Thursday, May 31, 2012

Vegg Trick Muffin

I recently won a $5 gift card to McDonald's. My first thought was, cool, a couple of orders of fries. But then I remembered that McDonald's fries Never Go Bad, and that kinda grosses me out. So then I realized that all I'm willing to eat at McDonald's (willing to eat...something sounds wrong with that) nowadays is the oatmeal.

Which got me reminiscing about all the things I used to love eating at McDonald's. I have fond memories of Big Macs without onions, cheeseburger days in elementary school (damn those things smelled good), the failed McDonald's pizza in high school, $1.50 McChicken days during my college years, and more recently, fruit & yogurt parfaits, Egg McMuffins and BLT breakfast bagels (add cheese and bacon for an extra hit of awesome).

Even after going Plant-Strong I would still have McDonald's fries when the occasion called for it. I was grateful that I could still enjoy that indulgence in my new vegan lifestyle. Fries aren't a nutrient-rich whole food, but they taste damn good and are made without animal products, so they were a-ok in my book in the once-in-a-while category.

And then I saw the special features of Supersize Me, wherein Morgan Spurlock tries, unsuccessfully, to see how long it takes for McDonald's fries to go bad. His intern accidentally throws them out. After 10 weeks.

Seeing those picture perfect fries, in picture perfect condition after 10 weeks was all it took for me to cross McDonald's fries off my once-in-a-while-indulgence list, permanently. I mean, holy shit, what the hell is in those things, and how the hell is it ok for whatever is in them to be in us??

Something is seriously wrong.

But just because I'm completely grossed out by McDonald's now (please God don't let there be some revelation about the oatmeal before I use my gift card) doesn't mean that I don't still long for that McDonald's-esque fix on occasion.

So I put my own spin on Strong Hearts Cafe's Egg Trick Muffin: the Vegg Trick Muffin.

At his latest excursion to Karmavore, Rob the Husband picked up a package of the Vegg.

This is essentially a mix for a vegan egg yolk made primarily from nutritional yeast. You blend it with water and it actually smells and tastes very similar to an egg yolk. It's a really interesting product, and the bag yields A LOT. I got practically a whole blender full from one pack. You can totally portion this stuff out.

For our first attempt we pulled out a block of tofu, cut out a few "egg" pucks with a cookie cutter, and followed the Strong Hearts Cafe recipe for the coating as seen in the YouTube video. We used "bacon" instead of "sausage" and added some jack-style Daiya we picked up in the States (they have Daiya blocks there...them Americans always get the cool stuff first). I assembled everything on an English muffin, squirted on some organic ketchup, and we were good to go. 

This Egg Trick Muffin was definitely a winner. The texture is just like that of an Egg McMuffin, and the flavour is actually better, as real eggs always had kind of a mlechy aftertaste, like dairy milk. The seasonings they use in the coating are perfect. I was definitely an instant fan. 

I also found my new official favourite veggie bacon....Smart Bacon. We picked up a pack to try (in the States, of course) and holy crap is this stuff ever good. I've found other veggie bacons to be pretty tough and kinda rubbery, but the Smart Bacon cooks up with a fantastic crispy texture and awesome smoky flavour. It was delicious on its own and was a perfect compliment to the TrickMuffin.

For experimental Round 2, I thought I'd make use of the Vegg and amp up the egginess of the TrickMuffin by soaking the tofu puck in Vegg after coating it. This worked out really well, as the Vegg cooked the puck and made the coating nice and crispy with less oil. I also tried doing it backwards by soaking the tofu in Vegg and then dredging it in the coating, but when I fried it up on the pan the coating just fell off, so it's better to have an outside layer of Vegg for sure. It also adds just that extra jolt of eggy flavour, making this sandwich pretty friggen perfect. 

So there you have it...cruelty-free comfort eats that give you a fast food fix and taste awesome. Thumbs up Vegg Trick Muffin.

And I'd wager it doesn't take three months to decay. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

A Skinny Bitch Mother's Day for My Skinny Bitch Mother

When I first started writing this post I started it with "Today is Mother's Day" followed by "Yesterday was Mother's Day" followed by "Last week was Mother's Day." Needless to say, it's taken a while to get this post off the ground. Ah well, such is the life of the procrastinator. 

A couple of weeks ago was Mother's Day. A day to celebrate our mothers, and for some of us, a day to atone for all the crap we put our mothers through every other day of the year.

Though my mom has not gone totally Plant-Strong, she has seriously cut back on the animal products in her diet. She has her moments of clarity on a good day when she'll acknowledge the awesomeness of going Plant-Strong and how important it is for her health, but those moments sometimes compete with her old-school meat & dairy mentality. But I figure I gotta cut her some slack, as she has 60 years of erroneous thinking to battle, whereas I had half that.

There are things she loves (hello vegan Shepherd's Pie) and things she hates (like that fake sausage and fake sour cream and fake cream cheese crap), but overall she has responded positively to kinder, more compassionate eating. And since I'm always all over any opportunity to expose my family to new vegan eats and expand my recipe reservoir, Mother's Day was a perfect opportunity to bust out my Skinny Bitch cookbook and try something totally new. Or, as it were, four totally new somethings.

Mother's Day 2012 menu:
* Thai Coconut Soup (Skinny Bitch p. 98)
* Beet & Cheese Napoleon Salad with Candied Pecans and Shallot-Balsamic Vinaigrette (Skinny Bitch p. 116)
* Asian Macaroni and Cheese (Skinny Bitch p. 224)
* Tempeh No-Meatloaf (Skinny Bitch p. 229)

This was a somewhat hectic meal to prepare, as I was doing it by myself, and trying to prep everything simultaneously proved a tad challenging, as I had never prepared any of these dishes before and I wanted to time everything so that things would go into the oven at the right time and come out together.  The kitchen was a mess afterward with no time to tidy up before serving dinner, but considering I was only cooking for my sister, mother, and Rob the Husband, it was nothing to stress over. Overall, with the exception of the soup simmering on the stove longer than I would have liked, it all worked out pretty swell.

First course: Thai Coconut Soup.

There were a lot of ingredients going on in this soup and a few different stages of cooking. Some of the ingredients were hard to come by, but I learned that the local Asian grocery store is a great one stop shop for pretty much everything you'd need veggie-wise. They even had a little pre-packaged thing containing some of the more challenging items to find, like lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves, which was very convenient. This soup was an event to prep but definitely worth it, as the flavours just came together super nicely...the lemongrass and coconut especially gave it that wonderful Thai flavour, and it had the most perfect kick to it in the spiciness department.

This recipe actually didn't yield very much for me, which might have been because I was simmering it way longer than I should have while I prepped the rest of my dishes, thereby evaporating away a lot of the water. I did find myself adding water just before we were ready to serve, as it seemed a bit thick and too concentrated in flavour. Adding the water to dilute it spread the flavour out nicely to a more reasonable intensity, and the soup was enjoyed by all to start off Mother's Day dinner.

Rob's Rating: 
Thai Coconut Soup - 4 Happy Tongues

Second Course: Beet & Cheese Napoleon Salad with Candied Pecans and Shallot-Balsamic Vinaigrette  (Try saying that 5 times fast)

This was a super fancy-schmancy salad and involved a lot of prep from beginning (roasting the beets) to plating. I'm a huge fan of beets, so I bought golden as well as red to use as the middle layer of the beet & vegan cream cheese stacker. The recipe tells you roll the cream cheese mixture into a ball and place in a ziplock bag to flatten, but I didn't bother with the bag. I just rolled the balls and flattened them between my palms before placing them on the beets and it worked out great.

The highlight of the recipe for me was the candied pecans...holy crap were these ever good. They were a hard cunchy mess to scrape off the cookie sheet out of the oven (imagine scraping baked syrup off a cookie sheet), but they were ridiculously delicious. I was just hoovering them right off the pan. Everbody loved them on the salad too. The lowlight for me was the dressing, as it was made with cane sugar and shallots, giving it that sweet onion flavour that I'm not a fan of, but I was alone in this opinion, as everyone else enjoyed it. I ended up with way more dressing than I needed, as you don't end up using very much on the salad considering the powerful flavour.

Overall, this salad was super pretty and very elegant. It's also featured on the cover of the cookbook!

It's not a dish for a large dinner party, as each salad needs to be plated individually. It's a little intimidating when you first look at it, but it really delivers in uniqueness, it's sure to impress your guests, and it's worth making just for those leftover candied pecans (holycrapholycrap sooooo good).

Rob's Rating:
Beet & Cheese Napoleon Salad with Candied Pecans and Shallot-Balsamic Vinaigrette - 4 Happy Tongues

Main Course: Asian Mac & Cheese and Tempeh No-Meatloaf

These two dishes worked very well together, as the mac & cheese is quite light and the no-meatloaf is comparably intense in the flavour department. My first impression of the mac & cheese was not very impressive. I found the first bite quite bland and boring, as there was no cheese in it whatsoever (it didn't call for any vegan cheese at all). I was toying with the idea of putting in some Daiya anyway, but decided to trust the recipe and try it the first time as it was meant to be. The "cheesy" sauce is made out of cauliflower and coconut milk. It is actually quite tasty, and once I mentally took it out of the mac & cheese category and started considering it as a dish on its own merit, I liked it a lot more. It does have the satisfying, crunchy top thanks to the panko breadcrumbs, and with a dash of salt, after a few more bites I was sold. It's not as heavy as traditional mac & cheese and if you like cauliflower like I do, you'll really appreciate this one.

The delicate flavour of the mac & cheese was in stark contrast to the tempeh no-meatloaf, which turned out very bold and quite sweet, I'm assuming because of the ketchup. This meatloaf had the makings of serious comfort food, and a great tempeh texture. Tempeh is so unattractive to look at (especially the 7-grain stuff...all those dark grainy bits look like bugs), but I've never had a bad experience cooking with or eating it. This meatloaf goes super well with any kind of carb, like the mac & cheese (Kim Barnouin, the Skinny Bitch herself, recommends pairing it with Root Veggie Mash, p. 185 in the book). It's not something I could eat a large portion of by itself, but pairing it with something lighter in flavour is a perfect combination.

Rob's Rating:
Asian Mac & Chese: 2 Happy Tongues (Ouch. He said it was bland and the top layer of macaroni was hard, but acknowledged that it had potential)
Tempeh No Meatloaf - 4 Happy Tongues

Leftovers the next day were pretty delicious too. Lots of leftover beets and plenty of pecans hells yes.

And there you have it...four awesome Skinny Bitch recipes for my awesome Skinny Bitch mother. She really is one of those women you love to hate. Case in point: 61 years old and not a bit of cellulite on her. She somehow neglected to pass that genetic gem on to me.

Thanks Mom.