Saturday, October 31, 2009

Parsley and Sunflower Pesto

Parsley Sunflower Pesto

Do you ever by fresh herbs for a recipe and then have to figure out how to use the rest? Yeah, me too. I bought fresh parsley and only needed two tablespoons. That's a lot of extra parsley! So I decided to look for a recipe that would use it up. Lo and behold I found the Parsley and Sunflower Pesto on page 567.

I had to buy sunflower seeds for this recipe. It calls for unsalted. I wasn't sure whether or not to get raw or roasted. The health food store only had raw unsalted so I got those. I made it with half toasted and half raw, figuring the toasted ones would add flavor and the raw ones would make it creamy. Everything else I had on hand, except the optional white miso. I used two garlic cloves but one was a giant mutant clove, so the resulting pesto came out very garlicy. This is not a bad thing as far as I'm concerned. I love garlic almost as much as I love nachos-and that is saying something.

I decided to use the pesto on whole wheat rotini and added some soaked sun dried tomatoes for a bit of extra flavor and color. It was very delicious and surprisingly filling. One small bowl filled me up quite nicely. I would definitely make this again in order to use up parsley. It was rich and garlicy and the sunflower seeds made it nice and creamy. I wasn't sure how I would feel about all that parsley, but in this combination I found myself liking the little hints that peeked through the garlic.

-- vegankitty

Tofu Sour Cream

Tofu Sour Cream

Last week I made the Sweet Potato Pancakes and my boyfriend loved them. He asked me to make them again this morning for breakfast and I agreed. But you can't have them without sour cream, and I had finished my Tofutti sour supreme in a orgy of nachos. And wouldn't you know it, my local health food store was out. So I decided to try the recipe for Tofu Sour Cream page 574.

This was a very quick and easy recipe to whip up-simple ingredients that pretty much every vegan pantry would have in stock. A few minutes in the food processor, and fresh homemade sour cream! I added a little extra lemon juice because I like my sour cream very tangy. Tasting it from the food processor I didn't really like it, but once I put it on my pancakes, I found I liked it very much. I have leftovers, so I see more nachos in my future.


Southwestern Spice Rubbed Tofu with Corn Relish

Southwestern Tofu and Corn Relish

I have always been a marinade/sauce/gravy person and growing up, I was known to constantly drown my food (heh, remember that PSA?). I have never really used spice rubs until last Sunday out of necessity. We often skip doing groceries if I can cobble something together from what we have. We were pretty low on food but I did find a package of tofu, some frozen corn and miscellanous bits of peppers so I scoured the book and settled on these two recipes: tofu with the Southwestern Spice Rub (page 577) recipe and some Corn Relish (page 569) on the side. Yes, that is a small bite taken out of the tofu. I thought I omitted that from the plate but I guess not. :p

The spice rub took only seconds to throw together in my blender (I use one of those Magic Bullet blenders for small jobs like this — totally worth the money IMHO). The taste was definitely what you think of as Southwestern but without heat. I ended up making this as is and didn't add anything else in so I could just taste how it is without alterations. If you want heat, you can easily add some cayenne or even some tabasco or chipotle thrown in. Taste it before you rub on your food and adjust to your liking. Also, this rub is only as good as the chili powder you use since it is the primary spice used. If you use a crappy chalky tasting one, well there's not going to be a lot of flavour and your spice rub is going to suck. I know it's kind of a no-brainer but I wanted to mention it anyway. Okay, back to the food. I used the spice rub on some sliced, pressed tofu and let that sit while I made the relish. I then fried it up in some canola oil until nice and crispy. The rub definitely gave the tofu a Southwestern flair and oomph and tasted great. It would also have been great in a sandwich or a taco.

The corn relish was also super fast to put together. The most time consuming thing is the chopping, which is minimal, and the cooling. I used frozen corn in this and threw in some chopped jalapenos into the mix since I also had them lying around. As is, the corn relish was pretty tasty but I did adjust this one afterwards based on my personal tastes. See, I make pico de gallo a lot (probably a big batch once a week) so I like anything with similar ingredients to taste like that, so I upped the sugar and lime juice a bit. If you can make the corn relish with fresh corn, then do so. As convenient as frozen corn is, nothing beats the taste of fresh corn. This could also be made entirely raw as well and would still be great.

Combined, the tofu and corn relish definitely worked really well together. As mentioned above they would be fantastic in a taco or wrap and the rub would work really well with seitan. Both things came together really quickly. I'd say from start to finish (with pre-pressed tofu or pre-made seitan) you could knock this out in 30-45 minutes. A wonderful light, fast and tasty meal.

— Ms. Veganorama

P.S. Has it really only been two weeks since we started the blog? Seems like much longer!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Black Bean and Pumpkin Lasagna

Lasagna's never gonna look as great in pictures as it tastes in person. But looks are hardly relevant when it comes to the Black Bean and Pumpkin Lasagna (page 219). Sure, the combination sounds a little weird, but pumpkin, black beans, and salsa, it turns out, make wonderful bakefellows.

My minor modifications were circumstantial rather than deliberate. The chili powder I had was from a nearby Middle Eastern store and I felt it lacked sharpness, so I sprinkled a tiny pinch of cayenne along with it. I had more like two cups of salsa instead of three (which worked out well, since I had hot salsa and any more may've overpowered the rest of the flavors). I also used fewer lasagna noodles than the recipe called for, probably because of a difference in sizes. (I also had those already-boiled ones, not out of laziness, just what I found.)

The flavors are deep and comforting, absolutely perfect for autumn. And it's even better after it's cooled a while and some of the salsa's sharpness has calmed, letting the other flavors mingle and shine through. (Or a mild salsa can be used for those with more sensitive palates; I personally enjoy the bite.) It's a solid, comforting dish with just enough of a twist to make it delightfully unique. I'd happily make this for company.

(And those 1-step lasagna noodles are great; they came out perfectly tasty! My grab-it brand was Pasta Vigo – it's blue with an Italian lady and some wheat.)

- - Ulpia, part of the lasagna fanclub just like Garfield - -



Johnnycakes {page 517} are delicate little corn pancakes of happiness. With pure maple syrup and Earth Balance, and a few pomegranate seeds sprinkled over everything, these were a delicious, hearty, and filling dinner. They were extremely quick to put together and they cooked up in no time flat. The Supertoddler and I both thought they were delicious.

It's funny how toddlers will mimic you when you least expect it. The Supertoddler often watches me plate and photograph my food, being that I've done a lot of recipe testing for cookbooks in the past, and now I have this blog and another that I post to. Tonight as I was plating and photographing dinner, he said "What you doin' mommy?" I said "Plating the food." He watched me intently, and when I was finished plating and photographing, I started plating his food. He's very much in a "I do it self!" phase right now, being 2-and-a-half, and he said "No! I plate it self!"

He worked on it very hard for about 5 minutes, arranging the Johnnycakes, adding pats of Earth Balance, pouring syrup down over top, and even sprinkling some "peas" {pomegranate seeds} on his plate:

Oliver very intent on his plating.

After a lot of concentration, he decided it was finished and said "Okay, now I go get my camera! I put the picture on mommy's laptop!" And what could I do? So here is the Supertoddler, so proud of his plating skills:

Oliver proud of his plating.

Like mother, like son.

-- Your Friendly Neighborhood Batgirl

Drunken Spaghetti with Tofu

Drunken Spaghetti with Tofu

Drunken Spaghetti with Tofu {page 240} is apparently a Thai hangover cure, hence the name. While I did not have a hangover this morning, I am exhausted and sick, so I was hoping it would have the same wellness effect on me. While it didn't necessarily make me feel better, it was very delicious.

The noodles are bathed in a mixture of vegetarian oyster sauce, sugar, and soy sauce before they're tossed into a pan of sizzling vegetables and tofu. The flavors were spot on, and the vegetables provided a contrasting crunch to the soft noodles and toothsome tofu.

I served this with vegetarian "beef" steak {terrible!} and scallion pancake {awesome!}, both random "let's try this!" items from my last trip to the Asian market.

While making them the noodles felt very "busy", like there were a lot of steps, but it all came together really quickly. Now that I know how to do it, I'm confident I could do it faster next time. And with flavor like this, there will definitely be a next time.

-- Your Friendly Neighborhood Batgirl

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Smoothies in Winter (Pumpkin Smoothie)

Do yourself a huge favor: put a ripe banana in the freezer right now, check to make sure you have a can of pureed pumpkin and some maple syrup lying about, then return to read this. Because after you've tried the Smoothies in Winter (page 530), everything will have changed.

There's a certain commercial pumpkin smoothie drink out there which some friends and I absolutely covet. In fact, I covet pumpkin and anything remotely pumpkin-tasting in general. So when I read the ingredients in Smoothies in Winter, I knew I had to make it at once. And since I chopped into my finger yesterday while trying to make something else pumpkin-related, today was the perfect day to eschew chopping and let my food processor (or blender) do the work.

This smoothie. Is amazing. “Woah!” was the first word that escaped my mouth after that first heavenly sip. The creamy spiced pumpkin flavor, in all its deep, frothy sweetness, is positively to die for. If this smoothie were a country, I would pledge allegiance. If it were a maid in distress and I a knight, I would climb the highest tower to rescue it. It's that good — nay, better!

I cannot imagine an autumn-time drink more perfect. And as the recipe header suggests, I will most definitely be serving it at my next holiday gathering.

- - Ulpia, loyal subject of Pumpkinia - -

Rice and Pea Soup with Quick Herb Bread

Rice and Pea Soup

The Rice and Pea Soup (p163) is an uncomplicated meal-in-a-bowl that comes together fairly quickly. As written, this recipe came out more as a risotto for me, but you could certainly increase the amount of vegetable broth to create a more soupy consistency. I was a tad disappointed at first, but then I just let the soup do its thing, and since arborio rice is used anyway, it works out nicely. This is not a big and bold soup. It's a simple and subtle dish that, though not my usual flavor type, provided a filling meal. Extra salt and fresh ground pepper really got it going for me, especially on Day Two, after everything had hung out in the fridge overnight. The only modification I made was adding a bit of Bill's Chik'nish to the base.

I served this along with the Quick Herb Bread (p399), which is true to its name in that it is quick to put together. One bowl is all you need, and the herbs are variable. You could certainly go with this recipe as written, substitute your favorites, or alter the flavor based on cuisine. It reminds me of an herb bread I make often using my bread machine, only this takes about five minutes to put together and 40 minutes to bake. Toasted, it's even better.

One ladle of soup, one slice of bread (slathered in Earth Balance of course), and a side salad made for a super hearty and satisfying meal. Overall, we all enjoyed this meal, but its subtle flavor was definitely more suited to my grandmother. I do like the idea of using arborio rice for a soup because you get a bit of creaminess without added fat. And this soup method yields a risotto-like dish, but without all that stirring!

--The Divine Miss V

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tempeh Sweet Potato Sheperd's Pie

sweet potato casserole

Tonight I made Tempeh and Sweet Potato Sheperd's Pie (page 304). This recipe also uses the Mushroom Sauce from page 546.

I was in the mood for some comfort food today. And I love both tempeh and sweet potatoes so I thought this would be a good recipe to try. This was a relatively easy recipe to make but it was time consuming. it took about two hours start to finish. I made the mushroom sauce while the tempeh was steaming and combined several steps.

This recipe is a variation of Sheperd's Pie with mashed sweet potatoes instead of regular potatoes. I like the way the tempeh mixes with the flavor of the mushroom sauce and is then balanced by the sweetness of the sweet potatoes.The author suggests using veggie burgers or veggie crumbles as a substitute for the tempeh. If I was going to make this for my boyfriend I would do this; it would be more omni friendly.It would also cut down on the time by about half an hour.

I had this again for lunch, heated in the microwave with leftover mushroom sauce on top and it is so delicious the next day. All the flavors have blended together and the sauce on top adds nice flavor and moisture. If I make this again I would keep it overnight and serve reheated with extra sauce.


Rustic Cottage Pie

Rustic Cottage Pie

Tonight's entree was Rustic Cottage Pie (p316). This hearty casserole utilizes both the Basic Simmered Seitan (p305), which I used in the Chile-Lime Tortilla Soup and the Mushroom Sauce (p546) Ms. Veganaroma noted in a previous post.

I wouldn't necessarily say this is a quick weeknight meal, unless you have the seitan ready to go (as in, thawed homemade or store bought). It's not complicated by any means, but it does include a few components. Manage your time well, better than I, and it could come together in a reasonable weeknight amount of time. While the potatoes are cooking, you can prepare the Mushroom Sauce and chop and saute the necessary veggies.

My modifications were as follows: five medium size white potatoes instead of Yukon Golds; left the skins on; baby bellas instead of white mushrooms (they are the ONLY mushroom I will put near my mouth); canned corn instead of frozen, as I am currently out of my freezer staple of Trader Joe's Roasted Corn, and my grandmother had a can ready for the borrow; used about 1/4c more Mushroom Sauce than called for.

My grandmother was very satisfied with this dish. It's hearty and homey, and something most grandmothers would love. Mr. V scarfed up a full plate almost before I could bat an eyelash. He said it very much reminded him of the Shepherd's Pies the British chefs would make for the British crew back in his working-on-cruise-ships days. Apparently this is a good thing. Having never tried Shepherd's Pie, I'll take his word for it. What I have tried is the Rustic Cottage Pie and can add my positive vote to its hearty deliciousness. Great cool weather comfort food.

--The Divine Miss V

Apple Lover's Cake

Apple Lover's Cake

Pardon the horrid phone pic.

I followed all directions as written for the Apple Lover's Cake (p451). At first I thought this cake might be a fail as it appeared very dry and didn't look like "cake batter." Sometimes you have to trust the recipe and let it ride. And sometimes it works.

This not-too-sweet apple treat turned out more coffee cakey than I initially thought it would be. Even without a crumbly topping, this cake developed something similar as it baked. This is a quick recipe to put together, and great for new or hesitant bakers as well as a fun kid project. You only need two bowls, and younger kids may need help with the apple peeling and shredding, but it's super simple to bring everything together.

Make sure to follow recipe instructions and use an 8x8 pan. Anything larger or rectangular would make for a too-flat cake. Also, if you like things a bit more moist, I would suggest using a bit more confectioner's sugar and apple juice for the glaze, and watch that baking time closely.

Overall, this is a simple and delicious small cake that would go great with coffee or tea, or with ice cream. The apple flavor is subtle and could certainly be punched up with more applesauce. A little cinnamon might be a nice addition as well.

--The Divine Miss V

Monday, October 26, 2009

Banana-Walnut Cake with "Cream Cheese" Frosting

Banana-Walnut Cake w/ "Cream Cheese" Frosting

One of the most delicious and elegant desserts I've had in a long time, Banana-Walnut Cake {page 448} with "Cream Cheese" Frosting {page 502} was a smash hit.

Last night I was playing match maker, and setting my youngest sister up with a cute, nice boy from the neighborhood. I'd invited both over for dessert, and wanted to make something special for the occasion. This cake definitely fit the bill.

Upon first glance of the recipe, the cake looks simple and even pedestrian in nature. However, it was anything but. The cake was simultaneously dense but delicate, decadent but not overly sweet. The cream cheese frosting went with it perfectly, and the last minute topping decision of bananas and extra walnuts was perfect.

I decided to be "fancy" and punch out little circles of the frosted cake, rather than serve standard squares. I feel like that really upped the ante as far as presentation went.

Overall, it was great. In fact, Ninjahusband just leaned over and told me again how much he'd liked the cake, and that I should make it again soon. Victory!

-- Your Friendly Neighborhood Batgirl

Garden Scramble

Garden Scramble

Tofu scramble is one of those dishes that everyone has their own version of. I like to try other peoples' versions, as I feel like someone's preferred tofu scramble says a lot about them as a person. Naturally, I had to give Garden Scramble {page 507} a try.

The method of creating the scramble {crumbling the tofu and mixing in spices before putting in the pan} was foreign to me, but in the end I really ended up liking it. I felt like through this method, the tofu got a bit more "minced up" than I usually like mine, but it made for an interesting change of pace.

I was going to serve it with "sausage", but by the time the scramble was done I wanted to eat it right then and wasn't patient enough to wait for the sausage. I barely had enough patience to wait for the bread in the toaster and throw some juice and glasses on the table. The things you feel obliged to do when you're a wife/mother! I'll have you know, if I was single I'd have been eating it out of the pan over the sink; it smelled so amazing I definitely wouldn't have taken the time to sit down if I'd had no one to "impress".

Over all, a good rendition on the standard scrambled tofu. An awesome staple recipe to have in the book.

-- Your Friendly Neighborhood Batgirl

Four Alarm Chili

Four Alarm Chili

Chili is one of my favorite meals. Very easy to make and creates a filling meal or snack.

I decided to go for the Four Alarm Chili on page 249. A simple meal one in under an hour.

The chilies can be omitted if you're not a heat person and and adjust the Chili Powder Cayenne accordingly.


Panko-Fried Green Tomatoes with Peanut Sauce

Having procured some green tomatoes at a farmers market I stumbled upon, it was only natural that I go straight for the Panko-Fried Green Tomatoes with Peanut Sauce (page 386). There's peanut butter involved, how could I even consider passing that up?

The fried tomatoes didn't quite work as I imagined. Either my panko pieces were too big or my tomatoes not wet enough to coat entirely, and what coating I did get on partially fell off into the skillet during turning. It may've also been due to the thickness of the slices: half of an inch seems a mighty big piece, but I followed the recipe. Next time I'll try slicing them much thinner. Still, anything coated in breadcrumbs and fried in oil is perfectly acceptable, and my underwhelmed opinion of the tomatoes didn't much matter once the sauce came into play. Suddenly, everything was gold.

The sauce. Is. Brilliant. If I died smothered in it, it would be a sweet sweet death – well, more like a sour-tart death, which would make it aaaaall the better. It's peanutty, it's tart with a hint of sweet, it's ace, der Hammer, fantastisch, très bon, all that. I'm keeping this one for smothering any sort of anything in, especially more breadcrumb-coated things. It really doesn't matter what's carrying it to my mouth as long as there's enough surface area.

(Note: It's wonderfully tart, which is right up my alley, but the intensity can be adjusted with more water or more sugar; just taste and stir.)

- - Ulpia, peanut sauce fiend extraordinaire - -

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Coconut-Peanut Chickpeas and Vegetables

Coconut-Peanut Chickpeas and Vegetables

My sisters came over for dinner tonight for our standard Sunday night Dinner-and-Doctor-Who. Since they both love curries, Coconut-Peanut Chickpeas and Vegetables {page 259} was a natural choice.

I already have a strong testimony of Robin's curry recipes, being that Vegan Fire and Spice is probably my favorite of her books. I'm happy to report that this curry did not disappoint!

Creamy coconut milk teams up with peanut butter and spicy curry sauce to create a velvety blanket for fresh red bell pepper, chickpeas, tomatoes, and baby spinach leaves. With a sprinkling of crunchy salty peanuts down over the top, and served on a little basmati rice, this dish is curry heaven.

-- Your Friendly Neighborhood Batgirl

Sesame-Cilantro Scallion Pancakes

Sesame-Cilantro Scallion Pancakes

In flipping through the book I came across a recipe that sounded good! Well they *all* sound good but one that I had most of the ingredients on hand for :).

So I decided to try the Sesame-Cilantro Scallion Pancakes on page 39 and had them with the Soy-Ginger Dipping Sauce on Page 559.

Another simple recipe to put together. Short of the cooking time the longest is chopping the Scallions (aka Green Onions depending on your region) and Cilantro.

This is an appetizer recipe but I ate it as a meal and it IS filling! So if you do try it as a meal be hungry!

For me none of the flavors were overpowering and blended together to make a very delicious and easy snack or meal. I know some people aren't fans of Cilantro but I like it so there was no issues there for me.

The Sauce is simple to make and can be used for a variety of foods including fried tofu, spring rolls or dumplings.


Peanut Butter and Banana-Stuffed French Toast

Peanut Butter and Banana-Stuffed French Toast

Sunday mornings are not my favorite, but with a nomilicious breakfast like Peanut Butter and Banana-Stuffed French Toast {page 520}, this morning wasn't half bad!

The filling was a creamy sweet montage of banana, peanut butter, and maple. The batter coated the bread perfectly, and cooked up on the griddle to a crisp golden brown. Each bite was a little crunch, followed by the smoothness of the bread and the sweet decadence of the filling. Served with sliced fresh bananas and pure maple syrup on top, this french toast was a force to be reckoned with.

Four thumbs {from the Ninjahusband and I} and several fingers {from the Supertoddler} way, way up. I will be repeating this on a regular basis, I'm sure.

-- Your Friendly Neighborhood Batgirl

Inspired By Spaghetti With White Clam Sauce

Inspired By Spaghetti With White Clam Sauce

A light and flavorful sauce infused with kelp and miso is at the heart of Inspired By Spaghetti With White Clam Sauce {page 212}. Cannelini beans bravely stand in for the clams, and everything is tossed together with tender pasta and fresh parsley.

This recipe didn't thrill me, but I can't deny that it was a pleasantly-flavored plate of pasta. I think my disappointment stems from a core misunderstanding of what clam sauce is. I was expecting something similar to alfredo, but Ninjahusband explained that clam sauce was generally lighter and brothy. Considering this, he went on to say that a vegan who was missing clam sauce would probably finding this a yummy substitute.

The Supertoddler devoured it with zeal, and I found myself enjoying its delicate flavor paired with the creamy cannelini beans more and more as the meal wore on.

Over all, a good solid pasta dish. Not my favorite dish from the book so far, but definitely not my least favorite either.

-- Your Friendly Neighborhood Batgirl

Smoky Chipolte-Pinto Hummus

Smoky Chipolte-Pinto Hummus

I LOVE Hummus! Even as an Omni I loved it.

Most people know it made with Chickpeas aka Garbanzo Beans but you can truly make it with any type of bean and the flavors are truly endless! If you use canned beans and simple ingredients then you can have it made in 5 minutes max. Longer comes into play if you're getting fancier or are using dry beans.

The basic hummus I make with chickpeas I vary the actual ingredients but it can easily become a rut! So I decided to try the Smoky Chipolte-Pinto Hummus on page 11 and it is YUMMY!

If you're not a spicy person it may not be for you or you can leave out the Chipolte, I'm sure it'll still be good but not the same :).

This is very easy to make and ingredients can be found easily in supermarkets. You'll have to check the International or Mexican aisles for the Chipolte Peppers but everything else is easy to find and you might already have them on hand!


Soy-Tan Dream Cutlets, Mushroom Gravy & Barley Pilaf


Whew! That title was a mouthful and it wasn't even the full titles. Be prepared for the WoT (wall of text) that follows below. If it's tl;dr (too long; didn't read), just skip to the last paragraph. :p

I love love love comfort food. I often make some sort of seitan with gravy and vegetables for a big dinner at least once a month, but sometimes two or three times a month. I'm a total sucker for this type of meal. Heavy and comforting! It was inevitable that I would then make the Soy-Tan Dream Cutlets (page 294) with Mushroom Sauce (page 546) and decided that I may as well make a side so I also made the Barley Pilaf with Carrots, Walnuts, and Golden Raisins (page 276) and a side of oven roasted broccoli and cauliflower (my own, not from the book).

As I mentioned in my Pad Thai post, seitan is another recipe that I will try from a book despite the fact that I already have my own tried and true recipes for seitan (of all variations). Because of that, I had the Soy-Tan cutlets bookmarked from day one. These were also made by The Divine Miss V in her Vietnamese Po-Boys post. Before I go any further, I need to stress to you, especially to my fellow freaks with a Tofu Xpress, DO NOT PRESS THE TOFU. It's tempting, I know, but don't. Put the gadget away. :p This is actually attempt number two since I did actually press my tofu the first time since I was on Tofu Xpress autopilot and it totally screwed things up.

The Soy-Tan Cutlets came together really quickly and easily. I doubled the recipe and removed a little bit of the tofu from a 14 oz package (the recipe for one batch calls for 6 oz) I substituted Braggs for the soy sauce since I was out and used the suggested amount of seasonings. They were pretty easy to work with, soft enough to press down into thin cutlets — a little sticky but not so much that they could not be handled. I fried them up as per the directions in the book. Now, here's where texture results may vary. My stove/range is electric and it is awful. I believe that the controls are not accurate so that when something is set as low, it's really more like medium and when set to medium it 's more like high and of course it takes forever after you adjust for the temperature to come down. As the the cutlets were frying and covered, they puffed up a lot in the pan. I make seitan of all sorts a lot so I knew that the quick expansion usually happens when there is too much heat applied too quickly. Also, I knew ahead of time how the texture is supposed to be versus what I got just by looking at the recipe. Stupid stove. When I removed them and put them on a rack to drain and cool a little they did lose a bit of puff but the interior wasn't quite like how it was supposed to be. It had quite a bit of air pockets due to the high heat (my stove's fault). It looked spongey but luckily it didn't actually feel spongey when you were eating it. Taste-wise it is seasoned perfectly to be used for other applications — not too salty and no one seasoning was overwhelming. I should also mention that with seitan, the texture is better the next day after being in the refrigerator overnight and that is also true for this (just tasted a leftover piece). The next time I make them I'll make them the day before I need them and I will fry on low heat due to my sucky stove. Update: I had a full piece reheated for lunch today and after sitting in the fridge overnight, the texture is perfect, so if you run into the same thing I did, eat it the next day.

The Mushroom Sauce was also quick to put together. With any gravy that uses vegetable stock, the stock you use is what's going to make or break the taste so use your favourite vegetable stock or bouillon cube. If you use a stock that doesn't taste good to you, the end product is going to suck. Okay back to the gravy. It is very similar to how I make my own gravy except that it uses a cornstarch slurry instead of a roux for thickening which works great especially if you are concerned about fat content. It also uses thyme as the main herb whereas I usually add in a lot of other herbs. Really it's just personal preference. Make as is the first time and adjust to your liking. If you want more of a holiday taste, throw in some sage as well. I did have a couple of minor changes. I used Braggs instead of soy sauce and also threw in some gravy browning for colour. I think the Braggs gave it a little extra taste and a little more depth. The gravy was pretty tasty and worked perfectly with the cutlets. I should mention that I also used a salted bouillon cube. With two cups of liquid and only a few spoonfuls of soy sauce, I think you need to use a salted stock or you'll really need to up the amount of soy sauce and salt.

Next up, the Barley Pilaf. We had guests in from out of town so I needed to double the recipe. One problem though, I only had 1 cup of barley but I had a ton of brown rice. So I made the doubled recipe with 1 cup barley and 1 cup brown rice. I also used some baby heirloom carrots instead of regular carrots and used dark Thompson raisins instead of golden raisins. Like the gravy, a pilaf made with vegetable stock is only as good as the stock you are using, so use your favourite stock or bouillon cube! The pilaf came together easily but needed to simmer for a bit since I had brown rice in the mix (about 50 minutes). I also put the raisins in when it was simmering since my raisins were sort of dry and hard and not super soft and plump. The pilaf was indeed a really nice change from my usual pilaf and the carrots, raisins and walnuts gave it some nice differences in texture and taste. It's also really nice with a spoon of margarine mixed into your individual portion for a little extra richness.

All in all this was a delicious dinner and everyone enjoyed it. Our houseguests weren't vegan but they also enjoyed it and finished everything on their plates. So that's 8 thumbs up in total from us 4 and another score for Team Vegan for showing folks that vegans eat very well.

— Ms. Veganorama

P.S. Time-wise this all took about 2 hours from start to finish including prep time. I probably could have shaved some time off that if I had managed my tasks a little better.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Teriyaki Tempeh

Teriyaki Tempeh

It was bound to happen sooner or later -- one of us was going to have to give a recipe a bad review. Being the non-confrontational pacifist that I am, I was hoping and praying that I would not be the first. I shudder even now, typing this, but I have to be true to the blog, the project, and you, my loyal reader. And in all brutal honesty, Teriyaki Tempeh {page 296} was terrible.

I have read over the recipe at least a dozen times since dinner, and unfortunately I can say with some confidence that I'm pretty sure it wasn't cook-error, it was the recipe.

The sauce smelled heavenly, both as the tempeh was marinating in it, and while it was cooking. I was extremely excited to try it, my mouth had been watering all day just thinking about it. I could barely keep my hands {or Supertoddler's} off it while I was photographing it. But then the dreaded moment of truth came.

Me, the Supertoddler, and the Ninjahusband all put bites in our mouths, nearly simultaneously. My first reaction was...oh no. There is something very not right about this sauce. I looked quickly to my left and saw the look on Ninjahusband's face as he slowly chewed his bite, trying to smile. We both turned around to catch a horrified look on Supertodder's face, his eyes wide. He was shaking his little head back and forth in a solemn no, his blond curls bouncing emphatically. "Oh dear..." he breathed. Oh dear indeed! Ninjahusband and I swallowed our bites, and Supertoddler spit his out. Ninjahusband waited for me to talk first. I said something to the effect of "I know you don't like it, it's okay, it's really, really terrible." And it was. The sauce was sour beyond belief, and very salty, not at all like any other teriyaki I've had. Ninjahusband and I both tried another bite or two, trying to work our heads around the flavor, but it just wasn't happening. Ultimately we bailed on that dinner in favor of trashy nachos.

Even though this recipe was terrible, I want to emphasize that this is the first time one of Robin's recipes has ever led me astray. I've tested for 2 of her books {including this one}, I own half a dozen more, and her recipes are always perfect {or close to it}. It's still possible that I did something wrong, but at this point I'm going to say it's not likely.

Sorry Robin, but I have to label this one "make at your own risk."

-- Your Friendly Neighborhood Batgirl

Miso-Tahini Sauce

I had some sugar snap peas that needed eating, so I roasted them up and threw together the Miso-Tahini Sauce (page 554). This beauty of a sauce is so full of creamy character that it can turn your vegetables of choice into something truly stellar. You may just find yourself spooning it into your mouth before it's done cooking. I have to note, though, that such an assertive sauce is best paired with a milder vegetable (or rice & beans; or baked tofu; or tempeh). The snap peas have too much of a, well, snap. I found myself hurrying to finish them off so I could fully turn my attention to the sauce. Yes, on its own.

That said, the delightful tartness of the miso and the rich creaminess of the tahini ensure this simple sauce is something I will be whipping up again. But over some in-its-place asparagus, or quiet-wall-flower zucchini, maybe even some shy 'shrooms or some bashful broccoli. But them snap peas 're too darned rowdy.

- - Ulpia, devoted sauce-slurper - -

Friday, October 23, 2009

Penne With Peanut Pesto

Penne With Peanut Pesto

I needed something quick for dinner tonight, and Penne With Peanut Pesto {page 203} was the answer. I was super quick and easy to make, and the "pesto" was creamy, peanutty, and savory in the best way imaginable. Next time I'm going to make it with a side of stir fried veggies and tofu. A quick dinner doesn't get much better than this!

-- Your Friendly Neighborhood Batgirl

Sweet Potato Pancakes

sweet potato pancakes 004

I wasn't going to cook tonight, but I couldn't resist making these Sweet Potato Pancakes (page 378).

These were exciting for me to make because I got to use the shredding blade of my food processor for the first time. Oh the speed and joy of shredding sweet potatoes and onion with the shredder blade! The sweet potato is mixed with another one of my favorites-peanut butter.

I was skeptical about the amount of peanut butter-it didn't seem like enough to hold the batter together but surprisingly it did. The first few came out messy and misshapen but then I got the hang of molding them and the rest came together nicely. The recipe said it would make four servings-I made eight pancakes and saved the rest of the batter for tomorrow. I served them with Tofutti sour supreme and a little parsley for garnish.

These were yummy-the sweet potato and onion are nicely blended with the peanut butter and seasonings. My omni boyfriend also liked them-he ate more than me. He was even convinced to try sour supreme by how delicious mine looked with it.


Three Sisters Stuffed Squash

I've always been attracted to the festive elegance of stuffed stuff. Especially if that stuffed stuff was some manner of squash. So I decided today was the day I stuffed some stuff myself. It wasn't hard to pick out the Three Sisters Stuffed Squash (page 346) – corn's involvement was practically calling my name. (The three sisters in question are squash, corn, and beans, the main food supply of the Iroquois.)

My only modifications were using white onion instead of yellow and red kidney beans instead of pinto; my squash of choice was acorn, but, as it's small, there would've been enough filling left over for another little acorn. I just enjoyed it while waiting for the rest to bake.

Ample salt is what teases out all the wonderful flavor, bringing out the sweetness of the corn and allowing it to mingle wonderfully with the light bite of the chile and the steady comfort of the beans. And baking it makes it that much better.

Verdict? The stuff inside is great, baked squash is always great, and the whole thing together makes for some superb stuffed stuff! A flavorful autumnal dish that would be perfect for company during the harvest time festivities.

- - Ulpia, lover of stuff - -

Great Stuffed Pumpkin

Great Stuffed Pumpkin

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Well...the great stuffed pumpkin, at least. After the Supertoddler forced me to cart home 2 small pie pumpkins last week, on account of them being "oh cute", making Great Stuffed Pumpkin {page 342} was a natural choice.

The recipe took a lot of time, but was not time consuming. I try to cook my "main meal" every day for lunch, so I started at 9am and put the brown rice on to cook. After that was finished, I made the pilaf, stuffed the pumpkins, popped them in the oven, and then waited the torturous hour-and-a-half until they were finished.

Great Stuffed Pumpkin

Beautiful, fragrant, and delicious, this recipe is something you could make for company with minimal effort but a big "wow!" factor. The Supertoddler was so excited about the pumpkins that he could barely leave them alone while I photographed them. When it was finally time to eat, he dug right in and gave them a resounding mouth-full-of-pumpkin approval.

Supertoddler and the Pumpkin

Overall, this is one of my favorite things I've made from the book thus far. I will definitely make it again before the season is up, probably for company. Yum!

-- Your Friendly Neighborhood Batgirl

Thursday, October 22, 2009

White Cupcakes - Coconut Variation

White Cupcakes - Coconut Variation

Let's be honest, everybody {and I mean everybody} loves cupcakes. In fact, I don't think I could trust someone that didn't like cupcakes. That's just wrong, as well as being against several laws of nature. It is because of this universal love that I decided cupcakes were the perfect dessert to take with me to a friend's house tonight.

Aside from being delicious, I think vegan cupcakes are the very cornerstone of culinary activism. A vegan cupcake can take someone from "yuck, I could never be vegan" to "yum...vegan tastes like this?" in one mere bite. The White Cupcakes - coconut variation {page 458} topped with "Buttercream" Frosting - coconut variation {page 503} are delicious little activists, just begging to be deployed into battle.

They were moist and a little dense, but with a delicate crumb, and the coconut flavor was divine. The buttercream is the best I've ever had, vegan or not. I am never using another buttercream recipe again as long as I live. These cupcakes are little coconut-scented pieces of heaven.

Surprisingly, I'd never had coconut cupcakes before, and these definitely did not disappoint. I can't wait to try some of the other variations that she has listed.

-- Your Friendly Neighborhood Batgirl

Some-Kinda-Nut Burgers

I've found my favorite recipe so far. I made the Some-Kinda-Nut Burgers (page 120). They're some-kinda-gone, because they were all-kindsa-awesome. I'm kinda in awe of them right now, so suffice to say that these will be in my dreams for weeks to come.

I skipped the whole bun affair, the recipe header suggesting that they'd do well served cutlet-style too. I used canola oil instead of olive, almonds instead of mixed nuts, and fresh parsley. As the patties sizzled away in my beloved cast iron skillet, my kitchen was filled with a mouth-watering smell that continues to linger long after they've all gone.

I wasn't sure what to expect, having never made any outright cutlets before. Upon taking my first bite, I nearly fainted, Southern-Belle-style. These are a million times better than any patty/cutlet I've ever had, and I'm all about going on vegan food safaris. The nutty flavor, the rich sweetness of the peanut butter mingled with the savoriness of the onion and carrot and fresh parsley – this is definitely my kinda burger!

Honestly, I was going to make a side and a chutney, but then I tasted them... and I decided there was no side and chutney in the world that could keep me from these a moment longer.

They're also marked “f” for “fast” – so make them. Make them now, thank me later. In fact, make extra and send me some.

- - Ulpia - -

Creamy, Crunchy Fruit-and-Nut Sandwiches

Creamy, Crunchy Fruit-and-Nut Sandwiches

Lunch today was Creamy, Crunchy Fruit-and-Nut Sandwiches {page 111}. These sandwiches are your standard PB&J, all grown up -- and on sweet creamy crunchy fruity steroids!

The recipe called for agave nectar or maple syrup, but I couldn't decide so I did half of each. With the crunch of the walnuts, the toothsome chew of the cranberries, and the crisp freshness of the pears, this is one decadent lunch. I served it on my favorite whole grain artisan bread from the local bakery.

I made a big batch of the almond butter mixture to keep on hand so I can have these sandwiches whenever I want. I bet they'd be great with apples!

-- Your Friendly Neighborhood Batgirl

Corn Fritters


Tonight was one of those nights that I really didn't feel like cooking much. I had a ton of produce that needed to be used up but I didn't want a salad, but I did want pico de gallo and avocado. I needed something quick that would go along well with those two items. Flipping through the book, I saw that I had bookmarked Corn Fritters (page 366) and thought, "hm, that would go well with the avocado and pico de gallo". Best of all, I had all the ingredients on hand.

The recipe is marked fast, and it certainly is. You could have this on the table from start to finish in about 15-20 minutes. When working with the batter, it may seem a bit dry at first but resist adding more liquid until you've mixed in the corn (I used frozen). The corn added in extra moisture and I think I added in only about a tablespoon of extra soy milk to have a nice thick batter.

After you mix everything up, taste the batter to see if you want more salt or perhaps to add in additional herbs and spices. The only seasonings in the basic recipe are salt and a pinch of sugar allowing you to serve this both as a savoury dish or a sweet dish with maple syrup. It also opens you up to customise it however you'd like. I am definitely a salt person so I added in more salt. I think that if I had used fresh corn, I wouldn't have added in extra salt so the fresh corn could shine through. Do taste and adjust to your liking.

The fritters fried up fairly quickly (just a couple of minutes on each side) and yielded 10, though it should be more like 12 since I was a bit heavy handed with a few. Fresh out of the pan, they were already delicious and bursting with corn (the proportion of batter to corn is about 1:2). Crispy on the outside and moist and fluffy on the inside like a good fritter should be.

I served this as an entree (5 fritters each) with a little more sea salt & black pepper alongside some fresh pico de gallo, sliced avocado and sprinkled with some cilantro. Everything went together so well but I do wish that I had some vegan sour cream on hand. That would have topped everything off nicely. Next time though!

— Ms. Veganorama

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Chile-Lime Tortilla Soup

Tonight, in addition to Mr. V and myself, we had a guest taste tester. When expecting company, I typically stick with something tried and true so as not to embarrass myself. But in the face of the blog project I am fearless! It was somewhat a last minute invite, and with tonight's meal already planned, our guest knew he would be part of the experiment.

Thanks to preparing extra potatoes for last night's Spicy Chipotle Potato Quesadillas, there was enough left over to serve four of these bits of carb heaven as an appetizer.

Next, on to the main course--Chile-Lime Tortilla Soup (p145).

Chile-Lime Tortilla Soup

In preparation for this dish, I made the Basic Simmered Seitan (p305) last night. Seitan made using vital wheat gluten is quick and easy to put together, but it does require about an hour to simmer, so factor that into your timing when planning a meal. This recipe makes approximately two pounds, and since the soup recipe only called for 8oz, I have three more pieces labeled and stored in the freezer. Those will come in handy for busy weeknight meals.

My modifications to the soup recipe were minor. Instead of fresh serrano peppers I used pickled jalapenos; fire-roasted diced tomatoes instead of plain; and I tossed in some frozen spinach at the very end. The instructions state to simmer for 20 minutes after bringing to a boil, and then to adjust flavors according to taste. I took a nibble at the 20 minute mark and thought "eh, maybe this won't be one of my faves." But something magical happened in the next ten minutes. The flavors came together exactly as I had imagined based on the ingredient list. This soup is deep and rich and full of flavor, belying it's brief simmer time. The fresh avocado balances beautifully with the spicy background of the soup. You could certainly enjoy this soup without it, but the cool and creamy avocado lends so much to the overall flavor experience, I highly recommend using it. Topping with baked corn tortilla strips adds a nice element of texture, both when crispy and after blending into the soup.

Mr. V and our guest proclaimed this dish a definite taste victory, and I agree. I also appreciate the fact that once you have seitan on hand, this soup comes together quickly--and deliciously. I would proudly serve again to company, or happily curl up on the sofa with a bowl and settle in for movie night. I might up the heat factor a bit next time, but that's just what I do.

--The Divine Miss V

PB&J Muffins

pbj muffins 005

Tonight's recipe was PB&J Muffins (page 409). Again, I wanted something I could make with pantry staples. And who doesn't like peanut butter and jelly? I made them with Peanut Butter and Co. Mighty Maple peanut butter and with Trader Joe's Superfruit Spread for the jelly. I substituted almond milk for soy milk. They were easy to put together and baked up nicely. Once again I didn't get twelve muffins, but nine. These ones are much bigger than the chive flecked potato ones though. I probably could have gotten twelve if I had made them smaller. They also look very pretty with the dot of jelly in the center.

These muffins are delicious! They have finely chopped peanuts on top. (I chopped them in my food processor.) I ate mine while it was still warm. They have a hint of maple too, probably enhanced in this case because I used the maple peanut butter I'm going to have another one with a tall glass of chocolate soymilk.

These muffins are going to be my breakfast tomorrow morning. Make them!


Artichoke and Chickpea Loaf with Hollandaze Sauce

Artichoke & Chickpea Loaf with Hollandaze Sauce

I'll admit it -- I have an irrational fear of "loaf". Any recipe with "loaf" in the title generally sends me running for that safe spot under my desk, the victim of post-traumatic loaf stress disorder. {PTLSD, a lesser-known condition.}

When flipping through the book I initially disregarded this recipe with a shudder. With "loaf" in the title, it definitely wasn't going anywhere near my mixing bowl or my oven. However, on a second pass-through this evening, searching for something I could make for dinner without a trip to the store, Artichoke and Chickpea Loaf {page 330} stuck out to me. After all, I did already have all of the ingredients on hand. Plus, what better time to face my loaf-fear than in front of the millions of strangers that could potentially read this blog? Besides, I DO really like both chickpeas and artichokes.

I followed the recipe to a T, there's no way I was going to risk human error resulting in another loafsaster {you know, like loaf-disaster? Shut up, that's an awesome joke.} I'll have to admit, I didn't have high hopes for said loaf, but Robin Robertson has never led me astray before. If anyone could make me love loaf, it would be Robin!

As the loaf baked, my house filled with the kind of warm, savory, comforting smell that is usually reserved for Thanksgiving or other special occasions. My loafidence {loaf-confidence...yeah...I'll stop} grew the longer I smelled my dinner baking. The Supertoddler even came into the kitchen to tell me "Mmm hungy! Smell good!"

I continued to peruse the book while the loaf baked, and saw that Robin recommended serving the loaf with her Hollandaze Sauce {page 553}. Coincidentally, I just happened to have all of the ingredients for this on hand too. With only 25 minutes until the loaf was to come out of the oven, I put some rice on to boil, some spinach in a sautee pan, and whipped the Hollandaze Sauce up in my food processor.

When the loaf came out of the oven it was golden brown and still smelled heavenly. I let it rest 15 minutes, as instructed, and then carefully cut some slices. I decided they would probably be best pan-fried, so I quickly scooted my spinach to one side and threw them in my sautee pan.

At last Supertoddler and I sat down to eat {Ninjahusband works nights, plus probably would have made inappropriate comments about "loaf" the whole time anyway}. Why yes, I DO plate food for my toddler, and you should do it for yours too! The first bite was heaven. And the second. And the millionth. The loaf was tender, moist, and flavorful, with a little crunch on the outside from the pan frying. And the sauce...oh my gosh the sauce. I want to bathe in that stuff. It was an absolutely incredible meal from every angle.

At first Supertoddler was wary of the loaf {perhaps the disorder is hereditary?}. He poked at it as he happily gobbled his rice and spinach {he had no problem with the Hollandaze}, stating emphatically with each loaf-less bite "no boaf pees, no boaf!" Eventually I was able to bribe him into taking a bite of the "boaf", and no sooner did it hit his little tongue then he dug right back in for a second bite. "Boaf so good! Oh it is so good! I love boaf!" And that is all either of us said for the rest of the meal.

After this hour-and-a-half journey I can safely say that my fear of loaves has decreased greatly. I would highly recommend this loaf to anyone, as would the Supertoddler. Two Hollandaze-covered thumbs way, way up.

-- Your Friendly Neighborhood Batgirl

Caramelized Onion and Walnut Focaccia

Caramelized Onion and Walnut Focaccia

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a total carboholic. I savour freshly baked bread like people would savour a fudgey chocolate cake and have been known to down an entire loaf of bread in one sitting (on more than one occasion) with just some sea salt, pepper and good olive oil. As mentioned in a post on my other blog, I haven't purchased bread from a store in a long time. I don't bake desserts but I bake bread a lot. There's just something magical about such simple ingredients coming together to create so many wonderful varieties of bread.

When flipping through the book, I made a beeline for the bread section and the recipe for Caramelized Onion and Walnut Focaccia (page 414) jumped out at me.

If you've never made bread before, focaccia is really easy and somewhat similar in technique to a regular pizza crust recipe. The dough does need to rise for an hour on the first rise and then about 35-40 minutes on the second rise so allot yourself about 2 hours from start to finish. There is minimal prep work involved, just slicing onions and chopping the walnuts, but it does take some time to caramelise the onions to perfection (about 35-40 minutes). Seems like a long time, but trust me, it is definitely worth it. You really don't have to do that much while the onions are cooking. You just need to make sure they don't burn and stir occasionally. You can prep the onions on the first rise and cook on the second, or if you don't want to lose momentum, you can do that all during the first rise. I prefer doing this actually to get it out of the way. While the onions are cooking, you can take that opportunity to flip through the cookbook and plan your next dish!

The focaccia itself is a fairly basic one with no extra ingredients in the dough, but where this dish really shines is the topping. The smell of the onions combined with the thyme while it's cooking will make your house smell as delicious as any bakery café. If that wasn't already delicious enough, the taste and texture of the walnuts worked perfectly with the onion mixture. It baked up in my oven in about 30 minutes (my oven sucks by the way) and filled the house with the smell of baking bread.

The taste of the finished focaccia was soooo good. I sliced it into smaller slices and had it alongside some mashed roasted garlic in olive oil and additional salt and pepper. I actually wished that I didn't have an entire dinner of something else waiting for me because if left to my own devices, I would have just sat there eating slice after slice. On the upside, I have tons of leftovers which I will eat tomorrow, slice after slice, until it's all gone.

— Ms. Veganorama

P.S. The plate was purchased from Jeanette Zeis (Vegan Dish). I get asked about the plate a lot. :)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Corn Muffins

(in dinosaur shapes, courtesy of my awesome muffin/cakelett pan)

Instead of getting sleep like normal people, I decided to dig through this treasure trove of a book late last night. Imagine my delight upon discovering the Corn Muffins (page 408). If cornmeal's involved, I'm there! So the very next morning, they were in the oven. My only sub was using almond milk instead of soymilk, since I already had some open that needed using.

Dinosaur shapes make everything better, but these didn't even need the dinos – they are roaringly delicious all on their own. They've got that wonderful cornmeal taste so familiar from my Transylvanian childhood. They're very mildly sweet, as well, since I added the sugar so I'd have some stand-alone muffins. I know some of us here can't tolerate the idea of sweet cornbread-things, so the sugar could also be left out. Crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside, the crumbly cornbread texture is everything you'd want and more. Plus, the dinosaur shapes offers more delectable crunch surface area, especially if you oil all those little horn and tail crannies well. In fact, I so love the idea of convenient hold-it-in-your-hand cornbread that I think I'll stick to the dinosaur shapes from now on. These would, as the recipe header suggests, be great to serve alongside chili or some other stew.

Or sop 'em in some thick and creamy porcini gravy like we make in the Old Country

Bonus: these smell agonizingly yummy as they bake.

- - Ulpia - -

Sherry-Braised Baby Bok Choy

food 003

Tonight I wanted to make a meal, but I got home late and was tired so I decided to just make a quick vegetable dish. I made the Sherry-Braised Baby Bok Choy (page 357). I wanted something easy and light. I also had everything except sherry at home. The recipe calls for dry sherry, but the only vegan sherry the liquor store had was Amontillado, so I bought that. And my fresh ginger was shriveled at the bottom of my vegetable drawer, so I used ground ginger instead. My bok choy was half between baby and full grown, but it worked out fine. The recipe calls for garlic, ginger and soy sauce, all of which I usually cook bok choy with. The sherry had a nice extra flavor kick and made my apartment smell divine.

I served the bok choy over brown rice and ate it all up! I will definitely make this again, especially since bok choy is a regular in my house.


Spicy Chipotle Potato Quesadillas

Spicy Chipotle Potato Quesadillas

The recipe for Spicy Chipotle Potato Quesadillas (p32) was probably one of the first to catch my eye. You see, it has four of my favorite things in the title. It just screams out "you cannot go wrong and you will adore me!" It screams the truth.

This is super fast and extremely easy to put together. The only deviation from the recipe I made was, again, for the grandmother's delicate palate. Knowing that the heat would be too much for her, I took some of the potato and onion mixture aside and added just a dash of Liquid Smoke before putting together her quesadilla. Even with her dainty appetite, she gobbled up a full tortilla's worth.

For Mr. V's and mine, I doubled (or was it tripled?) the call for 1 to 1 1/2 tsp of chipotle in adobo. I should also note that I used six small to medium-ish potatoes, and this worked out perfectly. Served 'em up alongside some jarred salsa and a dollop of sour cream. So, this is another dish that's easily adaptable to the varying spice preferences you may be feeding.

For something so quick and simple, this is a hearty and filling dish. Though found in the Appetizers and Snacks section of the book, you can certainly make a meal from the carbolicious combo of potatoes and tortillas. Also, the variations are limitless with these. You could add in some vegan cheese, vegan bacon bits, spinach or leafy greens, or another veggie of your choosing. Next time, I think I'll add some roasted broccoli to the mix. But no matter, whether you stick to the recipe as written or add other ingredients to make them your own, you just can't go wrong with this one.

--The Divine Miss V

Jerk-Spiced Soy Jerky

Jerk-spiced soy jerky7

For my first recipe I made the Jerk-Spiced Soy Jerky (page 8) since I had all the ingredients and took minimal time. The cooking is the longest part of it.

Jerky was one of my favorite snacks so I was happy to come across this recipe. The recipe is very simple to put together it's the cooking that takes forever!

Being my lazy self I decided to cook it overnight. So it was nice to wake up to the smell of the cooked jerky.

When I make it again I do not see changing a thing! The spice balance was perfect for me!


Sloppy Bulgur Sandwiches [as lettuce rolls]

I wanted to try the Sloppy Bulgur Sandwiches (page 109) recipe, but since I had neither buns nor the desire for sandwiches, I decided to do something else entirely – roll them up in red-leaf lettuce leaves. What resulted were magnificent, cool little packets filled with warm deliciousness.

The filling is fantastic. It's sweet and tangy and flavorful, improving as it simmers. The tender bulgur absorbs all of these flavors wonderfully and does wonders for the texture as well. The filling would do very well as a warm salad or side, too. Or served with some big, crisp lettuce leaves as a fun do-it-yourself appetizer for company. Simple and delightful.

My modifications were using diced tomatoes instead of crushed for more chunk-age, white onion instead of red, tamari instead of soy sauce, and a good sprinkling of cayenne pepper instead of the chili powder, just enough for flavor. (And I used ground yellow mustard powder since that was what I had. It worked out well.)

I'll definitely be making this again and playing around with it.

- - Ulpia - -

[variation on] Penne with Chickpeas and Rosemary (Fast)

Last night I made a variation of the Penne with Chickpeas and Rosemary (page 210) with neither chickpeas nor rosemary. I had neither one, so I opened up a can of soy beans and minced up some fresh parsley. The parsley was a suggested variation; the soy beans are mild enough to be able to stand in for chickpeas, I figured. (I know, I know, I upturned the whole recipe's title; except the penne part – though, interestingly, “rotini” is what appears in the recipe description itself. Well, I had whole wheat penne. In fact, I now realize I used tomatoes that're more diced than crushed. So, wow, we're different, aren't we?)

Still, I'm going to tell you all about it because what gives this simple dish its kick is the garlic + herb; sauteeing them together in olive oil unlocked a truly wonderful aroma. The longer I let it simmer, the more these base flavors developed with the tomatoes and beans. Salt, stir, simmer. It'll just get better.

So while you've got this on the stove, go do something, like...wait impatiently for the premiere of The Venture Brothers Season 4, and by the time you're practically dancing in anticipation because there's just a few seconds left, your sauce will be ready to be poured over some pasta. Between the glory that is my favorite show and the delight that is this otherwise simple pasta dish, I ended up polishing off the whole batch. Whole thing, gone. Totally worth it.

The recipe is also marked with an F for “fast,” so it's perfect for a super quick throw-together after a long day.

- - Ulpia - -

Monday, October 19, 2009

Pad Thai

Pad Thai

Although I have an extensive cookbook collection (my fellow bloggers can attest to this), I rarely cook from them. I'm definitely a cook-by-taste/improvise-on-the-spot type of gal and have a really hard time following recipes, especially with seasonings. There are a few exceptions though — this project (of course) and certain dishes. Even though I have my own recipes and preferences for all variations of Seitan, Mac & "Cheese" and Pad Thai, I always like to try someone else's (at least once) since all three can be really different depending on the person's tastes. So because of that, I naturally had to make Pad Thai (page 236).

Every restaurant and every Thai family has their own recipes and proportions of ingredients for Pad Thai. Some are drier, saucier, sweeter, saltier, spicier... well you get my point. The basic blueprint is the same, but tastewise it can vary greatly. I'm definitely not a Thai food connoisseur, but I have had a lot of Pad Thai in my life. To me, a good Pad Thai combines all the essential flavours together without one overpowering the other — including heat. Everyone's heat tolerance and preferences are different so that's why you specify heat at Thai restaurants. There is nothing worse than getting a dish that is so hot that you can't even taste the food (and I say that as a spicy food lover!). But just because something isn't that hot doesn't mean it's not flavourful. And that is exactly the case here. Mild on heat, but very tasty. This recipe is a great blueprint to build upon. The proportions of sweet, salty, sour are all well balanced with the heat on the lower end of the scale — easily adjusted upwards if desired.

My changes to the ingredients were fairly minor — white onion instead of red, brown sugar & lime juice instead of tamarind (Robin's suggestion in the book), left out the chopped peanuts and bean sprouts (I don't really like them) and added in broccoli, mushrooms and red peppers. The soy sauce I used is Japanese soy sauce (e.g., Kikkoman). Oh I also probably used more oil than called for. I never measure oil when cooking and tend to have a heavy hand.

I've made Pad Thai plenty of times so I also adjusted the cooking technique slightly by cooking it in two batches since my pan isn't that large and also to ensure that everything is well cooked and seasoned. New cooks may want to split it in two batches so they don't get overwhelmed by having to quickly stirfry everything at the same time.

If you have never cooked Pad Thai before, you must have all the ingredients prepped and ready to go before you heat up the pan/wok because once you start stirfrying, the cooking process goes incredibly fast (the recipe is also marked "fast"). Trust me, you don't want to end up with mushy overcooked noodles as you scramble to chop up the garnishes. While the rice noodles are soaking, prep everything. If planned correctly, you could have this on the table within 30 minutes. If you are a little less skilled in the kitchen, you could still have this on the table within 1 hour.

All in all, I found this dish mild on heat, but deliciously balanced in flavour. Try it as is and then build upon it to suit your own tastes. If you want more heat, throw in more pepper flakes or your preferred chile pepper. Like it saltier? More soy sauce. You get my point.

Take this recipe and spin it to make it your own. Like I said, try it as is and then experiment with ingredient proportions. After you get the hang of it, you won't have to worry about that pesky fish sauce sneaking into your food anymore since you can just cook this yourself at home! :)

— Ms. Veganorama

Vietnamese Po'Boys with Asian Slaw

The recipe for Vietnamese Po'Boys (p117) was one of the first recipes I came across while first flipping through the book, and I knew this would be soon on my list. She had me at mayonnaise and Sriracha.

The first step in crafting this sandwich is to make the Soy-tan Dream Cutlets (p294). This is a cutlet recipe using both tofu and vital wheat gluten (VWG). It's one of the simpler cutlet recipes I've encountered, and now that I've got the hang of it, I think I could have a fresh batch in 20-30 minutes. The "hang" is getting the right consistency for the dough. I followed recipe instructions, eyeballed the dry seasonings, and used drained (not pressed) firm tofu. The first time out of the food processor the dough was definitely too wet to form the "cylinder" needed to slice into six equal parts. I returned it to the food processor and added more VWG, 1/8c at a time until the consistency seemed to lend itself to a "dough." All told, I added an additional 3/4c of VWG, double that called for in the recipe as written. It was still a tad sticky, so I added a dusting of flour to the cutting board and all was well. USER ERROR UPDATE: As I assumed, the stickiness was no fault of the recipe's, it was completely user error in my lack of noticing that it's 6 oz of tofu, not the full package. So, I wound up doubling the recipe, just not knowing I was doing that at the time.

I cut into six equal parts and rolled each out between wax paper using a rolling pin. If you don't have a rolling pin, don't worry about it! You can definitely get away with using a drinking glass or even your hands if you're not going for a "perfect" shape. As you can see, I wasn't going for that myself since I planned to slice the cutlets into strips. I sauteed in a cast iron skillet, because, well, everything is better in a cast iron skillet.

Sauteeing cutlets

While those were working, I cut the veggies for the po'boys and Asian Slaw (p74). Since I mentioned it, a few notes about the slaw. The instructions read to marinate the slaw for two hours. This will definitely enhance the bold and delicious flavors of the dressing, but mine was in the fridge for about an hour. Other changes: I used red radishes rather than daikon; minced jarred ginger rather than fresh grated; canola oil rather than grapeseed; and subbed bagged slaw mix for the napa cabbage as suggested. I also doubled the recipe as a whole, which resulted in just the right balance of dressing to slaw.

With the slaw ingredients getting acquainted in the fridge, I finished off the cutlets and made the dressing for the po'boys using Vegenaise, the ONLY mayo worth having, in my not so humble opinion. Here I will note that my grandmother cannot tolerate the least amount of heat, so I did not add the Sriracha to two of the cutlets nor to the first round of sandwich dressing. I did, however, add the fresh lime juice and used that on the sandwich I made for her. Her review is that "it's THE number one sandwich [I've] ever had!" And I would suppose a woman of 93 years has had many a sandwich in her day. So, you can definitely modify the heat in the po'boy recipe to suit those with more delicate palates.

I went on to add the Sriracha to the mayo/lime juice mixture and the optional jalapenos to the other two sandwiches, which were served on whole wheat sub rolls, in place of the baguettes listed in the recipe. After being this verbose, I can honestly say I was left virtually speechless. What resulted was truly one of THE best sandwiches either of us has ever tasted. It's a bit of a fog at this point, but I believe there was a lot of "wow," and "oh my god," and "damn this is GOOD." Or something like that. In fact, with Mr. V's plate served, I told him to go ahead and get started while I put mine together. By the time I returned, his entire plate was EMPTY. The slaw was absolutely the perfect accompaniment to the sandwich. This was a restaurant quality meal--straight from the home kitchen.

Vietnamese Po'boy with Asian Slaw

Bottom line, MAKE THEM. Make the slaw. In all the book's glory, and even this soon into the game, I can firmly avow this entree is worth the book, all by itself. I cannot WAIT to have these again. Thankfully, there's enough left over for another two sandwiches and servings of slaw. First one to the fridge WINS.

--The Divine Miss V

Banana-Walnut Breakfast Muffins

Banana-Walnut Breakfast Muffins

Wanting to make a quick-grab breakfasty item to have on hand throughout the week, I turned to the Banana-Walnut Breakfast Muffins (p524). I followed the recipe as written and it was quick to put together. However I did have to add probably an additional 1/4c of apple juice beyond the 1/4c called for in the recipe to get the right consistency for the batter.

Now when I say I wanted to have these on hand, I don't mean MY hand. See, bananas and I don't exactly get along, so these were made for those who do enjoy such things. All reports are that these muffins are moist, tasty, and full of banana walnut goodness. The recipe made a perfect dozen.

--The Divine Miss V

Roasted Vegetable Strudel

Roasted Vegetable Strudel
My initial foray into the book was the recipe for Roasted Vegetable Strudel (p333). All of the ingredients were easily obtainable from a regular grocery store--just loads of fresh veggies, beans, and phyllo dough. I had some leftover Great Northerns in the freezer, so I just used those.

This recipe is straightforward and simple to follow. Dice, roast, mix, roll, bake! It's a bit time-consuming for a weeknight, so unless you work from home or are a bum, I recommend getting an early start or saving this one for a weekend, or at least not a busy weeknight. From the assembling of ingredients to cutting the first slice, I would estimate the strudel took approximately an hour and 45 minutes--but remember--most of that time is not hands-on, so it's really not all that involved. The only substitution made was the use of baby bellas in place of the white mushrooms called for in the recipe.

Interestingly, the recipe states that it makes 4-6 servings and is written to make one strudel--I don't know if it was magic or what, but I wound up with 2 1/2. This is not a bad thing by any means. The strudel is as strudel should be--flaky, buttery (thanks to the Earth Balance), and full of roasted vegetable deliciousness. It's a light meal that goes great with a side salad, and would make a nice luncheon dish for company. You could easily vary the vegetables used according to what's in season and in your fridge.

--The Divine Miss V
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