BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


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A New Year, A New VegNews

One week of silence passes by with such ease in real life, each day barely even registering before the sun begins to recede once again. In blog years, it feels interminable, as if I’ve been a bad blog parent and terribly neglected my poor baby. Fully immersed in book writing, it’s hard to stumble out of my cave and into the blinding daylight, back into the usual routine. In my absence, 2011 has come to pass, and now we can only work to get the most out of this new year. The cycle begins anew. Top 10 lists or “best of” countdowns are not my cup of tea, so let’s dive right in, shall we? After all, you can’t move forward if you keep looking back [-Or else be prepared to walk smack into a wall sooner or later.]

Kicking off 2012 on a high note, the January/February issue of VegNews has got to be one of my favorites yet. I may not have contributed a column, but things came together beautifully from a design standpoint, featuring my photos in the best way possible. Focused on a fresh and clean theme, with sights set on a dietary fresh start for those who many have overindulged over the holidays, it’s exactly my speed. Bright, clean… And of course, undeniably mouthwatering compositions. Each recipe was a winner by all accounts, but here are just a few choice shots.

Banh Mi, by Robin Robertson, is sure to please aficionados of this popular Vietnamese sandwich. Strikingly simple and fresh in flavor, it definitely has the edge on the competition, skillfully blending contrasting elements into a perfect harmony. “Spicy and sweet, soft and crunchy,” but let’s not forget simple in preparation and complex in flavor!

Raw Pad Thai, by Gena Hamshaw. My first time ever working with kelp noodles, I was pleasantly surprised by how easy they were to work with, and enjoyable to eat. A bit more toothsome than the typically wheat-based pasta, they do soften quite nicely after a few minutes of marinating in any acidic sauce. Though I feared it would be a nightmare to style this odd, translucent strands, they impressed me from start to finish.

Dark Chocolate Truffle Tart, by Beverly Lynn Bennett. A sure-fire hit with any audience, this dessert pulls out all the stops without any effort. Versatile to a fault, it’s a snap to dress it up with any accompanying flavor you fancy, too. Peanut butter, mint, or orange; Any pairing is pretty much fool-proof.

Based on the initial evidence, there’s no doubt in my mind that this is gonna be a good year.


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Cover-Worthy

Upon spying the November/December issue of VegNews, I couldn’t help but beam when I saw my photos on the cover! Yes, they are rather miniscule, but they’re still front and center all the same, and such a place of honor should mean a whole lot to any budding photographer.

Above image borrowed from Vegnews.Com

Some of my favorite shots from this issue include…

The surprisingly savory Dill Waffles with Beet Compote, by chef Jesse Miner, whom I finally had the pleasure of meeting a few months back. Let me tell you, this nontraditional breakfast or brunch offering will really cause a stir with early morning guests- I couldn’t stop eating them! Though I typically make big batches of waffles in advance and freeze them for later, these babies barely had a chance to even cool down before they were all devoured.

Gena Hamshaw brings the raw goodies as per usual, this time in the form of crunchy Almond Crackers and a very unique Orange Carrot Dip. The best part about this recipe is that it’s all-inclusive, providing an alternate low-temperature baking method in addition to the standard dehydrator approach. Both easy and elegant, they make for an excellent appetizer before a festive meal, or just a satisfying snack to tide you over on a busy day.

The real show-stopper recipe for this round was the Lasagna by Allison Samson, hands down. Layers of rich, homemade vegan ricotta and Parmesan, smothered with lovingly slow-simmered tomato sauce and all assembled in a towering noodle construction, it was a sight to behold. Though lasagna is one of my photo styling nemeses due to its often messy, unruly nature, this was a dream to capture, slicing beautifully, and showing off each layer with pride. This is the sort of recipe that would make anyone thrilled to eat lasagna instead of a grand roast on Christmas, even.

And that’s not the end of it, but before I go ahead and post the photos for the entire magazine, you’ll just have to check out a copy to see the rest. Don’t miss the holiday candy feature in particular! Though the photos came out looking fairly simple, it was quite a journey to get there. A highly worthwhile effort, I’d say!


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The Biggest Food Issue Ever!

VegNews‘ annual food issue is always packed to the brim with the stuff I love most- recipes, restaurant reviews, new products, and more- and the September/October 2011 issue does not disappoint. For this particular two-month stretch, I had the tasty task of photographing quite a few of the featured foods as well. Seeing my work in print a few days early at Vida Vegan, via the generous free magazines being doled out to entice new subscribers, I was especially delighted at how well these particular images were reproduced in paper and ink. On the menu for these two months are…

Kati rolls by Terry Hope Romero, otherwise titled Chile Potato Wraps for a more straight-forward approach when the relatives give you strange looks at the diner table. Consider essentially bundling up spicy and fragrant mashed potatoes in soft, freshly handmade flat bread, and it’s easy to imagine that this as an Indian version of comfort food. It may take a bit more effort than a pile of plain old buttery spuds, but the flavors and varied textures are completely incomparable.

Gobi Manchurian by Robin Robertson, a dish new to me this time around, proved to be the sleeper hit of the batch. Crispy-fried cauliflower dressed up in a mouth-tingling hot tomato sauce with Asian inspirations? Yes please, and leave room for seconds! Traditionally chopped up into florets, this version is served up as whole cauliflower “slabs” to make it into more of a meal or side dish, rather than a mere bar snack.

Classic but always welcome when done right, French Onion Soup by Allison Rivers Samson is incredibly rich for having such humble beginnings. The key, of course, is slow simmered caramelized onions to make up the savory base- Time is your most important ingredient on this heart-warming soup.

Time for dessert! What could be better than Gluten-Free Trail Mix Cookies by Beverly Lynn Bennett? Taking a more controlled approach to the “kitchen sink” concept, each bite brings new fruits and nuts into the mix, making every cookie unique and delicious. Although this particular photo was mislabeled, I assure you, I was the photographer (and baker!) of this short stack.

Finally, one of the simpler but more fun photo shoots of the bunch, I got to set a whole bunch of marshmallows on fire with a torch! Dandies marshmallows to be specific, all stacked up in toasty, gooey s’mores. If you haven’t gotten your s’more on over a summer campfire yet, VegNews is here to remind you that it’s never to late for some mallow-and-chocolate action come colder months.


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Shameless Self-Promotion

Temporarily overshadowed by the frozen delight that was my ice cream feature in the most recent issue of VegNews magazine, I completely failed to mention the other delicious recipes I contributed photos for. How such stellar recipes could slip my mind, I can’t begin to explain!

Do you have tons of excess summer produce rolling around on your counter? Try pickling them! These approachable formulas from Jesse Miner are quick and easy, with novel flavor combinations to boot. Can you say “Spicy Indian Cauliflower Pickles”? Golden-hued, warmly spiced, and invigoratingly tangy, they were easily my favorite of the three.

Fans of Gena Hamshaw likely not only know about her Raw Energy Bars, but have already made and devoured them. For everyone else, consider this your extra push: With only two ingredients, you really can’t get a more wholesome sweet snack.

Speaking of VegNews, their annual Veggie Awards have just opened as of yesterday. Nominated in three categories, I would like to think that there’s a decent chance of at least one of them pulling through, but I’m up against some seriously stiff competition. The best names in Veganism are all there, so I’m seriously going to need all the help I can get! Cast your vote today, and I’d be forever grateful if you could check the ballots for me under the following options:

Favorite Cookbook Author
Favorite Blog (BitterSweet)
Favorite VegNews Column (My Sweet Vegan)

Now I won’t stoop to such desperate measures as bribery… But do keep your eyes peeled for some fun and delicious giveaways soon to come to the blog!


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We All Scream…

…For National Ice Cream Month! Did you know that since 1984, thanks to Ronald Reagan, July has been officially designated as National Ice Cream Month? Clearly there’s no better time than the present to share my latest VegNews magazine article, found in the fresh July/August issue, which just so happens to be a feature on vegan ice cream recipes that go way beyond just chocolate and vanilla. Craving a decadent frozen dessert to keep the summer heat at bay? Imagine Hot Chocolate Ice Cream, with a rich dark chocolate base littered throughout with bouncy vegan marshmallows, or Raspberry-Mint Truffle Ice Cream, a refreshing combination of fresh berries and herbs, with whole semi-sweet chocolate truffles to amp up the indulgence-factor. Don’t forget what might actually be the easiest ice cream ever churned up, the Purple Cow Ice Cream.

Inspired by the traditional soda shop float made with grape soda and vanilla ice cream, I like to play a bit of role reversal and switch it up by creating a grape ice cream, with only two ingredients (three if you count salt.) Serve in a tall glass with thoroughly chilled cream soda for the full complement of tastes and textures.

Purple Cow Ice Cream

1 3/4 Cups Plain Non-Dairy Milk
3/4 Cup (1/2 of a 12-Ounce Can) Frozen 100% Concord Grape Juice Concentrate, Thawed
Pinch Salt

This is the best ice cream for beginners, as it literally could not be any easier to prepare. Just whisk everything together thoroughly in a medium-sized bowl until homogeneous, and chill for at least 30 minutes. Churn in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and transfer to an air-tight container before stashing in the freezer. Let rest in the freezer for at least 3 hours before serving, until solid enough to scoop.

Catch the rest of the recipes mentioned above in VegNews magazine, and don’t forget, this is just another sweet sample spoonful of what’s to come in my forthcoming ice cream cookbook!

Printable Recipe


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Reunited and It Tastes So Good!

Nine years is a long time to go without a childhood favorite. Comfort food that evokes the warmest, coziest memories, even if it did come out of a blue box and was composed of more chemicals than you might find in the average chemistry set. Something about that simple amalgamation of noodles and cheese-product sauce managed to reach the farthest corners of my young brain, imprinting a deep appreciation for the day-glow orange noodles. Sure, I’ve since had numerous non-dairy renditions, some even quite good and worthy of recommendation, but none were quite right. Some unidentifiable piece of the puzzle remained lost, that “perfect” mac and cheese just beyond my reach.

Every vegan and their mother and best friend has a unique formula for creating their ideal mac, so it was one of those things I simply didn’t pursue. There were enough recipes that came close enough; why keep picking on something so close?

But then, there was the mac that changed everything. Assigned by VegNews to shoot their signature macaroni and cheese, as formulated by Allison Samson of Allison’s Gourmet, it was admittedly the first time I had ever made or eaten an oven-baked casserole version of the classic dish. That first bite was just short of transcendent- And even more so if you consider that fact that the original recipe included absolutely no nutritional yeast. A potato-based sauce, standing in for rich, cheesy-creamy-goodness? You bet.

And thus, my macaroni quest began.

Drawn back to my memories of simple stove-top mac, my first adaptation was to lose the casserole dish and bread crumbs. Feel free to add both back into the equation, as I was definitely impressed by how much those crispy edges added to the mix; it’s merely a matter of personal preference.

Naturally, I couldn’t keep away from the nooch, what with it’s delicious umami notes and undeniably “cheesy” essence.

Rich, but not unctuous or artery-clogging, this is perhaps as close to perfection as I’ve tasted in nine years or more. Creamy, very saucy (who hasn’t wished those boxes made about twice as much sauce?), bright but natural orange in hue, this is the mac I’ve been craving all along. That long awaited reunion tasted even better than I had hoped!

Vegan Stove Top-Style Macaroni and Cheese
Adapted from Allison River Samson’s VegNews Macaroni and Cheese

1 Cup Peeled and Diced Yukon Gold Potatoes
1/4 Cup Shredded or Finely Diced Carrot
1/2 Cup Chopped Yellow Onion
1 Clove Garlic, Thinly Sliced
1 Cup Water
1/4 Cup Raw Cashews
1/4 Cup Nutritional Yeast
1 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Dijon Mustard
2 Teaspoons Lemon Juice
1/4 Teaspoon Smoked Paprika
1/8 Teaspoon Tumeric (Optional, for Color)
3/4 – 1 Cup Unsweetened Non-Dairy Milk
1/3 Cup Neutral-Flavored Oil, Such as Canola or Rice Bran

1 Pound Pasta, Cooked*

*I’m rather fond of tiny spirals or twists here, but elbows are more traditional. Any shape you’ve got, other than long spaghetti, pretty much works though.

Place the cut potatoes, carrots, onion, and garlic in a small sauce pan, and pour in the water. Set over medium heat on the stove, and bring to a boil. Once the water reaches a vigorous boil, cover the pot, turn down the heat to medium-low, and let simmer for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are extremely tender.

Meanwhile, prep the other ingredients to speed things along. Place the cashews, nutritional yeast, salt, mustard, lemon juice, paprika, and tumeric (if using) in your blender. A high-speed blender is recommended for the best results, but you can also use an ordinary machine as long as you have patience. Give these ingredients a light pulse just to begin breaking down the cashews slightly.

When the vegetables on the stove are fully cooked and ready, pour them into your blender along with all of the cooking water. Add in 3/4 cup of the non-dairy milk, and turn on the blender to its highest setting. Thoroughly puree the mixture, until completely smooth and lump-free. If you’re using a blender that isn’t so hearty, this could take 6 – 10 minutes. With the motor still running, slowly drizzle in the oil, to allow it to properly emulsify. Check the consistency; if you like your sauce a bit thinner blend in the remaining 1/4 of non-dairy milk.

Pour the sauce over your cooked noodles, and serve immediately.

Makes 6 – 8 Servings

Printable Recipe


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All the News That’s Fit to Veg

No longer hot off the presses but still just as pertinent, I’m only just flipping through to the final pages of the May/June 2011 issue of VegNews. So thickly layered with juicy tidbits about vegan weddings, travels, and newsworthy items, along with the usual enticement of new recipes, this is not one to rush through. If you did, you would risk missing such ideal summer party nibbles as the Sardinian-Inspired Crostini:

Or perhaps that spicy little Asian-fusion number, the Korean Tacos with Pear-Cilantro Slaw:

Which I can testify, are every bit as distinctively delicious as they look.

In light of the recent VegNews stock photo scandal, I feel that it’s necessary for me to clarify a few things here. I for one am glad that issue was brought to light, because things will only get better from here. Mistakes were made, acknowledged, and hopefully corrected. Moving forward, VegNews has pledged to use only vegan photos, and always accurate photos for the recipes published, so it sounds like a win-win situation if there ever was one. Better yet, you can rest assured that many of those recipe photos, such as those above, will be coming from my kitchen and my camera, so you can feel confident that you’re getting the real deal- no bull.

And of course, you can still expect my column every other issue, so prepare yourself for a serious sugar rush in the upcoming July/August issue… It’s gonna be a scream!

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