Monday, January 31, 2011

Everyday Vegan Food

What do vegans eat on days that they're not feeling particularly creative? Everything but the kitchen sink apparently. I haven't made anything note-worthy lately, but just in case you wonder what we eat on every other kind of day, this would be close to it. Sometimes a bunch of color on a plate is the best thing in the world. I sauteed up some portobello and button mushrooms, zucchini, summer squash, onions, red peppers, collards, and threw in some baked tofu for good measure. These veggies didn't need anything added. They're all so flavorful on their own. This is the perfect meal to counteract the french fry binge yesterday. Wooops! 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

My First Raw Vegan Recipe Thanks To Amber Shea - 5 Minute Vegan Blondies

Back when I was a former vegetarian gone omnivore, Nate and I were invited over once for 5 course raw vegan meal by a super sweet couple. The reason they invited us in the first place was for our open-mindedness to pretty much any kind of food. I was really intrigued by the whole "raw" thing because it seemed very new to me (this was over 10 years ago.) They prepared a very involved meal of raw sushi, butternut squash soup, avocado dip and some kind of of cake, perhaps carrot? Anyway, after driving away from that meal I felt incredibly ill  to my stomach and was unable to eat avocado again for 10 years. Since then of course I would have loved that meal and appreciated the time and money that would have gone into making such a spread. It truly must have taken them 2 days to make it all. I guess I wasn't as open minded as I thought. Come to think of it, maybe it was the lava lamp lighting that did the meal in for me. 

What in the heck is my point? Oh yeah, raw food. Since going vegan I found Amber Shea's blog; Almost Vegan. She says her diet is 99 percent vegan cheating only every so often which I love. If I were honest, my diet would probably fall near the 99 percent mark too. In the last few months she went to 105 degrees (a raw chef school) and is now a raw chef herself. I've been wanting to learn more about raw food, so her blog was an awesome find for me. What's even cooler is that she lives in Kansas City too and is writing a super cool vegan/raw/freaking awesome cookbook! I'm so excited! I have yet to find a book that is balanced and includes both raw and vegan recipes that isn't super preachy (which I don't mind for myself, but know most people don't like that so much.) For once I had all the ingredients for one of her raw recipes, a 5-Minute Single Serve Raw Blondie. YUM! Instead of putting the whole thing in one small muffin tin, I used 4 mini sized muffin tins. One of the smaller portion was all I needed. I love this recipe because it's super flexible. You can use a variety of different nuts and/or different kinds of dried fruit. I can't wait for your cookbook Amber! And of course you know I'm a more than willing tester :)

Nate's Two Cents:  Note to raw vegans:  A great way to get a non-raw vegan turned on to your cause is to make a raw dessert.  And make lots of it.  And serve it up with a nice hot cup of coffee with one raw sugar.  Are you listening, Tara? JK.  Anyway I agree about that meal we shared years back:  I'd appreciate it so much more at this point in my journey to wholefoodness, rather than at that point, when I thought meat was a necessity at every meal.   A nice big slice of avocado on a romaine leaf sounds pretty appetizing to me now.  Thanks, Amber, for the great blondie recipe.  And thanks, raw food people whom we feared out of ignorance: We really do remember that meal differently now.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

I wanna like them, but I just really don't.

As I've probably said a million times on here already; Nate's a pasta guy. I wanted to make him something that I thought might resemble one of his old favorites, so I made these Black-Eyed Pea and Tempeh Beanballs.This one fell very short for us. I actually don't think there's anything wrong with this recipe. I read a few other blogger's perspective on the same recipe, and they seemed to like them. I'm actually really learning to like tempeh a lot, it's just that while these look like meatballs, they just aren't. It's not that I'm missing meat, but when things look like meat and are weirdly not, it just doesn't work for me. My kids and hubbie gave them a valiant effort which always pleases the cook, but I don't think these will be tomorrow's lunch. Are beanballs just an acquired taste, or am I just not hard-core vegan enough yet to appreciate them? 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Seitan and Barley Stew

This is an old standby recipe a friend shared with me for Beef and Barley Stew. This is a simple recipe that everyone always loved, so I thought I'd try it with seitan. This is snowy day sort of stew. Something warm always helps me feel a little less gloomy on a dreary, cold day.

Vegan "Beef" Seitan and Barley Stew
3/4 C. Frozen Cut Green Beans
1 1/2 C. Frozen Sweet White Corn
2/3 Log of Seitan O' Greatness, cut in small cubes
1/2 cup Bell Pepper, chopped
1 C. Yellow onion, chopped
4 Cloves Garlic minced
2/3 C. Uncooked Pearled Barley
1 t. Thyme
1/4 t. Pepper
5 C. Water and 5 t. Better than Bouillon Reduced Veggie Bouillon, or 5 C. Veggie Broth
1 T. Tomato Paste
1- 2 cans (14.5 oz) Petite Diced Tomatoes Undrained (Depending on how much you like tomatoes.)
1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
1 T. Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Heat small dutch oven over medium high heat. Add olive oil. Add onions, garlic, and bell pepper. Saute for a few minutes. Rinse green beans and corn with cold water to separate and partially thaw. Mix green beans, corn and remaining ingredients into dutch oven. Heat until simmering. Simmer for 1-2 hours on stove, or put in oven at 250 degrees for 2 -3 hours. Add seitan about 30 minutes from the end of cooking time. Oh, and FYI: This stew is best the second day, or made in the morning, so that the barley has time to plump up. At first the stew will seem too thin, but after a few hours of sitting on the stove it will thicken right up.

Also, I hadn't gotten my hands on a copy of The Engine 2 Diet before last week. I love the library! I have some loved ones for whom I'm always trying to find a few healthy recipes, and this one has a few I'll keep in mind. I love that there's a book that promotes a vegan diet that is apparently going more mainstream that is even guy friendly. Hopefully the info that is in this book will get people thinking more about their overall health and not just their weight. While at Whole Foods the other day, I noticed a bunch of stickers near products that said "Engine 2 Diet" friendly. Anyway, there was a Quick Bran Muffin recipe for bran muffins that includes nothing more than a box of mix, a couple of bananas and water (though I did use soy milk instead.) I used Hodson Mill's mix. It isn't perfect as far as being "whole," but it's an easy option that's better than store bought muffins. I though they were yummy for something that is easy to throw together :)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A New Tempeh-tation - Chesapeake Tempeh Cakes

Granted: Much of the world still thinks that vegans are weirdos. Even as a former vegetarian, I though a vegan diet was a little extreme. No matter on what end of the spectrum you fall, you can't say that vegan chefs aren't creative. Since scoring Vegan Brunch yesterday, and reading about the Chesapeake Tempeh Cakes, I am even more amazed at the resourcefulness of said chefs. These Tempeh "crab" cakes are absolutely delicious. Adding a little nori gives it a little taste of the sea while the fresh red bell pepper lends a freshness, and the panko breading adds the yummy crunch. Ooohh, and the spicy remoulade is equally as awesome. When I make this recipe again (note, I said when and not if) I would instead of smashing the tempeh with a fork, whir the whole mixture maybe once or twice in my food processor. I think it would have held together better if I did that. Maybe I'm just a wimp with a  fork, or too impatient. This recipe inspires me to make Jack Fruit fish. More on that to come....

Nate's Two Cents:  I used to tell Tara that crabcakes were in my top ten favorite dishes (four of the other nine are Italian), so I was pretty excited to try a vegan version.  As it turns out, meatless crabcakes are delicious (they don't taste exactly like crab, but in a way that's for the best--wouldn't you be suspicious?).  Put your heads together, vegan wordsmiths.  We need to come up with a catchy name for this dish.  Tara already described the composition pretty exhaustively, so I'll just add two words: Joe Biden. And yes, that IS my attempt to get Tara's blog on the radar of someone in the White House.

This is the before picture of the tastily ever after.

Oh, and check out my sous-chef whipping up the remoulade. Nate doesn't normally like to help me in the kitchen because he thinks I'm a little controlling (ahem.) It was fun to have him help :)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Vegan Sausage Gravy and Whole Wheat Biscuits

Last night we went out with friends for sushi. We had miso soup, edamame, tofu and veggie rolls which were delish. I guess I was feeling a little entitled today after all that healthfulness. After seeing Vegan Pandamonium's post on Sausage Biscuits and Gravy, I had to have them. I even went out of my way to the store just to get veg sausage. This recipe is about as far from healthy you can get--for real. However, in an attempt to ease my conscience I made whole wheat biscuits. That doesn't really take away the fact that this recipe was doused with a heavy dose of Earth Balance. Ah well! It was fun to fool my 8 year old into thinking he was eating real sausage. He is often floored that something vegan can be so good. He's always trying to catch me being a non-vegan. Still even with all the fat, can I at least feel  better that this meal didn't have any cholesterol? C'mon work with me people :)

Nate's Two Cents:  Enough already about how it isn't "that" good for you, Tara!  Let me enjoy the illusion that I can have my biscuits'n'gravy without the guilt.  This recipe has to be better for you than the carni version, which as far I know still features enough cholesterol to stop a yak's heart.  Basically, my brilliant, erudite evaluation of this dish is: I thought it was really, really good.  Even if you're not a fan of fauxsages like "Gimme Lean" or whatever it is Tara used, you'll hardly think about it, given that the overall taste of the dish is so country good.  

In other news, I was super excited to find Vegan Brunch today at Half Price books. I rarely get lucky enough to find an awesome cookbook there that I actually already wanted. These biscuits were the Herbed Whole Wheat Drop Biscuits (sans the herbs) from page 187. The author states that she can't be "bothered to do 'cut-out' biscuits anymore." It really is an extra stupid step that I'd rather avoid too if at all possible. Less mess for sure except for the flour that ends up all over my shirt in the process!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Randomness - Or Things I've Made As Of Late

I'm a major perfectionist. It's a real problem. Either I have all my clothes ordered by color in style in my closet, or I have the Mt. Everest of laundry. My little problem bleeds into my food photography, not that I really know what I'm doing. I hate it when I can't get a great picture of something I really loved. And to top it all off, I have the worst light known to man in my house. (I'm not dramatic at all.) Anyway, in an effort to cleanse myself of my perfectionism, I will post food that doesn't look great, but tasted good nevertheless :) The above Potato Asparagus Soup (page 66) recipe is from Vegan With A Vengence. Gone are the days of creamy vegetable soups, but I can't say I miss them. Soup is supposed to be hearty without making you feel like you ate a couple of sticks of butter or 10 cups of cream (which was basically my old potato soup recipe.) This bowl of soup grew on me. Incidentally, if you live in the KC area, Bread of Life bread is A-mazing. Really, It may be better than Ezekiel bread IMO. You can buy it at some Farmer's markets, and at Green Acres market. I cut it up and browned it in a wee bit of olive oil. Such a nice addition to this soup :)

Nate's Two Cents:  Some combos don't work for me.  At Italian restaurants my dad drinks coffee with his lasagna. I used to think it was a grown-up thing, but at 34 I still don't get it--how do his tastebuds unscramble that madness in his mouth? This, however, is a sensible combo that is tasty, light, mild on the stomach, and good for you.  It's perfect with a sandwich on the side, or even just a nice thick slice of toast.

This is Kind Diet recipe. I like this cookbook because as a new vegan it introduced me to a bunch of different ingredients I hadn't really heard of. This is the Warm Potato, Soybean, and Cucumber Salad. I don't know, but there's something I really like about this salad. This was also the first time I used Umeboshi Vinegar which Alicia Silverstone favors highly. It's in a lot of other stuff in the book. The crispiness of the cucumbers, the warmth of the potatoes and the bite of the edamame was really satisfying. At least it was to me anyway :)

Yet another Kind Diet recipe. This is Pan-Fried Mochi (page 237.) Mine don't look as gooey as the picture, but this is surprisingly really good. I thought it was weird to add soy sauce to something sweet, but it really adds something. My 8 year old loves having this as his snack sometimes. I love that it's drizzled with brown rice syrup (which doesn't freak him out as much as other sweet things), and it is a great source of fiber. This is a great way to trick your kids that they're having something really bad :)

This is Silas; the best little kitchen tester in town. He is always seeing me taking pictures of this or that, and insisted on getting in the Mochi picture :)

This last one is from Appetite for Reduction. These Black Bean, Zucchini, and Olive Tacos don't look fancy, but I have to say they were quite delicious for a simple dish. I did change up a few things. I didn't have kalamata olives (or at least I didn't  want to pay 5 bucks for them because I had already gone off the deep end with my grocery fund this week), so I used black olives instead. I also threw in a cup of frozen corn for good measure. You cook all this up in salsa verde. I love the addition of sliced jalapeƱos. This is the perfect meal to make when you have a hair appointment to get to and don't want to mess around too much in the kitchen, or is it just I that makes my hair appointment every month a major priority? Anyway, there you have it. A week in the life of said Vegan Piggy :)

Nate's Two Cents:  I think Tara thought I was patronizing her when I said it, but I actually really liked this recipe.  The green filler doesn't just make the taco pretty.  It actually works as a new layer of taste.  The closest thing I've had to this was a taco from a street vendor in Tijuana sixteen years ago.  Unlike that time, I know exactly what is in this recipe, and the person making it isn't smoking a cigar and laughing diabolically for no apparent reason.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

From Tofu Indifferent To Tofu Obsessed?

Not too long ago, albeit early in my vegan career, I decided I didn't like tofu that much. Since then, I've become tofu obsessed. Apparently I was just buying sub-standard tofu, so each recipe just tasted ick because of that. We have a local company that produces tofu and tempeh by the name of Central Soy Foods. They make the most delicious smoked nigari tofu. It's hands down my favorite I have tried so far. It just so happens that central soy also makes a really great tempeh, or at least I like it better than the other brands I've tried as well. I'm not sure how far Central Soy's influence extends into other states, but I'm happy that for once the Midwest has something to offer the vegan world. Also, I learned that I really love tofu baked first before using it in any kind of recipe, and love it even more so after it sits in the refrigerator overnight for a yummy sandwich the next day. Tofu will still be more of a treat. I'm still more than happy to eat whole proteins rather than processed ones, but either way, I love having the option to change things up. 

Another current obsession is my new cookbook; Appetite for Reduction. I think most recipes can go less heavy handed on oils and butters, so having a new cookbook with tons of those kinds of recipes that show a little restraint in those areas is a lovely new addition to my cookbook shelf. I pretty much love anything Isa Chandra Moskowitz does though. She's amazing. I love how New York all her cookbooks are, pulling always from so many different cultures. I pulled the Basic Baked Tofu recipe out of AFR. It's marinated in veggie broth, balsamic, tamari, garlic, thyme and maybe a few other things. Anyway, such a simple marinade with great results. You'll probably hear more about these recipes in the weeks to come. I love being challenged to veer away from the rut vegetables I normally buy at every trip to the grocery store. I look forward to trying a bunch of new stuff!

Nate's Two Cents:  Tofu is one of those last frontiers a former carnivore must eventually conquer before he can officially declare himself vegan.  Tempeh is the other.  I think I've planted my flag in the tofu at last.  Tara's served it to me a half-dozen different ways, most of which I like, and after Asian stir-fry, this smoked thing is my favorite way to have it.  The smoky flavor is potent and inviting, like a cross between a tailgate barbecue and a Japanese play. (Yes, I know tofu is Chinese in origin.  Just go with it).  The texture is still cheese-like, but more dense, like a heavy block of ricotta, so that the delicate pieces break off in chunks rather than crumbles. (Tara's going to insist that tofu isn't anything like ricotta, but I should know, given that I used to love ricotta so much I ate it with a spoon straight out of the cup).  And no, it doesn't taste anything like chicken.  Anyway, it travels well in a sandwich, and plays well with mushrooms.  What more could I ask for?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Vegan Spinach and Mushroom Orzo

Nate's a pasta guy; twirly pasta, tubular, rectangular, spherical. It doesn't matter much to him. Growing up his family had pasta night every Monday, so he got used to consuming massive quantities of carbs from a very young age. I'm not sure I cooked orzo before this dish. I picked up a big bag of it from the bulk section at the store, and contemplated what in the world to do with it. This dish was super yummy. The olive oil adds some richness to it, but you could reduce the amount a little if you'd like to lower the fat content. The trick with mushrooms for me is to always saute them separately, so that they retain that caramelized and brown goodness. You could throw it all together, but adding the spinach and mushrooms in last gives it more of a freshness.

Vegan Spinach and Mushroom Orzo

2 T. Olive Oil
1 T. Earth Balance Butter
1 Small Red Onion, chopped
3 Garlic Cloves, chopped
1/8 t. Cayenne
1 1/2 C. Uncooked Orzo, Whole Wheat Ideally
3 C. Veggie Broth (I use Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Reduced Salt.)
8-16 oz Sliced Mushrooms of your choice, the more the merrier
3-4 Handfuls of Fresh Spinach, chopped thinly
Sea Salt and Pepper to taste

Heat 1 T olive oil and 1 T. Earth Balance in deep pot on medium high heat. Add onions and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cayenne, and saute about a minute longer. Make sure not to burn the garlic. Add the broth. Bring to a boil, stirring in the meantime. Add the orzo. Reduce the heat to low, and  simmer for about 20-30 minutes. In the meantime heat remaining olive oil in a saute pan over medium high heat. Add the mushrooms (with a sprinkle of salt) and saute until brown and yummy (the trick is to not stir them too often.) Remove from heat, and set aside. Check the orzo, when the broth is mostly absorbed stir in the spinach and mushrooms. Cook an additional minute or two. Add salt and pepper if needed. Serve with crusty bread and a simple salad.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Vintage Vegan - Seitan o' Greatness

Four years ago when I was yet to be a vegan, there was a major vegan internet storm about a circulating seitan recipe. I've tried to make my own seitan a few times, but I found that baked seitan is easiest to make. This recipe for Seitan o' Greatness is just about perfect. I made it as is the first time even though I had major reservations about the spice mixture. The original recipe calls for allspice and cinnamon. It tasted too much like pumpkin meat to me. There was no getting around those spices when trying to add this seitan to something like stroganoff or some other kind of wine stew recipe. I decided to give this recipe another try with a little tweaking. I ended up making a sandwich out of the first little bit. I sauteed up some mushrooms and thinly sliced red onions, and topped it off with a little spinach. Quite yummy :) I do still like boiled seitan for breaded and sauteed dishes, but this recipe holds up nicely for a sandwich.

Seitan O'Greatness

1.5 C. Vital Wheat Gluten
1/4 C. Nutritional Yeast
1/2 - 1 t. Sea Salt
2 t. Smoked Paprika (This gives it a smoky flavor)
1/4 tsp Cumin
1 tsp White Pepper (I prefer white pepper in this recipe.)
1/8 - 1/4 t. Cayenne Pepper
2 tsp Garlic Powder

3/4 C. Water
4 tbsp tomato paste
1T. Tamari
2 T.Vegan Worcestershire Sauce

Preheat oven to 325°. In a mixing bowl mix dry ingredients. Mix the rest of the liquid ingredients in a smaller mixing bowl. Whisk well until mixed. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients. Mix well, then knead for a minute or two. I use my Kitchen aid kneading attachment for a few minutes. Form into a log. Wrap tightly in foil. Twist the ends. Bake for 90 minutes. Put directly on the cooking rack rather than on a pan. The first time I cooked it, it got tough on the bottom. Turn once in the middle of the baking time. Cool, and serve. I store mine in a zip lock bag

Dry ingredients

After kneading.

Wrapped before baking.

Sliced and ready to go.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Vegan Blueberry Almond Granola

Granola is a blessing and a curse in our house. The blessing is all its nutritional goodness; the curse is all the dishes it creates. Nate probably won't mind me telling you about his little problem. I would guess that he could down 12 cups of granola a day, but his greater sensibilities create a much needed desire for moderation. If you purchase granola pre-made in the store you gain time, but lose flavor. I find most store bought versions are bulked up with chintzy rice puffs, or are crazy expensive. I do admit that this isn't cheap to make, but if the hubs is happy, then it's worth it to me. I hadn't made any lately, and Nate was starting to look a little morose, so I decided to be the kind wife that I am and make him some. I've made this recipe in a million different ways. The original recipe came from The Kind Diet, but I've changed it so many times and know it by heart that I may as well write it down for posterity. I'm not a raisin kind of girl, but of course you can substitute anything you like.

Nate's Favorite Granola
Adaptation from The Kind Diet

6 C. Quick Oats
3/4 C. Wheat Germ
1/2 C. Brown Sugar (Or Maple Sugar if you aren't broke.)
1/2 C. Sunflower Seeds
1 C. Almonds, Chopped
3/4 C. Dried Blueberries
1/2 C. Oil of Choice, I use organic canola
1/3 - 1/2 C. Maple Syrup or Brown Rice Syrup
1-2 t. Vanilla or 1 t. Molasses 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour quick oats in a 13 x 9 pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven. In a large bowl combine oats, wheat germ, sugar, nuts, and dried fruit. Stir to combine. In a small bowl add pour in oil, syrup, and vanilla (or molasses.) Whisk to combine. Pour over oat mixture and stir to coat mixture well. Pour back in 13 x 9, and bake for 10-20 minutes. Stir granola mid cooking time so that it browns evenly. Watch that you don't burn it. We like our granola a little crispy, but it's a fine line between burnt and perfection. Let cool in pan before serving. Store in an airtight container. Enjoy :)

Nate's Two Cents:  I should probably look into a twelve-step program for my addiction to Tara's granola.  GA or something like that.  I blame my mother--she may not have sprung for Froot Loops when I was a tot, but we always had soft, dusty muesli mixes around.  So I learned to prefer "natural" cereals--the gateway drug.  Then Tara introduced me to homemade granola, and one thing led to another, and you know the rest--now I find myself hitting the granola jar morning and night.  She used to dot the mix with little craisins, but lately she's replaced the craisins with blueberries, and now I believe the mix is absolutely perfect.  Of course.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Vegan Blondies with Chocolate Chips

Am I still alive? Indeed! Sorry to have gone of the grid for a while. I had taken a little time off to get things in order around here. I was looking through my picture files, and found a bunch of things I have yet to write about. For those of you who are familiar with Post Punk Kitchen and visit the site, you might have noticed their re-design. It looks great, but all the recipes are gone! Fortunately, I had saved some of the ones that I love and use often. This recipe for vegan blondies is so yummy! I make it often when I need something easy to whip up and take with me to a friend's house to share. My nephew loves this recipe, and asks me to bring "blondie cake" often. The consistency is more like a dense, and very moist cake than a typical blondie. The molasses adds a nice touch. So yummy! 

I try to keep most of these ingredients on hand.

Make sure to follow the recipe exactly. I have made the mistake more than once to add the sugar to the flour mixture. If you don't add it to the wet ingredients first, it royally messes up the final product.

You can use a 8 inch square baking pan, but I like round pans on most occasions.

Here's the recipe, in its original form. You have to try these! It keeps for a good 2 or 3 days, so pace yourself friend :)

Blondies with chocolate chips
Submitted by Isa
prep time: 15 minutes | cooking time: 30 minutes | makes 12 blondies
These basic Blondies are studded with chocolatey chip goodness. They taste best if you let them cool completely, and even better the next day after they are refrigerated.

6 oz container vanilla soy yogurt (I use So Delicious Plain Coconut Yogurt. The recipe is quite sweet, so omitting a little sugar helps.)
1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons canola oil
1 cup 2 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla
2 Tablespoons molasses
1 1/4 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup choc chips 

Preheat oven to 350 and line an 8x9 brownie pan with parchment paper and set aside (if no parchment is handy, spray w/ non stick cooking spray or brush lightly with margarine or canola oil) 

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and salt. 

In a large bowl combine yogurt, oil, vanilla and molasses. Mix with a wire wisk. Add the sugar and wisk until well combined (about 30 seconds). 

In batches, fold the dry ingredients into the wet, slowly, wisking as you go along. Fold in chocolate chips. 

Pour batter into the brownie pan, spread with a spoon or spatula. Bake for 30-35 minutes until top is firm and brown. 

Let cool completely before serving.