Friday, October 31, 2008

VeganMoFo: Happy Halloween!

How great was this month? I think I was able to put in an entry everyday except for maybe two. I've enjoyed blogging constantly and all this food has made me happy. I think I've gained a bit of weight! I'm ending the Vegan Month Of Food of 2008 with a Halloween treat naturally. The idea for these vampire cupcakes have been circling the internet for quite some time. I used kittee's vanilla cupcake recipe, vegan vanilla buttercream frosting and cherry pie filling and red food colouring for the blood. Don't they look grand? I'll be taking them to a Halloween party tonight. We will be dressed as pirates. Couldn't afford brand new costumes so we pulled out our renaissance faire costumes that have always come in handy. I love dressing up as a wenchy pirate.
If only I could do it everyday...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Vegan MoFo: Country Life Tofu Loaf and Mashed Potatoes with Miso Gravy.

I haven't cooked much from the Country Life Vegetarian cookbook because I keep forgetting that I have it. So many cookbooks, so little time! I pulled it out today and flipped through it to find something I could do for dinner with the very few items I had in my fridge. Tofu-Check. Walnuts-Check. Onions-Check. Rice-Check. Seasonings-Check! I was on my way to a comforting loaf dinner. I didn't have any fresh potatoes but I did have -dare I say- a box of instant potato flakes in my pantry. I know, I know. Fresh is better but I only use the boxed stuff for emergencies like today! I whipped up a batch of my fave miso gravy and all was well.

The loaf is similar to my favorite loaf recipe from the Whole Foods website. I had a little plate for lunch and I thought it was pretty good. I think I like the Whole Foods loaf better because it doesn't have rice in it. This one does and you can taste it very much and it also gives the loaf a texture. I spread ketchup for a little color and sweetness. This loaf is very sliceable if you let it cool after it comes out of the oven. I will have more of this for dinner tonight! I wonder how it will do in a sandwich...

A perfect slice with mash and yummy gravy. I also had some HP sauce with it.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

VeganMoFo: The best dessert ever and more leftovers revamped.

I am so excited. I went to Thai Town today and shopped at a grocery store where they had freezers full of veggie ham, shrimp, salmon and beef chunks. All were very expensive so I had to pass. I knew that some of them probably had whey or eggs in them and I was too cold to search through it all because their freezers were ICY COLD. I was standing there with the freezer doors open literally shivering in my t-shirt while comtemplating on buying a ham tube. I moved on to the dessert freezer and found this:

Manna from heaven! I remember growing up eating this during my visits in Thailand and I somehow thought it had dairy in it. It is the most delicious ice cream (vegan ice cream!) that you will ever eat. If you don't like coconut or coconut milk, sorry! This totally made my day. Good thing I didn't buy the mock meats because this sucker cost me $15! Ingredients are: coconut milk, jack fruit, coconut, taro, sugar, salt. Five pounds of coconut heaven this.

I couldn't find or taste the taro in this. I think the green things are laht chong which is a dessert noodle flavored with pandan leaves.

My little dessert bowl because I have to control myself.
Edit: I just found a recipe for this ice cream online here. So for those of you with ice cream makers, go nuts!

Do you remember my food the other day, the rice casserole and bean salad? Here they are revamped as a pita sandwich with lettuce and chunks of baked sweet potato and then drizzled with poppyseed dressing.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

VeganMoFo: Out of the pantry and onto the plate.

It's kind of fun going through the ingredients I have in my pantry and fridge and trying to come up with a meal suitable for dinner. I was out of fresh vegetables and didn't want to spend any money at the store today so I took these items...

Brown rice, tahini, canned tomatoes and frozen green beans.

...and made Creamy Chickpea Tahini Casserole. I've made this before and it is delicious especially with chickpeas. I didn't have any today so I used frozen green beans. This casserole is so good, creamy and really healthy too. I normally use white rice but I had this bag of brown basmati sitting in my pantry for a while and wanted to use it up. The green beans were a good stand in for the chickpeas even though they were a little overcooked. I served the rice with a bean salad that I made yesterday. I only made a half recipe of the casserole and I still have leftovers for tomorrow's lunch!

Poor little shriveled green beans! Good thing they didn't hurt the taste overall.

Beautiful bean salad again.

On my plate.

Thinking about food food food and Thanksgiving.

I've been obsessed with food the past few days, going to bed with a stack of cookbooks and dreaming about what I'd like to cook in the near future. Things like Chickpea and Eggplant Kibbeh with lemon garlic sauce and a side of sundried tomato green beans and roasted potatoes, Butternut Squash Lasagna with a basil bechamel sauce, massive layered cakes and fancy cupcakes of all flavors. I've been trying to be frugal lately, using up what ingredients I already have in my kitchen. Money is tight and groceries are expensive right now. Tonight I think I'll make a simple rice casserole and salad because I always have rice and lettuce in my kitchen. So all my dreaming of cooking up magnificent feasts will have to wait a while...

Speaking of magnificent feasts, I can't wait for Thanksgiving. I plan to make my usual vegan holiday dinner (well I've only had one vegan Thanksgiving since going vegan) and it consists of these favorites of mine. Nothing fancy, just very comfort-foody and delicious. I plan to make a Tofu-Vegetable Loaf with Orange Herb Gravy, Mashed Potatoes, Green Bean Casserole, Herb Stuffing, Butternut Squash Gratin and pumpkin pie. My husband's birthday falls around Thanskgiving so I will also make his favorite German chocolate cake too. I can't wait.

So before I go, I'll leave you with a picture of my breakfast.

Pita bread with Earth Balance margarine and a drizzle of agave syrup. A banana and English breakfast tea.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

VeganMoFo: Cookies on a Sunday.

I have the house to myself again and the last time I was alone I made pumpkin cookies. Today I made these lovely cookies with almonds. They are really moist, "buttery" and chewy.

I was inspired by an almond cookie recipe here and made some modifications.

Sugar Cookies with Almonds and Chocolate Drizzle

1-1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup soft Earth Balance margarine
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract (you can probably use almond extract here for more almond flavor but I ran out!)
2-3 TB (or more) soymilk
chopped almonds

Chocolate drizzle:
1/3 cup chocolate chips, 3 TB soymilk

Preheat oven to 350F and spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
Combine flour, margarine, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl. Add the soymilk a TB at a time and stir with a spoon until the dough starts coming together. It should be fairly moist but not runny. Once it starts coming together, I ditch the spoon and use my hands to thoroughly combine the ingredients to make a soft moist dough. If you feel it's too dry you can add a bit more soymilk. Take a teaspoon full of dough and roll into a ball with your hands and then flatten with your palm. Keep in mind that whatever size they are when you flatten them will be pretty much the size you'll get after baking. Dip top side into chopped almonds and lay on greased baking sheet. Do this with the rest of the dough. You'll get about 14 cookies. Bake for 12 minutes and let cool for 2 minutes on baking sheet before removing. While the cookies cool, make the chocolate by microwaving the soymilk for 1 minute, then adding the chocolate chips and stirring until it all melts. Let the chocolate cool for about 10 minutes. After the cookies are completely cool, drizzle with chocolate.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

VeganMoFo: Revamping Leftovers.

I think I'm pretty good at turning leftovers into a brand new dish the next day. I've turned lentil soup into curry, spaghetti sauce into "Michigan hot dogs" (it's a Quebec thing, my husband is from Montreal), cream of celery soup into gravy and leftover taco filling into meatloaf. Last night was taco night again but I was practically the only one eating. Husband didn't feel well so he had two measly tacos and that was it. I hungrily wolfed down five but I still had a mountain of taco filling leftover.

Today I decided to make a shepherd's pie with the leftovers. It was very easy to put together with ingredients I already had in my refrigerator. I sauteed some onion, garlic, zucchini, carrots, green beans and mushrooms and seasoned them with italian herbs. I made a small recipe of miso gravy (subbed Earth Balance for the butter) and combined all of this with the taco filling (seasoned soy crumbles). I poured it into a casserole, spread mashed potatoes on top and dotted it with bits of Earth Balance. I baked it for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees F. It came out sooo good. The filling was hearty and the miso gravy gave it a very rich, satisfying flavor. I think omnis will like this just as much as traditional meat based sheperd's pie. Check out these mouthwatering pics!

I dig the gravy pool that's formed on top.

Comfort food at it's best.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

VeganMoFo: A Vegan Pantry

I pulled out some items from my pantry to give you an idea of what goods I use the most in every day cooking. Sometimes when I'm low on groceries, I can go in and find stuff that will pull together a quick meal without having to run to the store.

Rice/Bulgur/Quinoa: these things will provide a good base for a meal. I can use rice or quinoa for a casserole or for a side dish with curry. I can use bulgur for a salad or a casserole as well. I also have couscous and brown rice. If you buy these in bulk you will save money.
Red and Green Lentils: used for a bunch of things from soup to stew to salads to lentil patties to lentil loaf.
Split peas: for soup! I also have yellow split peas.
Canned Chipotle Peppers: to add a smoky spicy heat to burritos or enchiladas. I also have canned green chiles.
Agave Syrup: I use this to sweeten tea or if I want to add a slight sweetness to a dish without using sugar. I get this at Trader Joe's for $3!
I also have maple syrup and regular unrefined sugar.

Canned Beans: black, kidney, fava, chickpeas, white...I love them all!
Canned Tomatoes and Tomato Sauce: A must have. I use these the absolute most for sauces and additions to different dishes. I also have tomato paste.
Canned Olives: to add to salads and pasta.
Thai Curry Paste: I like to have small tins different flavors of thai curry paste for curries. You can find these at thai grocery or asian grocery.
Pasta: We have a lot! This can save our lives if we have nothing else. Pasta with some garlic and olive oil is one of the cheapest and most favorite meals around here.
Roasted Red Peppers: for pastas or salad and a component in making vegan "cheez".
Strawberry Jam: For toast, PB & J!

Unsweetened plain soymilk: used a lot in cooking for mashed potatoes, cream sauces, gravies etc. I also have chocolate soymilk, yum.
Coconut milk: for thai curries and desserts.
Indian spice mixes: for indian curries (my favorite!) You can find these at indian grocer or order online.
Nutritional Yeast: for "cheez" sauces as well as a B-12 supplement. KAL is the best tasting brand.
HP Sauce: to put on anything. Ketchup and BBQ sauce are missing from this picture but they would be right next to the HP sauce.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

VeganMoFo: Scrambled "Egg" Sandwich and A Survey.

Before I was vegan I used to make scrambled eggs, pop a couple toasts, slather them with lots of mayonnaise and ketchup, plop some scrambled eggs in between the toasts and eat that for breakfast. It was comfort food for me and so dang good. I got the craving for this last night and so I made a scrambled tofu "egg" sandwich which was just as good if not better than the original! It's also healthier, with no cholestorol and has the added benefits of soy. I added sauteed onions and a little chopped tomato to my scrambled tofu. Everything else was the same: white toast, mayo (Vegenaise of course), and ketchup! Yummy, yummy. My husband watched me eat this and said "That looks very egg-like."

Not the best lighting for a photo but you get the idea.

All closed up and ready to eat. It's a very messy sandwich but I think that might be the best part. A basic recipe for scrambled tofu can be found here. You can add or subtract any vegetable you like.

*******On to the survey!********

Survey by jdfunks at the PPK forums aka Jess from Get Sconed!

1. What was the most recent tea you drank?
A lovely dark red herbal fruity iced tea at The Veggie Grill.

2. What vegan forums do you post/lurk on? If so, what is your username? Spill!
postpunkkitchen forums, my username is kmouse

3. You have to have tofu for dinner, and it has be an Italian dish. What comes to mind first?
Lasagna, I would use the tofu for the "ricotta".

4. How many vegan blogs do you read on an average day?
I always read Vegan Dad, eat'n veg'n and Fat Free Vegan. And there are plenty others I read too just those three I never miss.

5. Besides your own, what is the most recent one you’ve read?
Vegan Dad's

6. If you could hang out with a vegan blogger that you haven’t met, who would it be, and what would you do?
I'd love to hang out with Diann from eat'n veg'n so I can get a chance to enjoy all those delicious veggie-ful dishes she makes. They always look so beautiful and healthy. I would like to cook the way she does. And of course, she seems like a very lovely lady as well! I'd also like to go cookbook shopping with her. :)

7. If you had to base your dinners for a week around one of the holy trilogy – tofu, seitan or tempeh, which would it be?
Definitely tofu. (Can you tell by the food post above?) I like tempeh and I enjoy seitan in small amounts.

8. If you had to use one in a fight, which would it be?
Probably the seitan because it's not my favorite and I wouldn't mind wasting it.

9. Name 3 meals you’d realistically make with that tough protein of choice!
Tofu Fish n Chips, Thai Red Curry with Tofu and Veggies, Joni's Tofu Egg Salad

Tofu Fish n Chips

10. What’s a recipe in vegan blogland that you’ve been eyeing?
Most of what Diann from eat'n veg'n makes. Once she made a "Breakfast Hippie Pizza" which had a tempeh sausage gravy base and was topped with fresh sliced tomato, green onions, seasoned crumbled tofu, and fresh parsley. Then she added alfalfa sprouts and pumpkin seeds after it was cooked. I would normally never eat something like this but she made it look so good!

11. Do you own any clothing with vegan messages/brands on them?
I don't actually, just a lot of band t shirts.

12. Have you made your pilgrimage to the 'vegan mecca' yet? (Portland, duh)
Not yet. I want to go so bad.

13. What age did you first go vegan? Did it stick?
I went vegan on Jan. 1, 2007. I was 30. A year and 9 months have passed and I'm still here!

14. What is the worst vegan meal you’ve had? Who cooked it?
The "Iron Yam" salad at Native Foods. It was a split yam stuffed with salad greens and cubes of bland tofu. I didn't like it at all. Everything else on their menu is wonderful though.

15. What made you decide to blog?
Everyone else was doing it and I thought "I could do that too!" as I am always cooking.

16. What are three of your favorite meals to make?
1. Channa Masala
2. Falafel
3. Enchiladas


17. What dish would you bring to a vegan Thanksgiving-themed potluck?
A sheperd's pie and a pumpkin pie.

Sheperd's Pie

18. Where is your favorite vegan meal at a restaurant? How many times have you ordered it?
Hmm...When I go to Native Foods I always get the Native Reuben sandwich. It is heavenly. It's got fried blackened tempeh, cashew "cheez", sauerkraut and thousand island dressing. I've ordered it maybe 3-4 times. It feels so greasy and bad for you but it's not.

This is not my photo. It's ruby red vegan's. Just had to show you how good this reuben sandwich looks.

19. What do you think the best chain to dine as a vegan is?
Native Foods is great, The Veggie Grill, any Thai Vegan place like The Vegan Joint and California Vegan...Real Food Daily is good too but a little expensive.
Those aren't really chain restaurants are they? If you mean like fast food chain then I'd have to say...Chipotle! Their veggie burrito is great.

20. My kitchen needs...
a new blender, more cool looking dishes for my blog pics.

I want this. Anyone have $449 I can borrow?

21. This vegetable is not allowed in my kitchen!
I like all vegetables except bean sprouts!

22. What's for dinner tonight?
Don't know yet!

23. Add a question here!
Do any non vegetarians read my blog???? Please comment, I'd like to know. :)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

VeganMoFo: Aloo Gobi, Overcooked! & Homemade Granola

I didn't mean to, I swear! I think I may have cooked it too long because the cauliflower overcooked and started to fall apart. :( I arranged it so that you can't really tell in the photo. It still tastes good but doesn't look as nice as when the cauliflower florets are intact. I kind of combined and played with two different recipes, the Gobi recipe from 'Olive Trees and Honey' and the Aloo Gobi recipe from the 'Bend it Like Beckham' dvd. Yeah, really! If you have the dvd, there's a special feature where director Gurinder Chada gives a cooking lesson. The difference being the latter adds tomatoes which I highly approve of. Well, next time I will keep a good eye on my curry!

Why the heck has it taken me so long to finally make my own granola? My neighbor makes her own and she swears that you'll never go back to the boxed stuff ever again. And for me personally, I have never found the boxed stuff to be very good anyway. I always thought making your own was going to be a hassle. Boy was I wrong! I saw someone's photo of their homemade granola over at the PPK and I immediately got up from the computer, ransacked my cupboards for rolled oats, nuts and other stuff and got to work. This is what came out:

Gorgeous! My oven is hot so it came out a lot browner than I wanted but that only adds to the toastiness. Homemade granola + soymilk = Heaven in a bowl and Heaven for your budget. It's cheap. No more boxed granola for me....hell, no more overpriced boxed cereal period. I will be happy to eat this stuff for breakfast everyday.

Homemade Granola

3 cups old fashioned rolled oats (not the quick oats)
1 cup slivered almonds (I buy this in bulk at Whole Foods and keep them in my freezer.)
1/2 cup raw walnuts (again, buy in bulk!)
1/2 cup dried coconut or flaked coconut
pinch of salt
a couple shakes of cinnamon
1/4 cup agave syrup + 1/4 cup maple syrup (if you don't have agave, use all maple syrup)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (mix this in with the syrup first)
1/2 cup raisins

Mix all ingredients except for the raisins in a big bowl. Make sure the syrup is distributed throughout the ingredients. Spread mixture onto a cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes in a 300 degree oven stirring every 15 minutes. Let cool, mix in raisins and store in an airtight container.

Monday, October 20, 2008

VeganMoFo: Vegan Snacks and a Bean Salad

After our lunch at The Veggie Grill yesterday, we stopped by Cost Plus World Market which was in the same shopping complex as the restaurant. This store sells goods from all over the world, a lot of them handmade and very beautiful. But I didn't go there for the furniture or the baskets or the embroidered pillows (though they are very very lovely). I went there to buy tea and spices and to hunt for vegan snacks that I can't normally find anywhere else. A lot of stuff that looked good were not vegan like English Toffee, Caramels, Butter cookies, Cheese snacks and things like that. But after reading label after label there was plenty that I could have easily filled my shopping basket with. Two of which were these:

Soft Eating Licorice. It's from Australia and they come in flavors like Green Apple, Raspberry, Mango...but I chose Ginger. It's very chewy, sweet and very spicy! I'd like to try the mango next time.

This is A-MA-ZING! Rich dark chocolate with sea salt. I thought that sounded weird at first but I decided to try it. And you know what, it reminds me of eating candy bars that have peanuts in them because you get the creamy chocolatey taste then a hit of salt on your tongue. It's divine. I should have bought more than one bar. Luckily this dark chocolate has no milk, butterfat or butter oil in it. Must go back to get more of this asap!

Other stuff we got: Ginger Chews with Coffee in them (dont' remember the name but they were heavenly), humongous bag of thin pretzel sticks, more ginger candy, and spices for 99 cents a bag.

Saturday night I went to my friend's party and she made this beautiful spread of food with lots of freshly prepared salads and dishes. One of them was a multi-bean salad that she says was easily prepared with olive oil, red wine vinegar and parsley. I made some today for my lunch later. Isn't it beautiful? If there is one thing I love about being vegan, it's beans. Seriously, I love them! There are so many varieties and ways to prepare them, not to mention all that protein you get from them. My salad here has red kidneys, fava beans and great northern white beans with lots and lots of parsley. I added some red onion, minced garlic and lemon juice to brighten it up even more.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

VeganMoFo: Restaurant Review - The Veggie Grill, El Segundo CA

Mmm, Mmmm. I like The Veggie Grill. It's the kind of place that I wish there were more of around here, especially near non-veggie fast food establishments which would give people more choices. The Veggie Grill is a no nonsense, non-fancy, non-hippy yet healthy vegetarian "fast food" restaurant that serves reliable foods like sandwiches, burgers and salads. I would be totally comfortable bringing my non-veggie friends here because there is nothing 'weird' on the menu (except maybe the tempeh) and I think most will feel comfortable with what they have to offer. All of the sandwiches and burgers feature a "meat" like "veggie-steak" or "chickin'" which look and taste very similar to the real thing. All items on the menu have no cholestorol (yay!), no trans fat and no high-fructose corn syrup. Everything is vegan.

I had the Chipotle BBQ sandwich which was shredded "veggie-steak" in a tangy BBQ sauce with chipotle ranch and caramelized onions. Yummy. The texture was nice, tender and perfectly seasoned with a tangy, spicy sauce. My husband had the Santa Fe Crispy Chickin' sandwich which was their fried chick'n with southwestern spiced mayo. I didn't have a bite of his sandwich but he assured me that it was very good. You have an option of getting sweet potato fries on the side at an additional cost, otherwise you'll get red cabbage slaw which was actually very fresh and crunchy. This place does not have sodas like Coke etc. but you can get different flavored iced teas, fresh lemonade, natural sodas and juice. I had a dark red lightly sweetened herbal fruit tea which was refreshing and delicious. Visit The Veggie Grill when you get a chance and see for yourself that eating vegan and healthy does not have to be tasteless and unsatisfying!

Chipotle BBQ sandwich

Santa Fe Crispy Chickin' sandwich

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5 (5 being the best)
Pros: Great sandwiches. Menu is friendly to vegetarians and non-vegetarians. Nice selection of iced teas.
Cons: A little more expensive than a normal fast food restaurant but for the quality it is worth it.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

VeganMoFo: French Toast & Welsh Rarebit

I woke up carb hungry today. All I could think about was eating bread and lots of it. This morning instead of my usual cereal or oatmeal, I decided to make french toast. It is the same recipe as in this post. I can't think of a more perfect thing to eat for breakfast on Saturday. I seriously don't miss french toast made with eggs at all. This is a much healthier yet very tasty option.

For lunch I wanted more bread but how to eat it instead of the usual sandwich? I went online and came across a recipe for Welsh Rarebit, a common dish served in Great Britain that consists of melted cheese sauce made with ale or beer, milk and spices and served on toast. I looked at many recipes and came up with something that was loosely based on those recipes. I served it on Ezekiel sesame toast which was a good call. The nuttiness of the sesame seeds was a perfect accompaniment to the rich melty flavored cheez sauce.

Vegan "Welsh Rarebit"

1 tsp Earth Balance margarine
1 tsp flour
1/4 C plain unsweetened soymilk
3 TB Colby Chedda Cheez (recipe from The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook) OR you can use Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet Cheddar OR Daiya Cheddar Style
splash of beer
1/2 tsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp ground mustard powder
pinch of paprika

Preheat broiler and pop a couple slices of bread to toast.
In a small saucepan on medium heat melt the Earth Balance. Add the flour and quickly stir with a wooden spoon. Keep stirring until it is blended together and starts to thicken and bubble. Slowly add the soymilk while continuously stirring. It will start to get thicker. Add the cheez and break it up with the spoon and keep stirring all the while to make it smooth. You may add more cheez if desired. Add the beer, soy sauce and spices and keep stirring, stirring, stirring until it gets nice and thick.
Spoon over toasted bread slices and place under broiler until cheese gets bubbly. EAT!

Friday, October 17, 2008

VeganMoFo: I Heart Olives.

Whenever I go to Whole Foods Market, I like to stroll by the fresh olive bar and just feast with my eyes and nose. They've got a serious variety of mouthwatering olives, some stuffed, some unstuffed, in black, purple, green, brown... They are beautiful. But unfortunately in this time of financial concern, they are way too expensive, like $13245677 a pound. No, not really but still way more than I can afford for a tiny container of olives. I've bought some before here and there in the past and they were divine but haven't lately because of the price tag.

The only olives I cook with are the really bland California black olives or jarred green olives and now that I think about it, that's kind of sad. And I don't really eat those out of hand because they don't offer that much in flavor. I was flipping through my new favorite cookbook, 'Olive Trees and Honey' and I found a section on marinated olives. I had a large jar of plain green spanish olives in my pantry and decided to use them to make these Moroccan Fiery Marinated Olives or Zeitoom al Had as they are called in Arabic. Wow, these are hot and so flavorful! They are cooked in a sauce of tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, cumin, lemon slices and harissa and then left to cool. These would have been great as part of the meze last night.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

VeganMoFo: Mini Meze

It's been so hot the past couple days I've been feeling reluctant to cook. I just want to chill out with an iced tea and nosh on little nibbles. A meze is a small snack or appetizer assortment that can be consumed as a starter course or as an entire meal. Tonight's supper will consist of a mini meze spread with three delightful dips/spreads that go well with pita and crackers. Also we'll be enjoying something new that is here to stay: garlicky edamame.

Our spread:

Hummus: A creamy Middle Eastern dip made of chickpeas, tahini, garlic and lemon juice that is drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with sumac. (Recipe from Tables of Lebanon cookbook)

Bazargan: A tart and fruity Syrian bulgur relish which contains bulgur, walnuts, lemon juice, olive oil and pomegranate syrup. (Recipe from: Olive Trees and Honey cookbook)

Za'atar: A Middle Eastern spice mixture of thyme, oregano, sesame seeds, salt and sumac which is mixed with olive oil for dipping. My favorite Lebanese restaurant provides this at every table with chopped onions and tomato so I copied them. You can find prepared za'atar spice mix at a middle eastern grocery or ethnic market.

Garlicky Edamame (recipe at the end of this post)

Pita Bread and Sesame Crackers
Iced tea, Beer, Water

A little mountain of bazargan surrounded by creamy hummus and za'atar in olive oil.

Garlicky Edamame. Wow, this is really good. I got the idea for this from a PPK'er who made a breaded garlic parmesan edamame but unfortunately used non-vegan parmesan. I wanted to try something similar and came up with this. I used 'Parmezano Sprinkles' (which is always available in my fridge!) which gave them a beautiful nutty bite.

Garlicky Edamame

2-3 TB olive oil
2 cups steamed edamame
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 TB Parmezano Sprinkles (you can get this recipe from The Ultimate Uncheese cookbook...or you can email me!)
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a pan on medium high heat. Add edamame and stir fry for a minute or so to coat them with the oil. Add the garlic and toss a few times. Turn off heat and sprinkle with Parmezano Sprinkles, salt and pepper. That's it! They are so garlicky and salty and addicting! Be careful!