Mon Petit French Dip Sandwiches

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Bonjour! Continuing with exploring European cooking, I'm bringing you a super easy lunch or supper entree that will please even the most avid meat eater. In fact, I'm writing up a li'l note about how I made the transition to being vegetarian, and how I will be making the jump to being completely plant based by the end of the year.  So exciting! And understandably, a little bit scary.

Anyway, I made these sandwiches last night and they blew our minds.  Sandwiches are literally the perfect food, and I love a good one.  French dips are something that I used to love as a meat eater and it was really fun to make a vegan version. As with most of my recipes, I like to take things that people really can't believe can be made vegan and taste just as good if not better than the real deal.  We lost NO flavor with this, and it proves that you don't have to have animal products to make an exceptional, and kinda fancy, delicious meal.  Frequently I see people talk about how you can be a true foodie or enjoy fine cuisine in the same way if you don't eat mean....that couldn't be further from the truth.  It is so easy and not even the least bit of a bum out to skip the meat and dairy and make an impressive and to-die-for meal.

So here you go! Et voilĂ !


2 portobello mushroom caps, sliced
5 or 6 baby bella mushrooms, sliced (you can actually use whatever you want here, I just use a few smaller mushrooms for variety and to fill the sandwiches out a bit)
2 green onions, diced (you can use half a red or white onion if you'd like, or even shallots, but I don't tend to like regular onions so there you go)
3 garlic cloves, minced
vegetable stock
soy sauce
liquid smoke
vegan worcestershire (optional, but great)
olive oil
white wine
Earth Balance vegan butter
Ciabatta baguette, cut into sandwich sized pieces and sliced length-wise
Leaf Cuisine Smoky Ghouda spread (any spread will do and you can even use plan ol' vegannaise if you want, but I prefer this because it is AMAZING).

Melt your butter in a pan, then quickly add your garlic and green onions.  Don't let the garlic get brown!  Toss in the mushrooms and let those simmer for a bit with some salt and pepper to taste.  After a few minutes, throw in the thyme.  Wait until the mushrooms are browned, and then stir in the wine and vegetable stock.  Add a splash of soy sauce and a splash of liquid smoke (don't use too much or it gets... weird).  Simmer while covered.

This is when I toast the bread for the sandwiches.  It's okay if they get a bit crusty because you are dipping them anyway.  After they toast I take them out and drizzle a little olive oil on them and let them sit while the mushrooms simmer. If you want to get really nuts, you can sprinkle some rosemary on top.

You'll know the mushrooms are ready when they get fully browned.  Spread whatever you've decided to put on the sandwiches on the bread and spoon the mushrooms on.  Really pile those suckers on there.  Pour the drippings into a dish for dipping, et voilĂ ! Bon appetit!

 Hey, if you guys like my recipes, feel free to send me photos of your versions of my dishes!! I'd love to see what y'all are coming up with.  Also, if you have any requests, send em over! I'll do my best to vegan-ify your favorite meals.

Summer Mushroom Paella

Monday, June 19, 2017
Continuing my focus on exploring European Cuisine, last night I made mushroom paella and it's honestly one of my favorite things I've made.  I always ask Alex if this is a repeat meal, and this time it was a resounding "YES!"

This meal is so flavorful, super easy, and really fun to experiment with, which I always encourage.  Don't like mushrooms? Sub them with broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, or any other hearty veggie of your choice.  The recipe I based this on called for scallops, and my go-to sub for shellfish is always mushrooms.  Especially when substituting them for scallops, they maintain the same consistency and you can season and marinate them the exact same way. I often cook them escargot style, with lots of butter and white wine, but that's a different post (and yes, it will be coming shortly!).

Anyway, this meal is really easy and a total crowd pleaser.  Bring this to your next summer picnic, or outdoor party, and blow everyone's minds with your skills because this tastes like it's really difficult and can be presented to look really impressive.

My secret weapons for this dish are smoked paprika and Himalayan sea salt.  The paprika gives it a really nice spicy kick and not to mention a gorgeous pop of color on top.

2 packets Mahatma Saffron Yellow Rice (you can use whatever you want here, but I use this because it's delicious and super easy and I hate making rice)
Earth Balance vegan butter

1 lb mushrooms, halved
1/2 yellow or red bell pepper
1/2 onion
2 green onions
3 garlic gloves (I love garlic, so you can take this down to 2 if you want)
cilantro (to taste)
Himalayan sea salt
Smoked paprika
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cups white wine
2 cups vegetable broth
Vegan sausage (I use andouille for the spice) 

Prepare your rice using measurements on the package.  Boil 1 2/3 cup water and 1 tbsp. Earth Balance vegan butter PER PACKET of rice.  Let this simmer while you begin the rest of the dish.

Heat oil in pan on medium heat.  Lower heat, then add the chopped garlic cloves and green onions.  Next, add in your mushrooms and sausage and brown them both.  Add in the chopped bell pepper and onion, and throw in the salt and pepper.  Let these flavors mingle a bit, then add in the cilantro.

Let simmer for a bit longer and add in the cooked rice.  I let this sit on the stove simmering on low heat for about 10-15 minutes, but keep an eye on it and don't let the rice dry out.  There should be enough moisture with the vegetable broth and wine to keep it going for a bit. You can add more of either one if it starts to look dry.

Serve, and top with a bit more paprika and a few sprigs of cilantro and enjoy.  Pop open your favorite bottle of wine, or make some sangria and enjoy this outside under some lights with friends on a warm summer night and you'll feel like you're in Barcelona.

(This dish is by no means authentic, but is inspired by Spanish tradition with my own special twist, as are most of my meals)

French Inspired-Forager's Roasted Vegetables

Sunday, June 4, 2017

It's always my goal to help people realize that being meat free isn't hard or complicated or boring, and that you can make all of your favorite foods vegan, and not have to sacrifice anything.

French cooking has always been on my favorites, and quite a challenge.  It's also one of the big ones that people think are impossible to veganize.  Well mon cheri, I'm here to tell you that that couldn't be further from the truth!

I'm going to be working on more vegan French recipes, and this one isn't exactly French but is definitely French inspired with butter, herbs and wine sauce and gravy.  It reminds me a lot of coq au vin but without the chicken.  My sister used to make roasted chicken when I lived with her, and it was always one of my favorite things.  Glistening vegetables slathered in gravy? Life sincerely does not get any better. So this dish is inspired by her as well.

Keep in mind this is a roast, so it will be HOT in the kitchen and kind of rough going in the summer.  But I love roasted vegetables of any kind in any season, so I'm willing to deal with it.  It's also SUPER easy and requires little intervention while roasting, so you can sit in front of the fan for a while.  Basically all you need to do is cut up a bunch of veggies, toss em in a roasting pan, throw in some herbs and top with butter and red wine and that's it.  So go have at it folks, you don't need me at all!  (Just kidding, here's a recipe).

4-5 carrots roughly cut up in large pieces
a bunch of mini red potatoes, halved
8 oz cremini mushrooms, halved
1 portobello mushroom cap, sliced
3 large raddishes, sliced
2 lemons, wedged
4 garlic cloves, cut in half (maybe more, depending on how much you like garlic)
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbs Earth Balance vegan butter
1 cup red wine

2 cups vegetable broth
1 tbs Earth Balance
1 shallot, diced
1 garlic clove, diced
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oven to about 375 degrees.   Toss in all your chopped veggies and the garlic halves. Lay the wedged lemons on top throughout, and sprinkle on your chopped rosemary and thyme.  Divide up the butter and place evenly around the dish on top.  Pour in your red wine and top with salt and pepper.
Throw this in the oven until the potatoes and carrots have cooked through. I tend to prefer my carrots a little firmer than fully cooked, but I'm nuts.

When the roasted vegetables are done, pull them out of the oven and place on top of the stove to keep warm.  In a pan, melt 1 tbs of butter and toss in your shallot and garlic.  When the shallots are transparent, throw in the fennel and rosemary and quickly toss to let the flavors mingle.  Pour in the broth and simmer.  Whisk in flour, pinch by pinch, until the gravy thickens.  Be patient with this.  My biggest hurdle in gravy making was learning patience in mixing n the flour and not going to fast and clumping it.

Service the gravy on top of the vegetables and you'll have a surprisingly light springtime dinner, that doesn't skimp on flavor.  This dish smells INCREDIBLE the whole way through and I loved that it lingered in the house.

Enjoy, and as always don't be afraid to experiment.

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of...Something

In the age of the internet and social media, with so many aspects of our lives online, it's so easy for someone to imitate our every move.  Whether it's your favorite outfit, a cool class you're taking, or a special interest or hobby, it's so easy for someone to scroll through your Instagram feed and get a first-hand lesson in You101. 

It's easy to get upset and angry.  But there's something to remember when you see someone following your every move-you must be doing something right if someone likes it so much they want to do it too.

I'm not famous and I'm not important, but I, like most everyone I know, have had to deal with people taking my ideas and claiming them as their own.  And hey, it's a free country.  People can do what they want, but that doesn't make it any less frustrating when you have a great idea that you're excited about and someone swipes it.  So how do you handle this? 

There are a few different ways to handle a copycat.  You can ignore them, confront them....and neither of those really work for anyone in my experience. Ignoring it takes more willpower than most curious people have and confronting usually just makes the imitating party defensive.  The best course of action?  Keep doing what you're doing.  Keep killing it enough to have someone think you're that inspiring.  Because essentially, that's what you are: inspiring. 

The way I see it, is if I can inspire someone to follow a dream, or realize they want something in life they didn't know they wanted before, or even if I can just inspire someone to embrace a certain style or movie or song...then I'm doing pretty well. 


Friday, June 2, 2017

I have had short hair for most of my life.

When I was a kid, I had waist length white-blonde hair and in 6th grade I chopped it off into a blunt bob (pretty ahead of my time, I must say).  I have never had hair past boob-length since then (and if I have it was extensions, which are the worst).  About a year and a half ago, I chopped off all the dead hair and had a super short pixie which was the shortest my hair has ever been.  I actually really thought about just shaving my head because my hair was so damaged.  I hated it.  I cried and cried and counted the days until it grew out.  Once it grew out a couple months, it was not so bad.  I mean, it wasn't bad at all, but I was nuts and freaked out.

I vowed to grow my hair out and not cut it again, but we all know how that goes, especially with me since I change my mind about my hair with the directions of the wind.  My hair has been above bob-length ever since that pixie cut in January of 2016.  And you know what? I love it.

Yesterday I chopped it again.  The new season of House of Cards started and I've always drooled over Claire Underwood, and plus I saw a picture of Michelle Williams on Pinterest and we all know what that does to a girl.  I went for the chop again, and I love it more than ever.  Having short hair is liberating.  It means being free from that security blanket of hair that most women seem to have, and it means being free of the "women are supposed to have long hair" bologna.  I always thought that somehow my life would be better when my hair grew out but's just hair and it doesn't mean anything.

I remember about 5 years or so ago I wanted to cut my hair and my partner at the time just flat out said "no."  I said, "I'm not asking for your permission" and he kind of lost it.  Needless to say, that relationship didn't work out.  In fact, most men I've dated have had staunch opinions about how a woman's hair should look (they tended to have staunch opinions about pretty much everything) and I've been called a handful of not-so-nice names because I prefer the gamine look.  I'm happy to say that Alex loves my hair short, and would probably love my hair no matter what it looks like because he's a secure person and loves ME.

I was talking to my stylist while she was cutting my hair, and we talked about how on the makeover episodes of America's Next Top Model (definitely quality television) there's always one girl that gets her super long hair lopped off and loses her damn mind.  I found joy yesterday in watching the pieces of hair fall to the floor.  I'm really fascinated by those makeover episodes.  Girls always say they don't feel like themselves with short hair and one even went home because she was supposed to get a haircut like Mia Farrow (hellooooooo, that's the biggest compliment!).  She looked a bazillion times better with short hair, by the way.

Remember when Jennifer Lawrence cut her hair and male-Twitter lost their shit?  "Nice Guys" who hide behind their computer screens everywhere were exclaiming that she was no longer "bangable" because she had short hair.  In actuality, Jennifer Lawrence is one of the most beautiful women alive and if by some grand holy miracle she gave any of those idiots the time of day, they would worship her no matter WHAT her goddamn hair looked like.  But guess what, a woman's appearance does not belong to you, we do not care if you think we are "bangable" and we do not groom ourselves to please the Twitterverse.

Short hair isn't for everyone, and it's always best to be who you want and do whatever you want to your hair (hair is dead keratin fibers...gross).  But don't ever think that you HAVE to have a certain haircut or color because of a boyfriend, girlfriend, family member, celebrity, Twitter nerd, or whomever.  I also encourage every woman to chop her hair off at least once in her life.  You'll look stunning, I promise.