Tuesday, March 24, 2015

My First Six Weeks at Rouxbe!

It's been about six weeks since I started Rouxbe's Plant-Based Professional Certification Course online, and I've been loving every minute of it! See my previous Rouxbe posts here and here.

I'm by no means a professional cook, but I have been food blogging for several years, so I'm no stranger to the kitchen. Before I started Rouxbe, I wondered about the level of the class: would it be too basic? Too advanced? Would I just be blindly remaking recipes someone else wrote?

After six weeks, I can positively say that I've found none of these assumptions to be true at any point in the course. Rather, it's served as a refresher for things I already knew, steered me into the right direction on those things I kind of half-knew and is introducing me to things I've never heard of or tried before. It's presented a good balance of fun and challenge throughout, and I always look forward to "opening" each task to see what's inside. 

Best of all, by solidifying foundational cooking principles, Rouxbe has enhanced my own creative process, allowing me to embrace my own style of cooking with better results—using the ingredients and techniques I naturally gravitate towards.

But what does that mean exactly? Instead of just asking me to replicate a task, Rouxbe tells me why I'm doing it, what impact it has on a dish, then shows me how to do it correctly (and what happens when it's done incorrectly!)—and what I need to do to practice and perfect it on my own. The course so far has been packed with aha! moments when I make a connection or discover something new. I love that Rouxbe's highly structured guidance not only expertly instructs, but also empowers.

Learning at Rouxbe has taken me about 8 hours a week to keep up with so far. Not all tasks require cooking or replicating a specific techniqueSome involve watching instructional videos, reading or visual learning, and it's presented a nice balance of reading, observing, doing and proving (hello unit quizzes!).

Another part of Rouxbe that adds a new dimension to learning are the bi-monthly live webinars, led by Chef Chad Sarno. Being able to ask questions as well as listen to other fellow Rouxbe classmates' questions, then get answers in real time by Chef Chad or an expert guest speaker has been invaluable. So far in the course, webinar guest speakers have included Dr. Michael Greger, Dr. Michael Klaper and Chef Fran Costigan, with Neal Barnard, M.D. to speak later in April.

Some guest speaker webinars at Rouxbe are free and open to the public, so hop in on one or watch a recorded webinar if you'd like! Past Rouxbe webinar speakers have included Julieanna Hever, M.S., R.D., C.P.T. (Plant-Based Dietician), Whitney Lauritsen (Eco Vegan Gal), Raghavan Iyer and Chef Jason Wrobel (jasonwrobel.com).

I'm excited to see what the coming weeks will bring at Rouxbe. Stay tuned for another update sometime in April that will include more of what I've learned ... I can't wait to share it with you!

In the meantime, head over to Rouxbe and sign up for a free seven-day trial if you want to try it out. But if you're ready to learn about plant-based cooking or take your already fabulous plant-based cooking skills to the next level, Rouxbe's next seating starts May 7. If you sign up by April 10, they are offering a discount on tuition.

Click here or on the graphic below for more information. Come join me at Rouxbe and make your cooking better by learning together!

Rouxbe generously waived my tuition in exchange for blogging about my experience and sharing my honest opinions about their Plant-Based Professional Certification Course.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

FARM's Meatout: Eat Vegan for a Day on March 20

If you are reading this blog, chances are you're already vegan or working towards incorporating more vegan food into your diet (p.s. you're awesome!) And if you are vegan, chances are you know a few or many people in your life who are not (I know, me too!) Wouldn't it be nice if there was a designated day for " going vegan" out there? 

There is! Since 1985, Meatout, an international event held on the first day of spring, "raises awareness of the benefits of eating vegan: helping animals, achieving great health, and saving the planet." When the nice folks over at FARM (Farm Animal Rights Movement) explained to me what their "Eat Vegan for a Day" initiative was, and asked if I'd like to help spread the word about Meatout, I of course said yes, and hopped on my Instagram and Facebook to share some of their graphics and information seen in the grid above.  

A bit more about FARM:
Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM) is a 501(c)(3) national nonprofit organization working to end the use of animals for food through public education and grassroots activism. We believe in the inherent self-worth of animals, as well as environmental protection and enhanced public health. We operate just outside of Washington, DC and work through our Compassionate Activist Network (CAN) with volunteers in all 50 U.S. states and two dozen other countries.
If you'd like to pledge to "Eat Vegan for a Day" on March 20 visit meatout.org to sign up. Or if you are already vegan and want to encourage someone else to, hop over to my Instagram and tag a friend to spread the word.

Before I went vegan, I was not vegan—I remember that making the transition was hard. Not because the food wasn't good, but because I didn't have a ton of resources to access. So to help, I've pulled some vegan recipes (and some books and awesome blogs) for March 20 planning below.

Bon appétit and thanks for helping the animals by choosing compassion for FARM's 2015 Meatout


Vegan Tuna Salad  |  Tempeh Reuben with Sriracha-Vegenaise Dressing  |  Chickpea Salad Sandwich  |  Protein-Happy Quinoa Wraps (recipe from Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day! by Celine Steen and Tamasin Noyes)

Quick and Easy Tofu with Ramen Noodles  |  Black Bean and Corn Quesadillas with Smoked Paprika  |  BBQ Bacon Burgers (recipe from But I Could Never Go Vegan! by Kristy Turner)  |  Buffalo Chickpea Soft Tacos with Avocado Sour Cream

Chocolate Olive Oil Glaze for Chocolate-Dipped Anything (from Vegan Chocolate by Fran Costigan)  |  Bumbleberry Cobbler (recipe from Vegan Casseroles by Julie Hasson)

For more vegan recipes, check out my full recipe index.

For some great vegan cookbooks, check out my resources page, with more detailed info here and here.

And if you are looking for more great vegan reads, check out these amazing resources!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Carrot Lox

Passive time: 1 1/2 hours to slow roast, followed by marinating for at least 2 days for optimal flavor and texture 
Active time: 20 minutes
Yields: about 1 1/2 cups of lox

Salmon lox was one of those things that I used to eat a lot of as a pescetarian and think, "nope, never going to stop" as I piled it over a bagel smothered in cream cheese and topped with red onion and capers. I loved seeing pieces of if drenched in cream-based sauces over pasta, and dug into boxes of it during the holidays. Whenever I went to a deli, I always ordered a salmon lox bagel. The smoke, the salt, the texture—everything about it just worked.

But when I went vegan, that yum turned into an ew and I was content with simply slathering vegan cream cheese onto a bagel and topping with red onion and capers instead. Because how can something so specifically textured and flavored like salmon lox be made vegan?

Enter carrots.

Following the same slow, salt-roasting technique I recently did with golden beets, a vegan version of lox was easy to recreate, although it took a few tries. The one thing I discovered through making several test batches is that the secret to getting that lox-y quality is to marinate them for two or three days after slow-roasting them. They develop an impossibly soft and velvety texture during this time, and the smoke flavor mellows to a perfect level.

2 cups coarse sea salt, plus more if needed
3 large carrots (do not peel them)
1 TB olive oil*
2 tsp liquid smoke
1/2 tsp coconut vinegar

to serve
vegan cream cheese
minced red onion
fresh dill

Preheat oven to 375.

To slow roast the carrots, place one cup of coarse sea salt into a glass pyrex that offers just enough room to accommodate the length and width of the carrots so you can keep them whole. Rinse the unpeeled carrots and place them wet into the salt, making sure that the carrots are nestled in the salt and do not make contact with the bottom of the pyrex. Pour about another whole cup of salt evenly over the tops, adding a bit more as needed to ensure they are fully covered in salt. 

Place into the oven to roast, uncovered for an hour and a half.

Once done, tip the pyrex over onto a baking sheet and allow the carrots to cool just enough that you can handle them. Crack away and brush off any salt, then peel away the skin. It's fine if there is still some skin left on the carrot. Then, using a mandolin or sharp knife, finely chop the carrots into jagged, thin strips. Place into a clean glass container.

To marinate the carrots, whisk together the olive oil, liquid smoke and coconut vinegar. (If you have a little more or little less than 1 1/2 cups carrot, just add a little more or less of the liquid components as needed.) Drizzle over the warm carrots and toss well to coat. At this point, the flavor will not taste very "lox like"—they will need to be placed in the refrigerator for at least two days to allow the flavor to deepen and mellow, and for the carrots to get really soft and silky.

*If the carrots start to look dry during marinating time, add an additional tablespoon of olive oil and give it a good stir. (You want the carrots to look soft and slightly shiny throughout the marinating time.)

When ready to serve, remove from the refrigerator and allow the carrots to come to room temperature, then serve with toasted bagels, capers, vegan cream cheese, red onion and fresh sprigs of dill as desired.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Teff Love by Kittee Berns | Recipe + Review!

When we lived in Boston, one of our favorite places to eat out at was Addis Red Sea Ethiopian Restaurant in Back Bay. After finding our way to one of the open barchumas or low benches, we always started off with Ethiopian beer and vegetarian sambusas, served on a mesob. My favorite dish there was the butecha: a chickpea-based dish with jalepeno, lemon juice, oil and black pepper. It was served on a huge piece of fluffy injera, with a few extra pieces rolled up on the side. I loved the taste of this dish for its simplicity, and liked the little ritual that was involved with eating it

Although I tried making butecha from a few recipes I found online, none of them really replicated what Addis Red Sea offered—until I tried the butecha recipe in Teff Love: Adventures in Vegan Ethiopian Cooking, a new Ethiopian cookbook by Kittee Berns. Perfectly textured and with a nice balance of creaminess, acidity and subtle heat from the jalepeno, this butecha is easy to make and tastes amazing. But Teff Love offers way more than just butecha. 

Teff Love is a vegan, mostly gluten-free cookbook written from a North American perspective, and reflects Kittee's knowledge of Ethiopian cuisine, which she has experimented with and perfected over the last 25 years. I've been a follower of Kittee's work for years, first from her blog pakupaku many years ago, then at Cake Maker to the Stars, which she currently maintains. I adore Kittee's warm personality, signature style and her sincere love of sharing her perspective and love of food and cooking.

Once you open the cookbook, Kittee takes you by the hand, giving you a brief overview of Ethiopian spices, specialty ingredients and a grocery list (with ingredients listed in English and Amharic) before delving into how to make dishes like ye'difin misser sambusas (crunchy lentil-stuffed pastries with a chickpea flour crust), hirut's fasolia (tender braised green beans with carrot and soft onion in a tangy tomato-ginger sauce), ye'ingudai awaze tibs (stir-fried mushrooms with onion and rosemary in a spicy wine sauce), ye'tofu kwas be'siquar denich alicha (savory tofu dumplings with sweet potatoes in a mild sauce) and shai be'qimem (black tea steeped with fresh ginger, spices and orange rind). The flavors and aromas in Teff Love are bold, the ingredients are accessible and the recipes are approachable. It also gives visibility to and demystifies Ethiopian cuisine—one that's often glossed over or misunderstood in most parts of the US.

I'm so excited to share one of Kittee's recipes for her quick teff crepes below. Traditional teff crepe batter takes days to ferment and, while this recipe doesn't offer the same level of tang and complexity, it's a perfect method for making inerja when you want it in under 30 minutes!

Quick Teff Crepes

Recipe from Teff Love: Adventures in Vegan Ethiopian Cooking, copyright © Kittee Berns, 2015. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, Book Publishing Company.

Although these crêpes don’t have quite the same texture or pronounced sourness typical of teff injera, they make a good stand-in on days when you want Ethiopian food quickly and don’t have time for the fermentation process or access to commercial injera. They have a slightly spongy-stretchy texture, with a small bit of tang from the yogurt and vinegar, and work well for scooping up sauces and stews.

Makes 14 6-inch crêpes


1 cup teff flour, any variety
1⁄2  cup chickpea flour
1⁄2  teaspoon baking soda
1⁄2  teaspoonsalt
2 cups carbonated water
2/3 cup unsweetened plain vegan yogurt
6 tablespoons cider vinegar

  1. Preheat a nonstick skillet (see cooking tip) over medium heat.

  2. Put the teff flour, chickpea flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk vigorously to combine and to beat out any lumps in the chickpea flour. Add the carbonated water and vegan yogurt and whisk well to combine. When the griddle is hot, whisk in the vinegar to combine. The batter will rise and foam, and the consistency will be thin and reminiscent of chocolate milk.

  3. Form each crêpe by using a 1/3-cup measure to scoop the batter from the bottom of the bowl and pour it into a disk on the hot pan. Use a spoon to quickly and lightly smooth the batter into a 6-inch disk, starting in the center and working in concentric circles until you reach the edges (keep the center of the crêpe the thickest and the edges the thinnest; the crêpe should be between 1/8 and 1⁄4 inch thick).

  4. Cover and cook for 1 minute. The crêpe should be dry on the top with a smattering of little holes over its surface. Uncover and continue to cook the crêpe without turning it for 1 to 11⁄2 minutes. The total cooking time for each crêpe should be 2 to 21⁄2 minutes. When fully cooked, the crêpe should be dry on top with a few air-bubble holes, and the bottom should be firm, smooth, and lightly browned. Depending on your cookware and stove, you’ll need to adjust the heat to achieve this result. Use a flat, flexible spatula to loosen and release the crêpe, and then quickly transfer it to a plate and cover with a clean, dry tea towel. Repeat the cooking process until all the batter has been used. As the crêpes are made, stack them on top of each other and keep them covered with the towel so they don’t dry out.

  5. As they cool, the crêpes will develop a spongy-stretchy texture. Let them rest until they’re room temperature, then wrap the stack loosely in a clean, dry tea towel and seal it in a ziplock bag until serving time. Be sure the crêpes are completely cool or the bag will collect moisture and they’ll spoil. If you notice any condensation, open the bag to air it out.
Cooking Tip: For the best success, I recommend cooking these crêpes on a flat, anodized griddle or pan. If you find the crêpes are sticking as they cook, mist the pan with a small amount of oil. Keep in mind, just as with traditional teff injera, the first one cooked is usually a throwaway or a treat for the cook.

Cooking Tip: Halve this recipe if you’d like a smaller yield, and for the best results, eat these the same day they’re prepared.

To see how to correctly make inerja at home, take a look at Kittee's video below!

To see a full round-up of Kittee's Teff Love virtual tour, click here.

For the previous Teff Love virtual tour review, visit Vedged Out.

For the next Teff Love virtual tour review, visit Vegan Richa on March 15!