Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The HappyCow Cookbook: Review and Giveaway!

When I first went vegan, I relied heavily upon online resources to make the best cruelty-free choices available, like Leaping Bunny for cosmetics, The Post Punk Kitchen to figure out how to make stuff to eat and HappyCow for finding vegan restaurants. Although recalling and using most of the information pulled from these sites is now second nature to me, I still revisit HappyCow when travelling—whether it's within the US or beyond—because vegan options are constantly growing, changing and evolving.

When we visited Scotland a few years ago, HappyCow told us where to go to find vegan food, and led us to Café Arriba in Isle of Skye, and Henderson's Bistro and Black Bo's [now closed] in Edinburgh. Wouldn't it be a great idea to have a book that showcased similar dishes from vegan restaurants around the world that included recipes, photos and a bit about their history?

Voila! The nice folks over at BenBella Books have thought of just that, and they've released The HappyCow Cookbook, which features more than 80 recipes from almost 50 restaurants, spanning 11 countries around the world. If you want to feel like you are being whisked away to a Denmark- or Israel-based restaurant by making one of their signature dishes, or would like to recreate a favorite dish you just had in Japan, you can just crack open this cookbook to experience it once again in your own kitchen.

When I received my HappyCow Cookbook review copy, I made Studio City-based SunCafe Organic's Moroccan Tajine. This dish offers a simple yet flavorful balance of rich and sweet, and a beautiful array of textures and aromas. The technique behind making this dish was completely new to me, and I loved the aromas it released during the baking time. Bella Books has kindly allowed me to share the recipe for the Moroccan Tajine here, and is also offering a free copy of their book through this post! 

**To enter for a chance to win, just leave a comment below including the best dish you've ever had at a vegan restaurant, and include the restaurant name in your comment, along with your email or some way to contact you in case your nameis drawn as the winner. Shipping is restricted to US and Canada only. I'l randomly pick a winner on August 26 ... good luck!**

From SunCafe Organic in Studio City, CA | Reprinted with permission by BenBella Books

Moroccan Tajine
Serves 4

For the sauce:

1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup water
1/8 cup lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

For the stew:

1 carrot, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1/2 cup peas (fresh or frozen)
1 large zucchini, chopped
1/2 apple, chopped
1/4 cup minced onion
1/4 cup chopped green onion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

For the date/cinnamon sauce:

1/2 cup whole dates
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Small pinch cayenne
2 1/2 cups water

To assemble:

1/2 cup raisins (garnish)
Dill sprigs (garnish)

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Gather together the sauce ingredients in a blender. Mix on high until smooth. Next gather together the stew ingredients. Mix them with the sauce in a large bowl. Place on a baking tray and bake in the heated oven for 15 minutes. Set aside.

Combine all the date/cinnamon sauce ingredients in a blender. Blend on high until smooth. Set aside.

To assemble: Mold tajine in 3 1/2-inch mold circles or use a 1 cup measuring cup. Drizzle date/cinnamon sauce over the top and around the plate. Garnish with raisins and dill sprigs, then serve.

For more information, visit HappyCow.net on Facebook, twitter and Pinterest.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Vegan Life  Magazine: Bringing Vegan into Vogue

Vegan Life, a brand new bimonthly lifestyle magazine, is releasing its first issue on August 21. This UK-based publication's mission is to bring "vegan into vogue" and is aimed at an audience that is increasingly moving towards eating healthy plant-based meals as well as making more compassionate lifestyle choices.
In addition to featuring tons of gorgeous recipes, including gluten-free and raw food options, Vegan Life will also provide information about nutrition and in-depth articles about the latest vegan food innovations. Interviews with top vegan celebrities and athletes, animal-free fashion and beauty, and reviews of the latest new vegan products will also be included.
Inspiring profiles of campaigners and vegan entrepreneurs will send the message that a vegan life is exciting and that individuals can make a difference. Regular features on family life as well as an advice column will reassure and remind readers that they are part of a rapidly growing community. The ethos of the magazine is positive inclusivity—opening the doors of the vegan lifestyle to everybody and sharing all the good stuff! 

Publishers Prime Impact are building on the success of their Om Yoga Magazine by moving into a new marketplace which is close to their hearts. As well as publishing on paper, they will create an interactive online version of the publication which will make it available to readers worldwide.

A subscription to the magazine for people living outside the UK and Europe will cost £37.30 for six issues. A digital subscription will also be available on all platforms, and the first issue will be available on August 21. 

For more information on Vegan Life Magazine, visit http://www.veganlifemag.com.

Follow Vegan Life Magazine on Twitter and Facebook.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Vegan Chocolate, by Fran Costigan: Review + Giveaway! [closed]

I was so excited to receive a copy of Fran Costigan's Vegan Chocolate: Unapologetically Luscious and Decadent Dairy-Free Desserts from Running Press. This book is gorgeous: it's hardcover, packed with more than 120 mind-blowing chocolate-based vegan dessert recipes and adorned with beautiful photos shot by Kate Lewis. As soon as I cracked it open, I made a mad dash to Whole Foods to pick up some chocolate so I could begin replicating some of Fran's recipes, which are all well-crafted with easy and approachable instructions.

I started with the easiest recipe of all: Fran's Chocolate Olive Oil Glaze for Chocolate-Dipped Anything. Dark chocolate and a touch of olive oil and salt are slowly melted over a double boiler to create the most luscious, silky and perfectly balanced chocolate glaze for, well ... anything. I dragged blueberries (and maybe my fingers) through this chocolate sauce once it cooled slightly and loved its soft and melt-in-your-mouth quality. 

Vegan Chocolate offers a nice balance of easy/beginner to more advanced but doable recipes like Créme Fraîche Truffles, Bittersweet Ganache-Glazed Chocolate Torte to Live For, White and Dark Chocolate Cheesecake, Intensely Chocolate Trifle, Chocolate Panna Cotta, Mocha Créme Brûlée, Chocolate Horchata and Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache Glaze.

While I am planning on making some of these, I'm excited to share the recipe for the Chocolate Olive Oil Glaze for Chocolate-Dipped Anything that Running Press has kindly agreed to be posted here. And, if that's not enough, they are also offering a giveaway of Fran's book to one lucky reader through this post!

To enter, simply leave a comment below that includes your favorite chocolate-based dessert. Please leave your email or some way to contact you in case your comment is drawn as the winner. Shipping is restricted to the US only. 

On August 12, I'll randomly pick a winner ... good luck!

The winner of this giveaway is Ali, congrats! Thanks to everyone who entered.

Chocolate Olive Oil Glaze for Chocolate-Dipped Anything
Reprinted with permission by Running Press © 2013 by Fran Costigan

Shiny chocolate-dipped fruit, cookies, confections, and snacks like pretzels and potato chips look gorgeous, but most of the time, when dipped in melted chocolate alone, the final result is dull or speckled with white spots. Tempered chocolate, however, yields a glossy, speckle-free appearance. Directions for seed-tempering chocolate are found in my book Vegan Chocolate: Unapologetically Luscious and Decadent Dairy-Free Desserts, but this recipe offers an alternative method: adding some mild tasting extra-virgin olive oil to melted chocolate. The result is not a true tempered chocolate, but this works very well as a chocolate dip and even a lusciously smooth cake glaze. If you don’t want to wait for the chocolate glaze to set, just dip and eat!

Fruit must be thoroughly dry and cold before dipping (chocolate sets fastest on cold fruit). Rinse the fruit gently (do not wash berries more than 30 minutes before using), gently pat dry with paper towels and refrigerate until cold.

6 ounces / 170 grams dark chocolate (70 to 72%), finely chopped

2 tablespoons / 30 ml mild tasting extra-virgin oil or neutral vegetable oil

2 pinches flaked sea salt (optional)

Recommended Items For Dipping
Long-stem or standard strawberries
Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries
Cherries on the stem
Citrus segments (mandarin oranges or grapefruit, cleaned of all pith and “string”)
Dried fruit
Pomegranate seeds
Sunflower seeds
Potato chips

Line a sheet pan with a piece of plastic wrap, acetate, or parchment or a Silpat baking mat.

Melt half of the chocolate with the olive oil in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water (make sure the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl), stirring a few times until the chocolate is just melted. Add the rest of the chocolate and stir until melted.

Remove the bowl from the saucepan. Wipe the water from the bottom of the bowl. Crush the salt (if using) between your fingers and add it to the chocolate, stirring until the chocolate is completely melted and the glaze is smooth.

To dip larger items: hold by the end or stem. Dip each piece two-thirds of the way into the chocolate. Lift up and allow the excess chocolate to drip back into the bowl. Set each piece on the lined sheet pan and push forward just slightly, so the chocolate doesn’t puddle too much. (Don’t worry if it does.) Allow the chocolate to set at room temperature for about 15 minutes, then refrigerate on the tray until set.

To dip smaller pieces, such as nuts or seeds, plunk a bunch at a time into a shallower bowl of chocolate and push them around with a fork until coated. Remove with a large fork or slotted spoon and allow the excess chocolate to drip back into the bowl. Place on the lined baking sheet to harden and then refrigerate.

Refrigerate until serving. The chocolate-dipped “anythings” will peel off the acetate, parchment, or Silpat when the chocolate has hardened.

Fran Costigan is an internationally recognized culinary instructor, recipe developer, and innovative vegan pastry chef, and the author of three cookbooks. A graduate of the New York Restaurant School and the Natural Gourmet Institute, Fran was a pastry chef in both traditional and vegan kitchens. Today Fran teaches her distinctive courses (including her Vegan Baking Boot Camp Intensive ®) in her hometown of New York City at the Institute of Culinary Education and at the Natural Gourmet Institute and at major events throughout North America and Europe. Please visit her at francostigan.com.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Sambal and Sesame Dressed Grilled Green Beans

Serves 2-3
Time: 20 minutes

I love grilling outside with Jeff in the summer. Smelling aromas from the food on the table and grill before tasting it, feeling condensation on a cold beer bottle against my warm hands as well as the latticed pattern of the wrought-iron table underneath it, and hearing the sound of my husband's voice are all part of the wonderful sensory experience of it.

When we lived in Boston, that opportunity lasted only a few months out of the year. I loved carrying trays outside with whatever we were grilling, and sitting down together at our outside patio table. Cars would pass by, and we'd occasionally wave at them while sipping beers and talking about our day. Our indoor-only cat, Nimrod, would pop up at the window near where we were eating, and meow loudly behind the window screen, confused as to why she wasn't invited to this particular table.

Now that we are in Redondo Beach, grilling outside is something we can do throughout the year, in our little patio space. Nimrod still has found a nearby window screen to press herself up against while we eat, meowing incessantly while Jeff monitors and flips whatever he's put on the grill.

Grilling for us usually involves fried okra on the table. My protein of choice is sambal seitan skewers, and cold beer or wine is always on the table. It wasn't until I made a batch of these sambal and sesame dressed green beans that we've decided that these should be included on the table as much as possible. When sesame and sambal collide, it releases an amazing aroma that's both deep and vibrant, rich and bright. Dragging these soft and crispy grilled beans through this dressing makes me intensely happy during the evenings we share while eating, laughing and relaxing outside.

1 pound fresh green beans
2 TB dark sesame oil
2 tsp soy sauce
sambal, to taste (I used 1/4 cup)
2 TB sesame seeds
1/3 cup raw red onion, sliced into thin half moon shapes

Snap the ends off the green beans and discard or use for making vegetable stock later. Rinse and pat dry. Place the beans into a large prep bowl. Whisk together the sesame and soy sauce, then drizzle over the beans. Toss to coat.

Place the beans onto a grilling tray in a single layer. Grill on high for 8-10 minutes, turning once.

Throw the grilled green beans back into the prep bowl and toss again with the leftover sesame oil mixture in the bottom. Drizzle with sambal and toss again, then sprinkle with sesame seeds and red onion. Serve warm or at room temperature.