Dec 30, 2011

peruvian stew with walnut and pepper sauce

With the New Year so close, I thought I would dig into my new cookbook collection and give a sample of a few of them, especially if you are new to veganism. 

As you must know, one of my absolute favorite authors is Bryanna Clark Grogan. No surprise, I am sure that she is a favorite among many of you as well, being such a pioneer in vegan cooking as far as I am concerned. She was one of the first ones who made vegan delicious for me and introduced me to many techniques to make vegan successful. 

A few of my first books were:
 Simply Heavenly  by George Burke - yes, I still own my one copy that I was lucky enough to buy before it went out of print again. Simply Heavenly was my first successful introduction to seitan. 
New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook by Hagler and Bates, with their simple and rustic recipes. It is a perfect segue into veganism. 
Then came Bryanna, and I knew for the first time that year that our family was going to be okay.

Since then, Robin Robertson, Tami Noyes and Isa Chandra are among my super stars of cooking. You really can't go wrong with any of them. 

New Year, New You, and no excuses.

My first cookbook in my international week line-up is Bryanna's new one - World Vegan Feast.  The first thing I noticed about this book is that she has ingeniously included some (most?) of the recipes from her Vegan Feast Newsletter. Love it! 

I made the first international (aren't they all that, though??) recipe that jumped out at me, Peruvian Stew with Pepper and Walnut Sauce, mainly because it uses aji pepper paste. I have 25 pounds of dried aji peppers and love using them simply anyway it is remotely appropriate. 

This dish was delicious and unusual! It makes a lot of sauce and I advise you to double the potatoes in the recipe. We still have some of the sauce left over - which isn't a problem if you can make more potatoes right away, however, at the dinner table, it is not so optimal. Trust me, make extra.

The sauce is beautifully thickened, flavorful with walnuts and parm cheese (recipe is in the book). This is poured over Crispy Tofu and boiled potatoes. I roasted my potatoes, but that is totally optional and more than likely not at all authentic. 

This and 197 other recipes await you.

Dec 28, 2011

march of the grenadiers

Catt's birthday week menu reaps a bounty of potato and pasta dishes it seems. Tonight's meal, March of the Grenadiers, was one, except it magically incorporates both potato and pasta. It also happens to be one of her favorite dishes. 

This is a classic Hungarian dish using Paprika Potatoes as the base. It is mashed with a light hand and mixed with cooked pasta, after which it is fried in a little oil to make crisp some of the potatoes and some of the pasta. It is creamy and crunchy all at the same time.

The Paprika Potatoes are an easy and quick dish to prepare and is delicious all on its own with the creamy potatoes in a rich sauce. You could stop right there. But, if you wanted to take it to the next level of decadence, this is where you would end up. 
The picture does not do the flavors justice. 

Cost Breakdown:

potatoes: $3
pasta: $2
onion, pepper, tomato: $1
spices, oil: $1
Total to make 6 servings:

Dec 24, 2011


Have I mentioned a gazillion times that time is flying by at irrational speeds? Have I also mentioned my theory that time is, indeed, speeding up and I am not, conversely getting so old that I believe the impossible over the logical, that I am not just getting older and therefore more aware of the lapsing time? Do you feel as though you have warped into philosophical cooking? My bad.

For her 15th (15!th) birthday, my daughter, for the first time since leaving Maryland many years ago, not only celebrated her birthday with friends, but she had 10 girlfriends to "sleep" over and make sure no one actually slept. What a relief for a worried mother! Yes, hairs were colored purple, faces were made into fantasy creatures, Dad was kept up all night, My Little Pony episodes watched (why?) and no girl was immune to sleep deprivation. Including me.

Again, I share way too much. Food... food blog...

We had Two important food components for this special day... Dinner and Cake.

Dinner was Chicago Deep Dish Pizza from our go-to-if-you-need-reliable-and-delicious-food, Tami Noyes' Chicago Deep Dish Pizza from American Vegan Kitchen. The ten girls SCARFED three deep dish pies. Yes. Kid you not! These pies were HUGE - I loooooovvvveee pizza and I have one slice of this and I may want another one, but physically it is not possible for me to eat another one, however, these wonderful, beautiful, caring young ladies managed to put three of these pies somewhere :)  Love you, Tami!! 

Cake was, by request, a Rainbow Cake. My daughter is an advocate for not only animal welfare, being a conscious vegan, but is deeply involved with LGBT civil rights, hence the special request for the cake.

 A rainbow cake to me does not only represent the different colors, but should also represent different flavors. At first I was concerned that ROYGBIV would offer too many flavors and therefore muddle the flavor of the cake itself. Then  I realized that not only am I serving this cake to teens, but homeschooled teens, who are used to 'weird' things, such as a 6-flavored cake representing a variety of loves, freedoms and feelings.
 I was good. 

I wound up making Red (strawberry), Orange (orange), Yellow (lemon), Green (mint), Blue (butterscotch), Purple (chocolate) layers with a cream cheese/vanilla icing and explaining to them that each one was  a different flavor. They could mix and match or eat each layer separately. It was a hit. My daughter not only has great taste in cake but exquisite taste in friends. 

Happy Birthday Sweetheart.

caramelized onion pasta

Caramelized Onion Pasta sounds pretty basic, but don't let the notion of its simplicity prevent you from trying it. This is another dish that is easy to put together, but the caramelized onions pack a flavorful wallop.

It is true that you need to babysit the onions a bit, especially toward the end of the cooking time, but mostly it is a hands-off dish, where the most time is spent waiting...waiting for the water to boil, the pasta to cook, the onions to sweat and the onions to caramelize. After that it is a simple matter of tossing the two together and chowing down. Give it an hour to cook properly, but your waiting can be spent being engaged in more important activities, such as blog-surfing.

You might be tempted to add something to the dish, but resist if you can. Some cracked pepper is okay, but don't muddle the flavor of it with too many other ingredients. 

Cost Breakdown

pasta: $3
onions: $2
Total to make 5 servings:

Dec 23, 2011

noodle curry

I'm not exactly sure what my son was thinking when we were making the menu. He said he'd like to see Noodle Curry on the menu. I don't think I've ever made it and I didn't know exactly what he wanted, but I wrote it down and decided I 'd come up with something when the time came. 

This is what I ended up making:

 I baked some tofu (after a 30 minute press) in tamari and oil - pretty simple, nothing extravagant. Since I was firing up the oven, I also tossed some kabocha squash with a little oil and baked that as well. I used rice noodles and cooked an assortment of vegetables I had on hand. In fact, most of the veggies were frozen from a stir-fry mix - broccoli, chestnuts, green beans. I also added fresh celery and bell pepper. 

For the curry part, I made a sauce using red curry paste (there are also commercial brands that are vegan), tamarind (for the tartness - use lemon juice as an alternative), and coconut milk. I tossed all the ingredients - tofu, vegetables, noodles, sauce and squash - together and cooked them for a few minutes at the end to meld the flavors. If you skip the squash add a little more sugar to the sauce since the squash added a delicious sweetness. This is a fantastic way to use winter squash.

This was delicious and not all that complicated to make. A few steps: (1) Baking the tofu and squash. (2) Soaking the noodles. (3) Cooking the vegetables and (4) making the sauce. That's about it. And worth it. The pot of food disappeared in no time.

Cost Breakdown

noodles: $1
coconut milk: $1
vegetables and fruits: $5
curry and tamarind: $.50
tofu and spices: $3
Total to make 5 servings:

Dec 21, 2011

hungarina potato soup with bay leaves

I remember this soup vividly growing up. My mother would make it after getting off of her work shift of 12 hours. Having nothing in the house to cook but potatoes and apples, this was one of her go-tos. Have I mentioned what a fantastic woman she was? While the taste of this soup is just as clear to me as if I was still that little girl supping on it, unfortunately, thanks to my stubbornness and refusing to learn how to cook until it was way too late to ask the chef herself how it was done, I never learned the intricacies of this soup. Which left me with having to piece together this dish using a combination of memory, blogs and cookbooks. None of the written words I read spoke the exact recipe to me, but according to my palate, this here recipe that I came up with is as close as I will likely get.

My mom did not have nutritional yeast, and it is not an authentic part of the soup, but it does help to add another dimension that the original soup acquires using sour cream.

The kids love this soup. I love this soup. You, too, will love this soup as long as you don't overdo the vinegar. While the subtle flavor of it is essential, along with the bay leaves, overdoing either one will lead to disaster. Add a little vinegar at a time, but make sure not to taste the soup too often. Tasting the same dish more than 4 or 5 times will overwhelm your taste buds and render them useless.

Cost Breakdown
potatoes: $2.50
bay, pepper, parsley: $.75
celery, onion, nutritional yeast: $2.50
vinegar, sour cream: $2
Total to make 8 servings:

Dec 19, 2011

flautas and taquitos

Is it a Flauta or a Taquito? 
The two Mexican food dishes can be mixed up at times since they are both rolled, fried, stuffed tortillas. The difference, and hence the names, are due to the type of tortilla used. Flautas are made using flour tortillas and Taquitos are made using corn tortillas. 

Making the filling and rolling them in the tortillas can be time consuming parts of this meal, but even then it is one of the simplest to make. I made a filling using textured vegetable protein, but seitan, beans or vegetables are outstanding choices, with refried beans being the simplest of the bunch. 

Make sure to first heat the tortillas in the microwave in a stack (wrapped in damp paper towels) or individually right on stove top to get them warm. Warm tortillas bend and don't break. Roll them in the filling and either pan-fry them in oil or bake them as I did. 

Serve these with guacamole, salsa and vegan sour cream. 
They are crispy and filling.

Cost Breakdown
tortillas: $3
TVP: $1
Daiya: $1 
broth, onion, garlic, spices, flour: $1.50
sour cream, avocado, salsa: $2
Total to make 16 with garnishes:

Dec 15, 2011

tofu escabeche over escarole

How many times have we heard of some Top Chef or Iron Chef describe his dish as an Escabeche? Doesn't it sound exotic and unattainable for us on the side-lines of the kitchen? As with most culinary terms, this too is deceptive in its simplicity. It is a fried or cooked meat or vegetable that is then marinated in a liquid containing such acids as citrus juice or vinegar. It is typically served cold, right from the marinade.

I used tofu in this dish, but seitan, eggplant or zucchini would be ideal choices as well. Although marinating helps tofu (and please correct me if I am wrong), I have never found it to be like the proverbial sponge. I have used the Tofu Express on a slab, cut it into cutlets and marinated it for days, and still the inside turned out just as white as the day it was first pressed. That isn't to say that it is all for naught, but I have personally given up on infusing the tofu completely. The tofu picks up enough of the soaking liquid to add the flavor dimension you are trying for, but for me at least, a day of marinating is all the time I am willing to devote to food down-time. Serve the darned thing already!

I did wind up reheating my Tofu Escabeche, mainly because David would have most likely asked me to, but this is totally optional. I served it over brown rice tossed with sauteed escarole and garlic. The escarole was nicely bitter, the brown rice delightfully sweet and the escabeche wonderfully acidic. 
It was decidedly a grown-up meal.    

Cost Breakdown
tofu: $4
escarole: $3
brown rice: $1
garlic, vinegar, wine, flour, olive oil: $2
garlic, herbs, stock: $2
Total to make 6 servings:

Dec 14, 2011

cream of spinach soup

Amazing how time flies! It has already been a week since my last post, so I better catch up.

I've always loved spinach creamed. My fondest food memories involve Sunday family suppers, right before our restaurant would open for business. My dad would always insist on us kids having chicken soup before we were allowed to dig into the Good Stuff. One of my favorites was, and still is, Spinach Fozelek, a sort-of creamed spinach. As Hungarians, we had a fried egg on top and served it with boiled potatoes and sauteed purple cabbage. For me, that was the epitome of a gourmet meal. So good!

 But I get side-tracked. I only meant to impress on you how I love spinach. Cream of Spinach Soup evokes that same feeling of spinach love. Easy to make and very tasty. Hungarians - or at least my family - never added nutmeg to any green leafy vegetables. In fact, the time I did suggest such a thing to my mother, she thought I had left my faculties somewhere far behind, but you can give it a few grinds. Mikel picked up on the 'odd' flavor of the nutmeg right away and pronounced it not his favorite. I actually enjoyed it, but most likely will go at it with a lighter hand in the future for the sake of the family. As with all new things, baby steps.

Cost Breakdown

spinach: $5
milk: $.75
stock: $1
onion, flour: $.50
cream cheese: $.75
Total to make 4 servings:

Dec 8, 2011

po' boys

Whenever I come across oyster mushrooms for a good price, I know that they will appear on the week's menu as Po' Boys. Although oyster mushrooms weren't to be had, chanterelles were on sale. And since David happened to be shopping with me, he decided that they were good enough to be on Po' Boys. In fact, we picked them up for $8 a pound. That is very nice for chanterelles. 

A Po' Boy is a traditional Louisianan sandwich. It is made of fried seafood (shrimp, oyster, crab) stuffed into a French baguette with lettuce, tomato and mayo. Way back in my youth, I dined at a restaurant in Ft. Lauderdale that offered Po' Boys. Now I am not sure how the place got there or how authentic their version of a Po' Boy was, but it stuck with me over the decades and that is how we eat our Po' Boys to this very day. After some research, I found other recipes made this way as well, so I can now be relieved to know that my variation isn't that far off the course. In any case, we love it and recommend it!

The type of mushroom is up to you, but oysters are the bomb. You can pan saute them and then toast some panko crumbs to add to the mushrooms (the method Robin Robertson employs in Quick Fix Vegetarian) OR you can deep fry them. We typically make them using the former method, but since these were chanterelles, we wanted to give them the ol' Paula Deen treatment - we fried them. 

After the mushrooms are done, put them on a garlic-toasted hoagie or French baguette with tartar sauce and coleslaw. OMG. This does not last long at our place. In fact, we bought and consumed three pounds of mushrooms (not in one sitting). 
Gluttons that we are. And you too, can be one. Join us.

Cost Breakdown

mushrooms: $8
bread: $3
cabbage, carrot, lemon: $3
vegenaise, sugar, pickles, onion: $2
flour, cornmeal, oil: $3
Total to make 4 sandwiches:

Dec 7, 2011

seitan a la king

Why stop seitan-and-cream-sauce dishes at the Divan? Another American-born classic dish is Seitan a la King. This is a recipe of chopped seitan (in the olden days, chicken), with mushrooms and pimientos, in a creamy sauce, over pasta, rice, bread or puff pastry. I went all out and used puff pastry. There are vegan versions out there, and of the easiest to find is the most popular. Go look in your grocer's freezer section. Score!

You can get very elaborate with said puff pastry, but I just cut them into squares of about 4X4 inches, took half the squares and, using a 3.5 inch round lid, cut the middle out of them. Then I put the cut-out ones over a whole square ones and baked them. If you prick the inside of the square with a fork (so it doesn't rise along with the rest of the pastry), you will wind up with a bowl after the baking time (around 15 min.)

As for the a la King part, you can use chickpeas (I've heard of these being used many times), tofu (especially baked), seitan (first sauteed to get golden), or a mixture of vegetables (like for a pot pie). It all depends on what you have or how fancy you want to get. For the cream sauce I used homemade roasted almond cream, but regular vegan milk will do very well.

Verdict: It was amazing over the puff pastry. The filling was just as delicious, but in my opinion, anything thrown over puff pastry already has an advantage. Winner.

Cost Breakdown

seitan: $2
vegan milk, broth: $3
pimiento, flour, onion, mushroom, garlic: $4
puff pastry: $5
Total to make 4 servings:

Dec 6, 2011

seitan divan

Seitan Divan is a classic American casserole consisting of bread, meat, broccoli or asparagus and then topped with Mornay Sauce.

Mornay Sauce sounds exotic, but it is actually just a cheese sauce made using a simple Bachamel Sauce (a white sauce of thickened milk) with cheese melted into it. Nothing complicated but the name there.

Toast is typically used for the Divan, but I used English Muffins. I sauteed the seitan cutlets until they turned golden brown and layered the casserole: English Muffin, seitan thinly sliced, cooked broccoli florets and Mornay Sauce.

While you could simply make the Mornay Sauce with the Bechamel and melt 1/2 cup of vegan cheese in it to create the sauce, I also made the Mornay using Bechamel with no commercial (or difficult to make) cheese.

We all loved it! It really was easy to make and not at all a conventional casserole.

The pragmatic in me thought this was a great dish not just because it was good and easy to assemble, but because I was able to clean up after the initial cooking while the casserole baked for the required twenty minutes. Had the baking required a longer time I might have left the kitchen, and the mess, behind. Bonus.

Cost Breakdown

broccoli: $2
seitan: $1
English Muffin: $2
tahini, nutritional yeast, flour, lemon, milk: $1.50
Total to make 4 servings:

Dec 5, 2011

potato vegan-omelet

Vegan Omelets are a hit at our house. It is a simple dish to prepare and the variety is outlandish - Southern Omelets, Asian Omelets, Mushroom and Pepper Omelets, Cheesy Omelets, the list goes on. There are a few tricks to it, but once you've made them a few times, they are a breeze and are loved served one way or another, depending on the diner. 

I've made these into Fried Vegan Omelet Sandwiches and now here they are wrapped around roasted potatoes as Potato Vegan-Omelet. The potatoes need about 30-40 minutes to get nice and crispy in the oven, but after that blend your tofu into an omelet and set the table. Easy brunch.

Cost Breakdown

tofu: $2
almond milk, nutritional yeast: $1
cheese: $3
potatoes, onion, garlic, spices: $3
Total to make 4 omelets:

Dec 4, 2011

spicy tomato and asparagus with linguine

 Pasta dishes have a tendency to be quick, easy and tasty - as long as you have a good recipe. This recipe fits the bill on all counts. I have been noticing that I have this intense need for quick meals that at least three-fifth of the household at least likes. See.. I don't have unrealistic expectations. 

This meal, Spicy Tomato and Asparagus with Linguine, takes around 30 minutes to make .. for real. The sauce is made using some olive oil, onion, garlic, grape or cherry tomatoes, red pepper and a bit of sherry or broth. Some chili flakes add a spicy touch and the additional vegetable creates variety. I used asparagus as the addition, but other vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, green beans or zucchini, would all be ideal choices. 

I love using linguine in this, but again, the shape is up to the cook. Spaghetti would be great or any pasta with little nooks and crannies, where the sauce can cling to, work well. 

Basil or fresh parsley finishes the dish. 

Delicious and very versatile. Four of us loved it and found ourselves getting another and another bowl of the pasta. Luckily, we use small bowls.

Cost Breakdown

pasta: $2
tomatoes: $4
parsley: $.50
asparagus: $4
pepper: $1
onion, garlic, olive oil, spices: $1
Total to make 6 servings:


Dec 1, 2011

FNF - bacon corn muffins with savory cream cheese frosting

Hey, y'all! 
Hope everyone has had a fabulous holiday season so far - there is more to come, with Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Yule tidings, Christmas and many others I am sure I am ignorant of, to my detriment. Here's wishing everyone a joyous season. Winter has always been a favorite time for celebrations, given that the days are shortening, they are colder and bleaker and not much of anything happening out of doors, unless the proper preparations are taken and everyone gets bundled up. So what better time throughout the ages to throw a party? I hope to have much more coming up on this topic. 

For now, I am more focused on returning to this well-known, time-honored tradition of blogging, and what better way to get back in the blog-mood than with a Food Network Friday, hosted by our very own lovely Tamasin Noyes of American Vegan Kitchen fame, over at Vegan Appetite
[And if you don't have a copy, this is the best season ever to get one!] 
{And again, if you are craving some blog love from said Tami, get on board Food Network Friday yourself - she has tons of it to give out.}

What do my eyes behold, when I finally mosey on over to VA, but Bacon Corn Muffins. In my opinion, you could just call them Bacon Muffins and leave it at that. As anyone who has been a slave to Food TV knows, meat + cake is all the sickening rage nowadays, especially using bacon. Naturally, this  is the perfect recipe to duplicate, not only for the morbid curiosity it evokes (think: car crash rubberneckers) but for the sheer need to veganize the stupid thing! 

Two things need attention in this recipe: the egg and the bacon.

(1) The Egg: Super easy, folks! Ignore it. Forget about it. Useless and unneeded addition P.R.ed by the Egg Board. The starch in the muffin is enough to bind it. Think of it this way-- as long as you have starch in a dish, one egg = 1/4 cup of liquid. I upped the 3/4 cup of milk to 1 cup and called it a day. Enough of this nonsense!

(2) The Bacon: Lots of fun here! You can use my Tofu Bacon recipe and then crispen it in some oil, use Fakin' Bacon tempeh, or what I did... used 2 links of Tofurkey Italian Sausage.  I diced 2 links up, fried them until crisp in olive oil and, after I removed them from the heat, added some liquid smoke. 

Now came time for the most important decision making part: what hot sauce to use. Oh, the possibilities.. the recipe author, Brian Boitano, gives no direction here! Louisianan hot sauce, Tabasco, Harrisa, Chipotle, Habanero, Frank's or..... Sriracha?  Yeah, well, I figured I'd go with the vegan masses and used Sriracha. In fact, I have never seen a condiment more embraced than Sriracha by the vegan community. I wonder if any of the other bloggers used the same?

Verdict: Loved the muffins. Weird. But true. The frosting was way too much, and the family was scrapping it off the little tykes. Just a thin covering would have been enough, not the called for 8 ounces for the 24 mini or 12 regular sized muffins.

Since a muffin does not make a meal, I also made Senate Bean Soup, with navy beans, some of the same Italian Sausage and a few veggies. According to legend, this soup has been on the menu at the U.S. Senate restaurant for over 100 years. It's been a long time coming in become vegan itself. 

Oct 19, 2011

boston market (MoFo 29)

Boston Chicken has gone through its ups and down. In the early 90's they were at the top of their game, so much so that they began offering other menu items. In fact, they became so popular for it, that they decided the name Boston Chicken was no longer apt for the business and so changed to Boston Market. Woo-hoo! Until, that is, they so over-extended themselves that by 1998 they filed Chapter 11. Who do you think came to their rescue? I'll give you one McClue... 

The company was purchased in 2000 by the McDonald's Corporation with the intention to get their hands on the real estate and dump the name and menu. However, after McD's cleaned house of the constipated BM's (I have a joke here that I will not indulge in...too late), the Market began to flourish again (rats!) and McD's decided to leave well enough alone. If it makes money...ya know.

Apparently things weren't quite as rosy in McLand though, because by 2007, the Market once again changed ownership.

The Boston Market Meatloaf was one of the menu additions from the original folks, and here I have reinvented it in all its vegan glory. While theirs is made of a cow, mine is made of veggie burgers. Pretty sure any veggie burger will work, but I made mine with Boca. The burgers are mashed up and mixed with onions, seasonings and barbecue sauce. The sauce is added at mid-cooking, as well. 

The sides at Boston Market are something that vegetarians, at least, can indulge in, but why should vegans be excluded? And why not make it vegan, anyway, for that matter?

Here I have made three of the side dishes, Creamed Spinach, Macaroni and Cheese, Sweet Potato Casserole and Poultry Gravy. The mashed potatoes are my creation and not one of their "Gourmet Sides."

All of them are fantastic, but as far as it goes, this place should be called Boston Butter, not Market. They use a ton of butter, cream and cheese in almost every side dish - at least the ones I chose to make. A note: To make this as good as it can be, you must use unsweetened, plain non-dairy milk. Anything else will make things taste way too sweet.

Vegan Meatloaf with Gravy

Creamed Spinach. Macaroni and Cheese, Sweet Potato Casserole

Oct 15, 2011

cracker barrel (MoFo 28)

The ol' country store. While driving on any highway, you cannot drive more than 30 miles without one of these crossing your billboard radar - they are everywhere! Cracker Barrel has only (and I mean that in comparison to the other mega-stores like McDonald's) 600 some-odd stores to its name, but they are ubiquitous on the road.

The original concept was created to pull people off the road to buy, not food or country junk, but gasoline. Dan Evans thought folks would pull over to eat and shop and, before heading back on the trails, fill up. Good call; that's just what they did. Nowadays there are no more gas stations in front of Cracker Barrel, but there are plenty of rocking chairs!

The Southern-comfort food of the Barrel is pretty off-putting to their vegetarian (do they have any?) clients since most everything has some part of an animal cooked in it. When I worked there about 16 years ago, the apples were the only thing (I think) that was clear to eat, but then perhaps even that had lard. Hard to tell. You know how the mind blocks out unhappy memories.

Hashbrown Casserole was a super popular menu item and their Chicken Casserole was also way up there. The Hashbrown Casserole is country hashbrowns with loads of cheese. The Chicken Casserole has cream of chicken soup with chicken and is topped with crumbled cornbread. I made a baked chicken-style tofu for this dish.

There is something highly annoying about a restaurant where even their vegetables have meat in it. The Barrel's Country Green Beans are cooked with bacon. Great. Grrr. 

I distinctly remember the Barrel making their green beans in the southern-style.. cooked until almost grey in color. To get this dish to be as close to the original as possible, I used frozen green beans (you can be more authentic and use canned green beans or more healthful and use fresh green beans. Oh! the choices.). Surprisingly good. Don't ask me why or how. Cook up a batch and try them. They make a great accompaniment to the Chicken Casserole.

Country Green Beans and Hashbrown Casserole

Chicken-y Setian Casserole


Oct 14, 2011

cheesecake factory (MoFo 27)

The first Cheesecake Factory restaurant was opened in Beverly Hills by Evelyn and Oscar Overton's son, David, because he wanted a place to sell his mother's beloved cheesecakes. Although she had been selling her cheesecakes to local restaurants already, most of her customer's weren't thrilled with the prices they were being charged. David thought he could help her out, and that he did.  By 2010, there were 150 Cheesecake Factories in operation. 

Hands down, the most popular dish on their menu, besides cheesecake, of course, is the Chicken Madeira, a sauteed chicken breast, topped with asparagus spears, mozzarella cheese and mushroom Madeira sauce. Veganize! Our mantra of the month!

Tender chicken-like seitan cutlets serve well here, asparagus is already vegan, mozzarella has many delicious non-dairy options and the mushroom Madeira sauce is as easy as finding a suitable Madeira wine. Serve these with mashed potatoes to soak up the sweet, tangy sauce. Vegetables already included. In fact, if I were you, I'd double and even triple the measly 2 spears of asparagus the restaurant offers per serving.

Certainly cheesecake cannot be ignored. Obviously. And here is where a lot can go wrong, and I am not referring only to the quantity of cheesecake that can be consumed in a single sitting. 

This was one of the many dishes that needed a redo. Surprisingly, when the correct chemical concoction for cheesecake perfection is achieved, the process is quite easy and quick. My first attempt was the Key Lime Cheesecake. While it came out tasting awesome, it was not firm and needed a redo. For the second time (not having the heart to ask the family to eat two of the same flavors of cheesecake in a row..what kind of mother would I have been?), I attempted to make the White Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cheesecake, this time successfully.

I do not like tofu in my cheesecake, so this one is sans tofu, but does use about 3 tubs of Better Than Cream Cheese. Another alteration was needed since I did not have white chocolate and therefore used regular chocolate chips. 

To complete the whole Cheesecake Factory experience, get yourself a can of Soy Whip or some other whip substitute and squirt to your heart's content.. the Factory certainly does.

Seitan Madeira

Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake

Oct 13, 2011

dairy queen (MoFo 26)

Dairy Queen was a total favorite of mine - before it sunk in that the cows 'giving' the milk aren't doing it so I can have the joy of eating ice cream. And they aren't doing it so I, a grown adult, can continue to consume something that I had been weened of years before by the only person who should be nursing me in the first place. Even if we totally disregard the fact that adult humans should not be suckling at anyone's teats, a mother cow is still raped and then her child murdered. Those are the cold hard facts and if you still consume dairy milk, you are still contributing to the violence.

To make your swallowing all of this harsh (albeit true) info easier, how about a nice vegan Blizzard

DQ first opened in the 1940's. Their innovative concept was the soft serve ice cream. That made DQ famous and what made them popular was their pioneering of restaurant franchising. In fact, by the end of 1947, they had grown to 100 stores. By 2010, they well exceeded over 5,000 stores world-wide.

In 1985, the year I had my first interaction with DQ, they introduced the Blizzard, soft serve ice cream with add-ins such as Heath Candy Bar, Snickers, Oreos, M&M's, etc. My favorite was the Heath Bar Blizzard. Because of all the wonderful folks at Turtle Mountain, Chicago Soy Dairy, Rice Dream, etc.,  there is no need to turn to dairy for any of your cold,  sweet needs. Grab your favorite vegan ice cream and head to your blender to make your Blizzard!...oh, Heath isn't vegan, you say? 

No worries! Heath Candy Bar is as easy as 5 ingredients (brown sugar, Earth Balance, nuts and chocolate chips) and 10 minutes away to make. Plus cooling time, but at least no babysitting is involved. 

The bars are totally delicious all by themselves...just leave enough for the Blizzard :)

Oct 11, 2011

hard rock cafe (MoFo 25)

Hard Rock Cafe was the first theme-based restaurant. Although when it opened in 1971 in London, England, narry a guitar or gold record graced the walls of the hamburger place By the time it's first American restaurant opened in Los Angeles in 1982, it had made not just a  name for itself, but gave birth to a trend that has been duplicated since then. 

It all began when Eric Clapton donated Hard Rock Cafe one of his guitars. Not to be outdone, Pete Townsend offered one up soon after, with a note saying "Mine's as good as his! Love, Pete." Thus began the collective legacy. Today, Hard Rock Cafe, complete with 130 or so stores, 4 hotels, 2 casinos and 2 concert venues, and a museum, is owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida... quite a history!

One of their most popular menu items is the Hickory-Smoked Pulled-Pork (or Chicken) Sandwich. It comes with marinated cabbage and creamy cole slaw. I made a tofu-gluten seitan for this. It is served on a ciabatta roll with extra sauce on the side. It is, in fact, quite good and not all that difficult to make, even with the making of the seitan. The only catch is that you have to make the seitan, the marinated cabbage and the creamy cole slaw the day before serving it, as all three have to sit over night. If you ask me, it just makes the day of the meal that much easier for the cook since most of the work will have been done already.

When you are ready to eat, spin some tunes and stock up on the napkins. It's worth it, even if you have never been to a Hard Rock Cafe.
 It's not like they have a monopoly on music.

Hickory-Smoked Pulled Seitan Sandwich

Creamy Cole Slaw


Oct 9, 2011

MoFo update

Update of failure. I blame it on my husband. When you tell someone they will fail, they just might. I asked him to check on the contents of the oven and as he walked upstairs to report his findings, he flat-out told me it was a bust. The dish wasn't  even done, yet, but when someone portends its demise, it is a foregone conclusion that the end has been foretold. Thus, after another two hours of cooking, it was evident that he was right.

I will retry with this particular restaurant replication later since I have a feeling I know what went wrong, but I don't wish to divulge the name of the place in case I ... well, fail again.

I typically would not blog about something like this, since I hate terribly to admit defeat, but I don't wish to be removed from the MoFo feed and I know they insist that we continually post, otherwise what is the point of Vegan Month of Food? I am sure, however, that the good folks at MoFo HQ had other blog posts in mind besides failed recipe ones.

Will write soon; it has been a long day.

Oct 7, 2011

bennigan's (MoFo 24)

Before Norman Brinker took over Chili's, he was the founder of Bennigan's, an Irish-inspired restaurant and pub. They serve American food with an Irish twist. Some of the most popular end enduring menu items have been the Monte Cristo and Broccoli Bites.

The company was later abandoned by Brinker for greener pastures. Pillsbury, the original owners, passed the restaurant chain onto other conglomerations, among them a huge liquor distributor. Over the years, the company has degraded due in part to a lack of rolling with the times and following trends. Basically they remained stagnant in a fluid restaurant environment. The company declared bankruptcy in July 2008 and wound up closing hundreds of stores. Among the only remaining stores that stayed open were franchise-owned ones. In October 2008, the dregs of the parent company, Steak and Ale, was bought up and the new owners are now trying to turn the tides and revamp Bennigan's image, food and the establishments themselves.    

I was a server and bartender at Bennigan's for about a year in the early 2000's because hubby was laid off, but the mortgage company still insisted on their monthly payments. You could tell that things were forced and apathetic for the company, even though it was a new store I was hired for. 

As for the food, the Monte Cristo was the signature dish, if you don't count the double burger that had a knife sticking out of it in an effort to hold the monstrosity upright. The Monte Cristo is a three-layered sandwich of ham, cheese and turkey, coated in an egg batter and deep fried. Now I am not exactly sure who looked at a sandwich and thought it would be a good idea to deep fry it, but then I am often confounded at the ludicrous things people choose to deep fry, including a stick of butter. Why?

However, I am not here to ask 'why?' just here to make the food. As anyone knows who has tried to recreate deep fried egg batters, it is not an easy endeavor. And since I figure there might be someone who does NOT choose to deep-fry their sandwich, I have offered a grilled version of it. Not the same, but not bad either...and not as bad for you. The batter is made with tofu and once a light dusting of flour is on the battered sandwich, the batter does not dissolve in the hot oil.

Broccoli Bites is one of those appetizers that I served a lot of, but one that isn't even vegetarian, with the inclusion of bacon bits. I omitted the bacon bits completely, but if you'd like to add some vegan tvp bacon bits or crumbled Fakin Bakin or something like that, the option is there. The broccoli, once pulsed fine in a food processor, is mixed with finely grated vegan cheese and formed into balls. The balls are then frozen to help them stay together during frying. They are coated in milk-flour-bread crumbs and fried. Baking is an option also. The balls flatten a  bit with this process, but the broccoli cooks more and they are still crispy and golden.

Yup, more brewskie is recommended here and perhaps a strong stomach if you dare to try the Monte Cristo as it was originally intended to be eaten by the good folks at Bennigan's.

Monte Cristo

Monte Cristo - grilled

Broccoli Bites