Sunday, August 28, 2011


"I think the humans got us some Asian pears for a treat."

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Product Review: Sophie's Kitchen Vegan Calamari

In June I talked about vegan calamari which I discovered first through an ad in Veg News magazine and then at Pangea, the Vegan Store online. I finally got around to trying it this evening. Highly skeptical the whole time, I lay out the breaded rings on a baking sheet, opting to bake rather than deep-frying them. A pot of boiling water was ready for half a package of thin spaghetti. If the calamari turned out to be lousy, at least I had plenty of pasta to fall back on. And most importantly, I reheated some leftover homemade marinara sauce. I figured as with real calamari, the sauce is the key. No bottled pasta sauce for this meal.

It only took ten minutes to heat the rings at 400 degrees Fahreinheit. In fact, I might have overdone it a bit because the breaded part was a bit too crunchy and hard for my taste. But when I took my first bite, I was startled at, texture wise, just how similar this was to actual calamari. I took several bites in fact in total disbelief. I truly didn't expect such similarity and pleasure (again, the sauce or dip matters! Don't skimp on that. A good sauce makes this "calamari" an even bigger treat.) This and my spaghetti made for a very pleasant meal.

The key ingredient to the vegan calamari is konjac powder, which is derived from a plant called konnyaku, or elephant yam, native only to Japan, China, Korea, and Indonesia. This powder is used as a vegan substitute for gelatin in East Asia. The best part? This plant is very low in calories and very high in fiber. The Hoppy Vegan was very pleased with this product--two enthusiastic bunny ears up for Sophie's Kitchen. Can't wait to try her faux shrimp.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Veganize This!

Some would say I need another vegan cookbook like I need a hole in the head (a family expression--rather grim one, I've always thought.) Truth be told, they would be right, but a couple of weeks ago, at a Borders liquidation sale, I picked up yet another one, this one entitled VEGANIZE THIS by Jenn Shagrin. What compelled me to buy it was a recipe that caught my eye as I flipped through the pages--vegan braciole! WHAT, I remember thinking in the store. How is it possible to veganize cheese-filled steak (which is basically what braciole is, as most Americans of Italian descent know). Without another thought, I bought the book. When I actually started browsing it more intently and examined the recipes, I realized I might have been too impulsive in making this purchase, the braciole recipe notwithstanding.

The thing is, at this period in my life, I am severely time-challenged. Free time is something I rarely have and as I studied the recipes in this book, I soon realized that there are ingredients within the recipes that have to be premade first! Recipes within recipes--what the hell??? Vegan ricotta is required for the braciole as well as the "meat" itself--the book contains several homemade seitan recipes, depending on the meal you want to make. While some recipes can use tofu as a substitute, I do NOT recommend this book to you if you are even slightly gluten intolerant, as many of these dishes will require that "wheat meat." These meals are not for those like me who work long hours and don't want to spend what few hours they have each night before bedtime slaving over a hot stove.

Still, the dishes sound dreamy (you have to love a cookbook with a chapter titled "Recipes Guarunteed to Get You Laid"). I want so much to one day make the pan-seared white pepper tofu scallops with basil cream sauce served over linguine, or the pumpkin tartare over chickpea-black cumin crepe crisps with vegan sage and white ale browned butter sauce. I must confess, I am intrigued with the recipes for vegan prosciutto (!!) and vegan Cool Whip. There are even recipes for vegan twinkees and Doritos! A cookbook that provides recipes for both fancy dinner parties and an all-night gorge fest in front of the TV can't be all bad.

Still, you will need time--lots of it--and you will in some cases have to restock your pantry (if you get this book, stock up on Mimiccreme.) Sadly for me VEGANIZE THIS will come in handy only on long boring weekends when I have more time to make the ingredients and then the main dish. But I vow I will use it, if for nothing else, than to try the vegan braciole. The Italian blood in my veins won't settle for less.