Vegan MoFo is coming!

Well, darlings, Vegan MoFo is almost here. That's the Vegan Month of Food, in case you thought I was just being lascivious. It's the one month each year (this year, it's October) when vegan bloggers across the globe come out of the woodwork and band together, committed to posting every day (or nearly every day) about food.

Although 2011 marks year #5 for Vegan MoFo, this is actually my first year of official participation. Once it's underway, you'll be able to visit the Vegan MoFo website and browse through the hundreds of participants (like, over 600!), even sorting by geographic location and theme. If you're really into food pr0n, you may want to bookmark the Flickr pool as well.

Pesto with Basil, Artichoke and Peas

Theme? Oh yeah. Since a post-a-day is, well, a LOT of posts, lots of Vegan MoFo bloggers like to organize their posts around a theme. Like, the alphabet, or cooking through a whole cookbook, or foods that are green, or what have you.

Greek Hummus Dip

Now, me, I have a little trouble committing to things like themes. Especially where a whole MONTH of food blogging is concerned. So, I'm taking a slightly different approach to my first Vegan MoFo. For me and The Verdant Life, Vegan MoFo will be a food diary of sorts - in pictures. I pledge to photograph every meal, every snack, every smoothie and create a photo-illustrated answer to the question: What do vegans eats?

Panzanella Salad
I came to this idea after doing a little detox last week that left me feeling especially scrutinous (oh yeah, I made that up) over what I put in my mouth. For the most part, my diet is FAR healthier than most people I know and I don't have a lot of "bad habits" in the diet and nutrition department. But I realized that, even as much as I cook and meal plan, I don't have a good overall picture of what I eat. Weird, I know, but that's the way it is. Hopefully, my Vegan MoFo experience will help change that and maybe teach me (and you!) a thing or two about our relationship with the food we stuff in our craw. 

Salted Vegan Caramel Kamut
I promise to still throw in some new recipes for you throughout the month as well, so don't you worry. I'll also let you know what I'm dining on and where I got it (either the ingredients or the meal, if I'm dining out). I'll do my best to show off quality pics whenever possible, but I can most certainly promise you a few mediocre camera-phone pics will make an appearance as well. 

Spiced Apricot Cream Cheese Brownies

So, in a nutshell, here's what I'm committing myself to:
- At least one post every weekday in October
- Photos of all my vegan meals
- Descriptions and other foodie-related details of said meals
- Original recipes too!

Join me on this journey and let's find out what this vegan really eats!


Mexican Hot Chocolate Choco-chip Rice Pudding

You're going to think I'm crazy. But please bear with me.

The recipe you're about to read was inspired by Paula Deen. Yes, that Paula Deen. And truth be told, only sorta. Let me explain.

I like rice pudding. Well, I like some types of rice pudding. I don't like the uber gelatinous tapioca-like stuff they sell in commercial grocery stores. That's for sure. And since I'm looking for dairy-free and egg-free recipes, those are out anyway. But I happened upon Paula Deen's recipe for baked rice pudding and thought, "Now there's something I can work with."

Yes, of course, the Butter Queen uses eggs and milk in her recipe. But those are easy obstacles to overcome.

And I don't know about your house, but there always seems to be leftover cooked rice around here. I made a huge pot of brown basmati rice last weekend in anticipation of doing an ayurvedic cleanse this week. I'm still doing the cleanse, but I've been eating much less than I forecasted and I didn't want to see any of my already-cooked rice go to waste. Plus, I really wanted something to look forward to when the cleanse was over. A little reward for all that hard work, right?

I'm a sucker for spiced chocolate, so I decided to make my rice pudding a chocolatey version, with classic spices from Mexican hot chocolate like cinnamon, nutmeg and cayenne. As it turns out, they work perfectly with the nutty brown rice and the result was better than I could have imagined!

There's another thing you should know before making this rice pudding. It's going to make your kitchen smell like cookies. So, consider yourself warned.

Mexican Hot Chocolate Choco-chip Rice Pudding
Yield: 4-6 servings

1 cup cooked rice
1 1/2 cup non-dairy milk (I used unsweetened plain almond milk)
2 Tbsp flax meal whisked with 1/4 cup hot water
1/2 cup date sugar (or brown sugar)
1/4 cup raw cacao nibs
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp Mexican Hot Chocolate spice mix (recipe below)
  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. Combine all ingredients, whisking until there are no lumps or dry spots.
  3. Pour into 9 inch glass baking dish (shape doesn't matter). 
  4. Bake 80-90 minutes, then let cool 10 minutes before serving. 
Mexican Hot Chocolate Spice Mix (from Imbibe Magazine)
Yield: 3 tsp or enough for 3 batches of rice pudding

1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

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Something Sweet: Banana Date Oat Smoothie

I don't have much of a sweet tooth (as I've written about before) but I needed something special this afternoon. Something that would give me a bit of a boost, with natural sugars, and keep my belly feeling full for a while. Something rich, decadent and hearty.

Most people would think I'm talking about a brownie or a cookie. Nope. This sweet treat comes in a glass.

Dates and bananas are two great sweet ingredients to use when you're trying to avoid "real" sugar. Paired with almond milk and rolled oats, they whip up into a quick, easy, and totally satisfying slurry. It's so rich, I'd almost call it a milkshake. This is a great mid-morning or mid-afternoon pick-me-up, with just four simple ingredients.

Banana Date Oat Smoothie
Yield: 1 serving

4 medjool dates, chopped
1 cup almond milk
1 banana
1/4 cup rolled oats
  1. Puree chopped dates with almond milk on a high setting until the dates are just little brown specks.
  2. Add the banana and puree until smooth.
  3. Add the oats. Puree immediately or pulse to combine and allow to soak 2-3 minutes before pureeing.
Note: I like this smoothie at room temperature but if you want it cold, consider using a frozen banana instead of fresh. A bit of nut butter would also add great flavor and texture.

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Roasted Sweet Potato Sandwich with "Honey" Mustard Poppyseed Sauce

This summer has been a long one. And, if you've been reading my blog for a while, you've probably noticed that I haven't been doing much cooking lately. I've made cold gazpacho and smoothies and slushies, and even developed a no bake treat. My poor oven must think I don't love it anymore.

Fear not, the cooler temperatures have arrived. At least, the cooler temperatures teased us here in Ohio for a few days before it shot back up to 80°F. But I'll take that. I enjoyed those few cool days more than I can say, relished the excuse to don a hoodie and jeans, and even enjoyed the massive thunderstorms that the cold front dragged in behind it.

Although summer is taunting us with sunshine and warmer temps once again, I'm doing my part to usher in fall. I'm starting with this perfect summer-fall transition dish. It's a hearty sandwich, reminiscent of summer picnics, but it's built around that ubiquitous fall favorite, the sweet potato. I roasted the sweet potato to bright out its sweet, caramelized flavors and paired it with a crisp, semi-sweet apple to balance the textures. Drizzled on top is my homemade "Honey" Mustard Poppyseed Sauce, which works perfectly to bring this summer sandwich right into the lap of fall.

Roasted Sweet Potato Sandwich with "Honey" Mustard Poppyseed Sauce
Yield: 2 sandwiches

1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch slices
2 tsp olive oil
2 hoagie or ciabatta style rolls
1 apple, thinly sliced (I used a Gala variety)
2 handfuls of arugula or other greens

"Honey" Mustard Poppyseed Sauce
1 Tbsp spicy brown mustard
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp agave nectar
1 tsp poppyseeds
pinch salt

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Toss sweet potato slices with olive oil and spread in a single layer on a baking sheet.
  3. Bake 20-22 minutes, turning slices over after 10 minutes. 
  4. While your sweet potato slices are roasting, whisk together ingredients for "Honey" Mustard Poppyseed Sauce and set aside.
  5. Build your sandwich: cut (and optionally toast) your sandwich rolls, then layer with greens, sweet potato slices, apple slices, and spoon sauce on top. Press slightly to allow the bread to absorb some of the sauce. 
  6. Use leftover sauce to dip your sandwich in, or for salad dressing or veggie dipper. 

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Mujadarrah if you please (It's lentils and rice and it's awesome!)

Mujadarrah is an Egyptian classic, a comfort food dish that is anything but boring. It's deep, savory, satisfying, healthy and extremely budget-friendly. This is a traditional recipe done my way, and I think you'll like it. It needs no further introduction.

Yield: About 4 servings

3 Tbsp olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, halved and sliced into thin half moons
1 1/3 cup lentils (sorted for stones)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vegetable broth paste or powder (I used Better than Boullion Reduced Sodium Vegetable Base)
3/4 cup rice (any type will do; I used Lotus Foods Madagascar Pink Rice)
1/4 cup plain non-dairy yogurt or sour cream
  1. In a medium skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat and add onions. Stir to coat and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and slightly browned. Remove onions from skillet and set aside.
  2. Add lentils, garlic, salt, cumin, cinnamon and vegetable broth paste to skillet. Add enough water to barely cover. 
  3. Bring a boil, then reduce to simmer. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. 
  4. Stir in rice and add more water, until the rice and lentils are barely covered. Simmer 15-20 minutes until the rice and lentils are tender. There shouldn't be any excess water at this point. 
  5. Add half of the cooked onions to the lentils and rice, and stir to combine. 
  6. Serve topped with remaining onions and a dollop of non-dairy yogurt.

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