Food, Fun, Travel in 2015, and My Favorite Recipe of 2014

Let’s cut to the chase (or cheese): 2014 was a pretty damn good year for me. Sometimes the gods decide not to rain on your parade, and you actually get to march in it, dressed in full regalia, twirling that baton and flashing that big smile at everyone. This was that kind of year. In times past, it had sometimes felt like more than a few lightning bolts were tossed my way by the gods of Mt. Olympus, but last year, if any were thrown, they merely set me on fire in a great way, and enabled me to finish writing  my next book and launch Miyoko’s Kitchen, my new vegan cheese company. Of course, I got more than a little help from my friends – in fact, it was a grand parade filled with friends, family members, and supporters who all helped carry the banner by doing everything from testing recipes to launching the business. I hardly have words to express the fullness of my heart for all that I have received from so many! And you gods up there, wherever you are – thank you, too!

Michael and me in Bahamas

It was also a really fun year, and one of the highlights was the Vegan Vacation at Sea cruise through the Caribbean that I was so lucky to be a part of.  For a week around Halloween, I got to hobnob with the Vegan Black Metal Chef, Isa Moskowitz, Jason Wrobel, Eco Vegan Gal, and the Vegan Zombie boys, as we sailed from port to port enjoying excursions, sun, surf, beaches, and vegan food, and forging new friendships with vegans from around the world.  This brand new company started by a super sunny couple, Franci and Curtis Kettman, knows how to party it up right, and in 2015,  brings you an even bigger, better, more amazing cruise to a place no vegan ship has gone before: Alaska. This September, I hope you’ll join us as we set sail from Seattle to Glacier Bay and Ketchikan, enjoying cooking demos, shore excursions, and ice burgs! This year, in addition to Vegan Black Metal Chef and the Zombie boys, we’ll have the chocolate queen herself, Fran Costigan. Gee, chocolate and cheese –who could ask for anything more? Details can be found here.

vegan vacation Alaska

And if seasickness or cold climates bother you, but you’d love to revel in wonderful vegan food and company, how about traipsing through gorgeous Italy with me next July? While the highlight and focus of the Vegano Italiano Festival 2015, put on by Tierno Tours and Green Earth Travel, is the amazing food of the region, there will be plenty of sightseeing as well as we wind our way from Naples through the stunning Amalfi Coast to the ruins of Pompeii. But the food, oh yes, the food! Southern Italy is a region that is rich in dishes that are naturally plant-based, and I have had some of my best meals there. Te tour operators know of secret, hidden places you might not stumble upon, and last year’s tour was supposedly an utter eating fest – who cared about the sights! This culinary adventure will include cooking lessons and visits to farms and producers where we will get a glimpse at how some of the best food on the planet is created. I hope you’ll join me July 18 to 25 for this grand opportunity (and if you feel you’ll need to get a workout or two in between meals, we’ll be joined by the one-and-only Matt Frazier, the No-Meat Athlete, who’ll make sure you walk or run it all off!). Details can be found here.



Vegano Italiano

And now, for the recipe.

I hate it when anyone ever asks me “What’s your top 10 favorite recipes?” It’s worse when they want me to narrow it down to just 5. So how about just one? Why am I doing this to myself? Because last year, I resurrected an old recipe I hadn’t made for years, and found it so easy and comforting that I made it multiple times – which is unusual in a household where the same dish (other than rice and veggies) are eaten more than once or twice in a year. And no, it doesn’t contain cheese. It’s an old favorite of Japanese kids called “Oyako Donburi,” which is traditionally a dish of eggs and chicken over rice. It is the Japanese equivalent of mac and cheese or fried chicken – something savory and comforting that takes all of your ills away. In one of my earlier cookbooks, Japanese Cooking: Contemporary and Traditional (Book Publishing Company, 1999), I veganized this dish from my childhood. Last year, I rediscovered it, and couldn’t stop making this simple dish over and over again. I share this with you now as my fave recipe from 2014.

Oyako donburi

Oyako Donburi

2 cups dashi* or vegetable stock

4 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari

3 tablespoons mirin

1 tablespoon sugar or other sweetener (e.g. brown rice syrup)

1 onion, sliced

8 ounces chicken-style seitan or other vegan chicken

8 ounces broccoli florets

8 ounces silken tofu

5 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot

Dash or turmeric for color

5 to 6 cups hot rice (brown or white)

Place the stock, soy sauce, mirin, sweetener, and onion in a deep skillet and simmer gently for about 5 minutes. Add the seitan pieces and broccoli florets, and continue simmering until the onions are very tender. There should still be ample liquid in the pan.

Puree the tofu, cornstarch, and turmeric in a blender until smooth. Pour into the simmering mixture, but do not stir. Swish the pan around a bit to allow some of the liquid to come over the tofu. Cover the pan and simmer until the tofu is firm to the touch, about 7 minutes. There should still be sauce in the pan.

Divide the rice into 3 large donburi bowls. Lift out the mixture with a spatula or large spoon and top each bowl of rice with some. Pour any additional sauce on top.

*Dashi is Japanese-style stock that is sometimes available in a vegan version at Asian grocery stores. My book also has recipes for making your own.

From Japanese Cooking: Contemporary and Traditional by Miyoko Schinner (Book Publishing Co., © 1999).