Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Vegan in Baltimore

Robin and I spent the weekend in very impressive downtown Baltimore. On Friday, we attended the Natural Products Expo at the convention center.  On Saturday, we gave a cooking demo from our books Vegan Fire & Spice and Vegan Unplugged at the Baltimore Book Festival.  (I publish both of these titles through my company, Vegan Heritage Press.)

At the Natural Products Expo, we cast our hungry eyes up and down the aisles seeking interesting new products for vegans. Seven years ago, we attended this show in Washington, D.C., and this year’s show seemed at least triple in size and scope.

The show featured supplements, products for the home, pet foods and supplies, health and beauty items, and of particular interest to us, vegan foods and products. It was exciting to see so many companies, young and old, putting their resources behind their ideas.  From among many contenders, I chose five to write about.

Mini Pops (air-popped sorghum grain). Think popcorn the size of little peas and that’s popped sorghum (shown in photo above). These certified organic crunchy treats are tasty, with a hint of “subatomic” sea salt, and only 100 calories to a one-ounce bag. They’re made in a nut-free facility. PS. Farming sorghum uses half the water required for farming corn.

Luna and Larry’s Coconut Bliss. If you’ve never tasted Coconut Bliss non-dairy frozen desserts (the top seller in the U.S.), then you should treat yourself as soon as possible. They have over twenty flavors, they’re award-winning, and they aren’t kidding about the bliss. I think you can find these most anywhere now. 

Meditalia Foods. This is a line of jarred vegan spreads and sauces that are sublime. Whether you spread them on crackers or crostini, or toss with pasta, the line includes Basil Pesto, Green Olive, Sundried Tomato, Roasted Eggplant Tapenade, and more. They’re all natural, gluten-free, vegan, and Kosher.  Made in Israel, the company is a member of Peaceworks. Your mission: “Find them and eat them.”

Salazon Chocolate Co. Billing itself as the first salted-chocolate brand, it was easy to see why it’s so popular. The salt gives the organic dark chocolate a college degree, flavor-wise. The products are USDA Organic, Rainforest Alliance Certified, and the company is a member of “1% for The Planet.”  They make chocolate with salt and pepper, coffee, and other tempting ingredients. Do go online and find out where you can buy these delicious bars.

Sophie’s Kitchen. Some vegans eschew faux meats and others love them. If you like them, look for Sophie’s vegan seafood products. They’re 100% vegan, non-allergenic, free of trans fats, and contain no preservatives or artificial anything. They offer Vegan Calamari, Breaded Vegan Shrimp, “Fish” Fillets, and even “squid”  rings. Some of the products are gluten- and soy-free.

By far, the stellar highlight of our trip was the dinner we enjoyed on our way home at Great Sage, the fabulous vegan restaurant in Clarksville, MD. The place was filling up by 6pm, the food was excellent, and the staff knowledgeable and friendly (Hi Courtney and Amy!)  That’s all I’ll say about Great Sage as I know Robin plans to review the compassionate eatery soon on her own blog, VeganPlanet.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Butternut Squash Bisque with Cranberry Gremolata

Just in time for cozy autumn cooking, here's a fantastic recipe for Butternut Squash Bisque with Cranberry Gremolata.  It's one of the many seasonal recipes from The Blooming Platter Cookbook by Betsy DiJulio.  

If you're looking for creative new ways to prepare butternut squash and other fall vegetables, this is the book you need.  Betsy has a uniquely creative flair for taking everyday ingredients and turning them into something beautiful and delicious, as well as simple to prepare. The book is getting fantastic reviews on Amazon -- check them out!

And if you don't yet have The Blooming Platter Cookbook, now is a great time to get it as the fall season sets in.  Let Betsy's seasonal recipes energize your cooking and your creativity throughout the year.

Reminder:  The Buy 1 Get 1 Free sale of Vegan Unplugged is still going on at Vegan Heritage Press.  You don't need a power outage to enjoy the easy 15-minute pantry recipes in this book -- they're great for when you don't have time to cook or shop, as well as for camping or if you don't have a full kitchen.  At this price, you can buy one as a stocking stuffer for everyone on your holiday list!

Now here's that fantastic recipe from The Blooming Platter Cookbook:

Butternut Squash Bisque with Cranberry Gremolata
Yield: 4 Servings
The zesty gremolata adds color, flavor, and crunch to this simple and familiar autumn soup. This recipe is from The Blooming Platter Cookbook by Betsy DiJulio (c) 2011.  Published by Vegan Heritage Press.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic
1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch dice (about 3 cups)
2 1/2 cups vegetable stock
4 (4-inch) stalks fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cranberry Gremolata (recipe follows)

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until soft and slightly golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the squash, stock, rosemary, and bay leaves. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the squash is tender, about 10 minutes. Remove and discard rosemary stalks and bay leaves.
Transfer the squash mixture to a food processor and process until almost smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Return the puree to the skillet and heat through, stirring occasionally. Season the bisque to taste with salt and pepper, and serve warm topped with Cranberry Gremolata.

Cranberry Gremolata
Yield: about ½ cup

The gremolata is inspired by the traditional Italian condiment, typically sprinkled on soups and stews and made with lemon zest, parsley, and garlic.

1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
1/4 cup chopped fresh cranberries
1 teaspoon minced jalapeño
2 teaspoons fresh orange zest
Pinch sea salt
Pinch natural sugar

Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and mix well.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Versatile Black Bean Burgers

Versatile is the new black.  At least when it comes to the recipe for black bean patties in Vegan Unplugged. That recipe is one of the most popular in the book, and it lends itself to lots of variations. 

The recipe originated during Hurricane Isabel back in 2003.  With no electricity for over a week, we dined royally using only a single-burner butane stove and ingredients from our pantry.  For the patties, Robin mashed together a can of black beans and a can of diced potatoes, along with some dehydrated onion and other seasonings, with breadcrumbs as a binder.  They tasted so good, we now make them whenever we’re pressed for time — not because the power is out.

Over the years, we’ve discovered lots of ways to change this amazingly simple recipe — we usually use quick-cooking oatmeal in place of breadcrumbs for more nutrition, sometimes adding ground walnuts or sunflower seeds to the mix.  I enjoy them as burgers on a toasted roll with lettuce, tomato, pickles, and a swath of ketchup.  They’re also great with salsa, peanut sauce, or barbecue sauce. Most recently, we topped them with sriracha mayo – wow.

Try all 80 of the great pantry recipes in Vegan Unplugged—they’re ready in 15 minutes.  And right now there’s an amazing 2-for-1 sale going on at Vegan Heritage Press — buy one at the already low price and get another one free to give to someone you care about.

Here’s the recipe, with some of the variations included.  They’re soy-free and can be made gluten-free or fat-free as well.

Versatile Black Bean Patties  
Have these incredibly tasty patties your way — with mustard, ketchup, spicy peanut sauce, salsa, barbecue sauce, or my favorite, sriracha mayo. Note: if you want to include ground nuts, substitute them for about half of the oats or breadcrumbs.

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15-ounce) can diced white potatoes, drained
1 tablespoon dehydrated minced onion
1 teaspoon dried parsley (or 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, if you’ve got it)
3/4 cup quick-cooking oats (can be gluten-free) or breadcrumbs, or a combination
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil (or cooking spray)

In a large bowl, mash the beans and potatoes with a potato ricer until well mashed.  [Note: instead of mixing my hand, you can use a food processor.] Add the onion, parsley, breadcrumbs, and salt and pepper, to taste.  Mix until well combined.
Divide the mixture into 6 equal portions and use your hands to shape into patties.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat or spray the skillet with cooking spray. Cook the bean patties until golden brown on both sides, about 5 minutes per side. Serve hot with your favorite sauce.
Makes 6 patties

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Vegan Unplugged Giveaway Winner!

Yes, we have a winner! But first, many thanks to all of you who entered the Giveaway to win 2 copies of Vegan Unplugged. You all had such great ideas for ways to share your second copy.  If I had to choose a winner myself, I'd have to give books to all of you!  That's why I enlisted the help of good old Random.org to pick the winner for me! 

And the winner is: Commenter # 47 -- Glo.  Congratulations, Glo!  Send me an e-mail with your mailing address and I'll get TWO copies of Vegan Unplugged in the mail to you.

While you're here, why not subscribe to this blog so you can keep up with the exciting news, giveaways, and sample recipes from our great cookbooks, including the newest book from Vegan Heritage Press, World Vegan Feast by Bryanna Clark Grogan. And be sure to "Like" Vegan Heritage Press on Facebook, too!

We're still having an amazing BOGO sale on Vegan Unplugged over on the VHP website. When you buy direct, you get two copies for one low sale price (and now you have lots of great ideas on what to do with your second copy!)

Friday, September 9, 2011

California Blackout: Another Reason to Have Vegan Unplugged

Another blackout in California? Vegan Unplugged is your best friend any time the power goes out. We're offering this practical book with delicious recipes in a 2-for-1 BOGO through November.  It's a great deal, and can help you eat well anytime you're without electricity – or anytime at all.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Cookbook Giveaway: Vegan Unplugged

This week, Vegan Heritage Press is sponsoring a giveaway of our power-outage, emergency pantry cookbook: Vegan Unplugged: A Pantry Cuisine Cookbook and Survival Guide by Jon Robertson (with recipes by Robin Robertson).  The response has been so good to our 2-for-1 special on this book (ordered through the VHP website), that we’ve decided to spread the wealth—the wealth of preparedness knowledge and 80 excellent, quick-and-easy recipes contained in this book — by giving away 2 copies of the book to 1 lucky winner.

To enter, all you need to do is leave a comment at the end of this post saying who you would give your extra free copy to — someone you think could use either quick and easy recipes like the Curry in a Hurry pictured above (ready in less than 15 minutes using pantry ingredients!) or an emergency preparedness guide (or both!): maybe it’s your aunt who lives in Florida, or a cousin in Vermont, or a friend in college who needs easy (and cheap) pantry recipes. 

To double your chances of winning, post a link to this giveaway on your Facebook and Twitter pages. To triple your chances, simply “Like” Vegan Heritage Press on Facebook. Better hurry — this giveaway ends on Friday at midnight.  The winner will be announced right here on Saturday morning, September 10.

Thanks for participating in this giveaway and double thanks for helping spread the word about Vegan Unplugged