28 August 2011

Shishito

Despite the apparent decline of the shishito plants in my backyard garden, they are still producing more peppers than I can consume during a single harvest. The peppers' mild, delicate flavor doesn't make shishito particularly well-suited to dishes with bold seasoning, calling for simpler preparation. I've already ginger-pickled some, using this recipe (completely disregarding the accompanying pork component, of course); stir-fried them for japchae; frozen freshly-picked peppers, stems removed; and eaten them pan-roasted and seasoned with a little sea salt. Because I've rather taken to canning food lately, I decided to pack broiled shishito peppers with fresh shiso (also from my garden), garlic, extra virgin olive oil, red pepper flakes, and a touch of salt. I hope the pepper flavor remains once I figure out the next step.
What are your favorite ways to eat mild peppers?

24 August 2011

Re-Imagining Tradition


Thank you so much for the encouraging comments on last week's blog post. My no-added-sugar, whole grain, mostly-raw plan is going well. Fresh fruit and vegetables abound, summer seems as ideal a time as any to embark on such a journey. My body already feels better than when I was weighed down by excessive sweets and simple starches. The added mindfulness this cleanse (or sorts) gives me is certainly a bonus that I hope to carry with me once I gradually reintroduce modest amounts of the food I'm currently avoiding.
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Now for something a little different. Just prior to my dietary adjustment, I began to revisit some traditional dishes from my childhood, with the purpose of making vegan-friendly versions of them. The food upon which I was raised--primarily that of Hawaiian regional and Filipino cuisines--often contained either meat, eggs, or dairy, if not all three. Filipino cuisine in particular seems to be inclined toward having meat or seafood in just about every savory dish; even if they don't contain discernible chunks of animal flesh, vegetable dishes are often flavored with dried shrimp, fish paste, or minced pork. Some of the most popular desserts are enriched with eggs and either evaporated or sweetened condensed milk. But as is the case with so much of non-vegan fare, there are ways to adapt even the most notoriously meat-heavy Filipino dishes without compromising flavor. I always enjoy attempting to reinterpret traditional dishes with a vegan spin. It's a deliciously fun way to bolster my renewed appreciation for the communal spirit behind the food of my heritage, as so much of the Filipino dishes my mother and grandmother prepared during my childhood are associated with sit-down, family-style meals or potlucks.

Apritada (also referred to as afritada) is a dish I recall eating occasionally (albeit reluctantly, because I was a very picky eater as a child). It is usually prepared with pork or chicken, much like adobo, but with the addition of tomato and beer. Potatoes help to make it a filling, one-pot entree. My vegan version obviously doesn't include meat, with firm tofu as the main protein. I also added chickpeas, which are sometimes included in traditional variations of apritada. It's a slightly tangy, hearty, wholly satisfying stew that even my own mother approved.
Apritada (printer-friendly version)
Inspired by Hawaii Filipinas' Favorite Recipes by the Filipino Women's League
Yields six to eight servings
Nut-free

15 oz firm or extra-firm tofu, drained, pressed, frozen, and cut into bite-sized pieces
2 tsp canola oil, divided
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 1/2 c beer (one 12-oz bottle)
1/4 c distilled white vinegar
2 tsp vegetarian "chicken-style" broth powder, or regular vegetable broth powder
1 medium-sized onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 c tomatoes, diced (one 14.5-oz can, drained)
1 c tomato sauce (one 8-oz can)
1 T soy sauce
2 medium Yukon gold potatoes, or other thin-skinned potatoes, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 2/3 c cooked chickpeas (one 15.5-oz can, drained and rinsed)
1 medium-sized bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
1 dried bay leaf

Heat 1 tsp of oil in a large skillet over medium flame. Toss the tofu with salt and pepper and cook it until the tofu is uniformly golden brown, turning occasionally. Lower the heat and carefully add the beer, vinegar, and broth powder, stirring to combine. Increase the heat to medium-high, bringing the liquid just to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and allow the tofu to simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the tofu from the skillet and reserve the cooking liquid.

In the same pan, heat 1 tsp oil and cook the onion and garlic over medium-low flame, until the onion is soft. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, soy sauce, potatoes, chickpeas, bell pepper, bay leaf, and reserved tofu cooking liquid. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, then cover and cook over medium-low heat until the potatoes are fork-tender (approximately 20 minutes). Return the tofu to the pan and simmer uncovered for another five minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot with steamed rice and enjoy.

What are some of your favorite vegan remakes of traditional dishes?

19 August 2011

Before the change

I alluded to a need to adopt healthier eating habits in a recent post. Frankly, I'm sick of feeling the unpleasant physical and mental effects of overindulging in refined carbohydrates, sweets, and the like. So I'm working on a massive overhaul of my dietary lifestyle, kicking it off with a cleanse or detox of sorts, which began this morning. I'm saying no to added sugar. I'm staying away from refined carbohydrates--sticking to whole grains, and a limited amount at that. (I'll miss you, steamed white rice.) I'm monitoring my intake of "healthy fats" from nuts and seeds. And I'm aiming to go high-raw vegan (i.e., a plant-based diet consisting primarily of raw foods).

Of course, I'll do my best to make sure I still get adequate nutrients in my system (this move is all about health and moderation, after all) and am not completely forsaking my beloved stove and oven. It wasn't a sudden decision, but rather an inclination I've harbored for many weeks; I simply didn't have the urgency to execute change until now. To mark the transition from not-so-healthy to (hopefully) healthier eating, here's a glance at some of the edible miscellany I've enjoyed in the meantime.
Gluten-free steamed buns (dough adapted from this recipe).
Filled with
tsubu-an.
Melty banana peanut butter almond "milkshake." 
Date-sweetened and cinnamon-spiced.
Smoky seitan and sauteed squash and mushroom tacos.
Served on
nopales tortillas.
Yeasted Roasted Banana Bread.
No nuts and using coconut oil.
Tempeh Helper from Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Appetite for
Reduction. Brown rice pasta and swapped peas with broccoli.
Looking at the above items suggests that conditions could certainly be worse, but a glance at the previous two posts are more indicative of my struggle with eating in moderation. In any case, there is definitely room for improvement. I'm aiming for healthy variety, so I hope to keep things interesting around here.

No more excuses. It's time for positive change.

16 August 2011

Terrible Twos(day)

Today is Bread without Butter's second birthday--coincidently, a Tuesday--so you'll have to bear with the inner word nerd who insisted on marking the occasion with pun. I also used the milestone as a justification for making guava cake. The flavor is very close to that of the non-vegan inspiration my family loves. Unfortunately, texture is another story entirely, so I'll have to readjust a few things for my cake before sharing a recipe.
Thank you all so much for reading this blog. Please do stick around for more vegan food adventures.

09 August 2011

The Ongoing Battle

Against all logic, I seem to have an affinity toward creating difficult situations for myself. Lest I get "too personal" about it, I'll just say that I tend toward roundabout ways of doing things with regard to various aspects of my life. This indeed extends to food-related matters--to which this nook in the blogosphere was initially devoted, after all--but I'm still a fan of trying to look at the big picture in order to gain multiple perspectives. (Anyone accustomed to my more contemplative musings will recognize vague, quasi-philosophical reflection as a trademark of my writing style and need to over-analyze the information I ingest.)

So allow me to tell you a story that illustrates my apparent avoidance of parsimony, while hopefully entertaining you with the edibles one comes to expect on a food blog.

During my final year as an undergraduate, I became acquainted with a guy who, years later and across a few hundred miles, is now one of my dearest friends and closest confidants. In fact, it was for him that I cooked my first intentionally-vegan meal, which in turn fostered a curiosity about veganism that eventually led to where I am now: nearly three years vegan with no regrets for making the transition or any plans of turning back. Admittedly, despite being born of curiosity with a particular interest in the health aspect of the lifestyle, veganism for me means living as mindfully as possible. But that's another story for another time.

Oddly enough, this friend of mine--let's call him Guy, just to be quaint and generic--is no longer vegan. He has his reasons, but in any case, Guy does still follow a vegetarian diet and knows a thing or two about good vegan food. Nevertheless, I am so grateful for Guy's influence in pointing me toward veganism; not only have I expanded my food horizons, I've met some pretty swell people in the online veg community (hey, that's you!), who continually remind me of what makes being vegan so enjoyable. And my habit of feeding other people (arguably, my most lucrative skill) has always involved animal-free food when it comes to Guy, and still does.

So what's this "battle," you ask? To avoid being too technical about it (because we all face adversity in various forms throughout our lives) and for the sake of fitting it within the context of this blog, I'll let it simply be a two-fold matter. The first part has to do with Guy. Although our dynamic has evolved from novelty acquaintanceship to a meaningful friendship, it has not been without its rough patches, at least from my perspective. It's a complicated situation. It's humanizing, too, in good and bad ways. After careful contemplation, I always conclude that the perspectives gained and lessons learned are worth any accompanying frustration. So I'll continue to try to stop questioning what doesn't need to be questioned and keep Guy around, because he really is a good person and has added so much to my life. (This is not at all to say that my flaws don't contribute to the stress. They do. I'm working on that.)

Part two of the battle has to do with my recent eating habits. I feel as if my ability to moderate my carbohydrate intake--particularly when it comes to bread and sweets--has dwindled considerably. Although I still consider myself generally mindful of my sugar intake, the amount of sweets I've baked and consumed seems to be weighing me down, both physically and mentally. It's possible to jump these same hurdles again, but the thought of having to do so is a little daunting. Rather than ridding the house of potential temptations, I'm instead indulging bad habits that are proving more difficult to break than I expected.

Last week, both situations came together in an epic bake-a-thon. Why? August, month of many birthdays, has a way of triggering an urge to test my confection-making skills. I always appreciate homemade goods, especially when it comes to birthdays, possibly because I was raised by a crafty, homecook mother and woodworking, mechanical engineer father. It happens to be Guy's birthday today, so I decided to whip up an ultra-cutesy homemade care package for him, as if it could counterbalance my mild, occasional anxiety-induced toxicity, to which the poor fellow is too often subjected. I was ready to let my inner Martha surface, partly from guilt but mostly because I simply can't let a friend's birthday pass without sugar-crusted acknowledgment.
The birthday care package included madeleines (flavored with lemon zest rather than strawberry extract) and double-chocolate almond cookies (an adaptation of some form of a recipe spawned by an urban legend).
It's not a birthday without cake, right? I planned to make cake balls, figuring they'd ship more nicely than cupcakes. I even gave some a test-run, which were quite successful. Then I suddenly had the bright idea of making petits fours instead; miniature, fondant-coated layer cakes would certainly be a fancy-pants surprise. Sure, it would take more time and effort, as well as leave me vulnerable to a sugar burn or two, but like I said, I don't always gravitate toward the easy route. And a tiny part of me--perhaps a little black spot just outside my presumably purer heart of hearts--felt like showing off. I already had this recipe in mind and even had homemade sprinkles on hand. Yes, it was a marvelous idea, assuming my project followed as planned.

But alas, it was not meant to run smoothly. More specifically, the fondant would not pour smoothly; it preferred to lay thickly on each piece of cake and loose crumbs and marzipan under its weight. At least a few pieces looked almost presentable.
The marzipan (also homemade) was a little rough and definitely difficult to manage. I wanted to make a matcha cake and adapted the recipe accordingly. Cherry preserves sat between the cake layers. The combination of matcha, cherry, and almond turned out to be quite lovely, despite the overall sloppy appearance.
After messily producing about a dozen ugly, mostly-covered petits fours, I decided to forgo the fondant and opted to see how a chocolate coating would work. Although still not as pretty as I'd hoped they'd be, the chocolate-covered petits fours were certainly easier to work with and looked more gift-worthy than their fondant counterparts. Because I used dark chocolate, it thankfully wasn't nearly as sweet as fondant. I prefer my sweets not too sweet, anyway, so it seems that the final change was the right decision.
I learned a few things about myself with this baking project--mostly with regard to priorities and personal limitations. I'm not quite ready to give up on making petits fours. As I type this blog post, I have a new batch of citrus-scented cake chilling in the refrigerator, topped with store-bought marzipan--so neat and easy to handle--and destined for another dear friend. I also plan to make new fondant, which I hope will be more of a success this time around. Another birthday, another birthday cake...and so the trials continue. Sure, it's a little tough on my self-discipline, but it all boils down to a labor of love. And my friends deserve all the love in the world.

Here's to another round of happy birthdays to all you August babies.

04 August 2011

Love Drop: August 2011 - Lucy

Thank you to everyone who has helped with the Love Drop cause. As cliche as it sounds, every bit of kindness counts--whether it involves donating money, providing goods or services, or just your attention--and begins with just a moment of your time. To see just how amazing the effect has been, visit the Love Drop website for information on past drops.


This month, the Love Drop team wants to drop some love on Lucy Gordon, a once-healthy young woman who was diagnosed with aplastic anemia last autumn. Being afflicted by this rare, life-threatening disease means that a bone marrow transplant is Lucy's best chance for survival (she's had three already). Fortunately, Lucy's sister, Tracy, is a perfect match. Lucy has health insurance that helps to ease the extensive medical costs associated with treatment, but with the premium costing approximately $500 per month, financing treatment remains a challenge. Watch Lucy's introduction video below.

The Love Drop team would like to help Lucy, Tracy, and their family through this difficult period in their lives by raising enough money to cover six months of insurance payments for Lucy, totaling $3,000. Not only will it provide some mental relief for Lucy--she'll not have to worry about being able to keep her insurance, which eases medical costs--it will also allow her to focus on a healthy recovery while fulfilling her motto: "Live. Love. Laugh." As a thank-you to the team, the family will be sending out special "Lucy" bracelets to anyone who gives $25 or more. The Love Drop team also would also like to deliver 50 handwritten notes (or letters or drawings) of support for Lucy and the her family during this highly emotional journey--one to be read to Lucy on each day of her recovery.


If you'd like to help with this month's Love Drop, please visit the website for more information about donating (even as little as a single dollar helps the cause) or to contact the team about mailing a handwritten note of encouragement. Go ahead, drop some love to make a positive difference in someone's life. Thank you!

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