Monday, March 30, 2009

Vegan Lemongrass, Ginger and Coriander Infused Matzo Ball Soup

Passover tends to be a less than thrilling holiday for the Vegan Jew. I suppose I wouldn't really use the adjective "thrilling" to describe any Shagrin family religious-oriented gathering. Well, maybe at my Bat Mitzvah when my Grandma and Aunt J drank too much wine and ended up doing the Macarena on top of a table. That was pretty thrilling to a thirteen-year-old. It was also mildly embarrassing, mostly because I discovered my grandma could kick my ass in a dance competition. I can only hope that Shagrin women, like a fine wine, have a sense of rhythm that ripens with age...or with unbridled consumption of aforementioned wine.

Anyway, I derailed for a minute. Back on track.

Passover is a difficult food holiday for Vegans because many of the recipes are egg/meat laden. The absence of yeast in food products forces many recipes and packaged Passover goods to rely on eggs for their rising effect. Great for Jews, bad for Vegans. And while my Grandma could shake a mean tail-feather on the dance floor (table?), she could shimmy and shake her way through the kitchen like no one else in the family. I would eat so much of her Matzo Ball Soup that I barely had room for the rest of the meal. Don't worry, though. I'd sit for five minutes until letting out a burp large enough to rattle the fine china and every one's nerves, then get down to business with my other grandma's bangin' noodle kugel.

So, why couldn't I just leave well enough alone and Veganize a basic Matzo Ball Soup recipe? Well, as any good Jewish Granddaughter knows, NEVER try to beat Grandma at her own game. Even though she's not with us today, I'm sure my Meemaw would find some way to let me know she was displeased. The first zit I've had in months surfaced on my left temple as I was writing the initial recipe the other day, so I took it as a sign from above to deviate from the standard to a fusion East-Meets-Jew soup.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Free Form Wild Mushroom Lasagna with Champagne Lemon "Creme" Sauce and Sun Dried Tomato and Roasted Pepper Salsa

I have a deep, insatiable love for mushrooms. [Go ahead. Crack your hallucination jokes now and get them out of your system. Done? Ok.] True, I've taken my fair share of trips on the Magical Mystery Tour Bus...more on that later. But I'm talking about the non-psilocybin riddled variety. Button, crimini, portobella, porcini, wood-ear and, of course, morels. You name it, I love it.

My love for mushrooms started out as a young Shag-let. My mother used to make these amazing Mushroom Turnovers for synagogue pot lucks, family parties, funerals and the like. They were some kind of mushroom mince encased in a mini, flaky pie-like crust. The were kind of like a tiny mushroom filled pie calzone. Unfortunately for Mom, at the age of 8, my petty larceny skills were about as refined as my taste buds. She eventually learned to make more than one batch.

As I grew older, my love for mushrooms deepened. I learned the different types, their best uses and different seasons. I think they have an amazing depth of flavor when sauteed with only a little Earth Balance, White Wine, Salt, Pepper and Garlic. No rice or pasta needed. Just hand me a fork.

Yet, I have a number of friends that can't stand mushrooms. When I traveled to Amsterdam, I payed a visit to the Vegan Cafe at the Unlimited Health Yoga Centre. After a long, informative (cough *excruciating* cough) lecture, I learned that the Cafe's menu is based around the Sattvic diet, which is rooted in the practices of Ayurveda and Yoga. The Sattvic diet, which encourages foods that foster mental and physical clarity and balance, classifies mushrooms as a Tamasic (Energy Draining) food. Well, I don't know about all of you haters out there, but I can say that I've had some experiences with mushrooms that have induced quite the natural high. Ok. That time I cracked my own drug joke.

My only negative experience with mushrooms to date revolves around memory loss, spending two hours with my mother in her mini van "coming back to reality" in a hospital parking lot and a brief stint in rehab, but I'll save that story for another day.

This lasagna is termed "Free Form" because instead of assembling it casserole style in a large dish, you individually stack and plate the servings.

Have fun!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Vegan Lunch Time Round-Up and Some Exciting News!

You know me well enough by now that if I say, "I'm sorry. I was too busy to make one of my written recipes last week.", then I must have indeed been running around like a monkey. Ladies and Gents, last week, my little sister turned 21-flippin'-years old. The saddest part about this was not the phone call I received from my weeping mother that her children are no longer 'barely legal', nor was it realizing my sister can't properly gauge her body's capacity for rum. No. The saddest part of her 21st birthday was when we went to buy alcohol, and who's ID do they scrutinize? Mine! Not hers!!

I guess ya can't win 'em all.

Regardless, we rang in her birthday at midnight and I bought her her first (legal) alcoholic beverage. The next night, I drove down to the OC for the official birthday celebration, which happily coincided with me attending the Natural Products Expo courtesy of My Favorite Ingredient, Mimicreme. I wasn't even going to blog about the Expo, but there is one product I feel you all need to know about. I have seen the Vegan Cheese Light...and it is...

When I tell you this is the best Vegan Cheese on the goddamn planet, I'm not messing around. I had a Grilled Cheese that STRETCHED when I pulled it apart. Never mind the fact that the oozing cheddar somehow found a way to entwine itself in my hair so that I had to walk around looking like I had a dreadlock all day. I didn't care! I can't wait until this product's in stores. The pizza they had was also the best frickin pizza I've had in years. I haven't been able to sleep at night since I tasted it.

Anyway, I was too busy last week being a good big sister, girlfriend and actress to work on the recipe I planned to do. You'll get it later this week or next. Until then, you get to see what I eat when I'm not working on bloggable recipes! You lucky dog, you.

At the top, you witnessed my favorite salad on earth. My Heirloom Tomato, Cucumber and Soy Feta Salad. I make it with a combination of Pineapple Tomatoes, Black Brandywines and a few of my other beloved summertime gems. Add in some fresh cucumber, soy feta/bleu, sliced red onions, fresh mint, kalamata olives, lemon juice, olive oil , vinegar, salt and pepper. Yum.

Next we have an uncooked Artichoke Hummus, Heirloom Tomato and Fresh Herb Pita Pizza. I was way too hungry to follow up with a photo of the "cheese" melted, but if you live anywhere in the LA area, hit up the Pasadena Thursday market and buy the hummus pictured below. It is the best I've ever had in my life.

Best Hummus on Earth!

When I'm feeling really devilish, I make my own home made Vegan Marshmallows....

...and then I turn them into Vegan Rice Krispie Treats!

But sometimes, I just gotta have a good-old sandwich. Complete with all the fixins. Oh, and by the way, my birthday's just around the corner if your in need of someone to take a sandwich press off your hands ;)

I'll be back with a recipe soon!