Monthly Archives: May 2014

GIVEAWAY and review for Vegan Finger Foods

Recently I was contacted by Tamasin Noyes and Celine Steen about receiving a review copy of their new book Vegan Finger Foods and doing a giveaway as well. I excitedly agreed. I love the recipes I’ve tried from their earlier Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day and Tami’s American Vegan Kitchen. With a bakesale and baby shower coming up I knew that I’d get a lot of opportunities to try out recipes.

Upon cracking the book open the first thing I noticed was all the lovely photos take by Celine and the very modern ideas. I had a hard time deciding what I would try because so many different recipes were appealing. I think the recipes in this book would appeal to all the different kinds of vegan diets out there. There are recipes that feature whole foods, are soy free, soy heavy, gluten free, bread based, raw, baked, complicated, easy, cupcake heavy, sugar free, comfort food, or chocolate based.

The first chapter is a short primer on finger foods and any types of special ingredients they use. Then it goes into “Veggie-Centric Finger Feasts” with recipes like “Kale Cucumber Cups” and “Snacking Chickpeas” these were all vegetable heavy and on the easier side. Next was “Stuffed and Dipped” with recipes like “Sauerkraut Stuffed Seitan Rounds” and “Baked Buffalo Tofu Bites” which I think most excited me. Then “Bread-Based Bites with recipes like “Pull Apart Pesto Bread” and “Spinach Swirls with Quicky Marinara” and finally “Sweet Little Somethings which includes recipes like “Creamsicle Ice Lollies” and “Goji Berry Cacao Bites”.

The first recipe I tried was the Tahini Caramel Popcorn. The first batch came together like magic. The second batch went awry when I dropped my fork into the caramel and then tried to retrieve it with my fingers. I learned that you NEVER put your fingers in hot caramel, it sticks right to your skin and burns burns burns. So, while I  was dealing with that, I wasn’t stirring and  the caramel cooked too long. Also, I think because of the humidity here I had trouble with the caramel really solidifying because the popcorn never became rock hard until I tried putting it in the fridge. So, I ended up selling them as Tahini Caramel Popcorn Balls at the bakesale. They were a hit! The tahini really added an interesting element. My friends that tried them loved them and they are GF so a perfect bakesale treat.

The one recipe that kept calling my name every time I flipped through the book was the Nacho Potato Skins. I found this recipe a bit overly complicated for me, like instead of calling for a small chopped onion they call for something like a half a cup of finely chopped onion. I know most folks prefer this kind of precision but for me, in something like a black bean salad, I just want it to be super simple. But then, I also thought the step of coating the potatoes with adobo and then crisping them again seemed like an unnecessary step but I am so glad I didn’t skip it. Just that little bit of flavor and crispness made the recipe for me. We used big russet potatoes and had one each for dinner. Dan couldn’t believe I ate mine with my hands but I told him it was a Vegan Finger Food! They were totally delicious and hit that junk food note even though they were, dare I say, healthy nacho potato skins using fresh vegetables, beans, and homemade vegan queso. They were very fresh tasting and had lots of flavor, I loved them.

Next, I had to decide which recipes to use for a taco themed baby shower. I wanted things I could mostly make ahead of time but that would go with the overall menu. I knew that my guest of honor is way into jalapeno poppers so these were definitely in from the start. Actually, this recipe probably turned out to be my favorite from the book and I would definitely make it again. I even used their tip of using gloves when dealing with the jalapenos (whenever I’m doing a cookbook review I try to actually follow all the directions). Somehow, I had never used gloves before. As an incredibly lazy person I always thought it was easier to be super careful when de-seeding hot peppers than to find some gloves. Boy, was I wrong. With gloves you can go a thousand times faster. And you are probably a lot less likely to touch your eyes (or other sensitive areas) with gloves on accidentally. For this recipe you hollow out the jalapenos, make a cashew cheese, plop a tablespoon of it in each jalapeno half, and then invert it onto a plate of panko and cornflakes, and bake them in the oven. They had all the crunchy cheesiness of traditional poppers without having to deep fry or use cheese. And they were super easy. A total win.

Finally, I decided to also make the Baked Lenteja Taquitos instead of the Pulled Jackfruit Mini Tacos because I figured that growing baby would need some extra protein. These seemed super easy; you cook up french lentils and then mix them with some mashed potatoes and spices, roll the filling in tortillas, and then bake them in the oven. When shopping at Fiesta I came across their homemade corn tortillas that were nopale flavored so I kind of had to try them. They did not work well at all in this recipe, however. I think fresh flour tortillas or even store-bought corn tortillas would have held up much better in the rolling process. They tasted good though! And they were crowd-pleasers as well.

There are still many recipes I want to try! The Brewpub Cauliflower Dip, Tiny Tomato Pies, and the Portobello BLTs are all going to be coming out of my kitchen sooner rather than later. And if you are worried about getting the book because you don’t entertain, never fear! Many of the recipes can easily be scaled up for dinner (like those BLTs) or used as side dishes like the Green Beans Jalfrezi. It also seems like a GREAT book for coming up with things to bring to a potluck, and God knows, if you’re vegan you have to go to potlucks all the time. They back section of the book has sample menus like “Hot Summer Nights” and “Extra Easy Entertaining”. You can check them all out on the Amazon Preivew. I really do think this book has something for everyone. I think some vegan millionaire should buy a ton of copies and send this book to every bar because bars here never have interesting vegan options. 

Giveaway Closed!

If you would like to win a copy please comment below and answer this question: If someone was throwing a party for you, what would you want on the menu? Make sure you add your email when you leave the comment in the form so that I can contact you if you are the winner!

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Vegan Sweet Cherry Pie

Last week was very stressful & so for the long weekend I had exactly one goal: to make a cherry pie. I couldn’t find sour cherries at the store so I decided to say fuck it and get sweet cherries instead. I found a recipe on the Smitten Kitchen for a pie using the sweet cherries and it came out heavenly. I used the crust recipe from Vegan Pie in the Sky. Someone gave me the tip of using a Silpat to roll out dough and it made a huge difference.

I wish I could make pies every day. I think I’m getting better.

Vegan Chicago – Puffs of Doom and a Trip to Green Zebra

On May 10th my family and I threw a beautiful bridal shower my one and only sister. When we were planning the food the one thing I was sure of was to have Puffs of Doom which are the most amazing vegan cream puffs ever. Really, if you are ever in Chicago go out of your way to find these, they are so light and delicious it doesn’t even seem possible. The ones pictured about were strawberry basil but the strawberry champagne ones were incredible too. Here’s another whole post about my Puffs of Doom obsession.

The shower was champagne themed and I was really excited about the favors that we made.

The next day was my birthday and my family took me out to the Green Zebra, an elegant vegetarian restaurant in Chicago that I have been dying to go to for years. They really focus on seasonal vegetables and when I first saw the menu I was a little disappointed. All the hearty protein heavy options had eggs or cheese and they don’t substitute tofu or anything for vegans, they just remove the cheese or eggs. In reality, it turned out to be a non issue and I was very well-fed. Even though the restaurant is small plates style the portions were ample and I ordered more than enough food.  I started with the “Chilled Somen Noodles, Hawaiian heart of palm, edamame, shiso, ginger-soy” which also had an avocado mouse. 

It actually reminded me quite a bit of soba noodle dish with seaweed and sesame oil that I make often at home. Obviously, it was a bit more refined and everyone at the table loved.

Next I had the  “Acorn Squash Potstickers, soy caramel, carrot sesame purée, shaved radish

I was a little less wiling to share these with anybody because they were amazing. The potsticker wrappers were more like fried raviloi than typical potstickers and just delightful. The squash inside kind of exploded with flavor when you bit into it and the caramelized soy was just delicious.

Next I had the “Salt Roasted Yukon Potato Hash, jalapeño relish, fried egg, pistachio chimichurri ” with no egg.

Although I loved the potatoes and the fresh green and chimichurri I did feel like this dish was lacking without a replacement for the creamy egg which would have balanced the salty potatoes. It ended up tasting like a damn good breakfast side.

We also tried the maitake mushroom dish that had lots of orange citrus and fresh scallions. They were delightful and perfectly prepared.

Finally, since it was my birthday, we shared the “Malted Banana Ice Cream, banana bread, salted caramel, macadamia nut tuile” for dessert. 

I loved the crispy wafers, what can I saw I’m a total wafer girl. The banana ice cream was so rich and banana-y I was wondering if it was just frozen bananas processed with a bit of cream. The whole thing was delicious.

I’m thrilled that I finally got to try the Green Zebra and would highly recommend it even if the vegan selections are a wee bit lacking for an all veg restaurant. Everything that I had was very well prepared, they had a great wine list, and it’s right down the street from my brother-in-law’s awesome wine store The Noble Grape. I’ll be back in Chicago for more wedding this summer and I am excited to go back to the Chicago Diner and other favorites next time.