Sunday, December 16, 2012

Vegan Cheese Party

Since moving to Houston, I've made some new vegan friends. One of them received a copy of Artisan Vegan Cheese as a birthday gift recently. She was planning to host a party where each person brought a cheese from the book, but her landlady is being totally nuts. I offered to host it, which made me really anxious. I can't even describe how much cleaning I did before anyone came over. My house is usually pretty clean anyways, because I'm a bit OCD, but I was moving furniture out of the way to vacuum all the tiny spaces any dust could accumulate. I even changed the air filters in my AC unit and my air purifier. My friends arrived and it went so smoothly. I provided some fresh baguette and crunchy bread from Whole Foods, as well as some Back to Nature crackers (Ritz-type crackers without the hydrogenated oils). I baked some little biscuits too, using this recipe, but they basically tasted like Earth Balance. All together, the guests brought cashew chevre, lentil crackers, gruyere, fruit, boursin, pita crackers, wine, olives, and the apple harvest cake from Whole Foods. We had a great time! So many interesting conversation topics - animal rights (duh), religion and faith, the nature of happiness, and other random things. We ended up spending 6 HOURS together! I figured people would be gone in just a couple hours, so I was pleasantly surprised by how late we were together. The first photo shows the cashew chevre (sprinkled with sumac), the gruyere, and the cheddar. The second photo shows the boursin. The last photo shows the whole spread.
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Friday, December 14, 2012

Spicy Peanut Sauce #2

I'm calling this sauce #2 since I made another spicy peanut sauce recently (here). I was planning to have tofu, broccoli, and rice for dinner last night. I wanted to make sweet and sour sauce (using VeganDad's recipe), but thought peanut sauce might be better. Peanut sauce would help clear out the pantry a little. I grabbed a couple cookbooks from the shelf and decided that the recipe in Authentic Chinese Cuisine looked the most interesting. It calls for Chinese black vinegar or balsamic vinegar, so I used balsamic. I used the spicy peanut butter instead of regular peanut butter and chili garlic sauce.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Pepper Tree - Houston, TX

I've written about the buffet at Pepper Tree before, likely writing that it was a little bland. One of my new friends asked me to join her and some other people at Pepper Tree on Sunday night. She has been talking a lot about the cashew chick'n listed on the regular menu. I decided to order a menu item too, thinking I'd get the cashew chick'n too. When her boyfriend described the kung pao tofu, I wanted that. I had some steamed dumplings as an appetizer, the kung pao tofu combo (without the soup), and some sesame balls with chocolate sauce for dessert. It was a fun night talking with some new people. I had basically written off Pepper Tree because the buffet was a little bland, but now I know that the menu items are much better!
Also, I'm a little surprised to write that I went out with two different friends over the past weekend. I guess I am successfully, although slowly, making a new set of friends here in Houston. :)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Quan Yin - Houston, TX

My friend invited me to go to Chinatown last Friday night. We were driving on the 610 interstate when we were rear-ended. Thankfully, it was a very minor accident, since the lady was trying to brake when she hit us. The paint on my friend's car was scratched, but there was no major damage. We had been debating whether to go to Quan Yin or Pine Forest Garden. She had printed the directions for Quan Yin, so we went there after all that drama. The crazy part was that another accident happened after we finally managed to pull of the road and the police came. We ordered the fried dumplings and "egg" rolls for appetizers, which we shared. My friend ordered a Cajun soup, instead of her usual pho. I ordered the kung pao "shrimp" entree, mostly because I'm too cheap to buy Sophie's Kitchen products at Whole Foods. I will say the mock shrimp were rubbery and I won't buy them in the future. They were just so weird-looking that I had to give them a try. We had a great time at dinner and then headed over to the Asian market. We bought some agar for future vegan cheese experiments, and she bought tofu claiming it was so cheap. I noticed that it's the same price I pay at Fiesta, which is a cheap grocery store in Houston (it's rather plain inside, but it has fresh produce, a huge international section divided by region, and some natural body products).

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Creole Black-eyed Peas

I am trying to cook more from my pantry, which has a nice stockpile of dried beans. I use red beans, chickpeas, pinto beans, and black beans pretty regularly, but I don't use lentils, white beans, or black-eyed peas often. I decided to pick the black-eyed peas since I had just made the lentil chili in the previous post. I found this recipe on FatFreeVegan, which is a pretty great source of southern dishes. I enjoyed this without making rice, because I forgot to start some rice as I left the beans to simmer on the stove. I cooked the beans on low in the slow-cooker all day, then added them to the other items and left it all to simmer. I also used sriracha as the hot sauce, since I'm out of regular hot sauce.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Tex-Mex Lentil Chili

I made this chili recipe a couple weeks ago, but forgot to post it. This lentil chili has black beans and corn in it, plus the usual chili items. It's topped with a little cilantro (added after the photo) and avocado. Simple, but pretty tasty. It's easy to add more spice if you're into spicy foods. I'm going to keep this short, since I would like to try scheduling several posts since this week is going to be busy at work. :)

Sunday, December 9, 2012


I made that homemade white chocolate to make a bar cookie recipe for the monthly vegan potluck. However, it melted and made my bar cookies an oily mess. I was bummed, but decided to be persistent. I tried to make a danish earlier in the week and it was too dense. I decided to pick recipes from a cookbook that would have been tested extensively. I picked up my copy of Vegan with a Vengeance. I decided to make the pumpkin oatmeal cookies and the carrot-raisin muffins, which would be perfect for the cookie exchange and breakfast-themed meal. They both turned out well, making me feel better after a week of bad luck in the kitchen. :)
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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Latest Adventures in the Kitchen

I tried to make the sharp cheddar from Artisan Vegan Cheese, but it got a fuzzy spot on the third day of fermenting. I'm unsure where things went wrong. :( I am going to try again though, since our cheese party isn't for another week. Wish me luck!

On the upside, I made white chocolate tonight. I'm going to use this for my potluck dish and cookies for the cookie exchange this weekend. If I try it and it's delicious tomorrow, I'll have to get more cacao butter from Whole Foods. I don't know if the amount I made today will be enough for both dishes. I bought the Artisana raw cacao butter, not the one linked to in the recipe. The one linked in the recipe I found in the body section, not the food section. Weird, since she wrote about picking food grade cacao butter. Also, did you know that cacao and cocoa are the same thing? They come from the same bean, but cacao seems to be used in every other language and it is now used mostly to indicate minimally processed cacao. I'm way excited about the vanilla powder I bought, I can use it to keep vanilla frostings all white!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Enchilada Casserole

I've tried making this casserole once before (here), but it wasn't quite right. I decided to give the recipe another try. I crisped my corn tortillas in the oven while the beans were cooking. I used Isa's no-fat refried beans from Appetite for Reduction, black beans, peppers, corn, tomatoes, and onion. I sauteed the vegetables so they wouldn't have so much moisture to make the tortillas soggy. I skipped the salsa layer, but did make the linked enchilada sauce to put on the top. It was much better this time.
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A piece of the ceiling at work fell into my labmate's chair last week during the Thanksgiving holiday. The contractors worked this weekend to repair it. I decided that it was a sign to take the weekend off work. I met up with a friend for rock climbing for a few hours and ran a 5k in about 30 mins (my first race!) on Saturday, and went to a friend's to hang out and have pumpkin cheesecake on Sunday. I also took some of her rejuvalec to start my contribution to our Artisan Vegan Cheese party. :)