I Pity the Pita, that crosses my plate – Lunch with @skinnyjeans

Mr.T Bobble HeadMade it to @gangplank for Katie Charlands Brown Bag on Social Media and Non-Profits, which absolutely rocked the house. I put up a number of posts about it and asked a few questions. Anyway got a message from Kammie to say hey to Stephanie and introduce her to Phoenix. It turns out Stephanie is a serious foodie and has a blog network:

Being new to Phoenix I suggested lunch at Pita Jungle since its healthy and was close. Her post on our lunch is titled: Relishing One Thousand Beans on Pita and gives an excellent bit of background on yours truly and how I came to being Vegan. Great food and good conversation is the only way to roll in my book.

Welcome to Phoenix Stephanie!

Udon pesto with spinach and quinoa taboulli. Tasty #vegan

Spent the day remembering why I don’t like manual labor. It was really fun cause of our cut twice measure tomorrow while repairing the irrigation.

So I decided that a nice dinner with strong fragrances and flavor. Had some pesto froma few days ago and udon noodles cook up real nice in veggie broth. Throw some garlic in a bit of oil on medium heat for about 45 seconds then throw in the pesto and spinach and cook down for a minute on med high heat. Toss in the noodles and good night.

The taboulli is from vegan planet and is a little more work but not too tough. Cook up a cup of quinoa in 2 cups of boiling water and some salt. 20 minutes or so simmering till all the water us soaked up. While that’s going down mince a qaurter cup red onion and seed and chop two tomatos. Half a handful of cilantro and a bunch of parsley chopped. Toss everything into a large bowl with a can of adzuki beans. Mix one third a cup of olive oil with two tablespoons of lemon juice for the dressing. Be sure to season with salt and pepper and then mix with everything else.

Fun summer feast- Vegan BBQ

Having some friends and family over for a BBQ today. Not many other vegans so taking it easy. Grilled portobellos and veggies with red cabbage slaw and vegan choco chip cookies. Very tasty

Beverages moved from Bud Lime to captn n coke by the poolside. Oh and kiwis with lime bars and Malibu are a win.

Chocolate Macadamia Clusters – Yoga Food Friday

Good old Vegan Planet comes up big yet again! My Yoga Teacher Training class has a slight alteration to my Began cooking in that I need to strive for gluten free as well. That way everyone can enjoy. After scouring the Internets for a new recipie I went to old trust VP and found gold:
Chocolate Macadamia Clusters

1.5 cups pitted organic dates softened in warm water
1.5 cups macadamia nuts chopped
0.25 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup coconut flakes

I went a bit off recipie with the nuts. VP calls for only making 0.5 cups into a powder and keeping 1 cup chopped set aside. Well I am too lazy to chop nuts by hand. I much prefer to put all my nuts into the food processor and just grind… Oh boy that didn’t sound good. Well you get my point.

Add drained soft dates to powdered nuts and continue to mix. Add cocoa and vanilla and mix well.

In you palm roll out 1 inch balls and press on the coconut in a plate to coat.

Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate. Will last up to 2 weeks in fridge.

I was amazed at how much better these are than store bought pre made clusters.

Gluten free vegan chocolate coconut cookies

Did up another batch of gluten free cookies for the Teacher Training group today. Seemed to go over well enough.

2.5 cups Tom’s mill All Purpose Gluten Free flour
1tsp salt
1tsp baking soda
0.5 cup grapeseed oil
0.5 cup agave
1tbls vanilla extract
0.5 cup dark chocolate
0.5 cup coconut shaving

Mix dry in bowl
Mix wet in another bowl
Combine
Add chocolate and coconut
Make into 1/2 inch balls and press onto parchment paper on baking sheet
Cook for 8 minutes at 350 degrees

For this batch I smashed up a chocolate bar giving a nice irregularity to each cookie. I also put a few large pieces of chocolate on top of some cookies for an over the top effect.

Positive Customer Experience: True Food Kitchen and Exec Chef Michael Stebner

Kathryn, my girlfriend, loves True Food kitchen and I am a skeptic of anything done by the FOX group especially when it aligns itself to a single philophers idea of eating well, in this case Dr. Weil. I am also a pretty critical person and enjoy critiquing most everything especially eatieries and restaurants.

One issue we have is that we are Vegans and while they do have a number of items listed as Vegan on the menu there are a few things that just seem silly. The first one is that they have no Salads listed as Vegan and the second is that they do not offer Vegan Mayo. The last time we mentioned the Mayo thing our server gave us a reason why they didnt but that we are welcome to bring our own in.

Today has been a fun day so I thought going to True Food would be a good treat for Kathryn and maybe distract me from other events occuring recently. Our server, Chris, has waited on us before and is always very nice. When we mentioned the Soy Mayo thing she offered to go talk to the chef and managers. When she returned the reply was that “at some point we have to draw the line.” To which I explained that by offering Vegan/Soy Mayo they would lower costs, increase shelf life, and even start substituting it with real Mayo without anyone noticing. She thought these were valid enough and again went to talk with the chef and managers. To which Kathryn and I exchanged glances and began eating our soup.

To our surprise our next visitor was none other than Michael Stebner the Executive Chef of the restaurant. We began a 10 minute conversation about their philosophy and methodology for creating the menu. He explained that they are not a health food restaurant but rather a restaurant with a health focus. He also pointed out that they are happy to modify anything on the menu to accomodate a number of eating requirements. This was really cool stuff.

He then went further and talked about his history as a chef and what he has seen work and not work from a practical perspective. This was a real conversation and I appreciate his engagement with us both. At no time was he demeaning to us and he never brushed a point of ours off. While I disagree with the philosophy of their menu I respect their methodology and see that they are interested in doing something more than just sell as much food as possible.

Cooking with the (Vegan) Devil

“Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.”
— John Cotton

“You put a baby in a crib with an apple and a rabbit. If it eats the rabbit and plays with the apple, I’ll buy you a new car.”
–Harvey Diamond

One thing that I regretted not doing after college was going to a culinary school. I was and still am very passionate about cooking but went with traditional University instead because of parental influences. Now that I am vegan going to a traditional Culinary School is not an option and unfortunately Arizona is not a hotspot for Vegan Schools.

There is at least one vegan cooking instructor that I know of and I recently had the chance to spend a few hours cooking with Chef Jason Wyrick of Devil Spice and The Vegan Culinary Experience. Jason became a Vegan for very similar reasons as I have: health and empathy. We spent a few hours making four dishes and I learned a number of new techniques and ways to get great flavor with very little fat. We also talked a bit about the Arizona Vegan/Vegetarian scene and the professional life of a Vegan Chef. This was a great investment of my time and money and I look forward to applying my skills for everyone else.

Recipes:
Sweet Potato Scramble
The first dish that I made was a Tofu Scramble which serves as an excellent meal for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It is really fast and simple to make and should replace your need for huevos rancheros easily. Feel free to add more veggies and garnish with any variety of herbs like Cilantro or Parsley.

Ingredients:
1tsp of olive oil
1/4 of Yellow Onion, diced
1 Sweet Potato, diced small
16 oz Extra Firm Tofu
2 Tbsp of diced roasted green chilies
1/4 tsp of Turmeric
1/4 tsp of salt
1/4 tsp of Paprika (smoked Spanish is best, check out Prenzey’s http://www.penzeys.com/cgi-bin/penzeys/penzeysstores.html)
Salsa

Over Medium heat saute the onion till is softens(3min) then add the sweet potato and let the potato soften(5min). Crumble the Tofu and add it to the onion and potato. Add the Chilies, Turmeric, salt, and Paprika and mix well. Saute for another minute and remove from heat. Plate, add Salsa, and enjoy!
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Rustic Tomato Soup
The second dish was a simple soup that can serve as a basis for many soups or sauces. I was surprised by this one as I have been making Tomato sauces for years and hadn’t seen this technique before.

Ingredients:
1 tsp of Olive oil
1/2 of Yellow Onion, diced
2 cloves of Garlic minced
6 Roma Tomatoes, chopped in half
1/4 tsp of Salt
1/8 tsp of Ground Cumin
1/4 tsp of freshly Ground Pepper
1/2 cup of Rice
1 tsp of Fresh Thyme Leaves, rough chop
2 cups of water

Saute the onion over medium heat till it starts to brown(4min). Add Garlic for a minute, then add Tomatos, Salt, Cumin, and Pepper. Keep an eye on things as the Tomatoes soften. If necessary add some water to keep the garlic or tomatoes from burning. Once the Tomatoes are soft smash them with a spoon. Add the rice and remaining water. Cover and turn on High heat till boiling. Once boiling reduce heat to a simmer, cover and let cook for 20 minutes. Once the rice is done take of the heat, add the Tyme and enjoy! You can also add some red beans for a hearty meal.
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Summer Zucchini Pasta with Sundried Tomato Sauce
This was is a Raw food dish which is great for the Arizona Summer time heat. The pasta making technique is easy and brilliant, whoda thunk?

1 Zucchini shaved
1 Roma tomato Chopped
1 Clove Garlic
8 sundried tomatoes hydrated
1 tsp of Balsamic Vinegar
1/2 tsp of fresh Thyme Leaves, rough chop
1/4 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp fresh Ground Black Pepper
2 Tbsp of Fresh Basil – Chopped
1 Tbsp of Pine Nuts

Shave the Zucchini with a Vegetable peeler until you get to the seeds, save the seeds for a soup or salad. In a Food Processor or blender put in the Roma and Sun Dried Tomatoes, the Garlic, Vinegar, Thyme, pepper, and salt until you have a thick sauce. Add sauce to pasta and garnish with Basil and Pine Nuts. Tasty.
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Orange, Kalamata Olives, and Basil Salad
For the fourth and final dish we made a simple raw salad with a combination of ingredients I had never considered. Oranges with olives? Well it turns out they work well and are very tasty.

1 Navel Orange chopped
9 Kalamata Olives seeded
1 Tbsp of Olive Oil
2 Tbps Fresh Basil
Salt
Pepper

Mix together and enjoy. Doesn’t get much simpler than that!
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Baba Ghanoush – Not just fun to say and eat, but easy to make and healthy

One thing that makes it easy to stick to any diet is to have some staple dishes made up and sitting in your Fridge. I like to keep some Hummous on hand for snacking and making sandwiches. To get a nice change of pace I decided to make some Baba Ghanoush, which is pretty similar to Hummous just replace the Garbonzo Beans(Chick Peas) with Roasted Eggplants.
Baba Ganoush Recipe - 1

Here is what you need:
1 to 2 Eggplants Medium to Large
2 Cloves of Garlic sliced to make spears
1/3 cup of Tahini
Juice of 1 Lemon
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
Salt – I used Celtic Sea Salt
2 Tablespoons Minced Fresh Mint
Baba Ganoush Recipe - 5

Here is what you do:
1. Preheat the oven to 375 Degrees F. Make a few deep cuts into the Eggplant and stuff the Garlic in. Put the Eggplants onto a baking sheet and bake in the oven till soft, around 35 to 40 minutes. Once they cool down peel the Eggplants, I just use my fingers.
2. Put the Eggplants and everything except for the mint into a food processor. Blend until smooth.
3. Pour into a bowl, garnish with mint and serve at room temperature.

Mmmmm tasty.
Baba Ganoush Recipe - 7

St Pattys in Chandler

Shamrock
I don’t know about you but my fall-down-drunk days of green beer are retired. Nowadays I am much more interested in outdoor festivals with bands and lots of people. From the sounds of it Chandler is gonna have a pretty good try at it this year with their first annual St Patricks Day Festival.

Its right downtown south of Chandler Blvd on Arizona and starts at 4pm till 11pm. Its being organized by the non-profit Downtown Chandler Community Partnership.