Getting A Little Raw

Happy Thursday everyone!

As finals week looms in the near future I’m trying to be as active as possible here so I can make up for the inevitable lack of posts once my tests begin. However, I think it is a distinct possibility that blogging may become a procrastination tool, albeit a productive one.

I want to introduce this recipe with a bit of a confession. I’m a not a good cook, nor a particularly good baker. I’ve tried my hardest to improve and I definitely have, but still 99% of my finished products are failures. Fortunately, these failures rarely diminish my desires to continue. For better or for worse, this cooking blog wil continue to be, a cooking blog.

But the following recipe. It is the best one yet. Not only was it original, it was amazing. I have really been craving chocolate recently, but I didn’t want to splurge calories at the local vegan bakery. So instead, after getting some inspiration from The Minimalist Baker, I decided to walk down the untraveled route of vegan desserts. And what a successful journey it was.

Now, I love dates. If you don’t love dates I feel sorry for you because they are an incredible gift to my dessert craving. Low in calories, high in nutrition, and they taste amazing. I looked into my cupboard (aka an ottoman under my bed full of my cooking/baking supplies), saw that I had peanuts and chocolate, and I had my inspiration. Raw, chocolate, peanut butter brownies. After a quick trip to the campus convenience store that surprisingly has fresh dates, I was ready. I broke out the blender and made the brownie.

 

Ingredients:

6 fresh dates, pitted

Quarter cup of peanuts

Half cup of cocoa powder

 

Simple and nutritious ingredients!

Directions:

1. Blend peanuts in blender on high until they are well ground, almost peanut butter consistency.

2. Add cocoa powder and blend on low until the nuts and cocoa are well mixed.

3. Add one date at a time, blending until it has been incorporated into the mix. Once all the figs are added, blend until the mixture is an almost crumbly consistency, but can easily be molded together. If it still too crumbly add another fig or a little bit of water.

4. Mold into a brownie shape and put into the refrigerator until the brownie can be cut easily into sections.

Of course I’m sure you’ve all noticed by now my photographs aren’t the best, especially seeing as they are taken with an iPhone. And my brownie wasn’t the prettiest thing in the world. But don’t judge a brownie by its photo, or a book by its cover, and take my word for it that this dessert is amazing, and actually pretty good for you as well.

Not the prettiest, but the most delicious

Also pitting the dates was a fun exercise on top of it all.

Until next time!

Vegan Collegiate Does San Francisco Part 2

So I got you guys covered for half of my more interesting meals, now just a couple more…

After my Thanksgiving meal, I doubted that anything was going to be able to come close to the uniqueness and scrumptiousness. And yes, I was right. The Fig Cafe definitely won the dinner of the vacation. However, the following night we went to The Harvest Moon Cafe, also in Sonoma, and once again they were great about my veganism. Our waiter pointed out what was vegan on the menu, what he could make vegan, and offered to just compile all the side veggies from the meat dishes into one dish. I was tempted for a moment to go for the veggie meal, but I love pasta to ever say no to it. I ended up getting their homemade pasta with local mushrooms and olive oil. Maybe not the most impressive meal, but it was delicious! I’d go as far as to say the mushrooms were some of the best I’ve ever had. I started the meal with a parsnip and potato soup, which was perfect for a Fall meal, and I got biscotti for dessert. The biscotti were definitely delicious, but without eggs they were quite crunchy and a little too hard. But still quite yummy.

Mushrooms and pasta… doesn’t get much better

All in all I definitely give Sonoma’s restaurants a thumbs up for being vegan friendly, home grown, and delicious. Now maybe it’ll give me some inspiration for cooking in my own kitchenette….

Although this doesn’t really fall under the category of Sonoma’s fine dining, I had Jamba Juice for the first time en route to San Francisco. I have really been missing out. I got the acai, blueberry, strawberry soy milk smoothie and it was not only delicious but incredibly filling. Definitely look forward to homemade smoothie posts in the near future.

Until next time!

Vegan Collegiate Does San Francisco, Part 1

Hello all! I hope you all had a wonderful, relaxing holiday! Mine was a bit hectic only in the fact that I started in San Francisco and ended up in Sonoma. But I still enjoyed an incredible Thanksgiving meal, regardless that it was in a restaurant, with my family. But more on that feast later…

First I’ll go through my San Francisco vegan experience. I had gone on happycow.net before the trip to look for some options, but most of them had been ethnic restaurants and I had kind of wanted to try something more San Franciscan. Much to my luck, my parents and I stumbled upon The Plant, and organic cafe right on the Embarcadero. About 75% of the menu was vegan or had a vegan option so it was practically impossible to choose. I was originally leaning towards the Barbecue Tempeh dish, featuring Korean barbecue sauce. However, I decided to go with a lighter option for lunch. I settled upon the Wasabi Plant Burger, featuring the cafe’s famous beet Plant Burger. A bright red burger with onions and a wasabi-raspberry sauce, all on wheat bread. It was huge and it was delicious. In case the burger wasn’t enough it came with incredible roasted potatoes and salad. As a starter we got tofu spring rolls with a killer peanut sauce. I wish I had been able to get pictures of all this but I was too hungry to think of it. The following is a picture from Eat, Live, Run (thanks for letting me use your picture!). If you go through the link, you can actually find a recipe she created to match the burger.

The Plant Burger

Now on to Sonoma and my Thanksgiving meal. I was a little skeptical at first. We were planning on going to The Fig Cafe and I had checked the menu before hand to make sure there was a vegan option. There was a “Chickpea Panisse Cake,” which sounded like it could go either way. But when we got there our waitress quickly stymied my fear: it was vegan! Not only that, but the restaurant prided itself on being vegan friendly. I will attest to the fact that they were very accommodating.

I started with their Fig and Arugula salad, without the pancetta and cheese of course. It was very good, my only criticism was that there weren’t enough figs and they were chopped too small. But the pieces I had were sweet and flavorful.

On to the main course, the Chickpea Panisse Cake. There were too many levels of it to truly give it justice. I tend to eat my meals in pieces, for example I’ll eat the potatoes first, then the spinach, then the rice. Etc. For the this meal I started with the Delicata squash, roasted with lots and lots of flavor. I definitely tasted cinnamon. Next was the swiss chard. It could have been flavored a little more, but when I mixed it with the homemade cranberry sauce it was delicious. Next was the main event, the chickpea cake. Amazing. They seemed like they were fried, but I actually think they were baked. I haven’t eaten something that seemed so cheesy since being vegan, but this was amazing. The crust was perfectly crisp and the inside of creamy and flavorful. When I mixed it with the pesto-like sauce on the plate, WOW. But I think the best part of the meal were definitely the brussels sprouts. I love brussels sprouts. And these were above and beyond. I actually asked for a side of them and our waitress brought them out no question, even though it was a pre fixe meal. They were roasted with balsamic and sugar, and they were perfectly cooked. Crispy but also tender.

Finally, I ended with the chocolate orange sorbet. Again, this wasn’t actually on the pre fixe meal but when I asked if they had any vegan options she was quick to recommend this. And it was a great recommendation. Super chocolatey and smooth, with undertones of orange. Not overpowering, which is nice because I’m not a huge orange fan. I actually had to fight off my dad for this, even though he had ordered his own dinner.

All in all it was a fantastic meal. However, I still kind of wish I had gotten a homecooked meal. But there’s always next year! I really have to get better about taking pictures in restaurants, as I only remembered to snap a pic of the chickpea cake. I will get better I swear!

The Fig Cafe’s Chickpea Panisse Cake

I hope everyone has a great rest of the weekend!

 

PS I was not asked to do a review of either of these restaurants, this is not sponsored by anything other than myself!

Why I Cook

Yes, yes I know I should be blogging about the upcoming holiday, the true holiday of food, but because I won’t actually be partaking a homemade Thanksgiving day meal (much to my disappointment), I’ll save that for later. I’m going to visit my brother in California for Thanksgiving which mean my family and I will be eating at a restaurant. But no worries, I will provide a thorough critique.

Instead, I want to dedicate this post to happier things. Like why I cook. Truthfully, I didn’t realize how into food I was until I went to college. Then I immediately began to crave a kitchen and food that I knew what went into. Over the summer I began to cook a lot for myself, a combination of filling in the gap school had created and the fact that I went vegan. But there are now so many more reasons why I love it.

Baking in particular has been a great escape from stress. After days on end in the library I love going to my friends’ apartments and making delicious brownies and cakes and what not. I can forget about my impending stats test and just dive into one… or two… or five brownies.

I also love that it is something I can take pride in. There is no better feeling than when someone takes a bite of your food and lights up. You can always tell when someone tastes something good. Again, this is a good way to make yourself feel better when something shitty happens. Like failing aforementioned stats test.

And finally I just love making food for others. Like today I made pumpkin pasta (recipe to follow!) for my friend. And he really appreciated that it was homemade and delicious. I think I could literally just watch someone else enjoy my food and not eat any. Ok that’s totally not true but it really does give me such happiness.

For example today I made a veggie flatbread for lunch with one of my friends, and just watching her dig in with joy gave me my own happiness. Here is the recipe (one of my own!) and a picture. Not one of my better photo shoots but that’s part of being a vegan collegiate. All I’ve got is my lovely iPhone.

Sauteed Vegetable Flat Bread with Avocado Spread

1 can pre-made, vegan croissant dough (make sure to triple check the ingredients!)

Half a red onion

1 portobello mushroom

2 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes

Half a red pepper

Flour to roll out dough

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Take dough out of packaging, and with lots of flour roll it out into a pizza shape. Once it is rolled out put into oven for about 5 minutes

3. Cut up all the veggies into bite size piece, except for the tomatoes, and saute in oil until brown and sweet.

4. Take the dough out of the oven and cover in the avocado spread (recipe to follow), and then spread all the veggies out evenly.

5. Put back into oven for about ten minutes. The edges of the dough should be a dark gold, but make sure the middle is cooked through.

6. Cut into slices and enjoy!

Avocado Spread

1 avocado

2 tbsp. almond milk (or any other non-dairy milk)

Spices of your choice. We added basil, salt, pepper, garlic, and cayenne. We were trying for a bit of an avocado pesto type spread and these spices worked together great. But if you want something more herby, rosemary would have been great.

1. Scoop avocado out of shell and work through with a fork.

2. Add milk and work until it has formed a paste.

3. Add spices and herbs of your choice and then spread on whatever you’d like! Flatbread, toast, off the fork.

Sauteed Veggie Flatbread

 

Baking Inside the Box

I’m sure it has become apparent to all of you that I love chocolate. Whether you got this idea from my vegan Nutella post or just assumed that because I’m a 19 year old college girl, you’re right. Sadly, obtaining delicious chocolatey treats in college is more difficult than it would seem. I’m not a huge fan of dark chocolate, so those aren’t really an option. I can’t afford expensive baking ingredients needed for true, gourmet vegan baking (nor do Baltimore Giant supermarkets carry many vegan tools). So I come to you today urging you that it is not wrong to not go homemade. I promise that no one will complain that you didn’t make the warm, gooey, peanut butter, chocolate brownies from scratch. This is college. If it’s free, people will eat it. If it’s chocolate, people will love it.

Thus I have gone back to reliable Duncan Hines brownie boxes. And it may surprise you, as it did surprise me, that most of them are vegan! Just check the list to be absolutely sure, but the box i used definitely was. Sub out the eggs for a corn starch replacement, add some of your own love (aka peanut butter), and you have a delicious, crave-worthy treat.

I’ve actually ended up using the boxes twice in the past week or so. Once I actually did make brownies and they turned out great. But of course I had to get creative with them. So the second time I made brownie cupcakes with a peanut butter surprise in the center. Basically I poured brownie batter into muffin tins, put about a teaspoon of peanut butter in the middle of each, and the covered it with more batter.

So. SO. Good.

Below is a picture of just the normal brownies – it doesn’t nearly do them justice (but seeing as I took the picture in a frat house kitchen I hope you will all forgive me).

So once more I urge you – don’t be afraid of the box. We aren’t all master bakers, and we don’t all have unlimited amounts of time. And this is just one more way I want to remind everyone that being vegan doesn’t restrict you. Just check the ingredient list!

Enjoy!

 

Brownies from the Box!