Dec 31, 2012

corned hash

Among the many cultures that have developed their own version of "hash," which means "to chop," we have Northern England to thank for this particular rendition, Corned Hash. Many moons ago, a great way to use up the previous night's dinner of boiled meat, potatoes and vegetables, was to cook it up for breakfast as hash. Not many modern households can boast having leftover boiled meat and potatoes on hand, and even less of those are enlightened households that have access to the boiled meat aspect. 

Hash has come to represent a cohesive mixture of chopped potatoes, vegetables and meat, held together by some liquid and cooked until the potatoes develop some crispness and are golden. 

I have replaced the meat with tofu and seitan, but either works just as well. I boiled the potatoes for just a few minutes before beginning the long process of browning the vegetables and protein.  I kept this very simple, adding only potatoes, onions, garlic, seitan, tofu and spices. While you could add more colorful vegetables, I wanted to make this one as authentic as possible. 

When I say long process of browning, I mean it. It took about 30 minutes to acquire the crispiness on the potatoes that I was looking for, turning the hash every three or four minutes to prevent scorching. I added some Daiya at the end, but I found that it would have been just as good without.

Happy New Year! 


Dec 28, 2012

creamy barley and split pea soup

Winter has finally arrived, although I am sure lots of people would think that happened back in November. According to the astronomical society, the Solstice marks its passage. And since winter begets soup, as evidence by Kathy Patalsky's article, 25 Classic Soups Gone Vegan, indeed if soup season hasn't arrived for you, yet, it is surely bound to. 

The above easy soup may not be all that quick, given that barley and split peas need about an hour to cook, but the prep and coddling are minimal, therefore this soup lands smack dab in the middle of "easy." In addition to the yellow split peas and pearled barley, it boasts zucchini and cauliflower. 

You could very simply substitute whatever vegetables you like or have on hand. I made this soup creamy by adding almond milk after the cooking was complete. Boiled vegan milk breaks and does not make for a good picture, so be warned, simmer to reheat, but skip the boil.

Cost Breakdown

peas and barley: $1
stock, spices: $3
milk: $1
cauliflower, zucchini, onion, carrot: $5

Total to make 8 hearty servings

Dec 23, 2012

biscuits + mongolian seitan

Continuing with Catt's Birthday Week choices, above is a Meat Pie made with broccoli and ground TVP and below that is Mongolian Seitan with green beans. 

The biscuit has had me thinking; whenever I see a commercial for those biscuits in a tube, the result from the oven is a flaky, layered biscuit, one which the happy consumer can effectively tear off layers of goodness. 
I wanted to recreate that effect.

 Over Thanksgiving I was messing with making my own puff pastry, which requires multiple folds of buttered dough. I brought this same technique to biscuit making, rolling the dough out and folding into fourths about a dozen times. This is the same way that puff pastry achieves its many layers, except puff pastry requires a ton more vegan butter and a cooling-off period between each folding occasion.  

This biscuit is a poor-man's puff pastry, in that it uses a lot less butter and there is no cooling period required between folding. If you look at the biscuit in the picture, you will note that indeed this works - the biscuit (with the help of baking powder) rises and you can even peel the individual layers off. 

Mongolian Seitan is deep fried seitan (or TVP) in a garlic-ginger sauce with green onions. I added the green beans because I didn't have enough green onions and I simply wanted to add some veggies to the dish.

Both were very successful and Catt enjoyed her week of meals.

Happy Solstice Everyone! 

Dec 19, 2012

seitan piccata

It is Catt's Birthday Week, so she gets to choose the meals all week long. Naturally, she chose tried and true dishes that she loves, and minimized the vegetables as much as possible. Have I mentioned I have vegetarians who hate vegetables? Vegan, really, but it sounds better with "vegetable" in the description.

Among her favorites, such as Lasagne Bolognese for her actual birthday meal, she has chosen Nachos, Hungarian Layered Potatoes, Reuben (and here is the corned seitan recipe) and Tami's Chicago Deep Dish Pizza from American Vegan Kitchen

 Seitan Piccata is near the top of her list.

It so happens that this is also one of our family's favorite meals, although I haven't blogged about it yet because I kept writing down the recipe incorrectly or not at all.

Piccata is an Italian dish of thinly sliced seitan, dredged and sauteed, then served with a lemon-butter sauce. Traditionally it is dredged in flour and in addition to the pan drippings and broth, the sauce contains capers and white wine. I've altered this from flour to bread crumbs and completely omitted the capers and the white wine. I wanted to make this as simple as possible for the cook (me) and tried to keep the flavors as clean as possible for the kids.

For us this continues to be a favorite, even though my husband dislikes any main meal containing citrus. Odd that he can put away his fair share of this seitan then, but he sure manages to. This is another one of those dishes that I double the original recipe for or risk a table full of grumbling folks.

Cost Breakdown

seitan: $3
Earth Balance, broth, lemon: $2
bread crumbs, spices: $1
potatoes: $4

Total for 4 servings:

Dec 14, 2012

healin' noodle soup

RECIPE UPDATE: this soup has been tested and revised and will be featured in the upcoming cookbook "Everyday Vegan Eats," by Zsu Dever.

Tis the season! Flu season! One of my little ones has come down with a bug. When this happens, my first reaction is to make this soup. Other people might reach for the big brand soup in the can, but for us vegans, we tend to insist on something more wholesome than what comes out of such a container, let alone try our damnedest to avoid what goes into it in the first place. 

In fact, over the years, my kids have come to expect this soup when they are feeling under the weather. It takes about 20 minutes to make, including prep time, but it tastes like you've had on the back burner all morning. 

The soup contains about the same simple ingredients as the canned stuff (if you don't include all the unpronounceable ingredients, that is): just carrots, celery, onions, noodles and seasonings. 

Bookmark this page for the next time you need a little pick-me-up. 

Cost Breakdown

pasta: $1
vegetables: $1
seasoning: $.75

Total to make 6 servings:

Dec 13, 2012

cajun tofu over celey root puree

Celery Root makes a delectable, light and airy, puree, one tasting exactly like celery, but without any strings attached, so to speak. The root vegetable can be off-putting because of its thick, wrinkly, outer skin, but considering the amount of time the root spends underground, the thickness and gnarliness makes sense. It is easy to remove the skin using a sharp chef's knife, peeling it as you would a grapefruit or cantaloupe - should the urge strike you to peel one of those fruits. 

Cut away the thick skin, dice the root and then simmer it in almond milk until tender. After pureeing the veggie, it is necessary to pass it though a fine mesh strainer to remove the parts of the skin that your knife will miss cutting out; the root is very wrinkly and the folds of the skin are everywhere. Once you have tackled the peeling, pureeing and straining, it is clear sailing. You can allow the puree to cool and reheat it with no problem, given that there is no starch to gum up your gorgeous velvety puree, unlike with a potato.

I served this unique puree with Cajun Tofu because the spiciness of the seasonings was wonderfully foiled by the subtlety and sweetness of the celeriac. Adding a bit of olive oil on top of the grilled tofu allows the flavors of the spices to meld with the puree and gives the dish that needed richness that one expects from a dish that uses Celery Root Puree.

Cost Breakdown

celeriac: $6
spices, oil, herbs, milk: $2
tofu: $3
green beans: $3
   Total to make 6 servings:

Dec 9, 2012

thom kha soup

RECIPE UPDATE: this soup has been tested and revised and will be featured in the upcoming cookbook "Everyday Vegan Eats," by Zsu Dever.

This is a remake of an old favorite - Tom Kha (or Thom Kha) Soup, a Thai coconut-based soup. The last time I posted about making this soup (here), was about two and a half years ago, so I  am thinking it isn't all that repetitious. Besides, I think it gets lost in the blog; a little reminder to give this soup a try is appropriate.

I made this soup last night while a few friends were over and the first comment I heard spoken was how quickly it was done, followed by how pretty the soup was, and lastly that indeed it tasted as good as it looked. In my opinion, I overcooked the broccoli a bit, but didn't mention that. 

Yes, this soup is really quick to make - about 20 minutes in all. And if you have ever had the pleasure of having it in a Thai restaurant (assuming they make it with vegetable broth and not add fish sauce), you will be happy to note that it is an easy to make and quick to prepare soup.

Also of note is that while exotic ingredients such as lemongrass, galanga and kaffir leaves are the ideal ingredients to use, this recipe has alternatives: lemon, ginger and lime. I reassure you, you will be able to achieve the same tangy dish as if you used the ethnic ingredients. 

In addition, you can load the soup with whatever vegetables you have available, although broccoli, mushrooms and carrots are the top choices. Summer squash, green beans, cauliflower, spinach, kale, would all be equally successful.

Cost Breakdown

coconut milk: $3.50
vegetables stock: $3
spices, tamari: $.50
lemon, lime, ginger: $2
vegetables and mushroom: $4

Total to make 8 servings:

Dec 7, 2012

red beans and rice

Popeye's Red Beans and Rice, for me, is a throwback to those long-ago days of being non-vegan. This was my favorite food item on their menu. Smoky deliciousness.

The only thing that makes this non-veg is the source of the smoke flavor: ham hock or sausage, not sure which they use. This is so ridiculously easy to omit; it is a wonder restaurants that use animal products for the so-called flavor of a condiment, are willing to turn away vegetarian customers, for literally, no reason. 

I have recreated this favorite dish of mine. I used smoked paprika and liquid smoke for the required flavor. This is incredibly delicious and healthy - even if you add the optional Earth Balance at the end of cooking, which gives it that extra decadent richness.

Cost Breakdown

rice: $.75
beans: $6
spices: $.50
oils, butter: $.50
Total to make 6 servings:

Dec 3, 2012

omni relatives

This is an unusual post in the sense that I will not be posting anything new.

Due to our constant moving around the country, we are not a big extended-family peoples. Relatives are either too far away geographically or someone is too busy to visit or be visited. Given this, I was a little surprised when my sister-in-law and her husband announced that they would like take a trip up here to spend some time with us, especially since it has been a decade since I've last seen them. 

It was exciting, but a little worrisome; I knew her signification other was a hunter (of animals) and neither of them could throw a stone at vegetarianism, so far on the other side they were. Nevertheless, they brought an open mind and an empty stomach.

My husband and kids were happy to note that there would be great food this long weekend and nary an experiment in sight. In case someone else has some omni family visiting this holiday season, perhaps I can help in the "what will I make them" category. Just for the record, they loved everything and ate like every meal was their last one.
 I'm so proud of them! 

Here is what I cooked for them:

Thursday Dinner: Lima Bean Bake. 

I figured I'd ease them into the veganism and cleanse their palate of meat. It doesn't look or sound like much, but believe me, this is one great meal. The creamy butter beans, the oregano and olive oil, with the bitterness of the broccoli rabe (rapini) and the heartiness of some French bread is a killer in the taste department. It takes 2 hours to bake, but so worth the effort. Ignore the chard and cauliflower on this old photo. I was too busy cooking this past week to take any new pictures.

Friday Lunch: Burger and New England Chowder

I wanted to dive right into the meat substitute world and risk rejection, so I also made the chowder, thinking that if the burger failed, then there would be a back up.
 I worried for nothing. They devoured the burgers and left very little of the chowder to boot!

Friday Dinner: Tater Tot Casserole

Not only did we have our relatives in town, but we also had Kate's friend and his father over for dinner this night. Big on pre-planning, I knew about the additional guests and planned on the Tot Casserole for the kids - this one is a kid-friendly meal and I wanted Kate's friend to be comfortable with the meal. It is also pretty successful with adults.

Saturday Lunch: Benedict and French Toast

Again, because Tofu Benedict is decidedly not poached eggs, I planned on a safe back-up: Isa's Fronch Toast from Vegan With a Vengeance. No pic or recipe for that here (it is in her cookbook), but suffice it to say, it is one of the best vegan French Toast recipes out there. And my Benedict is the best vegan Benedict out there. 
Toot, toot my own horn ;)

Saturday Dinner: Famous "Meat" Loaf

This was good enough for us the first time around, so I thought the relatives would gobble it up. Right, again. I love this meatloaf - it has great flavor and texture, two things you absolutely need a meatloaf to be, let alone one that has no meat in it.

Sunday Lunch: Shawarma

This is the sandwich that I always ordered at Herbivore restaurant in San Francisco. After leaving San Fran., it was imperative that I recreate it. MoFo was the push I needed and this is the sandwich that is a direct result of it, down to the sauteed potatoes, avocado, pickles, sriracha, hummus and tomatoes. Sounds odd as a combination, but the taste is outrageous. They thought so, too. 

   Sunday Dinner: Chicken Fried Steak

Finally, as requested by my hubby, the culmination of their vegan meals was the Chicken Fried Steak. I made the SteaK Seitan for this and grilled the steak before dredging it and frying it. Topped with White Pepper Gravy, served with whipped potatoes and Brussels Sprouts, this was a great finish.

I suppose if I had been the perfect host, a few desserts would have made it to the table, but the extent of sweets were berries and apples. It turns out, they couldn't have added more to their already full bellies by the end of the meals, so no loss there. Good thing, too, since I'm not the dessert queen.

As a recap, I want to point out that I cooked something using all of the meat alternatives at my disposal: beans (limas, chickpeas), seaweed (chowder), mushrooms (chowder), tofu (burger, Benedict, meatloaf), gluten (SteaK, meatloaf, burger) and even commercial meat substitutes (Canadian Bacon, Soy Curls, Gardein), to show the wide range of vegan deliciousness out in the world. Naturally, there was also salad with VA Ranch Dressing, kale, cabbage, avocado, potato, corn, asparagus, broccoli, etc. These people went home full - hopefully in mind and spirit as well.

Happy Holiday Season to ALL.