Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Vegan Irish Soda Bread (Vegan MoFo Reason 27)

Vegan MoFo
Reason 27: Since becoming vegan, I feel more connected to my food. Of the earth.

This all began with a search for something else, then ended on bread. I had been browsing a shelf for one thing, then noticed this: The Bread Bible by Beth Hensperger. The cover of this book has a simple loaf of bread being held in its seemingly warm loaf pan wrapped in a white towel, held by two hands--it was just beautiful to me. I have to admit a fear of "hand made" breads of the yeast kind. I still have this fear. (Yeast used in Breadman Bread Machine is entirely different from the "put a well in the middle of the bowl, then knead by hand" sort.) I am not shy about my wonderful pumpkin bread I make every year. I love it, people I give it to as a gift love it--it is such a great recipe. Same with banana bread. Straightforward concept and quite easy as bread making goes. But give me a sourdough or french loaf recipe and I sort of shrink. Making a sourdough some day is on my bucket list (and I have a feeling this is going to happen sooner rather than later thanks to this book). I have always been in awe of homemade bread. I think this goes along with my absolute fascination with being in a bakery. I love them! I feel like that might be what heaven is like, one big bakery--with amazing coffee served daily. So, I got around to reading the Bread Bible and have seen many recipes for Irish Soda Bread in the past. The plus for me is the absence of the word "yeast" in the ingredient list. If you believe all you read on the Internet, (like I do)--the Irish history on this is that this bread did not originate with the Irish, but rather in Austria. And, if you want, you can also consider the discovery of baking powder as a plus in its evolution. The Irish relied on baking it in their stone fireplaces early on, thus the simple, come together fashion the bread is made--you can mix this and eat it within about an hour--good for the Irish folk who had to work all day, then come home and still have time for their "blarney" (yes, I know Irish blarney well, I married an Irish-Scottish man). This loaf is a good hearty, almost scone-like bread. Especially in its texture and the way it is formed--wet and gooey dough, needing to be just slightly kneaded, then baked right away. It's a heavy bread, but heavenly in that the flavors are surprising with each bite. I served mine with a glob of vegan margarine. It was delicious!

Vegan Irish Soda Bread

3 tablespoon Ener-G Egg Replacer (mixed with 4 tablespoons warm water)
1 1/2 cups soy milk (mixed with 1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar)
2 tablespoons Earth Balance butter stick (melted)
3/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup dried Craisins
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon marjoram
dash of fresh ground pepper

Preheat oven to 375. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. First, prep your egg-replacer mixture and set aside. Second, place 1 1/2 cups of soy milk in a bowl then add 2 1/2 tablespoons of the apple cider vinegar to this and set it aside. In a large mixing bowl, whisk or mix the dry ingredients together--including the nuts and raisins, set aside. In a small bowl, whisk the Ener-G Egg Replacer mixture with melted butter and soy milk. Add this mixture to the dry being sure you incorporate it by hand. In other words, don't use much force--this is going to be lumpy and some spots will be drier than others. Turn the dough out onto a "lightly" floured surface. Knead it only a few times. I discovered that this part was taking me a bit longer to manage because I forgot to flour my hands--so remember to flour your hands! Knead it very gently--just until it comes together. Shape it into a ball and divide the ball in half. Place the two halves (reshape if you feel they need it--I had to) and place on the parchment paper. Score the two loaves in the middle with an "x" about a 1/4-1/2" deep. Bake for about 35 minutes--until you begin to see the crust browning and until you smell the bread. (Julia always says that when you can smell what you are baking--then it is done.) I smelled the bread, but I gave it a few more minutes before I pulled it out. Now, let the bread rest. To be true to good baking bread rules, the bread would do better if it were to cool completely before slicing. I could not wait, so I sliced her open about ten minutes out of the oven. It was delicious. It was a heavy bread, but delicious! It re-warms well! Slather some vegan margarine on it for good measure!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Miso Soba Noodle Soup (Vegan MoFo Reasons 23-26)

Vegan MoFo
*Catching up on my 31 reasons for Vegan Month of Food, i.e., Vegan MoFo. I've decided to list 31 reasons for being vegan, or why I am a vegan.

Reason 23: I don't think free range should be "plated".
Reason 24: I've never been to a fish farm.
Reason 25: I prefer split peas to split ribs.
Reason 26: Miso: it's what's for dinner.

Miso (mee-so: don't do what I did and ask the clerk where the my-so is). Miso I am so glad I found you! Miso was in order tonight. So easy. So healthy. So yummy. I have a slight tickle in the throat and am taking an ounce of prevention to stave off any risk of getting, godforbid: "ill". I even had to resort to the "gym" for my workout today. Oh, that was pure joy. I dread treadmill runs. But the result of that is an unusually super-fast pace for a 5k that I could never attain running on pavement, which sort of leaves me feeling pretty good for a few hours after my "run." (28:51 for those interested--I think the belt needed to be a little "less" loose). I'm sensitive to weather--in particular, the days and days of low clouds and rain (having asthma makes it worse). I'm really trying to keep to my exercise schedule , to not let this slight throat itch turn into something more. Enter the Miso Soba Noodle Soup. From a soup-that-heals-you standpoint, I never really loved chicken noodle soup. I don't recall a lot of homemade "soup" from my mother's kitchen. Certainly we had a veggie soup here and there, and my mom could turn out a good veggie soup. I do recall the red and white label kind being present quite often. I felt like this soup-in-the-can was our in-case-the-world-ends stock pile. It never seemed to go away. But I could eat soup for dinner night after night.
Miso was new to me as a vegan--it still is. I've learned through reading and trying recipes the many good properties of the rice and soybean fermented paste. I buy my miso either at a global food store or at Whole Foods. Miso comes in either light, medium or dark paste (it may come in more shades than that even). I usually have light and dark stashed in the fridge. Its "use by" allows for decent shelf life. Here's a quick question for you: How much shelf space do you think we give to our veggies in our fridge? Well, let's just say they've assumed an "upper" shelf space and more! Our outlook on "fridge management" flew out the window when we suddenly discovered that eighty percent of our food stuff was not going to fit in two drawers! We've adjusted nicely.
Miso Soba Noodle Soup
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 onion diced
4 cloves of garlic minced
1" fresh ginger minced
2 carrots sliced into circles
1 package dried shitake mushrooms (placed in hot water to rehydrate, drained and sliced) or 1 cup fresh sliced thin
8 oz. of soba noodles
6 cups water
fresh ground black pepper
1 package extra firm tofu drained and cubed
2 tablespoons Braggs Liquid Aminos or Low Sodium Tamari
2 tablespoons light miso paste, mixed with about a 1/2 cup of soup broth
scallions sliced thin for garnish
To me, there are two things to remember when you use miso in soup. The first thing is to never let it boil--it will not keep all of its wonderful properties otherwise. There are some who say to reserve the miso for adding in the soup by teaspoonfuls to taste per serving. I prefer to mix it into the entire recipe. The second is to know that it is a very salty flavored item. Taste. Taste. Taste. So, to begin, heat your oil in a large soup pot. Add onions, carrots and garlic. Cook until the onions have softened, for about 5 minutes. Add all of the water and let come to a low boil for 10 minutes or so. Then, add all other ingredients except for tofu and miso. Allow to simmer until the carrots are soft (but not mushy). Place the cubed tofu in a bowl with a lid and add the 2 tablespoons of Braggs or Tamari--allow to soak in, then after a few minutes, add to soup. Turn the heat off the soup. Take about a half cup of broth and place in a bowl. Add miso to this and whisk, then add this to the soup pot. Serve with chopped scallions. To reheat, just heat it at minute increments in a microwave--not allowing it to boil. I also like it cold.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Vegan Hummingbird Cake with Orange Buttercream Frosting

Vegan Thyme: Vegan Hummingbird Cake with Orange Buttercream Frosting

This is a southern cake of the highest order. If you grew up in the south (I was thrust there at the tender age of fourteen), you know this cake. According to some, it's origins were first noted in Southern Living magazine. It gets its name--again according to some--from the sweetness hummingbirds love. However, I say it was probably created by a menopausal woman who had a hankering for an over-the-top outrageous, sweet cake and had a can of pineapples and an old banana sitting around and dug in to making this yummy dessert. I love to peruse Southern Living magazine. I subscribe to Midwest Living magazine (no, it is not called Vegan Midwest Living, either). You can't beat with a stick the down home and plain "food grub" coverage of simple foods. A vegan cook worth her weight can make nearly anything vegan. But you have to know where your food recipes come from to truly appreciate what it is you are setting out to do. Several recipes for this cake exist. Most make it with a can of crushed pineapple and banana. I have a husband who cannot eat pineapple (I am shocked also). So I had to figure out how to create a next-to version of the cake without this key ingredient. I settled on a can of spiced peaches. They worked beautifully. Grant it, you will not have that sort of pucker-up taste you'd have with the pineapple, but you still get a good, moist, yummy cake. Now, my other secret weapon is a new cookbook called: Cake Keeper Cakes by Lauren Chattmen. So far I have been completely pleased as punch with this little gem--I highly recommend this book! For starters, the cakes are quick to make, not super fancy and are designed to do just what she says, to be "keepers"--that is, around for a while. I like also that the cakes are not uber-huge and require a dinner party to finish off--they are in 8 or 9 inch pans or loaf pans, bundt and so on. Just the right size for that cake fix you have. I have it quite often! To make this 8" square cake a layer cake with frosting, I simply cut the cake in half. Then frosted it--no frosting on a cake? No problem! It sort of takes on that Sara Lee baked loaf cake appearance doing so. I took a picture before and after for visual assistance. It keeps best in the fridge and personally, I think tastes better the day after.
Vegan Hummingbird Cake
1/2 cup toasted pecan (finely chopped)
1 can spiced peaches, drained and chopped
1 ripened banana, mashed
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoon Ener-G Egg Replacer mixed with 2 tablespoons warm water
1 2/2 teaspoon Ener-G Egg Replacer mixed with 1 tablespoon warm water
6 tablespoons oil (you could use olive oil, or even flavored olive oil)!
1/2 cup vegan sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350. Grease an 8" square baking pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Combine the dry ingredients, including the nuts in a medium mixing bowl. Be sure to make two separate batches of the Egg Replacer (the recipe does better with a mix for replacing 1 egg and 1 egg yolk). Add the vanilla to the oil in a bowl and mix well. Now add all of the remaining wet ingredients and mix by hand with a spoon. This cake does best mixed this way. Pour the batter into the pan and smooth the top. Bake about 30-35 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center of it comes out clean.
Orange Buttercream Frosting
1/2 cup Earth Balance Butter at room temperature
1/2 cup Earth Balance Shortening at room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar--or more, depending upon consistency you get
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 orange (squeeze its juice out)
zest of 1/2 orange
Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix until a fluffy frosting.

Vegan Buffalo Wing-less Pizza with Carmelized Red Onions

Vegan Buffalo Wing-less Pizza with Carmelized Red Onions
I love pizza! The idea for this pizza came from a long-lost favorite of ours--a buffalo wing pizza with peppercinis and all kinds of other bad stuff! In moving from the "city" (think of Green Acres) and leaving behind a lot of the more convenient and varied "dining out" establishments we trusted and frequented (again, not eating out a lot--we did have our faves), we felt we had to have a go-to place immediately and found one on moving day (in hindsight, probably not the best day to make a "restaurant" decision). Moving day is when your whole body is put through basic training sans a drill Sargent. (I hate moving.) Nonetheless, we settled on an Italian restaurant just down the road. We loved its smells, its proximity, its local-ness. One problem, it was a cholesterol buster for sure. Cream pasta with this. Cream pasta with that. Oh, and here is a loaf of bread to enjoy before you eat the pasta! They even had a two-fer Tuesday pasta night. What we really loved was this pizza. Being vegan challenges you to take back that taste you left when you turned the corner (for all the right reasons, I might add). Not only in calories, but in flavor. Sometimes you get it right. Sometimes you make huge mistakes. This is a winner in our humble opinion.
With the help of my Breadman Breadmaking Machine, I put a recipe for whole wheat pizza dough in about an hour and half prior to dinner time. I prefer to make my own crust (it goes to that whole thing of "controlling" what goes into my body and all). For the vegan "wings" I used a package of Westsoy's chicken style seitan. I seasoned some flour and dredged the cut up pieces in it and cooked it in canola oil for about 5 minutes. Then, I took about a 1/4 cup of hot sauce (again, my favorite condiment of all time) and about 2 tablespoons of vegan margarine--tossing the coated wings in it. This was a superb pizza!

Vegan Buffalo Wing-less Pizza with Carmelized Red Onions
1 pizza crust (I used whole wheat)
1 package Westsoy Seitan Chicken (drained and sliced into chunks)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 red onion sliced thin
1 cup diced mushrooms
3 garlic cloves minced
1/4 cup kalamata olives drained (or black olives)
1 green pepper sliced thin
olive oil for drizzling over pizza
1/2 cup vegan mozzarella cheese (I used rice cheese--I prefer the melt factor of this)

*Follow the directions above to cook the buffalo chicken seitan.
Preheat oven to 425. Lightly oil a large cookie sheet, or use a pizza stone, whichever you prefer. Roll pizza dough out to desired size. Bake for about six minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. Add olive oil to saute pan. Add sliced onions and mushrooms and cook for about ten minutes, stirring once every few minutes--until the onions are caramelized and mushrooms have released their juices. Add the garlic, cook for about 3 more minutes. Set aside. Drizzle olive oil over the pizza crust. Add the ingredients from the saute pan evenly over pizza crust. Add olives and peppers and then spread the seitan pieces over this. Sprinkle with cheese and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for about 12-15 minutes.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Vegan Cacciatore with Seitan

This is such a great comfort food dish. Comes together in a snap and increases in flavor the longer you let it cook. Served with a side of garlic mashed potatoes and you will be all warm inside! A few weeks ago I stopped in Whole Foods to get some of those food cooking items that I never can find at the weekly local grocer. I always look over their food bar offerings--you never know where inspiration will come from. I am not a fan of food bars--but now that I am vegan, I am more trusting of, say, a seitan dish or tempeh item being offered. (I was made very ill once from food--so I am very, very careful. The incident has kept my husband and I from eating out much--yes, you can say a bit "neurotic" about eating out, I suppose.) This dish looked safe, and seemed to be calling me. So, I had a bite of their vegan cacciatore and loved it! I knew I could re-create this at home. I looked through several other cookbooks for inspiration. This is what I came up with--it is my lunch for today!

Vegan Cacciatore with Seitan
1 package seitan, cut into thin strips
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 red onion chopped
2 celery stalks diced
4 cloves garlic minced
1 carrot chopped
5 large tomatoes chopped (still have some from my garden!)
1 cup red cooking wine
1 cup veggie broth
1 tablespoon dried rosemary (crushed in your hand)
Spike seasoning
fresh ground pepper
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika

Over a medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to large saute pan and then add the chopped seitan, cooking until it begins to brown around the edges. Remove from pan and set aside. In same pan, add another tablespoon of olive oil. Now add all veggies except tomatoes. Cook until the onions begin to soften. Add all seasonings. Next, add the cooking wine. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and let cook for about 5 minutes. Don't let this reduce all the way. Now add the veggie broth, tomatoes and cooked seitan and let simmer over low heat for about 25 minutes uncovered. Serve with garlic mashed potatoes!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Foodbuzz.com: Top Nine For Roasted Green Tomatoes!

I am so tickled this happened. I am a member of the foodbuzz.com community of food lovers! So many inspirations, so many choices and great chefs. So, today I go online and see I made the Top 9 (granted it was number nine of the Top Nine). . . but still! I just had to share, that's all. (For those not in-the-know, it's a big deal, trust me--to me it is.)

Vegan Southern Indian Curry Fishless Stew

This was a recipe inspired by one of my favorite Food Network "old" folk: Jamie Oliver. No, he is not a vegan. He is, however, in my humble opinion quite "down with it" when it comes to shaking up the spice racks and moving flavors into your mouth like a fast train. I own a copy of Jamie's Dinners. This dish is a riff on his Southern Indian Rice and Seafood Soup dish. I took out the fish (obviously) and replaced it with Match Meats Crab Croquettes (I made to top the stew with). Very easy and straightforward. Very good smells entered the home in creating this dish. In the photo you can also see a piece of my Babycakes corn bread--quite tasty, very moist.

Vegan Southern Indian Curry Fishless Stew
*For the stew
3 tablespoons sunflower oil
2 tablespoons mustard seed
5 curry leaves
1 teaspoon cumin seed
2 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon tumeric
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning
2 inch piece of fresh ginger chopped
1 can coconut milk
Spike seasoning or S & P to taste
1 cup veggie stock
2 cups water
1 cup basmati rice
1 onion chopped
5 garlic cloves minced
2 tablespoons lemon flavored extra virgin olive oil

Heat oil in soup pot with the seasonings on medium heat. Wait about three minutes for the fragrance to hit you in the face. Now, add the chopped onion, ginger and garlic, saute for about five minutes. Don't let this burn. Keep the heat on medium. Add the stock, coconut milk and rice. Cover and let come to a boil. Then, lower heat and let simmer covered for about 35-40 minutes--just look at that rice to check for doneness. This soup will thicken up and the flavors get better the longer you let it all meld together. Drizzle olive oil over it when you are about ready to serve. I'd say all told it takes about an hour to get to the "done" stage. But worth it.

Match Meats Crab Croquettes
1 package of Match Crab, thawed and placed in a medium bowl
2 green onions chopped
1/2 green pepper chopped
1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning
Spike seasoning or S & P to taste
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon dried parsley
3 tablespoons sunflower oil

Mix all ingredients well in a medium bowl. Put a little olive oil on your hands to shape Match Crab into about 2" croquettes. Warm the oil in a medium sauce pan. Cook croquettes about 4-5 minutes on medium heat. Flip and let cook on the other side--check for browning. Place on paper towel lined plate while you work in batches.

Drizzle Sauce
2 tablespoons vegan mayo
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons hot sauce
1 tablespoon horseradish
Mix well and drizzle over the stew!

New Book: Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

I just received my copy of Eating Animals in the mail. I had to have my copy early. I had to. I am a huge fan of Jonathan's work. Both of his previous works, Everything Is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close are works of great achievement. Emotional. Engaging. Disclaimer: He does not know me, nor does his publisher. I had to have this book in hand--how could I not? More on this as I turn the pages.

HRT or Running (Vegan MoFo Reason 22)

Vegan MoFo
Reason Number 22: Read this post for some insight. (Girls, this one is for you.)

I ran six miles today. It took me an hour and eight minutes. Not light speed, but good, for my age. I know all the competitive types are saying, "I can do it in 50 minutes." Whatever. Lance Armstrong said it was a great workout through my new Nike+Ipod gadget I bought this weekend. (Lance, for gosh sake--he is on this program--those crazy Apple folks! Who knew?) Anyhow, I needed the run. Plus, I have a fundraiser run coming up that I really want to participate in: Sweat-4-Pets--see that cute picture on the t-shirt? Why the HRT question--well for starters, let me me be honest. I am in middle age. By middle, I don't mean thirty-something (though I did love that show and so wished I were thirty something when it aired). I am the generation that everyone is worried about in this crazy health care debate--or should I say, that WE are worried about because, godforbid should we get sick and need tendin' to! For women, this time in life is riddled with outcomes so varied and so chaotic that it sometimes feels as if we are living our teens, twenties and beyond all in the course of one day! Seriously. So, last night, I read an article in More magazine (there that should offer a hint) about HRT or Hormone Replacement Therapy. Should You, Shouldn't You? For me this is not the question. The question is: now what? As in, okay, so that was an awful moment, minute, hour, day, night, week, month (take your pick)--and I ask: Now what? Why bring this up? One of the reasons for my vegan lifestyle (besides my compassion for animals) is directly related to being "of age"--that is, of an age where you are not as invincible as you were even two years ago--yes, the change is that fast. I am lucky so far. I began to speculate on the matter of food intake correlation with mood several years ago because I was very sick in my twenties and thirties with a taboo illness folks don't like to talk about much. So, in facing my own personal battles with my mind and body, it was clear I had to take more control of my own health. There was no magic bullet with meds for moods. Period. Trust me, I've tried. What works for me may not work for anyone else. But you have to know your body like you know your own home. I mean, seriously, take a deep look into the heart of who you are. I did and what I found was that if I were going to be able to sanely arrive at the point I am today (well, maybe some would question the sane part), it would require some due diligence on my part to do so through diet and plenty of exercise. Enter vegan choices. Enter an ongoing appointment with my running shoes. Enter Middle Age. As for the hormone replacement question--no thanks. Not yet. (I never say never.) I just feel lucky to still be able to carry my body along for runs like I had today--in the rain, in the cold (hey, I wasn't the only one out there--I passed four other runners!). Running. Being vegan. It's all good.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Vegan Cookies Part II: Babycakes Chocolate Chip

I think a true test of any baking cookbook is the outcome of the most basic item--the no-frills, this-one-has-a-familiar-ring goody. In the case of my latest cookbook addition, Babycakes, I took a look at the offerings and decided the first baking order would be to test the chocolate chip cookies. Now, this cookbook is full of vegan (mostly) friendly cookies, cakes, breads and cupcakes. And, as an added bonus, they are gluten-free. I am not a sufferer of gluten intolerance. I can eat wheat with the best of them. But since celiac disease surfaced (like peanut allergies)--it seems gluten-free cooking ingredients have found their way into our mainstream grocer and, thankfully, makes buying for a gluten-free diet very painless. But doing so is expensive. Say you need xanthum gum, for instance. Have you priced this? It is quite expensive. But in Babycakes, the ingredient makes several appearances. So I splurged. I will only share the picture of my outcome. I can assure you these turned out delicious, however, were a bit costly to make but worth it in the end. I would like to re-create my own vegan version, but omit the gluten-free part. I have had many misses with attempting to make the go-to vegan chocolate chip cookie. There are hundreds of them on the Internet and in new vegan cookbooks. I have not created that perfect vegan chocolate chip cookie yet. But trust me, I will keep trying.

Vegan Cookies Part I: Chewy Chocolate Peanut Butter Kisses

Vegan MoFo
Reason Number 21: Seriously, these cookies are vegan!
Let me confess. I sometimes eat dessert before dinner. I have this insatiable sweet tooth that creeps up on me no matter how far away I've stored my latest sweet concoction. These latest cookies: Chewy Chocolate Peanut Butter Kisses have served as both breakfast fare and pre-dinner dessert "snacks". My cookie obsession goes way back--to those darn wafer things that came in pink and had this luscious pink creamy filling. (I have always loved the color pink.) That's where I think this all began. Then the Toll House tubes my mother would bring home only to open one end, bake a few of the cookies, leaving the remainder of the dough in the fridge for me to "snack" on. And then, my maternal grandmother's delicious cookies--the rolled in nuts with a maraschino cherry in the middle (the same cherries she used in her cocktails)--I scooped those up! She also made this amazing Mexican Wedding cookie that I bake every year. She used lard and oleo, I have had to change this a bit. Then, I have this very tiny Christmas Cookie booklet that I was given when I attended a holiday open house at a local home decor store ten years ago. Every year, my husband and I try to get into the holiday spirit by visiting local "festive" stores. This particular store held its holiday kick-off tradition by hosting an open house with holiday trees dressed and ready to go and serving, all day, trays and trays of cookies and some other stuff (I really don't remember). My only memory is of the cookies. During one particular visit I asked the owner if there was a chance he might share some of the recipes (I had nearly tested all of them by this point)--he could see how enthusiastic I was (or hungry). Nonetheless, he told me his mother had baked them all and that he did have a "few" of her recipes printed up, but had to check with her for approval for sharing. I felt like this was a serious test of my cookie-making commitment. I assured him, I would be forever in his debt and always remember his mother when I baked her treats. Kindly, he returned with his mother in tow and a copy of some of her recipes. To this day, I pull this booklet out and begin my holiday baking with one of these cookies. My version of this Chewy Chocolate Peanut Butter Kiss cookie evolved from a Chocolate Cherry cookie. Creating a vegan version and taking out the cherries and subbing with the peanut butter--this cookie is amazing and so very easy to make. Turn your kitchen into a "snack station" and try some of these!
Vegan Chewy Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies
1 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa
1/4 teaspoon extra fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup Earth Balance
1 cup sugar
1 egg from Ener-G Egg Replacer plus 2 tablespoons warm water
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup natural creamy peanut butter
vegan chocolate ganache (recipe follows)
Preheat oven to 350. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. (Bake one batch at a time--this recipe makes two batches). Mix the Ener-G Egg Replacer with water in a small bowl, whisking well, then set aside. Mix the dry ingredients together in a medium bowl: flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder and baking soda and set aside. In a large bowl, mix the butter and sugar together with a hand mixer until creamy. Add mixed Ener-G Egg Replacer and vanilla extract and mix until creamy. Add the dry ingredients in thirds by hand to the wet ingredients until it all comes together and looks mixed. I used my hands for this part--if you over mix, your cookies will turn out hard. Now, shape the dough into 1" balls. Place on cookie sheet. Now, take your pinky and punch a little hole into the center of each ball--no need to go through the entire cookie. Just a hole to hold the peanut butter. Take the peanut butter and place in a zip lock baggie. Cut a hole on one end and (tying the other end with a twistie to keep it from coming out all over your hand)--dab each hole with about a teaspoon of peanut butter. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. Meanwhile, make your ganache (which can be put on the cookies while they are warm, it will settle into a firm topping as cookies cool).
Vegan Chocolate Ganache
1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips
1/4 cup soy milk
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon of powdered sugar* (for thicker ganache if you want that--it's optional)
Place all ingredients in a small saucepan over low heat. Let warm just enough to melt the chips and mix well until smooth. You can remove this from the heat and the chips will continue to melt. Just be sure to mix until the lumps are gone. Then, take a spoon and drizzle this mixture over the warm cookies. Allow to cool completely and store in an airtight container. These are good and moist and will keep for several days!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Two New Vegan Sides (Vegan MoFo Reason 19 & 20)

Vegan MoFo
Reason Number 19: If the word "cartilage" is part of what you eat--ewww?

Reason Number 20: I will never have to sit through a "surf" and "turf" corporate dinner again. (And. . . I have had to endure this and was not good at playing the "Oh, it's okay, just bring me the salad or baked zucchini" card to appease the administrative assistant/dinner team who planned the menu--not meaning any ill will, of course).

Sometimes you have to go there. I have really had my share of "food rudeness" (the looks of, "Can't you just sit there, nibble that salad and eat that roll and shut up?" No.--and that was when I was vegetarian, not quite vegan). It is through this blog that I hope to at least inspire some of you to create a humane dish or two. Now, on to the recipes.

Side dishes. Such a mystery and complicated thing for me. Basically, when I begin my plans for dinner, I don't usually have a "side" in mind. Perhaps this story has something to do with it. When my mother cooked her round steaks and placed the canned lima beans, brussel sprouts or asparagus in front of me, I nearly always found myself banished to my room for "not finishing" my veggies. So, it seems odd that I am now a voracious veggie lover, but of my own liking (not my mother's, thankfully). So pardon me if I never post a succotash salad or braised, roasted or something brussel sprout recipe, they repulse me. Asparagus is okay, but in limited quantity.
For two dinners this week, I created these sides that in my humble opinion, were quite tasty. Both were inspired by two of my favorite cookbooks. They are easy and you can begin them prior to making the main course--both serve well at room temperature or just a bit warm.

First is the Roasted Green Tomato salad. The inspiration for this came from Moosewood Restaurant Daily Specials. This cookbook is one of my favorites. (I know I say this a lot.) Here's why green tomatoes were on the menu. I have thirty of them sitting on my kitchen counter right now. The other night it was predicted we'd have a freeze. I read that if the tomatoes are not brought in, even the greenies, they will burst and be worthless. I was not about to let this happen (though I went through my tomato burnout last month, these plants are still beautiful, even if the deer have consumed the top third of most of them). So, I rescued my green tomatoes. I thought, well, if worst comes to worst, I'll make a green tomato apple pie (which is really good!). Then this recipe. In the Moosewood version, they call for feta cheese. For obvious reasons, not for my version. They state that this is actually an adaptation of a Turkish recipe. I changed a few things in this, and overall, I was quite pleased with the result.

The second side is simply the best. Why? Potatoes. I love any recipe with a potato. Period. I used to make this amazing potato gratin with layers of portabello mushrooms, onions, butter and heavy cream and lots of herbs. I loved it however, it most likely caused my cholesterol to jump a few points. Well, I came across a recipe in Robin Robertson's new cookbook: 1000 Vegan Recipes (I know, Robin's cookbook again--well, there are a thousand choices--I am bound to have a few inspirations here!). She offers a chard and new potato gratin recipe (and besides tomatoes coming out of my ears, I also have bunches of my beautiful chard!). I took this recipe a step further by adding slices of vegan Swiss cheese in the layers and topped it off with a bit of soy creamer (to take me back to my "cholesterol killer" days).
Roasted Green Tomato and Olive Salad
5 large green tomatoes, quartered
1 large onion, sliced about 1/2" thin
4 garlic cloves minced
fresh basil (about 8-10 leaves) chopped--or use 1/2 teaspoon dried
fresh oregano (about 3 stalks) chopped--or use 1/2 teaspoon dried
4 tablespoons lemon-flavored olive oil
Spike seasoning or S & P to taste
fresh ground pepper
1 cup shredded vegan parmesean and mozzerella cheese
2 tablespoons pimentos
2 tablespoons chopped kalamata olives
Preheat oven to 500. Lightly oil a baking sheet. In a large bowl toss the quartered tomoatoes and onions with seasonings, flavored olive oil (I highly recommend this oil) and salt and pepper. Place in a single layer on your baking sheet. Bake on middle rack for about 25-30 minutes. Be sure to watch this, you don't want a bunch of burnt onions. Toss it a few times during baking. Remove from oven when edges of tomatoes begin to brown just a bit. Let it sit for about five minutes. Place mixture on a serving plate. Top with pimentos and olives. Spread the cheese over it and around the edges of the veggies for a lovely presentation. This can be served a room temperature and is great the next day!
Vegan Potato and Swiss Chard Gratin
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion chopped
4 garlic cloves minced
10 leaves of Swiss chard chopped--discard the stems
5 red potatoes, sliced to 1/4" rounds
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon marjoram
1 teaspoon parsley
1 teaspoon oregano
Spike or S & P to taste
lemon flavored olive oil for drizzle
3 slices vegan Swiss cheese
1/4 cup soy creamer
Preheat oven to 350. Prepare a medium 9" casserole dish by lightly oiling it. Place the olive oil in a saute pan and add onion and cook for about 5 minutes. Add garlic, seasonings and cook an additional 3 minutes. Then remove from heat, toss in the chopped chard to wilt it a bit. Place one layer of potatoes in bottom of dish--overlap is okay. Add half of chard mixture on top. Add layer of vegan cheese, and a few dashes of the lemon olive oil. Plus, add a few dashes of S & P. Add a layer of potatoes and the rest of chard and a final top layer of potatoes. Drizzle more of the lemon olive oil over the top, sprinkle just a small amount of thyme and marjoram over the top. Cover tightly with foil. Bake for about 50 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool about 10 minutes before slicing. *If you think you need the gratin to cook further, do so. Test the potatoes with a fork. This was delicious!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Vegan Waffle House (And More Vegan MoFo)

Vegan MoFo (October is Vegan Month of Food, for those not-in-the-know)
Reason Numbers 16-18

16. When is it never a good time to eat your veggies?
17. When the cows take over the world--we'll help them with their march.
18. When the chickens decide to revolt--we'll help them with their march.

Chocolate waffles and pumpkin waffles--not combined, just plain chocolate, and then on another Sunday, pumpkin. (Of course, now that I am thinking about it, why not "chocolate pumpkin" waffles? ) Yes, these were as good as they look! Well, I think they look good. I am not much of a breakfast person. I amble around with a half banana smeared with peanut butter and my coffee trying to read the newspaper and waking up. (Yes, we subscribe to a "newspaper" and I quite enjoy my reading of the paper thank you very much.) When you have dogs--and as many as we have, you aren't EVER allowed to sleep in. Ever. Ever. They run with the wolves still, their clocks are on hunt to survive mode, I suppose. My BH (better half) has an appetite right when he wakes up--heads right to the kitchen. Perhaps this is his "hunt and gather" portion turned on. Not me--I just want to survive the morning. So, on the days when he sleeps in and I am up "with the wolves"--I sometimes am motivated to take the extra time to treat us to some delicious breakfast food. A while back I made vegan cinnamon rolls--that was a two-hour ordeal, but worth it when we sat down to eat them at 11:30, but not something I am willing to do often. So, these past few weekends, I experimented with a few recipes. My pumpkin influence comes from Robin Robertson's 1000 Vegan Recipes. The chocolate waffle was influenced by Isa Chandra Maskowitz's Vegan Brunch--I love both of these cookbooks!

If you are new to waffle making--here are a few tips. Buy a waffle maker that has deep indentations. Never overmix your batter--like "barely" mix it with a fork. Try to find a waffle maker that will make at least two waffles. Be sure to follow the manufacturer's directions on timing and temperature. You don't need to go broke getting one either. I bought mine at WM. It was the right price and has worked superbly! I actually prefer a waffle to a pancake any day. You can freeze your leftover waffles and have your own No-Eggo waffle the very next day!

Vegan Pumpkin Waffles

1/4 cup spelt flour
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon corn starch
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup soy milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 can of pumpkin
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 225. Get a large piece of foil ready to cover the waffles and place on the rack in the warmed oven as you make the waffles. Place the soy milk and 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in a glass measuring cup, mix and set aside. Place the dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and whisk well to blend the flavors. Now add all of the wet ingredients, stirring with a fork just until incorporated. Don't overmix this. It will look lumpy and that is okay! Set up your waffle maker. I use about a 1/2 cup of mixture per waffle. Follow the directions that came with the waffle maker. It takes my waffles about six minutes to complete. I then place them in the oven straight on the racks and cover with foil.

Vegan Chocolate Waffles

1 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 cups soy milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 225. Tear off a large piece of foil to place over the waffles while they are in the oven staying warm as you make your batches. Pour the 2 cups of soy milk and 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar into a bowl and set aside. Place all of the dry ingredients together in a medium mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Add the wet ingredients and mix with a fork just until blended. Do not over mix--a few lumps are okay! Set up your waffle maker and, according to manufacturer's directions, make the waffles. I usually find that about a 1/2 cup of mixture works nicely. I set my timer for six minutes per batch.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Vegan Corn Chip Cookie (Vegan MoFo Reason Number 14)

Vegan MoFo
Reason Number 14
I am at peace whenever I eat.

Please give this cookie a chance! It combines the sweet with the salty--another match made in heaven if you ask me. Let me tell you how I stumbled upon this recipe. I have mentioned that my mother loved the Amish and their cooking, baking, and what have you. We would visit their farms and their quiet homes lit only by candles and moved only by horse and buggy. She'd say, "See how lucky you are?" And I'd think, well. . . okay, if you say so. Now, as I recall it, my mother did not really spend a lot of time in the kitchen re-creating the homey concoctions found in my collection of cookbooks I have. However, when I am feeling nostalgic, I'll get these books down and think how fun it would be to try to veganize an Amish dish. With the craziness encroaching on me--fundraiser coming up (Sweat-4-Pets), then Thanksgiving, and you know, that OTHER most stressful holiday (and the dysfunction that accompanies this), I take refuge in my kitchen sometimes and just go nuts. It was what brought me to this little gem. This cookie was originally called a Potato Chip Cookie from Marcia Adams Heirloom Recipe cookbook. My grandmother used to make these--they were awesome! Now that I am in mid-life and feeling quite literally like my whole body has been taken over by some wayward hormone eating microbe, I will sometimes have these incredible bouts of clarity and ambition. So, enjoy with me this moment of "clarity" and indulge in trying this recipe! Or not.

Vegan Corn Chip Cookie

2 sticks Earth Balance
1 cup confectioners sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons Ener-G Egg Replacer mixed with 1 tablespoon warm water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup crushed corn chips
1/2 cup pecans
Preheat oven to 350. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Now, mix the butter and sugar together until creamy--takes about 2 minutes. Then add the Egg Replacer and vanilla mixture to this and mix well with hand mixer. With your hands--add the flour in three separate amounts. Mush together until crumbly. Now add the chips and pecans, mix with hands only, then drop by teaspoon amount onto parchment paper. This makes about 27 give or take, cookies. Bake for 15 minutes or until edges just begin to brown. Remove from oven and let rest for about 2 minutes. Remove from cookie sheet to a cookie rack to cool. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Vegan Buffalo Chicken-Free Pot Pie (Vegan MoFo Reason Number 13)

Vegan MoFo
Reason Number 13
If you can make, I can make it. . . vegan. No, really I can.

When I say hot, I mean "hot". I am notorious for not being a wimp when it comes to spicy food. Where does that come from? So, dinner with me, if you want hot, please bring your tall glass of ice water. So it was with my Buffalo Chicken-Free Pot Pie. I got some help from my Match Meat friends: http://www.matchmeats.com/. I heart Match. I used their chicken Match for this recipe. Mmmm. I know I've posted at least one other casserole with hot sauce. I am going to probably post more iterations of this fabulous food condiment, maybe it will show up in a cake at some point. The weather here is in the shade of gray. Real good mood enhancer. I am heading out for a good run once this post is up. I need that or a vial of prozac today. I opt for a run.

One of the main reasons I turned to this recipe was for my craving for roasted veggies. So easy. Just throw the basics (carrots, onions, green pepper, celery, garlic) on a baking sheet lined with parchment and let the rest come together. Then season with your favorite oil and herbs and you will think you are in dinner heaven. You will also need a puff pastry. Just for future reference, put that on your weekly check list because it is one of the most versatile food items. . .it's a sin, I swear. I also had to share a picture of my roasted veggies, my cooked hot sauce for my Match chicken nuggets and my final pot pie--not a food magazine photo winner, but you get the idea, right? This recipe is so straightforward, just follow your instincts--use whatever you have on hand. If you have portobellos, use them. Use seitan. Use tempeh. For goodness sake, don't forget the hot sauce!
For the Hot Sauce (keeping it low-cal)
4 tablespoons Earth Balance, melted
1/4 cup hot sauce
Dip your "protein" of choice into this mixture and coat well. Then add to saute of veggies and pot pie sauce (see below).
For the Pot Pie
roasted veggies of your choice cut into bite-sized pieces
a little olive oil
a little seasonings
Preheat oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roast veggies for about 25 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
For the Pot Pie Sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot diced
1/2 cup peas
1/2 cup corn
2 cups veggie stock
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons hot sauce
s & p to taste
Prep a 2 qt. casserole dish by lightly oiling it (keep oven temp. at 425). Heat oil in saute pan. Add shallots and cook for about 3 minutes. Then, add roasted veggies to this. Add veggie stock, peas and corn and sprinkle with flour and whisk well to combine. The flour will dissolve, just work with it. Now, add 2 T. of hot sauce. Mix your protein mixture into the pan now. Mix well. Pour all ingredients into casserole dish. Then, place puff pastry over this tucking the ends into the casserole (don't let it hang over the edge). Then cut four slits in top to let steam release. Place casserole on a baking sheet to keep it from spilling. Bake for 25 minutes or until top begins to brown. Let cool for about 5 minutes before serving.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Vegan Carrot Pumpkin Cake with Orange Zest Frosting (Vegan MoFo Reason Number 12)

Vegan Thyme: Vegan Carrot Pumpkin Cake with Orange Zest Frostin...

Vegan MoFo
Reason Number 12
I love cake, but I love it even more without the eggs and butter.

I had a yen for pumpkin this weekend. It really had me, I should say. This cake is as decadent and tasty as it looks, and it is the kind of cake, that when covered and placed in the fridge seems to get better with time! The best part of any cake, for me, is the frosting. I think that it is really a shame when you find a great recipe for cake, only to discover it is "frosting-free"--what is the point? When I had my first job scooping ice cream for a well-known 31 flavor place, I can remember making those frozen cakes. They'd come in already stacked and filled with a layer of ice cream and usually white frosting, then we'd be able to decorate them with well-wishing thoughts (if you had good penmanship--cursive writing, especially). But the most favorite past time for me was "practicing" the making of the flowers! And. . . eating my mistakes! Oops! Maybe that is where my love of cake began. I remember only one cake my mother made often, banana. So. when my husband and I were married, what cake did we have: banana--nothing fancy. I was eating the box variety then. I can't eat that kind any longer. And, sadly, that takes one of my favorite cake making books out of circulation: The Cake Mix Doctor by Anne Byrn. I was lucky enough to stumble across a beautiful cook book titled quite simply, Pumpkin by DeeDee Stovel. It is just a perfect fall cookbook! She inspired me to make a vegan version of one of her cakes and to spice it up a bit as well. So, as I "go it alone" in creating vegan cakes (sans the pre-mixes)--I find that being vegan and creating cake from scratch is not hard at all. This cake, takes the cake.

Vegan Carrot Pumpkin Cake with Orange Zest Frosting
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar (you could use 1/2 Florida Crytals)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup canola oil (you could use applesauce)
4 eggs using Ener-G Egg Replacer (mixed well with water)
1 cup canned pumpkin
3 carrots peeled and shredded
Orange Zest Frosting
1/2 cup Tofutti Cream Cheese
1/2 cup Earth Balance Butter
1/2 orange, zested and juice added to bowl
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 325. Spray two 9" cake pans with oil and flour them. Then cut out two pieces of parchment paper and cover the bottoms of the pans with this, then lightly spray these.
Sift all dry ingredients together and set aside. Mix oil, Egg Replacer mixture, pumpkin and carrots in a bowl until fully blended. By hand, stir wet ingredients into dry until combined. Pour into prepared pans, dividing evenly. Bake for 25 minutes or until toothpick stuck in middle of the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool completely.

For Orange Zest Frosting

Add all ingredients to a large bowl and mix well--until little peaks begin to form. I find that dependent upon the juice amount your orange gives you, you might need more powdered sugar. Just watch it, my frosting was a bit creamy, I was fine with that!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Vegan Hungarian Goulash with Paprika Cream (Vegan MoFo Reason 10 & 11)

Vegan Thyme: Vegan Hungarian Goulash with Paprika Cream (Vegan ...
It was really cold yesterday--soup was in order. Not just any soup--robust, lots of flavor and noodles and chunks of yummy mushrooms with a tomato base, mmmm. . . goulash. This is one of our favorite dishes. I've made it in the heat of summer, too--and it still tastes just as good. This recipe is inspired by my friends at Moosewood Restaurant with their cookbook (I highly recommend: Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special.) I had made some foccacia bread yesterday to serve with the saffron creamed ravioli--it was a rosemary and crush red-pepper sort. This is probably the easiest breads in the world to make (especially with my handy-dandy Breadman Bread Machine!). We had the perfect evening, too. Fire going, warm bowls of yumminess and dogs curled around us, watching old episodes of Boston Legal (which I love--is James Spader the best or what?--we really hate watching TV with commercials, so we do a lot of Netflix). Anyhow, on top of this lovely meal was the making of a pumpkin carrot cake--more on that later. For now, let me play catch up for my Vegan obligations and offer two more reasons for why I am a vegan:

Vegan MoFo
Reason Number 10:

Because eating with a conscious is better than eating without one.

Vegan MoFo
Reason Number 11:

Someone posted a meal they made with some ox body part yesterday on this food site I belong to (I'm just trying to spread the vegan love)--it made me cringe and feel ill for a moment. I was glad to be a vegan then.
And now, for the recipe!

Vegan Hungarian Goulash
1 package dried porcini mushrooms
1/2 cup boiling water
1/4 cooking sherry
Place the dried mushrooms in a bowl, add boiling water and mix in the sherry, cover and set aside.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion chopped
1 large carrot chopped
1 green or yellow pepper chopped
1 large container of baby bellas chopped
1 tablespoon Braggs Liquid Aminos or soy sauce
2 cans fire roasted tomatoes
2 cups veggie stock
2 cups water
1 teaspoon dried dill
3 garlic cloves minced
1 tablespoon Louisiana Hot Sauce
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 bag of noodles--sort of wide
S & P to taste
Heat soup pot with oil on medium heat. Add the onion and garlic. Saute for about 3 minutes. Add the paprika, carrots and pepper. Mix well. Cover and let cook for about 5 minutes on medium heat. If it looks dry--add a 1/4 cup of water. Now add the tomatoes and mushrooms, Braggs and mix well. Take the porcini mushrooms, drain liquid--reserving it! Here's how I did this--pour through a coffee filter. Then add the liquid to the pot and chop up the mushrooms and add this to pot as well. Add remaining water and stock. In a separate pot, bring water to a boil and cook noodles for about 5 minutes. Drain and place in soup pot. Cook on low for about 20 more minutes. Serve topped with paprika cream.
Make Paprika Cream
Mix 1/4 cup tofu sour cream with 1 tablespoon hot sauce and a teaspoon paprika. Whisk to combine.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Vegan Artichoke Wonton Ravioli with Saffron Cream Sauce

I do not own a pasta maker--but I do have wontons! I'm sure this dish would have been even better had I made my pasta from scratch. It's on my bucket list, to make my own pasta.

We live in an area of the country that has a noted Italian heritage and thus, some amazing Italian restaurant cuisine. My grandfather came over from Croatia, but shared with me that we had a strong mix of Italian in our bloodline--this boosts my confidence a bit more when I embark on complex, multi-step pasta creations like this one. I was a bit discouraged on my first few attempts this past year--creating creamy pasta sauces early on as a vegan. I feared this new sauce might fail and leave me to (godforbid) pour a bottled red marinara over my "ravioli" at the last minute if the need arose--lucky for me, it didn't. This recipe was inspired by my new cookbook: The Concious Cook by Tal Ronnen. I sauted some fresh spinach and sliced some more of my garden tomatoes and served this mixed with the ravioli. By the way, I love saffron--and it's very good for you!

Artichoke Wonton Ravioli with Saffron Cream Sauce
For the Wonton Ravioli
1 package wontons
1 package extra firm tofu drained
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon oregano
2 teaspoons nutritional yeast
1/2 cup vegan Parmesan
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup white cooking wine
1 can drained artichokes, chopped
1 diced shallot
3 cloves garlic minced

Preheat oven to 375. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Place the drained tofu in a food processor, then add the garlic onion powder, oregano, nutritional yeast and vegan Parmesan. Pulse to combine and then let the processor run for about 20 seconds--not letting it get too smooth. Heat a saute pan with the oil and add garlic and shallots, cooking for about 2 minutes. Add the chopped artichokes and white cooking wine, letting it reduce completely. Add this mixture to the tofu ricotta mixture in the processor, pulsing just to combine. *Reserve 1/4 cup of the tofu ricotta for use in making the saffron cream sauce. Lay wontons on baking sheet. Place a teaspoon of mixture in the center and wet the edges of the wontons with water. Place another wonton on top and press edges to seal. Bake the wontons for about 15 minutes--just until the edges begin to brown.

Saffron Cream Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot minced
2 cloves garlic minced
1/2 cup white cooking wine
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 cup veggie stock
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads (you can put these into 2 tablespoons of warm water)
1/4 cup of reserved tofu ricotta
1/2 package of Mori Nu Silken Tofu
Heat olive oil in a saute pan and add garlic and shallots and cook for about 3 minutes. Add the cooking wine and allow to reduce by half. Sprinkle the nutritional yeast over the mixture, mix well. Add the veggie stock and saffron threads. Mix well. Add reserved tofu ricotta mixture. Mix well. Remove from heat. Allow to cool a bit. Place the silken tofu in a blender. Add the cooked ingredients and puree until smooth. Pour back into saute pan, and heat for about five minutes--to warm sauce. Serve over ravioli and enjoy!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Vegan Chocolate Chip Ginger Brownies

Chocolate and ginger were born apart, but they are meant to live together--and this is the proof.
I am, again, going to give rave reviews to yet another amazing new vegan cookbook: 1000 Vegan Recipes by Robin Robertson. I believe I own all of her cookbooks, and no, she does not know me, and neither does her publisher. Robin has made my conversion to vegan cooking a true pleasure. I believe you need inspiration to keep your creativity rolling. I believe in that too with my knitting, painting or gardening. I strongly believe in it when it comes to cookbooks. Her cookbooks fill the vegan shelves at Barnes and Noble and Borders--you can hardly miss them. I just could not resist this cookbook--1,000 vegan recipes, come on!

I was inspired to make this when I saw her Ginger Spice Brownie recipe--the book literally opened up to this page! I made modifications to this recipe to suit my own taste. Nevertheless, it worked! I would not start making this until I was sure I had fresh ginger on hand--it is a must!

Vegan Chocolate Chip Ginger Brownies
1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 cup spelt flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
3 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup sucanat or regular sugar (try to mix these if you can)
3/4 cup chocolate chips
1 " of fresh ginger grated
Preheat oven to 350. Lightly flour and oil an 8" or 9" baking pan. (*If using 9" reduce baking time and watch for doneness). Mix the dry ingredients with the chocolate chips and set aside. Mix all wet ingredients in another bowl--by hand with a whisk and mix it well but there is no need to use a blender! Add the grated ginger. Now, add wet ingredients to dry--mix by hand until moist. Pour into baking pan. In 8" pan, I would bake about 20 minutes--they will start to look done about 15 minutes--but just to be sure, I tested with a toothpick. Let cool. Slice, serve with a sprinkle of powdered sugar!

Vegan Scaloppini with Garlic Mashers

Let me cut to the chase, this meal was simply the best! I have a new inspirational weapon in my cookbook arsenal and it goes by the name of The Conscious Cook by Tal Ronnen. OMG--this dish delights in so many ways, I cannot even begin to tell you. . . but I will. And no little lambs or chickens were hurt making it! If it strikes you that being a vegan means denying yourself the gastronomic pleasures in the world, you are sadly mistaken. (Trust me, I am not a person who could dine on sprouts and grain and beans the rest of my life--so I am glad this vegan world is evolving). This cookbook is an example of what I am talking about--beautiful photos (and that, my friend, makes all the difference!), wonderful vegan meals accompanied by insight and information that you can't help but get in there and cook!
This dish was made with my favorite vegan product: Match Meats chicken (made right here in St. Louis!). If your grocer is not carrying this, ask that they do--it will make trying a new meatless recipe a pure joy. In Tal's book, he made this scaloppini with a product called Gardein "chicken"--I have not found this yet, and really, it is okay, because my Match does a wonderful job. I modified this recipe based on what I know about the scaloppini flavor I remembered in my non-vegan life. Tal's recipe is straightforward, and with its careful direction, you can see where modifications can be made. Thus, this is not a copy of his recipe, but my version, based on his wonderful recipe. I served mine with garlic mashed potatoes and green beans from my garden!

Vegan Scaloppini with Garlic Mashers
1 package Match Meats chicken
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 cup flour--for dredging

Place thawed Match product into a bowl. Mix together the seasoning, then add to Match, being sure you incorporate it all. (*It helps to do this by hand and to oil your hands a bit). Shape into flattened, oval discs about 1/2 " thick. Set aside on a plate.

Heat a saute pan with the oil, do not let it smoke. Take the Match patties and dredge in flour. Carefully place in oil, and let cook on each side about five minutes. Remove and set on a plate with tented foil to keep them warm.

3 cloves of garlic minced
1 shallot diced
1 green onion sliced
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 package of portobello or shitake mushrooms sliced thin
1 cup white cooking wine
1 1/2 cups veggie stock
1 stick of Earth Balance
2 teaspoons of arrowroot mixed with 2 teaspoons water

Heat the oil in a saute pan, then add the shallot and garlic. Cook for about 3-4 minutes, just to warm it up a bit. Then add the sliced mushrooms. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring often. Add the cooking wine, then cook for additional 5 minutes on high heat--allowing it to reduce a bit. Add the veggie stock. Now, slice the stick of Earth Balance in pieces and add a chunk at a time stirring while doing so until all EB has been added. Taste it--you will be amazed! Now, add the slurry of arrowroot and water to the pan, mix well, turn heat to low. This will help thicken the sauce. But, what I found was that it got a bit too thick and I wanted more sauce. So, I added about another 1/2 cup of veggie stock until it reached a consistency I like, without losing the flavor.

Midwest Rain, Fall And Vegan MoFo Reason 9

Vegan MoFo
Reason Number 9

I love telling people what I eat. . . and then showing them!

It has been a lovely two days here in the Midwest--just look at the pictures. Fall colors are just beginning and this weekend will definitely be fireplace weather! I kept inside most of yesterday (except for that "pick-me-up" trip to the bookstore). It was thundering and lightening--and dumping rain on us--see my rain gauge (now if that had been snow, we would have 3 1/2 feet of the stuff!)Darn. This is not real run-friendly weather. I did, however, despite the rain, run this morning. A little bit of rain doesn't hurt anybody. Plus I've run a marathon in the rain! I spent some fabulous time in the kitchen--where I found great comfort in creating some delicious new recipes!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Vegan Noodle Curry with Garbanzos (Vegan MoFo Reason Number 8)

Vegan Mofo Reason 8:

I am a vegan because what I eat doesn't scream or cry.

Speed was the name of the game for last night's dinner and it was perfect curry weather (this is an easy curry dish, trust me)! I was out all day, and by 5:30, when I finally got to the kitchen--I was needing something tasty, spicy and fast--I love curry! Speaking of curry, I watched my favorite show Top Chef last night and was completely surprised to learn that several of the contestants had not cooked two cuisines I love: Indian and Asian. Just what IS required of them to make it to the "final cut"--I wonder? I think vegans should apply to the show--you cannot be vegan and not have come across a variety of cuisines--that is just the name of the game--getting inspiration from the foods of the world. Well, enough on that--I am waiting for a Vegan Top Chef--could that ever come to pass? Would the Food Network ever consider a half hour slot for a vegan chef?

I thought I'd try an old time favorite recipe from Robin Robertson's cookbook: Vegan Planet, combined with an extra something from Madhur Jaffrey--in my opinion, the queen of Indian cooking. Robin, by the way, has a new cookbook out: 1000 Vegan Recipes! A thousand. Now, if you can't find anything worth cooking in her books--get out of the kitchen! What I have learned from my reading is that the Indian way of making a wonderful curry involves using spices with your base oil to get your flavors into the oil itself, thus lending a beautiful aroma to the home, and providing extras for the flavor of the dish you are creating. Curry is a study in and of itself. But this dish is so delicious, you will want to try it, I promise!

Vegan Noodle Curry with Garbanzos
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cinnamon stick
3 bay leaves
5 cardamom pods *at Whole Foods or International Grocer
5 whole cloves

On medium heat, add the oil and spices to the pan. Let this cook for about five minutes--don't let the oil burn--i.e., don't let the oil come to a smoking point! When the oil is heated through and the aroma is filling your home, carefully remove the spices with a slotted spoon--retaining as much of the oil as possible--I keep the bay leaves in for extra flavor.

1 onion chopped
4 cloves of garlic minced
2 " piece of ginger minced
1 green bell pepper chopped
1 teaspoon garam masala
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 can diced tomatoes
1 cup peas
1 cup green beans
2 carrots chopped
1 can garbanzo beans drained and rinsed
1 can coconut milk
1/3 of a box of Mori Nu Silken Tofu
spaghetti noodles of your choice
diced green onions for garnish
diced tomatoes for garnish

Bring a pot of salted water to boil--if you do cook these now, set the timer so they don't overcook. Now, with the remaining oil, add the carrots, onion, garlic, ginger and peppers and saute until veggies begin to soften. Then add tomatoes, peas and beans and seasoning--let simmer while you prep the coconut milk and tofu. Blend the milk and tofu in a blender--add s & p to taste. Add this mixture to the pan with the garbanzo beans and let simmer for about 20 minutes to absorb the flavor. The mixture will reduce slightly, but not too much on this or you'll miss out on the best part--the sauce! Serve over cooked noodles with choice of garnish: YUM!

A Run for The Animals

The 9th Annual Sweat-4-Pets 5k, 10k Run and 1 Mile Fun Walk benefitting OpSpot (Operation Stop Pet Overpopulation Today--opspot.org) takes place one month from today! It's fun, it's healthy--and better yet, you are helping a very worthy cause. Why is this event so important to me? First of all, last year over 27,000 unwanted dogs and cats were euthanized in the St. Louis area--nationally, the number runs close to 5 million. That alone is enough reason to want to help with spaying and neutering. Nine years ago I brought the idea of this fundraiser to the president and director of OpSpot (my dear friend Lizzie) and shared that I thought a run and walk for dogs and people has potential to raise both awareness and money for spaying and neutering--and runners are some of the most generous people in our community! She loved the idea, we got some amazing help financially from OpSpot supporters and were able to purchase our first batch of t-shirts and reserve the park space, get snacks, and folks chipped in to bring raffle baskets--we wanted our run to be a bit more special. Our first few years provided us with plenty of "learning" moments.
Here we are nine years later! Without the help of the OpSpot volunteers and animal lovers, this would have never lasted as long--we are great group of people! It is so exciting, I can hardly wait for this year's event! As the event founder and director, it is a privilege to work for a cause that truly makes a difference in people's lives. OpSpot has spayed and neutered over 21,000 family pets to date! In September it spayed 1,100 pets during their TenSpot Fix--where families needing assistance with the costs can take their pets to one of our participating vets and have their pet spayed for $10 each. Thus, the need for a fundraiser like Sweat-4-Pets!
OpSpot does so much more--here is list of some of their programs:
  • 909-VETS: a low cost referral service helping people access local participating vets providing affordable surgeries.
  • Nickel Neuter: Twice annually 2002-2004, these two-day events utilized participating vet clinics and through donations to OpSpot, neutered 5528 male cats.
  • Love Your Pit: A special spay/neuter event for special dogs. Starting from a an initial gifts from the Animals Farm Foundations, we paid for surgeries at 13 local animal clinics--303 pit bull mixes were spayed or neutered.
  • Hope for The Animals Day: Held each year in August in Tower Grove Park, provides $10 vax, $10 microchips and other health services.
  • Free Straw to Warm Paws: Each fall we provide free straw and doghouses to improve conditions for dogs who must live outside. Public education is a part of this program.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Monarchs Are Here! (Vegan MoFo Reason 7)

Yesterday I captured this beautiful photograph of one of the most amazing creatures--the monarch butterfly. I have nine butterfly bushes, I really wanted them to have a nice stay here on their way to Mexico.

Vegan MoFo
Reason Number 7: I imagine a world someday where we are all eating plants and living healthy lives.

Split Pea Soup with Tempeh Bacon And Yukon Croutons

When you have a day like mine yesterday, you really need comfort. Comfort food. So I made this amazing split pea soup--after my plumber trauma. First, let me vent. We had to have a plumber come to our house. I really don't like to have people in my home--if a friend is coming over, it is a stress that I can hardly describe (my friends that are invited over already know this and are super kind and super careful with me--I love them for that). I'm sure there is a name for it. But if a stranger is coming over (like cable man or plumber man). . . triple that last statement. With some therapy, I am sure I could solve this problem. That "entertainment, come on over" gene is not in me--my mother was a loner, I sort of am, too--it exhausts me to be around "lots" of people (like I was this weekend). These "social sites" cause me anxiety, too--but this blog is here to help me find my voice and keep my creative soul moving forward--so I peek in every now and then, but for the most part, keep it real simple--and keep "friends" online at arms length or more, away.

Needless to say, I have low tolerance and high stress when it comes to "home repair" issues. I have never lived in a new home, nor will I ever. I believe there are enough homes on this planet to house us all--and our housing crisis, well, that speaks volumes. Thus, our 70-year old home. Now, I fell in love with this house because of its charm and its "updates"--it is small and just right. Charm translates into: "It has had some work". I wanted what the real estate agent called, turn-key-ready (good luck finding one of those!)--another low tolerance I have is for real estate agents, okay and bankers, well, let me stop there. So, with an old house--whose previous owner was in "contracting"--again, another of those professions . . . let me keep to the story. Suffice to say, we have had issues with our adorable little home on the range. The number of "short-cuts" we discovered that were taken to get-the-job-done has boggled our minds--and when we stumble across these--when we need something repaired--the repair itself may be minor, only to find a snowball effect taking place--like peeling the layers of an onion--you know what I'm talking about. "Well, I can fix this for you, but first, here's what really needs to be done. . . blah, blah, blah". It can leave you flummoxed. So it was yesterday. My plumbing job was straight forward. No biggie. The pump thingy was not stopping and water kept running to fill the tank. After a ridiculous sum was paid--it is still not fixed this morning. This after two visits yesterday. An email was sent at six this morning. I hope to hear from them soon. Meanwhile. I cooked.

If I become sort of "sad" sounding in the coming months, it is probably due to the rainy and cloudy days we seem to get hit with in the Midwest. I am not complaining about temperatures, I am talking about the lack of sunshine. After all, Missouri is the Show-Me state, not the Sunshine state. Yesterday was one of those dreary days. (A woman teaching a gardening class once said that our winters are worse than those in the Mid-Atlantic region because we have fewer days of sunshine, even though they seem to get more snow. It makes sense to me--snow makes me happy.) I find my creative bend is not in its usual form on dark, dreary days. You'd think I'd take great solace and comfort in being in the kitchen, but no. I take no solace in it at all. I take solace in my bed. But, as I sat reading through my cookbooks, trying to find a kernel of inspiration, I came across a soup recipe for split pea soup. Now, split pea soup is not rocket science. But there are subtle things you can do to make a split pea soup pop. Like ham bones my mother would throw in. Ick. I just so happened to have some Tempeh Bacon on hand. This substituted like a charm in my soup--giving it that wonderful, smoky essence with the added plus of additional texture. Topping my soup off I thought I needed some croutons--I was out of bread, and had no desire to make any. But I did have some yukon golds on hand. I chopped them up and sauteed them in olive oil with a sprinkle of chili pepper and they worked amazingly well--just like a crouton only better because they were taters! Seriously, this soup was delicious!

Split Pea Soup with Tempeh Bacon and Yukon Croutons

3 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion chopped
2 sticks of celery sliced
5 carrots chopped
4 garlic cloves minced
1 lb. split green peas
1 and 1/2 container of veggie stock (like maybe 6 cups)
2 tablespoons sherry cooking wine
2 tablespoons Louisianna hot sauce
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
S & P to taste
fresh ground pepper
1 package tempeh bacon, cooked per package directions

In a medium soup pot, add chopped veggies to warm oil. Saute for about ten minutes. Then add split peas and veggie stock. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to simmer and let cook for about an hour. Remove from heat. Use a hand blender on it--to your own desired consistency. My soup was thick. Add seasonings, sherry and hot sauce. Serve topped with cooked tempeh bacon and cooked potato croutons.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Vegan Roasted Potato and Eggplant Lasagna

Okay, first order of business--Gourmet Magazine is shutting down?! WHAT? I love Gourmet, I just renewed my subscription. . . I am so sad! So now what? What will Ruth Reichl do for a living? I want my Gourmet!

Vegan MoFoReason 6: Because I think cow milk mustaches look ridiculous.

Now on to cooking. To me, nothing smells better than roasting vegetables. Once again, I found myself searching for an exciting meal plan idea around 5 o'clock! New name for my blog: The 5 o'clock Vegan? I am still overcoming my inability to focus from the news I received two weeks ago, however, this week seems to be getting better. I am now on my sixth pattern round of my new sweater--after 4 stops and rips! Four! I knew to stick with it--I really love this new sweater pattern. Reading has been a challenge, too. So I turned to my trustworthy and most favorite author Saul Bellow. I adore him. I am reading Herzog right now (a really old copy of a paperback that I found at my local used bookstore--its pages are yellowed, it smells like oldness)--it is perfect fall reading. It seems so fitting, the man is in grief, he is wanting to write letters to everyone--more on this novel later.

See, I told you, my ability to focus is shot still! Okay, for dinner I created a recipe that has many iterations. It can be literally thrown together in a snap--so easy! It will warm your house, it will be great as a leftover, it would make a great company's coming dish--it used up four of my tomatoes from my garden!

Vegan Roasted Potato and Eggplant Lasagna

2 russet potatoes, cut into thin 1/4" length slices
1 onion sliced
1 eggplant skin on, cut into thin long slices
4 tomatoes sliced
3 garlic cloves minced
8 baby bella mushrooms sliced
1 medium bag of baby spinach
1 shallot sliced
splash of balsamic vinegar
pinch of thyme
S & P to taste or Spike No Salt Seasoning
2 cups marinara sauce (homemade or store bought)
4 tablespoons olive oil
handful of shredded vegan parm./mozz. cheese

Preheat oven to 400. Get out three cookie sheets and line with parchment paper. Prep a 11x7 baking dish with a light spray of olive oil. Lay the sliced potatoes on one sheet brush both sides with olive oil and roast for 15 minutes, remove from oven and set aside. Now, take the remaining veggies, evenly spread over the cookie sheets and spread with olive oil. Top with a bit of your seasonings. Roast for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the sliced shallots and cook about 3 minutes. Add the spinach in bunches, toss well until it wilts. Splash a bit of balsamic over the cooking spinach. Set aside. Layering this dish is completely up to you. I began with a layer of marinara, then potato, then spinach, then eggplant, onion, mushroom--whatever you want. Just end with a topping of the sliced thin potatoes. Bake uncovered for 25 minutes. Remove from oven, top with your favorite vegan cheese and bake another 5 minutes. Allow to cool a bit, then slice and enjoy!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Vegan Swirl Poundless Cake (more reasons to be vegan!)

Okay, with the busy weekend, I was not really able to keep up with my Vegan MoFo duties. So I am listing three for my day today! I really am sorry, but I was working for a good cause. That awesome Vegan Swirl Poundless Cake recipe is below--plus a photo of it in its "dough-state"--the layers you can see. This is a delicious, moist heavenly cake without the guilt--no, it does not use a pound of butter--no butter at all. I was inspired to make this when I saw a picture of it in this month's Food & Wine (okay, not a real vegan friendly publication, however, does have some easily vegan-adapted recipes). Plus, I made vegan donuts again this weekend, I had to share the photo of the last lone survivor. . .until I ate it this morning!

31 Reasons for Why I am Vegan:

Number 3. To keep plant eating community well-nourished, the vegans of this world are constantly trying out new ways to incorporate beans, beans and more beans into their diet--they may soon invent a bean that can stand in place of the entire meat section of your local grocer--look out cows, lambs, chickens and fish, we may just be able to save you yet!
Number 4. I love mashed potatoes. (I never thought potato starch could do so many amazing things!)

Number 5. I can look my dogs in the eye and can just tell they know I am all right with the Canine gods (who are best friends with the Bovine and Poultry gods) and that when I go my own way in my next journey, they will have a cool pad waiting for me!

Vegan Swirl Poundless Cake

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
4 eggs (Use the equivalent of Ener-G Egg Replacer for 4 eggs)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 sticks Earth Balance
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 jar of Peanut Butter & Company Dark Chocolate spread *You could use your favorite 'chocolate spread'-this is what I found and it worked well.
Preheat oven to 325 and oil and flour a loaf pan. First, mix the Egg Replacer amount together for the 4 eggs. Really give this a good whisk. Mix the sugar and vegan butter together. Then mix the
dry ingredients together in a separate bowl. Now, add the vanilla extract to the egg replacer mixture. Then incorporate the egg replacer mixture into the sugar and butter. In three batches, add the flour mixture to butter--mix by hand and DO NOT over mix!--just incorporate. Layer a third of this mixture in the bottom of pan. Next spread a layer of chocolate stuff. Then another layer of cake mix. Another layer of chocolate and final layer of cake mix. Take the end of a knife and lightly swirl the mixture. Just lightly, because you want that yummy goodness in the layers to stay in place. Bake for about 1 hour and 5-10 minutes. It will have a nice crust and yummy, yummy moistness!

For the Animals

This was a busy weekend in St. Louis! Tons to do, tons of fun! On Sunday, the APA (Animal Protective Association) held its 19th Annual Canine Carnival at Tilles Park. The weather fully cooperated so the dogs that came could romp around and not get too overexerted from the heat!
My favorite organization, Operation Stop Pet Overpopulation (opspot.org) had its information booth on hand with my dear friends Lizzie, OpSpot director and LeAnn answering questions and handing out flyers for our upcoming fundraiser: Sweat-4-Pets, Sunday, November 8th. We met some wonderful and animal-friendly folks--and some sweet, sweet canines, too! Not to be redundant, but it really was a perfect day to be outside! OpSpot has helped low-income families spay and neuter over 20,000 pets to date. That is an incredible number. Unfortunately, the rate of euthanization in our local shelters is still too high--one is too high. Here are some of the 2008 statistics from the Humane Society of the United States:
  • 6-8 million dogs and cats enter shelters each year
  • 3-4 million dogs and cats are euthanized each year
The number of unwanted pets killed because of irresponsible pet ownership is staggering. If you know of anyone with an animal that needs spaying or neutering who cannot afford this procedure, but would like their animal to have it, please check out OpSpot for assistance.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Vegan Tamales Stuffed with Roasted Tomatoes and Peppers

Vegan MoFo, Day Two--Reason 2: My food is grown from the ground where I live. Pretty simple, but so true. Yes, many other foodies can do the same, but honestly, unless they have a calf or chicken in their garage ready for god-knows-what, I don't think that same claim can be made. (You can't really grow them from the ground either.) Speaking of food from the ground where I live, I have another lovely bowl of ripe tomatoes--I pulled eight of them off the plants yesterday--amazing, really. So, my dinner plans had to include tomatoes.

I needed to make something that was a bit extraordinary, a bit off the chart, a bit more tactile and with a lot of zing: enter the tamale. I don't know about you, but for me, these were a mystery. I've eaten them before, but never with a "wow, can't wait to have this one again" feeling--I am sure it was the bland flavor of the dough the tamale was wrapped in--and maybe the minuscule amount of real food inside. And yes, I am aware that the tamale is available in abundance through street vendors in many parts of the country, but not in my neck of the woods. I was taken with a recipe I had seen in Peter Berley's The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen. He called for a pressure cooking step for this bean, and I was like, No. I want simple. I want something that I can cook in about an hour, with fewer than four pots to clean after. (Not gonna happen with these.) So, I got to cooking. In case you need inspiration, I have a few pictures for you. We really liked these. When I unwrapped my pretty parcel, I was so taken with its beautiful solid shape and feel though I was pretty spent after having to wrestle with the corn husk to keep it in place around the filling. Not quite as easy as it looks. And in one of my researches on the internet, this person claimed his father told him to soak these overnight, dry well. . . in my world, there is not "planning the night before" for any dinners. I am either in the mood for the dish at 5 o'clock, or I am not. Here is my modified tamale recipe. Make sure you have a bag of corn husks handy! Oh, and I made a side of green rice and guacamole with salsa.

Tamale Dough
3 cups masa harina
3 cups water
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt

Place the masa harina in a large non-reactive bowl. Boil the water, oil and salt. Add this to the flour slowly, blending well with a wooden spoon as you do so. The dough should feel fairly smooth, though you will have some lumps. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

Tamale Filling
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 large tomatoes, cut in half
1 red onion quartered
1 head of garlic, peeled
2 chili peppers, split in half and seeded
1 can Adzuki beans, rinsed and drained
3 green onions white and green parts chopped
1 green pepper chopped
1 bunch of basil leaves
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
2 teaspoons ancho chile powder
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
Preheat oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place peppers, onions, tomatoes and garlic on the baking sheet, cut side down. Brush with a bit of olive oil. Roast for about 30 minutes. (Your house will smell wonderful!) As the veggies are roasting, start prepping the the rest of the veggies. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil, then add the remaining chopped veggies. Let them cook about five minutes. Then add the drained beans and seasonings. Don't let this burn. Let it simmer. Now, remove veggies from oven and put them in the pan with the beans. Mix well and let simmer for about ten minutes or so--so the flavors have a chance to meld. Taste for heat and right amount of salt and whatever you'd like. Remove from heat. Time to stuff!

Prep your steamer--just have it ready. Have a big bowl of water ready and place about ten corn husks in there. Take the masa harina (dough) and spread a thin layer on the husk not coming to the edges. Then take a tablespoon of the veggie stuffing and place it in the middle of the dough. Here's how I did the rest (after some trial and error, trust me!)--take another wad of dough and make a flattened amount of it that looks like it will fit over your filling and dough piece sitting in the husk. Place this on top, pinch the edges, then slowly begin to roll up in the husk. I also had to use some extra dough sometimes to close little holes that I saw. Use a nice, smooth rolling motion. If you need to, add another husk to keep the filling in place. Take strips of the husk from unused ones and pull off pieces for tying the tamale up. Place tamale in steamer for about 25 minutes. When the time is up, carefully remove the husk from the pan and place on a plate. Untie, unwrap and viola! Tamale Time!


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