Monday, March 31, 2008

Peach-Mango Crisp with Ginger-Pecan Topping

I somehow ended up in charge of Sunday dinner again while I was home visiting my parents. Because I had planned a relatively complex dinner, I didn't want to go too crazy with the dessert. My dad is always a big fan of fruit pies but this is sort of an odd time of year for fruit. The apples and pears are dying out and it's not quite time for berries and stone fruits. Also, while easy as pie, they involve making crust and I didn't want to go through the trouble so I decided on a crisp. While I was at the market, I thought peaches and mangoes sounded good, and what goes better with peaches and mangoes than ginger and pecans! Sold. The mangoes and peaches were both slightly underripe because as I said, weird time of year for fruit, so I made a spiced peach nectar syrup to go on them and it worked brilliantly! This recipe actually filled a 10X10 baking dish, and so it would probably fill a 9X13 baking dish equally well, which is, in fact, an awful lot of fruit crisp. Wouldn't hurt to scale it down if you're not cooking Sunday dinner.

Peach-Mango Crisp with Ginger-Pecan Topping

5 peaches, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch slices *
2 mangoes, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch slices
12 oz can of peach nectar
1" piece of ginger, peeled and cut into coins **
2 1" strips of lemon zest
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp cornstarch dissolved in about 1 tbsp cold water
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the crisp topping:
1/2 cup margarine, softened
2/3 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup rolled oats
2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup chopped pecans
2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch each of nutmeg and ground cloves

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees

1. Mix your fruits together in a large bowl.

2. In a small saucepan, bring the peach nectar with the fresh ginger, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, and lemon zest to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes to infuse the flavors.

3. Remove the ginger and lemon zest from the nectar. Return it to a boil, then whisk in the cornstarch. Simmer for a minute to thicken, remove from heat, stir in the vanilla, then pour over the peaches and mangoes.

4. Pour the peaches and mangoes into a baking dish.

To prepare the topping...
Cut the margarine and flour together until crumbly. Add everything else and mix together with your fingers until well combined. Pour it all over the middle of the fruit, then spread to the sides to cover completely and pat down lightly.

Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until the fruit is tender and bubbley.

I can't decide which picture I like better so I'm posting them both

Italian Wedding Soup

I have to admit, I've never eaten "real" Italian Wedding Soup. In fact, I'd never even heard of it until Campbells came out with a canned version. This happened years after I became a vegetarian, and of course the soup is in chicken broth with mini-meatballs. Still, I've gazed at it almost lovingly thinking "... if only it was veg." The introduction of Veganomicon's Chickpea Cutlets made that dream a reality. That said, the meatball part of this recipe is a slightly adapted version of Chickpea Cutlets. The rest of the recipe I made up this recipe based on what the can of soup appears to contain. Maybe not the most scientific method, but it has yielded a pretty close product -- at least in terms of appearance. It also happens to be delicious.

Italian Wedding Soup

For the "meatballs":

1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup vital wheat gluten
1/2 cup italian style breadcrumbs
1/4 cup vegetable broth
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 cloves of garlic, pressed
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp sage

2 tbsp fresh flatleaf (Italian) parsley, chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet by spraying it with some olive oil.

2. Mash the chickpeas with the olive oil. Add everything else. Knead until it starts to get stringy. Some chickpea bits may fall out. Don't worry about them. It wasn't meant to be.

3. Tear off tablespoons of dough (?) and squeeze/roll them into mini meatballs. You do actually have to squeeze the dough in your hand, then roll a little, then squeeze, then roll, to get them to be meatballs.

4. Lay all your meatballs on the baking sheet. Spray with olive oil. Bake for 20 minutes, turn over, then bake for another 10-15 minutes or until they're firm.

Baked "Meat"ball army!

For the Soup:

2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
6 cups of vegetable broth
1/2 cup Israeli couscous *
1 1/2 cups frozen spinach **

1. In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat, then add the carrots and celery and sautee, stirring occasionally until they start to soften. Add the garlic and cook for another 2-3 minutes.

2. Add the vegetable broth and bring the soup to a boil.

3. Add the couscous and reduce the heat to simmer. Simmer for 10-12 minutes or until the couscous is soft.

4. Stir in the spinach and let it heat through.

5. Stir in the cooked meatballs right before serving.

Big Pot of Italian Wedding Soup

* Unlike regular couscous, Israeli couscous is much larger. It cooks up to the size of little pearls. Pastini isn't bad here as an alternative, but I like the little couscous best.

** If you buy the BIG BAG of frozen spinach as opposed to the small box, it isn't frozen into a block and you can actually pour out what you need and then put it back in the freezer.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Noodle Kaboodle!!

I recently got into Family Guy. Prior to just recently, I just didn't get it. It was too gross, and is the baby really talking? Do people understand him? Why is the dog walking upright? I had to give up on my reality perspective and I found out that while it still too gross sometimes, it is pretty damn funny. This dish is my Family Guy tribute. I have no recollection of what else is happening in the episode, but the family is sitting down to dinner and Brian compliments Lois' cooking and she replies something like "Oh Brian, it's just Noodle Kaboodle!!" Other than mentioning the potato chip topping, I have no idea what is in a Noodle Kaboodle -- nonetheless, I decided to make it happen. And so, here is my very own version of noodle kaboodle. It's fairly simple tasting and sort of reminiscent of a boxed noodleroni type dinner. It doesn't have a potato chip topping (you know what? I just can't. Feel free to though if you want!), but it's still a creamy and delicious comfort food!

Noodle Kaboodle
8 oz eggless egg noodles
1 tbsp olive oil
2 medium carrots, diced
1 large or 2 small broccoli crowns, cut into small bite-sized pieces
1 cup frozen peas
8 oz turkey style seitan, cut into cubes *
1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked for at least 30 minutes in hot water
12 oz soft silken tofu (1 box mori nu)
1 1/2 cups plain soymilk
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
3 tbsp all purpose flour
3 tbsp canola oil
Salt & Pepper to taste
Plain Breadcrumbs (ok, or crushed potato chips) for topping

1. Prepare the egg-less noodles according to package directions.

2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and sautee the broccoli and carrots until tender crisp. Add the frozen peas and stir to heat through.

3. In a blender or food processor, puree the (drained) cashews and the silken tofu together until smooth. Set aside.

4. In a large skillet or medium pot, heat the 3 tbsp of canola oil, then add the 3 tbsp flour. Whisk together over low heat until light brown and toasty smelling (for those in the know, make a roux). Slowly whisk in the soymilk. Most of it will thicken up right away. Add the tofu mixture, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, poultry seasoning, garlic powder, and salt and pepper to taste.

5. Mix everything together and pour it into a 9X13" baking dish. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs (yes, yes, or potato chips) and bake in a 350 degree oven for 15 - 20 minutes until the breadcrumbs are toasty.

Naked Kaboodle!! Pre-bread crumbs. You get a better view of the veggies and seitan and nice creamy sauce!

*I used 1/2 a loaf of Bryanna Clark Grogan's seitan turkey that I had in my freezer. Her seitan turkey and ham are really quite good, but it's a day long project to make them, so every now and then I'll spend an entire day and make about four loaves and cut them in half and freeze them to use when I need seitan meats. Chicken style seitan would work here too, as would Morningstar Chik'n Strips too, most likely.

Fruited Quinoa

I made this to bring to Easter dinner this year at my BF's grandparents' house. I figured it would be nutritious and filling and colorful, as well as tasty with nothing too weird in it -- well aside from the quinoa. I think the moral of this story is that meat-and-potatoes type people do NOT eat fruited quinoa. It is delicious, however, to the rest of us. If you haven't used Quinoa before, it's a great, fast cooking "pseudo-grain." It's actually a type of seed, like Amaranth, not a grass, as grains are. It is high in protein, is a complete protein, has lots of vitamins and minerals and fiber. Some people toast their quinoa, some people rinse. Both are to get off the bitter outer coating of the quinoa. I'm a rinser, though admittedly it's difficult to find a strainer fine enough not to dump some quinoa into the sink. A piece of cheesecloth in a fine mesh metal strainer does the trick for me. I've read, however, that most quinoa manufacturers get off the bitter outside for you, so all of us rinsers-and-toasters may be wasting our time.

Fruited Quinoa
1/2 cup white quinoa
1/2 cup red quinoa
2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 red bell pepper
1/2 yellow bell pepper
1 cup butternut squash
1 small parsnip
2 medium carrots
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 granny smith apple
1/2 cup golden raisins
12 dried apricots
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cinnamon
Salt & Pepper to taste

1. Bring the vegetable broth and quinoa to a boil in a medium saucepan, then reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed. Fluff with fork.

2. Peel the carrot and parsnip. Dice all the veggies and the apple to 1/4 inch dice. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large skillet and sautee veggies, apple and garlic for 10-15 minutes until tender. If they are sticking to the bottom of the skillet, add a few tbsp of water.

3. In a dry pan over medium heat toast the pine nuts until golden brown.

4. Cut the apricots into 1/4 inch dice (I cut each one into 9 pieces like #)

5. Toss everything together, add the cinnamon, and salt and pepper to taste

As an aside to this, I also brought a Braided Sweet Potato Bread to Easter Dinner. I used the Potato Rolls recipe from Veganomicon and didn't make it into rolls. Instead I made six strand braid.

Here's a before shot, with the baby tester loaf behind it (he's just a three strand):

And an after, all toasty and golden brown

Friday, March 21, 2008

Pasta & Kale

A long time ago in a kingdom far away -- my old apartment -- I was planning to go to the Troy Farmers Market. I invited the, then, "boy I was dating" (now "domestic partner") to come with me and he scoffed. I said "Oh, then I'll just bring you something back.. how about some KALE do you want some KALE??" "What the hell is Kale?" was he response. Foolish mortal. Kale is DELICIOUS and this is probably my favorite way of preparing it. The boy has learned to love Kale and good thing! This stuff is packed with as many vitamins and minerals as it is deliciousness. If you haven't tried it, you really should. Just a warning though -- if it's bitter, you got bad Kale -- don't blame all Kale for the shortcomings of that one bunch.

I serve the Kale over Pasta here, but it goes just as well over brown rice or barley or on baked pizza dough or crusty bread...

Pasta & Kale
1 Bunch Kale
2 cups diced or crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 can white kidney beans (or whatever else you like in a canned bean)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
Handful fresh basil, torn
1/2 lbs pasta (here we've got whole wheat)

1. Put on a large pot of water to boil for the pasta. Continue to prepare the pasta according to package directions, then drain it. Meanwhile...

2. Rinse off the Kale and cut or tear the leaf off of the tough stem as seen in the picture...
See the light green "backbone"? That's tough and needs to go!

3. Chop or tear the leaves into smallish pieces, as you would lettuce for a salad.

4. Heat oil in a large pan. Add the garlic and cook over medium-low until the garlic is fragrant (about 1-2 minutes). Add all your Kale and the vegetable broth. It will look like a crazy mountain of Kale, but it will cook down quite a bit. Put the lid on the pan, turn the heat up to medium-high and let it simmer for about 5 minutes until it shrinks down.

Kale Mountain!

5 Minutes Later -- Kale plains

5. Add the tomatoes and simmer for another 5 minutes. Then add the beans and toss to heat through. Remove from the heat and fold in the basil.

I used frozen garden tomatoes that I cooked down this fall so it's a little bit wetter than the canned kind.

6. Toss the Kale and Tomato and Bean mixture with your pasta. Enjoy!

Sugar Cookies: Easter Style

I love the simplicity of Sugar Cookies. I can't say that I don't like chocolate, but I've always preferred vanilla cookies, cakes, and ice cream. Crisp and a little toasty, these sweet vanilla cookies are wonderful with a bit of powdered sugar icing. I've had this recipe forever and I have no idea where it came from. To continue my Easter Theme, here are Easter Style Sugar Cookies.

Sugar Cookies
3/4 cup Earth Balance Margarine, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup pureed silken tofu
1 tsp vanilla extract *
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

1. Cream together margarine and sugar. Add tofu and vanilla and mix well to combine.

2. Add in the dry ingredients and mix until a dough ball is formed.

3. Wrap the dough ball in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about an hour

4. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Roll the dough about 1/8" thick. Cut into shapes using cookie cutters. Bake for 6-8 minutes, or until golden brown.

This is the basic icing recipe I use. Add more liquid or more powdered sugar until it's the consistency you like. Sift your powdered sugar if it's lumpy.
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp milk-of-your-choice (I usually use ricemilk)
2 tsp light corn syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract *

1. In a small bowl, stir together the sugar and milk until smooth. Add in the corn syrup and vanilla extract.

*You can replace this out with any other extract you like. I particularly enjoy almond as an alternative.

This time instead of using different colored icing and doing tons of piping in different colors, I used all white icing and dipped the cookies in colored sugars. Here are some close ups:

I love this little guy hatching from his egg!

Multicolored Egg -- Take THAT Paaz!


Lemon Rosemary Shortbread

Oh, Vegetarian Times, why do you mock me so?

I like Vegetarian Times, I do, really. Then again, I like any magazine with recipes, omni or veg*n. I do wish they wouldn't be so dumb about things though. I know, I know, it's not vegan times, but a lot of recipes are labeled vegetarian when with a very easy substitution (i.e. soy milk for moo milk) the recipe would be vegan.

This recipe was not one of them.

I saw this recipe for Lemon Rosemary Shortbread in this month's issue of VT and I was fascinated and wanted to try it. The recipe, of course, called for butter and egg yolks. Urgh. I read up online about how to correctly replace out egg yolks and came up with a variety of answers from filtered flax goo to soy lecithin to agar agar. I didn't want to use flax because I thought the lemon and rosemary flavors would be too delicate for the nutty undertones of flax. Soy lecithin only came in big bags and what the heck am I gonna do with the rest of it? And agar agar sounded like a joke anyway. I'm not making jello here! So I went for my old standby - pureed silken tofu. Success! It yielded a light a flakey cookie. I don't think egg yolk could do it better.

Lemon Rosemary Shortbread
1/2 cup Earth Balance margarine, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp finely chopped rosemary
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest *
1/4 cup pureed silken tofu
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup corn flour **
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup turbinado or sanding sugar for decorating

1. Beat together better, sugar, rosemary, and lemon zest, then beat in vanilla and tofu.

2. Add the dry ingredients and beat until just combined.

3. Roll the dough into two logs about 1" high each and roll in wax paper and put in the fridge for 2 hrs.

4. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Mist cookie sheets with nonstick spray. Slice cookies into 1/3" rounds, dip the tops in sugar, and place them on the cookie sheets. You can put them pretty close together, they don't spread.

5. Bake for 15 minutes or until the bottoms are golden brown.

* Yes, recipe checkers, I doubled this and I'm glad I did! Maybe it was just my lemon (and I used a Meyer lemon so nyah) but I don't think the lemon flavor would have come through at all with half as much zest.
** Corn flour is not Cornstarch or Corn meal. It's its own thing. I bought mine in the bulk isle at the co-op in a bin marked "Corn Flour" -- go figure.

Carrot Cake Cookies

I was trying to think up what cookies should be on my Easter Cookie menu this year. I don't know what a traditional Easter cookie would look like, but I thought rabbits... carrots... carrot cake... carrot cake cookie! So I started searching the internet for a recipe that I could bastardize and I found this one in It sounded pretty good, chock full of all sorts of nice carrot cakey things, plus you get so many fruits and veggies, what could be bad? And so, here is my version of...

Carrot Cake Cookies
1/2 cup Earth Balance (or margarine of your choice), softened
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup pureed silken tofu
1 8oz can crushed pineapple, drained well
3/4 cup shredded carrots (about 2 medium)
1 cup raisins
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 cup chopped pecans

1. Preheat the oven 350 degrees. Spray cookie sheets with nonstick cooking spray (or use Silpat sheets... but mark my words, if you don't these WILL stick!)

2. Cream together the margarine and sugar in a large bowl. Mix in the tofu, pineapple, carrots and raisins. Then add the dry ingredients, and finally, fold in the pecans.

3. Drop rounded tablespoons of dough onto your lubed up cookie sheets, then gently flatten a bit.

4. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the bottoms become golden brown.

You can eat them just like that, or you can make a bit of cream cheese icing to drizzle over top like I did. I didn't *actually* measure what I used for my icing though, so here's my best approximation.
3 tbsp tofutti cream cheese, softened
2 tbsp silk creamer (you could use any sort of milk you like)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 - 2 cups powdered sugar

1. Whisk together the cream cheese and milk product until smooth. Add the vanilla extract, then whisk in the powdered sugar until it reaches the consistency you desire. Too wet? Add more powdered sugar. Too dry? Add more milk. Drizzle as desired.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Easter Eggs

I got the idea for these from Paula Dean, believe it or not. I saw one of her candy shows and she made these weird butterscotch, caramel, peanut, chocolate things and I thought "Hmm.. If I sub out a few things, this could be good." They could theoretically be made into any shape, or rolled into balls for simplicity, but since it's Easter time, I thought I'd make them into eggs.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Easter Eggs
3/4 Cup Peanut Butter (No stir kind) - Creamy or Crunchy
1/2 cup Ricemellow Creme
1/4 cup powdered soymilk
2 tbsp powdered sugar

~1 cup chocolate chip

1. Melt the peanut butter in a microwave safe bowl in the microwave. It should take between 30 seconds and a minute. (Alternately, melt it in a small saucepan over medium heat)

2. Stir in the powdered soymilk until well distributed.

4. Fold in the ricemellow creme and powdered sugar and just keep folding/kneading over and over until the mixture cools and becomes the consistency of play dough.

5. Take heaping tsps of dough and roll them into egg shapes. Sit them on a wax paper lined cookie sheet and refrigerate for about an hour.

Naked Peanut Butter Eggs!

6. Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave or in a small saucepan on the stove. Roll the peanut butter eggs in the melted chocolate and sit them back onto the wax paper to set up (you can put them back in the fridge to speed this process).

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Tofu Scramble and Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

One of my favorite meals for cleaning out the fridge of all it's random bits of vegetables is Tofu Scramble. A lot of people eat tofu scrambles for breakfast but I'm not a really big breakfast-in-the-morning type person. Breakfast for dinner is definitely more my speed! This meal is fairly simple but full of flavor and texture and a great way to fulfill a ketchup craving.

I use the tofu scramble seasonings and method from Vegan with a Vengeance, but use my own veggie mix. One thing you may notice with my recipes is that they rarely contain onions. Onions make me quite ill so I work around them/sub them out in most recipes. I happen to live with an onion lover, however, so sometimes I find myself cooking with them in big pieces and picking them out, or making them on the side and stirring them into his portion. On the flip side, he's a mushroom hater. Meals made with mushrooms are generally ones I've made for myself and/or friends with other things for the hater. The original recipe called for both onions and mushrooms... hence the mods.

The potato recipe is mine, as much as you can claim a recipe for roasting potatoes. I don't like mushy potatoes (i.e. mashed, baked) unless they're in soup, and I like my potatoes with skins on, thus roasted potatoes and oven fries are two of my favorites.

Tofu Scramble ala Things Left in Megan's Fridge
1 1/2 cups broccoli, chopped fine
1 1/2 cups cauliflower, chopped fine
1 small red bell pepper, diced fine
1 carrot, grated
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 lbs firm or extra firm tofu
1 tbsp olive oil

2 tsp cumin
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp tumeric
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
Juice of 1/2 a lemon

1. In a large pan over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the garlic, broccoli, cauliflower and pepper and cook for about 8 minutes until it starts to soften.

2. Add the spices (not the yeast or the lemon yet) and 1/4 cup of water and stir to coat everything. Crumble the tofu into the pan. Fold everything to mix it up.

3. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. If it's getting too dry, add a bit of water to moisten it back up again. Add the carrots in the last 3 minutes.

4. Add the nutritional yeast and lemon juice and mix it around to make sure everything is evenly distributed. Add more water if needed to make everything come together. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

1 lbs Idaho potato(es) [I happened to have one giant potato, but several smaller are fine too]
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees

2. Scrub your potato(es) well. If you are truly opposed to potato skin, peel it (them), but that's where all the nutrition is so you can decide how guilty you feel about getting rid of all those nutrients and fiber. Dice the potato(es) into about 1" dice.

3. Put all the diced potatoes into a large bowl or ziplock bag. Add the olive oil and rosemary and toss to coat evenly.

4. Lay your potatoes out on a baking sheet in one layer. I find a silpat sheet to be very helpful to prevent sticking. Sprinkle with salt as desired.

5. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes or until the potatoes are toasty brown (flip one to check the bottom) and they're fork tender on the inside.

Broccoli Polenta with Vegetable Ragu

This recipe is takes elements from several other recipes and combines them into one big knockout recipe. The base is the Broccoli Polenta recipe from Veganomicon, topped with a vegetable ragu that I stole and modified from Gourmet magazine. I think the polenta was too wet, but the topping was fantastic. I took the extra and tossed it with pasta and it was great like that too.

Broccoli Polenta
3 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup polenta
2 tbsp olive oil
4 cups of finely chopped broccoli

1. Bring the broth and salt to a boil in a medial saucepan.

2. Slowly add the polenta whisking the entire time.

3. Add the broccoli, and the olive oil, and reduce the heat to low.

4. Cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Make sure you scrape around the bottom and edges since it seems to set there first.

5. Remove from heat and leave covered for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

What I did at this point was poured it into two greased large tomato cans (28 oz) and let it rest in the fridge for about 4 hrs until it was cool and set. Then I shook it out of the cans, sliced it, misted with olive oil, and put the slices under the broiler for about 10 minutes. They didn't brown as well as I'd have liked though, and like I said, it was still pretty soft.


Vegetable Ragu
1 1/2 lbs Japanese eggplant (regular will do as well, but Japanese eggplant are sweeter and less seedy)
2 large portabello mushrooms
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
1/2 cup roasted red peppers
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 cup water
Handful each fresh parsley and basil, plus more for garnish

1. Dice the mushroom and eggplant to about equal size dice. It is going to seem like a ton, but it shrinks a lot. Heat the oil in a large pot and add the oregano, eggplant, and mushrooms. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 5-7 minutes or until the veggies are soft and have shrunk.

2. Meanwhile ... quarter the tomatoes and chop the roasted red peppers. When the eggplant and mushrooms have softened, add the tomatoes, peppers and garlic and cook for about 10 minutes, adding water if the mixture seems too dry.

3. Chop the parsley and basil and add at the very end just before serving. Top with more fresh herbs for a bright garnish.

Ye Big Old Pot of Ragu
(Ragu means "Sauce" in Italian)

Uh oh! More Ragu than you've got Polenta??

It is absolutely delicious on some crusty bread with a drizzle of olive oil, or you could toss it with some cooked pasta. Heck, you could scrap the Polenta all together and save yourself a bunch of work and just make it with pasta. It's dern good.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Seitan Gives you WINGZ!

Today is my beloved's birthday. He is an omni, and I am a veggie and yet we happily coexist in a largely meat free household. How is that even possible, you might ask? Aside from respecting each other's beliefs, my fine cooking skillz and his willingness to try anything make us a dynamic pair. I wanted to make something really special for his birthday, one of his favorite dishes... these, however, tend to include dead animals and I'm not so much willing to deal with that, so I thought I'd whip up some meg*n "chicken" wings. Most recipes call for tempeh, and honestly, I'm not so big on the tempeh. I'll eat it, but it just doesn't do anything for me. Seitan, however, is a household favorite, so I set about creating seitan "chicken" wings, and it was... SUCCESS! They are really tasty and weirdly chicken wingy and my beloved enjoyed them quite a bit! (As did his parents and I!) It would be cruel to keep this recipe from the rest of the world, so here are...

Seitan Wingz!

First step was to prepare chicken style seitan. The recipe I settled on was written by Bryanna Clark Grogan, who writes a good many seitan recipes (though a lot are very time consuming with a lot of steps and maneuvers), and tweaked it to suit my needs. This recipe probably yields about 30 wings. I took about half of the dough and boiled it as per normal seitan and used it in my unchicken and dumplings the other night.

2 1/4 cups vital wheat gluten
1/2 cup instant/quick tapioca (NOT PUDDING MIX!)
1/2 cup quick oats
2 tbsp unchicken broth concentrate/powder
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder

1 cup pureed silken tofu
1 1/4 cups water
1/4 cup tahini
3 tbsp tamari (or soy sauce)

Cooking liquid:
7 cups unchicken broth
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 1/2 tbsp tamari
2 tbsp nutritional yeast

Popsicle Sticks

[See Seitan: A How To for more detailed instructions]

1. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl/bowl of your kitchenaid stand mixer

2. Whisk all the wet ingredients together in a large bowl until relatively smooth

3. Add the wet to the dry and knead for 10 minutes

4. Let the ball of seitan dough rest, covered, for about 20-30 minutes

5. Knead the dough for 10 minutes

6. Assemble the wings: Using golf ball sized seitan dough balls, stretch and flatten them into a square almost as long as the popsicle stick. Roll the flattened dough around the stick and squeeze/pinch the edges to get it to stick. Repeat... again... and again... and again... They'll look something like this:

7. Place all the "wings" into a large pot containing your cooking liquid. Bring the liquid to a boil, them immediately turn the heat down to low, cover, and simmer for 90 minutes.

As seitan is best after its rested overnight, I'd recommend letting it chill in the fridge overnight in a great big ziplock back or tupperware container or some such. If you want to freeze them, lay them out on a cookie sheet in one layer so they freeze individually, then once they're frozen put them in a collective vessel.

.... Is it tomorrow already? Great! Let's get winging!

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Now you'll need to bowls, one for wet and one for dry, to bread your wings. None of these measurements are exact. It's hard to screw this part up!

~1 cup Unflavored soy/rice/oat/hemp/etc... milk of your choice

~1 cup all purpose flour
~ 1/3 cup cornmeal
~1 tsp paprika
~1/2 tsp garlic powder
~1 tsp salt
~ 1/2 tsp pepper

Dip a wing in the milk. Then roll it in the flour mixture. Then back in the milk. Then back in the flour. Now onto a cookie sheet. Repeat... and repeat... and repeat... Once they're all down on the cookie sheet, mist them with a bit of olive oil. They'll look something like this:

Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes on each side. The side that's down will get a little brown, and the seitan will puff a bit.

Towards the end of baking, make your wing sauce. I'm told this recipe come from Don't Eat Off The Sidewalk! so I'm going with that for a source.

1/4 cup margarine
4 tbsp ketchup
2 1/2 tbsp hot sauce
2 tbsp agave

Melt the margarine in a small pot. Add everything else. Stir 'til smooth.

When your wings are done, drop them all in a large bowl, dump the sauce on, and flip them around until they're all coated. Then dig in!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

"Chick'n" & Dumplings

Every Sunday I plan meals for the next week to formulate a shopping list and mentally prepare for the week ahead. Every Sunday I ask the boy "What should we have for dinner this week?" Every week he answers "Chicken and Dumplings?" I'm fairly certain he would eat it every week if I'd make it every week, but I demand more variety. This week, being his Birthday week, I've planned a few of his favorite meals, including the infamous "Chik'n & Dumplings." This meal, of course, contains no chicken, but it does contain dumplings, and anything + dumplings = yum. Very basic math.
"Chick'n" & Dumplings
As with most recipes, the amount of veggies you use can vary depending on size and personal taste. This is also a great recipe for using up veggie scraps you've got in your fridge. Tonight's soup contained 1/2 a red bell pepper and 1/2 a yellow summer squash. This is just the "base" recipe -- do what you like from here

6 cups unchicken broth
1-2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 -2 stalks of celery, diced
1-2 carrots, peeled & diced
1 cup frozen peas
8 oz (by weight) "chick'n"* - chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
Handful chopped fresh parsley

1 cup flour **
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup soy/rice milk - unflavored
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

1. Start with the dumplings. Mix the dry ingredients together in a small bowl, then add the wet, stir the mess together until a sticky dough is formed. Cover and refrigerate until you're ready to use it.

2. Heat 1 tbsp oil in large soup pot. Brown the "chick'n," then remove and set aside.

3. Heat 1 tbsp oil in the same pot (again). Add the garlic, carrots, and celery and sautee until they look brighter in color -- about 5 minutes.

4. Add the broth and bring to a boil. [This is also the time you'd add any other veggies you want in the soup, unless they are especially hard veggies (i.e. potato, parsnip) which you'd add in with the carrots and celery. If you've added other veggies, reduce the heat to a simmer and continue to simmer until the veggies are fork tender, then proceed to step 5)

5. Reduce the heat to simmer and add the peas, "chick'n," and parsley

6. Retrieve your dumpling dough and drop it by spoonful into the hot soup (the bigger the spoon, the bigger the dumplings). They will puff up a LOT! Simmer the dumplings in the soup uncovered for 10 minutes, then covered for 10 minutes. To test if they're done, spoon off a piece of one. If the inside looks dry and bubbley, it's ready to go!

Soup pot full of soup with puffed up dumplings covering the top

* Options for "chick'n" include -- Morningstar Farms Chik'n Strips, White Wave Chicken Style Seitan, Homemade Seitan, or any other protein bit you enjoy. Tonight I used homemade chicken style seitan.

** This is one recipe I actually use 100% white all purpose flour. For reasons beyond my understanding, whole wheat dumplings disintegrate into the broth.

PMS Crunch Bars

Sweet, Salty, Peanut Buttery, Chocolate, Crunchy, and Chewy... so many wonderful flavors and textures all rolled into one with these bars. I've dubbed them "PMS Crunch Bars" because they so very well satisfy those special girl cravings. Boys dig these bars too, albeit on an entirely different level.

I don't have any one particular source for this recipe. The base is like the Special K Bars my mother made when I was a kid, only with Rice Krispies instead of Special K*. One time I made them and thought "Hmm these would be awesome with pretzels to offset the sweet" and then "Mmm Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Pretzels.." and the rest is history.

PMS Crunch Bars
1 cup white sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup crunchy peanut butter
4 cups puffed rice cereal **
2 cups thin pretzels, broken up by hand into small pieces
1-2 cups chocolate chips, depending on how chocolately you want them
Sprinkles or chopped peanuts, if desired

1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, stir together the sugar and corn syrup until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is just boiling.

1. Add the peanut butter and stir well until it's melted together into one molten peanut sugar mixture.

3. Add the cereal and pretzels and mix well until all the cereal and pretzels are all coated in the goo

4. Spread the cereal mixture evenly into a lightly greased (cooking spray works great here) 9X13" pan.

5. Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave or over a double boiler until smooth. Spread on the top of the cereal bars. Sprinkle with sprinkles or chopped peanuts, if desired.

6. Cut the bars into squares once they have cooled completely.

7. Enjoy sugar buzz.

A shot of the unfrosted bars. Mmm check out that peanut butter pretzel cerealy goodness.

* According to my mother, Special K used to resemble Rice Krispies before it was a flake cereal. The recipe is from the pre-flake Special K days. When they switched to flakes, my mom switched the Rice Krispies for the bars.

** I actually like the really cheap "PUFFED RICE" that comes in a bag for these bars. Regular Rice Krispies will give you a more "marshmallow treat" type texture. Try it both ways, or go half and half if you're feeling adventurous!

Sushi Night!!

It is a common misconception that Sushi means Raw Fish. Sushi is actually vinegared rice, which is then topped or rolled with a variety of things -- sometimes raw fish, sometimes cooked seafood, and to the delight of megatarians everywhere, sometimes veggies! Dining out, sushi can be relatively costly, depending on how many pieces you want and containing what. At home it's much less expensive, and you can put whatever you want into it without confusing the waitress or being charged extra for "special" orders or avocado.

There isn't a recipe for sushi as much as there is a method. Ergo, I've photographed the method.

You will need:
Sushi rice (short grain white "sticky" rice - often labeled "SUSHI RICE." Glutenous rice also works well, though the people at the Asian market have given me a stern warning about it NOT being sushi rice)
Rice wine vinegar
White sugar
Nori (sheets of seaweed, available at your friendly neighborhood Asian market)
Things to put in your sushi (veggies, tofu, seitan, whatever you like)
Soy sauce for dipping
Pickled ginger/Wasabi (optional)
Highly recommended: Sushi rolling mat. It only costs about $1 at said Asian market. If you don't have one, a piece of waxed paper will work in a pinch.

Prepare the rice according to package directions. I typically use 2 cups of rice and then the appropriate proportion of water and that makes about 6 rolls.

Once the rice is cooked and cooled a bit, season it with vinegar, sugar, and salt. For 2 cups of rice I use 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar, 1 tbsp sugar, 1 tsp salt. Adjust according to how much rice you're using and to taste. Fold the rice over a few times after you've added the seasonings to distribute it evenly.

On your rolling mat, place one sheet of Nori. Add a scoop (about 1/2 cup) of rice and spread it evenly over the Nori using your fingertips, lightly moistened (keeping a bowl of water around doesn't hurt during this process!)

On the side closest to you, layer whatever fillings you are going to use. Here I've got sauteed shiitake mushrooms, avocado, cucumber, carrots, and red peppers.

Start rolling the sushi away from you, using the mat to help guide the roll and hold it together. When it's all rolled up, give it a gently squeeze in the rolling mat to seal the edges. Don't squeeze too hard or your veggies will go flying out the end!

Now all that's left is slicing it into bite sized pieces. I find a wet, serrated knife works best for this. I slice my rolls into 6 or 8 pieces, depending on how fat the roll is. You're supposed to put the entire piece in your mouth at once, so let that be the judge of how big you want the pieces!

Left: Shiitake Mushrooms, Cucumber, Avcoado, Carrot, Red Peppers
Right: Cucumber, Avocado, Black Sesame Seeds

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Peanut Brittle

Working with sugar is many things. It's fun and yields tasty results, but it also can be very dangerous and requires precision, which can lead to frustration when all the conditions aren't exactly right. Too much humidity in the air, for example, can make your sugar too wet and not come out the way you had planned. It's still worth trying, but believe me when I say you NEED to be CAREFUL. 300 degree sugar is no joke. If you get it on your skin it will stick and burn and continue to burn as it sticks. It's HOT. Sugar recipes aren't too kid friendly, at least until they're ready to eat!

This recipe evolved from one off of

Peanut Brittle
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups salted peanuts
2 tbsp margarine, softened
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. In a medium saucepan, stir together the sugar, corn syrup and water over medium heat until the sugar is melted. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the sugar mixture reaches 300 degrees.

2. Have Everything Ready In Advance For This Step!!: When the mixture reaches 300, turn off the heat, add the margarine, baking soda, vanilla, and peanuts and stir like heck because it's going to want to be solid almost immediately. BE CAREFUL! The mixture bubbles and foams like a witches brew.

3. Pour the candy out onto a cookie sheet lined with a Silpat sheet and use a silicone spatula to spread it thin. For the love of God, man, DO NOT touch the candy!! In case you missed the other warnings, IT'S GOING TO BE FREAKING HOT!!

4. Allow the candy to cool completely, then break it into whatever sized pieces you desire

"Molten Sugar, avec Digital Thermometer Probe"

Minestrone Soup

I have always been a fan of Minestrone soup. Beans, veggies, and pastini dancing around in a rich tomato broth... mm... makes me warm just thinking about it. I decided I would make a nice big pot of Minestrone soup this week and bring half to a friend of mine who recently had a baby, so I gathered my collection of cookbooks and started leafing through them and found nothing that sounded like Minestrone as I like it. At first I was distressed by this, then I did what any good megatarian would do.

Made the recipe up.

And so, to my best approximations, here is my recipe for Minestrone soup. It yields about 4 quarts of soup, so cutting this in half is not a bad idea if you aren't serving an army (but it sure is a cheap way to feed an army!!). It freezes well too...

Megan's Minestrone

2 tbsp olive oil
2-3 carrots, peeled and cut into coins
2-3 stalks celery, cut into the same size as the carrots
1 idaho potato, diced
1 small to medium zucchini, diced
1 1/2 cups green beans, ends trimmed cut into 1" pieces
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes with Italian herbs
1 small can tomato paste
2 quarts vegetable broth
A few handfuls baby spinach
1 cup pastini (small pasta), cooked according to package directions -- minus about two minutes so they're still fairly al dente
3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

1. In a giant pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat then add the carrots, celery, potato and garlic, give it a good stir, cover, and let it cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are bright and slightly tender.

2. Add the broth, tomatoes and tomato paste and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to make sure the tomato paste dissolves.

3. Add the canned beans, green beans and zucchini and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until all the veggies are tender.

4. Stir the pasta, baby spinach, and parsley into the simmering soup about 5 minutes prior to serving.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Cupcakes: A Photo Tour

This entry lacks recipes. I don't mind posting recipes with credits given when I have altered them in some way to my liking. I also don't mind posting recipes and links when they've already been posted somewhere else on the internet. In this case, these cupcakes are all straight out of Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World. If cupcakes are your thing, I highly recommend picking up the cupcake book.
In the meantime, here are some photographs of cupcakes.


Cookies & Cream


Chai Tea

Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Buttercream

Coconut Lime

Chocolate Raspberry, with Chocolate Raspberry Buttercream

Pineapple Rightside Upcake

Banana Split

Chocolate cupcake with Chocolate Buttercream, Chocolate Ganache Drizzle and Semi-sweet Chocolate Chips