vegan sushi night (what what?!?)

When I told my Dad that we made sushi the other night, he became very puzzled. Most people associate raw fish with sushi, when indeed what really characterizes sushi is vinegar-flavored cold rice. In America, we tend to see this rolled up with sea creatures, and all sorts of other weird things (like cold french fries or products derived from cow  udders ). But we are here to define sushi afresh!

The Bear and The Blackberry does sushi! AKA we VEGAN-IZED sushi up, down, and all around, bending minds and wiping out prejudices everywhere!

We cooked some brown rice, added some mirin and brown rice vinegar to it, and let it chill for a couple of hours. We then moved on to marinating a couple of items. For the tempeh, we made a concoction of thinly sliced lemon, minced ginger, agave syrup, tamari, and toasted sesame oil. For the tofu, we made a marinade of orange peel, orange juice, minced garlic, tamari, agave syrup, and toasted sesame oil.

Sushi Party Time! Now for creating a bunch of fun rolls! We laid the cool and sticky brown rice down on the toasted nori sheets and came up with a few fun mixtures! Here are the combinations that we came up with for our sushi night feast:

  • Asparagus and Shiitake Mushroom Roll (asparagus and shiitake sauteed in olive oil with minced garlic)
  • Fresh Veggie Roll (cucumber, carrots, red bell pepper, fresh cilantro, and avocado)
  • Avocado and Cucumber Roll (a classic!)
  • Garlic-Orange Tofu Roll (the marinated tofu takes center stage)
  • Lemon Ginger Tempeh and Shiitake Mushroom Roll (the marinated tempeh and shiitakes team up for some super stardom!)

This was a first for The Bear and The Blackberry, so we jotted down some improvements we will be making for next time (like less rice in the rolls, perhaps switching the rice up with quinoa, and longer marinating times for the tofu and tempeh), but in conclusion, Vegan Sushi Night was pretty freaking radically tasty!

How about some fun nutritional facts about Nori? Nori is high in protein and vitamin A, and is also rich in B vitamins, vitamin C, and vitamin E. Using brown rice in place of white rice in sushi is an excellent way to add a high dosage of nutrients to your diet, like protein, fiber, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, B vitamins, and vitamin E.

Now go have a sushi party of your own, and tell us all about it! : )

dark chocolate peanut butter cups sprinkled with himalayan sea salt

Mmmm…. chocolate and peanut butter. Best friends forever. But these are BETTER than BEST! Is that possible? YES! Not only are they vegan, but these rich and vivid Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups are sprinkled with pretty pink Himalayan Sea Salt  and are made with organic ingredients and fair trade chocolate.

Morally superior and uber quality chocolate peanut butter cups! Hip hip hooray! The first time we made these were for our Merry Festimas treat boxes that we gave out to our friends in December. This time we made them for our friends Mark and Colby who were visiting us, and I sort of overdid it on the peanut butter… these things were DENSE. But amazing nonetheless! There does exist a perfect balance of peanut butter and chocolate, and when we figure this out, we will record it and share it with the world.

The ingredients are refreshingly simple: dark chocolate chips, peanut butter (fresh ground at the Sacramento Foods Co-op!), soy milk, and a garnish of Himalayan Sea Salt. Making these is a cinch! All it involves is melting some chocolate, mixing some peanut butter and soymilk together, and layering these ingredients in some cup cake papers, sprinkling with the salt, and allowing them to cool and harden.

The hardest part of the process is the latter, because how can you let all of that yummy chocolate and peanut butter sit there untouched? But don’t touch it! Don’t do it! You will be rewarded by the gods when you allow the peanut butter cups to fully form. If you are impatient like we were, throw them in the freezer!

Let them harden, and then you shall experience heaven.

spice up your life sandwich

Today, I wanted a sandwich for lunch. But not just any sandwich, oh no. I wanted a kick in the pants, spicy-savory sandwich! I took a gander at what the fridge had to offer, brainstormed like a lightening bolt, got busy, and not too long after came up with this little beauty. BEHOLD! The Spice Up Your Life Sandwich! Also known as Curry Tempeh Sandwich with Spicy Hummus and Spinach.

Now for the story behind the photo:

I started off making some spicy hummus. I tossed some garbanzo beans, garlic cloves, toasted red hot chili peppers, lemon juice, lime juice, olive oil, and sea salt into the amazing food processor, and let it do it’s magic. After some minor adjustments (more salt, more lemon juice) the hummus was pretty freaking tasty.

Next was curry tempeh time! Curry tempeh time is fun because it’s quick and easy…and delicious! I sauteed some tempeh slices in curry powder, cracked black pepper, and grapeseed oil until they were nice and brown on both sides.

Now to assemble the sandwich. I toasted a couple slices of quality whole grain bread, slathered the spicy hummus on both sides, laid down the curry tempeh, and followed suit with sliced roma tomatoes, onions, and spinach leaves.

Great success! I got the kick in the pants I was looking for, but it wasn’t overpowering (thanks to the presence of the cool spinach and tomatoes).

Perhaps soon we will get in the habit of measuring when we cook, so that we can share recipes with you! : )

peanut butter teff cookies

Teff, peanut butter, and cookies, oh my! Teff adds a subtle hazelnut/chocolate flavor to these peanut butter cookies, and just so happens to be gluten free and high in dietary fiber, protein, iron, and calcium. With this easy six ingredient recipe starring the super nutritious teff flour, you can almost convince yourself that you are eating these cookies for health, and not pleasure! Almost…

We found this recipe conveniently located on the back of our bag of teff flour from Bob’s Red Mill. It is by Leslie Cerier, who just so happens to be the author of one of our favorite cookbooks: Going Wild in the Kitchen.

1 1/2 cups Teff Flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup peanut butter

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Combine the dry ingredients together in a big bowl. In your favorite food processor blend the maple syrup, canola oil, vanilla, and peanut butter well. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, incorporating well. Form little balls of dough onto an ungreased cookie sheat. To get that classic criss-cross look that peanut butter cookies are famous for, get your criss-cross action going with a fork. Bake for about  thirteen to fifteen minutes. Allow them to cool all of the way, and then gobble them up!

Cheers to healthylicious vegan cookies!

cookies and cream cupcakes (PART TWO)

So Shannon and I decided to have another cupcake party! We were going to make a new cupcake (matcha cupcakes with vanilla bean frosting) but unfortunately the co-op was out of both matcha and vanilla bean. What are two girls looking for a cupcake party to do?

MAKE MORE COOKIES AND CREAM CUPCAKES!!!

This time we adjusted the frosting recipe so that it wouldn’t be so deliciously goopy. We simply added a lot less soymilk to the recipe, since the earth balance tends to liquify  when it is beaten because of the heat produced.

These cupcakes were just as delicious, but even better since they weren’t dripping everywhere! We were nice this time, and decided to share. We drove around delivering joy and cupcakes to friends and coworkers. It was the BEST!

There are going to be lots and lots of future vegan cupcake parties! We are really looking forward to making these mysterious matcha and vanilla bean cupcakes… perhaps you will be seeing them at The Bear and The Blackberry soon!

baby arugula, walnut, and roasted beet salad

There has been a crime at the BEST residence, and we need your super sleuth skills to help us find the culprit. The corpse seemed to be cut up and arranged with some baby arugula, toasted walnuts, and tossed carelessly in a lime-sesame oil dressing. We sampled the remains of the beets in their arugula arrangement, and it was all quite tasty!

This is the scene of the crime. It looks like the poor vegetables were butchered here. It seems that their skins were peeled off and then they were sliced up by some sicko with maniacal intentions. Like salad.

We found this photograph on a discarded camera, but can’t seem to identify the assassin. The purp seems to be laughing at us, probably proudly displaying the gruesome remains of its poor victims. Can you help us solve this crime?

happy jef-day! (field trip: andy nguyen)

Hip hip hooray, for Jef-Day! Jef entered his twenty-fourth year of living the dream on the twenty-third of February. And what better way to celebrate his Double Dragon Birthday than to eat some toothsome vegan grub?!

For Birthday-Lunch, I took Jef to Andy Nguyen, our favorite Buddhist-Asian restaurant, only a short walk away from the BEST residence. It’s so zen and peaceful inside, and if you look closely you can find some very monkish appearing folks! The food here is nutritiously delicious, an abundance of vegetables cooked up in ambrosial sauces.

We started off with a huge boat of food, also known as the appetizer sampler. Unfortunately we were so ravenous that we pretty much devoured the whole thing before it dawned on me that we didn’t take a picture of it! The appetizer sampler consisted of fresh spring rolls, fried spring rolls, fried okra, sweet-chili marinated veggies, and some other really delicious and foreign whatchamacallit that I can’t quite explain besides with YUM! This was all accompanied by an array of delectable dipping sauces.

Since we are food monsters, after grubbing on the appetizer sampler, we ordered the Dragon Clay Pot (a mixture of veggies, mushrooms, and tofu in a vegan oyster sauce) and Pad Thai (for some noodle-y fun!).  SCUMPTIOUS! Every time we eat here, I am inspired by how fresh, clean, and flavorful their food is, and this trip was no exception. I tip my hat to you, Andy Nguyen!

Later on, Jef was surprised with a Chocolate Midnight Cake that was baked in our local vegan bakery/restaurant Sugar Plum Vegan. It was so rich and chocolaty, I don’t know why anyone would eat anything else! Ever! We are very blessed to live within walking distance to a vegan bakery… go Midtown! Hooray for Jef-Day!

soy chorizo quesadilla

When my tummy is growling and I am short on time (or patience!) one of my favorite quick-easy-really-friggin-tasty dishes to make is a soy chorizo quesadilla. We get these amazing whole wheat tortillas from the co-op that taste fantastic just by themselves, but even better when sandwiched between them are soy chorizo, scallions, tomatoes, avocado, and arugula! You can get soy chorizo at most grocery stores now, but make sure that you are buying soy products that say they are GMO-free (free of genetically modified organisms) because GMOs are spooky! If you don’t know about these frightening “organisms” yet, do your homework!

This quesadilla takes probably less than five minutes to make, and depending on my degree of hunger (in this case it was third-degree-hunger…pretty high up there on the hunger scale!) I will use one or two tortillas, since the tortillas are pretty dense. In my cast iron skillet on high heat, I lay down one tortilla and then top it with soy chorizo, tomatoes, and scallions. I lay the other tortilla on top and cook one side for a minute or two, and then I carefully flip this monstrous-being-that-is-a-quesadilla and cook the other side for a couple of minutes, just enough to brown the tortilla and heat up the insides.

Next, I take the beast off the heat and add avocado and arugula inside, as well as a nice simple seasoning of sea salt and cracked black pepper. I admire it for a moment, in all of it’s beauty, and then DEVOUR! YUMYUMYUM!

Some nutritional highlights of a couple of ingredients in this quesadilla are:

  • Soy Chorizo (Tofu/Soy): A very good source of protein, which contains all of the essential amino acids that the body needs daily. Not only this, but soy products are high in iron, potassium, B vitamins, fiber, calcium, and more! In numerous studies, soybeans have been shown to inhibit and suppress the growth of tumor cells, lower cholesterol, regulate and stabilize estrogen levels, help retain bone mass, boost the immune system, reduce hypertension, and improve digestion. They should be renamed SUPER BEAN!
  • Arugula: Helps to normalize body acids with its high alkalinity and can be used to treat acidosis. Some key nutrients in arugula are fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc, copper, manganese, vitamin C, etc etc.
  • Whole Wheat: Tasty and a nutritional powerhouse that is high in protein, fiber, B vitamins, vitamin E, iron, folate, magnesium, and manganese.
  • Avocados: Are good for the nerves, fatigue, hypoglycemia, and urinary tract infections. They are high in vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin D (who needs sunshine!?!), calcium, sodium, folate, iron, phosphorus, vitamin B3, copper, manganese, magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin E, etc. They are an good way for vegans to get their healthy monounsaturated fats, and an easy way to make a dish satisfying and delicious.