Final Announcement!

Hi, Vegans! The spankin’ new Turning Veganese is almost ready to be launched. I’m really excited about the new look and about bringing you new recipes, product and book reviews, and thoughts.

THANK YOU once again for sticking with us during our break. Your patience will be rewarded with a fun and tasty GIVEAWAY!

As a reminder, if you follow us on an RSS reader, you will need to re-subscribe after we officially migrate to our new server. Everyone else who follows us through e-mail or on WordPress shouldn’t have to do anything, but just in case – be sure to follow us on Twitter or Like us on Facebook so that you don’t miss out on anything.

Twitter: @turningvegan

Facebook: www.facebook.com/turningveganese

You can always contact us anytime by sending an e-mail to turningveganese@gmail.com.

Here’s a preview of what we have in store for you:

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Coming Soon: Turning Veganese 2.0!

Hello, Vegans! I’m excited to announce that we have been busy sprucing up Turning Veganese and will be relaunching the site with a new look in the next week or two. We are also moving a new server, so if you follow us on an RSS reader like Feedly, please please please be sure to Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter because you will need to re-subscribe once we make the switch. I know, I know… it’s a hassle… but you don’t want to miss out on what we have in store for you, right? Right?!

As for the easy stuff, we’ll have the same URL, all our old links will work and you will still be subscribed if you signed up to get e-mails or follow us on wordpress.com.

I’ll be posting a second announcement on the old site right before we launch, so keep an eye out for that. I’m really excited about the new look (don’t worry, it’s nothing drastic), new recipes and reviews, and an EXCITING GIVEAWAY to celebrate our relaunch.

Thanks for hanging in there during our hiatus! -Melissa

Turning Veganese

Cookies!

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Hi. My name is Melissa and I don’t like baking.

This has been true from the time I was 8, had mixed together some cake batter, and then was too terrified to put it in the oven.

Fast forward to last month, when I heard about the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap.

The GREAT FOOD BLOGGER COOKIE SWAP brings together food bloggers from around the world in celebration of all things scrumptious. The premise is this: sign up. Receive the addresses of three other food bloggers. Send each of them one dozen delicious homemade cookies. Receive three different boxes of scrumptious cookies from other bloggers. Eat them all yourself (or, you know, share. If you want. No judgement either way.) Post your cookie recipe on your blog. See everyone else’s cookie recipes. Salivate. Get lots of great ideas for next year’s cookie swap. Rinse and repeat.

I signed up for the online swap before I could talk myself out of it. Then, I panicked. Omg! The last time I baked cookies was the Snickerdoodle experiment that took place on Snowmageddon 2011. This was going to be interesting.

Since I’m a cookie baking novice, I had to find a recipe to follow. I found an awesome recipe in Bake and Destroy which is so easy and unbelievably vegan! Super huge THANK YOU to Joelen of What’s Cookin’ Chicago for giving me this book!

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Vegans! You gotta get this book and check out BakeandDestroy.com. For the cookie swap (and also for the Chicago Food Swap, which I will recap in a few days), I followed Natalie Slater’s recipe for German’s Chocolate Cookies. I made a couple tiny changes to the recipe for two reasons: 1) I wanted them to be soy-free so that my sister could try some and 2) I was missing some ingredients.

Before I get into the recipe, I need to emphasize how great this book is. The recipes are awesome and range from breakfast to casseroles to snacks to dips and sauces. GIFT IT TO YOURSELF AND YOUR FRIENDS FOR CHRISTMAS (or just because)!

Vegan German Chocolate Cookies
adapted from Bake and Destroy

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour
⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups sugar
⅔ cup vanilla almond milk or soy milk
⅔ cup canola oil
2 tablespoons ground flax meal
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ⅓ cups rolled oats
¾ cup vegan chocolate chips
½ cup shredded coconut
½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, milk, oil, flax meal, and vanilla extract. Whisk for about 2 minutes, until the mixture thickens.

4. Stir the wet ingredients into the flour mixture until just mixed.

5. Fold in the oats, chocolate chips, coconut, and walnuts.

6. Drop by tablespoons (I used a cookie dough scooper thingy) onto the prepared baking sheets and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the edges are set up.

7. Let cool on the pans for 5 minutes, then let cool completely on the wire racks.

I was so happy with how these turned out. I may have some baking skillz after all! I got some great treats in return and will be giving kudos to my fellow food blogger cookie swappers in the coming weeks. –Melissa

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Hot pot!

When Brent and I are feeling particularly lazy but still want to eat something healthy, we make hot pot. This is an East Asian fun thing that can be enjoyed by small groups of friends or just your family. We use a simple electric wok that’s resistant to tipping over and fill it with our favorite kind of broth. It’s a great way to use just about any vegetables that are available in our refrigerator – broccoli, green beans, baby corn, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, bean sprouts, tofu, tofu skins, mushrooms, snow peas, broccoli, carrot, cauliflower, noodles (we use thin rice noodles and konjac noodles). Napa cabbage, spinach and Romaine lettuce are favorites.

After that, all you need is some fresh veg chopped into bite sized pieces and maybe some dipping sauces. Our broth recipe is as follows
1-2  liters of water

1-2 cubes of bouillon (we use “chicken” or mushroom)

1 tbsp of Szechuan peppercorns (we like spicy, what can I say)

2 star anise pods

15-20 goji berries

10-15 scallion onions, chopped into 2 inch pieces

2-3 cloves of garlic, minced

a pinch of ground cumin

2-3 pods of allspice

1 coin size slice of ginger (optional)

juice from 1/2 lemon (optional)

1 tbsp chili or garlic flavored canola oil

salt and pepper to taste

I combine everything but the scallion onions in my pot and boil for 30 minutes or more until it’s fragrant and steamy. Then I add the spring onions and take the pot to our table. You put the veggies into the soup pot and wait for the liquid to return to a boil. Then we remove the vegetables without chopsticks, wait for them to cool or dip them in sauce or not (I like a home-made chili-lime-peanut sauce, Brent prefers a garlic chili sauce) and DEVOUR! Just be careful that the hot liquid doesn’t splash anyone and that the contents don’t spill onto anyone. It’s HOT (hence the name *hot* pot)! This might not be a dish for the faint of heart, but it is for the hungry, adventurous and lazy. Just put down a towel for all the drips and splashes.

As versatile as this particular dish is, there’s something for everyone. Just don’t get hurt when you realize someone ate your mushroom.

This is Christie, signing off!

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Easy Roasted Brussels Sprouts

We write about Brussels sprouts quite a bit, and it’s because they are freaking delicious! They’re definitely a winter veggie for me. I see a Brussels sprout and I think of Thanksgiving and Christmas and Sunday dinners. I’ve toyed around with several recipes, but I finally found one that I think is going to be my go-to recipe.

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Easy Roasted Brussels Sprouts
(adapted from About.com > Vegetarian food)

1 1/2 cup Brussels sprouts, cut in half
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp safflower or canola oil
1/2 tsp mustard
salt and pepper, to taste

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

Whisk together the vinegar, salt and pepper together in a small bowl. Slowly incorporate the olive oil until a dressing is formed.

Gently toss the Brussels sprouts in the dressing.

Place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle some salt on those babies if you’d like.

Bake for 20 minutes, turning once. Sprouts are done when they are lightly browned.

zOMG. These were so good! The mustard added a nice little pop of flavor that’s been missing from other recipes I’ve tried. The best thing about this is that they can easily be served with any meal, from a vegan roast to pasta to tofu to pizza! Yum. –Melissa

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The Lazy Vegan: Sweet Sunday Breakfast

When I think about family meals, I find myself being truly grateful that my parents and siblings and I always ate at the table, together. My parents would cook, we would set the table, get our drinks, and then it would just be us and our meal. There was never any radio or TV or smart phone to distract us. Sunday mornings were especially nice: my parents would sometimes cook what I would now consider to be an extravagant breakfast consisting of eggs and sausages and pancakes, etc. Or, we would stop at Dunkin Donuts on the way home from church and have a junky breakfast together.

Fast forward to today. I woke up alone and wanting something comforting but healthy and easy for breakfast. This meal using items I always have in my kitchen met my criteria and was perfectly satisfying! It’s also a great meal for kids.

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Lazy Sunday Morning Waffles w/ Peanut Butter and a ‘Nana

1 frozen Van’s waffle (I love these. There a several varieties, many are gluten-free, and I can find them in any of my usual grocery stores)
1 banana
1-2 tbsp of Peanut Butter & Co. Dark Chocolate Dreams (again… awesome product from a vegan company that I can find in any of my usual grocery stores)

Directions:

Toast or bake the waffle according to the directions on the box.

Spread the peanut butter on the waffle.

Slice up a banana.

Put it all on a plate.

Eat.

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As easy as it was to make this, I found it to be so comforting. Today is one of those days when a meal can make or break my day. This definitely makes me feel more ready to face my day! –Melissa

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Review: Trader Joe’s Vegan Mozzarella Style Shreds

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I’ve been obsessed with making little pizzas ever since my visit with Jen. Follow Your Heart shreds are my favorite with Daiya coming in a close second. On a recent run to Trader Joe’s, I decided to pick up some of their branded Vegan Mozzarella Style Shreds.

It gives me no pleasure to say that I thought the Trader Joe’s vegan cheese was, well, yucky.

The shreds have gotten favorable reviews. The positives are that the cheese melts well and is inexpensive compared to Daiya. It also has a lot more calcium in it. More than one review called it the opposite of Daiya, and that’s something that I totally agree with.

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The shreds are dry and thin. Upon opening the bag, I took a good whiff and it smelled like cheese. Unlike Daiya and Follow Your Heart, which retain their shape and color, the TJ shreds seemed to ooze into the rest of the ingredients. It definitely melts like real cheese.

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All my pizzas have these base ingredients: Flatout flatbread for the crust (this stuff is so great AND vegan), roasted red pepper, and pizza sauce (I really like the Safeway brand pizza sauce… and I am extremely sad that we will be losing our Dominick’s/Safeway stores in Chicago next month). I constructed the ‘za and baked it.

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I was definitely weirded out by the discoloration of the cheese and also some of the ooze factor. The first bite tasted had a really sharp taste. There’s definitely something in the cheese to give it this effect. Then, I felt like the cheese was sticking to my teeth and it felt very powdery in my mouth. I sometimes feel like Daiya has this sort of synthetic stickyness to it that I find annoying. This was worse.

I forced myself to eat the rest of the pizza, but I really had to force it down. I don’t think I will give Trader Joe’s Vegan Mozzarella Style Shreds another chance. I’m really glad I tried it, but I would rather have a cheeseless pizza than use it again. Do you agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments! –Melissa

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Umeboshi; Japanese Pickled Plums

This is one of a long list of things I’ve been waiting to try as a vegan delicacy.  I figured it might be a good start for my re-entry to the land of blogging – a little weird and a little wonderful. They’re reputed to be good for digestion and hangovers. Who knows if I’ll ever get to try the latter out, but until then I’ll give it a shot for my digestion.

This was the first box I’ve seen of this particular product. I was pretty excited to finally see it, scooped it up and brought it home. Of course I paid for it, but that’s another story.

I opened the box and put a whole plum in my mouth and discovered that it really is a pickled plum – salty and sour like a pickle, but with a surprising floral aftertaste. My next stop with these will be to use them for hot pot which is a regular fun thing in our house. I think they’ll make a great addition to our regular szechuan style seasoning. Have you ever tried pickled ume plums?

This is Christie, signing off!

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Monika’s Roasted Tomato Soup

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The weather in Chicago has been crisp and cool and sometimes rainy. The leaves are changing color and we’ve started to curl up under our comforters. We are also – HORROR! – wearing socks again. It’s definitely the type of weather that makes me crave warm comfort food.

Do you know what’s more comforting than comfort food? Good friends! And good friends share awesome vegan recipes with their vegan friends. Today’s recipe was graciously shared with me by Monika, my good friend and colleague. Tomato soup is definitely a great comfort food and a great way to use up those summer tomatoes that are still lingering in your kitchen!

Monika’s Roasted Tomato Soup

8 Tomatoes
1 tbsp Balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp Olive Oil
1-1/2 tsp Pepper
1-1/2 tsp Salt
1-1/2 tsp Sugar
2-3 Garlic cloves finely chopped
2 tbsp Basil leaves finely chopped (fresh or dry)
1 Onion finely chopped
1.5-2 Carrots finely chopped

Stock/broth:
3 cups hot water
1.5 veggie bouillon cube

Optional:
Vinegar or lemon (if soup tastes too sweet)

Clean the tomatoes  and remove the stem.  Place in an oven safe dish and pour boiling water over the tomatoes. Keep the tomatoes in the dish for approximately 30-60 seconds. Remove from the dish and peel the skin. Cut the tomatoes in half and set aside.

Turn on the oven to 350F as you prepare the baking sheet. Place the tomato halves on  the sheet. Sprinkle tomatoes with salt, pepper, sugar, balsamic vinegar and olive oil.  Bake in the oven for 30-60 mins or until completely soft.

Melt olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onion, carrots, garlic, and basil. Cook, stirring, until golden brown, set aside.

Mix the stock, set aside.

Remove the tomatoes from the oven, set aside to cool and bring out the food processor/blender.

In a large bowl add: roasted tomatoes, onion/carrots/garlic/basil and process with blender. Add stock, and process again.

Pour the soup into a saucepan and cook over medium-low heat for 15-20 mins. Add salt, pepper as desired. If soup tastes too sweet add a splash of vinegar or lemon.

Super duper tips from Monika:

  • The more time the soup is “cooked/warmed up” the better it will taste.
  • The soup was even more tasty the next day!

I’m so grateful that Monika shared this recipe with me and gave me the chance to share it with you. I can’t wait to try this at home! –Melissa

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Dining Out: Karma

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We all have our favorite dining spots, but I’m always open to trying something new. In fact, I’ve really been making an effort to go to restaurants that I’ve never been to before. There are so many food establishments out there, especially in and around Chicago. Of course, dining out can be difficult when you’re vegan. It can be difficult when you’re vegetarian! I still see menus that have zero vegetarian options.

This was not the case at Karma, a Pan Asian restaurant located in Mundelein, which is about 35 miles northwest from Chicago.

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This was my first time at Karma. Karma has a really great vibe. It’s located within a suburban hotel. The restaurant itself is very contemporary without being pretentious. There’s a great fountain running along the middle of the restaurant. I dined with my sister, but all the other diners were clearly on dates, and there was one lone hotel guest having dinner by himself.

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Upon sitting down, we were given a plate of fried wontons (pictured above) that were coated in a sauce with some sort of chili powder. These were really tasty and had a nice kick. I was thrilled to see that they had a delicious-sounding vegetarian entree (and it sounds perfectly vegan-friendly). More on that later.

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We decided to order an appetizer. There were other vegetarian options, but I definitely wanted to try the shiitake pot stickers. The mushrooms were blended with ginger, garlic, scallions, and sesame oil and came with a soy dipping sauce and some other mystery sauce. These were so freaking delicious! Not only was the mushroom filling super tasty, they were stuffed really well and had a great texture. I could have easily eaten 4 plates of this.

(Side note: our server informed us that the shiitake pot stickers were recently added back to the menu after being replaced by pork pot stickers for a few years. I’m so glad they brought back the shiitake pot stickers. If anyone from Karma is reading this, keep these on the menu!)

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I decided to go with the Udon Winter Stew for my entree. The dish was made up of Kabocha squash, Shiitake mushrooms, ginger, mirin, leeks, carrots, tofu, kombu, and rice. The veggies were fresh and I was especially in love with the squash. I won’t say I was disappointed, but I had to ask for soy sauce to add some flavor. It was a good dish, but a tiny bit of a let down after eating the flavorful pot stickers.

I definitely plan to dine at Karma again. I want to try their salad and eat more of those pot stickers! I liked the atmosphere and the service was great. One more thing: the coffee that they serve at Karma deserves an honorable mention. I don’t know what it was, but it was damn good coffee! Yum! –Melissa

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