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
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!