Monday, May 23, 2011

You Know You Want Some (Vegan Photo Album 2)

In April 2011, I posted my first vegan photo album Living La Vega(n) Loca showcasing a cornucopia of dairy-, egg-, and meat-free scrumptious goodness. I had fun cooking those dishes and discovering a wide variety of flavour. My March-introduction to veganism was filled with tantalizing dishes such as Jerk Pizza, Jamaican Meat-free Patties, and Veggie Tempura. I decided to stick with veganism the more I became inspired and informed about animal rights, the preventive cancer benefits of plant-based diets, and ecological and ethical benefits. It felt like a good decision which I still stand by.

I enjoyed preparing every meal for the first Vegan photo album. And even before I started this blog, I began to photograph the foods I prepared or encountered. I admire beautiful food. The colours, textures, tastes, and aromas... I even love the atmosphere socially of when food is consumed. And because food is unlike art, meant to be devoured hence temporary, I take pictures to preserve their memories making them all the more precious. Some of my friends saw the blog and remarked on the tasty looks of these dishes. My fiance enjoys eating most of the dishes and being my test guinea pig. He says that I'm becoming quite the vegan chef. (I love it when he says this.)

I enjoy sharing food that I have prepared with other people but I do not entertain often. A highlight for me this past year was organizing a Kwanzaa party for my students and their families where they had mostly organic and all vegan corn soup, cornbread, and sugar cookies which the children decorated with coloured icing, marshmallows, and chocolate chips. That day, I also watched my students try a new food for most of them, njera (an Ethiopian sourdough flatbread) with lentil stew. The children eagerly gobbled up this cultural vegan dish using their fingers to break the njera and sop it up. I continue to daydream of preparing and sharing these nutritious meals with other people and essentially feeding people. My foray in veganism has definitely increased my affection for real wholesome food and appreciation for organic farming, farmer's markets, food co-ops, sustainability and activism.

I also appreciate my ability to enjoy food a lot differently now. Recently, I had to go on the Low Iodine Diet (LID) and eliminate all iodine products which also includes any food that lists salt as an ingredient. This includes milk, dairy products, seaweed (e.g., kelp), tofu, canned foods and sauces, eggs, most breads, most desserts, fish, seafood, and many meats (that are injected with broth). Being vegan and eating LID while "going hypo" was extremely challenging. I had to prepare and freeze some meals so if I was at my worst from "going hypo", I would have the ease of reheating food. It was difficult to deal with the blandness of most LID foods. Even though, I was permitted to use Windsor coarse salt (since it was not iodized), I grew a distaste for some of having to prepare so many bean and lentil stews. (I have some of these frozen dishes still in my freezer.) Also, my ability to taste foods had been temporarily diminished due to the radiation treatment I received. My appetite is still mostly gone since my radiation so I am not getting a growling stomach or the feeling of hunger. However I still value and enjoy preparing, smelling, tasting, and eating delicious vegan stew.

Here is the second installment of my vegan photo album. You will notice that this time I have written a little bit about preparing these dishes.

Thai Pineapple Rice (to go) from Tropical Vegan Kitchen
Amazingly tasty and quick to prepare. This recipe tasted amazing even in this container. This meal has a simple list of ingredients which include green onions (which I took from sprouted onions), currants, grated carrot, and, of course, pineapple.

Curried Spinach and Peas in Coconut Milk over Basmati Rice from The Tropical Vegan Kitchen
A great way to use up a whole bag of spinach, too bad that it wilts so easily though. (I love spinach so much.) This dish has a great taste as the coconut milk makes it slightly creamy however the dish does not reheat well since the spinach really does shrink. Also, make sure you use brown jasmine rice. The white rice does not do this dish justice and is a lot less healthy.

Pumpkin Bread from The Kind Diet
This photo reminds one to never fill your loaf pan all the way to the top with batter. That's what I did, wishfully thinking that the batter would all fit, the loaf would not rise, and I'd have a perfect loaf. Nope! All that batter you see spilling over the edge continued during the entire baking process. I opened the oven every few minutes or so with a spoon to catch the run off batter and eat it. (Ugh! I at too much.) Even though this was my 2nd time round at baking this bread, I learned a new lesson. This was my second go at baking this bread. The first time in March, I was not sure if the soft pumpkin was cooked so I baked the bread for 3 hours!!! Needless to say, the crust did not char too much, but the center was very mushy and pumpkin-y. Second time round, I learned my lesson and only baked this loaf for one hour. Nevertheless, it is still very mushy in the middle which is because it is so rich with pumpkin-y goodness. I also used different types of carob chips-- the "melty" kind.

Tropical Whole Grain Muffins from The Vegan Kitchen
When was the last time you ever had coconut, mango, kiwifruit, bananas, and pineapple in a muffin? Well then you've got to try these totally tasty, mouthwatering muffins. My fiance loved these. The muffins were totally moist and slightly grainy. I used spelt flour as well as cornmeal to give it a nice gritty texture. They froze really well and were great for breakfast or snack.

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Quesadillas with Kiwifruit Salsa and Tomato Guacamole both from The Vegan Kitchen
This was my very first time making quesadillas and what an amazing filling of sweet potato and black beans. This meal was so light and the kiwifruit salsa so sweet and spicy. This guacamole recipe was originally written for tomatillo which is a type of fruit. I couldn't get them, so I made it with tomato. The first time I made this guacamole was a charm. My fiance loved this guacamole the first time. The texture and ripeness of the avocadoes needs to be just right. The second time I made it, the onions were to largely cut and dominated the dish so be extra careful. Chop the onions finely.

Alicia's Magical Healing Soup from The Kind Diet
This soup was very quick to prepare and very simple. I also added some of my own touches including bok choy. My fiance and I had this soup when we were both a little under the weather. There is Chinese radish (daikon) in this soup which is this big huge white carrot of a looking vegetable. It has a bit of a distinct smell but among the other ingredients like watercress and ginger, it toned down. This magical soup really is filled with anti-cancer goodness such as mushrooms, leeks, and broccoli. Yes, that's a spring roll on the side but I did not make that from scratch. The meal was amazing though.

Bengali-Style Black-Eyed Peas with Mushroom over Basmati Rice from The Tropical Vegan Kitchen
This dish was very easy to prepare. I love black-eyed peas and it is always nice to try them another way. I don't know how authentic this dish is but having curried black-eyed peas worked. I use brown basmati rice to make sure I am getting more nutrients and fibre. Very tasty indeed.

Roasted Vegetables in African Peanut Sauce with Fufu from The Tropical Vegan Kitchen
This is the food photographed on my fiance's plate. It just looked more appetizing on his plate than on my plate. Fufu is a West African staple food made from a type of flour. For this recipe, I used cocoyam fufu flour. The texture of fufu is similar to mashed potatoes and can be eaten with fingers (traditional) or with a fork. (I did both.) The stew is amazing. The roasted vegetables added a touch of sweetness to thick, spicy peanuty stew. I had leftover stew that week and ate it with toast. Very yummy!

Aussie-Style Fettuccine with Basil-Macadamia Pesto from The Tropical Vegan Kitchen
This was my very first dish cooked from The Tropical Vegan Kitchen cookbook which I borrowed from the public library. This dish was so light, fresh, and tasty. This was also my first pesto and it did not want for parmesan cheese. I didn't even use fake, soy "parmesan cheese". There was lots of basil though. The macadamia nuts are a little pricey and need to be kept refrigerated but were alright in this recipe.

Black Bean and Avocado Enchiladas with Chipotle Sauce from The Tropical Vegan Kitchen
Amazing dish from this gem of a cookbook. Like the fetuccine and quesadillas, this dish did not want for cheese. In fact, the spices and the amazing chipotle sauce made up for that. Since I went to the local gringo supermarket to purchase the ingredients for this dish, I could not find chipotle sauce so I bought Herdez chipotle salsa instead. (Salsameans sauce in Spanish.) So I guess it was close enough.

What a beauty! Love me some steamed spinach.

Chocolate Avocado Mousse from the internet
This recipe sounded amazing and the finished product was pretty tasty. Paired with some fresh strawberries and you have some amazing stuff.

Just look at it.

But this is what it started as. First, you combine cocoa powder with avocadoes. Make sure you use ripe avocadoes, very ripe ones, or else you'd spend half the time like my fiance and I chipping at it and chopping it up in the blender. Plus, the mousse was mostly mousse but had tiny chunks of unripe avocado in it. Nevertheless, you have yourself healthy monounsaturated fats and vitamins and minerals. Plus, it is made with agave nectar which is anti-inflammatory and lowers your glycemic index which is both anti-cancer and anti-diabetes. That's power, baby!

Thai Coconut-Noodle Soup with Lemongrass from The Tropical Vegan Kitchen
This soup was very heavy on the veggies and not so much the soup. I expected more of a taste reminiscent of what I had at Thai restaurants. However there were tastes of slight lemons and ginger. I am not too much a fan of broccoli but I do like it cooked up in soup like this. I used organic red jasmine rice vermicelli which meant the noodles were heavier than the white vermicelli. My fiance really liked this soup with red spicy Thai Sriracha sauce. Lemongrass is a straight leaf-type of plant. It reminds me of bamboo. I didn't need to buy this since my mother had given me a bag full of Jamaican lemongrass called "fever grass". Fever grass is the same as Thai lemongrass and is used in Jamaica locally for healing. She said that it would help with the cancer.

Pad Thai Vegetarian Noodles from The Tropical Vegan Kitchen
I love Thai food. The perfect combinations of sweet and spicy are unmatched in other cuisines. I like this recipe because it is vegetarian which means it does not use fish sauce (which is typically used in pad thai recipes). I am allergic to fish anyway and vegan so the sauce is made with other things. I used rice fetuccine noodles which lie flat like pad thai noodles. However, if I were to make this dish again, I would soak the noodles in boiling water a lot longer. Let's say that some noodles were very dente (crunchy) but the dish was still tasty.

Topped with peanuts!

Ackee Scramble from Caribbean Vegan
I love ackee! With ackee and saltfish being Jamaica's national dish, my mother made it often for Christmas morning and sometimes at other times. Being allergic to fish, I got my ackee fish-free. My mother would fry it and cook it with onions and black pepper, but I lost out on the full picture. Not any more! This ackee scramble is vegan which means I can eat it. And instead of fish, I use my own homemade vegan jerk sausages. I like to use cherry tomatoes and there is one piece of scotch bonnet pepper to give the ackee some kick. Also, I topped it all of with crumbled kelp (seaweed) to add more anti-cancer goodness. Ackee is a fruit which was brought over to Jamaica from West Africa during the slave trade. It grows and is poisonous until the fruit is ripe and has opened up to reveal black seeds and a yellow flesh. It looks like scrambled eggs and some say it tastes like a combination of scrambled egg and custard. I don't think so. I just think it tastes good. I think you either like ackee, or you don't. (My fiance doesn't.) You can buy ackee in a tin can in Caribbean foodstores. In Canada, it usually costs about $ 6 but in the U.S. it costs twice as much. This Jamaican breakfast can be served with toast.

And la Piece de la Resistance: Vegan Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie from the internet
In my Good Food Box, I received some rhubarb. Rhubarb is a strange "fruit". It is technically a vegetable with a tart taste. It is also supposed to have some healing properties. It looks like a red celery except the leaves are poisonous. I have never cooked or worked with a rhubarb before so I was extra cautious. I didn't understand this poison thing. But I figured that the grocers would not sell a poisonous food (like the ackee). My fiance suggested (actually begged me) to make a strawberry-rhubarb pie. I found this recipe here. I made this recipe over a few days. First I made the dough and left it wrapped in the refrigerator for two days, until I could get enough time to finish the pie. Then I rolled it out and spread it. It contains vodka which is supposed to keep it moist.

Then I washed and chopped about 5 cups each of organic rhubarb and strawberries. But then I left them to go to my support group.

By the time I got home, there was a lot of liquid that sunk to the bottom of the bowl, so I spooned out the fruit and placed it into the pie "shell". It was not a shell yet. It was pie crust dough pressed into the pan.

Then I rolled out the other piece of pie crust dough and placed it on top of the fruit. I folded the edges over and pressed it with water to the existing shell. Then I used this fork to create a seam.

Et voila! La tarte! Those slits you see were made before I baked it and sugar was sprinkled. The filling as you can see bubbled up and through the holes onto the pan. Some of it burned.

And the filling juice did that did not burn tasted just like red lollipops-- sweet with a little taste of tart. I drank this red lollipop juice by the spoonful. Mmmm.

I get to try the first piece.

Yum, yum, yum!

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