Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Lasagna and Caesar Salad

After seeing a picture of Matt's lasagna over on his blog "My Veggie Kitchen," I had to try it. It looked so saucy and amazing. Oh, and it was! I used his Bechamel replacement for cheese instead of grated vegan cheese. I was a little afraid because it was very liquidy when I poured it on, but as you can see above it turned out really nice and firmed up well.

I used no-boil noodles and it worked out great. I also added some extra spinach and garlic and used crushed fire-roasted tomatoes in lieu of diced because that's what I happened to have in the cupboard. This is by far my favorite recipe for vegan lasagna yet. It had a lot of sauce, which I like. I'm also not a fan of a lot of the mock meats, some other recipes call for the ground round or crumbles and those have an off flavor to me that I'm not fond of.

I served this with Caesar salad and took the opportunity to make my own croutons, something I've never done before. For the dressing I used the recipe from reFresh; it's a lot less complicated and uses less oil than most other recipes I've seen. We've made it before and it's incredibly good. It also lasts a while, so it can be stored in a resealable container and use it again (which is good because it makes a lot). The croutons were roasted garlic and came from Veganomicon. I just roasted the garlic while the lasagna was baking. Then I cut up the bread and after about 25 minutes pulled out the garlic. I made the oil mix for the croutons, mixed them up, then put them in the oven to cook while the lasagna was finishing up. While the lasagna cooled I had a chance to put get the lettuce ready for the salad, then the croutons were done. When we make Caesar salad we like to have the lettuce and croutons coated in the dressing, so we put everything in a bowl with a lid, shake it up, then serve. Yum!

Curried Rice and Beans Stuffed Zucchini

This recipe from Vive Le Vegan! was one of the first I made after becoming vegan. I had borrowed the cookbook from the library and this was the one recipe I had a chance to make from it. It was fabulous. I received the book for Christmas, so I was happy to make it again. Zucchini this time of year are small, so it was more smothered zucchini than stuffed, but it's great anyway. The filling is a mixture of grains, raisins, beans, curry paste, tahini, molasses, spices, and cashews. It seems like they wouldn't come together beautifully, but they do!

I added a little less than the called for grains and a little more than called for beans, because that's how I roll. This recipe uses pre-cooked cold grains, so any kind you have leftover will work perfectly and this can come together extremely quick for a good weeknight dinner.

Chickpea Stew

This is another recipe sent to me by my mom. I changed it up a bit so that I could use canned chickpeas and tomatoes, and therefore make and have it on the table in less than 5 hours with things I had on hand. It was really tasty. The flavors blended together really well. I also got to try out the new immersion blender that I received for Christmas, so that was fun. Below is my cheater version:

Cheater Chickpea Stew

serves 3-4

1 15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 cups vegetable stock or broth (I used 2 cups water and 1 veggie boullion cube)
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
1 lb. yellow potatoes, peeled and diced
2 tsp. garam masala
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
Salt to taste

1. Add broth to a large pot over medium heat. While heating add chickpeas, tomatoes, potatoes, and all spices except salt
2. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, until potatoes are tender
3. Blend slightly with immersion blender (or transfer half to blender, blend, and return to pot)
4. Taste and adjust salt if necessary
5. Serve

We ate this over brown rice, but any grain or Indian bread would serve. It would be great with cilantro, as the original recipe suggests but I didn't have any.

Pumpkin Pie Brownie and Apple Studel

So, this is not a very good picture...I made these brownies from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar and Apple Strudel from The Joy of Vegan Baking as our Christmas day desserts. I didn't have a chance to photograph the strudel. Both of these were baked at my house, then transported 45 minutes to my brother's, then back. So, they were a little worse for wear.

The brownies were interesting. Good, but interesting. I had to bake them about twice as long as the directions to get the pumpkin pie topping to set enough. They were extremely rich, so unless you have a whole bunch of people who are into this combination it will be difficult to finish them before it's time to toss. After eating some Christmas day I gave over half of them away to family and friends and we still couldn't finish what was left.

The strudel is a real winner. I've made it the last three Christmases now; I guess it's gonna be a tradition. It pleases everyone and when I ask what I should make for dessert for Christmas that's now the answer I get. The first year I made it I was with my extended family (about 15 people) and it was gone so fast that I only got one bite of apple left over from someone's plate. The only thing to be aware of is that the phyllo dough needs to thaw for 5-8 hours. Last year I forgot about that and microwaved it so I could use it. It was a pretty ugly strudel, but it worked. This year I remembered and things went much smoother.


My mom first made this when I went out to visit her earlier this year. She subscribes to Rachael Ray's magazine and whenever she finds a good-sounding vegan-friendly recipe she saves it for when I visit (it's really cute). Anyway, when she made this I just loved it! It reminded me of a grown-up version of Spaghettio's with the Israeli couscous serving as the O's. I messed with the recipe a bit to use what I had on hand and I did not prefer my substitutions. I used more zucchini in place of the cucumber which gave it a more wintry feel, but made it not as smooth of a soup. I also didn't realize that my diced roasted tomatoes had green chiles in them, so yeah, those went in too. It still turned out good, but not as good as I remembered. I'll have to revisit this one when I have the correct ingredients.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sparkled Ginger Cookies and Mexican Wedding Cookies

These ginger cookies are from Vegan with a Vengeance and they're a favorite in our house. They're beautifully spiced (ginger, cinnamon, and clove) and bedecked with a sugar topping. They have a nice winter feel so they made it into the Christmas cookie bags I put together for everyone at work.

The second cookie in the cookie bag are the Mexican Wedding Cookies (or Snowballs) from The Joy of Vegan Baking. I'd never had these before but they seemed appropriately festive. They were mighty tasty I have to say. Messy, but tasty. I used a combination of pecans and hazelnuts for the chopped nuts. This recipe made so many cookies: 3 cookie sheets of balls, something like 75 cookies; it was supposed to make 36, so I guess I made them small, but I followed the directions with 1 teaspoon per ball. The size worked well, allowing many cookies per person and perfectly bite-size cookies (they're quite cute). It also took me probably close to half an hour to roll all those balls. These bake longer than any other cookie I've made before, about half an hour.

I can't even think about eating anything with sugar in it now. Hopefully everyone likes their treats! Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas Cupcake!

So, I decided to put my colleagues in a perma-sugar rush for Christmas this year...

First up, cupcakes. Because honestly, what occasion doesn't call for them. I started with the chocolate cupcake recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World and added 10 chopped up candy cane Joe-Joe's from Trader Joe's (basically candy cane Oreos). I also used the buttercream frosting recipe from VCTOTW and threw in mini chocolate chips at the end. To top it off is some crushed candy cane and a piece of candy cane. Pretty, yes?! I'm not sure how well they'll fare making it to work tomorrow, but they'll still taste fine. I've had problems the last couple times I've made frosting from this book, it's just a tad too runny. I need to remember to either add more sugar or less soymilk, hopefully that will fix this problem. Alright I've written that down, we'll see if I remember for next time.

Up next...cookies!

Lemon Orzo with Mushrooms and Pine Nuts and Roasted Asparagus

In the midst of frenzied holiday baking (see next post) for my coworkers I managed to throw something together for dinner tonight...served at about 9:15. But hey, better late then never. The orzo recipe comes from Rachel Ray's website. My mom clipped this from her magazine when she came to visit once and we made it together. Good memories and good dinner. I subbed cremini mushrooms for white and use a lot less olive oil (less than a tablespoon will do you to cook the mushrooms) and pine nuts (to taste) than suggested. I also omit the parsley. We ended up with a bit too much orzo because I just used the rest of the box rather than have a tiny amount left uncooked, so this could have used more mushrooms...but whatever (it was just nice to see something that wasn't covered in sugar and would be filling).

To roast the asparagus I just trimmed the ends, coated in olive oil and lemon juice, and sprinkled with salt and pepper. Then just broil on high for about 5-10 minutes, tossing once, until crispy. Yum.

Broccoli Red Lentil Dal

I used the leftover broccoli from the broccoli and mushroom bake to whip up this bad boy, also from Vegan Yum Yum. This was pure deliciousness in a bowl. So good! I even thought it was spicy enough, which is rare for me; so if you don't like spice you'll want to tone down the chili flakes.

The Indian spices within the dal went so well with the broccoli bits and the bit of soymilk added for creaminess. I added about 1/3 of the suggested soymilk because I ran out, but I liked it that way. We just ate this with some toast, but it would be fabulous with any other Indian dish or some rice. If you have this book, make this!

Marmalade Tofu with Kale and Lemon Pearl Couscous

I knew I wanted to make this recipe the first time I saw it reading through Vegan Yum Yum. It looks and sounds so good. Plus, I love me some kale. Oddly enough, or maybe not so oddly enough, I had never had kale before going vegan (or chard, collard greens, mustard greens...I love that my world got opened up to all these wonderful greens!).

This made a very good dinner, and pretty quick to put together too. I thought the tofu was a bit too sweet, but my boyfriend thought it was great (it was his favorite part; mine was the kale). I left the kale with a bit of crunch to it to have the contrast between the soft tofu and Israeli couscous. Luckily this recipe is also on the Veganyumyum blog, so you can find it there and try it for yourself. I'll probably make this again, but next time I'll use a little less marmalade and a little more I don't know yet (soy sauce? chili sauce?).

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Broccoli Mushroom Bake

When a cold knocks you down and out of the kitchen it's best to start back up nice and easy. So, for dinner tonight I went with a casserole. This one from Vegan Yum Yum, served quite nicely. It's a mix of broccoli, cremini mushrooms, orzo, onion, and a nutritional yeast based sauce. It's coated with some breadcrumbs and baked. It was good, nothing amazing, but good. I especially liked that the entire stalk of broccoli was used, not just the florets. I only recently found out that the whole stalk is edible. All those years of wasted broccoli stalks...better late than never I suppose.

This didn't take too much time to put together. Also, while it's baking there's time to do the dishes!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Chickpea Noodle Soup

I caught a cold last week. I'm guessing that someone was kind enough to bring it into the office because there were four of us sick at the same time (and that's only out of nine). I didn't feel much like cooking, but some warming, filling soup sounded like just the thing to help me feel better. Enter this winner from Veganomicon. It's got a great simple, but not too simple taste. That makes it great for when you're feeling under the weather, but don't get me wrong it's also great when you're not.

The broth is a combination of stock, water, and miso paste; the filler is made up of onion, carrots, chickpeas, mushrooms, and noodles. The recipe called for soba, I subbed udon because that's what I had on hand. I also left out the celery seeds, don't have them and probably never will.

I'm feeling much better now. I can't say it was all the soup, there was also a lot of sleeping and tea, but it definitely helped.

Chocolate Chip Cookies!

Alright, we have a winner! These are the best chocolate chip cookies I've had as a vegan. Maybe even ever. These are from VCIYCJ, and they're fabulous. I like my cookies more crispy/crunchy and less cakey; this along with multitudes of chocolate chips is where they really deliver. They use canola oil instead of Earth Balance, which also makes them a lot easier to make. They do end up a bit oily, especially prior to baking, and I'm sure they're one of the most fattening things on the planet, but they're worth it (sometimes). I omitted the tapioca flour, because I didn't have any, and they still turned out great, I probably should have subbed all-purpose to make the wet:dry more correct; I'll try that next time.

Anyway, if you're looking for a great chocolate chip cookie recipe this is it!

Smoky Red Bean and Pepper Gumbo

This is a dish we've made before and will definitely continue to make in the future. It's just so good. This gumbo is from Veganomicon. It's got lots of tomatoes and bell peppers in it (5 bell peppers!). It also has beer in it; it always makes me feel badass to cook with beer. The smokiness is due to roasting the red bells and tomatoes, and a bit of liquid smoke. It's got a nice, thick, stick to your ribs texture thanks to chopped okra.

I serve this over a small pile of white rice. Luckily we had a couple extra people over to help us eat this. We still ended up with a lot left over though. I think that cornbread would also taste great with this.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Lemon Bars

Prior to being vegan I had actually never had a lemon bar before. So, these aren't anything that I missed or could make a good comparison for. However, these little beauties from Vegan Cookies and Veganomicon are good! As soon as my boyfriend looked through VCIYCJ all he could think about and want were lemon bars; unbenownst to both of us this recipe was also in V'con (I've never made a dessert from that book actually, so I didn't notice these there until the other day). I finally remembered to get fresh lemons at the store--now he's happy.

Just a warning, these guys require about 4 hours to make and set, so if you want them for a special occasion, prepare ahead. First the crust is made, refrigerated, and baked.

The filling comes next. Other than zesting and squeezing the lemons, this part's pretty simple.

The filling gets poured over the crust and it goes into the fridge for the next three hours. Of course, my boyfriend couldn't wait that long and cut out a piece after about two. These really don't last that long, it's been two days and the crust is already starting to get a little soggy. Be sure to have plenty of friends around to help you eat these, or I'd suggest making only a half batch.

Mustard Green and Roasted Yam Soup with Pistachio Corn-Crusted Tempeh

This soup from Vegan Soul Kitchen was all that a good soup should be. It was warming, filling, and tasty. The bitterness of the greens was tamed by the sweetness of the yams and the apple cider vinegar spiked broth accentuated both superbly. After roasting the yams and cooking the mustard greens this cooked for an additional 25 minutes; if I made this again I wouldn't cook it quite so long, everything got a bit mushy. Still good, but I'd like to try it again with the vegetables holding up a little better.

We paired the soup with Pistachio and Cornmeal-crusted tempeh from Vegan Fusion World Cuisine. This is the first thing I've made from this book that I didn't love. I feel like the topping would have been better on tofu (which is listed as an optional preparation), because even though the tempeh was marinated it was still a bit dry after topping and cooking to direction. It also didn't stay warm for long enough to even eat. Steaming the tempeh prior to prep may have improved on this. I made a couple of substitutions with this recipe: yellow corn meal for blue and regular corn chips for blue corn. I probably wouldn't make this again as there are so many other great tempeh recipes in this and other books.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Biscuits with White Bean and Tempeh Sausage Gravy

This is another favorite here in our house. The biscuit recipe I get from The Joy of Vegan Baking, I like this one because it doesn't use shortening, which I prefer not to use whenever possible. The gravy recipe is from Vegan with a Vengeance.

For the gravy, the tempeh is cooked up with some spices (I double the crushed red pepper) first and then pureed white beans, olive oil, and water are added. The resemblance to white gravy is uncanny--although this version is protein-packed and cruelty free! I have made this dish for more non-vegan than anything else. They've all loved, so it has great crossover appeal as well!

Taco Night

These tacos (Chipotle and Beer marinated Seitan and Potato) are from the October 2009 VegNews. The recipe is by Terry Hope Romero and I imagine it would be included in her latin cookbook due next year (working title: Viva Vegan!). These are really fabulous; the flavors are amazing. Next time I will double the amount of chipotle though, these were nowhere near spicy enough for me.

The seitan marinates while the potatoes roast, and then both get cooked up for the main filling. We served them up taco bar style with all the fixin's: lettuce, tomato, cilantro, refried beans, hot sauce, and Tofutti Better then Sour Cream. These are messy, but they're lick your fingers good!

Zucchini Date Muffins

I had planned to make these muffins from Get it Ripe to take in the car with us for our trip, but time got too short. So, I made them when we got back. These require a fair amount of prep: pitting, chopping, soaking, and then mashing the dates, and grating 2 cups of zucchini. They turned out quite good though. They're sweet, but not overly because the dates and zucchini supply the only sweetness, and they have a nice crunch thanks to the added flax seeds. I was able to find some spelt flour, which is what the recipe called for, so this was also my first time baking with that. It gave a nice, somewhat earthy flavor here; the muffins tasted a bit like a bran muffin, even though there was none.

Spiced Cocoa

Mmm...cocoa. One of the best things about cold weather (others: fires and sweaters). Until I became vegan I had never made cocoa from scratch (like a lot of things) before, always relying on little paper packets. Big mistake. Quick to make in a saucepan and worth every minute.

Spiced Cocoa

makes ~2 cups

1/8 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
pinch ground nutmeg
pinch salt
1/3 cup hot water
2 cups soymilk (or non-dairy milk of choice)
1/2 tsp vanilla

Combine cocoa, sugar, spices, and hot water in a saucepan. Whisk over medium heat until boiling, then stir about a minute more. Add soymilk. Heat through. Remove from burner. Add vanilla and serve.

Variation: leave out cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla. Instead, once removed from heat add 1/4 tsp mint extract.

Yes, this is great with vegan marshmallows! I'd really like to try it with soy or rice whip too.

Mexican Tofu Scramble

First day back from our trip (we went to Magic Mountain and Disneyland), I wanted a nice hearty breakfast, something that I hadn't had in a few days as it's hard to get as a vegan while traveling. I roasted some potatoes, cooked up some black beans, and made a tofu and salsa scramble. So good, so filling, so exactly what I wanted.

For the potatoes: Peel and cut into 1/2 inch pieces. Lay out on baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and a little salt. Mix around. Bake at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes. Stir and flip as best you can, then cook for about 10 minutes more.

For the beans: I just pour a can of black beans into a pot (juices included), then add lime juice, cumin, cayenne, garlic powder, and hot sauce. Cook on medium until hot, then turn down to low until the rest of the food is ready.

Tofu: my basic tofu scramble recipe, add salsa.

There we go, pretty simple, but tasty. Tortillas probably would have been a nice addition.

Brownie Bites

This was the first recipe I tried from The Urban Vegan. Yum, in a word. In several, these were rich, chocolaty goodness. I didn't have two of the flours called for (soy and spelt), so I subbed a couple different ones (chickpea and all-purpose), but everything worked out just fine. Although, I did have to bake these for about 20 minutes instead of the 8 specified; I don't know if this was due to the subbing or not. I also didn't add espresso powder, and just added a little more cocoa powder.

These were the perfect size (mini muffin sized), and had a great consistency. There were also chunks of chocolate mixed in. Needless to say these didn't last too long.

Broccoli, Mushroom, Tofu Stir-fry

We were heading out of town for the Thanksgiving holiday, so it was getting down to pretty slim pickings in our fridge and pantry. This was Asian Shiitake Tofu from The 30-minute Vegan. I subbed creminis for shiitakes because that's what we had on hand. Their suggestion was to serve over quinoa; I just cooked up some Thai rice noodles and threw those in. The flavor was really good, however I didn't take into account how much liquid the rice noodles would take up, so it could have been saucier. All in all, a nice quick dinner and plenty of leftovers for lunch the next day (just added some more soy sauce and some hot pepper sauce prior to heating up).