t think it’s necessary.

Greens are a must, but they should be sauteed first.

Nooch is good; nooch ground up with nuts/needs (almonds, hemp) is better.

Homemade pizza dough isn’t nearly as hard as it used to be. But if you haven’t gotten the hang of it, TJ’s and Whole Foods sell dough in baggies that works great.

Anyway, for today’s prompt, I made pizza with homemade whole wheat sourdough crust, tempeh sausage crumbles, wilted arugula, chopped artichoke hearts, and a generous sprinkling of nooch-hemp-almond “parmesan.” Lord, it was delicious. I honestly do not miss the cheese.

Good homemade pizza makes me so pleased. And I can be extra happy that it’s thanks to my own effort, and not something I can get in a restaurant.

“I don’t know about you, but I take comfort in that.”

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#VeganMoFo Day 5: Late Night Snack

Honestly, I don’t make a habit of eating after dinner. But sometimes I get a bit peckish, like if we ate an early dinner and I’m up late watching TV. If I don’t have sugary snacks handy – and I’m trying not to – I’m most likely to make toast.

For the past year, I’ve been learning how to make bread. We prefer whole wheat, and I’ve got a lovely whole wheat sourdough starter. I usually make my own variation on the Bread Baker’s Apprentice basic sourdough with a little rye flour and a lot of white bread flour and whole wheat flour, plus a mix of poppy, sunflower, and sesame seeds.

Obviously, the process of baking bread is itself not “late night snack” worthy – it’s a 2-day process and requires a frickin’ scale – but the result sure is. Smeared with a cashew cheese spread and sliced tomato and enjoyed with a nice cup of genmaicha, it hits the spot.

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#VeganMoFo Day 4: Eating Out

Since I’ve been unemployed, I haven’t been eating out nearly as much as I once did. Still, there are places my boyfriend and I enjoy visiting from time to time, when I just can’t make myself do something passable in the kitchen…

Burma Bistro – Santa Clara

Burmese food is so delicious and the stuff we love most is impractical to make at home. That’s why I’m so glad to have this cozy, affordable little spot close to home. We usually get the tea leaf salad – though ginger salad is basically the same thing, but with preserved shredded ginger instead of fermented tea, and we like it just as much – and samosa soup, a thin yellow lentil base with shredded cabbage and red onion and chunks of falafel and samosas. It’s my most favorite two things to order. I couldn’t say if this spot ranks among the best, most authentic Burmese restaurants – I don’t really care – but it’s good, it’s veg-friendly, and it’s convenient for me.

Vegetarian House – San Jose

Walking distance from our house, we end up ordering takeout as often as we eat there. It’s vegan food for nearly all tastes. If you don’t like the Supreme Master, skip it, but the food is good. Our favorite things to get include: Sea Fruits Grill (roll-your-own fresh rolls with a crispy fake fish straight from my deep-fried dreams); Healthy Brown Rice, Tasty Glory (the lemongrass alternative to Queens), and Heavenly Salad or Collard Greens; meals-for-one like Spicy Thai Wrap, Smiling Gyro, Spring Roll Noodles, Tofu Club Sandwich, and Formosa Noodle Soup. The menu changes occasionally and sometimes they have specials.

Mudai Ethiopian – San Jose

Everyone has their favorite Ethiopian restaurant; this one is mine. It’s under new ownership, but the menu is largely the same – except that they added a couple mushroom dishes to the veggie menu, and they are killer. Unless we’re eating with other people – and all our family members love this place and often ask to meet here if we’re going out to dinner – we usually just split a veggie combo, which is more than plenty of food. If you want just a LITTLE more, go for a side order of the spicy ater kik. It’s not actually super spicy, and it does have a strong garlic flavor.

8 Elements – San Jose

A ridiculously affordable, comfortable, sit-down Indian restaurant in the deep suburbs that’s actually open past 9pm. Vegan items are noted on the menu and great options for appetizers, curries, Indo-Chinese, and South Indian dosas and uttapam. I love the spring dosa here; the “cocktail idly” also make a great appetizer if you don’t want something heavy. We also like to get chaat samosa sans yogurt. Curries come with white rice or naan, but they will substitute the more vegan-friendly roti for naan.

Curry Up Now – San Jose & elsewhere

A place that makes vegan burritos filled with Indian-style chickpeas and cauliflower is probably the most American you can get. It helps that it’s tasty.

Dish N Dash – Sunnyvale & Fremont

Too many places are described as a “Chipotle of [x] cuisine” because it’s a menu of serving styles, toppings, and sides, but fuck that. Dish N Dash lets you have a falafel (or grilled veggies, or, god forbid, meat) your way – salad, rice bowl, grain bowl, pita pocket, lavash wrap – with all kinds of toppings (I’m a big believer in the staunchly American “California style” with pea shoots and avocado) and sides (this veers more traditional mezze, but hard to go wrong). DIfferent locations have different drink menus, but there’s a lemonade with cucumber and mint at the Sunnyvale joint I cannot recommend more highly. They’re a local mini-empire, starting with the full-service Dish Dash in downtown Sunnyvale, but the takeout-friendly Dish ‘N Dashes are among my favorite places to nosh.

Falafel Bar – San Jose

It’s in a mall. It is 100% vegan and mostly gluten-free. They just serve falafel, fries, and sides/toppings. Ugh, just eat there, it’s great. And if you aren’t full and happy, you can go across the marking lot and eat Veggie Grill.

Oaxacan Kitchen – Campbell & other markets

You can find these guys at several local farmers’ markets and food truck locales. They make tortillas fresh (oh, the intoxicating aroma of fresh masa harina), they serve all kinds of delicious dishes with fresh veggies, salsas, and beans, and their agua frescas are great. This is a big Sunday indulgence for me… and they’ve spoiled me for burritos elsewhere.

For a more special occasion…

Calafia Cafe – Palo Alto

I have no patience for the Palo Alto elite, but the food here is good and fancy-ish. We might come here if we’re feeling like going somewhere “nice” without going too far, and we can squeeze in a trip to Trader Joe’s and Books Inc.

Millennium – Oakland

I’m guessing if you’re from the Bay Area and vegan, you already know about MIllennium. But still, it’s worth mentioning. It’s a real special treat to go somewhere you can order anything on the menu, up to and including a chef’s tasting menu, and trust it’s all on your vegan diet. It’s creative and beautiful stuff.

Ravens – Mendocino

What could be better than a fancy restaurant that’s all on your diet? Staying in a whole damn hotel that is and eating breakfast and dinner there. I dream about this place. I’ve been three times and I WILL go again once this whole no-job thing is resolved.

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#VeganMoFo Day 3: Lazy Meals

If I don’t have leftovers handy, an “easy cook” meal is my usual lunch. Maybe it’s a nuked potato with some sauteed spinach and tahini sauce. Maybe it’s a salad. Maybe it’s just toast and self-loathing (let’s keep it real). But most of the time, it’s going to be pasta. And the pasta should not, ideally, require more than one pan, that is, the vegetables/sauce should not need to be cooked or they can cook with the pasta. I’m not trying to impress anyone here except my stomach. I save the work for when more than one person is going to enjoy it.

The basic formula here is: Any kind of pasta + a generous handful of any kind of baby greens + sauce mixed in a bowl. Sauce could be faux-cheese based (something soft and spreadable, like Miyoko’s Double Cream Garlic Chive, or a homemade herbed cashew cheese), or just add some fresh herbs (if handy) and hemp seeds to the rest – a vinegar (red wine vinegar is great), some nutritional yeast, and black pepper. If it’s too thick, steal a few tablespoons of the pasta cooking water. Bing-bang-boom.

For this post, I documented my lunch of whole wheat elbow macaroni with arugula and cultured cashew cheese (a play on the recipe from Vegan Eats World). It ain’t fancy, but it hit the spot.

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#VeganMoFo Day 2: Impress Me!

Honestly, I don’t have a go-to here – I plan my menus around the people eating them and the food I find.

But there are some things that always sound impressive, require some effort, and come out like something made with love. Gnocchi is one of these. It’s easier than pasta (no special equipment required) but it sounds fancy and special.

I’ve found that a little goes a long way, so I made as much gnocchi as a single russet potato could produce.

To go with it, I made a lovely, chunky sauce with yellow onion, eggplant, plum tomatoes, garlic, and plenty of red pepper flakes, olive oil, and red wine vinegar. I also made a quick cashew-hemp seed-almond milk creamy sauce to mimic a bechamel or cheese topping and baked everything together like a casserole.

Since this is actually a weeknight meal, I needed some more protein (pan-fried tofu) and greens (spinach), which I cooked with a little bit of the extra creamy sauce. It was, frankly, overkill – some people like rich food; I am not often among them – and the appearance wasn’t as “ooh-la-la” as I hoped, but it was still good.

Gnocchi is always special, even if it’s not magic.

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#VeganMoFo Day 1: Enter the Bowl

I have a hard time playing favorites. Favorite band? Favorite TV show? Favorite movie? Don’t make me choose, But food is the hardest of all. Indian food? Tacos? Thai? Vietnamese? Korean? Ethiopian? Falafel? Artisanal, creative, farm-to-table masterpieces? Bread and (cashew) cheese? Almost anything with sugar? I mean. I love food, period. Making it, eating it, thinking about it, talking about it, shopping for it, reading about it.

But if I have to choose, I choose a choice that’s trying to have it both ways–well, several ways: California-style health food. It’s a goddamn catch-all for anything involving kale, quinoa, and tofu that takes inspiration or steals liberally from all of the above. It’s my true north of home cooking. And what’s more health-foody right now than the almighty bowl? This bowl has everything: Rainbow quinoa. Braised greens and purple cabbage. Baked tofu. Roasted squash. Tahini-lemon sauce with plenty of garlic. I eat this ALL THE TIME. I will try to avoid repeating myself this month…

For the purpose of making a prettier picture, I tweaked the process a little bit. It’s usually a bit simpler.

The quinoa is just quinoa. I cook it in a VitaClay multicooker, which I love. It turns out perfect without any effort. Done.

I usually start the tofu right after I get the quinoa going because I like to bake it for 20 minutes on each side. It’s coated simply and gently in a little olive oil and soy sauce. This gives it a nice, brown, chewy skin. Typically I just cut it into four slices, which fit in a little glass baking dish in my toaster oven, so no pre-heating and easy timing, but today I cubed it and baked it in the oven since I was also cooking some squash. Cubing it, cook time was reduced to about 15 minutes on each side.

Squash isn’t a STANDARD part of this for me, but I’ll use it when I have it. Today I had the top half of a butternut squash, and for funsies, I chopped it at strange angles so it’d have interesting facets. It got a little olive oil and a pinch of salt and roasted for about 20 minutes.

Next I started on the greens. The most basic iteration of this dish is just wilted chopped kale; today I had half a red onion leftover from breakfast, a bunch of collard greens, and some nice purple cabbage, so I threw ‘em all in. The onions were thinly sliced then sauteed in olive oil, then I added a pinch of salt and a generous pour of low-sodium vegetable stock and brought it to a boil before adding the greens. I ended up having to add a little bit more broth to get it cooking (pan was pretty crowded), and also threw in a couple cloves of microplaned garlic for good measure.

Finally, the tahini sauce. I did not diverge from my usual, go-to, reliable recipe one bit: ~¼ cup of tahini (I use the Whole Foods store brand, which pours easily and doesn’t get thick and chalky if you stir it well), a few drops of our favorite hot sauce, one microplaned clove of garlic, juice of one lemon, ~2 Tbsp nutritional yeast, and water as needed. I add all this directly to an OXO dressing shaker and give it several good swings and it’s done.

The black sesame seeds I added just for looks. When you drizzle a beige sauce on your bowl, you kinda lose the colorful veggies, after all.

Happy MoFo!

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VeganMoFo 16 Sign-ups and Banners! | VeganMoFo

It’s that time again… almost-MoFo! I’ve already got my Google doc a-plannin’. Though the blog has been neglected of late – it’s been a strange, stressful couple of months, and while I’ve been cooking like mad, I haven’t had much desire to document it – I’m looking forward to thinking creatively about the challenges and prompts that await and sharing the results with you, whoever you are. Plus, it’ll cover Thanksgiving, and I’ve already started planning that, too. My favorite excuse to go all out.

VeganMoFo 16 Sign-ups and Banners! | VeganMoFo