May 29, 2011

Vine and Dine, herbed ravioli with porcini pesto and tofu ricotta

The second Vine and Dine, hosted by Tami Noyes of American Vegan Kitchen, is from Voluptuous Vegan, by Myra Kornfeld. We missed the first Vine and Dine of May mostly because I didn't realize there were two in a month. 

Voluptuous Vegan was one of the first three cookbooks I bought to help us transition into veganism back in the good ol' days. Over the years this book has been put to the wayside mainly because the recipes are so involved to make. The recipes I made out this book required a great deal of time and dedication. 

No exception with this recipe.

Every three years or so I take out my pasta roller to make some ravioli. Every three years, I again realize why it's been three years since I've made ravioli. 

Tami had great timing with this V&D. It's been three years since my last forage into ravioli-land. After the meal, the pasta roller was safely tucked back into the cabinet, awaiting my future memory-lapse.

The ravioli was delicious. I love porcini mushrooms and the mixture with the tofu ricotta was very good. The pepper salad was a welcome addition and the basil pesto was great as well. My only complaint with the recipe is the amount of prepared ingredients. I used much less of the porcini pesto than I made and we have a lot of red pepper salad still in the fridge. Other wise, a wonderful meal with a ___ wine. What kind of wine? Here is David with the Ho-Down:

That is Mikel's Stitch Hat. Mikel has worn it everyday for the last week. He is a big Stitch fan and has even dubbed his  voice in this YouTube Video. Yes, that is really Mikel!
 I guess David felt like getting in touch with his inner-child.

 This weeks Vine and Dine entrĂ©e of Herbed Ravioli With Porcini Pesto and Tofu “Ricotta” turned out to be a very tasty offering.  Of course, when I heard we were having another pasta dish, I selected another red to pair with the mild richness and pleasant earthiness of the porcini pesto.

My choice, this time around, was an organic La Rocca Zinfandel, estate bottled in 2006.  This wine turned out to be an excellent partner in crime for the herbed ravioli!  The La Rocca Zinfandel is a medium bodied, fruity wine with sweetness so mild that it perfectly complemented the earthy flavors put forth by the herbed ravioli with porcini pesto.

The Chef and I tried a glass about a half-hour before the meal, to establish a baseline from which to judge the complements between the meal and the fermented grape nectar.  The wine by itself is very nice but when paired with the pasta it becomes something more.  Chef and I both agree, the fruity flavor with a slightly spicy undertone (we didn’t really taste much spice but this wine is supposed to be famous for it’s peppery flavor) truly enhanced our enjoyment of the meal.

As you can see, this bottle of wine has a cork, which makes me feel much better about my selection, even though there are more and more vineyards that forgo the tradition of corking.  I give the La Rocca Zinfandel four and a half stars out of five and I look forward to trying this one with a seitan steak or maybe a seitan and vegetable kabob.

May 21, 2011



I have been wanting to make Paella for a long, long time now. I have read Paella recipes and watched Food TV shows on how to make a Paella the best way. Still, vying to make it is not the same as making it. When I saw that one of Tami's tester recipes for her upcoming cookbook, Grills Gone Vegan, was a paella, I printed it out and made it the very next day.

Let me say that this is done just right.
From the flavor and texture of the rice, to the crust on the bottom of the dish, to the tofu that tops it, it is out of this world. And all that without a paella pan. For the longest time I thought I would have to buy one of those pans, and since I only buy kitchen items that have more than one function, the paella pan was not high on my list of need-to-buy, even if it was on my wish list.

Although she has many wonderful recipes for this book, this one was totally one of my favorite dishes. In fact, I kept helping myself to more, even though I knew I should stop.
Bad, but, oh, so good.
Have I mentioned how much I love testing for her? 

This is a perfect dinner party meal as well since it is so elegant and easy to prepare.

May 16, 2011

7-layer mexican salad

Lunch time can be quite a fiasco at our home, especially if we don't plan the menu out properly. The kids want food they like and I want to make something that is unusual but still healthy. Clearly with all of the tumult we needed to come to a compromise. Lunch should be easy, quick and a no-brainer. Discussion should not even have to take place, and arguments should be as far removed as the moon.

To make everyone happy, including the cook, be that person child or adult, the kids and I wrote down 30 dishes they liked enough to agree to and I agreed were healthy and fast. We have put those meals on rotation during the week for lunch and it has worked beautifully. This can be an effective way to by-pass all the hastle of picking and choosing what to make for lunch for anyone, families or singles, homeschoolers or out of the home workers. It just makes sense. Since the breakfast repertoire of most folks tend to be varied between 5 to 10 kinds of dishes at the most, choosing between 30 lunch items is different enough to satisfy most people and consistent enough to make deciding lunch much simpler.

7-Layer Mexican Salad with Creamy Salsa Dressing. This one became a favorite after the girls had it at a sleepover on the U.S.S. Barry  (Girl Scout adventure). The key to this salad is to have the proper proportion of topping ingredients to lettuce. Too much lettuce ruins the entire experience. My salad has avocado, tomato, black beans, carrot, onion, vegan cheese, peppers. The dressing is about 2/3 vegenaise and 1/3 homemade salsa. You can use whatever topping you prefer, just make sure to keep the lettuce at bay: about one (toppings) to one (lettuce) ratio.

Cost Breakdown

avocado: $2
tomato: $2
beans: $2
carrot: $.50
lettuce: $2
cheese: $1
pepper: $1
salsa, vegenaise: $2
Total to make 6 servings:

May 13, 2011

FNF - pretzel-fried steak

Food Network Friday!

This month's veganized version for Food Network Friday, brought to you by Tami Noyes, is Aarti Sequeria's Pretzel-Fried Steak. She is the latest Food Network Star who is introducing Indian meals to Food Network's fans, but with a twist. This recipe, however, is not so unusual - it just sounds that way. The only real Indian aspect is the fenugreek in the flour mixture and the mango-chutney gravy. The pretzel is unusual, but not in an Indian way. 

This is a country-fried steak, using ground pretzels as the coating instead of flour. Although I didn't find that the coating made too much difference in the crunch department, it was unique and the family loved it. Of course, the family loves it when I deep fry anything, be it kale or seitan.

Aarti calls for eggs in her recipe. I used to freak out about the coating adhering to the seitan or tofu during frying, but since last year, I have had the honor of frying a bunch of stuff - in fact, more so than I had in all my life total - and I can say with certainty that it is as easy as coating the ingredient in a non-dairy milk, sans eggs. 

In other words: flour, nondairy milk, coating. Simple. No need for anything complicated like flax meal (although it wouldn't hurt health wise!) or fresh cashew milk (as I previously claimed). Coat and let it sit for 15 minutes. Fry. Eat.

The gravy was good, but I was really craving the cream gravy.

I couldn't get away by not making mashed potatoes, but I did wind up making Aarti's side dish of Greens n' Beans, which is a recipe of greens coated with a cilantro pesto. I changed things up a bit by using parsley instead cilantro and substituting Brussels sprouts, green beans and oyster mushrooms for the kale and beans. So, almost everything got swapped.

As for the beef, I used a pressed tofu and a seitan recipe I am experimenting with. I did keep the whole experience gluten free, which is why I also made the tofu. Gluten Free pretzels can taste like twigs or like pretzels. After eating our way through Whole Foods' snack section, the family chose Glutino. This is a delicious, albeit expensive, brand.

Food Network Friday is open to anyone who would like to join in the fun, so get over to Tami's site and get cooking!

Cost Breakdown

seitan, tofu: $5
flour (GF), pretzel (GF), soy milk: $3
spices, seasonings: $1
potatoes: $3
chutney, onion, stock: $2
Brussels sprouts, mushroom, green beans: $7
parsley, almonds, oil: $3
Total to make 6 servings:


May 10, 2011

mojo tofu - "viva vegan!"


Deciding to make something from Viva Vegan! for our Continental Night, I made Terry Hope Romero's Red Beans with Dominican-Style Sazon, Yuca with Cuban-Lime-Mojo Sauce and Zesty Ornage Mojo-Baked Tofu

I didn't have any yuca, but since it is a starch almost like a combination of potato-and-yam, I used the last of my winter squash from my CSA - kabocha squash and acorn squash. The Mojo Sauce I am not sure should be called a sauce because it is a lot of oil with onions and a few tablespoons of lime juice. It was very good, but, no surprise, quite oily, so we used it very sparingly drizzled over the cooked squash.

One might think that Latin food is closely related to Mexican and Tex-Mex fare, but they couldn't be more different from each other than Chinese and Indian foods. Latin dishes use a lot of citrus and for those palates to whom this is something new, it will be a very unusual flavor profile. Not bad in any way, but very unexpected - as David is coming to find. He is not a citrus enthusiast and last night's meal gave his palate a workout. However, if anyone who has this lack of love-affair with citrus can really enjoy these dishes, you know the food is excellent. 

I found everything a bit tangy but delicious. The Baked Tofu was superb and very easy to make. Just press, cut and bake. Add marinade and bake some more. It's texture was nice and chewy and the flavors were wonderful. 

There is so much to explore in this cookbook, and even though I had a week of Viva Vegan! in April of last year, I've barely scratched the surface - looking forward to more.

Cost Breakdown:

beans: $4
peppers, onion, garlic: $2.50
cilantro, parsley, celery: $1
spices, seasonings: $.25
orange, lime, vinegar: $3
tamari, tofu: $4.25
olive oil: $1
squash: $3
Total to make 6 servings:


May 3, 2011

black bean burger and feta


Another of Tami's recipes from her upcoming cookbook - Grills Gone Vegan.

This is a Black Bean Burger. Don't think this is another of those homemade veggie bean burgers that is all mushy and really tastes homemade; nope! This one is meaty, firm, smoky and delicious.

I formed mine more in order of a big fat, meat burger - and boy, was it a mouthful! The kids were complaining a bit, but that is because they've never actually had a burger made of meat- not even a flabby, thin Mc'D's one, so this threw them for a loop.

David and I really enjoyed it, though, and the thickness was not a deterrent. This is a wonderful recipe. It is hard to imagine Tami topping her Incrediburger, but she's done it. Oh...and those buns are also a tester from her book. Very easy to make, whole wheat, Onion Buns. If bread is this easy to make, this delicious and still whole grain, why would we need to spend $5 on a package of buns?

I topped mine with my Feta Cheese. I've made this recipe before, but every time it has come out a bit firm. I made a mistake somewhere along the agar-tofu-way and they came out just like real feta! I have to figure out where I went right and get a recipe up. It was fantastic!

May 1, 2011

Vine and Dine, south of the border pizza

I could swear that Tami Noyes' biggest job - next to creating mouthwatering recipes - is to dream up ways to get us bloggers active. On top of her Food Network Friday Challenges to veganize Food TV recipes, now she has come up with Vine and Dine. In these cookalongs we are following one particular vegan recipe and choose a wine to accompany the meal. This is all lovely, except for those not well immersed in wine-lore. We would be among those folks. Luckily I was able to pass the wine baton to my husband who after a little coaxing agreed to take on  the wine part of the challenge. I think I got the better deal.

First the food: This is a recipe from The Vegan Table. Beans on pizza are not a combination most people think of as compatible, and neither did we at first. Fortunately it all worked out. The crust contains cornmeal which keeps in tune with the Tex-Mex theme. The toppings are typical of the theme as well, vegan cheese, jalapeno, beans, salsa and sour cream. Although I wouldn't have beans on my pizza again, it nevertheless made one very interesting meal.

The Wine: My hubby will be covering the write-up of the wine:

When my wife told me we would be doing the Vine and Dine with a Southwest Pizza, I was skeptical. I wasn’t keen on a non-traditional take on a family favorite but I try to keep an open mind, especially when it comes to my favorite chef’s creative interpretations of certain recipes. I was given the task of picking the wine to be paired with this unusual pizza preparation and I immediately started thinking of a red.

I don’t really have much of a nose for wines, I prefer libations with far fewer variations and more of a straight to the point affect, and I should have paid closer attention. I started looking for an organic vegan red and got so wrapped up in checking the label that when I found “Vegan Friendly” and “Organic” on a bottle of Our Daily Red, I overlooked the screw top on the bottle. After getting the bottle of wine home, I was loath to go back out to correct my mistake; we decided to give this selection a chance, although we doubted it had much of one.

I will start by saying that the Southwest Pizza was a pleasant surprise and turned out to be excellent. Pairing wines with food is a very difficult thing to do, given that very few wine pairings actually end up enhancing or complementing the flavors of the dishes they are paired with. I was disappointed in the wine, “Our Daily Red”, in my opinion it is a “Box Wine” in a bottle and it has far too much bitterness for my taste.

After our meal, I was curious to see if anyone out there had a different take on this wine so I did a Web-Search and found this comment: “Our Daily Red is full bodied yet smooth and mild. This easy-drinking red wine blend is comprised of Syrah, Carignan & Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. This variety creates a rich ruby color and a relatively mellow flavor with flavors that blend well together rather than compete for attention”. I think there must be something wrong with my selected search engine because I do not think that either “easy-drinking” or “mellow flavor” is an appropriate adjective when describing this wine. I will say that the wine is “Full-Bodied” but given the bitterness of this selection, I’d say the body is in the bottle.