BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


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Take Me to Tofu Town

Dawdling along the main thoroughfare at the bottom end of the speed limit, our final destination still managed to elude us. Surely the GPS hadn’t been mistaken, but even after two slow drive-by searches of the suggested location, not a hint was found to indicate that we had arrived. Sequestered within a completely unmarked building about the size of a modest New York apartment, the average onlooker would never realize that they were staring right at the source of the best tofu in the tri-state area. One could easily walk right past it for years without a second thought, and yet on closer investigation, the tell-tall aroma of cooked beans can be detected wafting through the air, and hints of laborious activity glimpsed through the small windows. This is the factory for Bridge Tofu in Middletown, Connecticut- Not exactly a tourist destination for those who are in the know.

Arriving completely unannounced after a few inquisitive phone calls fell on deaf answering machines, it was clearly no place for curious bystanders, and yet I was immediately, graciously welcomed through the plastic flaps covering the doorway. A tour would have been superfluous, as all stages of production could easily be viewed standing right there in the entry.

Tons upon literal tons of soybeans piled into multiple barrels, hinting at the impossible volume of bean curd being produced in this tiny space. Committed to organics, their dedication to sourcing out the highest quality ingredients is one that comes through in the flavor.

An immense, metal-clad machine spit out silky white soy milk across the way, spewing out gallons by the minute. Every single drop is needed, condensed down further once coagulation is set into motion. Large rectangles press the curds into the largest slabs of tofu you’ve ever seen, to be cut into size once firm, but still creamy on the inside. It’s this incredible texture that truly sets Bridge apart from other tofu options on the market. Few would recommend eating plain, uncooked curd, but this is one that is genuinely delicious on a hot summer’s day with just a splash of soy sauce and handful of sliced scallions on top. It only comes in one level of firmness, but it’s a one size fits all style of tofu, seamlessly fitting into nearly any recipe out there.

Freshly severed small rectangles float through a final water bath before reaching packaging, a mere four or five meters away from where they were born. Each label is applied by hand, each bag sealed individually. It’s a painstaking process that is astounding to watch, knowing the reach of this one tiny producer. Available in Whole Foods Markets and independent health food stores for miles around, I could have never guessed that all of it came from such a humble beginning. First introduced to me through working at Health in a Hurry, it’s the only tofu we ever use, and it’s easy to taste why.

There’s a whole lot of passion going into those unassuming beige bricks. It’s not listed on the label, but easily detected in each bite.

Lest you think Bridge is a one-trick tofu factory, incredibly, they also produce the best seitan I’ve had the pleasure of cooking. If ever seitan shows up in my recipes, you can rest assured that Bridge is the brand going into the mix. Also churning out amazake and a tuna-like tofu salad, their home base may not be impressive, but what they manage to create within its confines sure is.


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Stress Snacking

After a fitful summer hibernation, the monster that is structured education has awoken once more, rising swiftly and ferociously back to full intensity. My fall semester may have only just begun yesterday, but already the pressure is on. Taking on an extra class was a woefully bad idea; even one class feels like too much, too soon. As a self-admitted stress snacker, this is bad news for my eating habits- Already the cravings for all things hand-held and satisfyingly junky are coming on strong. This time, though, I was prepared, thanks to a serendipitously timed package from YogaEarth, filled to the top with healthy treats.

Purveyors of various “super foods,” natural beauty products, and various supplements, their main claim to fame are the appropriately titled Keen-Wah Decadence Bars. Though it may just sound like cute hyperbole on paper, the name turned out to be stunningly accurate. Rather than the standard crunchy-granola nutrition brick, these bars are enrobed in chocolate like actual candy bars. Soft and fudgy no doubt from the heat, that coating at first overwhelms the whole package, but slowly melts to allow other flavors through, lending much needed sweetness through each bite. While the interior yields a subtly earthy, slightly salty flavor, that chocolate exterior effectively tricks the tongue into believing that this is a fully-fledged treat. Rich and satisfying, that high fiber count definitely gives it more staying power than your average chocolate snack, without imparting a gritty texture. Rather, it feels almost like biting into a soft baked cookie.

Plain is the most “healthy” tasting, with fewer additions to jazz things up. A surprising raisin-like sweetness accents the dark, woodsy cacao, which cuts the decadence factor in a pleasing way. Cayenne Cinnamon effectively spices things up, leading with the comforting, familiar warmth of cinnamon, slowly escalating to the smoldering burn of cayenne. It won’t burn your mouth off, but this invigorating combination certainly satisfies one’s inner heat seeker. The last option of the trio, the Coconut Almond, is most likely to appeal to the widest audience. A fresh, raw coconut flavor hits immediately after the initial taste of chocolate subsides, but there’s no dried or dessicated coconut here. Impossibly capturing the essence of a whole young coconut, the pieces do add a more fibrous texture, but this can be forgiven for such a clean, bright taste. Chunks of raw almonds are scattered throughout, adding a nice periodic crunch. Picking between the three bars would be a tricky task, but all said, these are definitely some of the tastiest meal supplements I’ve had.

Another noteworthy snacking option are the Chocolate-Covered Goji Berries. Who needs raisins or sweetened cranberries when you can have a fruit that really packs a punch? A deep, dark, and intense cocoa scent hints at their smoky, bitter edge, almost like espresso. Their mesmerizing shine is hard to resist, but luckily, that strong flavor satisfies with just one modest handful.

For an option that’s slightly less decadent but just as healthy, their Meridian Trail Mix is one that stands out amongst the pack. Rather than weighing down the blend with filler like oily, cheap peanuts, every ingredient adds something noteworthy to the party. Touted as “cacao-cashew-berry-crunch,” that description sells the mix short, as it contains expected nuts like almonds and cashews, but also more exotic additions such as goji berries, mulberries, and cacao nibs. This is one trail mix that actually makes me want to hit the trail, if only as an excuse to munch on another serving!

Stress may drive me to the comfort of snack food, but at least I have healthy options from YogaEarth on hand that will power my educational exploits, rather than impair them.


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Still Coconuts for So Delicious

Summer may be winding down, as evidenced by countless back-to-school sales if nothing else, but ice cream season never ends. Even when I’m not churning my own, there’s always a backup “emergency” pint or two in the freezer, standing by for any unexpected guests… Or cravings. So Delicious frequently occupies that frost-covered spot, hidden behind stiff bags of frozen peas and berries to protect such bounty from hungry scavengers. No matter how many times a new pint is purchased, another one is sure to follow, quick to replace that sweet stash with something different. Each time that switch must be made, the longest part of the shopping trip is inevitably spent poring over the different options. It seems as though So Delicious keeps tucking new flavors into those sub-zero cases on every repeat visit, and choosing between the enticing combinations can be trickier than finding a fast-moving checkout line. When they offered to make the tough decisions for me and send a bundle of new offerings, it was a done deal before I could finish hammering out an ecstatic response on my keyboard.

Cashing in on the universally known fact that everything tastes better on a stick, releasing their latest Coconut Milk No Sugar Added Fudge Bars was sheer brilliance. Perfect little individual portions that satisfy that need for a tiny indulgence at the end of the day, these treats seem like they were made with me in mind. Sweetened with stevia and packing a jaw-dropping 8 grams of fiber into each miniature pop, forget about needing to rationalize that extra serving of dessert- These feel downright virtuous. Luckily, they don’t taste it. Strong initial coconut flavor gives way to a gentle, delicate taste of cocoa. Not the deep, rounded flavor of decadent chocolate that we all know So Delicious is capable of, but that’s the price to be paid for such lightness. It’s a grownup version of the childhood classic, although kids would undoubtedly partake with glee if given the chance.

Coconut Milk Passionate Mango Ice Cream is a bit of a departure from the standard set of flavors you might find at the store, which is a shame, since it was a tropical delight from the first lick. Bright, clean, citrus-y mango blended perfectly with the passion fruit, allowing each one an equal role in the overall production. Not only refreshing but also invigorating, it’s the kind of flavor that could brighten up a grey day. The coconut milk base is practically invisible in this particular pint, easily fooling unsuspecting eaters who may not like the popular drupe or seek out dairy-free alternatives in the first place.

Saving what I hoped to be the best for last, Coconut Milk Cookie Dough Ice Cream had a big title to live up to. Coconut haters beware: This one is unafraid to shout its origins from the rooftops and make its presence known. Happily, for those who appreciate the coconut for all it brings to the table, that flavor melds nicely with the plentiful chunks of soft cookie batter strewn throughout. Brown sugar is the main flavor of the dough, accented by a decent touch of salt, which is pretty accurate for most cookie doughs I’ve tasted raw baked and then eaten like a well-behaved, patient baker. Crunchy chocolate shrapnel strewn about the body of the creamy concoction adds much-needed textural contrast, and provides greater depth than the vanilla base alone could muster. Each bite is different and exciting, which makes it the most addictive pint to dig into.

Ice cream is best when shared, no matter how delicious it is alone, so I’m thrilled to make the experience sweeter by offering coupons for a free pint to two lucky readers. If that sounds like a good deal to you too, leave a comment about which flavor you’d buy should you win. The coupons are only valid in the US, so only residents or current visitors are able to enter this one, and please leave only one comment per person. You have until Friday, August 24th at midnight EST to add your comment to the pool, and winners will be contacted shortly thereafter.

Get your scoops primed and ready, because colder weather doesn’t mean a break in the ice cream action here!

UPDATE: The contest is now closed, and the two winners are…

Allie and Gabby! Congrats ladies, you’ll be hearing from me soon and enjoying your very own pint of coconut ice cream before you know it!


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Feed Your Hungryface

It’s a small world after all. The blogosphere brings together people from the furthest pockets of the Earth, and yet somehow the perception of an immense distance remains between even “real life” friends. After lurking about on Vanessa’s blog and admiring her tasty recipes for a good number of years, it would never in my wildest dreams have occurred to me that she might be closer much than I thought. Upon learning about her latest sweet venture, Hungryface Bakery, that imagined gap was compressed down to nothing when she suddenly arrived at my doorstep bearing boxes of incredible treats. Rather than ship them, it was easier and faster for her to cross a few town lines and meet me face to face. I’m still reeling at how dangerously close such a talented source of delicious baked goods is to my home!

But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Vanessa takes the same stance on baking vegan as I do, which means that the fruits of her labor are just damned good eats that happen to be vegan. No more qualifiers, no more excuses. Vegan desserts aught to be held to the same standard as any others, so it’s heartening to see this point of view in those who really can spread the word- And sweetness. Her current selection ranges from cookies to tea cakes, all available to ship anywhere in the US, even if you aren’t as lucky to be practically neighbors with the baker herself.

Heart of Darkness Brownies are the most visually arresting of the group; Bars that are this dark and dense are guaranteed to be a rich chocolate experience. Living up to their outward appearance, each bite packed a punch of full-frontal fudge goodness, offset by deep, dark notes of roasted espresso. A minefield of chocolate chips, hidden by the pitch black surroundings they’re buried in, just a few bites would satisfy even the most voracious chocoholic.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, the Moon & Stars Shortbread glittered with a topping of snowy white granulated sugar, covering a dense yet delicate, buttery cookie. Slightly bitter thanks to the smattering of toasted black sesame seeds woven throughout that soft yet crisp crumb, a restrained dose sweetness balanced out the whole equation perfectly. Periodic bites of chocolate were also a surprising delight to discover within. A subtle aroma of coconut lends a slightly exotic undertone, making it reminiscent of an Asian chocolate chip cookie.

Another standout was the Earl Grey Tea Cake. Straddling that fine line between muffin and cupcake, it’s certainly sweet enough to be right at home on a dessert platter, but has a more sturdy, substantial crumb, and of course no superfluous frosting to cover up the delicate flavors of tea. Whole tea leaves impart a floral and slightly citrus flavor throughout the moist miniature cakes, accented with a bright spike of sea salt to really draw out the full intensity of typically demure earl grey. Though packed with tea already, they would indeed make an excellent accompaniment to a cup of one, too.

Pistachio Cherry Shortbread stays true to its name and tastes like actually pistachios, which is a subtle and difficult flavor to convey in any baked good. Seemingly sweeter than the previous offerings, for some odd reason these reminded me of strawberry marshmallows, of all things. Though plenty delicious, they seemed out of place amongst the other more adventurous pairings. By comparison, it was simply a bit too tame.

Building up expectations pretty high with a name like The Sugar Cookie to End All Sugar Cookies, these flat, monstrous frisbees of cookie dough have a classically homey appearance that implores you to dive right in. Perfectly chewy, through and through, Vanessa nails the texture, which is arguably the single most important aspect of a solid sugar cookie. Subtle hint of brown sugar adds complexity, but these are really straight-forward, simple sugar cookies, sure to please younger palates as well.

My very first whiff of the Drunken Shortbread tells me that these will be a doozy. Thankfully, the cookie’s aren’t as powerfully alcoholic as they first threaten, but a comfortable undercurrent of bourbon is constantly present from the first bite to the last. Chocolate chips lined up neatly on top like the buttons on a double-breasted jacket add just enough interest to keep the cookie from becoming monotonous. These melt-in-your-mouth tender bars are sophisticated with a touch of whimsy; not too sweet, and just a little bit naughty.

The creative flavor pairings matched up in Hungryface Bakery are what set them apart from the pack, but the superb execution of each individual offering is what will keep the curious coming back. Even if you’re a passionate baker, it’s nice to take a break and let someone else fire up the oven to satisfy your sweet cravings every now and then. Rather than give in to the siren song of stale, store-bought biscuits, take the time to order online. These cookies tastes about a hundred time better and fresher because they’re all still handmade.


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Practically Raw, Completely Delicious

Summer, with the rainbow of produce and borderline tropical climate it brings, is the best time to explore raw foods. Easier said than done in many cases, where recipes can drone on like novels and preparations easily stretch across numerous days, the whir of the dehydrator becoming white noise in the backdrop of every waking moment. It’s understandable why some people find raw “uncooking” intimidating, and given these serious hurdles to making a meal, I don’t blame them at all. It doesn’t have to, and shouldn’t be this way, though! Thank goodness Amber Shea Crawley finally broke out of her blog format and wrote us an all-inclusive book featuring her more flexible take on raw foods.

Practically Raw welcomes newcomers to this radical concept with open arms. Rather than drawing a line in the sand at 115 degrees, Amber invites us to do what makes sense, and even (gasp!) turn on the oven briefly if one desires. There’s no need to purchase new equipment or make insane investments in time- As promised, it is a very practical approach that leaves a cook feeling confident in their abilities to prepare health meals on the fly. The best part of all these tasty formulas is that they’re easy enough for the most cooking illiterate or harried housewife to muster.

A perfect example is the Mango Lassi (page 40.) Composed of only coconut meat, mango, and a dollop of agave, it’s so simple that it doesn’t truly need a precise recipe, but without one, you may not think to try it. This is just the push so many of us need to try something new, and take away the fear of exploring out into the vast unknown of culinary wilderness. Thick enough to eat with a spoon, it’s a far more satisfying drink than one might imagine, and the flavors couldn’t be fresher or brighter. Proof positive that nature needs only a little coaxing to yield something even more delicious than its original parts.

Almond Butter Sesame Noodles (page 141) are a foolproof dish any way you serve them, but I relish any opportunity to use kelp noodles. Adding in a handful of pea shoots for color and crunch, it couldn’t have taken more than 10 minutes start to finish, washing and chopping included. Balanced beautifully between the salty, sweet, sour, and spicy ends of the spectrum, it made for an incredibly satisfying yet lightweight lunch.

Collard greens always score big points with me on restaurant menus, but whenever I get those giant paddle-like leaves home, my inspiration runs dry. Amber’s Athenian Deli Collard Wraps (page 139) finally gave me the push I needed to do more than just juice or blend those luscious greens. Creating a neat little parcel stuffed with zucchini-based hummus, nut cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, and cucumber, those collard greens have finally found their true calling. Surprisingly cooperative, they were no more difficult to roll than the average flour tortilla. The richness of the “cheese” and hummus offset that inherently earthy essence, and the contrasting textures made each bite exciting. Though this particular bundle was a delightful snack, I can easily see the wraps cut into smaller pieces to become impressive party appetizers, too.

Craving sushi but not the labor involved in rolling up maki? Skip the hassle and just drop all the fillings into a dish with the Deconstructed Sushi Bowl (page 152)! Admittedly, I was highly skeptical of raw cauliflower-based rice, but this recipe truly impressed in the end. Lightly seasoned with rice vinegar, it really did have the flavor profile of sushi rice, but somehow managed to be much fluffier and lighter in texture. Nori adds that vital oceanic essence, so although it’s only written as an optional addition, I would insist that you make it mandatory in your own rendition.

With an eye towards both flavor and health, each recipe also includes nutritional information, so you know exactly what you’re getting with each meal or snack. Plus, Amber outlines about a thousand and one variations and alternate suggestions for switching things up. Instructions include both raw and cooked version of many dishes, plus different veggies that would work well for a change of pace, or substitutions in case of allergies or hard to find ingredients. Truly, Practically Raw is the raw cookbook that everyone can to enjoy.


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A Happy, Healthy Surprise

‘Tis the season… For a much warmer version of the holiday experience. Today marks the midway point in our frenzied trip through the calendar pages, as Christmas sits only five full months away. While most would rejoice that there’s still plenty of time to make plans, assemble gifts, and get into the proper spirit, that does leave a huge gap in festivities all through the remainder of summer. Truth be told, Christmas in July is more about the “presents” than the merriment, as sales attempt to draw shoppers back during this brief buying lull. For once though, I don’t mind the motives one bit, since they’re not disguised or covered with the shiny veneer of tradition. Nope, it’s all about the gifts, and there’s nothing wrong with taking the opportunity to simply spoil someone you love, or go ahead and treat yourself.

That’s where the Healthy Surprise Box comes in. Like a goodie bag for grownups, it bundles together a mystery package of delicious snacks, all vegan and always with a wholesome slant.

For anyone who has a terrible time deciding what to buy while standing in the snack aisle, or just wants to break out of their munching rut and try something new, this is the ideal way to branch out a bit. For serial snackers, there are subscription options as well, providing a steady stream of different edibles every month. Even in the smallest box available, you’ll never be left wanting mid-month, because they really pack in the good stuff.

The box that arrived on my doorstep appeared diminutive in size, but little did I know that the contents were carefully wedged within, like a complex game of real-life Tetris. The full contents of my delightful present are as follows…

Alive & Radiant Foods: Kale Krunch (The Original Quite Cheesy)
Myrna’s Skinny Crisps (Cinnamon Crisps)
(4) Living Intentions: Gone Nuts! (Thai Lemon Curry, Lemon Pepper Cajun, Spinach Pesto, Cacao Clusters)
(2) Mrs. May’s Freeze Dried Fruit Chips (Pear)
Home Free: Mini Crunchy Vanilla Cookies
Two Moms in the Raw: Gluten-Free Cranberry Nut Bar
Oskiri: Coconut Bar Cherry
Stretch Island: Fruit Strip (Apricot)
(2) Hail Merry Nuts (Vanilla Maple Almonds, Rosemary Orange Pecans)
Go Raw: Pizza Flax Snacks
Happy Hemp

Even the most serious snacker would have to pace themselves to work through all of these treats! The good news is that for an indulgent gift, there’s nothing to feel guilty about afterward. Many raw and whole foods are included, and you certainly won’t find any junk hidden in here.

Because I love giving treats even more than receiving them, I’m thrilled to share a $5 discount off of every Healthy Surprise purchase! Just enter the code “BITTERSWEET” when ordering. Whether it’s for yourself or someone else, these mystery packages do not disappoint. Best of all, they’re built for sharing, so you may just benefit from someone else’s boon as well. Merry Christmas!


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Shredding the Competition

For all the progress made in creating better tasting, readily available, and even more affordable vegan cheeses, it’s surprising that one company still has a near monopoly on the meltable “cheese” market. The greatest test of any cheesy substitute, it’s a true feat of food engineering that not many achieve with flying colors. Happily, that doesn’t mean that all the other players are out of the game- Far from it, as evidenced by Galaxy Foods‘ latest bold entry to the arena, Vegan Shreds. Proclaiming that it “Melts and Stretches” right on the package in no uncertain terms, highlighted in red for maximum impact, such a statement clearly issues a challenge to consumers, daring them to try for themselves. Putting these new shreds to the test, I was more than willing to take on that challenge.

Far from new to the field, Galaxy has been pumping out the cheesy imposters for decades, ranging from blocks to slices to “Parmesan” sprinkles, but the shreds are their most noteworthy creation yet. No bones about it, I was not impressed by previous product lines. Though slowly improving throughout the years, I couldn’t shake a certain waxy aftertaste that seemed to plague every sliceable or pre-sliced option. So it was with great trepidation that I approached the two new available flavors: Mozzarella and Mexican-Style Shreds.

Classic French onion soup made an ideal canvas to test both flavor and true meltability of the Mozzarella shreds. Popping the “cheese”-covered wedges of baguette under the broiler, it was a true delight to see pale beige ribbons effortlessly collapse into a bubbling layer of molten lava-like goo. No careful cajoling necessary to prevent premature burns, it behaved admirably and lived up to its lofty assertions of melting with ease. Providing genuinely cheesy flavor, it deserves high marks for the actual taste as well, but I could hardly suggest that it would fool a true dairy devotee.

Cheddar is usually the second standard, but much to my surprise, Galaxy threw a true curve ball for their next move. Submitting a Mexican-Style shred instead, there’s nothing else on the market that attempts to fill such a void. Blending brighter orange-tinted strips into the mix, it’s a pleasing color combination on top of any food, such as my Cincinnati-style chili*, but I’m afraid to say that I couldn’t detect much difference in flavor from the Mozzarella shreds. If eaten carefully, piece by piece, the orange shreds might have a slightly sharper taste, almost like a mild cheddar… But who really eats their food like that? It would take hours to get through a meal if we were all separating the tiny pieces of “cheese” on top of a dish.

Though I can’t necessarily recommend one flavor over the other, I can enthusiastically recommend the Vegan Shreds on the whole. Performing just as promised, it’s an excellent alternative to Daiya, which is a very welcome change of pace. I can’t declare a winner to this battle just yet, but it’s good to see them both on a level playing ground at last.

With a good amount of extra cheese leftover from this trial run, I knew immediately what to do with it. A comforting indulgence that I’ve been making for myself for years now, it’s finally become something worthy of serving to others, now that these shreds no longer scream “fake vegan substitute!” from the rooftops. Filed under my favorite recipe digital folder, “Junky Eats,” this Broccoli and “Cheese” Hummus truthfully isn’t deserving of such categorization, but it certainly tastes suitably indulgent. Pure comfort food, I love eating it warm with toasty pitas, but it also makes an ideal party dip, chilled and ready to please for summer soirees. Chill and serve it on ice- the cheesy shreds won’t seize or become gritty once blended, leaving the texture lusciously smooth. Plus, you get to painlessly sneak another green vegetable into your daily diet.

*By no means would I ever claim my rendition is authentic Cincinnati chili, as true Ohio natives often shun the inclusion of beans. Also, note that the chili was almost completely cool by the time I took the picture, and thus the shreds didn’t have enough heat to melt and this is the correct look for classic Cininatti chili regardless.

Broccoli and “Cheese” Hummus

2 – 2 1/2 Cups Frozen Broccoli
2.5 Ounces Vegan Mexican-Style Shreds, or Any Vegan Cheddar-Style “Cheese”
1 Tablespoon Water
1 15-Ounce Can Chickpeas, Drained
2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
1 Tablespoon Braggs Liquid Aminos
1/8 Teaspoon Ground Cumin
3/4 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/4 Teaspoon Smoked Paprika
1 1/2 Tablespoons Vegetable Broth Powder
2 Tablespoons Nutritional Yeast
1/3 Cup Olive Oil

Place the frozen broccoli in a microwave-safe dish, and drizzle in the tablespoon of water to allow it to steam properly. Sprinkle the “cheese” shreds evenly over the veggies, and lightly cover the dish with a piece of parchment paper. Heat at full power for 2 – 3 minutes, until the broccoli has thawed and cheese melted. Set aside.

Meanwhile, combine all of the remaining ingredients, except for the oil, in your food processor. Pulse to combine, and with the motor running, slowly drizzle in the oil to incorporate and emulsify. Pause to scrape down the sides of the bowl periodically, to ensure there are no tricky chickpeas or pockets of seasoning escaping the blades. Puree thoroughly, until completely smooth. For the best texture, you really can’t cut any corners here: It may take as long as 10 minutes of straight blending until the mixture is perfectly silky. Just keep a close eye on it, and stop when you’re satisfied.

Scrape all of the cooked broccoli and melted “cheese” into the food processor, and pulse lightly to incorporate. You don’t want to completely blend it in, but have small chunks of broccoli for texture. Eat right away, or store in an air-tight container for up to a week.

Makes 3 – 4 Cups Hummus

Printable Recipe


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Wild About Greens

Mothers who once championed the old dictum of “eat your veggies” now have a new refrain to the familiar song: “Eat your greens.” Having risen from the periphery of American grocery stores, once literally lining the deli cases as nothing more than colorful, long-lasting garnishes, kale has paved the way right back into the kitchen for all manner of leafy edibles. Finally, after decades of neglect, those oft-forgotten flowerless bouquets are finally welcome house guests, and there’s more than just romaine and spinach going into summer salad bowls. Still, the trend is only in its infancy, and after so many voluminous raw hodgepodges of discordant ingredients, what can really be done with these overgrown lawn clippings? And moreover, how can we prevent them from tasting as such?

Riding the crest of this wave is Nava Atlas, who brings us Wild About Greens exactly in our hour of need. Introducing a whole palate of varied greens to even the most inexperienced of cooks with a gentle, warm, and inviting tone, Nava will take your hand and guide you from the grocery store to the dinner table, and all spaces in between. Doling out equal parts reassurance and enlightening information, this book is definitely geared towards the greenest of beginners, but provides inspiring flavors to get anyone out of a produce rut. Such a depth and breath of different edible plants are covered, there’s likely to be something new for anyone to try. You may claim to be a kale expert, but how often do you cook with beet greens? What about watercress? Have you ever tried mizuna in your green smoothie?

In a comfortingly familiar cloak of tomatoes and herbs, the Italian Vegetable Ragout with Chard (page 126) would make an excellent introduction for those less enthusiastic about incorporating more greenery into their diets. Adding in the optional chickpeas turns this hearty side into a perfectly satisfying one-pot meal. Enlivened with a pinch of red pepper, the interplay between tomatoes that are both roasted and sweetly sundried is so flawlessly balanced, it’s hard to believe the whole dish came together in mere minutes.

Curry, another common, endlessly accommodating staple in my diet, gets new life with the simple addition of pungent mustard greens and tender spinach. Coconut Cauliflower Curry with Mustard Greens and Spinach (page 186) blends mild spices and coconut milk to create a rich, golden elixir of a stew. Safely falling into a child-friendly heat level, it’s an excellent meal to make for a family, and ramp up the hotter spices on individual servings, to taste. Mustard greens are a newer ingredient to me, and while I would rather eat grass clippings than a couple of its raw leaves, this creamy yet still light sauce can excuse a whole host of flavor flaws- Proof positive that it only takes the right cooking method to make even the most maligned greens easy to swallow.

The salad section is of course abundant with suggestions, and now that the heat of summer has come to stay for the season, those are very enticing pages to explore. Breaking out of my own personal food taboos, I fearlessly took Nava’s lead and combined fruits with savory vegetables (gasp!) and ate watercress raw for the first time, emboldened by the Sumptuous Spring Greens Salad (page 156). It seems silly to rave about a salad, but this one deserves all the praise. Much more thoughtful than just odds and ends tossed together, the combination of sweet yet tart green apples softens the bitter bite of radicchio and peppery flair from the radishes. Creamy avocado brings texture contrast to the party, a welcome reprieve from the crisp and crunch all around. It’s a kick-starter that makes one wonder, “why didn’t I try this before?” Simple even for a side, yes, but every bit as noteworthy as an elaborate main.

Thrilled to have any excuse to pull out my oft forgotten juicer, the section on beverages provides the confidence I frequently lack when it comes to combining greens with sweeter fruits. The Spinach and Lettuce Refresher (page 206) is, as promised, very refreshing indeed! An excellent beginner’s green juice, it’s mild, not at all bitter, and lightly sweet thanks to the addition of apples; no need to add the optional agave at all. Slightly tangy thanks to lemon juice, this beverage may just become the new lemonade around here.

The beauty of the recipes showcased in Wild About Greens is that they’re built to take on whatever you throw at them. Want to swap collards for kale? Go for it! Nava provides plenty of substitution advice, but the versatility of each preparation goes beyond that. It would take a concerted effort to ruin any of these recipes; go ahead and change the veggies, add beans, take away herbs, do your worst! Wild About Greens succeeds in removing the fear of failure from cooking with new ingredients, and can plant the seed for entirely new recipe ideas. It truly has never been easier to eat green.

It would be a downright shame not to spread these delicious ideas further afield, so I’m thrilled that the publisher has so kindly offered to share an additional copy for one lucky reader to win! If you’re looking to get more greens into your diet, tell me about your current favorite leafy ingredient, and how you like to prepare it. Links and recipes are encouraged but not necessary! The basic requirements, as per usual, are names and valid email addresses in the appropriate boxes. Please, only one comment per person, and be sure to speak up before Midnight EST on June 27th. I’ll contact the winner shortly thereafter, so keep an eye to your inbox.

UPDATE: The winner, chosen by the fair and just random number generator is…

The lucky commenter behind entry #7, 3littlebrds! Get ready to load up on the leafy greens, because you’re gonna want to put them to use right away!


32 Comments

POP into Summer!

Instant frozen treats, ready mere minutes after the first craving hits. Sounds like science fiction, but if a “better tomorrow” starts with dessert, then we are well on our way. Standard ice creams and popsicles take hours at minimum, simply freezing to a solid enough consistency to eat, but the Zoku Quick Pop Maker has taken all the waiting out of the process. Using an insulated mold, all warmth is wicked away from liquids poured inside, be it an ice cream base, melted sorbet, or merely juice, turning into an icy treat on a stick right before your eyes.

In the name of “research” for my ice cream book, I found it entirely necessary to test out this crazy contraption, requesting a review model early on. This was, of course, over a year ago now. After snapping that initial photo of the device, admiring the appealing rounded edges and pop-art designs on each plastic stick, and carefully stowing it in the freezer… It remained there, untouched, month after month. Despite the fact that freezer space was at a premium, that thing did not budge from the top shelf, on the offhand chance that I would have time to play with pops. While the assessment may be a bit belated, I can tell you this much: It will be getting a whole lot of use from here on in.

Initially spurred into action by a job for Allergic Living Magazine that called for striped fruit-and-creme pops, dreamed up by my good friend Alisa, this was the perfect kick in the butt to get this thing out of the freezer at last. The unique freezing system allows the pop maker complete creative freedom, freezing stripes of any size or shape, should you tilt the housing in the middle of the process. A three-layer affair was a snap, straight-forward enough that even the least ambitious dessert dabblers would be able to manage such an effect with ease.

Another fun feature is the ability to stick fruits and other “mix-ins” directly to the walls of the machine, so that they’re perfectly visible once the pops are removed. In fact, they now make tiny cookie cutters that allow you to create faces on your pops, really giving them some personality. Going a more simple route, I merely used sliced strawberries to feature in my Strawberry Cereal Milk Pops. Easily veganizing Christina Tosi’s legendary recipe with almond milk, all I had to do was pour in the cornflake-infused milk after adhering the berries, and just like that, a delightfully frosty breakfast-turned-dessert was born.

The real beauty of this toy is how it can cater to every whim and craving. On impulse, it seemed fun to whip up a frozen chia fresca one hot afternoon, and so without delay, that’s just what I did. Though the seeds still floated to the top, it made for a fantastically refreshing solution to a sweltering summer day. Experimenting like this is effortless and painless, so even the flops won’t set you back. Just thaw and wash out the mold, thoroughly dry, refreeze for a day, and you’ll be ready to go all over again.

I still haven’t even scratched the surface in trying out all that this baby is capable of. With the help of a handy siphon, pops with different flavored cores are a breeze as well. A classic but homemade creamsicle or strawberry shortcake could be mere minutes away! In case you ever find yourself at a loss for ideas, the mad geniuses at Zoku have you covered there, too. In addition to their blog filled with recipes, they’ve even created a whole pop cookbook to keep you inspired. Easy and inviting enough for kids of all ages to enjoy, I can’t think of a single person I wouldn’t recommend this fun gadget to. Even couples and singles have options now, with double and single pop capacity molds, in case a freezer full of tempting treats is not an ideal situation. Personally, my only complain would be the opposite: I could never make enough pops to keep the freezer stocked for very long!


39 Comments

MOO Who?

As an ardent and rather stubborn DIY-er, it can be difficult to hand over the reins of a project to someone else. That’s why I was reluctant to accept an offer from MOO.com to lend a hand with printing. Why did I buy that bulky, large format professional photo printer anyway, and didn’t they only produce business cards? Au contraire, although best known for their brilliantly colored, multi-photo business cards, it turns out they also produce equally stunning stickers of all shapes and sizes, not to mention the greeting cards, too. The endless possibilities presented by a pack of completely customizable stickers was the spark that started my creative fire.

With Vegan a la Mode due literally any day now, I began to think towards future book signings, and how I wished I could have a greater reach in my two-state “tour.” Book plates could solve all of that! A simple sticker that could be mailed in a standard envelope, no muss, no fuss, for those abroad who might want a signature. Rather than slap together something reasonably decent, this was a job for MOO, plus the adorable illustrations of the ultra-talented Michelle Cavigliano.

Have happy ice cream scoops ever looked better on sticky paper? I think not. The color quality and sharpness is impeccable; What came in the mail less than a week after placing my order was a flawless replica of my original submission. (There’s just a bit of glare in the photo, not a printing issue at the bottom of the sticker.) Certainly better than I could have done alone, and about 100 times easier.

In celebration of my third cookbook‘s imminent release, I want to start by giving away 5 of these adorable book plate stickers, signed, to anyone who pre-ordered or won’t be able to see me in person- Or just loves the design (I don’t blame you; Michelle totally exceeded my expectations on the cute factor.) In addition, MOO.com was so generous as to offer both a pack of 50 Business Cards AND 50 Retangular Labels to 3 more lucky readers! That’s 8 chances to win right there. All you have to do is leave me a comment and specify if you want to be in the running for both a book plate and the printing prize packs from MOO, or just one. If you want your own MOO.com business cards and stickers, tell me about what you would have printed on them. Make sure you fill out a valid email address in the appropriate box, and please, only one comment per person.. This contest will be open to entries until June 5th at midnight EST.

UPDATE: The random number generator has spoken, and the winners of the MOO.com prize packs are…

Amanda and Jessica K!

And the lucky five getting signed book plates are…

Jill, Kelly C, Sarah, veganamericanprincess, and Aya!

Congrats everyone! Keep an eye on your email, and expect a message about your winnings from either me or MOO shortly.

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