Friday, December 26, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday! We had a really nice relaxed day with just my parents, sister, brother-in-law, and niece at our place. We watched Chevy Chase Christmas Vacation and dinner was a comfort food smorgasbord. It wasn't all vegan, but I did try a "beefy" version of my turkey roast.  I was pretty happy with how it came out but I think it still needs some work on technique. I completely forgot to take pictures before dinner (and I still haven't found my camera - grrrr). I did want to give you a recipe though, since it has been ages.

Cauliflower and Leek Gratin
We were having a comfort food dinner, so I added more margarine than was probably necessary. Feel free to reduce it. Either way it is still *wayyy* lower in fat than traditional gratin and everyone enjoyed it. This is adapted from America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. Serves 6-8, more if you have a lot of other dishes.

2 lbs cauliflower florets, as uniformly sized as possible (about 3 lbs whole cauliflower/2 medium)
2-4 tbsp earth balance or olive oil
2 large leeks, dark green tops removed, washed well, and thinly sliced
1 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp yellow miso
3 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups hemp milk
2 tsp minced fresh thyme
salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups bread crumbs 
1-2 tbsp olive oil

Preheat oven to 400. Spray a 9x9 square pan or large gratin dish with non-stick spray.

Bring a big pot of water to a boil, salt generously and blanch cauliflower until almost tender, but still a bit crunchy on the inside, 3-5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Melt earth balance in a large sauce pot over medium heat. Add leeks, shallot, and a sprinkle of salt and saute until tender, about 4 minutes, stirring frequently.  While that's cooking mix up your miso and nutritional yeast in a small bowl with a little water until you have a smooth, loose paste.  Add flour to veggies and stir to coat completely. Slowly pour in white wine, stirring constantly. Work in hemp milk and miso paste. Bring back to a bubble and cook 1 minute longer. Remove from heat and stir in thyme. Taste and add salt and pepper as desired. 

Pour in cauliflower and stir to coat. Pour everything into prepared pan. Mix breadcrumbs with olive oil until moist and sprinkle evenly over cauliflower. Bake 20-30 minutes until bubbly and browned on top. 

Enjoy!

------------------------------------------------------------------------

While presents are, for me, a (mostly) fun but non-essential aspect to the holiday I am soooo excited because I got this from my parents (thanks to B for giving Mom the suggestion)!!!:
I'm so excited, we go though quite a bit of soymilk even though it is just the two of us; plus I've been wanting to try my hand at tofu and soy yogurt and this will make those experiments much more economical. I made my first batch of soymilk this morning and I have the okara and some miso in the dehydrator now to try a version of Bryanna Clark Grogan's okara parmesan sprinkle. I'll have a review of the product after I've used it a few more times. Hope you all have a fantastic weekend!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Apologies

I apologize for the lack of posting recently. I've been focusing on getting my applications for graduate school completed (I hate writing about myself, selling myself is not my strong suit), working on a paper that I am presenting with two other graduate students at the fast approaching SPSA conference, and getting ready for Christmas. My to-do list is a full two column, 10 font page and I am already behind. To cap it off I have misplaced my camera.  Hopefully I locate it soon as I have lots to show you.  B did take a few pictures for me, so as soon as he uploads and sends them to me I'll have a post for you. In the meantime, if any of you have restaurant suggestions for New Orleans I would be much obliged, I'll be down there for the conference next month.

Upcoming recipes will include at least a couple that incorporate persimmons.  We have a tree and we just harvested pretty much the whole thing, and although I am keeping quite a few we are also giving a boatload away.  Ours are the more versatile Fuyu variety that can be eaten either firm or soft.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Thanksgiving: Part 2 - The Casseroles

Get yourself a cup of tea, we need to have a chat. Got it? Okay.

I don't know about you, but despite the fact that I ate precious little casserole growing up (thanks Mom), the word still brings to mind images of gloppy, grayish-brown conglomerations incorporating entirely too much canned condensed soup and insipid, canned vegetables. Say it ain't so! 

Okay, it ain't so. Or at least it does not have to be. Unfortunately, it seems a great many Americans still make certain popular casseroles (which will remained unnamed...) for the holidays in which every ingredient is derived from a can and/or bag. Yuck. Yes, making your own from fresh ingredients will take a little more time, but you will be rewarded with infinitely better flavor and nutrition. Both of these casseroles can be made in advance and then finished in the oven just before serving, meaning less stress on the day of. They are also both yummy leftover (I eat them straight out of the 'fridge). Both these recipes use the nut cream I posted yesterday so make that first. It is time for casserole overhaul!

Casserole Make-over 1
This sweet potato casserole seemed to be the favorite of most everyone in attendance on Thanksgiving. My dad even said it was the best sweet potato casserole he'd ever had (or something like that - thanks Daddy). 

Most sweet potato casseroles are tooth-achingly sweet, better suited to the dessert table than its rightful place on the dinner plate. This one is sweet without being cloying with a nice crunchy topping as a pleasant contrast to the smooth 'taters below.

Pralined Sweet Potato Casserole
How many this serves depends entirely on how many other dishes you are serving it with. It may seem like there is not enough liquid for the first step, but trust me there is. We are going to incorporate all the liquid into the final dish, to save all that yummy flavor from going down the drain, so we don't want too much or it will be runny.

For the Potatoes
7 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 cup water
1/4 cup earth balance
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup nut cream
up to 1/3 cup maple syrup

Preheat oven to 350 if baking immediately after assembly.

Place potatoes, water, e.b., brown sugar, and salt in a large pot. Place over medium heat and bring liquid to a bubble. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes fall apart when pierced with a fork, 30-45 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the topping (below).

When potatoes are tender remove pan from heat. Pass all the potatoes through a food mill or potato ricer, or mash with a masher until smooth. Stir in any liquid left in the pot along with the nut cream. Taste and decide if you'd like it sweeter. If so add up to 1/3 cup maple syrup and salt to taste.

Spray a 8x8 or 9x9 or 9 in cake pan (something with an 8+ cup volume) with non-stick spray. Smooth sweet potato mixture evenly into dish. Sprinkle evenly with topping. If you are making it in advance stop here, cover with foil, and stash in fridge.

Bake 30-45 minutes, until hot all the way through and turning golden at the edges. If you made it in advance take it out of the fridge about 30 minutes prior to baking to take the chill off (preheat the oven now if it is not already). Bake 45 minutes - 1 hour until hot all the way through and golden at the edges.

For the Praline Topping
1 cup pecans, toasted and cooled
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup earth balance

Pulse the pecans in a blender or food processor until finely chopped (take care not to take it too far or you'll have pecan butter). Using a fork, work earth balance into brown sugar until evenly incorporated and brown sugar looks like very wet sand. Mix in pecans. Resist the urge to eat with your fingers. Use.

Casserole Make-over 2
I did not grow up eating the popular green bean casserole (from cans...), and quite honestly, it grossed me out when I was first introduced to it. It is not that I had not consumed my fair share of both condensed cream of mushroom soup or canned green beans, but the combination topped with canned fried onions just was not the slightest bit appealing. However, I understood (kind of...) why it was so popular. 

Not long after (a few years ago) I was watching Food 911 with Tyler Florance and he made a green bean casserole that looked fabulous. Over the years I've tweaked the seasonings a bit. And this year I made it totally vegan and it came out fabulous. 

This is my favorite dish at Thanksgiving. I really should make it more often. I will happily eat a 1/2 pound of green beans at once if this is in front of me. Yum.

Herbed Green Bean Mushroom Casserole
Serves a lot. Unless I'm there. Then it serves me 3-6 times.

Small loaf or 3-4 rolls crusty bread (a good baguette is perfect), torn into small bite-size pieces
1/4 cup chopped fresh thyme
3 tbsp chopped fresh chives
1/4 tsp chopped fresh rosemary (you can use more if you like it - I was feeding rosemary haters)
5 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp mild yellow miso
3 tbsp nutritional yeast
3 lbs green beans (I like haricot vertes)
2 lbs mixed mushrooms, sliced (I used 1 lb, 4 oz crimini, 4 oz shitaki, and 8 oz oyster)
2 to 3 large shallots, sliced fairly thin
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 cup nut cream
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Rub together miso, nooch, and 2 tbsp olive oil until thoroughly combined and crumbly. Toss together bread pieces, 1 tbsp each thyme and chives, rosemary, nooch mixture, 1 tbsp olive oil, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Spread on baking sheet and bake just until very lightly golden, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside. If making this in advance cool completely and then store in a plastic bag or container until just before baking.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt generously. Blanch the green beans until tender-crisp, 3-5 minutes. You may need to work in a couple of batches. You can shock them in ice water when they are done, but truthfully, I don't think it is essential. Place beans in a large bowl and set aside. 

Heat a large skillet over medium high. Add 2 tbsp olive oil and add mushrooms when it begins to smoke. Quickly toss mushrooms to coat in oil then leave them alone for a few minutes to develop some color. Cook, stirring every few minutes until mushrooms release their liquid, about 5 more minutes. Add shallots and cook 2-4 minutes more until they soften. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and add wine. Scrape bottom of the pan for fond. Add in remaining thyme and chives and nut cream. Stir to coat and cook one more minute. Remove from heat and pour over green beans. Toss to coat.

Pour into a 13x9 in baking dish. If you are making this in advance stop here, cover with foil, and refrigerate. Remove from fridge 30 minutes prior to baking to take the chill off. 

Top with croutons. Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes, until hot all the way through and croutons are deep golden brown. If the croutons are getting too dark cover with foil or move to lower rack until done.
 
Mmmmmmm....

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Thanksgiving: Part 1

This was my first Thanksgiving as a vegetarian. Even though I still consume some dairy, I wanted to make all the dishes I contributed to dinner vegan. Both because I am on a mission to prove that vegan food can be just as good as its non-vegan counterparts and because, frankly, I like the challenge... plus then I can blog about them later :o)

Anyway, as I was the only vegetarian in attendance I went ahead and made my own vegan roast... a recipe I pieced together from several others and which I'd never made before. I've tried Tofurky before, and while I didn't hate it, I also didn't love it. Plus, I always prefer to make things myself. But of course, I was stubborn and decided not to make a tried and true recipe from a trusted blogger or cookbook. Why, when I can make things more difficult for myself?! 

I did quite a bit of research the week of, reading various recipes, reviews, and tips. What I ended up with was a mix of Bryanna Clark Grogan's seitan turkey, Vegan Dad's seitan roast, and Brian McCarthy's vegan turkey roast shown on Everyday Dish. I found a tip very late Wednesday night, that said that the texture of Bryanna's roast was significantly better the next day. This turned out to be true for mine as well. The day of it was almost bready, but after it had cooled and chilled over night it tightened up nicely. I also need to work on the seasoning and polish the method.
 
Sliced poultry-like roast.

One of the other things I tried for Thanksgiving was nut cream. Whenever possible I prefer to use whole foods, rather than more processed options. Also, I can frequently taste soy creamer in recipes, and not in a good way. Cream substitutes are pretty expensive, and not always readily available. So since I needed a creamy substance for a couple of my recipes I made my own. This is super simple and really easy to scale to your needs. It is made from nuts, so it is not really a low-fat food but nuts, and the fats they contain, are good for you! Certainly much better for the bod than dairy cream. Have I sold you yet? On to the recipe, if we can even call it that.

Super Easy Nut Cream
I used two types of nuts because I did not want a specific nut flavor to come through. Cashews are particularly creamy, so if your not allergic I suggest using them for at least part of the nut quantity. For this one I used 50/50 cashews and whole almonds. It is not sweet, so you can use it in savory or sweet applications. This makes about 4 cups of cream.

2 cups raw nuts
3 cups fresh water

Place nuts and 2 cups of water in your blender. Blend on high until smooth. Add last cup of water and run blend a few seconds more. (If you are not using a high-powered blender you may want to pulse your nuts without water a bit first to break them up and achieve a creamier consistency). 

Strain cream through a fine mesh strainer. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator until ready to use. 

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Reprieve from the Gluttony

I can't believe it, I actually forgot my camera on Thanksgiving (we gathered at my parent's home). I made a seitan-tofu turkey roast thing that was a conglomeration of several recipes, however it needs some work before I post it. B did get some good pictures of it on his new iphone, so as soon as he sends me those I'll do a Thanksgiving recap post, including a couple recipes.

In the meantime, this is a yummy soup that is a great one-pot meal (for a nice change of pace after copious holiday dishes), healthy (high-fiber, low-fat), and will fill you up without weighing you down. It has pleasant flavor but the spice is fairly restrained, also a nice break from the usual holiday fare. 

C-Cubed Soup
Serves 4-6. I used homemade veg stock, home cooked chickpeas (so. much. better.), Swiss chard from the garden, and onions and potatoes from the CSA, making this very economical as well. Feel free to use canned stock and chickpeas if that is what you have. Also, you can swap out whatever green you have on hand for the Swiss chard.

1 tbsp olive oil
2 small or 1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minces/pressed
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander (fresh ground is best)
2 small or one large russet potato, peeled and diced small
3 medium red potatoes, diced (not peeled)
2 cups cooked chickpeas, drained
2 tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup water (optional)
2-4 tbsp nut cream (optional, for richness, more on this tomorrow)
1/2 lb Swiss chard leaves, chopped (that's a guess. I used 3 huge leaves from my garden, probably more like one bunch for "normal" size)
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and saute until onions soften and some fond develops, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add cumin and coriander and stir to coat. Add white wine and scrape fond off bottom of pot. 

Add veg stock and potatoes. Bring to a simmer and cook until potatoes are fork tender, about 10 minutes. Add chickpeas and cook 5 minutes more. Add cornstarch slurry and/or nut cream, if using, and bring back to a bubble. Cook 1-2 minutes until soup has thickened slightly. Turn off the heat and stir in Swiss chard. Stir to fully incorporated chard, and give it a chance to wilt. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve warm. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Frugal Food: Making the Most of Your Produce - Oranges

Have you ever noticed how much of many foods we throw away? Even if you have a compost pile which puts your scraps to excellent use, most of us could still do a better job of maximizing our produce, and as a result our budgets. 

I have been doing a number of things to get the most from my produce which I want to share with you. We will start with citrus. Frequently when we peel an orange or juice a lime or lemon we just pitch the remains. But there is *so much flavor* in that peel that you are tossing. Instead, I've started taking a minute to peel off the zest and throw it in a labeled bag in the freezer. It is ready to go whenever I need zest for a recipe, even if I don't have whole fruit on hand. (When you peel the fruit do your best to only take the color and avoid the white pith as it is quite bitter.) If you need finely grated zest you can either chop it by hand or wiz it in your blender with a bit of something from the recipe you are making (sugar, flour, etc.). Or use it whole in the recipe below!

This is my favorite cranberry sauce. While I make it every year for the holidays there is no reason to limit your cranberry intake to just two months a year. Cranberries freeze beautifully, just toss the whole bag straight into your freezer. This sauce is sweet, but still tangy. It is based on this recipe, but I've changed the proportions considerably.

Simple Cranberry Sauce
This makes a little more than two cups. It is easily doubled and can be made well in advance and stashed in the 'fridge, which is always nice for holiday cooking.

4 cups (1 lb) whole cranberries, fresh or frozen
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 big strips orange zest
1 cinnamon stick

Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil then back the heat down to low and let simmer 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. It should be thick and glossy. If you prefer a thinner consistency you can add more orange juice or water to your liking. Remove the cinnamon stick and peel before storing or serving.

This cranberry sauce is nicely balanced. You need not only serve it at the holidays. It makes a great topping for pancakes, biscuits, and ice cream or along side seitan cutlets any time of year. 

Cranberries are nutrition powerhouses. When consumed regularly they have been shown to prevent urinary tract and bladder infections and kidney stones, and show promise as an anti-viral and in helping lower cholesterol, among other things. This is a nice change of pace (and a healthier choice) from the sugar-filled cranberry fruit "cocktail" for getting you daily dose of cranberry goodness.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Dinner in 15: Blender Black Bean Soup

I am someone who likes a fair amount of structure in my life. If I am not getting it from outside sources I tend to create it for myself. I tell you this because I have been toying with the idea of doing some semi-regular themes for posts. Mostly to help me organize some of my posts and ideas in a way that makes sense to me. A few themes I have come up with: Dinner in 15, Back to Basics, Frugal Food, and Cooking Now for Later. I would like to know what you all think. Does the idea make you all giddy with excitement? Do any of the categories in particular resonate with you? Are there any categories not present that you'd like to see? 

For the first installment of Dinner in 15 I give you: soup. Homemade soup no less. Quick meals are one of the best arguments for making enough that you have leftovers for later in the week. I made Cuban black beans and brown rice and a couple nights later we had this soup from the leftovers. I did not measure much while I was doing this. You should adjust the seasonings to your taste (remember - you can always add more!), since they will vary depending on how seasoned the leftovers are which you are working with. This can be made as thick (dip anyone?) or thin as you like.

Blender Black Bean Soup (from Leftovers)
Makes 2-4 servings

2 cups leftover black beans
1 cup cooked brown rice
1-2 fresh tomatoes
1/4 roasted red pepper
1/4 small red onion
roasted garlic cloves
1 raw garlic clove
chili powder (ancho, hot Mexican, etc)
cumin
oregano
squirt of vegan worcestershire sauce
squirt of ketchup or tomato paste
squirt of Bragg's Liquid Aminos
handful of fresh cilantro
veggie broth 
salt and pepper to taste

To Finish: juice of one lime

Possible Toppings: chopped tomato, chopped avocado, chopped cilantro, vegan sour cream, vegan cheese, corn or tortilla chips

Place all the ingredients in you blender and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. Pour into a sauce pan and heat over medium until hot and bubbly, stirring frequently (or microwave for even faster heating). Chop toppings while soup is heating. Stir in lime juice, add toppings, and eat.
Just because you are eating leftovers does not mean they have to look exactly the same as the first time you ate them. If you are a reluctant leftover eater (I'm not naming names... Amy...) try transforming them. They can save you time and money and they can be very delicious. This is certainly faster than delivery and a heck of a lot healthier.

Briefly

I'm sure many of you have heard of the fires that have been raging in Southern California. We live in north Orange County, less than 5 miles from several of the fires. Thankfully, both our families are safe, both in person and homes. However, the weather is hot, dry, and windy and we've had ash raining on us the last couple days. We're praying for rain - or at least double digit humidity - and cooler weather. The firefighters have been amazing.  

Anyway, given the weather (90 degrees in the middle of November is NOT reasonable!) and the perpetual smell of smoke (seriously - like sitting in a fire pit for two days straight) I've not been doing much cooking. If I remember my card reader I'll have something for you tomorrow. 

Hope you are all safe and sound and enjoying cooler weather than we are. Peace.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Tag, You're It

Bethany tagged me for the Random Facts Meme, so here it goes!
Rules:
Link the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
Share 7 random and/or weird facts about yourself.
Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links.
Let each person know that they’ve been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.


1. I collect turtle things. Not like in a weird, has-every-barbie-every-produced-still-in-the-box kind of collects, but my guest bath is turtle themed. Thankfully, since I don't point it out to people (on purpose!), only my mom really ever gets me stuff, which means I only get cool turtles carved out of wood and metal. They are just such neat animals.

2. My fear of failure keeps me from pursuing certain interests and/or goals. Actually, it is more the fear that the people I love and respect will be disappointed in me than the failure itself...

3. I like to go wine tasting. If you have any interest in wine, even "just" recreational consumption, you should go. You can find wine shops and tasting rooms all over, even if you don't live close to a wine growing region, although I bet you live closer to one than you think. It is a great way to learn what you like fairly inexpensively. Plus, there is great scenery if you go to the vineyards. Tasting is not just for pretentious wine snobs.
B and me in Santa Barbara at the beginning of October, wine tasting.

4. Although I like sweets, I can not think of a single one that I would consider "comfort food". Nope, give me  buttered and toasted sourdough bread any day. And a bowl of soup. Also, straight from the farm naval oranges (preferably peeled and doled out by Dad). 

5. I dream of having a big property with a huge garden and an orchard. I'd like to provide for all for all my family's produce needs one day. 

6. I would like to stay home with my hypothetical, future children (did I just lose all my feminists readers?). I have my master's degree, and I'd like to get a Ph.D. (I think... see fact 2...), but ideally I'd like to teach part time and be able to be with my kids. This would also theoretically give me the time to tend to the aforementioned garden, bake all our bread, etc. I don't think it is any surprise that Laura Ingalls Wilder was my favorite childhood author...

7. I used to think my mom was crazy for waiting until she was 30 to start having kids. When I was a teenager (who of course knew everything) I told her there was no way I was waiting that long. Now I just think she's brilliant (damn it - she is always right, always. It is so annoying.)

Monday, November 10, 2008

I Guess it is That Time of Year...

When I checked Hannah's blog this evening my first thought was "Shut up!" She posted a recipe for pumpkin ice cream, which is what I have for you today. I've definitely been upstaged by the queen of vegan confections. But our recipes are pretty different, so take your pick. Her picture is decidedly prettier!

Anyway, this came about because we had a couple friends over and one of them joked after dinner that he wanted pumpkin ice cream. Lesson 1: be careful what food-related things you wish for around me, you are liable to get it! I thought to myself "I can make that!" And since I store my ice cream maker bowl in my freezer it is always ready to go. I really like pumpkin, but I am not particularly fond of pumpkin pie so this would not be my first flavor choice for ice cream but Dirty (the friend who requested it - don't ask about the nickname) and B liked it.

Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream
I topped it with dried cranberries for the picture and they were pretty yummy, they got cold and chewy and provided a nice tart contrast to the ice cream. If you don't want to use a whole cup of maple syrup (I was feeling reckless!) you can use 1 1/4 cups sugar heated in 1/2 cup water just until dissolved then cooled and add 1/2 tsp maple extract.

1 15 oz can 100% pumpkin puree 
1 12 oz box silken tofu
1/2 cup whole, raw cashews
1/2 cup water
1 cup maple syrup - Grade A dark, or Grade B
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground ginger
pinch of ground nutmeg

Blend all ingredients in blender until completely smooth (I can't vouch for how well this will work in a "regular" blender). Chill in freezer 40 minute or in 'fridge over night - I just stuck the whole blender container in there.  

Freeze in your ice cream maker per manufacture directions. Serve as is for soft serve consistency or transfer to an air tight container and freeze until solid.

Consume. This makes about 6 cups, and it's definitely healthy as far as ice cream goes!

I love Chocolate

In fact I love it a lot. I especially love that scientists say it is good for me. Woo hoo, a certified recommendation to eat more of it. 

The thing is, chocolate does not always love me back. I get migraines pretty regularly, which is a genetic thing (thanks Mom), and as with many migraine sufferers mine are sometimes triggered by certain foods. What triggers migraines is unique to each individual, but there are certain foods which appear to affect a large number of sufferers. Wine, chocolate, and cheese, especially the aged kind, citrus fruits, avocados, fermented foods, and nuts are all well known triggers (to learn more go here). So basically my favorite foods. Fantastic. Red wine and chocolate both trigger migraines for me, although chocolate only does it occasionally whereas red wine is much more predictable (damn you! So Mom and I drown our sorrows in white wine... only kidding... mostly). Anyway, the point of this is, if I am going to consume these foods I aim to make them count (what? You didn't actually think I was going to, like, abstain from these foods, did you?! Please.) 

Endangered Species chocolate is excellent and readily available - I found it at Target, and most of their chocolates are vegan (only the milk chocolates and the one dark chocolate with toffee are not). Plus it conforms to my rules.

This is a really good dark chocolate for the dark chocolate adverse. It is very smooth, and not overly bitter, yet not cloying either. One of the things I like about dark chocolate is that it takes very little to satisfy my craving. So while a half a bar is a serving, I am perfectly satisfied with a fifth of a bar. Perhaps not so good for the company, but much better for my waist :o)

Additionally, Endangered Species is fair trade, supports family farms, and donates 10% of net profits to "help support species, habitat, and humanity." So your taste buds and your conscious will be happy. Not everything they make is vegan, but it is all clearly marked, so you just have to look for the "V" in the heart on the back. They also have an organic line, and all their products are GMO free. 

Look at how lusciously dark it is. And yes, I ate it with peanut butter. Mmmmm.

Check back tomorrow for a new recipe. Happy Monday!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Shepardless Pie

This meal is super omni friendly (it was tested on real, live omni's - they went back for more), super yummy, and a straight from the larder meal if you have a reasonably well-stocked kitchen. If you use a cast iron skillet or another oven-safe skillet it will be a two-pot meal (one pot if you have left-over mashed potatoes on hand!).

I used some frozen burger crumbles that were languishing in the freezer, but you can use TVP or grated tempeh if you prefer. If you use TVP rehydrate it in no-beef broth.
 
Shepardless Pie
Serves 6-8 happy people. This recipe is easily halved, just use a smaller skillet. If you want to double it transfer the filling to a 13x9 baking dish before topping and baking.

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 celery heart, or two stalks, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 cups burger crumbles, rehydrated TVP, or crumbled tempeh
1/2 cup red wine
1 tbsp vegan worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp Braggs liquid aminos
1 tbsp ketchup
1 tsp dried thyme
4 cups frozen mixed veggies (mine had corn, peas, carrots, and green beans)
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 cups water mixed with 2 tbsp no-beef broth (or 2 cups veggie broth)
salt and pepper to taste
one recipe of mashed potatoes, below

The filling, prior to being topped.

Preheat oven to 375. 

Heat oil in a large, oven-proof skillet over medium heat. Add onions and celery and cook 2 minutes, until they onions start to look translucent. Add garlic and cook one minute longer. Add wine and burger crumbles, cook until most of the wine is absorbed. Add the worcestershire, Braggs, ketchup, thyme, fresh pepper, and frozen veggies. Stir to thoroughly incorporate everything and cook a couple minutes until veggies start to thaw (yes I dumped them in straight from the freezer). 

Sprinkle in flour. You may need to do this in a couple increments to avoid lumps. Just sprinkle and stir, then repeat until you've worked in all the flour. When your done all the filling should be coated and you should not see the flour itself. Pour in the broth and stir until filling is uniform. Bring to a bubble and cook until gravy thickens.

Turn off heat and get your mashed potatoes. Dollop two-thirds of the potatoes over the filling and spread around until the whole top is covered, making sure work it all the way to the edge. Use remaining third of potatoes to cover any areas that look thin.

Place the entire skillet in the oven and bake 30-40 minutes, until filling is bubbly and potatoes are browned. If your potatoes are not brown enough for you after 40 minutes, you can use your broiler to finish them off but do NOT leave the kitchen. In fact, plant yourself in front of the oven. They will go from deliciously toasty to nasty burned in seconds!

Remove from oven and let rest 10 minutes. Serve to your adoring fans. 

As you can see the filling and potatoes did not completely fill the skillet to allow room for bubbling.

Mashed Potatoes
4 medium russet potatoes
2 tbsp earth balance (optional, I usually skip it when I'm just cooking for the two of us)
1/2 - 3/4 cup non-dairy milk
1-2 tbs yellow miso
salt and pepper to taste

Peel and dice potatoes. Place in a medium pot, cover with water and a tsp of salt. Bring to a boil and cook 10-15 minutes, until fork tender. Drain.

Mash potatoes. Add remaining ingredients and stir until thoroughly combined. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. For shepardless pie it is better if the potatoes are a little on the dry side as they will absorb some of the gravy from the filling. 

Friday, October 31, 2008

VeganMoFo: A Wrap Up

I just wanted to thank all the bloggers who participated in MoFo. I found your posts inspiring and motivating. I wanted to end with a recipe, but work has stolen me away again. This was an excellent exercise for me and a great way to get into the habit of blogging. This might be the end of VeganMoFo for this year, but it is just the beginning of the holiday season! I'll have a recipe for you by the end of the weekend and I have a whole bunch more rolling around in my head that I need to get to in the next month. 

Hope everyone had a safe and fun Halloween!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

VeganMoFo: Ice Cream Review

B and I don't go to Whole Foods very often, since it is not very convenient to us. But they do carry a number of items are not available in any stores in our area, so we usually pick up something new to try when we (or just I...) make a trip. Last time we picked up two of the new coconut milk ice creams by Purely Decadent: Mint Chip and Cookie Dough. 

The verdict? They have great mouth feel, very smooth and creamy, but they taste just okay. We could both taste the coconut, which in these flavors is not a positive attribute. It is less pronounced in the mint chip, but still present. The coconut flavor is more obvious in the cookie dough, and I'm not very fond of the cookie dough itself, it is grainy and not very flavorful. B's primary complaint about that one was the lack of cookie dough chunks. Additionally, we both would have liked a lot more chocolate in the mint chip. Of the two I would buy the mint chip again, however, next time I'll try a flavor that better complements the coconut.

So, in summary, we'll finish these ones (sacrifices must be made!), but try different flavors next time. And I'm going to have to work on homemade versions of these flavors. Hey, someone has to do it :o)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

VeganMoFo: Freeze(r) Tag

Bethany - I'm finally doing the tag! See I didn't forget! :) And I combined it with my goal of taking a picture and posting ::pats self on back:: So many people have been tagged or already posted that I can't remember who hasn't, so consider yourself tagged (lame? yes, but effective!).

What's in Your (Vegan) Freezer Tag
We'll start with the door. This is the top shelf. We have a couple small ice packs, a herbal eye mask (for my migraines), and a bottle of limoncello (mmmmm).






2nd shelf on door.  Frozen concentrates of apple juice and orange juice, which I keep on hand for baking/cooking. Usually such applications don't actually require fresh juice. Also reusable "ice cubes" which we never really use... 




3rd shelf on the door. A couple ice sleeves for keeping wine bottles chilled and frozen treats: chocolate covered bananas and a couple flavors of Fruit Floe's from TJ's (they make the best lime popsicles ever).






4th door shelf. Nuts. Due to their very high oil content nuts tend to go rancid very quickly. Storing them in the freezer greatly extends their shelf life. This may not be an issue for you if you go through your nuts very quickly, but I like to keep a variety on hand, and I buy in larger quantities of those I use the most frequently from Costco, so I freeze all mine (extras are in the outside freezer).

Bottom shelf. Coffee, also for freshness since we drink it very infrequently and a bag of pine nuts (from Costco!)








And we're on to the freezer itself. Above this shelf is the ice cube maker/dispenser. This top shelf holds frozen fruit (we go through a lot in smoothies), ice cream, phyllo dough, and puff pastry (hidden). We usually do not have this much ice cream on hand, but we went to Whole Foods and they had the new Purely Decadent coconut milk ice creams, so we bought a couple. I'll post my review of the two we tried tomorrow.


Shelf 2. This shelf mostly holds my homemade, pre-made "convenience foods" (pesto, roasted garlic, the caramelized onions, fresh lime juice cubes, a loaf of banana bread) and a few whole grains. I keep most of my grains in the pantry, but when I have more than will fit in the container I throw the extras in the freezer due to the high oil content. I also keep all my whole grain cornmeal in the freezer (but it still taste's off to me. I think because I grew up with the degermed kind. Weirdly, it is only the yellow cornmeal that tastes off, the whole grain blue cornmeal smells and tastes fine. And yes, I've tried several brands).

4th shelf. Frozen veggies, steins, and Candy Cane Joe Joe's (mmmmm).









And finally the bottom shelf. More nuts, sesame seeds, homemade beans, and faux meat. I keep a few commercially made faux meats around, but mostly there is homemade seitan and sausages in there and usually a couple blocks of tofu.


Monday, October 27, 2008

VeganMoFo: Ugg

Work is officially getting in the way of my to-do list. So annoying :) My mini-goal of the day: take a picture of something reasonably interesting and post about it tonight.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

VeganMoFo: Cook Now for Later

I'm a big fan of making my own connivance foods. A little time invested when I am not crazy busy makes my life easier when I'm pressed for time without having to sacrifice flavor or nutrition. PLUS I can still claim homemade, even if it's pulled out of the freezer or cupboard. I've mentioned that I'm working on a homemade biscuit mix; there are a number of recipes out there, but most are not vegan. I accidentally made a larger batch than I intended last time, so I'm working my way through that before I test a different variation (it is a hard job, but I do it for you! ha). There are a lot of things you can do in advance with very little effort, just double or triple what you need for tonight and freeze the extra. This works great for pesto, seitan, pie crust, bread, beans... the list is extensive. I'll be posting more about make-ahead foods in the near future.

Caramelized Onions
This weekend I tried my hand at caramelized onions. I used 3 large onions, which you can see filled the 3 quart saute pan in the beginning (this was after about 10 minutes of cooking). The key is *low* and *slow*. This took an hour and a half, but it was well worth it. And only the last 15-20 minutes really requires your almost constant attention (by which I mean I read a book while stirring). 

Just throw all the onions in a large pan over low (did I mention low) heat and toss with tongs every 5 minutes or so. The low heat allows the onions to give up all their water before getting any color so the sugars can fully caramelize without burning. When you notice them starting to stick to the bottom of the pan stir a little more frequently. Add a tablespoon of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt if you wish, I found it allowed me to cook them a little longer which meant better flavor. Watch them closely at the end, stirring frequently, to prevent burning; they will get sticky. Allow to cool and then freeze for later use (if you can restrain yourself from eating the entire batch straight out of the pan...)
 
This is what they looked like at the end. See how much they shrunk? *Low and Slow* You now have slow-cooked flavor ready to go in your freezer. Yum!

And some content completely unrelated to caramelize onions:
BooBoo came over with my parents the other night and had a bath while she was at our house. Isn't she the cutest (that is obviously a completely objective evaluation). I just love her. She likes to help me in the kitchen too; that's fun, and a great opportunity to teach colors, math, self-control, patience, and good eating habits. Get you kids (or borrow one!) in the kitchen. You'll both learn a lot.

Friday, October 24, 2008

VeganMoFo: Don't Hate on Simmered Seitan

I know there has been a lot of hate toward "boiled seitan" by some veg*ns. While I like the steamed/baked seitan just as much as the next guy I think simmered seitan should not be banned from our tables. Part of the problem is probably that seitan should not be boiled - it makes the texture weird and spongy. But simmered seitan is my preference for soups and stew. It also freezes well, so make a whole batch even if you are not going to use it right away. Just freeze the remainder covered with simmering liquid. 

Beefy Seitan
The key to good simmered seitan is to flavor the dough itself and the simmering liquid. Too many recipes just mix vital wheat gluten and water and then plop it in barely flavored water. No wonder so many people don't like it. This one is simmered just an hour, which results in a more chewy, dense seitan. I do this on purpose, since typically it gets cooked again in an actual dish. In the stew recipe I posted yesterday it becomes very tender, which is exactly what I wanted. 

If you have a large enough pot you can definitely double this recipe so you will have plenty of leftovers. In all honesty, large hunks of simmered seitan are not very attractive, so I'm sparing you pictures.

Dough
1 cup vital wheat gluten
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp chicken flavor broth mix
3/4 cup water 

Mix all the ingredients well and knead 5 minutes. Cover and let rest 20 minutes. Use this time to get the simmering liquid ready.

Simmering Liquid
6 cups water
1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp "no beef" bouillon
2 bay leaves
4 large cloves garlic, peeled and lightly smashed
1 tbsp whole peppercorns
1 tsp black tea leaves (loose tea is best as the tea leaves are much larger than in tea bags)

Place all ingredients in a large saute pan or stockpot with a tight fitting lid.

This part is very flexible, you can shape the dough into two larger logs (they won't stay well rounded however), or cutlets, or even big chunks, just keep an eye on them and adjust the cooking time accordingly. I usually divide the dough in four and stretch each piece into cutlets. 

Set all the pieces in the simmering liquid and bring to a boil. Immediately lower the heat so that the liquid is gently bubbling and cover pan.

Simmer 1 hour, turning two or three times. It will get all puffy when it is cooking and then shrink back down after it has cooled. 

Once it has cooled, strain the simmering liquid before putting away the seitan. The liquid is very flavorful and can be used in place of veggie broth.

I also have a chickeny version, but it is not as good as I would like, so I will post that one once it is perfected.