Monday, July 13, 2015

JJ's Snack Shack hits the California Hot Sauce Expo for it's Debut Pop-Up: Hush Puppies

This past weekend marked the inaugural pop-up event by vegan food recipe developer, photographer, blogger, and social media maven Jackie Sobon of VeganYackAttack and little ol' me as we put our heads (and cooking skills!) together to create JJ's Snack Shack (Get it? JJ's? As in Jackie and Joni? Get it? Get it?)

Our inaugural event was held at the California Hot Sauce Expo in Long Beach at Rainbow Lagoon Park down by the ocean. We put our thinking caps on to come up with a menu that was cohesive, delicious, and made sense for an event that was all about hot sauce. And being the only vegan option at the festival, we wanted to make sure our food was inviting to not only the veg-heads, but anyone looking for a delicious snack at the festival.

It had to be delicious. It had to be approachable. It had to be festival food. We ended up with a Cajun theme...

Buffalo Po'Boys
Battered and fried zucchini spears drenched in buffalo sauce on a french baguette schmeared with spicy aioli and topped with blue cheese coleslaw and sprinkled with green onions.

Hush Puppy Pops
Our hush puppies were a lightly spiced corn batter filled with whole kernels of corn, diced red onion, chopped red and green bell peppers, lots of garlic, and deep fried until golden brown. 3 of these puppies served on a stick drizzled with spicy aioli topped with a smoked salt and chipotle pepper shake and garnished with cilantro.

Funnel Fritters
Mini funnel cakes fried until golden then drizzled with spicy chocolate sauce and powdered sugar.

Sunday Only: Watermelon Mint Agua Fresca
After virtually everyone on Saturday asked us for something to drink on Saturday, we decided to make something to match our menu on Sunday, and Jackie whipped up an amazing watermelon mint agua fresca lightly sweetened with agave. So refreshing and light and paired perfectly with our menu items.

Secret Menu Item: Buffalo Funnel Cake
Erin from Olives for Dinner was the first person to unlock the secret menu item and post about it! Funnel cake batter fried until golden then doused in buffalo sauce topped with blue cheese dressing, spicy aioli, a sprinkle of smoked salt and chipotle pepper shake and green onions.

So many of you that came to the festival asked whether or not Jackie and I had a food truck or a brick and mortar location, and where our next event was going to be...well, we don't have a food truck (yet!) or a brick and mortar (yet!) and we're not quite sure where our next event will be (yet!) I mean, we even made it on the news!

You see, the two of us are really bad ass cooks...and we really love to do stuff like this. So, we'll just have to see where this adventure takes us. Until then, follow Jackie, me, and JJ's Snack Shack to get the latest updates on where we'll be next. And now, because I promised to, here is the recipe for our bad ass hush puppies!

Hush Puppies (This recipe originally appeared in 500 Vegan Recipes)
This version of a Southern classic is beefed up a bit with chopped onions, peppers and whole kernels of corn. They taste great on their own, but even better dipped in a great buffalo, or a creamy spicy aioli (Simply mix together vegan mayo with your favorite hot sauce!) If you have a deep fat fryer, now would be a good time to use it. If you don't, that's okay, the batch in the photo above was made on the stove top in a pot filled with about 3 inches of oil.

Vegetable oil for frying
1 cup (235 ml) plain unsweetened soy or almond milk
2 tablespoons (30 ml) lemon juice
1 cup (140 g) yellow cornmeal
1 cup (125 g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup (136 g) yellow corn kernels
1/4 cup (40 g) finely diced onion
1/4 cup (40 g) finely diced red or green bell pepper
1 tablespoon (15 g) minced garlic

Heat oil to 350°F (180°C).
Combine lemon juice and milk in a measuring cup. It will curdle and become like buttermilk.
In a mixing bowl, mix together corn meal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cayenne pepper.
Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture and stir to combine.
Fold in onion, peppers, and garlic.
Allow to rest for about 10 minutes.
Carefully drop a heaping rounded tablespoon (30 g) worth of batter into the hot oil. (You can add about 4 at a time, just make sure not to over crowd them.)
Fry for 3 to 4 minutes, turning often, until deep golden brown.
Transfer to a paper towel lined plate to absorb excess oil.
Repeat until all batter is used.

Yield: About 20 hush puppies

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Complete Guide to EVEN MORE Vegan Food Substitutions--A sneak preview recipe, and a giveaway!

Sweet Potato and Avocado Sushi, page 196, photo Celine Steen Photography
With an official book release date of July 1, it has been confirmed that Celine Steen and my newest book is now available! That's early, kids, and that almost never happens.

Just real quick...we feel it is very important to note that this book completely stands on its own two feet. It is not a reissue of the original. And it is not full of the same recipes and tips. It plays nicely with its predecessor, but you do not need to own the first one in order to reap the benefits of this handy little guide.

In order to celebrate it's early release, I am going to share one of my favorite recipes from this book. The Sweet Potato and Avocado Sushi.  Now, I am going to share the behind the scenes photos I took with my phone. Don't worry, beautiful pictures, like the one at the top of this post, grace the pages of this book. I am just providing these pics to help out with the how to. I leave the real photography to the pros.

I am also giving away a copy of the book, signed by me, to one lucky person. Just follow the prompts in the Rafflecopter widget at the end of this post to enter. I attended the Stop Breaking the Law As#!@* workshop at Vida Vegan Con, so you will see a few changes in the way I run my give aways. Sorry, Canada. Ok, back to the good stuff. Here is a sneak peak recipe from The Complete Guide to EVEN MORE Vegan Food Substitutions.

Sweet Potato and Avocado Sushi
*Gluten-Free Potential
This clever roll mimics the look of an inside out salmon roll, with thin slices of sweet potato standing in for the salmon. The sweet rice plays nicely with the spicy sauce, green onion, and bell pepper. Because of the cooling and prep time involved, you can make this in two nights. One night for prep, and the next day assembly.

For the rice:
1 cup (180 g) arborio rice (sushi rice)
2 cups (470 ml) water
1 tablespoon (20 g) agave nectar
1 tablespoon (15 ml) rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the sweet potatoes:
1/4 cup (60 ml) tamari (use certified gluten-free)
1/4 cup (60 ml) water
2 tablespoons (30 ml) mirin
2 tablespoons (17 g) minced garlic
2 tablespoons (28 g) packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon (15 ml) sesame oil
1 large (about 1 pound, or 454 g) sweet potato

For the spicy sauce:
1/4 cup (g) vegan mayo, store-bought or homemade (page XX)
1 tablespoon (15 ml) sriracha sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil

For the rolls:
3 sheets of nori, cut in half
2 avocados
1 red bell pepper, julienne
6 stalks green onion, ends trimmed
Black sesame seeds, optional as garnish

You will also need:
Aluminum foil
A bamboo sushi rolling mat
A gallon-size (3.8 L) resealable plastic bag
Plastic wrap

To make the rice: Place all ingredients in a rice cooker and follow the instructions on your machine. If you do not have a rice cooker, bring water and salt to a boil in medium saucepan. Stir in rice, agave, and vinegar. Return to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until rice is tender and has absorbed all the liquid, 16 to 18 minutes. Remove from heat and cool completely.
To make the sweet potatoes: Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C, or gas mark 5). Have ready an 8-inch (20-cm) square baking dish.
            In a small mixing bowl, whisk together all ingredients except the sweet potato. Pour a small amount of marinade into the bottom of the baking dish. Peel your sweet potato and slice into thin slices, approximately 1/8-inch (3-mm). Dip each slice in marinade and layer in the baking dish. Pour any remaining marinade into the dish. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, remove foil and cool completely.
To make the spicy sauce: Whisk ingredients together until well combined. Keep refrigerated until ready to use.

To assemble the rolls: Place your bamboo mat inside a re-sealable bag. Place on a flat work surface with the bag opening facing away from you. Place one half-sheet of nori on the edge closest to you. Add a layer of cooled rice to completely cover the nori about 1/4-inch (6-mm) thick. Flip over so the rice is face down on the plastic and nori is side up. Spread a thin layer of spicy sauce on the nori.
            To the center of the nori sheet, layer 2 to 3 slices of cooled sweet potato1/4 of one avocado, sliced, about 3 julienne strips of red bell pepper, and 1 stalk of green onion. Carefully roll the sushi as tightly as possible to close and create an inside out roll.
            Open mat and make sure roll is seam side up. Lay several pieces of sweet potato over the seam, making sure to overlap the edges. Cover the entire roll with plastic wrap, then reroll in the bamboo mat to form the sweet potato around the roll. Leaving the roll in the plastic wrap, lay the roll sweet potato side up.
            Using a very sharp knife, cut off each end of the roll and discard (or eat!). Then cut the roll in half. Then cut each half into quarters, and finally each quarter into eights.
Carefully remove each piece from the plastic and plate. Garnish with black sesame seeds if desired.
            Serve with spicy sauce for dipping.

Yield: 6 rolls (48 pieces)


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, June 15, 2015

Vida Vegan Con Takes Texas

I returned home over a week ago, but it seems like a whirlwind. Like it was only a few days ago. I returned home from an epic journey that included bonding, eating a ton of amazing vegan food, the Texas Two-Step, eating a ton of amazing vegan food, learning, eating a ton of amazing vegan food, community, eating a ton of amazing vegan food, inspiration, and, did I mention, eating a ton of amazing vegan food?

I am talking, of course, about the phenomenon that is known as the Vida Vegan Con. Back in 2011 three amazing women (Jess, Michelle, and Janessa) created the first ever conference specifically for vegan bloggers. It was almost an experiment in social behavior. What would happen when we pull hundreds of vegan bloggers out from behind the safety of their monitors and put them in one place IN REAL LIFE? Magic. That's what happened. Classes, and workshops, community building and, of course, awesome vegan eats. Ask anyone that attended that first year. It was absolutely life changing!

Two years later Vida Vegan Con II happened.  Bigger and better than before. It was an emotional VVC, as those who missed the first one were damn sure not going to miss the second one. Plant-based eating was now a "thing" and there seemed to be a schism in the world of veganism. Are we doing it for the animals or for our health? Emotions ran high. We had hard conversations. We learned the power of our words. But again, ask anyone who attended either for the first time, or second. Absolutely life changing.

And this year, the third and final Vida. Pulled up from its roots in Portland and headed south to Austin, Texas. How awesome! A new place, a new group of folks, and new awesome vegan eats! In my brain, Austin is not very far from Long Beach (in all actuality it as about as far from SoCal as it is from Miami, and it took over 20 hours to drive there) so I thought it would be fun to drive down. My reasons were selfish...If I drove, I would have a car, I could pack as much crap as I wanted, and I wouldn't have to worry about the airlines confiscating my Swag Bag of Wonder! So, I packed up a cooler full of snacks and hit the road with the company of Jackie and Sayward. (#veganladyroadtrip) Once in Austin we would join our other roomies, Nicole and Caroline, for an epic slumber party in the Trendy Trailer.

Day 1: Monday. Leave LA, stop in Phoenix for dinner at Green, dessert at Nami, and continue through New Mexico and into El Paso before calling it a night and checking in to a Super 8 for some shut eye.

Day 2: Tuesday. Made it to Austin! Drove pretty much straight through the day. Only stopping for gas and potty breaks. We did make one quick stop to take a selfie in front of an old stage coach station. We arrived in Austin, checked into the Trendy Trailer, met our ex-pat traveling vegan extraordinaire, Nicole, and wasted no time heading downtown to Arlo's for our first Texas tacos, tots, maybe a drink or two, and to just be super excited that we had arrived. Made it back to Trendy Trailer and met our new friend for the week, an adorably sweet and friendly cat we named Taquito. We brought her a can of Vegan Toona. She was not impressed.

Day 3: Wednesday. Really, our only day to do whatever we wanted, because the rest of the week would be packed full of preplanned activities. So...we ATE! We met up with our fifth roomie, Caroline, and her awesome friend Jess, and went to breakfast at Bouldin Creek Cafe (where I got the tamale breakfast) then we went to Rabbit Food Grocery to do some shopping, then headed home for a refresh, then back out for more foods! We tried to hit up BBQ revolution, however they were sold out and closed for the day. No biggie, Bistro Vonish was right next door, and I think it was a blessing in disguise, because his food was f'ing amazeballs. Elevated and delicious, and we had the bonus of meeting up with Joanna while we were there! After dinner, Chef Craig took us behind the trailers to meet two rescue pigs that live there. They have thick black hair and rough skin. Skin so thick and rough it feels good if we pet them with forks! That's right, a bunch of vegans petting piggies with forks. Lol. That night we also hooked up with Kelly and hit the town for some Austin entertainment. We went to the Continental Club where we watched some live local bands, had some drinks, then called it a night.

Day 4: Thursday. We did have a minute to venture out for lunch, so we hit up Mother's, the oldest vegetarian restaurant in Austin, and ordered up the veggie burger voted "Best in the World" before heading over to the Unofficial-but-Totally-Official-Meet-and-Greet at Buzzmill Coffee where we finally got to meet up with VVCers from year's passed and new friends all while snacking on Ice Cream from Sweet Ritual (more on that later), egg rolls, and tacos from the Golden Spike Rail Cart. Afterwards the five of us hit up the Wheatsville Coop and got foods for dinner/snacking back at the trailer.

Day 5: Friday. The Bazaar and first day of panels. This was pretty spectacular. Set up like an all vegan EXPO inside a giant room, with movie theatres transformed into classrooms for panels, and a whole table full of Miyoko's cheeses in the snack bar lobby...just awesome. Spent all day there. Eating, talking, learning, and shopping for awesome vegan stuff. My publisher, Fairwinds Press, was a major sponsor of the entire event, so Katie and Amanda had a big table at the bazaar with over 26 different vegan titles! I attended most of the panels. Gene Baur's intro talk, Bianca's Kombucha demo, Terry Hope Romero's inspirational talk, The Vegan Family and Parenting panel, and the How We Made Austin Awesome panel. Friday night we went to dinner with Brian (aka the Sexy Vegan) at Counter Culture.

Day 6: Saturday. The official first day of the conference. Check in, breakfast, welcome in the big ball room and then time to hit the books...I mean classes. So many great classes. On Saturday, I attended Jackie's social media class, then the veganism and feminism panel, then taught my own class on cookbook writing, then lunch! A vegans-love-bowls-buffet. Perfect! After lunch was a marketing panel and a class on touring your book or project by Nicole Georges that I enjoyed very much. After the conference we all wanted to go to Capital City Bakery for the party, but it was way too crowded and it was raining. So we did the next best thing...we decided to go out for dinner at Bouldin Creek with our whole crew, plus Brian, plus Caroline's friend Carrie who lives in Austin. We ate delicious foods, then went out to Sweet Ritual for dessert. They sell Capital City Brownies at Sweet Ritual, so I got a bowl of peanut butter ice cream on top of the brownie with salted caramel on top. Whaaa??? After ice cream, a few of us wanted to do karaoke, but that was an epic flop, so we headed to a little bar for some drinks. We had a good time. Lots of laughs, and then home to get ready for the final day of Vida.

Day 7: Sunday. Started off a little rocky (too much fun the night before) but we arrived with enough time to grab a little breakfast off the artisan toast buffet (so much avocado!) and snuck into the Stop breaking the law, Ass#$%! workshop, led by Randi Milgram, a few minutes late. After that, it was off to the blog to entrepreneur class taught by Jill Pyle of Vegan Cuts. After that, it was all about learning how I'm doing social media all wrong by Brian Patton, then lunch! It was an epic taco buffet. I had mac and cheese on my tacos.

After lunch was the New Vegan Economy Panel, which was AMAZING. Totally motivated me to really take my vegan message to the next level. I am not sure how quite yet, but it's coming. I feel it in my bones. Next up was a class led by the EcoVegan Gal, Whitney, about how to make kick ass YouTube videos, which is something I have yet to try that might be a new adventure for me...And the final class was a Kickstart your vegan dreams discussion and panel led by Terry Hope Romero. We all met up one last time in the ballroom for a final farewell. Not gonna lie. Lots of tears were shed. But then this happened:


After the conference ended, everyone headed over to the after party at Cheer up Charlie's. They had the most amazing cocktail menu!

More food! This time I went with the Bacon Cheeseburger from Arlo's. Drinks, tears, and community as we said our final goodbyes...well mostly final.

Day 8: Monday. Sayward left for home early Monday morning. Jackie went on her own morning adventure which led her to chicken and waffles with gravy at Unity Vegan Kitchen, which definitely made Nicole and I want summadat, so we headed over to get some of that. Lucky us! There were some other leftover VVCers there as well. Yay for lots of vegans wherever you go! After that we did some shopping and miss Caroline left us to stay with an Austin friend before hitting the airport. We had enough time to squeeze in one more trip to Sweet Ritual, before heading back to the trailer to get ready for our last night in Texas. We grabbed a quick dinner at Thai Fresh and then we hit up a honky tonk for some real live Texas Two Steppin' at the Rattle Inn. Thanks to Wes for teaching me how it's done.

Day 9: Tuesday. Time to say goodbye to Taquito (our trailer cat friend) and Texas. Jackie and I headed north into New Mexico where we stopped in Albuquerque for Thai Vegan, then continued into Arizona and made it into Flagstaff before calling it a night. It was on this leg of the trip that we discovered hick-hop. It cannot be unheard. I admit, though, that it was perfect road trippin' music as we trekked through farm land and countryside. (And we might be a little guilty of doing a little carseat dancing.')

Day 10: Wednesday. The last leg of the journey. It started with breakfast at the cutest hippie coffee shop and vegetarian restaurant in Flagstaff, Macy's, and then we ventured to the Grand Canyon because neither of us had really seen it before (I may have gone when I was quite young, but have no memory of it.) and then home. Pfew.


(You can read my full recap of Vida Vegan Con 2011 here. And here. And here. You can read my full recap of Vida Vegan Con 2013 here. If you'd rather hear my recap of VVC, you can listen to Episode 6 of Vegan Road Rants. For the best ever recaps of all 3 VVCs you should really check out Erika's blog Sews Before Bros where she has the most in depth recaps of workshops and the conference. Bonus, Erika is awesome. Another awesome place to check out VVC recaps is over at Amey's blog Vegan Eats and Treats. She took tons of photos that really capture the energy of the event, and includes her own drawings of what was happening as well. If you are a visual learner, check out Ted Lai's YouTube channel where he is posting his sketch note sessions from each of the workshops he attended.)
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All recipes written by me, Joni Marie Newman, unless otherwise noted. Please feel free to refer to or link back to any of my recipes, but please ask for permission, or remember to give credit when reprinting recipes in their entirety. I do provide links to affiliate programs (such as Amazon) in which I receive a small commission for items purchased. I do not provide paid reviews. All reviews done on products or books are of my own unsolicited opinion. On occasion I may receive a book or product to review. I will note when this is the case, but rest assured, it will not affect the authenticity of my review. Thanks!--Joni