Monday, April 28, 2008

Some Musings on Seitan...

Not too long after I became vegetarian (the first time, prior to my brief slip back into the Darkness) I picked up a package of prepared seitan on one of my infrequent trips to Whole Foods (it is "only" 13 miles to the one nearest us, but no joke - it take 30 minutes to get there with out traffic). Anyway, we tried it, and ICK. It was squishy and weird tasting. I didn't eat it again for a long time. And the second package of it languished in the garage 'fridge.

Since my return to the Light I've noticed I'm becoming more adjusted to the "alternative" foods that are staples for many vegans. I also like the fact that seitan is packed with protein. I exercise regularly, including weight training, and so it is important to me to make sure I'm getting adequate protein to build muscle and keep me feeling full longer. And so when it seemed like every veggie blog out there was making Julie's sausages I decided to give seitan another chance. Verdict: I love it! This time it was not the least bit squishy, if anything, it was a little too firm (the recipe suggested that the dough was likely to be on the drier side, so when mine was pretty wet I added more vital wheat gluten flour and I think perhaps I should have just left it wet) so next time I'm going to play with the spices and resist the urge to add more vwg flour. It was the fabulous, chewy texture I was craving.

And so last night, with much trepidation, I brought that languishing box of seitan out of the depths of the fridge. It was White Wave chicken-style seitan, which I was planning on slicing thinly, but when I opened it I found it already in pretty thin slices/chunks (yay! less work on a tired night). I pan "fried" it with a healthy dose of cooking spray until it was browned and crispy. And guess what? Yum! I was pleasantly surprised and actually found myself eating the crunchiest bits right out of the pan. I removed half of it for later use (I was only cooking for myself last night) and mixed leftover pasta sauce (about 1/2 cup) into the rest. I piled it onto a piece of toasted ciabatta bread, topped it with a slice of toffutti mozzarella, and put it under a low broiler until melty. I sauteed a bunch of kale to go along side. Yummy and quick.

So the moral of this story is: if you "had a bad experience" in the past with a particular food, don't completely write it off. If your issue with seitan, like mine, is the mushy factor I recommend that you try making your own. The recipes which call for vital wheat gluten are super easy and pretty fast and you get to control the flavor and texture (depending on the cooking method you choose). If you can't get vital wheat gluten in your local market check online, there are numerous stores which carry it including amazon. I'm planning on making a couple of batches here pretty soon.

Tomorrow: Black Bean Brownies (kind of)!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Food is coming... I swear...

I have loads of food to share, I've just been having computer issues. Anyway.

For now, I have a quick review to share with you and you can see a picture of it on this blog. It is Veganomicon's Quinoa, Black Bean, and Mango Salad (or something like that). I made a couple minor changes. I was out of black beans so I used pinto, I only used 1/2 of a red bell pepper (it was really big, and 1/2 was plenty for us), I used lime juice instead of red wine vinegar, and I cut back the oil to 1tsp (and I used flax - trying to up those omega 3s).

It was really delicious, and even better it keeps exceptionally well; this would make a great picnic salad. I made it for us for dinner one night and we both decided later that we were not really hungry. We had it the next night for dinner, and I ate the leftovers for a couple more days. I don't know how red wine vinegar would have affected the texture, but even the chopped cilantro held up the whole time with the lime juice. I just added a little more lime juice when I served it to freshen it up. Totally yummy and healthy.

I was predisposed to like it though - it is basically a salad version of one of my favorite salsas. However, it is not the least bit spicy, so if you want to kick up the heat you should add a finely diced pepper of your choosing. If you're not adverse to eating the same thing for a few days in a row this would be a great salad to make on the last day of your weekend to take for lunch for a few days because it does keep so well. I took a picture, so as soon as I stop arguing with my computer, I'll post it!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Inside-Out Pizza (aka Calzone)

I was running errands last week, the final of which was a trip to Trader Joe's and I decided to pick up a ready-made pizza dough to give me a head start on dinner. You can make your own, I usually do, but in a pinch, or if you "don't bake" theirs is a perfectly acceptable substitute.

I served it with a quick marinara (recipe follows) and a cesar salad using lettuce from our CSA basket and the dressing recipe from Veganomicon. I am going to play with that recipe. It is reallllly garlicky, and I used the lower end of the recommended number of cloves. I also doubled the lemon juice and added a touch of nutritional yeast. However, the garlic was still overpowering for me. I love garlic, but in this it was all I tasted and I was looking for more balanced flavor. I think I'm going to try making it with roasted garlic next time and see how it goes. I'll keep you posted.

I made the filling while the dough rested on the counter for the proscribed 20 (okay 40) minutes. And the marinara sauce was thrown together while the calzone was in the oven.

Inside-Out Pizza

1 lb whole wheat pizza dough, divided in half
8 oz firm water-packed tofu, drained
1-2 tbsp light miso
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 tsp italian seasoning mix
2 tsp olive oil
1 vegan italian sausage (I used one of Julie's which I had left over), chopped small
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 red onion, chopped
2 handfuls each fresh arugula and baby spinach
3 tsps minced basil (shhh - I used the frozen cubes from TJ's because I forgot to pick up fresh)
2 tbsp soy milk
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Preheat pizza stone in oven to 475.
In a medium bowl smush up tofu with your hands. (A lot of vegan ricotta recipes I've seen call for making it in a food processor, but I find that to be much too smooth. Ricotta is a curd and is not totally smooth) You are looking for a crumbly texture with no big chunks. Take the miso and smush it into a bit of the tofu with a fork to loosen it up, then stir into the whole bowl. Add nutritional yeast and italian seasoning and stir to combine.
Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add onion and stir to coat. Cook 3 minutes until it softened and add garlic, cook 1 minute more. Add chopped sausage and heat through (1-2 minutes). Add arugula and spinach and cook, stirring, until it is totally wilted. Add basil and stir to combine. Remove from heat and pour entire contents of skillet into bowl of tofu and stir until evenly combined.
Roll out/stretch dough on a lighly floured surface into as large a round as the dough will allow without being too thin or developing holes. You want it sturdy enough that you can move it to the oven with out ripping it. Divide filling evenly between circles (I had some left over, but I could have used it all, so I'm adjusting for that now). Arrange filling on half of each circle, leaving a 1/4 inch of space all along the edge. Brush the edge on the half with filling lightly with soymilk (I'm not gonna lie - I used my fingers) and fold the empty half over the filled half, bringing edges together. With a fork crimp the edges all the way around the half moon. At this point I lightly brushed the top edge with soymilk and rolled the edge up and pinched it (I really didn't want that filling getting out!!!) but that step is probably not necessary.
Brush the tops with olive oil and gently cut 3 vents on top of each. Place onto stone in oven (carefully! very hot!)and bake 12-15 minutes until they are golden brown and delicious and look like this:

Meanwhile make the sauce.

Marinara Sauce for Dipping
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp italian seasoning mix
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup drinkable red wine
15 oz crushed tomatoes (or the remains of a non-descript bottle of marina sauce)
2 tbsp minced basil (again with the frozen...)

In the same pan you made the filling in (yay - less dishes!) heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook 3 minutes until softened. Add italian seasoning, a pinch of salt and fresh pepper and allow to saute for 30 seconds. Stir to coat onion and garlic in seasoning and then add wine. Simmer until almost dry then add tomatoes. Stir to incorporate everything and let simmer 5 minutes to allow flavors to combine and reduce slightly.

When your calzones are ready pull them out of the oven and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes while you plate everything else. Cut in half (trust me - you will scald your your pretty little mouth if you don't!), plate and serve. Yum!

B ate his entire calzone but I could only finish half of mine. So if you have 2 very hungry people this serves two. If those you feed have slightly smaller appetites, or you serve it with another side dish in addition to salad, it will serve 4. I had mine for lunch the next day, the bread had softened up (I only have a microwave at work) but it was delicious anyway.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

A Real Recipe - Really!

For dinner a couple nights ago I veganized my favorite black bean soup recipe. The original recipe calls for bacon, which does lend nice chewy bits to the soup, so if anyone has ideas for a chewy substitute let me know. Otherwise the flavor is spot on.

I also used a can of veggie refried beans as the thickener this time; the usual recipe calls for all black beans and then I blend part of it with either a stick blender or a regular blend which thickens it more than the can of refried beans did. You can use either depending on the consistency you desire. Obviously, you should adjust the spice level to your individual preference. This has a nice heat that kind of creeps up on you, but B didn't complain about the spice, so it wasn't too spicy (he's the worst half-mexican ever and doesn't like spicy food).

Spicy Black Bean & Veggie Soup

1 tsp. olive oil
1 med onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery (or 1 very large stalk), diced
1 lg red bell pepper, diced
1 poblano pepper, diced fine
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 sm chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, minced
1 tsp. adobo sauce*
2 tsp. chili powder**
1 tsp. ancho chile powder***
2 tbsp ketchup or tomato paste
1 tbsp vegan worcestershire sauce
1 tsp liquid smoke
3 cups vegetable stock
15 oz can diced tomatoes
28 oz. can black beans, partially drained
15 oz. can vegetarian refried beans
juice from 1 lime
1/4 cup cilantro, minced (or to taste)

Spray a large pot with non-stick cooking spray, add oil, and heat on medium. When oil starts to shimmer add onions, carrots, celery, and bell pepper and stir to coat. Cook until softened but not brown, about 5 minutes (turn down heat if veggies start browning). Add garlic and poblano pepper and cook another minute or two, until veggies start to brown. Add chipotle pepper, chili powders, ketchup, worcestershire, and liquid smoke. Stir to coat and cook another 30 seconds. Add vegetable stock, scrapping bottom of pot to loosen any brown bits. Add tomatoes, black beans and refried beans and stir to full incorporate everything. Bring to a bubble and cook 10-15 minutes to allow the flavors to meld. Take off heat, stir in lime juice and cilantro and serve (alternately you can pass the cilantro at the table if not everyone enjoys it.)

Serve with vegan cheese and sour cream if you are so inclined, I'm pretty happy with it as it.

We had the corn bread from Veganomicon with this. The only changes I made were to double the sugar (at B's request) and use hemp milk instead of soy. I like it, but I want to tinker with it.

* If you want the smokyness of chipotle pepper, but not so much heat you can substitute 1/2 tsp chipotle powder. Don't know what to do with the rest of those peppers in can? Place them individually on a parchment or silpat cover baking sheet, spoon 1/2 teaspoon of adobo sauce over each, and freeze until solid. Once frozen place in a freezer bag or container and use as needed.

** I like the control that having multiple single-type chile powders gives me so if you have those, use 1/2 teaspoon each of four different ones.

*** Ancho chile powder is my favorite single-type chile powder so that's why I specify it here, but if you don't have it you can just use another teaspoon of chili powder.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Ummm... right...

So yay for starting the blog I've been meaning to start... and then realizing that neither B nor myself knows where the card reader is to download photos (B: it's somewhere in the house! ... sooo helpful). But good news: I ordered a new one and it should be waiting for me when I get home! I've been taking pictures, so there is lots of food to get you caught up on - be prepared to be overwhelmed with yummyness :o)

In the mean time some delicious news: B and I got this on Sunday and I'm one happy girl (I've coveted one for ages, and after a lot of research and discussion, we choose this one and finally bought it)! I'm sure it will come up occasionally in recipe preparation; I'll be sure to let you know if you can use another appliance - most things will work without a high-powered blender, they just will have a slightly different consistency and/or require a bit more time.

Banana Chocolate Shake (pretend you're impressed - I swear the recipes will get more substantial!)
(2 large servings or 4 small)
I made this for a couple of friends to inaugurate our new appliance.

1/2 cup hemp milk
2 tbsp agave nectar
1 ripe banana
1/3ish cup vegan chocolate chips (I use Trader Joe's semi-sweet)
2 small handfuls raw cocoa nibs
2 cups ice (more or less to reach desired consistency)

Put in blender in that order and whirl until smooth. If you're using a "regular" blender you may want to add more hemp milk or water and start with less ice initially. Drink. YUM.

This turned out reallllly chocolaty. I think next time I'll cut down the chocolate chips to 2-3 tablespoons. I'd like to try making this totally raw, omit the chips, find raw agave nectar and make my own milk, but that's for another day.