Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Recap: The Chicago Vegan Chef Showdown

This weekend was the Chicago Vegan Chef Showdown. All proceeds from this event went to Mercy For Animals life-saving work to help promote veganism and reduce the suffering of farmed animals in the United States. Each team or contestant had to use Upton's Naturals seitan (any one of their varieties) in their dish as they were hosting this event. The event was held at the Funky Buddha Lounge here in Chicago on July 23rd. The turnout was incredible! Over 200 people showed up to support the competitors, MFA, and Upton's Naturals. Vegan Miss competed with one of my favorites, my deep dish vegan pizza. My friends and I spent the whole day before making pizza after pizza; in total, fourteen! So much pizza! We had quite the assembly line after a while going on in the kitchen. ;]
Though Vegan Miss did not place, two of MFA's great volunteers, Meagen and Blythe, won third with their cheeze and seitan ravioli's. A company called the Rootsy Vegan won first place with their jerk seitan which was really good. Dishes of the day were a "beef" curry with raita and rice, seitan tacos with a mango salsa, empanadas (won second, very tasty - indeed!), corn bread muffins with seitan and a glaze, seitan and pasta, and others. Kelly Peloza of the Vegan Cookie Connoisseur and Seitan Beats Your Meat was competing too - right next to VM! Congratulations to all the winners and great job to all contestants! We all worked really hard.

I very much enjoyed this event and the preparations I had to make ahead of time. We made business cards, a sign, a new blog layout, and did a little antique shopping to decorate the table. Alas, there was to be a flier with the recipe instructions, but time became an issue and it was never printed.

Many, many thanks to Chicago Soydairy for helping this blog doll out with a massive amount of Teese mozzarella. Could not have done it without them! 

Photo Credit: Louis McGill

Monday, July 25, 2011

Chick'n Katsu & Katsudon

If you have ever seen a bento box menu at a Japanese or Hawaiian restaurant, chances are you'll see katsu or tonkatsu (pork katsu). Tonkatsu is generally the more famous of the various types of katsu one can get, though there are also beef, chicken, fish, and minced meat versions. So, hey, why aren't their veggie versions?! Exactly. There is probably someone out there that makes or sells tofu katsu. I thought about trying that, but then I realized we vegans and vegetarians are mighty lucky to have the super nifty company, Gardein. "Chick'n Katsu" was born.

Chick'n Katsu
* Prep Time: 10 minutes
* Cook Time: 15 minutes
* Ingredients:
  • 1 package of Gardein chick'n scallopini, thawed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • vegetable oil, for frying
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 egg replacements, preparing according to package instructions*
  • 2 cups panko
  • 4 lemon wedges
  • tonkatsu sauce, for dipping* 
* Recipe:
  1. Pour oil into deep frying pan and cover at least 1 in. thick. Heat on high.
  2. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and garlic powder over chick'n patties.
  3. Place flour on one plate, panko on another, and egg replacer in a medium bowl.
  4. Dredge chick'n in flour, then saturate entirely with egg replacer. Coat with panko completely and press to make sure chick'n is well coated.
  5. Slip chick'n into oil and cook until both sides are golden brown, about 5-10 minutes.
  6. Drain chick'n on paper towels once removed from pan.
  7. Using a sharp knife, cut into slices about 1/2 in. thick.
  8. Serve with lemon wedge and tonkatsu sauce for dipping.
* Note: For egg replacer, I swear by Ener-G for all my needs. Tonkatsu sauce is used for all sorts of katsu. It's sweet yet tangy. Kikkoman has a vegan one readily available. This recipe was modified from Japanese Home Cooking by Shunsuke Fukushima.

Chick'n Katsudon
Katsudon is a combination of katsu and donburi. It generally involves an egg. Vegans don't eat eggs. I modified it with my own little scrambled "egg" recipe in order to compensate for this.

* Prep Time: 5 minutes
* Cook Time: 10 minutes
* Ingredients (for donburi sauce):
  • 1 cup water
  • 5 tbsp soy sauce or tamari*
  • 5 tbsp mirin*
  • 1 tsp vegan dashi*
  • 1/2 tsp sugar*
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
* Ingredients (for scrambled "egg"): 
  • 1/2 package (14 oz.) firm tofu, pressed, smashed with fork
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder 
  • 2 tsp nutritional yeast
* Ingredients (for chick'n katsudon):
  • 4 chick'n katsu, sliced into 1/2 in. pieces
  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced 
  • 1 tbsp nori, ripped or cut into narrow strips
* Recipe (for donburi sauce):
  1. Combine all ingredients in sauce pan.
  2. Bring to boil and remove from heat.
* Recipe (for scrambled "egg"):
  1. In a small skillet, heat the sesame oil and add the smashed tofu.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and cook on medium heat for 5-10 minutes.
* Recipe (for chick'n katsudon):
  1. Place serving of rice in a bowl. Add scrambled tofu, then one sliced chick'n katsu.
  2. Add donburi sauce over the rice, egg, and katsu.
  3. Top with scallions and nori.
* Note: One could probably use Bragg's Amino Acid in replace of soy sauce or tamari. Mirin is a sweet rice wine cooking liquid. VegWeb has a great vegan dashi recipe that one can store and use for later. I highly recommend it. Make sure your sugar is vegan. I modified this recipe from Japanese Home Cooking by Shunsuke Fukushima.

Thinking about it, the one thing I'm not sure one could actually veganize in Japanese cooking is shabu-shabu (if you've seen Lost in Translation, you know what I'm talking about). I guess someone could try it with seitan. That would be interesting to see!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Teriyaki Tofu

Japan is on my top three list of favorite places in the world. In college, I minored in the language and studied abroad in Tokyo as well as lived with a host family in a small suburb two hours south of Tokyo (my host mother was a radio chef and they chose me specifically as a host daughter in order to cook vegan food to try something new - how lucky was I!). That being said, Japanese food is my favorite type of food. Hands down. I've been eating sushi so long, I don't even remember the first time I had it. As a little girl, my parents and I would go to the same little Japanese restaurant, Taka Sushi, just by our house in the Bay Area at least once a week, if not twice. Early on, I knew the names of various Japanese foods. The sushi chef at this restaurant (his name was Roni) would let me stand off to the side of the bar in order to watch him make sushi and explain to me about how to prepare it and the words in Japanese. I don't really miss what I chose not to eat anymore because of being vegan, but it's sure cool to take old favorites and spruce them up in a cruelty-free way. :D

Teriyaki Tofu
* Prep Time: 10 minutes
* Cook Time: 30 minutes
* Ingredients (for teriyaki sauce):
  • 1 cup soy sauce or tamari*
  • 1 cup brown sugar*
  • 2 tbsp vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp mirin*
* Ingredients (for teriyaki tofu):
  • 1/2 package (14 oz.) of firm tofu, cut into 1/2 in. slices
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup teriyaki sauce
  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds, toasted (optional to toast)
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp nori, ripped apart or cut into fine strips
* Recipe (for teriyaki sauce):
  1. Combine all ingredients and bring to a boil in small sauce pan.
  2. Simmer for 5 minutes. Be careful not to let the sauce boil over.
  3. Refrigerate for up to 2 months.
* Recipe (for teriyaki tofu):
  1. Press tofu of any water before starting.
  2. Bring oil in frying pan to hot heat.
  3. Put the flour on a plate and dredge each side of the tofu completely in it.
  4. Add the tofu to the frying pan and fry each side to a golden brown color.
  5. In a new frying pan, put the tofu in there and add the teriyaki sauce. Bring sauce to a boil, then reduse and let simmer, covered, for 5 minutes. Turn tofu over periodically in order to coat each side.
  6. Remove from pan and serve on top of hot rice. Top with sesame seeds, scallions, and nori.
* Note: One could probably use Bragg's Amino Acid in replace of soy sauce or tamari. Make sure your sugar is vegan. Mirin is a sweet rice wine cooking liquid. I modified this recipe from Japanese Home Cooking by Shunsuke Fukushima.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Vegan Chicago: Review of Victory's Banner Restaurant

Brunch is my favorite meal. Two of my friends and I regularly do Sunday brunch. It's good fun! We usually go to the same places (such as Revolution Brewing, Handlebar, the Chicago Diner, & Kitsch'n), but I've been meaning to try Victory's Banner for a really long time. So, I took the opportunity to try it.

Tofu Scramble
Victory's Banner is a small restaurant in the heart of Roscoe Village. With quaint stores and other neighborhood restaurants and bars along Roscoe Ave., Victory's Banner fits right in. During the summer in Chicago, you must sit outside to eat even if it is a hundred degrees outside. We spend far too long indoors during the winter/spring/fall to not do so. For brunch, we sat outside and the owner was very friendly, talking to us about the restaurant, menu, and asking about ourselves. 

The restaurant is entirely vegetarian with many vegan options. The people that work there also are practitioners of meditation and followers of an Indian spiritual master. Don't be surprised to see the wait staff in sari's!

Soy sausage & side vegetables
I had the tofu scramble. The tofu was seasoned very well. You have a choice of adding two types of vegetables to it. I opted for a side of mixed grilled vegetables in order to add more than just two. I also got a side of soy sausage (the soy bacon had egg in it). To top it all off, it came with some very hardy bread and soy butter and homestyle potatoes. To wash it down, I had some apple juice. 

Victory's Banner is definitely a place to go to as a vegetarian or vegan on the prowl for a yummy brunch in Chicago! Highly recommend and I'll be going back sometime soon.

Mini chocolate cupcake
On the way home, I stopped at Delicious Cafe near Victory's Banner. It is an all vegan cafe with sandwiches and baked goods. The only non-vegan item is dairy milk for coffee. I had a mini chocolate cupcake for dessert. Delicious is a great place to get a sandwich, cup of coffee, and sit on your computer. 

Also to note, in my last post about vegan-friendly restaurants in Chicago, I didn't know there were two Mexican restaurant's now serving vegan food. One is Quesadilla Mexican Vegetarian Cuisine which is Chicago's only all vegetarian and vegan Mexican restaurant. Check out a picture of their menu here. It looks awesome with vegan tacos, tortas, and of course, quesadillas. The other Mexican place is La Cocina which is serving Upton's Naturals seitan in their tacos. 
Support local vegan-friendly restaurants!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Spinach & Mushroom Fettuccine Alfredo

This recipe was an accident. Not planned, just happened! I love it. It was very good and tasted a lot like real fettuccine alfredo which I miss dearly.

Spinach & Mushroom Fettuccine Alfredo 

* Prep Time: 30 minutes
* Cook Time: 30 minutes
* Ingredients:
  • 10 oz. each of dried porcini & dried chanterelle mushrooms, rehydrated, sliced thin
  • 1 1/2 cups non-dairy milk*
  • 2-3 tbsp vegan butter*
  • 1/2 lb. fettuccine pasta, cooked slightly under
  • 1 cup spinach, cut chiffonade
  • 7 oz. silken tofu
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1/8 cup vegan Parmesan*
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup basil, chopped
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
* Recipe:
  1. Soak the mushrooms in the milk for 30 minutes. Strain the mushrooms and reserve the milk. Slice the mushrooms thin.
  2. Cook the pasta until slightly underdone. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water.
  3. In a food processor, blend the tofu, milk, nutritional yeast flakes, and Parmesan.
  4. In a medium pan on medium heat, melt butter with salt. Saute mushrooms and garlic until tender.
  5. Add the spinach and basil to the pan until they are wilted.
  6. Next, add the tofu mixture, parsley, and pasta water to the pan. Cook low until it starts to thicken.
  7. Toss with fettuccine noodles.
  8. Serve with cheezy garlic bread.
* Note: For non-dairy milk, I like almond milk. Feel free to use whatever you would like. For vegan butter, I prefer Earth Balance olive oil based. Lastly, for vegan Parmesan, I like Galaxy brand.
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