Sunday, September 30, 2007

Pesto Pasta, Baked Cabbage Wedges, Creamed Spinach, and Tomato Bread

Saturday night was another easy dinner to put together. No theme for this night, just bookmarked recipes that needed testing.

I had in the pantry some Tinkyada brown rice pasta I had never tried, so I decided to make my version of “Shells with Beans and Broccoli” from Vegetariana. My pasta was corkscrews instead of shells, and the recipe doesn’t have a pasta “sauce.” I didn’t want dry noodles and veggies, so I made Sundried Tomato Pesto from VWAV to toss into the cooked pasta.

That idea was a winner.

The topping is basically a stirfry of broccoli, onions, garlic, red pepper, cannelini beans, olives, and fresh herbs. Crystal, I meant to make your parmesan, but I forgot! I still want to try it though. Even without the parmesan, it was quite good.

One of our sides was “Spinach with Peanut Sauce” from Peanut Butter Planet. It’s a creamy sauce of coconut milk and peanut butter over fresh spinach. This is a perfectly delicious way to add calories and fat to your healthful spinach!

The other side was “Baked Cabbage with Garlic” from The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen. I asked Chase before I bought the cabbage if he thought he would like a wedge of cabbage for dinner, and he was understandably a little skeptical. But after tasting it, he said it was his favorite part of the meal. To prepare, you quarter and core the cabbage, then steam it for about 8 minutes. Transfer it to a baking dish and top it with garlic oil. Pour a little veggie broth in the bottom of the dish, cover, and bake for about 20 minutes. I used purple cabbage because it’s so pretty, and I also added potatoes and carrots to the platter as suggested in the recipe. It’s so easy and so delicious.

Saturday morning I baked a yeasted Tomato Bread. The flavor was spot on, made with tomato paste and a perfect combination of seasonings, but I thought it turned out way too dense. I had seen a tomato quick bread recipe in Vegetariana, so I made that too. It wasn’t near as tasty as the yeast bread, but it was good. I’ll work on the yeast bread so I can give you a recipe. You’ll love it with a bowl of chili this winter!

Tomato Bread – yeast type

Tomato Bread from Vegetariana

I tried to be healthy and fancy for dessert, but I wasn’t thrilled with the outcome. I diced a couple of peaches and added in a half cup of ground toasted almonds, a little sugar, and spices for a filling. I cut filo sheets into four strips, laid on some filling, rolled them up, topped with a few more almonds, and baked them.

I lost interest after a rolling up a dozen and put the rest of the filling into a tart – a few sheets prebaked on the bottom, filling, and then 2 sheets on top.

The problem with these - by the time we got around to eating the rolls, the filo was already soggy :(

Fortunately, Soy Delicious makes everything better.

I hope I'm not entering a baking slump. I think I’ll feel better when my two new inspirations arrive. I’ve preordered Veganomican and Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan! Not that I need more cookbooks, but honestly, is there anything better than getting a new vegan cookbook in the mail? I can’t wait!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Best Tofu Salad, Another Tester Burger, and Baking Class Report

You've probably noticed that I’ve been searching for an awesome tofu salad. Not for me, but for Chase to have something he can wrap or sandwich during the busy school week. I found Julie Hasson’s recipe on the Everyday Dish blog for Ginger Peanut Tofu Salad, and since peanuts and tofu are Chase’s most favorite foods, I decided to make it. Now it was really really good on its own, but I decided to stretch it since Chase ate the last tofu salad I made all in one sitting. When I buy tofu, it goes straight into the freezer, and as I often do, for this recipe I put the crumbled tofu in a dry nonstick skillet over low heat just to dry it out a little more. It also warmed it so the peanut butter would mix in easily. Other than that, I followed the easy recipe exactly, then added in a small head of broccoli sauted in tamari water, half a red bell pepper, enough miso mayo to make it a salad, and a little more seasoning and a tablespoon of rice wine vinegar. I know tofu salad isn’t very pretty, but this looks rather Christmasy!

Chase came over to pick it up and I asked him to try it so I could report to blogland. He did and said “It’s the best tofu salad ever.” I said, “Really? The best one I’ve ever made?” He said, “No. The best tofu salad anyone has ever made.” I made him stop eating it before it was half gone. So there you go. I now have the perfect tofu salad. Thank you, Julie!

I also tested another of Joni’s burger recipes. This is a delicious soyfree wheatfree quinoa burger I made with red quinoa. The quinoa gives it such a wonderful texture. I ate it plain with a side of broccoli – oh, so good!

A couple of other meals – Lentils with Zucchini (remainder of monster zucchini from the farmers market).

Sweet Potatoes and Blackeyed Peas, with red and green peppers, onions, and quinoa. A very nice combination for something I threw together to satisfy my craving for blackeyed peas.

I also made some Banana Ginger Muffins that don’t have enough ginger flavor, but they will next time!

Speaking of muffins, a few of my Strawberry Jalapeno Muffins “curled.” Does anyone know what makes them do this? Please don’t tell me my oven isn’t heating evenly and I need a new oven.

By the way, Chase is feeling much better. Thanks for all your well wishes and germ information. And the avocado soup I made over the weekend that was too limey to eat as soup is perfect as is on salads or mixed in with rice. I’m so glad I didn’t have to throw out 4 cups of soup!

Now for the report on the vegan baking class. Whole Foods has a “no pictures” rule, so sorry for that. Perhaps after showing you my curly muffins I shouldn’t have said in my last post that we were more knowledgeable about baking than the instructor. He did graduate from the French Culinary Institute and the class was geared toward beginners. But I’ll give you three examples of why I said that.

1. Every recipe used soy milk. I asked him what his second choice for milk was. It was like it never occurred to him to use anything else. He said coconut milk, but that’s only because he was using that to make coconut ice cream later. I said “What about almond milk?” He said, “That’s a great idea! Or you could use rice milk!” That’s all I ever use.

2. He made a pastry cream/pudding for a tart very similar to the banana pie I recently made. I told him I hadn’t cooked mine long enough and had tried to use the leftover like yogurt to make a cake. Again he said “That’s a great idea!” I told him it didn’t work and asked him why he thought it didn’t. He told me to just cook my pudding longer. Well I told HIM that. That’s not the answer I was looking for.

3. He also said he had learned from the raw foodie in our class that you could make a pie with cashew cream. He had never heard of that either.

To his credit, he made an awesome chocolate cake. He had one already prepared for us to eat, and then he baked a demo one. Chocolate cake with chocolate mousse and chocolate ganache. When the demo came out of the oven at the end of class, he said “Someone should take this home. Anyone want it?” Before I could kick my poor sick half-asleep son under the table, Chase raised his hand and said “I’ll take it!” He got to take home a freshly baked vegan chocolate cake. Here’s a picture of a slice. I think that made the class worth attending.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

A Fruit-full Dinner

Saturday night’s dinner was a healing meal. Chase has a horrible cold so mom prescribed lots of vitamin C and some easy recipes he felt like helping me prepare.

Avocado Soup

I had such high hopes for this, but it was far too decadent to come from my kitchen! I veganized a recipe with avocado, spinach, cilantro, cashew cream, and lime juice, and also buttermilk and goat cheese, and ended up with too much lime flavor and a huge amount of leftovers. We loved the thick, creamy texture, but just didn’t enjoy the sour taste. I guess vegan cream cheese is no substitute for goat cheese. I think for the leftovers I will try cutting it with almond milk and perhaps use it as a salad dressing or pasta topping.

Rice Salad with Apples

This is a cold brown rice salad with apples, red pepper, carrots, onions, dates, and sunflower seeds. The dressing is simply made with apple juice, lemon juice, olive oil, and all purpose seasoning. I wanted to add chopped fresh parsley, but I had run out. This was my favorite part of the meal.

It is a delicious salad and I’m glad there are leftovers!

Strawberry Jalapeno Corn Muffins

From ExtraVeganZa. The recipe called for a half cup of sugar. I only used 2 tablespoons and we were very happy with the results.

Homemade Adzuki Beans with Fried Bananas

Bananas was all I could think of to add to hot beans.

Broccoli with Orange Tahini Sauce

This was my plate. The sauce recipe is from The Saucy Vegetarian. Perfect for steamed broccoli.

Grilled Chik’n Seitan with Cherry Sauce

This was Chase’s plate. (So he was a little off his grilling game and singed the edges of his seitan and had to cut them away.) I made LDV chicken style seitan – his favorite. And my cherry sauce turned out great! I used half a bag of frozen sweet cherries, half of a chopped onion, some ginger and agave, and then thickened it with a cornstarch slurry. I never eat cherries, so this was a really nice change of pace.

Dessert was Lemon Bundt Cakes from The Millennium Cookbook.

I made a glaze of powdered sugar and lemon juice for six little bundtlettes and served it with some fresh raspberries. These were fantastic, like lemony cake donuts. We split one, so I hope they freeze well.

By the way, baking class was a disappointment. We know WAY more than that instructor. I’ll post about it later this week.

Chase gets so upset when he gets sick. I try to explain that no matter how well we take care of ourselves, we are still subject to viruses. He rides the bus a lot and sits in classrooms with all kinds of germs. We are both obsessive hand-washers, eat well, and work out routinely. So short of wearing hazmat gear, I don’t know what else he can do. I did find it fascinating when he told me that next week he wants a really orange, hot soup. Maybe I didn’t get enough vitamin C in him last night.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

We’ve Been Artful Vegans

Saturday night we made “Broad Noodles with Southeast Asian Peanut Pesto and Five-Spice Baked Tofu” from The Artful Vegan. Though we’re not big fans of pasta, we thought it was time to make a noodle dish, so we were happy to find one without tomato sauce. This recipe is an array of interesting flavors that come together for a light but satisfying entrée. It’s probably one of the easier recipes from this book. You can bake the tofu, make the pesto, and cook the fettucine ahead of time, then it all comes together like a quick stirfry.

I’ll begin with what I found at the farmers market Saturday morning.

The peanut pesto is to be made with fresh roasted peanuts, so I was glad to see the peanut vendor Saturday morning. I used the green beans and one-third of the monstrous zucchini (which was $1) for side dishes. The hot chilies were used several times. The gala apples are for baking a nonvegan cake for my mom (who doesn’t have or want a stove) to take to the IGNC Fall Fiesta. My parents are very active in the Austin Chapter of the IGNC and I’ve been baking for their events for many years.

Now for the dinner. First I baked the tofu in the five-spice sauce. The house smelled so good while it baked. It baked for about 40 minutes, until it had a caramel glaze.

After you shell almost half a bag of peanuts (boring!), you make the pesto. I must say as a peanut lover eating her first fresh roasted peanuts, these were amazingly delicious. The pesto was a wonderful blend of the peanuts, cilantro, mint, Kaffir lime leaves, lime juice, and chili pepper.

While the fettucine cooks, prep your stirfry veggies, and when the noodles are done, stirfry, and you end up with this:

For myself, I reserved some pesto and added it to rice and then put some veggies on top, so my wheatfree soyfree plate looked like this:

I HAD to have a bite of the real deal. My rice version wasn’t anywhere near as good as the noodle version. The peanuts in the pesto gave the noodles a parmesan look and feel. If you have The Artful Vegan, I recommend you give this recipe a try.

Early in the day I made tortilla size sesame seed crackers from the King Arthur Baking cookbook. Chase liked them; I didn’t. All I can say is they certainly look homemade.

I also made a salad. Do you ever substitute zuke for cuke? I always leave the skins on, but I recently ruined a cucumber salad because of some very bitter skins. So I’ve been subbing in raw zucchini in a lot of cucumber salad recipes. I made this simple salad of zucchini, mango, purple onion, cilantro, lime juice, and S&P. We ate lots of this.

While Chase stirfried, I steamed the green beans and tossed them with lots of garlic, some cilantro, and a spicy red pepper. We ate all of these – yum!

Finally, a dessert of my own creation (mostly) with not spectacular results. Here’s the step-by-step.

The crust was super fantastic, better than I dreamed of. It was inspired by “Barley Coconut Crust” from ExtraVeganza. I mixed together 1-1/2 cups ground oats, 1 cup toasted unsweetened coconut, ½ cup sweetened coconut, 3 tablespoons brown rice syrup, 2 tablespoons canola oil, and a pinch of salt. I pressed it in the pie plate and baked it at 325 degrees for 30 minutes, until very brown.

When cool, I layered on sliced bananas.

I made a double recipe of “Banana Cream Pudding” (which is really vanilla pudding on top of bananas) from More Great Good Dairy Free Desserts. I only used half of it. This was an omen that I had just goofed. I poured the pudding on top of the bananas.

I put the pie in the fridge to set. After a few hours I took it out to finish. It didn’t spill out, so I was hopeful the pudding had set well. I topped it with toasted coconut and “Ultimate Chocolate Sauce” also from MGGDFD. I only made half a batch of that, thank goodness, because it truly is the ultimate in chocolatey goodness.

Isn’t it beautiful? Too bad the pudding didn’t set.

I think I didn’t cook the pudding long enough. The recipe says to simmer one minute, but maybe since I doubled it I should have cooked it longer. I was terribly afraid of ending up with rubber, so I didn’t want to overdo. But this deserves another attempt. The crust is like those Nature Valley granola bars that are really crunchy, and the coconut flavor is so nice. The pudding was made with my cherished Mexican vanilla that imparts such a wonderful flavor and my bananas were the perfect ripeness. And then topped with Ultimate Chocolate Sauce. Oh, yeh, it deserves another shot.

Chase and I are going to a vegan baking class at Whole Foods on Wednesday night. I have a few questions I need to ask! I’m not familiar with the guest instructor. Here’s a description of the class.

Vegan Baking 6:30–8:30 p.m. $45
Lex Townes, Chef, Veg Advantage
Lex Townes trained at the New York Restaurant School, has more than 20 years of experience in the restaurant world and now works solely on developing vegan and vegetarian dining options with Veg Advantage. Here is your opportunity to add some innovative recipes to your dessert repertoire! Lex will demonstrate and discuss techniques for creating scrumptious vegan desserts, as well as share tips on substitutions you can successfully make to convert favorite recipes to favorite vegan recipes. Guests will sample: Avocado Key Lime Parfait; Chocolate Layer Cake with Vegan Mousse; Coconut Ginger Ice Cream Sandwiches; Fruit Tart with Lemon Pastry Cream.

I hope I have time for a broccoli salad before class because I’m not used to a dinner of desserts only! If any of you have any questions for the chef, let me know before Wednesday evening and I’ll be glad to ask him.
I promise to visit you all soon!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Recipes – Two Salads and Pesto, and a Meme

I made Chase two salads Sunday night he could make into sandwiches or wraps and eat between classes this week.

Blackened Tofu Salad
Adapted from Whole Foods Market “Blackened Chicken Salad”

1 lb. tofu, cut into 4 slices
1/3 cup Cajun seasoning*
1 cup shredded carrots
½ medium red onion, finely diced
3 green onions, including tops, thinly sliced

¼ cup miso mayo (or your favorite vegan mayo)
¼ cup Dijon mustard
2 T. cider vinegar
2 T. olive oil
¼ cup Italian dressing (I use Kraft fatfree)

* Cajun seasoning:
I used a combination of a spice mix called Cajun Dust...

… and added in about a teaspoon each of onion powder, cumin, dried basil, and dried oregano. The Whole Foods Market cookbook has a great saltfree recipe.

First, blacken the tofu:

Coat the four slices of tofu in the seasoning. Place in a hot nonstick pan. After four minutes, turn the slices over and cook another four minutes. Remove to a plate to cool. Don’t move the slices while cooking. Let them blacken. This is how they will look:

I know it doesn’t look terribly appealing, but it’s really delicious and lots of fun to make.

While the tofu is cooling, make the dressing. Just mix everything together and adjust to your taste. (I have never liked mayonnaise. If you like it, add plenty. I didn’t really like my dressing until I added in the bottled Italian, and I only added it because the tofu sucked up what I had originally made. I’m going to try using a cup of soygurt for my next batch.)

When the tofu is cool, cut it into bite size pieces and put it in a large bowl. Add in the carrots and onions and mix together. Add the dressing and coat well.

I had a taste and thought it was really good. I asked Chase on Monday if he had a tofu sandwich with him and he said no because he ate it all Sunday night! Needless to say, he loves it and wants more.

Kasha Salad
Adapted from Whole Foods Market “Wheat Berry Salad”

1-1/2 cups kasha, cooked in 3 cups broth for about 20 minutes, and cooled
½ cup toasted sunflower seeds
1 can red beans (kidney beans), rinsed and drained
1 small red bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno, seeds removed, finely chopped (optional)
½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped (or parsley)
¼ cup fresh lime juice
2 T. olive oil
salt to taste

Mix all together in a big bowl.

That’s it. This was my first time to use kasha. I know it’s eaten like oatmeal for breakfast, but I must say that Chase and I both thought it tasted like mashed potatoes! I told Chase it would also be a good idea to fill corn tortillas with the kasha salad and top it with some salsa like enchiladas, and I was so proud – he said, Mom, I already did that!

Now, especially for Vicki, the recipe for Smoky Sundried Tomato Pesto.

This recipe was given to me by a former Casa de Luz chef at a cooking class. She now works for the Blossoming Lotus in Kauai. She used 4 smoke-dried tomatoes in her recipe. As far as I know you can only get smoke-dried tomatoes from Boggy Creek Farm here (check out the recipe ideas). They are $7.95 for a 2-ounce bag! I came up with an easy, perfect substitute.

½ sweet yellow onion, chopped
12 sundried tomatoes
½ jalapeno, seeded and diced
2 cloves crushed garlic
½ teaspoon pimenton (smoked paprika)
dash of salt

Put the above ingredients into a sauce pan and add enough water to cover. Simmer for about 20 minutes or until the water evaporates.

Combine in a food processor with 1 cup toasted almonds (or walnuts or sunflower seeds), 1 teaspoon salt, and about 3 tablespoons of olive oil (or water) to desired consistency.

In class, the chef also made a Pepita Cilantro (or Basil) Pesto, which was also fabulous, and served the 2 pestos on stacked polenta rounds. One round with a thick layer of red pesto, then one round with a thick layer of green pesto, and then topped with mushroom gravy. All I have is a sad little cellphone pic of my attempt at home, but you can get the idea.

I’ll bet just one round of polenta with the tomato pesto and a mushroom sauce would be just as wonderful.

I know this is already a long post, but I gotta play the name game meme since VeggieGirl and Emmie tagged me.

1. Players must list one fact, word, or tidbit that is somehow relevant to their life for each letter of your first or middle name.

2. When you are tagged you need to write your own post containing your first or middle name game facts, word, or tidbit.

3. At the end of your post choose one person for each letter of your name to tag.

4. Don’t forget to leave a comment telling them ,they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

5. If I’ve tagged YOU (the bloggers that I've tagged are listed at the end), please join in on the fun!


D – DOING something – always. I am restless and find it very difficult to relax. Remember, I suck at yoga. I don’t believe in wasting time or “doing nothing.” Whatever I do has a purpose and is never done half a**. I am intolerant of laziness, especially at the office.

I – IN NEED OF A CHALLENGE. I thrive on it. If there’s a deadline at work – great. It can’t be done? Let me try. I guess I’m competitive, but mostly with myself. I don’t need to be the best at anything. I just need to do it the best I can do it. I LOVE weight training. I think it’s way cool to lift weights so heavy I have to strap myself down so I don’t come off the bench.

A – ADORE ALL THINGS AUSTIN. I was not born here, but I was totally raised here. I am casual, easygoing, eclectic, just like this great city. I love all my food markets and I love that food critics loath chain restaurants and support our local chefs. I’m proud to be in the same community with the University of Texas, Michael Dell, and Lance Armstrong. It’s so cool. KEEP AUSTIN WEIRD!

N – NOT SPONTANEOUS. I bet you’re not surprised. I have never “lived for the moment.” I am the most regimented person I know. Everything I do is done according to the plan, routine, list, or calendar and it's terribly upsetting to me if things don't go according to plan. (Yes, blogging was on the list for tonight.) But I’m not completely boring - I do pencil in time for fun and even a little sleep.

N – NETI POT! My new favorite thing and man I hope it continues to work. If you suffer from allergy or sinus problems, this is the cure. It’s a salt water nasal irrigation which I would have never done until someone told me to think of it as taking in the salty air as you walk along the beach. I got Chase into it too and he loves it. Check it out.

Now I must tag 5 people. I tag:

Amey, Vegan Eats & Treats
Laura, Eden in the Kitchen
Erica, She Sees Color
Judy, Judy’s Pages

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Chorizo Stuffed Poblanos, Baked Rice, Tropical Slaw, and Ice Cream

This spicy meal was built around Chase’s request for Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream for dessert. All the recipes have chilies in them.

I think I mentioned earlier that Chase is pesto crazy these days. I had Smoky Tomato Pesto ready for us in the afternoon to eat with tortilla chips. I made it once quite awhile ago, and it is Chase’s all-time favorite pesto. It’s not beautiful, but it does taste amazing, using sundried tomatoes, toasted pumpkin seeds, serrano peppers, and a little pimenton for a smoky flavor.

The entrée was homemade chorizo stuffed into roasted poblano peppers. I can buy Lightlife soyrizo, which Chase loves, for $3.99 a pound, but now I can make it for under $2. I haven’t cooked much from “The Complete Vegan,” but I used 2 recipes from it for this meal, including Tofu Chorizo “Sausage.” The only ingredient that looked out of place was peanut butter, but Chase said it tastes exactly like the Lightlife. I made myself VWAV Breakfast Veggie Chorizo, using finely chopped mushrooms instead of TVP. Both of these recipes are very robust, and you probably wouldn’t enjoy them plain. Chorizo needs to be eaten stuffed into a tortilla, like I did, or a poblano, like the soyeaters did.

Once the fillings were made, we worked on the sides. I have never baked rice before and I have always thought it was a great idea. Using another recipe from “The Complete Vegan,” I made Baked Rice with Black Beans, Corn, Tomatoes, and Epazote. It also has 2 serrano peppers in it. I substituted green pigeon peas for the black beans just because. This was so easy to make and it turned out fantastic, which is a good thing because it makes 8 main dish servings! Somehow I didn’t get a picture of it in the giant casserole, but I got a shot of the leftovers I kept for myself, along with an epazote leaf. Around here we use epazote in homemade beans. (It’s supposed to reduce their gaseous effects.) Here’s the baked rice. And I was right – baked rice turns out perfectly.

While the rice baked for 45 minutes, we began work on the rest of the meal. I made “the best salad ever” - a wonderful spicy sweet Tropical Slaw. First I made a dressing of 2 T. miso mayo, 2 T. olive oil, 2 T. lime juice, 2 T. cider vinegar, 2 T. Dijon mustard, and the juice from a small can of pineapple slices. Then I made a base of chopped pineapple, avocado, red pepper, purple onion, mango, jalapeno, a small can of mandarin oranges, and a bit of fresh dill and cilantro. I mixed them all together in a big bowl and poured about half of the dressing into them, then let them chill until dinner.

It looked good enough to eat right then, but at dinner time I added in a bag of broccoli slaw and topped it off with toasted coconut and crushed tortilla chip “croutons.” Here’s a side shot.

And a top shot.

For the main event – We roasted the chilies on my stovetop. Chase is wearing the Ove Glove for protection. Anyone remember those?

After roasting and peeling, we stuffed the chilies with the tofu chorizo. The rice came out of the oven and we baked the peppers just to get warm, about 20 minutes. This is Chase’s plated pepper.

This is mine made with mushrooms, which I thought I would eat on leftover chili tops, but I put it into a tortilla.

I know it’s a pain sometimes to take pictures before we eat even though we’re quite used to it by now, but deep down Chase really likes food styling and photography. Here’s his lovely plate.

A spicy, high flavor meal needs a soothing dessert. We took an eating break while the ice cream maker churned, and 20 minutes later this Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream was the perfect ending. Chase topped his with leftover toasted coconut.

It was completely yummy and since we don’t really like leftover ice cream, we ate the whole quart :)