Posts Tagged Viva Vegan

VeganMoFo: OBR Week – Almost Vegan

I hadn’t seen Almost Vegan before I met Amber at Vida Vegan Con, and her charming ways immediately won me over.  Amber eats an “almost vegan” diet, and from what I can tell most of the recipes she posts are vegan, with a focus on raw food. She actually just turned in the manuscript for her first cookbook, an all raw cookbook.  Plus, her boyfriend Matt performs some mean karaoke.

A lot of her recipes were tempting, but on the day I was choosing this one-two punch of Latin food sounded fantastic.

This is Yellow Cilantro Rice, Venezuelan Black Beans and Cuban ‘Ropa Vieja’ Shredded Seitan, which were all adaptions from Viva Vegan.  Amber made this meal in three hours, I made this meal in…three days.  The first step was cooking the sofrito, a mixture of onion, peppers, garlic and oil.  I reduced the oil by half, because that’s what I do.  I also made seitan, from the recipe in Veganomicon.  The next day, I soaked and cooked the black beans.  Then on the third day, I finally prepared the meal!

The yellow rice is supposed to get its color from annatto oil, but Amber didn’t have any so she used turmeric, which worked just fine for me.  The black beans were seasoned with bay leaf, sofrito, tomatoes, cumin and brown sugar, and they were very delicious.  The seitan ropa vieja involved the same sort of seasonings, and reminded me that I don’t eat seitan often enough.  That’s some wilted swiss chard with onion in the back.  This was a darned delicious meal, and the recipes made a ton of food.  The flavors were mellow but good and harmonious, perfect for spicing up with Tapatio.

I’ve got my eye on more of Amber’s recipes, particularly the Single Serving Raw Blondie.

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More Personal Cheffing

For the rest of my externship, I did a few personal cheffing sessions.  I met with the client to assess their needs, planned the menu, grocery shopped, prepared the food in their kitchen, and cleaned up.  All of my “clients” were friends, so it was pretty fun!  Exhausting, but fun.

My first client was Miles.  Miles is a healthy, active guy, so I was sure to include plenty of protein and good fats in his meals.  He is trying to eat low gluten and low soy, so I took that into account as well.  I packaged his meals individually so he could grab them on the way to work.

For the first meal, I made the Quick Red Posole with Beans from Viva Vegan, served with Braised Brazilian Shredded Kale (also from Viva Vegan), toasted pumpkin seeds and quinoa with lime juice.  The kale is really great for such a simple recipe.

Since Miles strives to be mostly soy-free, he makes really interesting stuff like hemp tofu and Burmese tofu, made with chickpea flour.  He had prepared a batch of Burmese tofu, so I made Fragrant Burmese Curry with it.  The chickpea tofu held together much better than I expected.  I served the curry with brown basmati rice and roasted broccoli.

This is “tuna”-stuffed tomatoes with Italian pasta salad.  I used this recipe for the tuna, substituting hemp seeds for the sesame seeds and using an adaptation of this cashew mayonnaise recipe instead of prepared vegan mayo.  The pasta salad was based on this recipe, with gluten free pasta and Zesty Italian Dressing.  Miles didn’t care for the pasta salad much, but he said he loved the tomatoes.

My next clients were Alex & Kristin, an awesome couple who, apart from a few allergies and dislikes, aren’t too picky.  I packaged their meals for two, so that they could reheat and eat together.  (I forgot to bring my camera that day, so please enjoy the craptastic cell phone pics!)

Kristin reeeeeeally wanted lasagna, so lasagna she got.  I’m not sure I would make lasagna again for a client becuase it takes me forever to put together, but it was worth it to make her happy!  I based my lasagna on the recipe from Veganomicon, with the VCon marinara, spinach, tempeh sausage, and cashew cream with plenty of nutritional yeast.  I would’ve also added mushrooms, but they don’t like mushrooms.  The horror, I know!

This White Bean Salad with Mint was the side dish for the lasagna.  I’m not huge on fresh mint, but I think it was pretty tasty.

Atrocious picture.  I know.

Alex & Kristin love Indian food (who doesn’t?), so I made the Tamarind Lentils from Veganomicon and some saffron basmati rice pilaf.  Alex called it biryani, which I guess is what it was.  The slivered almonds totally made the rice.  I also made some kale saag, which tasted nice but photographed so horribly that I can’t bring myself to post it.  It’s unrecognizable as food.

To use some seasonal vegetables, I made succotash from a recipe I printed from Food Network’s website many years ago which doesn’t seem to be there anymore.  Instead of the bacon called for, I add a dash of liquid smoke.  I served the succotash with polenta cakes.  I wanted to do grit cakes, but the grocery store I went to didn’t have grits.

My last clients were Raelene and Wayne, and their adorable 2 1/2 year old daughter.  I packaged their food family style, which basically meant just putting the whole recipe away in the fridge or freezer.  I brought my camera that day but totally forgot to take pictures, and then left my camera there!  They were nice enough to take pictures on my camera when they tried the meals.  They wanted to eat kind of “light”, and they basically like everything, which made it easy to choose recipes.

First up, Quinoa-Corn Chowder and Classic Cabbage with Cilantro-Citrus Vinaigrette, both from Viva Vegan and both tasty and easy.

The next meal was Two-Broccoli Stir-Fry on Soba Noodles from Vegetarian Times, and Fat Free Vegan’s Double Mushroom Miso Soup.  I wanted this meal to be filling yet light, if that makes sense, and I also wanted to sneak in some seaweed 🙂

Lastly, we wanted to try freezing one of the meals, which worked out well since Raelene just had surgery (she’s fine), and they pulled it out of the freezer last night for dinner.

This is Curried Cauliflower Frittata from Vegan Brunch, with added spinach, and Samosa Stuffed Baked Potatoes from Veganomicon.  Looks like the served it with some chutney – Good call!

A few people have asked me about my experiences with the Natural Chef Program at Bauman College, so I thought I would share a few opinions here.  I enjoyed it overall, and I’m very glad that I did it.  Yes, It was difficult to attend the classes and complete the homework while still working full time, but I basically decided to dedicate my time and forgo a social life for six months.  The program is not vegan, but it is vegan-friendly, and I was never asked to taste or work with any non-vegan ingredients.  My classmates were super-cool about working with me and making sure I had enough to eat at the end of class.  The instructors were educated and experienced, and if they ever didn’t know the answer to a question they would find out before the next class.  If you’re vegan or vegetarian in the program, you do have to be okay with being around meat for a few classes, but you don’t have to work with it.  Also, you may have to listen to some talk about the merits of stuff like the Weston A. Price Foundation that you may not agree with.  Basically, you have to be understanding with your classmates, the same way you would want them to be understanding with you.  Overall, the program is extremely vegan/vegetarian friendly, and very approving of plant-based nutrition.  Also, because the program is a condensed six month program, you have to know going into it that you’re not getting the same education or experience that you would at a three-year culinary school.  In the end, I feel like I still have a lot to learn and to cook, but that I have a better basic understanding of food and nutrition, and a much better foundation in knife skills, cooking techniques, ingredient knowledge and kitchen timing.  Again, I’m very glad that I completed the program.  If you are considering attending Bauman and have any other questions about my experiences, e-mail me at jamboxrock AT hotmail DOT com and I’ll try not to take forever to answer!

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