Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Product Review: bake at home energy bars

First off, we haven't posted in a few days and we may be posting infrequently over the next few days because we're going through the wringer again with Violet. I did want to get this one out though so here goes. The folks at Matisse & Jack's asked us to review their new bake-at-home energy bars (disclosure - we're not getting anything else for this other than a couple of boxes of their energy bar mix).

I've eaten a lot of energy bars in my day, mostly Clif bars, but I never really considered the impact of all those wrappers. There are millions upon millions of these things being sold these days and all those wrappers take up a lot of landfill space. Now the best thing you could do to avoid that impact would be to make your own energy bars from scratch, but what people like about the packaged bars is their convenience. Enter Matisse & Jack's. They make a boxed mix that you bake at home by adding one or two wet ingredients. Each box makes 9 bars so you're definitely saving some packaging, but they really taste a lot better and more fresh than the pre-packaged variety too (and they're cheaper). Currently they have two flavors available, Cranberry Walnut and Chocolate Chip. Everything in the box is vegan and you can bake them vegan by just adding applesauce as the wet ingredient. The other option is a combination of applesauce and yogurt and soy yogurt will work too. In fact we baked one box each way and I think I liked the ones with the soy yogurt slightly better. Either way they taste better than my old Clif bars and you can tote them around in a re-usable container rather than tossing a wrapper in the trash. They're softer and a little more cake-like than other energy bars and that's generally a good thing, although I'm not sure if they'd hold up quite as well stuffed into a jersey pocket on a long bike ride. The main advantage the pre-packaged energy bars have is their shelf life and for that reason I'll probably continue to stand by Clif - they're a pretty good company I think - but I'll also probably buy fewer of them and more of the Matisse & Jack's.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Sweet and Sour "Neat" Balls

Another recent addition to our cookbook collection is Dreena's The Everyday Vegan. We like her 2nd book Vive le Vegan! so we decided to round out the collection with this one (can't wait for the next one either). We're looking forward to delving into this book some more but this recipe is definitely a winner. The 'neat' balls are made with finely chopped or crumbled tofu, minced veggies, bread crumbs and other yummy stuff (like hoisin, miso and roasted garlic). At first I thought they might not hold together but once I got in there with my hands and mixed everything around well all was good (sometimes you just have to get your hands dirty). The homemade sweet & sour sauce was delicious too and we had them over quinoa with some sauteed mustard greens on the side.

Another Cupcake Picture

I know, I know, vegan cupcakes are everywhere now (as their long march to take over the world continues). This was last night's dessert, which we ended up eating before dinner. How can you go wrong with a banana cupcake with peanut buttercream frosting? It's "The Elvis" variation of the Banana Split Cupcakes and my mouth's watering just thinking about them now.

The rest of this is probably not of interest to anyone who's not local, but we had some errands to do last night so we went out to eat at our old standby, Ming Dynasty. Plus we wanted to check out the rumor we heard that it had changed ownership. Sure enough, the wonderful owner who's been a fixture there in the 5 years we've been going (and for many more years than that we've heard) was nowhere to be seen. But more telling was a new alcohol license in the window bearing a different name. The extensive vegetarian menu's still the same and our waiter was familiar but the food was lacking a little something. It's never been gourmet food to begin with and what we had last night was good but we've had the same dishes in the past and I think they were just a touch better. Sigh...

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Nachos

I was thinking about making something else tonight but we didn't have all the ingredients. Then I opened the cabinet and spied a full bag of tortilla chips we bought recently. We also had some tofu sour cream that we needed to use up, and we almost always have black beans and salsa on hand so I figured nachos would be fun. I cooked some onion, bell pepper, carrots, broccoli and garlic in oil then added chili powder, cumin and oregano. Next in went a can of black beans and some canned diced tomatoes and I cooked everything together and mashed the beans a little in the process. Then I spread the chips on a baking sheet and spooned the black bean mixture on top along with some salsa and the tofu sour cream. It doesn't need to bake for very long - 350° for 15 minutes should do the trick. For starters we had a basic salad with Dreena's Cumin Lime Vinaigrette - always good to have with Mexican/Southwestern dishes (or any other time for that matter).

Polenta Lasagna

So this is one answer to the question about using the leftover creamed spinach. This recipe is also (mostly) from The Convenient Vegetarian and it is convenient. I sliced a store-bought package of polenta and fried the slices in olive oil until golden brown on each side. I removed that from the pan and quickly fried some diced seitan (the recipe calls for crumbled tofu to be mixed with the spinach but we didn't have any and I figured the seitan might be better anyway).

To put it together, I put a little marinara sauce from a jar in the bottom of the pan then added some of the polenta, then some leftover spinach, then some seitan, then another layer of polenta, spinach and seitan. I poured the rest of the marinara sauce over the top, covered and simmered for about 5 minutes until everything was heated through. If you have time, it's not hard to make your own marinara but the store-bought stuff was pretty good and made this whole dish come together quickly. I just love one pot meals, especially yummy ones like this.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Creamed Spinach

Another cookbook we've added to our collection recently is The Convenient Vegetarian by Virginia Messina and Kate Schumann. I'd never heard of it and I might not've sought it out and/or bought it new but we happened upon it at a used book store last week and it was $3.50 so we figured we'd give it a shot. It's all vegan and is mostly all about quick and easy meals. This spinach recipe came together quickly with onions & garlic, frozen spinach, silken tofu, veg. broth, sun-dried tomatoes and a few seasonings. We had it over cous cous with some toast on the side and it was quite good. It'd also be good with pasta. This came from the "planover" section of the book, which is about taking a basic recipe then making a new meal on another night from the leftovers. So what would you do with leftover creamed spinach? We'll be taking a cue from this book and incorporating the leftovers into another meal soon so stay tuned.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Jerk Seitan

It's been too long since we've had this great recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance. I'd been thinking about making it for a couple weeks and today I finally found the time. We've had it with mashed potatoes before but this time we took Isa's suggestion and had it with her coconut rice (only with brown rice). Also on the side are some collards that I've been meaning to do something with since I got them at the market last weekend. That's the thing about buying things fresh from the farmers' market - they've just been picked and they'll often keep in the fridge for a week. As for cooking the greens, we've tried various methods but tonight they came out really good with just a little onion and garlic and Spike seasoning. We'd never tried the Spike before but we had some excellent greens at the Charlottesville Vegetarian Festival recently and we asked the woman at the booth how she made them. For one thing she used a wide variety of greens, but she also put us on to the Spike seasoning and I have to say, that stuff's pretty good. We found it in our local mainstream grocery store so I would think it's pretty widely available.

Cupcakes!


The vegan world is all a twitter over the release of Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, and with good reason. We love us some cupcakes so like many other sweet-toothed vegans out there we had to buy a copy of this book. We started at the beginning with the vanilla cupcakes with vanilla buttercream frosting, then branched out to the cookies and cream because, well... OK I admit it, I'm addicted to Newman O's. I'm no psychic but I think some weight gain is in our future.

Sweet-and-Sauerkraut Soup

We suddenly find ourselves awash in new cookbooks and I'm sure we'll get to each one in due time. First up is the updated edition of Vegetarian Soups for All Seasons, generously provided to us by the author Nava Atlas. The book is divided by season and, this being Fall, we dove into that section first. And this recipe caught my eye since we had half of a big jar of sauerkraut and a Tofurkey beer brat left from our recent German-inspired meal. The sauerkraut and a little sugar provide the sweet and sour flavor and it's quite hearty with the addition of potatoes, apples, tomatoes, and beans (white beans in the recipe but we used chickpeas because that's all we had on hand). The recipe also calls for some tempeh or soy sausage to be fried and put on top and the brat was perfect in that role. As well as being interesting and different, it was delicious. We also made the suggested Onion Rye Scones which were good with the soup. We haven't yet flipped through the entire book but already we've found several other recipes that look promising. Though there are a few recipes that call for non-dairy cheese, this updated version is all vegan and has many new recipes. We were just talking the other day about how we should have soup more often; now we have some inspiration.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Brats & Kraut

We took a cue from our blogging friend Bazu tonight and made a German-style dinner of Tofurkey beer brats cooked with sauerkraut and potatoes. Were they still around my German grandparents might question the vegan brats but they're really pretty good - without all the cruelty and who-knows-what miscellaneous junk that goes into any traditional sausage. On the side are what might be the last of the green beans from our garden.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Sammiches and Veggies

We've mentioned the Chickpea Hijiki Salad Sammiches from Vegan with a Vengeance so many times that I've lost count but it's so tasty and makes for a quick meal. Tonight it went on some of the buns I mentioned last night with lettuce and tomato. That was probably one of the last fresh tomatoes of the season too so we tried to savor it. On the side was steamed cauliflower with margarine, bread crumbs and salt & pepper, and also some roasted butternut squash.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Sloppy Joes

Around here anyway we've had a hard time finding good vegan burger buns and on the rare occasion we have veggie burgers, we often end up having them on regular bread. The mass market variety burger buns often have whey in them, not to mention all kinds of preservatives. And the more natural varieties often have eggs. So we were happy to find some good, relatively natural, vegan buns while browsing in a local mainstream grocery store recently. The last time we were there they even had them on sale so we got a package and that prompted us to think about making sloppy joes tonight. It's easy to find recipes for sloppy joe filling on-line but we ended up just winging it and it came out really good. We started with a cup of TVP, soaked in a cup of boiling water (with a dash of lemon juice) for about 10 minutes. Then we fried that in olive oil with diced onion, red bell pepper and garlic. The liquid was tomato juice, tomato paste, barbecue sauce, a splash of Bragg's and a little hoisin sauce.

In the same store we also found some organic frozen potatoes, seasoned with herbs and cooked in just olive oil. We just put those in the oven for a while and had them on the side. (I know... it's easy to make your own herbed potatoes from scratch but every once in a while we get the frozen kind because they're really convenient and require no thought at all.) Oh, and we did have a salad to start with so it wasn't a completely beige dinner...

Monday, October 16, 2006

Fried Rice with Green Beans

Nothing very new tonight. Brown rice stir-fried with broccoli, carrots, red bell pepper, green cabbage, garlic and ginger. Then I added tamari and a little black sesame oil to finish it off. Also on the plate is another batch of green beans from the garden stir-fried with a sauce of tomato juice, soy sauce, rice vinegar, agave, hot chili sauce and cornstarch.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Barley Soup with Kale

It's getting to be soup weather here again. In fact we had a record low of 30 degrees here last night. Plus we figured a soup was a good way to eat our greens. We made this very much like our Mushroom Barley Soup, leaving out the portobellos but adding a big bunch of coarsley chopped kale. It came out quite delicious and was definitely hearty enough to make a meal out of it. Especially with this awesome apple crisp Darlene made for dessert. We braved the maddening crowds at a local orchard last weekend and came home with about 8 pounds of apples and this was a great way to use some of them.

Burritos

Have you ever made a meal around a condiment? The other night when we made the sandwiches we had half an avocado left so I decided to try the Creamy Avocado Cashew Sauce from Vive le Vegan! Then I was trying to decide what to do with it so I figured I'd try Dreena's Chipotle Veggie-Bean Burritos, also from Vive. Never before have I used a recipe to make burritos but we had everything on hand for this one so there's a first time for everything. Actually we didn't have the chipotle hot sauce called for in the recipe but we did have some dried chipotles that I reconstituted in boiling water and finely minced. I put 2 of those suckers in there and that really kicked up the heat level. Usually when I make burritos I toss in whatever suits my fancy at the time and I never measure anything so I don't know if I'll use this recipe again but I'm sure I'll incorporate some of the ideas from it. And the avocado sauce was good but I think I prefer a simple guac; though the sauce will keep longer so that's a bonus.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Pasta with Peanut Sauce

This was actually Plan B. I was thinking about making some kind of scrambled tofu but when I took the tofu out of the fridge I realized there was a small cut in the top of the package. It had been opened just enough to make it smell slightly questionable so I didn't want to chance it. Back to the drawing board we went and Darlene had the idea to make a peanut sauce and some pasta. I made the sauce pretty much straight from Vegan with a Vengeance, then I sauteed some broccoli, red bell pepper, green beans and seitan in a little oil and cooked some whole wheat fettuccine while that was happening. Some fettuccine went on our plates, then the veggies, then the sauce, and on top I sprinkled a few black sesame seeds. And I think this turned out better than what I was originally planning to make so maybe the dodgy tofu wasn't such a bad thing after all.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Monte Cristo Sandwiches

We got this idea while watching Rachael Ray a couple weeks ago on the Food Network. Yeah, I know, what self-respecting vegan watches Rachael Ray? Well, at first I think we were just too lazy to change the channel, but then we were drawn in by the sheer monstrosity of these sandwiches she was making. And the fact that at the beginning of every show she says she'll be making a quick and "healthy" meal. So let's take a look at a few choice ingredients in her recipe: 8 slices bacon, 4 eggs, 1/4 c. half-and-half, 2 Tbs. butter, 1/2 lb. cheese, 1 lb. ham, 1 lb. turkey. But she used whole-grain bread so that makes it healthy right? Well, I wouldn't call our version tops in healthiness but it sure beats hers; and it's just a little better for the animals.

Many monte cristo recipes call for the whole sandwich to be battered and fried but we followed Ms. Ray on one item anyway and just battered and fried the bread (essentially just making the "Fronch" Toast recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance). Also from VwaV, some Tempeh Bacon went on our sandwiches, along with sliced and fried Faux Turkey seitan from La Dolce Vegan, avocado, Vegenaise, mustard, and some store-bought rice-based "cheese" slices. And we had some very healthy steamed broccoli on the side. Oh, and the kicker about Rachael Ray's sandwiches is the fact that she was billing them as a midnight meal. That's just what you need before going to bed is all that grease sitting like a rock in your gut eh?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Jamaican Veggie Patties

I've been looking forward to making these veggie patties again for a long time. I was planning on making the coco bread to go along with them but I didn't have the energy (more on that in a sec). I did get a plantain to go along with this meal so I fried that up and then I experimented with a tamarind sauce to go over the plantains and the veggie patties. It came out pretty good and it was just tamarind concentrate, water, agave and a pinch of salt and corriander.

The reason for the lack of energy is that our sweetie Violet is back in the hospital but we're hopeful that she'll be able to come home again soon. We'll try to post updates on her blog if you're interested.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Biscuits and Gravy

Baking Powder Biscuits and Punk Rock Chickpea Gravy from Vegan with a Vengeance. Absolutely fantastic. So for the second night in a row the leftovers will make for a nice breakfast. And if you've noticed that green beans are appearing here regularly these days it's because that's the only thing in our garden that actually did well this year.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Baked Red Flannel Hash

We picked up some beets a couple weeks ago at the market and I was planning on trying the Red Flannel Hash recipe in Mollie Katzen's Sunlight Cafe. Then when I got home today it was really cold in the house, maybe having something to do with the fact that it was 50 degrees and raining here all day today. So I decided I wanted to do something in the oven and maybe warm up the house a bit in the process. The recipe I mentioned calls for prepared soy bacon and I was going to marinate some tofu in the Vegan with a Vengeance Tempeh Bacon marinade and fry that up with the hash but then I figured I could just mix everything together with the marinade and bake it, kind of like when I made the barbecured tempeh. In the end it worked out well but it took a lot longer to cook than I anticipated. I guess beets are like that but I always forget. So here's what I did, with some notes on the cooking time at the end:

Diced beets, sweet potato, and white potato, about 1/2 pound each
1 medium onion, coarsley chopped
1/2 pound extra firm tofu, diced
2 Tbs. Bragg's or soy sauce
1 1/2 Tbs. cider vinegar
1 Tbs. peanut oil
1 Tbs. maple syrup
1 tsp. tomato paste
1/4 tsp. liquid smoke

Lightly oil a shallow baking dish and add the beets, potatoes, onions and tofu to the dish. Mix together the remaining ingredients in a small bowl, pour over the potatoes, etc. and stir gently. Cover with foil and put into the oven to bake.

I baked this at 425° and it took about an hour and a half before the beets were tender. I stirred it occasionally and removed the foil about half way through. If you want it to cook faster you could steam, boil, or nuke in the mircowave the potatoes and beets before hand. Either way, you should cut the beets into a smaller dice than the potatoes since they generally take longer to cook.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Corn Fritters

I was flipping through Vegan with a Vengeance the other day trying to find something to make for dinner that we've yet to try. Not an easy task anymore but I settled on the Corn Fritters. It's no longer corn season here so I used frozen corn instead of fresh and that worked fine. It is prime season for red bell peppers though and that's good since the recipe calls for about 1/4 of a pepper, finely diced. I chopped up the rest of the pepper and with that made a nice saute as a side along with yellow squash and mixed greens. To the saute I also added garlic, salt & pepper, a pinch of cumin and a little lime juice and maple syrup. That came out good though I think I went just a little to heavy on the lime juice; a little goes a long way. And speaking of lime juice I made a simple guacamole to top off the fritters. Yeah, the fritters... they were quite delectable though I had a bit of a problem with them sticking to the pan. That may be due to our crummy pan rather than the recipe though. (Said pan is actually a higher-end Calphalon non-stick variety but the non-stick surface is shot. I should contact them and try to get a replacement.)

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Sammiches

I love the chickpea-hiziki salad from Vegan with a Vengeance so much I could eat it with a spoon. Oh wait, I did. But then I put it on some ciabatta bread with lettuce, tomatoes and avocado. I usually tweak the recipe slightly by using fewer carrots and a little less vinegar and adding diced pickles and celery, but either way, YUM! And those veggie chips on the side weren't half bad either.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Black Bean and Chard Stew

Tonight witnessed a rare occasion where I was in the midst of chopping vegetables and I still had no idea what I was going to make. I knew I wanted to use up the chard we got at the market this past weekend and I figured a stew of some sort would be good. Then I had a vague recollection of an old Cuban stew recipe we still make once in a while with olives, tofu and tomatoes. Tonight's stew didn't turn out much like that but it started with that idea anyway. I can't offer you a recipe because I didn't measure anything but I can tell you that I got it going by cooking onions, red bell pepper, red Anaheim chile, celery and some of the chard stems in olive oil with salt & pepper. Then I added some garlic along with paprika and cumin. Next in went some crushed tomatoes, veggie broth and tomato paste and then the coarsely chopped chard leaves. Then a can of black beans, some chopped green olives, and finally some red wine vinegar along with a bit more salt. We just had it with some bread but it'd be good over rice too.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Spring Rolls and Green Bean Stir-Fry

Here's something else we've done before, many times in fact. They're always just a little different though and tonight was no exception. The green beans however are something we haven't posted about before and in fact is an idea I came up with as I was pondering what to do with all the beans growing in our garden. It's nothing fancy but here's the recipe.

Green Bean Stir-Fry

2 Tbs. soy sauce
1 Tbs. rice vinegar
1 Tbs. orange juice concentrate
1 Tbs. water
2 tsp. agave nectar
pinch of red pepper flakes or to taste
1 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
~ 1 lb. green beans
1-2 green onions, chopped
1 Tbs. peanut oil

For the sauce, whisk all the ingredients through the cornstarch together in a small bowl and set aside. Heat the oil in a wok over high heat and add the green beans. Stir fry several minutes until they're getting tender then add the green onions and the sauce and cook another minute or two until the sauce is thick and the beans are done to your liking.

As for the spring rolls, we made smaller, single-wrapped ones this time and baked them instead of frying. The filling was green cabbage, carrots, red bell pepper, green onions and tofu. And we made our standard quick dipping sauce by mixing together apricot jam, soy sauce, rice vinegar, Asian chili sauce and hoisin sauce.