Three years ago I went vegan. Ever since then I've been coming up with new ways to veganize my favorite foods and any new recipes that look interesting. I have to say for the most part it's been an amazing success, and I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything. It's also a very healthy way to eat because it takes most processed and pre-prepared foods out of the equation - if you want vegan stroganoff, for instance, you're going to have to make it yourself! I encourage everyone to try a couple of my favorite vegan recipes and you will agree - you don't have to sacrifice taste and you'll be doing something positive for animals, the environment and your health.
My favorite things to cook
Biscuits and gravy, grilled potatoes, veggie burgers, veggie brats with grilled red onion, roasted vegetables, chili and cornbread, pancakes, pasta, cookies, soups and stews, beans and rice, pizza, scrambled tofu, burritos, brownies, potstickers, curry, portabello mushroom steaks... I love to take traditional meat & cheese recipes and turn them vegan, it's a great challenge of my creativity and cooking skills. Vegan chicken fried steak? No problem! Hawaiian pizza? I can do that too! But I also like recipes that are "naturally" vegan, like marinated grilled tofu, lentil curry, and roasted potatoes with rosemary.
My favorite family cooking traditions
One great family tradition was that my grandfather would make sourdough pizzas and Tom & Jerrys every Christmas Eve - the smell of pizza cooking in the oven always reminds me of the holidays. The Tom & Jerrys were made non-alcoholic for the kids and spiked with rum for the adults - once when I was about fourteen he slipped me the alcoholic version, though I'm still not sure if it was on purpose or an accident! Granddad also cured his own olives, which I would help him pick from the trees of various neighbors, and all through fall and winter we would have them with dinner - they even went into the stuffing for the Thanksgiving turkey. He always kept a batch of sourdough starter in the back of the fridge and whenever we all went camping he would make sourdough pancakes or waffles for breakfast.
My cooking triumphs
When I was thirteen I made my first angel food cake for my mom for mother's day. I topped it with whipped cream mixed with a tiny bit of almond extract and sliced strawberries. Then I decorated it with wild lupines all the way around the plate. She thought it was so beautiful she was almost in tears! More recently I discovered a great way to make vegan "steak" by grilling portabello mushrooms basted with garlic, herbs, olive oil and liquid smoke - they can then be topped with pretty much anything you'd have with a steak and the flavor and texture are very close. Pretty much every recipe I've veganized has been a great success, from biscuits and gravy to cheesecake. Did I mention I make a terrific vegan stroganoff?
My cooking tragedies
When I was a kid my mom invited my grandparents over for a fancy dinner and as usual she had me help prepare it. She had me stirring the cream sauce for the pastitsio and as I was adding nutmeg (fresh grated) I dropped the entire nutmeg into the sauce! I was mortified but she fished it out and everything was fine. The only other real disaster I can recall was recently I was trying to make a vegan scallop dish with a scampi type sauce, using canned "skallops" I found in the natural foods aisle of my local store. Well, they really didn't look or taste anything like scallops and in fact they were pretty awful. I couldn't even persuade my cats, who will often eat fake meat products and even tofu, to finish them off. In fact one cat took a sniff, then turned around and made a motion like it was something in his litter box he was trying to bury!