tester - catch up

I am taking the opportunity to catch you all up on what I have been doing recently since it is so glaringly obvious that it isn't blogging!

As you know, last year I was testing for Tami's Grills Gone Vegan cookbook, which is yet to be released, but I keep hoping it will be out for summer grilling. From those delicious-days-gone-by, I tested dreamy recipes such as:

Tami's Grown Up Grilled Cheese

Seitan Salad with Nuts and Fruits
Grilled Leek Spread

And then Tami asked me to test for her sandwich cookbook, co-authored with Celine Steen, Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day, which has a September 1 release date. I am so excited! This will be the definitive vegan lunch/sandwich book. So amazing:

Two Tomato Tango


Tofu Pomegranate Pockets



Sushi Wrap
Surprise! (Is anyone, really?) These two mad-cappers are at it again! This time creating a  whole grain baking book. Yes, again, I couldn't resist. My time is valuable and I wouldn't want to test anything that I didn't find worthy, or frankly, for any cookbook I wouldn't purchase myself, so when Tami asked if I was interested, well, for sure! 
Whole. Grain. Baking.
 I believe I have at least 4 cookbooks on my shelf on the subject, and not any one I go to as a resource. Either the book is not actually "whole grains" or it isn't vegan (and baking, as we know, is a science, not an art: difficult to ad-lib) or just plain sucks.

Needless to say I was intrigued. Turns out, these women are truly using whole grains: oat, barley, amaranth, rye, corn, wheat, ...you name it, they use it. And, get this, it tastes great! Even my kids like the goodies I've made. 

Here are some teasers:

Wheat Wonder Crackers

Pizza Your Way

Olive Round
Delectable, right? And I haven't even gone down the sweet route, yet!

All this has been horrific on my hips, but I am not done, yet.

While testing for Tami and Celine last year, I was also doing a bit of cooking for Robin Robertson's up-coming slow-cooker cookbook. As an ubber-busy mom, this was another one of those cookbooks that I found a wealth of value in. I applied for testing when Robin posted the need on her blog and she accepted. This book, Fresh from the Vegan Slow Cooker, is slated for an October release. Just in time for the holiday onslaught, when we could all use a bit of a break after all the holiday preparation during the day; nice to have dinner ready. Well, that describes my entire year, excluding the holiday factor. Can you relate?  

Here are a few pics of Robin's recipes:

Root Vegetable Bisque

Seitan Posole

Lentil Chickpea Curry

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili
That's right. All from a slow cooker.

Last month I got the opportunity to test for Robin again. This time a One-Dish cookbook. I have her first One-Dish Vegetarian Meals cookbook and love it. I figured this would be another cookbook I test for that wold benefit me more than the chef. 
Right again. 

Here are some of the pictures from this new book:

Potato Salad with Avocado Dressing

Jamaican Spinach and Red Bean Soup

Bulgur and White Bean Bake with Cabbage and Tomato

One-Dish meals mean there are no sides needed - it is a complete meal in one dish. Great idea and certainly a headache saver. 

There you have it. Hopefully some of these books will be available for you to get your hands on. In the meantime, rest assured that whatever cookbooks I receive as compensation for testing these recipes, will all be up for grabs in upcoming blog contests. 

Until next time, keep eating well. 

spaghetti and vegan meatballs

Catt chose Spaghetti and Meatballs to cook this week. Typically I can print the recipe from this blog (the founding intent of it) and let the kids loose on the kitchen, but this time I realized the only encounter I have had with meatballs has been making the Swedish Meatball recipe. Since this menu choice was not Swedish and I wanted something different and perhaps easier, I decided to make the meatballs myself and let the kid continue to hole-up in her room while I prepared the meatballs. This caused a slight delay in dinner, oh, about 2 days' worth; I'm sort of what you call a procrastinator. 

Since I have been recently messing around with seitan and gluten, I decided to continue experimenting and created a meatball with maybe a little less complication, a little more flavor and a better texture. Maybe.

Animal derived meatballs have a flurry of names. Vegan meatballs should not be left out of the nomenclature game. Before, I had made Swedish Meatballs using TVP for the filling, this time I made Italian Meatballs using Tofurkey Italian sausage for the filling. Next time it might be Soy-free Hungarian Meatballs or Gluten-Free Mexican Meatballs. Again, I used vital wheat gluten to bind, but instead of cooking the balls at a high temperature, I baked these in a low temperature oven. These tasted great right out of the oven, but after simmering in the Tomato Sauce for 10 minutes, they were light and fluffy... and 
did not fall apart... at ... all.

Dinner: Possible
Should I call Food TV?

Cost Breakdown

meatballs: $5
pasta: $3
sauce: $4
Total to make 6 servings:
$12.00



vine and dine + gnocchi with basil and roasted shallot cream sauce


Vine and Dine, hosted by Tami Noyes at Vegan Appetite, is Potato Gnocchi with Basil in a Roasted Shallot Cream Sauce, from Spork-Fed

The family loves Gnocchi so we decided to go for it and participate in Tami's cookalong, even though this cookbook is not on my shelf. 

The gnocchi recipe itself is basic, using potatoes and flour. The sauce uses roasted shallots and tons of cashews, which makes the sauce quite thick. You can very successfully reduce the amount of nuts to at least half the amount called for. 

After tasting it, the kids would have liked some tomato sauce added, 'to lighten things up,' as it is stated in the anecdote of the recipe. I agree - next time we make a gnocchi cream sauce, we will add some red sauce as well.

We drank a(nother) white wine with this dish, but I wholeheartedly believe a red would have complemented it much better. I'll let David catch you up on the wine selection. I have been the one choosing the wine for the past few V&D's (only because I have been shopping alone), but I think it is time to get him back out there making the selections. Unfortunately, I don't think I'm quite as choosy about buying the wine as about drinking it.

(David will be posting the wine review this evening).



FNF + lamb shanks with sweet potato risotto


After first reading the recipe, it was confusing to me why the chef was pairing serrano peppers with lamb and risotto. Then I took note of the author and it all made sense - the recipe, Lamb Shanks with Sweet Potato Risotto and Serrano Vinegar Sauce, is a Bobby Flay, the king of hot peppers, recipe. 

Whoever picked this Food Network Friday choice at Vegan Appetite, did very well. I am all into mushrooms and I have not yet had the pleasure of making risotto because I have always been scared off by all the hype on Hell's Kitchen and other sundry shows where the risotto has to be just perfect, otherwise shame is brought on the chef and her descendants. Hence, to me, risotto is equated with a bunch of stress.  Again, Tami manages to push me out of my comfort zone.

I remember reading somewhere that your risotto is perfect when the rice is al dente and when you stir the rice, moving your wooden (only wooden, folks!) spoon across the bottom of the pan, if the rice stays out of the cleared path and only moves back to its homogeneous consistency after a few seconds. Voila! Perfect risotto. Unless someone has a more perfect suggestion? Of course, if you leave your risotto on the stove, anticipating the other fifty components of your dish to be complete, it might harden up on you. Loosen it with a bit more hot water until you get the cleared-path-on-the-bottom-of-the-pan effect again.

Speaking of the components of this meal, let me run it down for you:

1) make protein, I made Lamb-tan. Witty, right?
2) sear seitan
3) chop onion, carrot, mushroom
4) cook onions, carrots
5) reduce wine completely
6) braise seitan
7) heat water
8) cook risotto
9) bake, peel and mash sweet potato
10) roast mushrooms
11) toast pine nuts
12) reduce balsamic vinegar
13) strain sauce and reduce
14) assemble the plate
15) serve (finally!)

And a lot of us complain about the ingredients list in recipes (and this one wasn't shy in that department either, with 25 ingredients!) This was more like making a Thanksgiving meal in miniature. Keeping it all warm and ready when the component was needed was a challenge. A worthy practice for holiday cooking.

Chanterelles are called for by Flay, but I just used regular mushrooms. However, I did drizzle a bit of truffle oil on the dish. My fungus budget went to the truffles this time. 

I also added some flour at the beginning of the braise because unlike baby sheep, seitan does not have any animal protein/gelatin to thicken the sauce. 
(I'll take flour over baby sheep any day.)

As for the results - they were worth the effort. After perusing the recipe, I realized it would be more of a company-meal or at least one that would suit an important occasion because of its elegance. For us, that occasion was appropriately Tami's Food Network Friday.