Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas Dinner

We decided to do something less traditional this year for Christmas Dinner, though we still wanted a more elaborate than normal meal. For that, The Voluptuous Vegan is a perfect book. We've had this cookbook almost since it first came out but we rarely use it. I know many of you out there love this book and there are some great and fairly simple individual recipes in it, but to me a lot of it just seems too involved for everyday use. Maybe I'm stuck on the fact that it's organized by menu. For special occasions that's great, although I think I prefer cookbooks that are organized the old-fashioned way (main dishes, sides, sauces, etc.) with menu suggestions maybe in a separate section at the back.

At any rate, it was fun picking out our Christmas menu from The Voluptuous Vegan, and though it took a while to make, it came out fabulously delicious in the end. We made chickpea crepes with mushroom and cauliflower filling, horseradish cream, balsamic marinated beets (golden beets in this case), and maple-roasted acorn squash.

We could definitely see making a simpler meal out of this in the near future. The crepes were fairly easy to make and if you did those with a simple filling and the horseradish cream that'd be a much quicker, and still fabulous meal. The horseradish cream in particular was excellent. Just mix silken tofu, lemon juice, canola oil, rice vinegar, salt & pepper in a food processor, then add minced red onion, fresh dill and prepared horseradish. We may well make this again soon with the leftover fresh dill, but this time thin it out a bit more and use it as a salad dressing.

Well, another tasty vegan Christmas dinner is history and we hope you all had some scrumptious food no matter what holiday you do or don't celebrate.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Comes Early

Though it's still Christmas Eve, we've already had some festivities (and presents). We went to a family gathering at Darlene's parents' house yesterday and we spent some time in the morning whipping up a big batch of sushi to bring. From Veganomicon we did the spicy tempeh and yamroom (shiitake mushroom and sweet potato) rolls, plus some others that were various combinations of carrots, cucumber and avocado. Most of the omni folk there were scared of the sushi but that was OK because there was more for us. (As an aside, I find it interesting that you can take something as innocuous as rice, carrots and cucumber, then wrap a little seaweed around it and people eye it suspiciously and want no part of it.)

We also brought cupcakes! Just some basic chocolate and vanilla ones with pink vanilla frosting. And how did Darlene turn the frosting pink? Well, we didn't tell anyone this lest they be scared off, but the answer is beet juice. She was looking for something natural for coloring and that did the trick. There's so much sugar and fat in the frosting that we really didn't notice any beet flavor. (Though it just occurred to me that you could probably use cranberry juice with similar effect.)

We also had frosting left over so Darlene made peppermint cookies and then made cookie sandwiches with the frosting in the middle. Oh yeah!

And finally, since we were in the Christmas spirit already yesterday we each opened one gift from each other. I got Darlene a copy of My Sweet Vegan, which is a truly amazing book that I'm sure will show up here again and again. The first recipe we tried was the very delicious French Toast, because it was breakfast time and we had three-quarters of a baguette that we needed to use up. And what's that on my French toast? It's Chocoreale organic chocolate hazelnut spread that Darlene got me from Vegan Essentials. Wow is this stuff good!! Back when I first started graduate school a bike racer friend of mine who had spent some time in Europe introduced me to Nutella. I was hooked and that was probably one of the last non-vegan food items I bought as I was transitioning to veganism. Fortunately, this Chocoreale stuff is vegan, and organic, and free of hydrogenated oils. It ain't cheap, but I dare say it's better than Nutella, especially on French toast!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Pumpkin Bread

This is something I came up with after Thanksgiving when we had exactly one cup of pureed pumpkin left after making a pumpkin pie. I was inspired by Don't Get Mad Get Vegan's post on Perfect Pumpkin Pregnancy Cookies, aka Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies from Vegan with a Vengeance. Which she so named mainly because of the high amount of iron in many of the ingredients. We know and love those cookies but I had a hankering for bread so I made something similar in loaf form. I started looking through our various cookbooks for pumpkin bread recipes but I didn't quite find what I was looking for so I just started throwing ingredients together and this is what I ended up with. I've made it a couple more times since then and I keep futzing with the recipe, but it's really good regardless of the little tweaks. If you slice it thickly and get 10 servings then one serving has about 15% of the RDA for iron (though iron requirements during pregnancy are higher). A serving also has around 6% of the RDA for calcium and 1400 mg omega-3 fatty acids.


1/4 c. canola oil
1/4 c. sugar
1/3 c. applesauce
1/3 c. maple syrup
1 c. canned or fresh pureed pumpkin
2 Tbs. blackstrap molasses
1/4 c. soy milk
2 Tbs. ground flax
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. chopped walnuts

Whisk together oil, sugar, applesauce, maple syrup, pumpkin, molasses, soy milk, flax, and vanilla in a bowl. In another bowl, sift together flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Add wet ingredients to the dry, mix gently until just combined then fold in the walnuts. Pour into a lightly oiled loaf pan and bake at 350° for 60-70 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Black Bean Cornbread Pie

Sorry, but before I get to the recipe I'm gonna get all political on you again. This is probably in part because we may have some Vegetarian Times readers lurking here at the moment and also because of my mom - who just told me she doesn't understand what the problem is with eating eggs. Our phone conversation then went in another direction but to answer the question I'll cut and paste from the FAQ section on vegan.com:
Some vegetarians believe their choices don't hurt laying hens and dairy cows. However, vegetarians who eat eggs contribute to the death of 200 million male chicks each year. Since there is no such thing as a "layer rooster," these animals serve no purpose in the egg industry and are killed shortly after hatching. Most layer hens are kept five to a tiny battery cage, where they must stand and sleep on a wire floor 24 hours a day. Living under these horrendous conditions, a hen needs about 30 hours to lay just one egg. Even though a chicken can live five years, most hens are killed before their second birthday because their egg production declines with age.
There's also some info, complete with references and pictures, on the Vegan Outreach site.

So that's why there aren't any eggs in the cornbread topping on this black bean-veggie pot pie. This is something we used to make fairly regularly but it's obviously been a while since we've done it since it hasn't shown up here yet. It's easy to tweak to your liking but this is what we did this time. It's adapted from the Beyond the Moon Cookbook by Ginny Callan.

2 Tbs. canola oil
3 1/2 c. cooked black beans (or 2 cans, drained and rinsed)
1 medium onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 jalapeño, minced (or more to taste)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste (depends on how much salt is in your tomatoes)
fresh ground black pepper
1/2 c. fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 14-oz. can crushed tomatoes (or use a large can if you want it more tomato-y)
1/2 c. chopped fresh cilantro

For the cornbread topping:
3/4 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. cornmeal
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 c. plain soymilk
1/4 c. corn oil or canola oil
1 Tbs. agave or maple syrup
2 scallions, finely minced

In a large oven-proof pot, cook the onions, bell pepper, carrot and jalapeño in oil until the veggies start to get soft. Add garlic, chili powder, cumin, salt & pepper and cook another minute or so, then add tomatoes and corn, mix well and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat to low, preheat the oven to 375° and make the cornbread topping. Mix the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt together in a bowl, then mix together the soymilk, oil and agave in another bowl. Add wet to dry, mix until just combined, then fold in the scallions.

Now mix the cilantro into the black beans, turn off the heat on the stovetop and carefully spread the cornbread batter on top of the black bean mixture. Pop the whole thing into the oven and bake for 25 minutes. We served ours with a little guac on top.

Note that you can also pour the black bean mixture into a casserole dish, spread the cornbread batter on top and bake it that way.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Thanks for the plug Vegetarian Times

We got a new issue of Vegetarian Times in the mail today and as I was flipping through it I came across an article called The Veg 25, which is their "2008 hot list of fresh voices, vital news and handy resources that let you celebrate your choice, get involved, and learn more." The first thing that caught my eye was that Veganomicon was high on the list. I turned the page and found blurbs about the Compassionate Cooks podcast and Liz Lovely cookies among other things, and I thought it was cool to find lots of vegan representation in their list. Then I turned the page again and found this...First I yelled "Holy sh*#!", and scared Darlene half to death (but she was OK after she saw what I was yelling about). Then I said, "Wow, I better go update the blog." So here I am. It's really an honor to be mentioned in the same sentence as the Fatfree Vegan blog. In fact there are so many other awesome vegan blogs out there it's an honor to be mentioned at all. I'm just happy whenever veganism gets its due in the pages of Vegetarian Times. Now if only they'd get off that dairy train once and for all.

Speaking of vegan food, and Veganomicon, once again tonight's dinner recipe was courtesy of "the ultimate vegan cookbook". (I promise something good that's not from Veganomicon will come up here very soon.) When I was growing up, we'd often have a chicken stew for dinner with dumplings on top and the Leek and Bean Cassoulet with Biscuits recipe kinda sorta reminded me of that. I've had it bookmarked for a while and I finally got to it tonight. You start by making a stew with leeks, carrots, potatoes, peas and white beans, then drop biscuit dough on top and pop the whole thing in the oven to finish. We were almost out of white flour so I did the biscuits with mostly whole wheat pastry flour. I had to add quite a bit more flour than the recipe called for but in the end it turned out fine. Great comfort food for a cold rainy night.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Chile Cornmeal-Crusted Tofu and Corn Pudding

So many Veganomicon recipes, so little time. The tofu recipe was another one I bookmarked when we first got this book. Tofu coated with a cornmeal-chile powder mixture sounded awful good. And it was too, but I went the healthy route and baked it instead of frying. Woulda been better fried. Baked, it came out a tad on the dry side and definitely needed some kind of sauce. I cracked open a jar of peach chutney that we canned over the summer and all was good with the tofu. The sautéed chard on the side was good too, but the corn pudding... Wow! Amazingly scrumptious. I made it with frozen corn too. And now I really can't wait til summer so I can make this stuff with fresh corn. I know... I've got a long wait...

Friday, December 07, 2007

Vote for your hopes and not your fears

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming for a political message. Yes, it's presidential primary season here in the U.S. and I've just come back from hearing Congressman and Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich speak. Aside from how amazing it would be to have a vegan president, I came away convinced that Mr. Kucinich is the best candidate to lead us away from this path of endless war and towards a more peaceful, compassionate future.

Now if you listen to the pundits, he doesn't stand a chance but is that really how you'll base your vote? Call me idealistic (and someone surely will), but I believe that if everyone who said "I like Kucinich but he doesn't stand a chance so I'm voting for someone else." actually voted for him then he may well get elected. So I'm urging you to support the candidate you most believe in and not the one some mass media organization has labeled as most "electable".

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Baked Pasta with Pine Nut Cream

I think it was on Erik Marcus' podcast that I heard Isa talking about the Moussaka recipe in Veganomicon, and the Pine Nut Cream in particular. The Moussaka seemed a little too involved for a weeknight meal but the Pine Nut Cream was easy to make - blend 1/2 c. pine nuts and 3 Tbs. lemon juice in a food processor, add a pound of silken tofu, a teaspoon of cornstarch, a clove of garlic, a pinch of nutmeg, and salt and white pepper to taste.

More often than not, I like to make my marinara sauce from scratch, but I'll use sauce from a jar if I'm in a hurry and so it was here. I mixed the pasta with the sauce, spread it in a baking dish, topped with the pine nut cream and baked at 350° for about 40 minutes - during which time I steamed some broccoli, did some dishes, and probably got a few other things accomplished as well. And the pasta was awesome - a nice step up from plain 'ol pasta with marinara. The pine nut cream doesn't pack a huge amount of flavor, but just enough. It'd be great with lasagna too. Maybe one day soon...

Monday, December 03, 2007

Red Lentil Stew with Black Rice

We were out of town this past weekend but now we're back and were looking for something relatively quick to have for dinner. If the last post was from Dino's cookbook, this one is just Dino-inspired. Meaning I kind of winged it, but it came out good. The idea came together like this: It was cold and I wanted to make soup. I wanted something that would cook quickly so that's where the red lentils came in - simmer 'em for 15 minutes or so and they're done. I also wanted to use some of the black rice that's been sitting in our cabinet since I don't remember when.

The creative process went thusly: I heated canola oil in a big pot, threw in some cumin seeds (about 1 tsp.), then some diced onion (about 1 1/2 cups worth). Next in went minced garlic (1 clove) and ginger (about 1 Tbs.). Then more spices - about 1 tsp. ground corriander, 1/2 tsp. each ground cumin and chili powder, 1/4 tsp. turmeric and a pinch of cinnamon. Oh, and salt & pepper too. Then vegetable broth (about 2 c.) and a can of coconut milk, along with about a cup of red lentils. That simmered until the lentils were tender, then I threw in a shredded carrot and cooked another minute or two. We served it with the black rice and a bit of cilantro and boy was it good.

Speaking of good, here's a bonus shot of a Vietnamese sandwich we made last week from Veganomicon (with a little Asian-style slaw on the side). Yum!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Cooking with Dino

I remember when I first started discovering all these great vegan sites on the web and I started lurking in the Vegan Freak forums. There was a guy over there named Dino who would rail against poorly-prepared vegan food and post his own great imaginative recipes. Since then I've enjoyed checking in on the forums from time to time to see what Dino's cooking, and also listening to his segments on the Vegan Freak podcast. Now he's sharing his passion for food in his new cookbook, Alternative Vegan. This is more of a cookbook that you sit down and read, rather than just a collection of recipes. Though it's a great collection of recipes too, many of them Indian-inspired, from basic soups and one pot meals to more elaborate concoctions. Oh, and if you're not familiar with Dino, he eschews all so-called "omni-subs" (meat & dairy substitutes), even things like tofu, tempeh or soymilk. Personally I don't have a problem with these things but I like that there's a cookbook out there that tries to get you out of that box.

It's pretty simple, but the first recipe I tried was the Basic Kale Soup. Sounded good-for-you I guess, but it was quite yummy too. The thing about this book is that Dino really wants you to use his recipes as a guide and then go your own way with them. Many recipes have a lengthy list of suggested variations at the end, from which you can pick and choose. And if you go for something that's not on the list, so much the better. For this soup I generally followed the basic recipe (cumin seeds, onion, garlic, salt & pepper, water, kale, parsley), and I added a couple of the suggested variations (kidney beans and potatoes), along with a couple of my own variations (beet greens and tomatoes). The result was a hearty, tasty and good-for-you soup.

Next up was something from the "More Complex" section - Split Pea Croquettes. Although these turned out to be super-easy to make (and super-delicious to eat!). The story preceding the recipe tells you that these are sort of Dino's variation on falafel. All you do is soak a cup of split peas in water overnight, drain the water, then grind 'em up in a food processor. Add salt and a small amount of minced vegetables (cabbage, carrots, onions and garlic), form into patties and fry in oil. The whole idea sounded intriguing but I was a little unsure about how it would come out. I tasted a bit of the batter for seasoning and it wasn't very appetizing but after frying the patties in peanut oil until they were nice and brown it was a whole different story. Crispy on the outside and soft but not mushy-soft on the inside - perfect! Especially when served with some kicked-up ketchup (that would be ketchup and hot sauce). Oh, and more kale and some carrot sticks on the side.

Alternative Vegan is not your average everyday cookbook but I'm glad we've added it to our collection.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving Feast 2007

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! As has become our tradition, we cooked up a huge vegan feast just for the two of us (or two and a half of us now). If you include all the dish washing I spent close to 8 hours in the kitchen yesterday, but it was a fabulous meal and with all that's left over we probably won't be cooking for the rest of the weekend. The menu was very similar to our last two years' posts; the exception being that we didn't do the puff pastry thing this year. Instead we dusted off and updated an old roulade recipe that we hadn't made in several years. Here's the whole menu:

  • Red Lentil-Roasted Garlic Roulade with Mushroom-Red Pepper Filling
  • Apple-Walnut Stuffing
  • Roasted Root Vegetables
  • Mushroom-Walnut Gravy
  • Whipped Sweet Potatoes and Bananas
  • Roasted Brussels Sprouts
  • Cranberry Conserve
  • Pumpkin Pie
See our 2005 post for the roasted roots, stuffing and gravy recipes. Like last year, the sweet potatoes and cranberries are modified Food Network recipes. The brussels sprouts were just mixed with olive oil, lemon juice, agave, salt & pepper and roasted on a sheet pan. And the pie was a fairly standard (but oh so delicious) tofu-pumpkin pie recipe that we have in a back issue of Vegetarian Times. Speaking of that magazine, it was in another back issue that we found the roulade recipe. We used a different filling and updated the outer layer with the addition of roasted garlic. It was a little tricky to put together as the outer layer was a little crumbly, but in the end it came out good and sliced up pretty well (a picture is below, but first some other pics).

Here's the brussels sprouts about to go into the oven.

And the sweet potatoes coming out of the oven.

The roasted roots just out of the oven.

A couple slices of the roulade (see recipe below).

The whole spread on the table.

That's a full plate!

It took a while but finally we had room for dessert.


Red Lentil-Roasted Garlic Roulade with Mushroom-Red Pepper Filling

(adapted from Vegetarian Times and The Meatless Gourmet by Bobbie Hinman)

3/4 c. red lentils
1 1/4 c. water
1 whole bulb roasted garlic
1 c. bread crumbs
1-2 Tbs. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. salt
fresh ground black pepper to taste
olive oil

For the filling:
1 Tbs. olive oil
3/4 lb. fresh cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. fresh thyme
1/4 tsp. salt
fresh ground black pepper to taste
2 Tbs. lemon juice
2 Tbs. bread crumbs
1 roasted red pepper, chopped

Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan and add lentils. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until lentils are tender and water is absorbed. Allow lentils to cool slightly and add to a food processor along with roasted garlic, bread crumbs, 1 Tbs. lemon juice, salt & pepper. Process until a smooth dough is formed, scraping down the sides as necessary. Depending on how much moisture is left in the lentils, you may need to add more water. If the mixture seems to be too crumbly, add water (or more lemon juice) a tablespoon at a time until the dough holds together well. Put in a bowl and set aside

For the filling, cook onions and mushrooms in olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the mushrooms are getting soft, add garlic, thyme, salt & pepper and cook a couple minutes more. Put this mixture in a food processor with lemon juice and bread crumbs and process until well combined and very finely chopped. Add red pepper and pulse several times until the pepper is minced well.

Now press the lentil dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap or wax paper so that it's a uniform thickness and about a 9" x 13" rectangle. Spread the mushroom filling over the top, leaving about a 1" gap at the borders. Using the plastic wrap or wax paper to help you, gently but tightly roll up the roulade starting from a short end. Once it's rolled up, you could store it in the fridge for a while if you need to. When ready to bake, brush the top liberally with olive oil and bake at 350° for 15-20 minutes. Slice it up and serve with gravy.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Seitan Piccata

It's that cooking with alcohol thing again. And yet another one from Veganomicon. This was one of the first recipes that caught my eye when I got the book because, well what's not to love about wine, capers and olives? I think I made a bit of a mess with the plating and I overcooked the green beans just a bit but still it was a nice dinner. I have to say though that I'm not totally sold on the idea of serving it with mashed potatoes. Maybe it's a texture thing or maybe it's just that the piccata sauce just seems too sophisticated for the lowly mashed potatoes. Maybe next time I'll try it with pasta, or better yet polenta.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Baja Tempeh Burritos

First off, thank you all so much for the wonderful comments and well wishes. We're looking forward to the ride.

For now it's back to digging into Veganomicon. Darlene's away for a few days visiting her sister in North Carolina and that means I can kick up the heat level in my dinner more than I usually do. Now it also means that I can cook with alcohol. Doubtful that cooking with a little wine or beer would do anything to the baby but we're playing it safe and steering clear. For her anyway. So when she left I went straight to the Baja-Style Grilled Tempeh Tacos recipe and the chile-beer tempeh marinade. Only we didn't have corn tortillas so I used whole wheat flour tortillas. Which I guess makes these burritos rather than tacos but either way they're awesome. You might notice that I especially had fun playing with the Lime Crema after I put it in a squeeze bottle. I couldn't decide which picture I liked best so I loaded 'em both.


And this is completely unrelated to dinner - it's more for Darlene. Here are the kitties looking out the window waiting for mom to come home.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

2 years, 500 posts, 1 big announcement

Time flies. It's been two years since we started this humble blog and whadya know, this is our 500th post. Well..... maybe I sorta planned it like that. Still, that's a long time and a lotta posts. Life was hard a year ago and we didn't do much for our blog anniversary then but we wanted to have something fun for dinner tonight. We just posted about savory pancakes, now it's time for the pancake's skinny counterpart the crepe. Actually Amey beat us to it but I swear this meal was already planned before I realized that. I was looking back through our archives recently and I realized that we've posted about The Flat, our local take-out crepe stand, and about making sweet crepes for breakfast, but we hadn't made savory dinner crepes yet. So I whipped out the crepe pan... wait, we don't have a crepe pan - it's just a standard 10" fry pan. So I got that out and made a batch of crepes, which we filled with sautéed mushrooms, spinach and tofu (the Veganomicon Braised Tofu recipe - quite yummy).

But even better than that was this fabulous chocolate cake that Darlene made for dessert. Chocolate cake with chocolate cream cheese frosting no less. The recipe was from Sinfully Vegan and it packs a powerful punch. Normally I'm one for getting seconds on dessert but one piece of this cake is enough to satisfy the most serious chocolate craving. The frosting didn't get extremely firm but that didn't detract from the delicious-ness of the cake.


Now I also promised a big announcement didn't I? How's this for big?

We're having a baby!!

Our little one is 15 weeks along now so that means that by May next year our lives will be changing in a big way. Our lives are already changing. Has anyone noticed we've been eating more greens? Small changes now, larger ones to come. So far mama Darlene is doing pretty well - feeling sick quite often buy not terribly so. And it hasn't affected her appetite much so we'll keep eating and hopefully posting about lots of healthy vegan food. For the time being anyway. I'm not sure what this blog will become - maybe we'll post less, maybe it'll be more about vegan pregnancy and parenting, maybe once the baby comes we won't have time for posting at all anymore. But we hope you'll stay tuned to find out.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Chickpea Cutlets

Typically I might make it a point not to do something that everyone else is doing, but I couldn't have that attitude when Chickpea Cutlets are involved. This was probably the Veganomicon recipe I most wanted to try so even if they've been blogged about multiple times already, well I just had to jump on the bandwagon. Isa and Terry sure have done some wonderful things with the humble chickpea and these chewy cutlets are sure to become a regular in our kitchen. They were great with the mustard sauce but their versatility is apparent. Next time maybe we'll have them with smashed taters and gravy. Or how about baked with marinara sauce? Possibilities abound.

Oh yeah, on the side this time was sautéed yellow squash and a yummy salad I threw together with romaine, baby spinach, carrots, walnuts, chickpeas, dried cranberries and avocado with a balsamic vinaigrette. I only wish we had more of the cutlets leftover. If you haven't made this recipe yet, do yourself a favor and just go ahead and make a double batch the first time. Trust me on this.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Savory Southwestern Pancake

Last weekend in Asheville we had brunch at a cool place called Rosetta's Kitchen. The special that day was an omelet served with soy sausage, salsa and a creamy sauce. The vegan version of this that I had was more like a savory pancake and it was so good I decided to create something similar at home. So here's what I did for the batter:

1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
2 Tbs. nutritional yeast
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. chili powder
pinch turmeric
3 oz. silken tofu
1 c. + 1 Tbs. plain soy milk
1 Tbs. olive oil

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. In a food processor or blender, whir together the tofu and half the soy milk until creamy. Add the rest of the soy milk and the oil and mix briefly until combined. Pour this into the dry ingredients and gently mix until combined. Cook like you would any other pancake and make them as large as you can handle. I used a 1/2 cup scoop per pancake and ended up with three large ones.

To assemble, I spread some Nacho Cheeze Sauce (from Ultimate Uncheese) on half the pancake, topped with soy sausage, salsa and cilantro, and folded the other half of the pancake on top. Then I added a little avocado, home fries (Veganomicon recipe) and some fresh baby spinach drizzled with a bit of flax oil and Bragg's. We ended up with a huge pile of dishes but it was worth it.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Chickpeas Romesco with Saffron-Garlic Rice

A post title like that can only mean one thing. That our copy of Veganomicon has arrived (and quickly too). With all the hubbub in the vegan blogosphere about this book I was beginning to feel like I was missing out on membership to some cool club. But now we have our invite and our taste buds will be better for it. We have a slew of pages bookmarked but we started out with a couple of recipes that were fairly simple and for which we had all the ingredients readily on hand. Our Halloween leftovers are almost gone so last night I decided we needed something to snack on and I made the Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies. They were so fabulous that I lost count of how many I ate today.

For dinner the Chickpeas Romesco was perfect because I cooked up a big batch of chickpeas a few days ago and needed to use them up. Plus there were those roasted red peppers sitting in the fridge. Perfect since a romesco is a classic Spanish sauce of ground tomatoes, red peppers and almonds, among other things. It's often served with poultry but chickpeas really are a more compassionate choice and they hold their own with the bold flavors of the sauce. And I took Isa & Terry's suggestion and paired our beloved legume with their Saffron-Garlic Rice. Garlic indeed. Five cloves in there - that's some garlicky goodness! Add some steamed kale on the side and we had ourselves a meal! Our dance with Veganomicon has begun...

Monday, November 05, 2007

Smashed Cauliflower and Chickpea Gravy

I'm a little wary of my chef's knife at the moment but after not cooking much for the last several days I had to buck up and get back in the kitchen tonight. We traveled to western North Carolina this past weekend for my cousin's wedding and we got some great vegan food in Asheville on the way there and on the way back. In particular, the Laughing Seed is just plain awesome and how we wish we had a restaurant like that here.

Anyway, we had cauliflower and collards still in our fridge from before we left so we decided we better use them up tonight. We ended up with a good meal, if not anything new. I steamed the cauliflower until it was almost falling apart, then mashed it good with Earth Balance, plain soy milk, salt & pepper. That was most excellent with the Punk Rock Chickpea Gravy from Vegan with a Vengeance. On the side I did our standard thing with the collards - steamed 'em and mixed with lemon juice, agave, salt and Spike seasoning. And though I couldn't resist any longer and just lit up the 'ol credit card ordering Veganomicon, I'm sure we'll still go back to VwaV for this gravy recipe because it really is punk rock.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Snobby Joes

Suddenly it seems I've become a menace in the kitchen but hopefully the bad luck will be over soon. I planned to post last night about our tasty Veganomicon Snobby Joes from the night before and about handing out healthier-than-candy Halloween treats. But as I was hurriedly chopping a pepper to put in a tofu scramble I damn near chopped off the tip of my pinky finger. We had to leave the Halloween treats by the front door and head to the ER, where I ended up with 5 stitches in my finger. So yet another lesson. Knives are sharp. And your fingers have no business being underneath them.

But the Snobby Joes sure were good. Car repairs blew a hole in our budget this past month so we've been holding off on ordering Veganomicon. I think we'll have to break down and get it soon, but in the meantime we're glad for the sample recipes Isa posted.


We're also glad that our leftover Halloween treats make good snacks for us any time. Though it can be a challenge finding vegan candy for Halloween, that's what we've done in years past. Then we've ended up eating too much of the leftovers ourselves. This year we decided to go a different route and we got little peanut butter pretzel snack packs and micro-sized boxes of raisins to hand out. I don't know if the kids appreciated it but maybe their parents did.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Kitchen Lessons

Though it was good, I may not have even posted about this Coconut Curry Red Lentil Soup from La Dolce Vegan. But dear reader, I'd like to share with you a couple of things I learned in the process of making it - one of them rather benign and the other quite serious (and more than a little bit embarrassing). OK... if now you're thinking fire... you got it. So read on.

We decided to make this soup for dinner last night because it sounded simple and delicious - essentially potatoes, yams and red lentils with a base of vegetable broth and coconut milk, and flavored with curry paste. You add a can of coconut milk at the end, so we got all the way through making the soup and opened the cabinet... no coconut milk. It's a pantry staple; I could've sworn we had a can in there but nope, all gone. You've heard it before but I'll say it again. Always make sure you have all your recipe ingredients on hand before you start cooking. Of course there's nothing that says you can't wing it and adapt, so if you're willing to do that maybe it'll be OK. We ended up using soy milk instead and sprinkling a little toasted coconut on top. A little steamed broccoli rounded it out. Not exactly the flavor we anticipated when we started but still pretty good.

But about that coconut. It's flammable. Seriously. I put some coconut flakes on a piece of foil in the toaster oven and promptly forgot about it for just a few minutes. Darlene was sitting on the couch and I was talking to her with my back to the toaster oven when all of a sudden she looks past me and says, "Fire!". I spun around and sure enough, there are real live flames inside the toaster oven. It's a small toaster oven, but still. I turned it off, opened the door and blew on the flames like you'd blow out a candle. Not effective. Meanwhile Darlene was grabbing a box of baking soda with which to throw on top of the fire. But since it was completely inside the toaster oven we weren't sure how to go about that particular task. So I grabbed the fire extinguisher from under the sink and pulled the pin. Now there was only a little bit of coconut to begin with so by this time the flames were dying down a little. I stood there with the fire extinguisher ready for what seemed like a long time but what was probably only 30 seconds, during which time the fire dissipated and burned out. I'm glad I didn't end up using the fire extinguisher but I'm glad we had it. And would you believe that after cleaning things up I attempted to toast more coconut in the same toaster oven? This time I stood there and watched it continuously and it only took about 90 seconds before it was nice and golden brown. So be careful toasting coconut. And keep a fire extinguisher in your kitchen just in case.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Vegan Baking

The Urban Vegan beat me to it but as promised here's a post about Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's excellent new book, The Joy of Vegan Baking. It's a book filled with recipes for "sinful sweets", but as you've seen, the first recipe we tried was the Mediterranean Olive Bread. Anything filled with olives and sun-dried tomatoes is just fine by me and this bread was no exception. Next we went to the sweet side for the Gingerbread Cookies, which turned out delicious with just the right amount of spice. And though we had to adjust the amount of sugar in the icing recipe to get the right consistency, it ultimately turned out perfect and set very well. As if iced gingerbread cookies aren't fun enough, we broke out the squirrel with nut and kitty cat cookie cutters for these to up the fun factor a little more.

Since it's apple season, another recipe that caught our eyes was the German Apple Cake. What's not to love about fresh apples doused with cinnamon sugar baked on top of a moist fluffy cake?


And just yesterday I made the Lemon Bars - a tangy and sweet filling over a shortbread crust. Both this recipe and the apple cake I had to bake longer than the time listed in the recipe, but in the end both came out great.

What a smoothie recipe is doing in a baking book I'm not sure, but we did make the Berry Smoothie recipe as well. I don't usually need a recipe to make a smoothie but I did appreciate the addition of almond butter in this recipe, which adds another interesting layer of flavor. Likewise, pancake recipes abound, but for breakfast yesterday morning I gave the pancake recipe in this book a try and they were simple, fluffy and delicious.

We already have several other recipes bookmarked so I'm sure you'll be seeing more from The Joy of Vegan Baking here in the future. I do think there may be a little too much reliance in this book on commercial egg-replacer powder and perhaps also on vegan margarine, but personally I don't really have a problem with that and it certainly won't stop me from recommending that you go buy yourself a copy right now. With such a dazzling array of recipes you're sure to find a lot to like.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Blackened Tempeh

Most of what remains in our cookbook collection these days are vegan and vegetarian cookbooks. But I've kept around an old copy of the Better Homes New Cookbook from my college days and it still comes in handy on occasion. Sure, probably 90% of the recipes in there aren't vegan but maybe half of those can be veganized with a little creativity. Way back in the day, I remember making a blackened fish recipe from this cookbook and I said to myself, "Self... why not do the same thing with tempeh?"

I made it up as I went along so I don't have an exact recipe to share but I started by marinating the tempeh in a mixture of soy sauce, lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic. I also added a little hijiki for a taste of the sea but I don't think it was totally necessary. When I was ready to cook I made the spice mixture with 1/2 tsp. each, onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper, paprika and thyme, 1/4 tsp. salt and a pinch of cayenne. I coated the tempeh good with the marinade then rubbed the spice mixture into each side. Then I fried it in peanut oil over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes on each side. A little spritz of lemon on top and some collard greens on the side... mmm-mmm good. I think we'll be having this again soon.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Aloo Gobi

Last week I was back in North Carolina for a workshop. I learned a lot about landscape ecology and GIS, but perhaps the best tip I picked up was not work-related. Over lunch at an Indian restaurant one day a colleague told me about Manjula's Kitchen on YouTube, where you can learn all about making authentic vegetarian (often vegan) Indian food. So of course I had to come home and give it a try. These videos don't exactly have the highest production value, but still I suppose it's the next best thing to having an Indian friend come over to show you how to cook.

We had some potatoes we needed to use and we just picked up some cauliflower from the farmers market so we settled on the Aloo Gobi. We didn't have the soy yogurt I would've needed for making naan, but the roti sounded simple enough so I gave that a whirl as well. The Aloo Gobi came out more like something you'd get at an Indian restaurant than most other Indian recipes I've tried and the roti was pretty good too. One note about the roti video though (and apparently some of her other videos as well), is that what she says doesn't necessarily jive with what she's doing. She says 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup water to make the dough, but that just doesn't do it. And if you watch closely you'll see that she's actually using a whole cup of flour. Oh, and if you watch the Aloo Gobi video and she puts a pinch of something you can't understand into the pot, she's saying "hing", which is also known as asafoetida and is available at Indian markets (as is mango powder, another ingredient used in this recipe that you may not find at your local mainstream grocery store).

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A Nice Day for a Picnic

It's a warm sunny Fall weekend here in Central Virginia and we decided that it was high time for a picnic. So I spent some time this morning gathering together our grub, then we packed the car and headed up to the Blue Ridge Parkway. A few hundred other people had the same idea but we found a nice patch of grass for ourselves at one of the many overlooks and spread out our blanket in front of this view.
On the menu was fried seitan, macaroni salad, green beans and apple slices. The seitan was mostly like the J-Lo Fried "Chicken" recipe in La Dolce Vegan, the only exception being that I added some almond meal to the breading. To the pasta salad I added red bell pepper, celery, diced pickles, mixed beans (chickpeas, pintos and kidney beans), vegan mayo, flax oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. The green beans were simple and delectable. When the pasta water came up to a boil I threw in a large handful of green beans. After a few minutes I scooped them out with a slotted spoon and put them into a bowl of cold water. Then I drained 'em and added a little sesame oil and a splash each of soy sauce and rice vinegar. And finally I topped them off with a sprinkle of sesame seeds.

We walked off our lunch (or part of it anyway) with a nice hike at Humpback Rocks. There's a short steep trail that leads up to a spectacular view, but on a day like today I bet there are 100 people on the trail at any given time. So we decided to avoid the crowds and explore a trail that heads off in the opposite direction. No panoramic views, but we did see some nice color. And despite the fact that the parking lot at the trailhead was overflowing when we got there, we hiked for over an hour and only saw 2 other people (and 3 deer).

Friday, October 19, 2007

Warm Lentil Salad

I think I've mentioned before that we've started subscribing to Vegetarian Times again. It's not the most vegan-friendly publication but we've been finding that in any given issue, around half the recipes are vegan so we usually find something good to try. In particular, this lentil salad in the 'quick and easy' section of the latest issue looked promising. And indeed it turned out good. Simply cook some diced onion in olive oil, season with cumin, salt & pepper, add french lentils, basmati rice and water, and cook until the lentils and rice are done. The only small issue I ran into here was that the lentils came out just a bit firm. If I did this again I'd probably add a little more water and cook for a few minutes more.

Anyway, once the lentils and rice are done you just serve them on a bed of greens and drizzle a balsamic vinaigrette over the top. In the foreground of the picture, foreshadowing a future post, is a yummy olive bread from The Joy of Vegan Baking.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Noodles with Bok Choy and Tofu

Now here's one from Quick Fix Vegetarian. I've been looking through this book more lately for ideas that will help us get out of the kitchen faster, especially on weeknights. We always love noodle dishes and we're trying to eat more greens these days so this recipe sounded good. I made a few minor changes but mostly stuck to the recipe and it came out great. To start with I used udon noodles instead of soba because that's what we had in our pantry. I do like soba noodles though so next time we're at the Asian market we'll have to grab a package. But whatever your noodle fancy, you can start by cooking 'em in some boiling water, then draining and coating 'em with sesame oil. Then stir-fry bok choy, garlic, shredded carrot and tofu, add soy sauce and a splash of rice vinegar, and serve over the noodles. Sprinkle some sesame seeds on top if you like (black ones in our case).

Something different we tried with the tofu this time was freezing it first. I've always heard that freezing tofu will result in a chewier texture but I don't think I'd ever tried it before. I just put the whole package of tofu in the freezer after we brought it home, then a couple days later I put it in the fridge to defrost. You have to press it well because lots more water drains out of it this way, but we did like the different texture.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Black Bean and Avocado Pizza


I wasn't sure what to call this. Mexican Pizza? But maybe it's more California-Mexican. Or I could just call it fusion and make it sound more sophisticated than it actually is. Because really it was just a way to use up a couple of things in the fridge. Namely a package of whole wheat pizza dough and a couple of avocados from Trader Joe's. We also needed to use a few roma tomatoes (sadly some of the last holdouts from our garden). I started by cooking onion and garlic in a little oil, then smashing in a can of black beans along with a bit of salt, cumin and chili powder. Once that cooled a little I spread it on the rolled out pizza dough and topped it with the sliced fresh tomatoes, salsa and avocado.

Now here's a tip for you. If you ever want to put avocado on a pizza, wait until after the pizza is cooked. The pretty green avocado in the picture is there because I had an extra avocado that I only added after I realized that the nice soft green of the first avocado turned completely brown after being in the oven for 10 minutes. If you look closely at the picture you might see some of it on there but it came out to be about the color of the black beans. Live and learn.

Tofu Nuggets with Butternut Squash and Green Beans

We loved this quick and easy recipe I came across recently in The Vegetarian Family Cookbook. All you do is dice a block of tofu, then shake the pieces up in a container with a mixture of a couple tablespoons each flour and cornmeal, plus a little salt and nutritional yeast. Then bake those little nuggets at 425° for around 25 minutes, turning them once in the middle of that time. I cooked the butternut squash on the same sheet pan as the tofu and it was done perfectly in the same amount of time. And while that was going on I steamed a bunch of green beans. The tofu nuggets were great with a simple tartar sauce, also from Veg Family. Just mix together vegan mayo, minced pickles (or some pickle relish) and a little mustard. All that made for a nice fast meal on Friday night.

Update: I just edited this post to correct a glaring error. I was looking through Robin Robertson's Quick Fix Vegetarian before posting this and I mistakenly attributed the tofu nugget recipe to that book instead of Nava Atlas' Vegetarian Family Cookbook. Both are good books for quick meal ideas but the tofu nuggets and tartar sauce recipes are in fact from Nava.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Cauliflower and Chickpea Curry

This was a bit of a clean-out-the-fridge sort of meal but it came out good and didn't take too long either. All our eating out over the weekend was great but it was probably just a little lacking in fresh veggies. I think we corrected that tonight. We had a head of cauliflower that we really needed to use, and also half a bunch of kale that would've been past its prime very soon. And there was that half a can of coconut milk too.

I cooked half a diced onion in a little oil, added garlic, curry powder, cumin and coriander, then stirred in the cauliflower and kale, along with the coconut milk and some veggie broth. That simmered until the cauliflower was tender, then I mixed in a can of chickpeas and seasoned with salt & pepper. I even salvaged some cilantro from a week-old bunch so we had a little garnish.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Dining out in the Triangle

We're just back from spending the weekend in Cary, NC visiting Darlene's sister Kristen and her husband Ryan. They just moved there and it was great to go visit since we lived in Raleigh for several years. In fact we met and got married in Raleigh and Kristen and Ryan are now living in the same apartment complex that Darlene lived in when we first met. Déjà vu. Though we mostly stuck to places we've been before, we did have some great food there. Unfortunately I didn't take many food pics - only one in fact, which was from dinner at the Hard Times café. The Hard Times is a small chain with several other locations in Virginia and Maryland and there's not much for vegans as it's mostly bar food and chili, but they do have veggie chili and at the Raleigh location they offer veggie hot dogs. So it's becoming a tradition for us to go there whenever we're in Raleigh for some veggie junk food.

We also had lunch at Thai Villa, which has a few good veg. options. We've always liked this place and other folks must like it too because it's really in a lousy location but it's been there for at least 10 years. Every time we're back in the area we wonder if it'll still be there but as of this weekend it most certainly is. We ended up at Thai Villa after a disappointing first choice. We tried the Blue Moon Bakery in Cary first because their menu on-line lists several vegetarian wraps and sandwiches, at least a couple of which appear to be vegan or easily made vegan. But when we got there they only had three or four lunch options written on a white-board and the only vegetarian option was a veggie burger that wasn't vegan. Don't you hate it when that happens?

Another favorite for lunch is Udupi Café, which is an all vegetarian South Indian restaurant. We love the dosas, sambhar, idly, etc. but almost every time we go there's at least one item on the buffet that we haven't had before. This time it was the fried cauliflower in a spicy tomato-based sauce. I was already stuffed but I had to go back for seconds on that.

And on our second night there we had dinner at the Spotted Dog in Carrboro. It's nice to go to a place where they know what the word vegan means. We had decent veggie BBQ sandwiches there (with tabouleh on the side) and their veggie Buffalo wings were really fun and tasty. All told, I think we spent our dine-out budget for about the next 3 months but we did get lots of scrumptious food.