Sunday, October 19, 2008

Manhattan Vegetable Chowder

This recipe comes from 1000 Vegetarian Recipes by Carol Gelles, a weird cookbook that, while claiming to be vegetarian, also calls for fish stock in some soups. I'm not entirely sure where she learned about vegetarianism, since it's obvious to most vegetarians that fish are animals, and vegetarians don't eat animals, ergo, vegetarians don't eat fish, but it seems she missed that day in veg training school. It's easy enough to say "Oh well vegetarians just would use vegetable broth" but people who are not veg, and get the book out of the library, say, to choose something nice to make for there vegetarian dinner guest might not know any better and suddenly you're eating fish. Gross. Enough with that rant, this soup is damn good. It is shown with whole wheat rosemary foccacia bread sticks sprinkled with coarse sea salt.

Manhattan Vegetable Chowder

1 tbsp olive oil
2 cups shredded cabbage
4 cups vegetable broth
2 cups water
6 oz tomato paste
1 cup sliced celery
1 cup diced zucchini
1 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup frozen lima beans
1/2 cup green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 tsp dry thyme
salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat and cook the cabbage until it's softened, about 4 minutes.

2. Add everything else, stir well to dissolve the tomato paste, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to maintain a simmer and simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Butternut Squash Ravioli

For some reason, I got an insane craving for butternut squash ravioli. Pre-made vegan ravioli are crazy expensive and I try to make my own whenever I'm in a ravioli mood. I set out looking for a recipe for butternut squash ravioli and they all were either JUST mashed butternut in pasta, or had tons of cheese and cream and things. So, I did what any reasonable person would do - made up a recipe. It turned out insanely good and made about 50 ravioli! Yikes! They freeze really well though and are very convenient for a quick weeknight supper, and are so delicious you won't mind having them again! I used wonton wrappers from the Asian market for pasta (the Nasoya kind at the regular grocery store has eggs -- check the Asian market kind, some have egg, some don't), because I'm just not THAT ambitious!! I served these with some spinach sauteed in garlic and earth balance, and toasted pine nuts.

Butternut Squash Ravioli

1 butternut squash, about 1.5 lbs
1 leek, tough green top part chopped off, washed well, and sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

1. Cut the squash in half, remove the seeds and guts, poke holes in the skin, and brush with olive oil. Roast in a 425 degree oven for about 45 minutes or until soft. Allow to cool completely before proceeding.

2. Heat olive oil in a skillet. Add the leeks and cook over medium heat until soft and lightly browned.

3. Peel the butternut squash and mash the flesh in a large bowl. Add the leeks, nutmeg, salt and pepper.

4. Place a rounded tsp of squash mixture on one side of the wonton. Lightly brush the edge of one half of the wonton with water. Fold over and press to seal.

5. If you're cooking them immediately, place them gently into a large pot of salted, boiling water and boil until they float -- about 5 minutes. If you're going to freeze them, freeze them in one layer on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Once they're frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag. Cook as above when ready.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Almost All American Seitan... Hot Pockets

I love the Almost All American Seitan Pot Pie recipe from Veganomicon. It is a really yummy, warm, comfort food type dinner. Sometimes though, I decide a casserole isn't enough work, and want little pocket meals to pack in a lunch or pick up and eat like those hot pockets on TV that they claim are healthy because they don't have trans-fats, ignoring the fact that it's pepperoni and cheese in a white flour crust... but I digress. I transformed the Seitan Pot Pie recipe into pockets by cutting everything into smaller bits, and dividing the dough into about a dozen balls and rolling them out, filling them, folding them over, and turning them into little dough pocket guys. Of course I made some changes in the filling; most notably (and predictably) I took out the onion and replaced it by broccoli (just about the same thing, right?). I also cut down on the vegetable broth so that there wouldn't be as much gravy since they were being put into dough pockets. The end result? A perfectly portable seitan snack! (Or dinner... or lunch...)

2 cups white whole wheat or whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup cold earth balance shortening
1/2-3/4 cup ice cold water
2 tsp apple cider vinegar.

1. Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.

2. Cut the shortening into small pieces and cut it into the dry ingredients using a pastry cutter, or a food processor. Mixture should be crumbly.

3. Add cold water, a little at a time, until flour mixture comes together to form a dough. Refrigerate until ready to use.

5 tbsp canola oil
1 lbs seitan, cut into small cubes
1 tsp tamari
1/4 cup chickpea flour
2 cups chopped broccoli
1 carrot, peeled and diced small
1/2 lbs white potatoes, washed and diced small
1 celery stalk, diced small
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup vegetable broth
1 tsp dry thyme
1 tsp mustard powder
1/2 tsp dry sage
salt and pepper to taste.

1. Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a large pot and add the seitan. Sprinkle with the tamari. Brown the seitan, then remove from the pot and set aside for later use.

2. Heat the rest of the oil in the pot and add the chickpea flour. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until it gets golden brown and smells toasty.

3. Add the broccoli, potato, and celery and cook for about 10 minutes until the veggies start to soften.

4. Add 1/2 cup of vegetable broth, the herbs, and stir. Once it's thickened, add the rest of the vegetable broth and simmer for 5-10 minutes until the gravy has thickened again. If it's too thick, add more broth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


1. Divide the dough into 12 even balls. Roll out each ball into a circle, and add a few heaping spoonfuls of filling, careful to make sure there's enough room to fold the dough over and seal the edges.

2. Brush the edges on one side lightly with water. Fold over the dough and press the edges to seal. Roll up the edges into an attractive decorative border if desired.

3. Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool a bit before you bite in or you'll burn the roof of your mouth like i did :D

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Wheatloaf Fail: A work in progress

I often try to make meat-style meals for the boy with side dishes and all that. I have a "wheat"loaf recipe that I've fashioned that, if you balance all the liquids out just right, and cook it a day ahead of time, it is sliceable and doesn't fall apart. After the great Neatball experiment, I thought I might try to work the Neatball recipe into a Neatloaf, thinking it might hold together better with a vital wheat gluten base. Really, it didn't. It was better day 2 out of the fridge, but it certainly still needs work. It did taste good though, and we had a lovely dinner of Wheatloaf, roasted potatoes, and collard greens. Back to the drawing board!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Porcini-Wild Rice Soup

I have been wanting to make this soup since I bought Veganomicon. Of course with the boy's aversion to mushrooms, it's not exactly something I could slip into the weekly rotation. I was going to make it when I was visiting my parents once (my mushroom sanctuary) but dried porcinis and wild rice blends were both absurdly expensive. I got my chance though when I made plans with my friend to come over for dinner one night, and it was absolutely delicious!! I ended up using a dried wild mushroom mix in lieu of the dry porcinis because that's what I had, and I never grated the carrot in in the end as per recipe instructions (we were so excited to eat it we forgot), and I used a leek instead of an onion because of my onion thing.... and I added about 2 cups extra broth because the rice kept sucking it up. But hey, other than that, totally followed the recipe ;) I think next time I go to visit my parents I WILL make this, but I'll "import" the mushrooms and rice from home.

Wild Mushroom-Wild Rice Soup

1/2 ounce dried wild mushrooms
2 cups boiling water
1 leek, tough green part removed, well de-gritted, sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp fresh thyme
1 tsp salt
pepper, to taste
8 oz crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 1/2 cups wild rice blend
6 cups vegetable stock

1. Pour the boiling water over the dried mushrooms in a bowl, cover, and let sit until you finish doing all this other stuff...

2. In a large soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the leeks, and saute for a few minutes until they start getting soft. Add the garlic, thyme, salt and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes or until lightly brown.

3. Add the mushrooms and saute for a few minutes until they start to shrink down.

4. Carefully remove the dried mushrooms from the liquid (hot, remember?) and slice them. Add them, and the liquid, to the pot.

5. Add the rice and the broth and bring to a boil. Once it's boiling, lower the heat to a simmer and cook for about 45 minutes or until the rice is tender.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tofu Parmesan

Yes, so about that Uncheese cookbook -- I decided I wanted to make a block uncheese, and "mostarella" seemed like a good start. The recipe claimed it was "just like" mozzarella cheese, and melts and everything. What could be bad right!?

Ahem... yes, well... it is NOT just like mozzarella cheese!!

It's weirdly sticky and has a strong tahini flavor and not enough salt or tang. Overall though, not inedible, and I thought if I put it with some sauce and stuff, it might be good. I decided to invent Tofu Parmesan for dinner. Overall the dinner was good! The uncheese did not melt, instead it just got even browner so it was strange brown rectangles on the top. As for the taste? It wouldn't've made any difference if I left it off because you couldn't taste it there anyway. The tofu came out yummy though!

Tofu Parmesan

1 lbs extra firm tofu, drained, pressed (if you do that sort of thing -- I buy mine in bulk and I find it isn't necessary)
2 cups unchicken broth, hot
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
2 tbsp tahini
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
2 cups seasoned breadcrumbs (check your Kosher grocery isle - Kosher breadcrumbs are usually vegan!)
1 large jar marinara sauce (did I mention I was lazy this week?)
4 cups frozen spinach (I buy it in a bag, not a block, and make sure it isn't frozen into a block)
1 block mozzarella-style-cheeze

1. Slice the tofu into 1/4 inch slices. In a vessel large enough to marinate the tofu, mix the unchicken broth, nutritional yeast, tahini, and poultry seasoning. Add the tofu to the marinade, swish it around to make sure it's all got some marinade, and put in the fridge to soak for a few hours or overnight.

2. Once done marinating, bread the tofu in the breadcrumbs. Mine stuck just fine from being wet from the marinade. Then bake the tofu ina 375 oven for about 20-30 minutes on each side until the breadcrumbs are crunchy.

3. Lightly oil a 9X13 baking dish and spread a thin layer of marinara sauce. Arrange the tofu slices on top of the sauce. Top the tofu slices with a layer of spinach, top that with the rest of the sauce, and that with the mozzarella-style-cheeze. Put it back in the oven and bake for another 20-30 minutes, or until it's bubbly and your cheeze melts... if you have that kind of cheeze.

4. Let it cool a bit before you cut into it or you'll burn your mouth! :X

Monday, October 13, 2008

Broccoli Pasta

"Broccoli Pasta" is what we have for dinner around here when we can't decide what to have for dinner around here. Both the boy and I are perfectly happy with this simple and fast dish, though I prefer it jazzed up with some diced Kalamata olives (these are on his no list). I recently got the Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook and made some sesame seed-miso-salt-nutritional yeast "parma sprinkles" and while it doesn't taste like cheese, it makes a really yummy addition to a pasta dish.Broccoli Pasta
10 oz pasta (whole grain on this end, of course)
2 tbsp olive oil
2+ cloves of garlic (put in as much as you like!)
1 bunch of broccoli, cut into bite sized florets, stem peeled and diced
1 handful fresh parsley, chopped
Kalamata olives, chopped (optional)

1. Prepare pasta according to package directions.

2. While pasta is cooking, heat 2 tbsp of oil in large sautee pan. Add the broccoli and the garlic and sautee on high for a minute or two, then add about 1/2 cup of water, cover, and turn the heat down to medium. Cook for 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the broccoli is fork-tender.

3. Drain the pasta, toss with broccoli, parsley, and olives, if using

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Veggie Noodle Soup

I've been feeling a bit under the weather lately and soup sounded good for dinner tonight. This is a pretty basic vegetable soup with noodles and seitan. It's warm and yummy and comforting though and definitely hit the spot!

Veggie Noodle Soup
2 tbsp olive oil
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 celery rib, diced
1 small potato, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup of seitan, finely chopped
6 cups vegetable broth
1/4 lbs noodles (I used up the remains of a box of spaghetti and a box of fettucini, broken into smaller noodles. Soup is great for throwing in bits of things)
1 cup frozen spinach
1 cup frozen peas
1 handful fresh parsley, chopped

1. In a large pot, heat the 2 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat. Add the carrot, celery, potato, and garlic and sautee for about 7-10 minutes until the veggies begin to soften.

2. Meanwhile... begin cooking the noodles according to package directions, only don't cook them as long as the package says. You want them to still be pretty firm when you add them to the soup or they'll turn to mush.

3. Add the broth and seitan to the pot and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

4. Add the peas, spinach, and noodles to the soup and simmer for 5 minutes or until frozen veggies are heated through. Stir in the handful of fresh parsley just before serving.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Quick Dinner: Brown Rice, Mushrooms, Peas

The boy is out doing some sort of gaming nerd convention thing this weekend, so I'm on my own for dinner. This meal is an example of "Things I Found In My Fridge That I Should Really Use Up." There isn't a recipe, but it's a good example of a dinner I threw together in about 10 minutes that shows that not all vegan food needs to be complicated.

I had about a cup of brown rice and 1/2 lbs of crimini mushrooms in the fridge that weren't getting any newer. I sliced the mushrooms and sauteed them in a pan with some olive oil until they were lightly browned. When they were cooked, I added a few handfuls of frozen peas and the leftover brown rice, and a few splashes of Tamari. Once that was heated through, I folded in some sesame seeds and nori that I'd previously chopped up together in the food processor and have had stored in my freezer (so the seeds don't go rancid), and also sprinkled some on top. Dinner was quick and satisfying, and not so poorly balanced for stuff I scraped up around the house :)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Okara Muffins, aka, Tofu Making Residue

When you make soymilk, you end up with the pulpy aftermath of the soybeans. It looks rather like wet mashed potatoes, if your wet mashed potatoes were made out of soybean pulp. Specifically, it looks like this:

This charming puddle of soybean residue is otherwise known as "Okara." Soybeans are seriously some sort of miracle food because even the soy bean waste product can be used. Okara is high in fiber and protein and can be used in all kinds of things from faux meats to baked goods. For this pile of okara, bp and I decided on baked goods. After scanning the internet for recipes, and figuring out what I had in my pantry and what would be easy to veganize, we decided to make a batch of muffins, sort of vaguely following a recipe. The results were surprisingly delicious! There were two downfalls to the muffins, however, though neither were critical: (1) the muffins stuck to the paper; (2) they get stale VERY quickly! Still a worthy end for a bi-product of soybeans.

Okara Muffins:
1/2 cup rice milk
1 cup wet okara (mmm, sounds great doesn't it?)
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup vanilla soygurt
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup ground flaxseeds
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1 cup dried fruit (we used 1/2 pears, 1/2 cherries, both chopped)
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut
cinnamon sugar for sprinking.

1. Line a muffin tin with cupcake papers and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. Whisk all the wet ingredients together in a large bowl. Add in the dry ingredients and stir until just mixed. Fold in the fruit, nuts, and coconut.

3. Equally distribute the batter amongst the 12 cupcake papers. They will be pretty full! Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Homemade Tofu: A photo diary

It all started with an email to baypuppy: "Hey you with the Vitamix, do you want to make tofu?" The boy and I were having a conversation in bed one night about fake meat, and how I didn't think tofu or seitan (or tempeh) counted as fake meat since they are their own foods. He asked something about making tofu, meaning seitan, then I replied "well.. you COULD make tofu..." and the rest was history.

baypuppy was on board, but she also has a soymilk maker, thus making the process even easier. We picked a day to do it (no school! Yom Kippur!) and started the all day process of making a very small amount of tofu. There really aren't recipes here...

Step 1: Make Soymilk. This involved some amount of soybeans that bp had soaked overnight, and this carafe looking machine that made loud whirring noises and somehow turned said beans into soymilk. We made 3 batches.

Step 2: Place all soy milk into large pot and heat to 170-180 degrees

Step 3: Add coagulant. This part was a little sketchy. There are all sorts of things you can use for coagulating tofu, including Nigiri (some sort of mystery stuff that you have to mail order), and EPSOM SALTS. That one weirded me out. I'm sorry, it's a muscle soak, a laxative, and a tofu coagulant? Too weird. We took the middle road and used apple cider vinegar diluted in water (~1/4 cup vinegar + 1 cup water)

... and coagulate it did....

... and coagulated some more... for a total of about 15 minutes of turning into baby spit up

Step 4: Skim off the "whey." We used a mesh strainer to hold the "curds" back and ladelled off the whey. Now the weird thing about this picture is that it isn't sideways on my computer... yet it is here... you may need to tilt your head to get the full effect.

This is the "curds" with most of the "whey" removed:

Step 5: This step involves a "tofu press" which is a wooden box with holes in it and a lid that's smaller than the top that you put a weight on to "press" the tofu. Yea, we didn't have one of those either. bp got a few cigar boxes from Cali and I drilled holes in one, and we made our own. I don't have pictures of the drilling because you shouldn't operate power tools and take pictures at the same time. Once we had our tofu press lined with cheesecloth, we started spooning in our curds. Mmm... curds...

Step 6: Pressing. The lid to the cigar box was, of course, fitted to the cigar box, and lacking some sort of jigsaw or dremmel tool to make it smaller, we just used a tupperware lid that was roughly the size and shape we needed. A few cans and a cast iron grill pan and voila! Tofu pressing! We pressed it for about a half an hour:

Step 7: Press some more. We took the tofu out of the press, which started off chock full o'curds and it was... a very small piece of tofu featuring a lovely grid pattern from the cheesecloth:

We decided to press it again, this time wrapped in papertowels, on a cookie sheet, with a cutting board and the grill pan again. Once that part was done we had a whopping 10 oz of tofu, which we cut into 6 pieces, 2 for each of us, because Scott was joining us for tofu adventure dinner:
We threw a bunch of things into a container for a marinade (apple juice, ketchup, molasses, unbeef broth concentrate, oregano, allspice, liquid smoke, maple syrup, soy sauce, garlic, ginger -- I have no idea how much of anything), marinated the tofu for a while, then baked it, along with some cauliflower and carrots which were the only veggies in my house at the time that weren't in queue for another meal:

Scott and bp say "Nom nom tofu."
At some point I'll post the further adventures of what we did with the Okara (soybean pulp)... but I need to do dishes and go to the post office now. Instead, have some bonus kitties in love:

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Pasta with Chickpeas, Spinach, and Sundried Tomatoes

This recipe takes me back again to my favorite quick cookbook, Vegetarian Express by Nava Atlas. They're really great for nights when I just don't feel like going through a whole song and dance to get a balanced dinner on the table. This recipe appealed to me because I love all the things in the title, so what could be bad? Well, it was mostly successful. The boy and I both agreed that the chickpeas felt a little out of place. I think next time I'd go for a white bean, or maybe even an Italian style baked tofu, cubed. Even so, it was very yummy, and I would definitely make it again, just switching out the protein. I served it with some Rosemary Foccacia I made.

And HEY! Check out the pics from the new camera! :D

Pasta with Chickpeas, Spinach and Sundried Tomatoes
1/2 lbs rotini (I used whole wheat, of course)
2 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bell pepper, cut into strips
10 oz frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed
15 oz can diced tomatoes
15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup oil-cured sundried tomatoes, chopped (about 8 tomatoes)
1 tsp dried oregano
salt and peper to taste

1. Cook the pasta according to package directions.

2. While the pasta cooks, heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the garlic, oregano, and bell pepper and sautee over medium heat for about 3-4 minutes until the peppers start to soften -- watch it so you don't burn the garlic!

3. Add everything else, stir together, and simmer on low for about 10 minutes.

4. When the pasta is finished cooking, drain, and toss with the veggie mixture.

5. Nope, that was it. Easy!

Bonus Foccacia!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Vegetable Vindaloo! Back to the Slow Cooker!

This is slow cooker, take 2. After slow cooker round 1, Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker author Robin Robertson left a comment that she has an updated pot roast recipe on her blog, with a link so -- check that out if you're interested. And really, buy her books because her recipes rock. I think I've got at least 5 of them...

The boy really enjoys Indian food, and I can't stand curry powder, so when I find recipes that are Indian, but not curry, they're a good compromise. Being a Vindaloo however, this recipe contained spicy things, and also onions. Being me, and if you've read my blog long enough you'll see what's coming next here, I left them both out because my belly doesn't like them. My mom called and said whatever it was my Dad made for dinner, and I said that I made a really yummy Vegetable Vindaloo and she was surprised I made something spicy, and I said it wasn't, I left the spicy stuff out, and then she said it wasn't Vindaloo and I said "Whatever it was delicious." If you're a spicy things person, just throw some spicy things, and an onion, in the crock pot too. It is definitely well seasoned though and not bland at all!

This is the part where I say 'Come on camera PLEEEASE'

Vegetable Vindaloo
2 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, smashed and peeled
1 tbsp ginger, peeled and diced tiny
1 tsp light brown sugar
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 carrots, peeled and cut into coins
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 cups cauliflower florets, cut into small bite sized pieces
2 zucchini, cut into coins
15.5 oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
6 oz tomato paste stirred into 1 1/2 cups hot water
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup frozen green peas

1. Heat 1 tbsp the oil in a small skillet and sautee the carrots for about 5 minutes until they start getting tender.

2. Meanwhile, put the remaining tbsp of oil, vinegar, garlic, ginger, and spices in a food processor or blender and process/blend until smooth. (I ended up adding 1/4 cup of water to get it to process smooth, and just subtracted it from the hot water that you mix with the tomato paste)

3. Place the carrots in the crock pot turned on to low, along with the rest of the vegetables (except hte peas), and beans, and spice mixture, and stir for about a minute. Add the tomato/water mixture, stir again, cover, and cook on low for 6 hrs.

4. Add the peas about 10 minutes before you serve.

Monday, October 6, 2008

VegNews Mac & Cheese

I'm always up for trying different vegan mac and cheese recipes. It's still one of my favorite foods, and it's such a comfort. The VegNews Mac&Cheese recipe has been circulating around the 'net lately, and it was so weird, and with such good reviews, that I had to give it a try!

Most vegan mac & cheese recipes create the "cheese" part in one of two ways: One way is soy cheese or some other manufactured fake cheese. The other is with Nutritional Yeast. This recipe contained neither. In fact, it involved pureed nuts and vegetables. Sounds good to me, really, because fake cheese is really expensive, and a potato, carrot, and shallot are well within my budget! I did have to alter the recipe slightly because it called for some onion, so I added a little more potato and carrot to compensate for the lack of onion (hence the strange "about 3 tbsp" extra measure on those). It definitely didn't seem like anything was missing. If I was going to make it again, I would also trade out the bread crumbs for panko. I didn't like the fresh bread crumbs on it at all!! Maybe it was the bread I used which almost seemed too sweet in contrast with the savory cheese sauce, but I think next time I'll just stick to the neutral crunch of panko. I also added about 2 cups of lightly steamed broccoli because I always slip something green into my mac & cheese. I will definitely make this again. Heck, I'm trying to think of other ways to use the cheese sauce. I licked the blender clean! You'll have to forgive the shoddy quality of the pictures... it's a battle getting my camera to stay on long enough to take a picture!

If anyone is interested in the original recipe, it can be found here:

Mac & Cheese
8 oz pasta (I used whole wheat ziti because it cost 1/2 as much as whole wheat elbows and I try to use whole grains wherever possible! Use whatever you like)
4 slices of bread, torn into pieces (this is where I'd instead use about 1 cup of panko)
2 tbsp + 1/3 cup margarine (earth balance, of course -- the cadillac of vegan margarines)
2 tbsp shallots, diced
1 cup + ~3 tbsp yellow or red potato, diced (I used yellow - didn't peel)
1/2 + ~ 3 tbsp cup carrots, peeled and diced
1 cup water
1/4 cup cashews (I soaked mine for about an hour in some warm water)
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp paprika
2 cups broccoli florets, lightly steamed (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

2. Cook the pasta according to package directions

3. If you're going the fresh breadcrumb route, run the bread through the blender or food processor to make crumbs (really though, panko!). Toss with 2 tbsp melted margarine to coat.

4. In a small saucepan, bring the potato, carrot, shallot and water to a boil. Turn the heat down to simmer, cover and cook for about 15 minutes or until the veggies are soft.

5. In a blender or food processor, blend/process until smooth the cashews (drained if you soaked them), 1/3 cup margarine (melted), veggies and their cooking water, spices, mustard, and lemon juice. Blend until smooth and silky. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

6. Combine the drained pasta, cheese sauce, broccoli if you're using it, and toss to coat. Pour into a 9X13 inch baking dish. Top with breadcrumbs. Bake for about 30 minutes til the cheese sauce is bubbly and the breadcrumbs are golden.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Seitan Pot Roast with Veggies

The boy's Mom gave me her old 3 1/2 quart slow cooker that she didn't need any more. She said if I liked it, I could always get a more modern slow cooker. It seemed like a good idea. I have a few long days between work and classes and it's often a rush to get dinner on the table. I didn't quite realize how out of date the slow cooker was, however, until the boy, very thoughtfully, bought me Fresh From The Vegetarian Slow Cooker by Robin Robertson. I was all excited to try the recipes -- then realized I'm out of the house too long. Most are done in 4-6 hrs -- which isn't even a full work day! It seems Ms. Robertson has a modern slow cooker with a "timer" and "Keep Warm" functions -- whereas mine is "HI|OFF|LOW."

Still, the cookbook is full of good sounding comfort food recipes, and so I thought I'd try it anyway. One recipe that looked especially intriguing was "Not Your Mama's Pot Roast," and I knew I'd be home all day to monitor the monster, so I though I'd give it a try today. But -- more difficulties. You need a 6 quart slow cooker, and seitan quick mix... or use her seitan recipe which involves the whole wheat flour and a lot of washing. No thanks. That recipe made 2 lbs of seitan, so I thought I'd just make 1lbs using vital wheat gluten, and cut the recipe in half to make in my smaller slow cooker. I also threw in some more veggies, since it just called for carrots, potatoes, and onions. It came out REALLY yummy in the end, the seitan was really moist and tender -- and was ready in about 6 1/2 hrs instead of the prescribed 8.

Seitan Pot Roast with Veggies

For the seitan:
1 cup vital wheat gluten
3 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp fresh or 1/2 tsp dry thyme

1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp tahini
1/4 cup soy sauce
Up to 1/2 cup unbeef or vegetable broth

1. Mix together the dry ingredients.

2. Mix the oil, tomato paste, tahini, and soy sauce together. Add to the dry ingredients. Slowly add in the broth or water, stirring constantly (or in my case, with the stand mixer mixing constantly) until the seitan comes together into a moist, but not wet, ball.

3. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, then form into a smooth ball.

For the Pot Roast and Veggies Part:
6 pearl onions, peeled
1/4 lbs baby carrots
1/2 lbs red potatoes, diced
10 brussels sprouts
1 parsnip, peeled and cut into coins
8 crimini mushrooms
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 1/4 cups vegetable or unbeef broth
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp tamari
2 tsp fresh or 1 tsp dried thyme
Olive oil

1. In a large skillet, heat 1 tbsp olive oil and quickly brown the veggies, except the garlic.

2. Lightly coat/mist the bottom of the slow cooker with vegetable oil to prevent the seitan from sticking.

3. Place seitan ball in the bottom of the slow cooker. Top with veggies. Pour broth, vinegar, tamari, garlic, and thyme over the top of the veggies and seitan.

4. Cover and cook -- the cookbook says low for 8 hrs. I cooked it on low for 5 1/2 hrs, and then high for 1 hr.

5. Remove the seitan and veggies from the broth. Turn the slow cooker to high. Whisk 1 tbsp cornstarch in a little bit of cold water, then whisk it into the remaining broth. Stir until thickened.

I served this with some roasted Delicata squash. I sliced the squash in half, cleaned out the seeds and guts, put about 1 tbsp of Earth Balance and a drizzle of maple syrup inside, and dusted it with cinnamon. Then I roasted it in the oven at 450 for about 30 minutes until it was fork tender. The sweet squash with the savory pot roast and veggies went great!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Ravioli with Quick Tomato Sauce

This isn't a recipe as much as a serving suggestion. I was alone for dinner, and threw something together from things I had around the house. In the freezer I had a package of Rising Moon Organic Creamy Artichoke and Kalamata ravioli, which is reserved for just such an occasion, as the boy won't eat olives. On the counter I had my last big orange heirloom tomato from the garden. Certainly this was enough to base dinner off of.

While the water was heating to boil the ravioli, I diced the tomato (it was 1lbs + of tomato!) and sauteed it in a small pan with some olive oil and salt, and simmered it on low while the ravioli cooked. Once the ravioli was cooked, I tossed it with the fresh tomato sauce, and some fresh basil. It was fast, delicious, and looked good to boot!

I'm planning more complex culinary adventures for tomorrow!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Steel Cut Oatmeal -- Breakfast of Champions

Here's how my oatmeal addiction progressed...

First I was eating instant oatmeal packets because they were convenient to take to work and add hot water to from the water cooler. Then I moved on to a different job without a water cooler.

I upgraded to quick cook oats in the canister, 1 minute in the microwave, done. Super! The texture was so much less like wallpaper paste than instant! Then one day we ran out, and only had slow cook oats. (Slow being 5 minutes) I got hooked.

Slow cook oats have tons more texture than quick oats, and I still eat them when I'm in the mood for "regular" oatmeal... but then my sights wandered to Steel Cut Oatmeal. I had no idea what to do with it, and quite frankly, the internet wasn't too helpful unless I wanted to cook enough to feed the masses. I just wanted to cook enough to feed me breakfast! I took some guidelines from a few recipes, and have since evolved my own technique for cooking them. They are so delicious! They have a nice chewy texture and a slightly nutty flavor. They do take 20-30 minutes to cook, but it's so worth it! You can make a big pot and reheat in the morning if you don't have time to make them in the AM -- I usually just make them on mornings I'm not rushed. And so, here is my technique for cooking Steel Cut Oats. Your toppings may vary.

Ok ok, you can't even SEE the oats there... but they're under the diced banana, toasted pecans, and maple syrup. NOM!

Steel Cut Oatmeal (For One)
1/3 cup steel cut oats
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup ~milk of your choice (I use rice), + more to taste

1. In a medium-sized pot, toast the oats over medium heat until they start to smell toasty (kind of like popcorn!) and start to "pop" (also kind of like popcorn!). Stir them around frequently and don't walk away because they burn fast!!

2. Add 1 1/2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to maintain a low boil, and cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes.

3. At this point, your water should look like it cooked down some at the oats start to look creamy. Add 1/2 cup ~milk and stir to incorporate. Turn the heat to low and simmer another 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

4. Now most of the liquid should be absorbed, and usually at this point, they're soft enough for me. If you want them softer, simmer longer; you may need to add more ~milk. If they're soft enough but too thick, add a bit more milk to achieve desired consistency.

Here's the fun part -- What to mix in?

My normal routine is:
Somewhere in the 2nd half of cooking, add 1 tbsp blackstrap molasses (++ iron/calcium/trace minerals) and a few shakes of cinnamon. Once the heat is turned off, add a little vanilla extract. Then I top it with fruit and lightly toasted nuts, and brown sugar or maple syrup. Some favorite combos are:
Bananas and Pecans (as featured)
Apples and Walnuts
Berries and Raw Cashews
Cherries (fresh, frozen, or dried) and slivered almonds

This breakfast keeps me filled for a LONG time!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Yellow Split Pea Soup with Green Pea Garnish

The boy and I have both decided we really like split pea soups. They're so hearty and creamy and warm and comforting. My only complaint that it was so delicious I tried to eat it when it was still too hot and completely burned my pallet. Ow. This recipe came from Vegan Planet with Robin Robertson. Of course I made a few changes to better accommodate our tastes (and my belly) and the end result was a delicious way to end a damp and chilly Thursday.

Yellow Split Pea Soup with Green Pea Garnish
1 tbsp Olive Oil
1 shallot, chopped
1 rib of celery, finely diced
1 medium carrot, peeled and finely diced
1 medium yukon gold potato, diced
6 cups of water or vegetable broth
1 3/4 cups dried yellow split peas, rinsed and checked for stones and bits
1/2 tsp dried summer savory leaves
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1 bay leaf
1 tsp salt
1 tsp liquid smoke
1/2 cup frozen green peas, thawed
Veggie bacon bits to sprinkle on top, optional

1. In a big soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat and add the veggies. Put a lid on it and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until the veggies are soft.

2. Add the broth, herbs, salt, and split peas and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 40 minutes or until the peas are soft and broken down. If it gets too thick, just add a bit of water to thin it out.

3. Add 1 tsp of liquid smoke, or to taste. (I'd taste the soup, add 1/2 tsp, taste again, and then add the last 1/2 tsp -- we like things smokey. Not everyone does!)

4. Put your soup into a bowl, and sprinkle with green peas and fake-bacon bits, if desired. (Stirred in, they soften up pretty quick)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Vegan MoFo

October is Vegan MoFo -- Vegan Month of Food. As such, I'm actually going to try to suck less at blogging, and post more often. Seeing as how, aside from cooking, I also work and am in school getting my PhD, and have all those other pesky household things that need attending to on a day to day basis, I'm not sure that I'll get a post in every day in October, but I'm hoping for more than once a week.

In honor of Vegan MoFo -- my digital camera broke. If I fight with it a while, it will begrudgingly take a photograph, so here's hoping I can keep convincing it to work until my new one comes in the mail. (At which time I'm going to try to find someone to fix this one. It is mechanically sound, the sliding lense cover, which also triggers the "on/off" switch, isn't working right -- so I suspect it's fixable)

Finally, allow me to introduce you to our new kitten friend, Sir Didymus.

I try not to stray from food here, and he is certainly not food, but he's too cute not to share. So, there he is. The boy and I aided in his rescue from the busy street we live on, where he was running around in traffic, terrified, filthy, and emaciated. We've had him three weeks this weekend, and he has already gained weight and acts like he's always been here. (My oldest cat loves him, the other is beginning to tolerate him)

Now back to your regularly scheduled food porn!