Jan 30, 2013

asian ginger soup

Sweet Tomatoes restaurant has an Asian Ginger Soup that is not just vegan, but so easy to fall in love with. My youngest, who as recently as last month, didn't mind if ginger never existed at all, decided that ginger, at least in this form, was acceptable. This is a simple broth with added condiments -- spinach, mushrooms, tofu, green onions, carrots -- whatever the diner would enjoy. Not only was it acceptable to her, but it became a soup that both girls insisted I try to make at home. 

I began searching the web for a recipe for this soup, and wouldn't you know it, Sweet Tomatoes itself has published the recipe on their blog. Happily I began to cook. A red flag went up when I noticed that the recipe called for cornstarch; the broth at the restaurant was not thick at all. Nevertheless, I made it as written and hoped I was mistaken about the thickness.

Turns out, I was't. The recipe they have printed, in my opinion, is not the one they serve. At least not as written. Also, their recipe calls for vegetable broth base and I wanted a back-to-basics broth.

I began by making my own broth using carrots, onions, ginger, garlic and celery. After letting it simmer for an hour, I strained it and added it to some sauteed ginger and garlic. That did the trick! No need for any vegetable base or broth mix. Simple, down home cooking.

I have since made a few more gallons of the stuff and the kids have asked that it be placed on rotation. Although this is an easy recipe, I can't say it is quick since there is an hour of simmering involved. It is hands-off, however, so give this recipe a try.

Cost Breakdown

tofu, spinach, green onions, mushroom: $4
carrot, ginger, garlic, celery, onion, parsley: $3

Total to make 10 servings:

Jan 23, 2013

broccoli and sun-dried tomato pasta

Most conventional cookbooks will have a recipe for a Chicken and Broccoli Pasta. This recipe, Broccoli and Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta, takes the place of those drab pasta dishes and replaces the lackluster broccoli and chicken with bright crisp-tender broccoli and flavorful seitan in a sun-dried tomato sauce. 

The broccoli cooks quickly in the same water that will cook the pasta. The broccoli is then spread out on a plate to cool and retain its bright color and texture, thereby avoiding the limp broccoli syndrome. The seitan is my Simple Chicken Seitan. The sauce is made with sun-dried tomatoes and vegan sour cream, which takes the place of the traditional dairy cream.

This dish doesn't take too long to make as long as you have seitan on hand. However, there is nothing wrong with doubling up the broccoli and skipping the seitan all together; the dish suffers none.

This was a great addition to our weekday meal round-up; not terribly difficult and relatively fast.

Cost Breakdown

seitan: $2
pasta: $3
sun-tomatoes, onion, garlic: $2
broccoli: $3
vegan sour cream, broth: $1.50

Total to make 4 servings:

Jan 17, 2013

cheese fries

It's time to get your junk food on. Above is loaded cheese fries. It uses the same cheese sauce (minus the chilies and tomatoes) that I use for Nachos, except poured over fries. And these fries are not fried, but baked.  

According to research, however, if you want really good fries from your oven, you are still needing to use about a quarter cup (4 tablespoons) of oil per two pounds of wedges. Not all of the oil winds up on your fries, though, since you drain the wedges on paper towels before serving them. 

Here is the procedure:

(1) Soak your 2 pounds of wedges (sliced into about one-inch thickness) in HOT water for 10 minutes. 
This removes excess starch that impedes crispy fries.

Drain and dry them VERY well. Toss with one tablespoon of oil.

(2) Pour 4 tablespoons of oil on a heavy-duty pan (otherwise your pan will warp and your potatoes won't brown evenly). Add salt and pepper to the pan. Add your potatoes in a single layer. This elevates your potatoes just a wee bit to prevent sticking even more.

(3) Cover your potatoes with foil and bake them in a preheated 475 degree F oven for 10 minutes.

(4) Remove the foil and continue to bake for another 15 minutes.

(5) Flip the fries and continue to bake until they are crispy.

(6) Drain on paper towels.

You can always use commercial fries instead.

Top your fries with cheese sauce, chili, olives, lettuce, vegan sour cream, guacamole, barbecue sauce, beans --- the possibilities are as endless as your imagination! 

Jan 14, 2013

chickpeas and couscous with lemon-caper sauce

Very simple and easy weeknight dish! This meal is ready almost as soon as your couscous is  done cooking. It is also very versatile - you can add whatever vegetables you'd like to - be they steamed, roasted or sauteed. The lemon is just enough to add a twang to the dish, but certainly another squeeze can be added by the diner at the table.

I used chickpeas in this because you need a firm enough legume to give some body to the dish. I also added kale as my choice of vegetable, because, well, how can you go wrong? 

And that's it.. couscous  kale, chickpeas, capers and lemon are the main components, with some white wine and vegan butter to round things out.

I had dinner on the table in 15 minutes. Nothing fancy, just a delicious, simple, easy to make meal when you are tired and hungry.

Cost Breakdown:

couscous: $.75

chickpeas: $2
kale, parsley, capers: $3
lemon, butter, stock, wine: $1.50

Total to make 4 servings:


Jan 5, 2013

greek chopped salad + pickled onions and creamy dressing

The beauty of a chopped salad is that you get to have everything that is in the salad in every single bite. And the joy of a chopped salad is that you personally prepare every single of those bites as you dice all of the ingredients. 
A bowl of love. 

The roasted pepper here is freshly roasted. I love the aroma the house assumes as a fresh pepper is being charred. And really, it is so easy. This recipe calls for a roasted red pepper. You can use jarred, but the time it takes from stove-top burner to bowl is just enough time to cook the pepper yourself.

 Roast the pepper on your burner, turning it a few times until it is charred, throw it into a bowl, cover the bowl with a plastic wrap and allow it to steam for 15 minutes. Remove wrap, place pepper on wrap and, using your hands, peel and seed. Place pepper in the now empty bowl. Head to the sink to wash your hands (not the pepper!), return to the plastic wrap, fold it over a few times and toss. Chop pepper.
 See how simple? 

That gorgeous pink-ish red onion on top of the salad is quickly pickled, thereby removing the "bite" of a raw onion, and is ready by the time your salad and pepper is also done, around 30 minutes.

The dressing here is a cross between creamy-style and a vinaigrette --- really the best of both kinds of dressings.

The "feta" is homemade. It is turning out better and better each time I make it, so look for the recipe real soon. Incidentally, it is raw, using the same technique that rejuvelac-inspired raw cheeses are based on, so just use one of those raw cheeses (or any creamy cheese - diced Daiya Wedges would be great!) as your feta replacement.

The salad is packed with protein, including beans and kale, in addition to cucumbers, olives, tomatoes, romaine and carrots.

We loved this salad!

Cost Breakdown

lettuce, kale: $3
cuke, tomato, onion, carrot: $3
dressing: $1
beans: $2
olives: $.50

Total to make 6 servings:

Jan 4, 2013

classic mushroom stroganoff

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

I lied; this is not a "classic" stroganoff, since classic stroganoff contains no mushrooms. However, it has since (since classic times?) become so traditional to add 'shrooms to this dish, that it has come to be associated as a staple of it. Besides, who is to say that it is not part of the recipe, for that very reason. Sort of like new words in a dictionary. If  "e.v.o.o."  can be added by Webster, then you and I can subscribe mushrooms as part of a classic stroganoff . 

Stroganoff is typically thin beef slices in a creamy, beefy sauce. It is also usually served over pasta, but it certainly does not have to be. I do not see the importance that beef (or substitutes thereof) can add to this dish; it is perfection all in its glorious mushroom-self. In fact, that broth that precludes the sauce, owes part of its glory to the mushrooms. 

I call this "classic" not only because of the aforementioned pseudo-crisis, but because I used vegan commercial sour cream (replacing dairy sour cream). I have a recipe, Eggplant and Zucchini Stroganoff, that makes use of homemade cashew cream, so take a gander over yonder if that's what floats your boat. 

The sauce is creamy and "beefy" without the unnecessary addition of meat.

 A great Meatless Monday Meal for the newly initiated!

Cost Breakdown

mushrooms: $5

vegan sour cream, broth: $1.50
dijon, tomato paste, spices: $.75
pasta: $3

Total to make 4 servings:


Jan 3, 2013

tempeh-no-tuna salad

Back in the 80's, when I still ate fish, Tuna Melt was at the top of my favorite's list. Tuna Salad is one of those meals that if you once had an affinity for, a substitute might be welcome. For that matter, if you like tempeh, this is a kick-butt tempeh sandwich. For event that matter, if you don't like tempeh, this might convince you that you might be missing something. 

It is popular to "fake" tuna salad using chickpeas or tofu, but after making Tempeh Filet Meal a la Long John Silver's, I discovered that the very best substitute for tuna is tempeh -- especially one that is prepared with a tiny bit of dulse. Really tiny, just enough to hint at the sea, not take a dip in the ocean. 

Preparing the tempeh in this way is really rather hands-off -- simmering it in a flavorful broth and cooling it in the same broth while you attend to other matters. After that, it is a simple matter of combining the flaked tempeh with vegenaise, dill, onion and carrot or celery. A splash of lemon juice and your Tempeh-No-Tuna Salad is ready. 

Since I love tomatoes, it makes sense that I added them here, making this salad into a melt in the process, but you certainly can omit them. This was one of the best tuna-free sandwiches I've had. Any tempeh lovers out there?

Cost Breakdown

tempeh: $3
vegenaise, spices, lemon: $.75
bread: $2
tomato, onion, carrot: $1.25

Total to make 4 servings: