"the essential vegan travel guide" + giveaway

Happy Cyber Monday everyone!

I am so excited to share with you a book that is all about traveling as a vegan and surviving the whole vacation, well fed and happy.

The Essential Vegan Travel Guide [AMAZON]  is written by Caitlin Galer-Unti, the publisher of the popular site The Vegan Word. Caitlin has traveled extensively world-wide and I strongly recommend checking out her site for some amazing content.


My girls went to visit family in Hungary this summer and this book was a huge lifesaver for them. Even though the family knew what the girls would eat and wouldn't eat, something was lost in translation and they had to fend for themselves more than a few times.

And when they went off to Italy by themselves for a few days, the book, again, came in immeasurable service.

The travel guide is more than just a list of resources and instead delves into how to stay vegan while traveling. The guide walks you through the many ways to take food, find food, cook food in a hotel room and even goes into where you can stay and how to figure that out. Caitlin covers it all. She leaves no stone un-turned.

Of course, research is your best friend when making travel plans, and that is where Caitlin starts: she shows you how to do your research, where to research and what to research. She walks you through it all step by step.

After all the research is done, Caitlin shows you how to apply your new-found information to find the best places to stay and where to eat when you are there.

This is a full-length book (about 130 pages) packed with loads of information and insight. In addition, Caitlin has a wonderful sense of humor, making the reading of the book not just educational, but fun, too.

If you are planning on taking a trip, whether local or foreign, whether you are staying at a hostel, with family or couchsurf, Caitlin has you covered. Although this is the 2016 edition, I see no reason why you need to wait for a possible 2017 edition since all the information is relevant and useful for the next few years, possibly. In fact, the only amendments might be updates of website addresses or adding new ones.

Since this is the giving season, I want to remind you that Caitlin has published a post of 101+ Vegan Gift Ideas, a very extensive list of wonderful gifts that you can use yourself or pass to a loved one.


 I am not exempt from the gift-giving season and therefore I am giving away a print copy of this book to a US winner AND a Kindle copy to a winner outside the US. Please leave a comment about where you would like to travel and let me know if you are a US resident or an International one. Good luck! Contest ends December 19, my daughter's birthday.

IMPORTANT: If it isn't obvious how to contact you via your comment, send me an email with the name your comment is under, the content of your comment (what you said) and a way to contact you (the email itself will be fine).  zsu [at] zsusveganantry [dot] com

And I am not done with the gift giving! I am announcing the winner of Vegan Mexico [AMAZON] by Jason Wyrick. The winner is The Peace Patch! Congratulations!! Contact me at zsu [at] zsusveganpantry [dot] com. 



cranberry bliss bars

Starbuck's, the coffee shop, has a treat called Cranberry Bliss Bars. Although I've never had it (was Starbuck's even around 16 years ago?) because it isn't vegan, I can attest that this vegan version is most certainly delicious.


The original version uses white chocolate chips, and while you are more than welcome to, I find that bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate chips are much easier to find vegan. But if you have them, use them!

The batter is very simple - flour, baking powder, ginger, salt, aquafaba, vegan butter, sugar, chocolate chips and dried cranberries.


Once creamed together, fold in the chocolate and cranberries and press into a 12X12-inch pan, or a 1/4 sheet pan. The size is really inconsequential as long as the batter is about 1/2-inch thick.


While the cookies bake and cool make the cream cheese frosting. If you really don't like it too sweet you can cut the frosting ingredients in half and frost the base very lightly.


After they bake and cool, trim the sides and cut the bars into triangles. Once frosted the bars will soften up a little and the frosting will harden a bit, making stacking possible. If they last that long, these bars are good for up to a week. Enjoy with tea or coffee.


Video:


Recipe:





Cranberry Bliss Bars
Makes about 12 bars

Bars:
1/2 cup vegan butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
5 tablespoons aquafaba**

2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

Frosting:
4 ounces nondairy cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch salt
2 teaspoons orange juice (zest orange first)
2 cups confectioner sugar, sifted after measuring
2 teaspoons orange zest
3/4 cup dried cranberries

1. Preheat the oven to 325-degrees F. Add the butter, sugar, ginger and salt to a large bowl. Use a hand mixer to cream well. Add the aquafaba a tablespoon at a time to help achieve a homogeneous mixture. Combine the flour and baking powder in a small bowl. Mix well and add to the butter mixture. Mix well using the hand mixer.
2. Add the 1 cup of cranberries and the chocolate chips. Mix well using a wooden spoon. Line a 12x12 baking sheet (or a 1/4 sheet pan) with a silicone mat or parchment paper. Add the dough and press into the pan. The dough should be about 1/2 -inch thick. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes; do not over bake. Remove and set aside for 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool on a cooling rack.
3. Frosting: Combine the cream cheese, salt and juice in a medium bowl. Mix well using a hand mixer. Add the sifted confectioner sugar and mix again. Add half of the zest.
4. When completely cool, frost the bars, reserving about 1/4 cup of the frosting. Add the 3/4 cup cranberries on top of the frosting and drizzle the remaining frosting over the cranberries. Add the rest of the orange zest. 
5. Using a sharp knife, trim the edges of the large rectangle. Cut in half and cut each half into 3 rectangles. Cut each rectangle in half diagonally. Allow the frosting to set overnight. If the bars are too crunchy allow to sit uncovered until they soften a bit. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.


** Although aquafaba is best if homemade using the recipe provided in the book, you can use aquafaba from canned chickpeas. Use the organic, low-sodium, canned chickpeas and strain off the liquid into a measuring cup using a fine mesh strainer. Note the amount of liquid you acquired, then add it to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the liquid reduces by 1/3. Cool the aquafaba completely before using.



© 2016 Copyright Zsu Dever. All rights reserved.


bbq nachos

If you follow this blog at all, you know that I don't like to repeat recipes a lot. In fact, it is only the family that makes me cook the same recipes over and over again.

With that in mind, when I was asked to make nachos again, I had to put a spin on it. Here is BBQ Nachos for the win.


This is my southern spin on a typically Mexican-inspired dish. It has homemade Chile con Queso, pulled BBQ seitan, BBQ sauce, collard greens, scallions and pickles. Trust me on this - it sounds odd, but is surprisingly tasty!

The cheese is a simple combination of ingredients and is easy to whip up. It is thick and rich and tangy. This recipe is based on my cheese sauce from Everyday Vegan Eats [AMAZON], which is a book we cook from at least a few times a week. Still a fave.


The pulled barbecue seitan is my recipe from Aquafaba [AMAZON]. It is Memphis-style Pulled Seitan recipe that pulls apart perfectly, complete with a tangy and sweet crust. I love this seitan, but you can use any barbecued tempeh, tofu, legumes or jackfruit. That part is really up to you.


Cook one bunch of collards in plenty of water and drain really well. I mean, squeeze out the excess water to avoid sogging down your chips. If you cook greens in plenty of water then most of the bitterness will leach into the water. Of course, so does a lot of the water soluble vitamins, so keep that in mind. It is a trade-off.

Then assemble:

Warm chips.
BBQ seitan, beans or jackfruit.

Choice of warm BBQ sauce.

Cheese sauce.

Collard greens, scallions and pickles.

Now get to work!






BBQ Nachos
Makes 4 servings

Cheese Sauce:
1 cup mashed soft or silken tofu
3/4 cup unsweetened plain nondairy milk
1/2 cup unsweetened plain nondairy yogurt
3 tablespoons chopped roasted red peppers (jarred is fine)
3 tablespoons tapioca starch
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon onion granules
1 (10-ounce) can diced tomatoes with chiles, lightly drained

Warm tortilla chips, as needed
2 cups barbecued beans or other barbecued plant-based protein
1 cup barbecue sauce
1 cup cooked, chopped and well-drained collard greens
1/2 cup chopped pickles
3 scallions, chopped

1. Combine the tofu, milk, yogurt, red pepper, tapioca, yeast, salt and onion in a blender. Blend very well. Add the mixture to a medium pot. Bring to boil over medium heat. Add the diced tomatoes and return to a light simmer. Cook, stirring often, until thick and the tapioca cooks well, about 4 minutes. Keep warm.
2. Warm the chips in a toaster oven, warm the protein, warm the barbecue sauce and cook the collards. Once the collards are cooked (either steamed or boiled) drain very well, squeezing out excess water. Chop the pickles and scallions.
3. To assemble, layer tortilla chips, add the protein, add some barbecue sauce, add the cheese sauce, add collards, pickles and scallions. Serve immediately. 



© 2016 Copyright Zsu Dever. All rights reserved.

vegan baked chèvre cheese dip

Chèvre is the French term for goat - or goat cheese. I didn't want to name this outright "goat cheese dip" because, well, it isn't goat cheese. However, I do want to give you the idea that this cheese dip is not your ordinary dip, but is in fact funky and creamy and unique- just like goat cheese is.


This is not an aged cheese, so it is ready to bake as soon as you blend it up. However, it does have a unique component that is quite interesting: preserved or fermented beancurd. Beancurd is, of course, just tofu, but because this is a preserved ingredient it is quite on the funkier side of things.


Of course, the next question is where to get it? I've been able to get it at all kinds of Asian markets: Korean, Japanese, Thai, etc., so if you have a local Asian market, hit that up first. Get the version without the chili flakes or chili oil - just tofu, salt and oil.

For the very adventurous, I have found a recipe online for making it at home. I just recently found it and so haven't tried it, yet, but I am planning on making it because I like to know that the tofu I use is non-GMO; these bottles don't state that.

Recipe for making homemade Fermented Bean Curd.

The tofu itself, once preserved, is very soft and aromatic:


You won't use much of the stuff because it is very potent, but you can always adjust to your taste. The first time I made this dip I used 1/3 cup of it. While I liked it, I imagine it would be a bit over the top for others.

All you do is blend the ingredients and bake.


While the dip was baking I roasted off some potatoes to use as the dipping agents - air-fryed with a teaspoon of oil; they came out crisp and flavorful. Easy roasted potato recipe.

Serve the dip with some radishes and pickled onions (or raw onions) and you have a very elegant dip to serve to guests - or to enjoy on a night to yourself.




Vegan Baked Chèvre Cheese Dip
Makes 1 1/2 cups

1 cup plain unsweetened nondairy soy or almond yogurt
2 to 4 tablespoons preserved or fermented tofu
2 tablespoons tapioca starch
1 garlic clove
1/2 to 1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon onion granules
1/2 teaspoon xantham gum (optional)
Olive oil (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 375-degrees F. Add the yogurt, tofu, tapioca, garlic, salt, onion and xantham gum (if using) to a blender. Blend very well until very smooth. Transfer to a small (about 2 cup) baking dish and drizzle with a few teaspoons of olive oil. 
2. Bake until golden and bubbly, about 30 minutes. 
3. Make the salad by combining the radishes, parsley and onion. Add the salad on top of the dip. Serve with crackers, raw vegetables or Roasted Russet Potatoes (recipe below).



Roasted Russet Potatoes

1 large russet potato, peeled and cut into wedges, about 1/4-inch thick
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon onion granules
1/2 teaspoon garlic granules
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 to 2 teaspoons olive oil


1. Preheat an air-fryer to 360-degrees (or an oven to 400-degrees). Add the potatoes, paprika, onion, garlic, parsley, salt and oil to a large bowl. Toss well. Add the potatoes to the basket of the air-fryer in a staggered crosshatch pattern (like building Lincoln Logs) and bake until crisp, about 20 minutes, shaking the basket after 10 minutes and then after 15 minutes.
2. If baking in the oven, bake on a baking sheet until crisp, about 30 minutes. Toss every 10 minutes. 


© 2016 Copyright Zsu Dever. All rights reserved.


"vegan mexico" + giveaway

The new cookbook by Jason Wyrick has been out for a few weeks now and it is clear that it is a huge hit. Jason's follow-up cookbook to Vegan Tacos [AMAZON], is in the same vein and is packed with authentic and delicious Mexican fare that is also vegan and truly delicious.




A huge bonus is that along with delicious dishes like street foods, tacos, tortas, enchiladas, tamales, salads and soups, Jason also shares basic recipes that ensure that preparing these dishes is possible: homemade masa, homemade tortillas, breads and Quick Queso Fresco.

Jason's heritage is Mexican from his mother's side, so you know that he has actually lived what he shares. The recipes show the passion Jason has for this cuisine and it comes across as genuine and authentic.

Of course, Jason breaks everything down so you get to know the ingredients you will be needing (otherwise it is not an authentic cookbook; if you don't use the proper ingredients - then it is just an interpretive and creative endeavor.) He also covers Mexican history and the specific regions that give rise to specific flavors.

I started with making bread. I have always wanted to make a torta (sandwich), but I could never find the authentic bread that is used. I was very happy to see that Jason has an easy bread recipe for us, so that was my starting point.


These football-shaped rolls are either Bolillos or Birote Salados, depending on a few minor differences. As you can see, they turned out golden with a crisp crust and tender and pillowy inside.

When I made this recipe, I had to almost double the flour. I realize that the dough itself is supposed to be really soft and loose and still very sticky, but without the added flour I would not have been able to shape the dough in any way. The amount of water to flour is so close that I don't know if it was a typo of some kind, but if you encounter the same problem, add enough flour to create a very soft and still tacky dough. After the knead and the rise it will firm up enough, but if you have a puddle of dough instead of something that comes together, just add more flour.

In the end, the bread was perfect, both inside and out. In addition, this was a really easy bread recipe to prepare. Don't be put off by the simple sponge, either! This has to be the easiest sponge I've ever made.

Taking this wonderful bread, I made Jason's Bean and Avocado Sandwich Drowned in Salsa (Torta Abogada).



This sandwich is filled with refried beans, avocados and pickled onions. Then it is drowned in a spicy (or mild) red salsa that is very easy to make. Of course, you can use store-bought rolls for a fast sandwich, but if you have the time, make the bread for it.

I topped it with cabbage and cilantro, as well, since that is a common addition, but it is certainly not necessary. Although it is very authentic to actually pour the salsa over the sandwich, I found that pouring it over the bottom half was sufficient - this way some of the crust of the top of the bread added a needed crunch and textural variation. Delicious sandwich!

Finally, I tried the Pasta Baked in Chipotle Tomato Sauce (Sopa Seca).



This dish is pasta that is drowned in tomato sauce and baked. The pasta actually cooks in the tomato sauce, which is known as fideo. Fideo is Spanish, meaning pasta.

The tomato sauce in this case is laced with chipotle peppers and the baked pasta is topped with Queso Fresco. Jason has a Quick Queso Fresco recipe in the book, but this version is my own. I'll be sharing the recipe later in the month. Enjoy this dish with some of the bread you baked and it adds a wonderful touch.

Overall the book is fantastic and it is a wonderful and useful addition to any library - vegan or not. Jason makes things clear and easy to follow and the recipes are delicious.

Jason and Vegan Heritage Press are sharing a recipe from the book and are also giving away a copy of this book to one lucky US resident.

The contest runs through the 21st and a winner will be announced November 23. Please leave a comment about Jason or Mexican food and make sure I have a way to contact you. Of course, you can check back on this blog on its Wednesday's post, but people do tend to forget to do that if they haven't subscribed. If I can't contact you by the 26th, I will choose another winner. Good luck!

First, though, check out Jason's recipe for Caldo of Sweet Potato and Chard.


Photo by Jason Wyrick








Caldo of Sweet Potato and Chard
Caldo de Camotes y Alcegas
Makes 6 servings

This simple soup features a mildly spicy broth married with the earthy sweetness of white sweet potatoes and the lushness of wilted chard. It’s not only delicious, it’s a powerhouse of nutrition. Chard, sweet potatoes, and beans conspire to fight cancer and regulate blood sugar and are naturally low in fat. (from Vegan Mexico, copyright © 2016 by Jason Wyrick. Used by permission Vegan Heritage Press.)

5 cups water
Corn oil, for frying
4 ancho chiles
10 cloves pan-roasted garlic
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
1 medium white sweet potato, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 bunch chard, greens and stems sliced paper thin
1 1/2 cups cooked pinto beans or 1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed

Bring the water to a boil in a medium pot. Heat 1/8 inch of corn oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the anchos and fry them for 20 seconds on each side. Place the anchos in the boiling water, reduce it to a simmer, and simmer the anchos for 6 to 8 minutes. Remove them from the water and when they are cool enough to handle, remove the stems.

In a blender or food processor, purée the anchos, garlic, salt, oregano, and the water used to simmer the anchos until smooth. Return the purée to the pot and bring it to a simmer. Add the sweet potato, chard, and beans and cook until the sweet potatoes are al dente, about 6 minutes.




holiday sandwich

I'm a sucker for complete meal type of sandwiches, as demonstrated by my Thanksgiving Burger, a recipe from 2014. Since the holidays are around the corner, what better way to start the celebration than with this easy to make Holiday Sandwich:


It might look a bit much, but it really is easy to put together. The patty is made of mushrooms and chickpeas as the base. It doesn't include any binding, but it stays together relatively well. It dries out and because the acorn squash is very moist, together, they work in harmony.

A few spices and dark miso help to keep this burger from falafel-ville. It is decidedly not a falafel.

You process all the ingredients in a food processor, form into patties and bake them with the acorn squash. The timing is about the same and because you don't peel the squash, the process is easy.


There is nothing more on the squash than salt and pepper because the flavor is in the patties.

This sandwich needs some crunch, so I tossed thin onion slices with cornstarch/arrowroot and air-fried it until crisp. I did add a few sprays of oil to help it brown, but it is nothing like deep frying them.

The sauce. It is so simple and so delicious! It is Cranberry Aioli and it is the bomb. Just mix together cranberry sauce and vegan mayonnaise or vegan yogurt and liberally add to the sandwich. It is tangy and sweet but creamy and rich. Don't skip it.

And because no holiday is complete without something green, this sandwich features steamed kale. A crusty bread or roll and you are in business, my friend.

Photo by Caitlin Galer-Unti from The Vegan Word.com
Speaking of holidays, gift-giving season is almost here and it is time to start planning. Caitlin from The Vegan Word has amassed an amazingly thorough list of vegan gift ideas. I truly am impressed! Take a look for yourself.







Holiday Sandwich
Makes 4 servings

Patties:
1 3/4 cups or 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained
3 ounces of trimmed shiitake mushrooms (trimmed of stems)
1 tablespoon dark miso
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1/2 teaspoon onion granules
1/2 teaspoon garlic granules
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon sage

Onions:
1 medium onion, sliced very thin
2 tablespoons arrowroot or cornstarch
Oil spray, as needed

Sauce:
1/4 cup cranberry sauce
1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise or plain nondairy yogurt

Other:
Sea salt and black pepper
1 medium acorn squash, cut into 4 sections
1 bunch kale, tough stems removed and finely chopped
4 crusty rolls, split


1. Patties: Preheat the oven to 350-degrees F. Combine the chickpeas, mushrooms, miso, yeast, onion, garlic, thyme and sage in a food processor. Process until finely ground. Divide the mixture into 4 portions and form into patties about the size of your rolls. Transfer to a parchment or silicone mat lined baking sheet. Add the squash quarters to the pan and season with salt and black pepper. Bake for 20 minutes. Flip the patties and the squash and bake for another 20 minutes. If the squash is tender remove it from the pan. Continue to bake the patties for another 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown and hold together fairly well. 
2. Onions: Combine the onion, starch and spray with oil. Transfer to the basket of an air-fryer and cook until semi-crisp, about 10 to 15 minutes. Shake the basket after every 5 minutes and make sure not to burn. The onions will become crispy after they sit for a minute off the heat.
3. Sauce: Combine the cranberry sauce and mayo. Mix well. Set aside. 
4. Steam the kale until very tender and toast the rolls. Season the kale with salt and pepper.
5. Assemble the sandwich by spreading the bottom and top with the aioli. Add kale, a patty. Scoop out the squash from the shells and add one to the sandwich. Top with onions and serve. 


© 2016 Copyright Zsu Dever. All rights reserved.



red pepper pesto with grilled eggplant

Last night I wanted to make something fresh, and different with very little prep time. I had some leftover refried black beans from a cookbook review and I wanted to make good use of it.

I was toying with the idea of using up some of the jarred red peppers I had in the fridge, without having to resort to freezing them, as I will normally do after I open a jar. Because I was a little remiss in doing that with this jar a few weeks ago, I was worried it was going to spoil. So with that introduction, this sauce/dish was born: Grilled Eggplant with Red Pepper Pesto.



I am a huge proponent of grilling vegetables because you can get away with using little or no oil, and grilling eggplant is one of my favorite ways of tackling this fruit/vegetable. Slice 2 pounds of eggplant into 1/2-inch rounds or planks. Use a grill pan and grill the eggplant for 2 minutes. Cover your pan to trap the smoke (therefore smoking your eggplant in the process, too) and after 2 minutes move each slice about 45-degrees. Grill for 2 more minutes, flip and repeat.

A few reasons to cook it this way (grilling covered and moving the eggplant 45-degrees), and neither are that it makes the eggplant look pretty.

1. It cooks the eggplant through. Tough eggplant is great for jerky, but not for this recipe.
2. It prevents the eggplant from burning, which would make the burnt parts bitter.

Then use the eggplant as you desire.

I chose to smother my eggplant with this deliciously delightful Red Pepper Pesto. The pesto consists of jarred peppers, nutritional yeast, toasted pistachios, garlic, oregano and salt and pepper. And, to make it creamy and tangy without adding oil, I added a few tablespoons of yogurt. Which made it perfect! Buzz the whole thing in a food processor and it is ready.


I just layered my eggplant,


with refried black beans (or not, your choice), and added some pesto, then repeated until I had no more eggplant left.


I added the rest of the pesto to the top and baked the whole thing until hot. I topped it with some parsley and fresh bread crumbs, but you totally don't have to.

If you are making the bread crumbs, blend 2 or 3 slices of whole grain bread and toast it in a skillet until dry, about 3 to 4 minutes, stirring constantly. You can add a few tablespoons of oil, if you want, but I didn't find it necessary. Mix in a few tablespoons of parsley for added flavor, nutrition and color, and serve.








Red Pepper Pesto
Makes about 1 1/2 cups


4 jarred, roasted red peppers
1/2 cup toasted pistachios
3 tablespoons unsweetened, plain nondairy yogurt (use almond or soy. Coconut might add coconut flavor)
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
4 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon dried oregano or 2 tablespoons fresh oregano
Sea salt and black pepper


1. Add the peppers, pistachios, yogurt, yeast, garlic, oregano and salt and pepper, to taste, to a food processor. Process until it is as smooth as you like it. I like some small bits of pistachio still evident. If you like a very smooth pesto, add all the ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. 
2. Taste and adjust seasoning.
3. Serve as a dip, on pasta or over grilled eggplant. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.  



© 2016 Copyright Zsu Dever. All rights reserved.