Thursday, March 27, 2008

Banana-Walnut Bread Pudding with Vanilla Sauce

This is my submission for "Men Who Cook". I've posted about my bread pudding before but I thought I'd do something a little different with it this time. I have a certain fondness for this recipe since it's one of the first ones I came up with on my own when I was in college. In all these years I've always done it essentially the same way - straight up with cinnamon and raisins. After making this version though I'm not sure if I'll go back to the old recipe - I love the flavor and texture that bananas and walnuts bring to the party.

2 large very ripe bananas
3 c. soy milk
1 c. Silk creamer (or more soy milk)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. + 1 Tbs. sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. fresh grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground cardamom
1 loaf of soft white bread (see note below)
1/2 c. chopped walnuts
1/2 c. dried cranberries

Mash bananas in a large bowl and add soy milk, creamer, vanilla, 1/2 c. sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom and mix well. Tear the whole loaf of bread into small pieces and mix it all into the wet ingredients as you go. You should end up with a stiff but moist batter. Fold in the cranberries and walnuts then spread the mixture in a greased 8" x 12" baking dish. Sprinkle the top with the remaining tablespoon of sugar and bake at 350° for 1 hour. After it cools, slice it into squares to serve.

Note: You may need to adjust the amount of soy milk depending on the size of your loaf of bread. For this recipe I used a large (24 oz.) sandwich loaf, but if your loaf is smaller use less soy milk and if it's larger use more. You may want to start with less soy milk and see how it goes. You want to have a fairly stiff batter but it should be moist. Kind of like this - notice that a spoon will stand up in it.

I also decided to jazz it up this time and make a simple sauce:

3 Tbs. Earth Balance margarine
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 vanilla bean
2 Tbs. Silk creamer

Heat margarine in a small saucepan over medium heat until it melts. Add brown sugar and stir until it's fully dissolved. Mix in the insides of the vanilla bean, then add the creamer and whisk until it's fully incorporated. Cook another minute or so then remove from heat. To serve, pour a spoonful or two over a piece of bread pudding and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Spaghetti O's with Meatballs

Yes you read that title correctly and yes this is still a vegan blog. Original Spaghetti O's are decidedly not vegan but my version sure is. A couple months ago we found some ring shaped pasta (called Anelletti) at Trader Joe's. I made our old standby mac and 'cheese' with the first bag but as I was doing that it dawned on me - Spaghetti O's! So we got another package the next time we went to Trader Joe's and it's been patiently waiting in our cabinet for this moment. Now it's probably been 15 years since I've eaten Spaghetti O's so I can't vouch for the authenticity of the taste of this recipe but I can tell you that it was good enough that I went back for seconds... and then thirds... and then I ate some more off of the spoon when I was putting away the leftovers. And now you can go find yourself some ring shaped pasta (or any other small pasta) and make your own.

For the sauce:

2 Tbs. olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 small carrot, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried basil
salt & pepper to taste
1/4 c. tomato paste
1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
2 c. vegetable broth
2 Tbs. sugar
1/4 c. nutritional yeast

In a large deep pot, cook onions and carrots in oil for a few minutes until they're getting soft, then add the garlic, oregano, basil, salt & pepper and cook another minute or so. Add tomatoes, paste, and veg. broth, mix well and bring to a simmer. Cook for 5-10 minutes then puree with a hand blender (though you won't hurt my feelings if you want to leave it chunky). Add sugar and nutritional yeast and simmer for a few more minutes.

The meatballs are adapted from the Veganomicon Chickpea Cutlets:

1 c. cooked pinto beans
2 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 c. vital wheat gluten
1/2 c. breadcrumbs
1/4 c. vegetable broth
2 Tbs. soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, pressed or grated
1 Tbs. tomato paste
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. paprika

In a large bowl, mash the beans well, then add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Knead for a minute or two, then form into tablespoon sized balls and place on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Spray or brush the tops with a little more oil, then bake at 375° for 15 minutes. Turn over and bake another 10 minutes. Meanwhile, cook a 16-oz. bag of pasta then add the meatballs and pasta to the sauce.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Men Who Cook

There are 40 vegan cooking-related blogs now in my RSS reader. Four of them are written by men. I've thought about this disparity in the past and I've been pondering it again recently. Now that I'm going to have a son I don't necessarily want him to be tied to stereotypical gender roles. Darlene does a lot of knitting and sewing and if our son wants to learn those skills I have no problem with that. I certainly want him to learn how to cook. So guys, let's set a good example for him and all the other little (and big) dudes out there. Here's my proposal:

All you female bloggers - convince the men in your lives to cook a meal, then post it on your blogs. For all the men who are already cooking, good on you - post something fun on your blog. When you post something, let me know in the comments here or in an e-mail. If you don't have a blog e-mail me a picture and description of what you've cooked.

Do this by next Sunday, March 30 and I'll compile all the responses here. Feel free to grab the graphic above and use it in your posts. Happy cooking!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Couple of Quick Meals

Here's a couple of quick weeknight meals. First up, the Butternut Squash and Chickpea Stew from the latest issue of Vegetarian Times. Back in the day when we had cable and watched the Food Network one of my least favorite shows was the one about semi-homemade cooking. But as I was making this stew it dawned on me that it would fit perfectly in the "semi-homemade" category. Because all you do is cook some vegetables (onion, carrot, bell pepper) with cumin seed and a bay leaf, then add canned chickpeas and prepared butternut squash soup - you know, the kind that comes in a quart-sized carton. It was quick to prepare though, and pretty tasty over couscous. We still have a ton left over too.
Next up, Spaghetti Carbonara - a recipe I found in Vegan Express. Carbonara is typically made with eggs and bacon (or possibly with ham and cheese), but this version with tempeh bacon is most excellent. I tweaked the recipe here and there but I was happy to have found it since I used to make the death-filled version way back in my pre-veg days. I never thought about making a vegan version but now I'm glad I did. I started by making my own tempeh bacon based mostly on the Vegan with a Vengeance recipe. I fried the tempeh in canola oil while the pasta water was coming to a boil, then in the same pan I cooked a few thinly sliced garlic cloves in olive oil. I cooked some whole wheat spaghetti and added some frozen broccoli near the end, then when that was done and drained I mixed it in a bowl with the garlic and oil, tempeh, a little Silk creamer, salt and lots of fresh pepper. Finally a few of the chives that are poking up in the herb garden got diced and sprinkled on top. Can you tell I'm loving the rejuvenation of the herb garden?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Pot Pie and a Sign of Spring

Here's something we've posted about at least a couple of times before but it still hits the spot on a cool night. When we make a pot pie we rarely follow a recipe exactly but usually we use the recipes in the Vegetarian Times Complete Cookbook as a guide. This one was filled with onions, carrots, celery, garlic, potatoes, seitan, kale and mustard greens. The sauce is a cup of plain soy milk, two cups of vegetable broth and a tablespoon of soy sauce and is thickened with a third cup whole wheat flour and a couple tablespoons nutritional yeast.

Despite the cool night, signs of Spring abound. As I was passing by our little herb garden the other day I noticed a big patch of green. At first I just assumed it was this invasive (and non-edible) mint that's slowly taking over our back yard. But then I realized it was something much more tasty (at least for some of us). An annual we planted last year and let go to seed is coming back with a vengeance. Who can be the first one to tell me what's in the picture below? Sorry, there's no prize for the winner; just the confidence you'll have in identifying a common culinary herb from a rather mediocre picture.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Mellow Mushroom Pizza

Update... And thanks to the commenters for getting me to follow up on this. I just got what I think is a definitive answer from the Mellow Mushroom and their soy cheese does indeed contain casein, which makes it not 100% vegan. If that bothers you their veggie pizza would still be good without the cheese and they do have tempeh & tofu sandwiches that you can get sans cheese.

There's something about vegan pizza isn't there? For local options we've written about Christian's and Dr. Ho's, and now we have another - and perhaps better - option: Mellow Mushroom. This is a medium-sized chain with locations throughout the Southeast and we recently read that the Charlottesville location was starting to offer soy cheese as an option on their pizzas and sandwiches. Ah, but some of you more in-the-know vegans may wonder about that whole casein thing. Well we've asked at the 'shroom on two separate occasions and they say their soy cheese is vegan (but it's not). They generally put butter and parmesan on their crust too but they can easily leave it off if you ask.

So last night we went there and got the Mega Veggie pie and boy was it good. And in what appeared to be some good vegan-friendlyness, another veggie pizza with a pesto base was accidentally added to our order somehow and someone came out of the kitchen to let us know that the pesto had cheese in it. Of course we hadn't ordered that option and the order was quickly straightened out but we thought it was interesting that they took the time to inform us of that fact. At any rate, the pizza we did get was piled high with a huge amount of veggies - the standard onions, peppers, mushrooms & olives, plus broccoli, spinach, artichoke hearts, fresh tomatoes, banana peppers and tofu (I know that's not a veggie). There was just enough soy cheese on there to keep all that stuff from falling off and the cheese was pretty melty. Plus the Mellow Mushroom has at least 20 different kinds of beers on tap - if you're into that sort of thing. I think this place could become a habit. Here's a pic of one of the leftover slices we brought home.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Split Pea Croquettes with Cauliflower

We've written about these croquettes from Alternative Vegan already but I didn't have anything more interesting since both meals from last post ended up lasting us several days. We've got so many great new cookbooks though that if we go back to a recipe a second time it must be a good one. So it is with these croquettes. We did use green split peas instead of yellow this time and instead of going the more low-brow route and having them with ketchup we used peach chutney that we canned last summer.

On the side was roasted cauliflower. That I made up as I went along but it went something like this: Cut up a head of cauliflower and put it in a big baking dish. Pour a few tablespoons peanut oil over it, then mix about a half teaspoon each salt, ground coriander and cumin and sprinkle that on top. Mix well and bake at 400° until tender, stirring occasionally. Actually I got impatient with it and wanted it to cook faster so after it had been cooking a while I put in a couple tablespoons of water and covered it with foil - the resulting steam helped it along.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

More RFD

First, I think I have a new favorite seitan recipe. The Basic Seitan recipe in Real Food Daily looked intriguing so I gave it a try and it turned out fabulously. Plus I really wanted to make the Salisbury Seitan. I guess it reminded me of school lunches as a child but there's certainly no comparison in terms of taste and nutrition. We had it with a salad and roasted sweet potatoes and hours later I was still saying, "Wow... that was a great dinner". The basic seitan recipe is awesome because it's tender but firm enough to hold up to slicing it any way you want to. And it makes 4 pounds so there's plenty leftover.

I was also intrigued by the picture of the RFD Meal - looked simple and nutritious. I'll call it beans, greens and grains. I cooked black-eyed peas with onions, carrots, garlic and a few diced leftover chard stems, and we had those with the steamed greens (collards and napa cabbage) and steamed millet and quinoa. Perhaps not quite as fun as the seitan but still good. And it doesn't get much more good-for-you.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Polenta with Marinated Tofu and Red Chard

This was inspired by one of the meals I had at Cafe Blossom in New York. This was the quick version though, with prepared polenta and marinara sauce, plus leftover red pepper sauce from last post. If you want to make it more fancy-like, make your own polenta and marinara, and add some more vegetables - like maybe asparagus or mushrooms or snow peas... or all of the above.

For this version I sliced a tube of polenta and fried it in a little olive oil. That went in the center of some marinara, then I added marinated baked tofu (VwaV recipe) and red chard that I cooked with garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and probably a couple other things I can't remember now. Some of the red pepper sauce went on top and that was it - quite a delicious and filling dinner.

I thought I'd also give an update on my vanilla extract project that I mentioned a several weeks ago. I ended up buying a mix of Tahitian and Bourbon vanilla beans here. I got about 50 beans and spent about 20 bucks. For another 5 bucks I got a cheap 750 ml bottle of vodka. To start out with, I split about 5 whole beans and put them in a quart jar with the vodka (750 ml is a little less than a quart so I topped it off with water - which I figured is reasonable because vanilla extract is generally around 35% alcohol and the straight vodka is 40%). Since then we've been using the vanilla beans in various baked goods (and in vanilla pudding), and adding the spent beans to the jar. I think we'll need to do this for a little while longer before we have really good extract, but already it's getting nice and dark and smelling less like alcohol and more like vanilla. (I added some agave to the jar too since I read that a sweetener is supposed to cut some of the alcohol smell.) The cheapest I've seen vanilla extract recently is 5 bucks for a 4 oz. bottle and when this is all said and done we'll have 32 oz. for 25 bucks (that's a little over 3 bucks per 4 oz. for those of you who have problems with math). Plus we've got a big bag of vanilla beans to use in our baking. In fact, if you just wanted to make extract you could easily use half the amount of vanilla beans we did and get a quart for $15. So if you can swing the up-front cost, go make some vanilla extract. It's fun and delicious!