Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Vegas, [with] baby, Vegas

When my plane touched down in Las Vegas yesterday, it was no time at all before I found myself licking maple icing from my fingers. My first stop was Ronald's Doughnuts, where about two-thirds of the pastries are vegan, and entirely delicious. Traveling as a vegan is pretty fantastic.

I'm here for a week, and will be savoring lots of raw food, enjoying my favorite Japanese, and making at least one more doughnut run. For the next few days, I don't have access to a car, so I'm limited to what's within walking distance (very limited, since I'm massively pregnant, and temperatures average 105 during the day), and what's in my hotel room (which doesn't have a refrigerator or microwave). But this is one reason I love being vegan! You don't need special products or gadgets, because if there's access to fruits and vegetables, you've got food.

Just imagine my bar area: amidst the martini glasses and minibar snacks are heaps of bananas, oranges, apples, and peaches, a basket of cherry tomatoes, and five ears of fresh corn. (Yes, I just eat the corn raw, straight off the cob!)

I also packed lots of dates, raw bars, and raw nuts to add some heavier foods to our fruit meals. That's all I'll need for me and Miss Two; my daughter has always had plenty of fresh foods, so she's content to eat this way. And although it's not an ideal long-term diet for a pregnant woman and toddler (I'd recommend far more greens and more variety), it's perfect for several days.

While I'm out of town, there's work happening in my kitchen, and I can't wait to get into planning and renovating, and sharing the changes with you.

In other news, the Mr. and I were just approved as foster parents, so look forward to an article on veganism and adoption homestudies in the near future. We're thrilled to be part of the lives of some amazing children, and so happy to grow our family in this way.

And another sort of growth: expect a cookbook update! The fine details are still being solidified with my publisher, but I can say that Cook, Eat, Thrive will be available very soon. Thank you for all the kind words of support you've continued to give--I know many of you pre-ordered the book and expected it much earlier, and I am so grateful for your patience and graciousness in waiting for it. I want to hold it in my hands as much as you do!

If you're near Las Vegas, stop by and say hello. You can't miss me; I'll be the one at the pool, in a bikini, enormously pregnant, eating a whole watermelon.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Peanut Butter and Jam Banana Bread

I never really had peanut butter and jelly as a child. My parents didn't make it, and my friends' approximations were anemic slices of bread, pale as styrofoam, filled with sugary-stiff peanut spread and grape jelly, which--in a rare flash of childhood discernment--I knew to avoid.

But as an adult, I am completely fascinated with the stuff (see my Peanut Butter Shortbread with Concord Grape Sorbet). I take great pleasure in making it for visiting kids, with sun butter, or almond butter, and a rotation of fruit spreads: strawberry or raspberry jam, orange marmalade, even the date spread I ate with pita while living in Israel.

The vegetarian cafe up the street does a Fried PB&J on Banana Bread, and some mornings I find myself wishing I had a vat of hot oil just for this purpose. Afternoons too, when it would be the perfect snack for my young daughter. This bread captures some of those flavors, of salty peanut butter and good jam on whole wheat. Also, bananas. And with whole wheat flour, plenty of fruit, and nut butter instead of oil, it's much healthier.

Peanut Butter and Jam Banana Bread
1 loaf
Use bananas that are very ripe and spotty, to the point that you might not want to eat them fresh. I like coconut or almond milk for the non-dairy milk, but you can use whatever is on hand.

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3 large bananas
1 cup vegan sugar
1/3 cup natural smooth peanut butter
1/3 cup non-dairy milk
1 tablespoon apple cider (or other) vinegar
1/2 cup good quality jam

Heat oven to 350 F. Generously oil a 9" x 4" loaf pan, and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, baking soda, and sea salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, smash together bananas, vegan sugar, and peanut butter until well combined. There will be chunks of banana, which is fine as long as they're fairly small. Add non-dairy milk and vinegar, and whisk again to combine.

Using a spatula, gently fold in the dry mixture, stirring until no streaks of flour remain. It will appear a bit lumpy, and this is just right. Pour batter into prepared pan, smoothing the top.

Dollop jam over the top, and use a sharp knife to marbelize it into the batter.

The unbaked loaf, with swirls of jam throughout

Transfer to oven, and bake 70-80 minutes, or until a knife inserted near the center comes out free of batter (it won't be entirely clean, thanks to the jam). Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then run an offset spatula around the side and turn out to cool completely.

Don't you love that dollop of jam spilling over the side? Serve with glasses of cold almond milk, and spread with more peanut butter and jam, if you like.

Miss Two, being uncommonly patient (and a little sly) as she waits for a slice of her own.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Cakes, Glorious Cakes

This summer has been one for cakes--especially raw ones, which don't require the heat of an oven, and are quick to assemble. We've had lots of raw carrot cake and raw cheesecake lately, along with more conventional treats. Here are just a few:

Brownie and Cream Cupcakes I baked for a children's birthday party.

White Chocolate Strawberry Cake, the preferred birthday cake of my Mr., which can also be found here, here, and here. This year, I couldn't find a star tip, and so flanked the cake with piped leaves instead.

Raw Cacao Banana Cake filled with Coconut Cashew Cream. This was tiny, but in all its richness, took days to consume.

Peanut Butter and Jam Loaf. Miss Two is anxious to tuck into this variation on banana bread.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Summer Tomato Salad

My days have been full lately, of hosting family, and home-improvement projects (landscaping the backyard, refinishing an old pedestal table, building a deck...), and sinking into the final trimester of pregnancy. So I'm particularly grateful for quick, easy meals that make the most of excellent summer produce.

This season is the perfect time to enjoy tomatoes, blushy and sun-warmed, their juices waiting to soak into slices of crusty bread or be pureed into fresh soups. With summer comes salads too, and this simple one is both fresh and comforting. Make it in the evening, when the day's fading heat is still held in the ground, which is really the best place to sit while eating it.

The first tomato I have ever grown--an heirloom Brandywine--of which I was inordinately proud, and which went into a Summer Tomato Salad immediately after this picture was taken.

Summer Tomato Salad
1-2 servings
For the best flavor, use a combination of tomatoes: beefsteaks, romas, grapes, and any heirloom varieties you like.

3 sundried tomatoes, snipped into smallish pieces
1 pound (about 3 medium) mixed fresh tomatoes, cut into 1" chunks
1/2 avocado, cut into 1/2" cubes
small handful of fresh basil, chiffonaded or roughly chopped
quick drizzle of balsamic vinegar, about 1/2 teaspoon
sea salt and ground black pepper to taste

Gently toss together sundried and fresh tomatoes, avocado, basil, and balsamic vinegar, and season to taste with sea salt and pepper. Allow to rest for 5 minutes; the sundried tomatoes will absorb some of the liquid from the fresh, giving them a nice chewy bite. Serve right away.

This salad also makes a great topping for pasta or pizza, and the juices that accumulate at its finish are delicious wiped up with wedges of herby focaccia.