Thursday, December 9, 2010

Lentil Loaf with Mushroom Gravy

Really this was all about the potatoes. Flying back from Pittsburgh yesterday, I of course was contemplating what to make for a nice welcome home dinner upon my return. Though my fridge is stocked with loads of veggies from my most recent episode at the farmer’s market, these little fingerling potatoes have sitting in their bowl patiently for 2+ weeks begging to be roasted. Red, purple, and white: olive oil, salt and pepper. They exude the simplicity of cuisine: colorful and delicious without much effort. The effort was in dreaming up something worthy of being paired with roasted fingerling potatoes.

My natural tendency is to think, “What would roasted potatoes be served with at a ‘normal’ meal?” Yes, I am at fault for relating my “unreal” vegan cooking with its “real” evil twin. After doing this for a couple of years and cooking for many skeptics, I have developed a sense of obligation to prepare meat analogues at most meals to win the hearts and stomachs of naysayers. There is a certain pressure, whether real or made-up, to produce a delicious version of something that a carnivore would have eaten were I not at the stove. Vegan analogues are a great demonstration of vegan cooking’s potential, but sometimes they are limiting and boring – I mean, really, I could make something MUCH better than a vegan burger or vegan taco casserole. To counter this pressure, I’ve been trying to be more creative than just making a “vegan version” of a common meat dish.

This however is not one of those creative deviations. When you think about roasted potatoes, they have to be served with something that will provide enough contrast to appreciate them – something hearty, warming and filling. While I tried to entertain the notion of creating something other than a meat analogue, none of the alternatives were good enough. Pasta or risotto…too starchy. Stew…too gloppy. So it had to be a hunk of protein. Since I’m not into making seitan steak right now (avoiding gluten), I went with meatloaf. Though I’ve read many vegan loaf recipes, I had not given it a serious shot until now.

I didn’t bother with a recipe, because I was trying to clean out a few things in the fridge anyway. The end result? The lentil loaf came apart easily because I didn’t use much of a binding agent, but it was absolutely scrumptious. The gravy was easy peasy, much healthier than its counterpart and perfectly flavorful. The potatoes – how could something so perfectly purple NOT be delicious?

Lentil Loaf with Mushroom Gravy
Makes 2-3 servings
Total prep time: 1 ½ hours


For the loaf
1 c. lentils cooked or ½ c. dry lentils
Cooking spray
½ medium onion, chopped
1 large celery stalk, chopped
½ large carrot, chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
Pinch of salt
¼ - 1/3 c. walnuts
½ c. brown or white rice, cooked
1 tsp. poultry seasoning
1 tsp. oregano, dried
½ tsp rosemary, dried
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp. allspice

For the gravy
¼ c. dried mushrooms
1 ¼ c. water2 tsp. Earth Balance
2 tsp. Potato flour (or other)
½ T. Soy sauce or tamari
¼ tsp. black pepper
Dash of white pepper
Dash of nutmeg
Dash of garlic powder


(If you have precooked lentils – skip this step.) Bring dry lentils to a boil in 4 cups of water, reduce heat to a simmer and let lentils cook until tender, about 45 minutes. Drain and set 1 cup of cooked lentils aside.

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Coat a loaf pan with cooking spray.

Heat a skillet over medium heat and coat with cooking spray. Add onions, celery and carrots. Cooking until vegetables just become tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and a pinch of salt, stirring vegetables to coat. Cook vegetables another couple of minutes until starting to brown. Remove from heat and transfer to food processor with lentils.

Add walnut, rice and seasonings in food processor and pulse until mixture is crumbled. Processes until mixture clumps together well and press into loaf pan (this amount will not fill an entire loaf pan, so just pat into a shorty).

Bake in oven until loaf has set, 40-45 minutes.

While the loaf is baking, make the gravy. In a small sauce pan, bring the mushrooms and water a boil and cook until liquid is slightly reduced and dark brown, 7-8 minutes. Drain mushrooms, reserving liquid. In the same pan, melt Earth balance over medium-heat and add flour. Stir until butter is absorbed and cook another minute. Whisk in mushroom broth and reduce heat. Stir in soy sauce (tamari) and seasonings. Add water if gravy is too thick and additional salt to taste.

Serve loaf with gravy and go mmmmmm.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Peanut Pumpkin Stew with Caramelized Seitan

Have you ever tried to cook a jack-o-lantern? Or have you ever bought a big ole pumpkin with the intention of carving it for Halloween and then dropped the ball only to be stuck with a 15 useless pounds of vegetable? Make no mistake, there is no turning Jack into pie. I learned that the hard way last year when I had 2 enormous orange faceless heads taking up space in my 1 bedroom apartment. I did get a good batch of seeds from them, and at least I gave their flesh due diligence on the stove (sorry if this sounds like a slasher blog talking about heads and flesh). However, carving pumpkins taste like...well they don't taste like anything. Something that large has a hard time hanging onto it's sugars. Most of us have the opposite problem - the sugars go right to the thighs and never leave. Oh well.

So this weekend I was meandering through the food store who was having a special on pie pumpkins! I was ecstatic about not having to buy canned pumpkin and getting about 2 cans worth for half the price. I got home with my precious pumpkin and stared at it thinking, "now what?" While I love a good pumpkin pie or cookie, those are pretty standard and too simple to do my pumpkin justice. Warm, savory, adventurous - that's what I wanted for my pumpkin's fate. The last savory dish I cooked didn't turn out so well because the recipe I actually followed called for pumpkin puree in a sauce with a bagillion breadcrumbs and something went very wrong, so following a recipe was out of the question. I peeked through a few and some ideas stuck - for some reason my brain was fusing African peanut and African pumpkin stew together so that's what this became. I have no idea if the spices pertain to the appropriate geography, but they worked.

Next time I will most likely serve the caramelized seitan on top of the stew and garnish with cilantro. I didn't have any cilantro on hand but it would have been nice for some color. I'm crazy and made my own seitan and Worcestershire (vegan of course) but store bought version would be fine, though I highly recommend making your own Worcestershire sauce with any recipes sans anchovies for the best results. I served this with a skillet cornbread that I have yet to perfect, but it was damn good.

Peanut Pumpkin Stew
Makes 3-4 servings
Cook time: 1 hour


1 jalapeno
1/2 T. canola oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 T. garlic, minced (4-5 cloves)
1 1/2 T. fresh ginger, minced
1/2 tsp. cumin, ground
1/4 tsp. garam masala
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1/2 small pumpkin, peeled and cubed
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced
1 can diced tomatoes
2 c. vegetable broth from bouillon
2 T. peanut butter
1 c. Caramelized Seitan (recipe below)
1/4 c. roasted peanuts
Salt and cayenne pepper to taste
Cilantro for garnish (optional)


Broil whole jalapeno on high and cook until skin is blackened and blistered, rotating periodically to make sure all sides are heated. Remove from heat and let cool. Split the pepper open, remove the seeds, and chop into small pieces (wear gloves or hold the jalapeno with a fork/tongs and spoon out the seeds without touching with your fingers). Set aside.

In a medium stock pot, heat the canola oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until golden brown stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, and half of roasted jalapeno (reserve other half for another use or throw in and brace yourself). Stir until garlic and ginger become fragrant, about 30 seconds, and add the rest of the spices plus a pinch of salt. Cook another minute until spices are aromatic and throw in the pumpkin and bell pepper. Stir to coat with spices and cook until pumpkin starts to become tender, about 7-8 minutes. Add tomatoes with juices and increase heat to high. When mixture starts to boil, add vegetable broth. Bring stew to a boil and reduce heat to medium-low. Let stew simmer at a low boil for 20-30 minutes.

When pumpkin is very tender and breaks apart easily, stir to mash some of the pumpkin and thicken the stew. Add the peanut butter and stir to blend completely. Add Caramelized Seitan and peanuts (you can either add this into the stew or place on top when service). Season with salt and a little pinch of cayenne pepper if there's not enough heat for you. You can also soften the spice and bring out the peanut flavor with a small pinch of sugar. Garnish with cilantro if desired.

Caramelized Seitan
Makes about 1 cup
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes


2-3 T. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 c. water
1-2 T. sherry or other sweet wine
1 c. homemade or store bough seitan, cubed
Cooking spray


Whisk all marinade ingredients together and marinate seitan for at least 30 minutes (while you prep the stew or while it's cooking). Drain the seitan reserving the marinade.

Heat a skillet or stove top wok over high heat. When hot coat with cooking spray and throw in the seitan. Reduce the heat only slightly, when the pan starts to dry and seitan browns, pour in 1/4 cup of the marinade. Let reduce until thick and sticky. Scrape the skillet to rotate the seitan and pour in more marinade. When seitan is brown on all sides pour in any remaining marinade and turn off the heat. Remove from heat when there is still a small amount of thick marinade coating the seitan.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Vegan Hachis Parmentier: BB Shepherds Pie

Classic French cuisine is mouth-watering, aromatic, and beautiful but not terribly vegan-friendly. Let’s have a brief glimpse at the typical French fare: croque-monsieur, coq-au-vin, soufflé, paté, bouillabaisse, crème brulée. Meat, cheese, butter, and cream in any form you could possibly concoct. Translating French to English might be a forte of mine, but the challenge of translating French recipes into meatless meals is much more fun and very much a vegan venture. And just in time for the holiday season, amidst my search for a vegan offering that will satisfy my need for challenge and impress my omnivore audience, my NPR addiction paid off - All Things Considered did a segment on cooking French with shortcuts featuring a dish called Hachis Parmentier (wha?).

This is essentially a Beef Burgundy or Boeuf Bourguignon Shepherds Pie, a classic meat and potato comfort food. I recently tried a similar dish with a biscuit topping, but it came out all biscuit. So I thought I’ve give tubers a shot. It was incredibly easy and I loved how well the potatoes browned in the oven. Bite by bite, I became more convinced that this will be a Thanksgiving or Christmas highlight. Why does it make perfect holiday fare? It’s salty, meaty, dark, rich, tender and it doesn’t scream vegan. That seems to be the equation that works with my family anyway. They don’t take to seitan roast or Tofurkey as well as something smothered in gravy and topped with starch.

A good trick to giving tempeh a meaty flavor is to simmer it in seasoning. I actually didn’t have vegan Worcestershire sauce, so I made my own and just put threw the tempeh in the sauce pot. If you choose to use seitan, this method doesn’t work the same way as it softens the seitan too a near mush – use the marinade method instead. The traditional recipes would have you remove the vegetables only using the stock and “meat,” I think that’s a travesty and insult to the savory chunks responsible for the flavor. Save the veggies! Don’t let them cook in vain. The classic also mixes Gruyere into the potatoes. I personally did not use vegan cheese, but Daiya might be a nice addition if you’re into it. This passed the omnivore test. I recommend enjoying with a bottle of red.

Vegan Hachis Parmentier
Makes 4-6 servings
Total cook time: 1 hour


For the “Beef”
3-4 T. vegan Worcestershire sauce
1¼ c. water
1 pkg tempeh, cubed or 2 c. seitan, cubed
Cooking spray

For the Stew
2 T. olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 small turnip, chopped
1 c. mushrooms, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced (1½ T)
1 bay leaf
1 tsps thyme, dried
2 T. tomato paste
2 c. vegetable broth (from bouillon)
½ - 1 c. water
2 tsp cornstarch
Salt and pepper

For the Potatoes
2 large russet potatoes, cubed
2 T. Earth Balance
¼ - ½ c. almond or soy milk or creamer
Pinch of salt
¼ c. parsley or chives
½ c. vegan cheese (optional)


Cooking suggestion: The tempeh or seitan can be prepared before or at the same time as the stew. Preheat the oven to 400ºF and cook potatoes while the stew simmers.

For the “beef”: If using tempeh, bring the Worcestershire sauce and water to a boil and add tempeh. Lower heat to medium and let sauce reduce by half, stirring tempeh occasionally to make sure all cubes are coated evenly about 8-10 minutes. When reduce, strain tempeh reserving sauce. Heat a skillet over high heat and coat with cooking spray. Brown the tempeh until cooked evenly on all sides. If using seitan, mix Worcestershire sauce with ¾ c. water and marinate seitan in a medium bowl for 20 minutes. Brown the tempeh until cooked evenly on all sides Set aside to add to stew.

For the stew: In a large sauce pan or wide, deep skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, celery, carrots and turnips. Cook until vegetables soften, 8-10 minutes. Add mushrooms, garlic, bay leaf and thyme. Stir in tomato paste and cook 1 minute before adding vegetable broth and ½ cup of water. Bring stew to a boil and reduce heat. Let simmer for 15 minutes. Mix ¼ cup of water with cornstarch and whisk into stew. Add “beef” and ¼ cup of reserved Worcestershire. Season with salt and pepper to taste. When stew has thickened, remove from heat and transfer to casserole dish.

For the potatoes: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add potatoes. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender. Strain the potatoes and mash with Earth Balance, “milk” of choice, and pinch of salt. Stir in parsley or chives and cheese if using. Spread potatoes over stew in a single, smooth layer.

Bake in oven for 30 minutes or until top is golden brown. Let cool 15 minutes before serving. Garnish with parsley if desired.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Rawsage & Cheezy Rice

Sorry if you’re getting sick of the raw kick, but I’m trying to get the biggest bang for my bucks spent on a ginormous food dehydrator AND I'm having fun! I have made several recipes (and actually somewhat followed them) from 2 different raw cookbooks that are good for starters, but now I’m ready for more improvisation. When I read an omnivore recipe, I know almost instantly how to make a vegan analog. Raw analogs are next but for me they require much more innovation. This kind of challenge is clearly my cup of tea.

So how did I come to even think of making raw cheesy rice? Last week I made an eggplant biryani with raw “rice” based on a recipe from a local vegan chef in Phoenix. First of all, I didn’t know you could eat eggplant raw - I actually thought it might be lethal. Secondly, I had a lurking fear of eating raw cruciferous vegetables (i.e. broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts) because of the foreboding side effects caused by our stomachs trying to breakdown all of that fiber. Who knew that cauliflower was the super-secret stand-in for raw rice? Now you know. Not only is it incredibly delicious, but breaking it in a food processor helps with digestion. Combining it with soaked almonds or cashews gives it a certain silkiness you find in cooked rice.

Now for the secret to cheesiness. On my last trip to Sedona, I purchased some raw kale chips from Frontier Market made by a local raw food shop. They tasted like Cheez-its and had the same addictive quality. So of course I memorized the ingredient list and told myself that someday I’d buy a food dehydrator to reinvent these chips. I’m a little impressed with myself that months later I actually did. Though I remembered the ingredients, I also perused through recipes online to come up with my own version. If you don’t have cashew butter, just use ground cashews. The texture will be a little more granular, but still yum. I could scoop this onto raw bread or eat it plain it’s so good. Mixed into rice is like a good ole casserole.

And lastly…raw sausage? Gross! Well of course its vegan and involves no “casing” (what a fancy term for stomach lining…next time I have heartburn I’m going to refer to my enflamed “casing”). Walnuts and pecans are common ingredients for raw meat analogs and of course walnuts have the Omega 3 edge going for them which his why they star in this recipe. When ground us, their meaty texture can be seasoned any way you want. Have cumin or chili powder? You can make raw taco meat. So I basically thought of a typical stuffing recipe and used the spice combination I use when making cooked vegan sausages. This method was WAY less labor intensive than and tasted SO good (eating a cup of nuts is high in fat though which is why it’s so tasty). You can even top this all off with some raw mushroom gravy if you’re feeling adventurous.

Rawsage & Cheezy Rice
Makes: 4 servings
Prep time: 10 minutes
Dehydrating time: 1 hour


For the Rawsage
1 c. walnuts
8-10 sundried tomatoes, soaked if not soft already
½ c. onion, chopped
½ c. celery stalks, chopped
3 garlic cloves, smashed
3 T. applesauce
2 tsp. sage, dried
1 tsp. fennel seed
1 tsp. poultry seasoning (optional)
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. paprika
½ tsp. white pepper

For the Cheezy Rice
2 T. cashew butter
2 T. tahini
2 T. Lemon juice
1 T. Nama shoyu or tamari
¼ c. nutritional yeast
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
Pinch of cayenne pepper
½ c. water (or more)

3 c. cauliflower, chopped (or about 1 ½ heads)
¾ c. almonds, soaked 2 hours and skins peeled
Salt and pepper to taste


For the rawsage: Combine all of the rawsage ingredients in a food processor and pulse until mixture is crumbly but can hold together in larger chunks. Add 1-2 T of water or additional applesauce if too dry (do not process into pate). Transfer to lined tray in food dehydrator or oven and heat at 110ºF for 1 hour or more until rawsage is warm and slightly dried. Prepare the rice while mixture dehydrates.

For the rice: In a small bowl, combine the first three ingredients and whisk vigorously with a fork until mixture becomes very creamy, about 2 minutes (the lemon juice will separate the cashew butter and tahini - as you whisk they will emulsify and become creamy). Add the nama shoyu, nutritional yeast and spices and mix so all are blended into a thick sauce. Thin using ¼ cup of water at a time until desired consistency is reached. Taste cheese sauce, add salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

In a food processor, pulse cauliflower and soaked almonds together until it reaches a rice texture, small and crumbly. Transfer to a medium bowl and stir in cheese sauce. Let sit at room temperature until rawsage is warm. Serve rawsage over rice and enjoy!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Raw Noodles with Misoshrooms, Rawcotta and Marinara

Detox 2: it’s time again for a hard reset. I dabbled with a detox last fall to try and cleanse my body and restart my energy. I followed the rules but ultimately felt like I was in a world of restriction. Don’t eat this, don’t eat that. This left me with very basic options. Of all people, I rave about the benefits of simple foods and think we unnecessarily try to mask the real flavor of food more often than not. However, my previous attempt at a detox felt too simple… um ok boring. Though I felt the need to reboot, I really didn’t want to be eating dreary dishes that only involve some chopping and a sprinkle of lemon juice. So I have turned to raw cuisine to rejuvenate my excitement around new foods and unfamiliar cooking techniques. A true venture.

Why detox? There are two very central elements to the person I have become: food and exercise. These are not the only components of my identity of course but they are huge and the core contributors to my health and when they fall off track, I’m in the shizzle. A combination of factors - starting a new job, traveling every weekend, living a busy life – impacted my sense of “comfort.” I turned to food to fulfill that sense of mental or spiritual satiety that was lost somewhere along the road. Not just any kind of food: snack food, candy, bread, wine, etc… (This is not an original story nor is this misdirected path uncommon.) My mind was telling my belly I had enough “room” to gorge on sweets, so my need for some sort of balance is what pulled my exercise out of whack. Exercise became a matter of offsetting indulgence rather than a boosting energy. I ran to run off the chocolate, I hiked to burn off a bread binge. Not a good cycle. So finally, after thinking about a detox, rather dreading it, it was time to reboot.

Rod Rotondi 's Raw Food for Real People is sort of an intro to raw cuisine. It gives the basics on sprouting, making raw cheeses and dehydrating. I’ll admit: this is a time consuming activity if you take soaking and dehydrating into consideration. But actual food prep is pretty quick. I have read a lot about raw foods, but this is the first that I have actually sucked it up, gone out and bought the basic necessities and plunged onward down the raw, raw road. No, I’m not “going raw” – but this is so much fun! I made almond cheese and stuffed cabbage leaves for lunch yesterday, yum! I’ve felt so energized after a few raw meals, now I don’t want to look at a piece of bread or peanut-butter filled pretzel (so I’m telling myself).

Here I combined and altered a few of Rod’s recipes – I couldn't strictly follow them of course. This is a very basic starter recipe that takes well to improvisation. Word of caution: if you don't plan ahead and soak the nuts, you're doomed! Just kidding, just boil some water and pour it over the nuts and let sit for 10-15 minutes. Of course the nuts will not be raw then because they are exposed to temperatures over 100 F, but the raw roodies don't know what happens in your kitchen. I have to admit though, once you start soaking nuts, there is no turning back. You’ll be wanting rawcotta for breakfast.

Raw Noodles with Misoshrooms, Rawcotta and Marinara
Makes: 2-3 servings
Prep time: 30 minutes


For the noodles
2 medium summer squash, yellow and/or green
1 butternut squash (optional)
Lemon juice

For the Misoshrooms
1 ½ cup brown mushrooms, chopped
1 ½ T. red or dark miso
1 ½ T. lemon juice
1 garlic clove
¼ - ½ c. pine nuts (soaked 2 hours and drained)

For the Rawcotta
½ lemon, peeled and quartered
1-2 garlic cloves
1 T. chopped fresh basil (optional)
1 T. olive oil
¼ c. cashews (soaked 2 hours and drained)
¼ c. pine nuts (soaked 2 hours and drained)
¼ c. water, more or less
½ tsp salt

For the Marinara
¼ c. onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
3 T. chopped fresh parsley
2 tsp mixed dried herbs (thyme, basil, oregano)
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
¼ c. water, more or less
½ c. sundried tomatoes (soaked for 1 hour if not soft)
½ tsp salt


For the noodles: Cut the ends off and peel summer squash with a potato peeler or vegetable slicer. Place in a strainer and set aside. Cut the top end off the butternut squash and cut the squash at the base of the neck so that the straight part is separate from the bottom. Reserve the bottom for another use. Peel the squash and slice the neck with potato peeler or vegetable slicer in to thin strips. Place in strainer with summer squash. Sprinkle squash with salt and a generous squeeze of lemon juice. Let sit while you prepare the toppings.

For the misoshrooms: Combine all ingredients in food processor and pulse until the mixture is very well chopped and in very small pieces. Transfer to small bowl and stir to make sure completely blended. Store the shrooms in refrigerator while you prepare the other goodies.

For the rawcotta: Combine the first 4 ingredients in food processor and process until well chopped into tiny pieces. Add cashews, pine nuts and 2 tablespoons of water. Process until mixture is almost creamy, adding water as necessary to reach a slightly chunky texture. Stir in salt and refrigerate while you prepare the sauce.

For the marinara: Combine first 4 ingredients in food processor and process until well chopped into tiny pieces. Add fresh tomatoes with 2 tablespoons of water and puree until mixture is smooth. Add sun dried tomatoes and pulse until desired chunkiness is reached or puree until smooth if that’s your thing. Add water as necessary and season with salt to taste.

To assemble: Squeeze moisture and juices out of noodles or pat them dry. Pile on 2 or 3 plates. Top noodles with a layer of shrooms, a scoop of sauce and a dollops of rawcotta. Garnish with fresh herbs for a real kick.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Chunky Vegan Chili with Oven-Baked Fries

For about a week the blazing Arizona sun succumbed to a change in air pressure and brought a sense of relief just when I thought fall might abandon us this year. Translation: it chilled the hell down for a few days. Overwhelming illusions that it was time to break out the stockpot and possibly a cashmere sweater were brought into check eventually, but I did seize the small window to squeeze in a cool-weather dish. A comfort food craving came on with an itch for spice, so chili was the obvious choice.

I don’t have extensive chili experience, but it’s one of those dishes that give a certain flare to the reputations of real cooks. Do you recall ever hearing of someone who made a “decent” chili? Do you have a favorite cafe that makes a “pretty good” chili? Of course not. Mediocre chili does not invoke or enliven the soul in a blissful tango with taste. Those who make incredible chili leave a mark. That delectable memory gets to camp out in a special place reserved for things like Mom’s Chicken Noodle Soup and Grandma’s Swedish Kringle. Chili hits a spot that is best reached after raking leaves or building snowmen - a spot which is not as easily accessible in my current environment as it was when I was little. Therefore I have to seize every semblance of opportunity I get. Which means, when it drops below 90, I can pull out the crock pot.

Now that I’ve built up chili so much - it might be a let-down to learn that this is not the recipe that will make me an infamous vegan chef. It’s not my best, worst, or last attempt. But it was very exciting prancing around the kitchen throwing in spices Emeril-style...BAM! In fact, I based this off of one of his recipes and it turned out quite well. I think I need more onion next time, because soups never seem to have enough. Regardless of it’s small imperfections or opportunities for enhancement, the enthusiasm was doubled by the batch of french fries so perfectly prepared by my loving omnivore. Chili and fries! I can’t seem to pair the two together without an exclamation point!

Chunky Vegan Chili
Makes 4-6 servings
Total cook time: 40 minutes


2 T. Olive or Canola oil
1 1/2 c. Onion, chopped
2 T. Garlic, minced
1 Anaheim chili, chopped
1 Summer squash, chopped
1 c. Yellow corn (1-2 ears)
1 c. Brown or portobello mushrooms, chopped
1 c. Garbanzo beans, cooked or canned
4 Tomatoes, chopped
1 Chipotle chili in adobo sauce
2 T. Chili powder
1 T. Cumin, ground
1 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp. Cayenne or piquin pepper
1 tsp. Oregano, dried
1 can Tomato sauce
1 c. Vegetable broth
Pinch of sugar

6 oz Tempeh, chopped or sliced
Taco seasoning: 1 tsp each - chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, and onion powder


Shredded vegan cheese
Chopped red onion
Chopped avocado


In a large stockpot, heat the oil over medium heat and add the onions. Cook until the onions are soft and transparent, about 10-12 minutes. Add garlic and Anaheim pepper. Cook another minute and add squash, mushrooms and corn. Cook vegetables 4-5 minutes and add beans, tomatoes and spices. Stir well to coat veggies in seasoning and pour in tomato sauce. Bring chili to a boil. Add vegetable broth and reduce heat. Simmer chili on low for 20-25 minutes while you prepare the tempeh.

In a small sauce pan, bring 1 c. water and seasoning to a medium boil. Add tempeh and reduce heat to medium. Steam tempeh in seasoned water until tender, about 7-8 minutes. Pour entire contents of pan into food processor and pulse 5 times, scrape tempeh down and pulse another 5 times. Heat a skillet over medium high heat, coat with cooking spray and add ground tempeh. Cook until browned, another 10 minutes.

Returning to chili, turn heat off but leave pot on the stove. Add pinch of sugar and tempeh. Let sit on warm stove another 10 minutes to let the flavors blend and cool. Serve with assorted toppings and side of fries.

Perfect Oven-Baked Fries
Makes 4-6 servings
Cook time: 30-40 minutes


2 medium russet potatoes
Olive oil
Salt & Pepper


Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Cut potatoes into wedges about 4” long and 1/4” thick. Coat with olive oil and generous pinch of salt and pepper. Spread on a non-stick baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Turn fries and bake another 10-15 minutes. Remove fries when dark golden brown and crispy.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Dominican Beans over Brazilian Greens

I am recovering from a long and persistent canned food addiction. This is not news, I've admitted it before. But admitting the problem it has been a productive emergence from BPA denial. Now it’s no big deal to set up a bowl of soaking beans overnight and cook them in the morning while I get ready for the day. The taste and texture of home-cooked dried beans is beyond superior to their canned counterparts and I wouldn’t dare insult them now by calling them inconvenient. Can or no can though, they are still the magical fruit and there is no gettig around that.

While I have mastered the chickpea, mung bean and lentil, I am working on others to expand my repertoire. While not much skill is involved, sometimes I am insecure about the texture and “doneness” of my boiling beanies. Some are still kind of hard because I’ve become a nervous nancy about the cook time. Other have been mush because of my experience with the previous outcome. Black beans are pretty easy now, though I tend to undercook them slightly for some reason. Having expanded into my “Mexican/Latina fare” beans, I was finally inspired to try pinto beans.

Pintos were very easy to cook and I came out with a great batch on my first try. Once you cook the beans though, you have to figure out what to do with them. And for some reason, a typical quesadilla wasn’t going to cut it this time. Pintos are great with a little bit of vegan cheese or refried, but I really wanted to try something different. I went searching for a recipe and found a very intriguing one on for Dominican Beans. It served as a great foundation, but I obviously changed it to suit my needs for timeliness and available resources. What I came up with was spectacular. I’ve never had a pinto like this and I don’t know if I’ll be satisfied by another pinto again.

The greens here were a great accompaniment but are only Brazilian because in my recipe meandering I discovered that this is apparently how collards are commonly prepared in Brazil. I would have made them this way anyway (with plenty of garlic) had I not found this out. Greens and garlic...duh. 

Dominican Beans over Brazilian Greens
Makes 2 servings
Prep time: 10-15 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes


For the Beans
1 c. Pinto beans, cooked or canned if you must
1 c. Bean liquid (from can or from cooking water)
1/2 c. Onion, chopped
2-3 Garlic cloves, chopped
2 T. Organic ketchup
1 T. Distilled white vinegar
1/2 c. Anaheim pepper, chopped (or other green pepper)
1/2 c. Chopped tomato
1 Bay leaf, ground or whole
1/2 tsp. Oregano, ground or crumbled
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Freshly ground black pepper
8-10 Cilantro stalks

For the Greens
4-6 Large collard leaves
2 tsp. Olive oil
2 Garlic cloves, chopped
Salt to taste


For the beans: In a medium bowl, lightly mash the beans so that about half are mashed and half remain whole. Reserve liquid on the side. Heat a sauce pan over medium heat and coat with cooking spray. Cook onions and garlic, stirring constantly to make sure the garlic doesn’t burn, until onions are soft, about 6-7 minutes.While the onions are cooking, grind the herbs, salt and pepper together or mash in a mortar and pestle until well blended and set aside. Stir ketchup, vinegar, pepper and tomato into sauce pan. Cook until liquid is reduced slighty and increase heat to medium high. Stir in herb mixture, beans and liquid. Bring to a medium boil and reduce heat to medium-low. Tie cilantro stalks together or just group them together by the stem and lay on top of bean mixture, pressing into pan but with the stems still sticking out. Cover pan leaving a small edge uncovered and simmer until liquid has mostly evaporated and mixture has thickened, about 10-15 minutes. Turn heat off and let beans sit another 5-10 minutes on the burner. Remove cilantro and discard.

For the greens: To cut the collards into ribbons, destem each leaf, cut in quarters and lay each piece on top of each other in a neat pile. Roll the leaves from one end to another in a cigar shape and slice thinly from one end to another. Set aside. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and add garlic being VERY careful not to burn. Cook until garlic becomes fragrant, about 1 minute, and add collards. Toss in garlic oil and season with a touch of salt to taste. Cook until collards are just tender, about 3-4 minutes.

Serve beans over a nice little pile of greens and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Buckwheat Pancakes with Blueberry Cinnamon Syrup

Alas it has been too long since I last posted a recipe. Between a 2 week European vacation, and 2 weekends back in Minnesota, I have relied on a lot of convenient and simple eats rather than taking the time to invent, perfect or experiment with edibles. Simple bean and grain salads, pastas, steamed veggies, sandwiches, you know the drill. It’s like eating out of a lunchbox meal after meal without the time to sit down and dream up a masterpiece...or distaster. The fall is only going to get busier with weddings, visitors, more races, and holidays. So now is the time to squeeze in a post to help me feel like the creative juices are still simmering amidst the autumnal bluster.

My first experience with buckwheat pancakes was one of the most delightful eating experience one could have: after a morning that consisted of a road trip to Cleveland, TX (yes in Texas), an hour or so picking 17 pounds of organic blueberries and hopelessly scrubbing purple fingers, my sister, her other half and me with my partner in crime set out to make a dent in our fruitful berry booty. Our first blueberry blunder: buckwheat pancakes. We had them for lunch and ate so many I pretty much counted the meal as dinner too. I suppose it was actually dessert as well considering we put dark chocolate chips in half of the batch. There will always be a warm fuzzy memory of hunching over the counter, tearing apart the pancakes fresh off the griddle with our fingers and dipping them in a bowl of maple cinnamon syrup. Something about eating and standing while licking sticky pancake fingers makes the soul feel good.

So back home in Phoenix after a blustery, cold IronGirl race over the weekend that resulted in both a huge accomplishment and a huge cold, I had that kind of appetite that can only be satisfied by a certain soulful kind of grub and asked my breakfast-loving beau if he wanted me to make something before work. What shall it be? Oatmeal, scrambled tofu, pancakes? Buckwheat pancakes most definitely got the greatest, most enthusiastic response. Luckily I had a stray bag of frozen wild blueberries in the freezer. As I perused the cupboards to hunt down the maple syrup however, we of course had none. Never fear, a culinary solution is always near.

I looked up a few pancake recipes to use as a base and then (you know me) created my own. Most buckwheat pancake recipes call for regular flour in addition to buckwheat, but I was adverse for two reasons: 1) I wanted my pancakes to be gluten free, and 2) there are tiny wheat flour-loving bugs that lurk in the cupboard shadows, impervious to flour bags and even sealed jars. They don’t like gluten-free flours so I am finding myself increasingly reluctant to open up a cupboard bug crackhouse when they are not attracted by wheat alternatives. Some of the gluten free recipes called for rice flour instead of wheat, but chickpea flour is tastier and has more protein and fiber...and I had some in my flour stash. I don’t know if the xanthum gum was necessary or not, but the batter was nice and thick, holding together extremely well. If you have it, use it. If you don’t, try the recipe anyway. The syrup alone is worth it! Quick and delicious, just throw is on while your cakes are on the griddle.

Buckwheat Pancakes with Blueberry Cinnamon Syrup
Makes about 8 pancakes
Total prep/cook time: 20 minutes


For the Pancakes
1 c. Almond or soy milk
1 T. Cider vinegar
1 T. Agave
1 T. Coconut oil (or other mild tasting oil)
1/2 c. Buckwheat flour
1/2 c. Chickpea flour
1 T. Baking powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/8 tsp. Xantham gum (optional)
1 c. Blueberries, frozen or fresh (thaw and rinse if using frozen)

For the Blueberry Cinnamon Syrup
1/4 c. Raw cane sugar
1/4 c. Water
3/4 c. Blueberries, fresh or frozen
1 Cinnamon stick or 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Toppings options: Brown sugar, walnuts, flax seeds, fresh bananas


For the Pancakes: In a small bowl, mix the milk and cider vinegar and set aside to curdle while preparing the rest of the mix. In a medium bowl, combine all dry ingredients and whisk together. Add coconut oil and agave to milk mixture and stir into dry mix. Be careful not to overmix! That way you’ll have fluffy pancakes. Heat griddle or pan over medium-high heat. When ready to cook pancakes, reduce heat slightly. Using a 1/4 cup measuring scoop, ladle the batter onto the pan. When pancakes start to bubble slightly flip and cook on the other side until golden brown.

For the Syrup: Heat sugar, water and blueberries in a small sauce pan over high heat. When bubbling reduce heat to medium and let cook until liquid has thickened and reduced to 2/3 cup, about 5-7 minutes. Transfer syrup to a small bowl and grate 1/4 of the cinnamon stick over mixutre or mix ground cinnamon into the syrup. Add a touch of agave to taste if there is not enough liquid or if you would like a sweeter syrup.

To assemble: Top 2-3 pancakes with 1/4 cup of syrup, 1-2 T. chopped walnuts or flax seeds, and a pinch of brown sugar if desired. Add fresh bananas if preferred.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Lemon Caper Alfredo with Asparagus and Leeks

July and August came quickly and whizzed by without leaving much of a trace. Starting a new job, albeit with the same company, that is much more demanding than roles of my past meant reallocating resources and benching hobbies for a short time. Hardly a memorable meal or truly ingenious recipe, barely enough time to muster over what to make, and small energy reserves for adventurous kitchen experiments. I’ve been a lame mock duck this summer. I can hardly crack out a batch of mac n’ cheez these days. So many hummus wraps and Whole Foods salad bar Wednesdays ($2 off!). Eating out, however health I try to be, has not encouraged or stimulated my creative cooking juices. By now it’s the end of August and prior to this delightful dish, I had yet to make something to write home about.

Now that I’m settled in my new department and have adjusted to my responsibilities, I’ve found it easier to bring back the aimless recipe wandering, thorough audience-preference analysis, and food analogue objective that inevitably lead to the crazy concoctions featured here. Another daily life feature lost in the buss was the intimate nightly dinner with my dearest recipe reviewer. It seems so long ago that we used to wine and dine chez nous a better part of the week, testing my edible innovations and having chatting about everything under the sun and moon. With both of our careers pressing us like a fine French roast, we lost that table time. Finally, as I’ve found a way to adjust my career time with home time, I’m rectifying all sorts of situations.

To reignite our dinner ritual and satisfy my gourmet thirst for challenge, I set out to make something my token Omni would thoroughly enjoy. He has a surprising love for capers –though he is a salt fiend, I am hard pressed to find something brined that he actually likes. No pickles, no Kalamata olives, negative on artichokes. Capers for some reason are the exception. And for someone who has had an even busier summer than I’ve had at work, he deserved something deliciously invented for him. I gathered all the ingredients of his kind of meal: bread and tomatoes (we started with bruschetta), pasta, a hearty sauce, and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. Arguably, neither lemon cream sauce nor lemon caper sauce is original. But the mild lemon flavor in this thick, “creamy” sauce combine with a salty pinch and fresh asparagus gave this dish exquisite character.

The leeks could probably be optional, but they were from a 2 week old produce share from the farm and had to go. They were a nice touch with a texture that coincides with asparagus beautifully - but not necessary. The lemon level and caper capacity are of course totally up to you. For you non-veg heads that read the blog: please not that by using silken tofu instead of cream, you cut the fat (and subsequent guilt + next day laziness) by about 85%. Using cooking spray as I did of course reduces the fat content even further, though you could use traditional olive oil instead.

Lemon Caper Alfredo with Asparagus and Leeks
Makes: 2 servings
Cook time: 45 minutes


For the Sauce
1 tsp. Olive oil
½ Small onion, chopped
2 tsp. Garlic, chopped
1-2 T. Dried mushrooms
1 ¾ c. Vegetable broth, from bouillon, divided
½ pkg. Silken tofu (6-7 oz)
½ c. Almond milk
¼ c. Capers, drained
1 T. Lemon juice
1 tsp. Lemon zest, divided
White pepper & nutmeg

For the Pasta
4-5 oz Gluten free spaghetti
Cooking spray
½ c. Leeks, white & green parts chopped
12-15 Asparagus spears, chopped
Fresh parsley, chopped


Heat olive oil over medium heat in a sauce pan. Cook onions until golden brown, about 7-8 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 additional minute. Add mushrooms and 1 ½ c. vegetable. Bring to a boil and reduce liquid to ½ cup, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. In a food processor combine onion broth with tofu and almond milk. Blend until completely smooth (about 2-3 minutes), scraping down sides periodically. Return sauce to pan and cook over a steady low heat. Stir in lemon juice, ½ tsp lemon zest, and capers. When ready to serve, stir in a tiny pinch of white pepper and nutmeg.

While the sauce is heating on low, bring a pot of water to boil. Cook pasta according to directions on package. Strain and set aside.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and coat with cooking spray. Add leeks and cook 3-4 minutes until starting to brown. Add asparagus, remaining lemon zest and use broth to deglaze pan when vegetables start to dry. Cook until asparagus is al dente, about 3-4 minutes.

To assemble: Combine pasta with asparagus/leek mixture. Pour sauce over top and mix. Garnish with parsley, lemon slices and freshly ground black pepper.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Arugula Tomato Pesto

There really isn’t a whole lot of story behind this recipe other than it being the first time I’ve successfully made something delicious out of this highly regarded leaf. Each time I have made a classic or creative attempt at cooking with arugula, I’ve always ended up with a puckered face from the pungent and peppery flavor that is signature to arugula. This is perhaps because my arugula comes from a farm that waits to harvest until its vegetables are fully developed…meaning I’m workin’ with some real, busty, adult arugula, not the mild baby kind you get from a nice fluffy bag at Whole Foods. The sturdy, mature lettuce is much more robust, if not abrasive, than it’s younger self. Aren’t we all.

Last year when arugula appeared in my produce bag from the farm, no lingering memories came to surface on my taste buds. I had certainly eaten it before, but my only prominent thought of arugula was, “Ah yes, that high class green that jeopardized Obama’s election.” This is the benefit of getting a weekly bag of surprise produce – you get the chance to not only cook with but become familiar with items knocked my Fox News. Cooking with new items I’ve only heard of is a true thrill and pleasure. Yet…sauce after sauce, salad after salad, and sauté after sauté….blatt! I could not get this crap to taste good! How does it have such an elite reputation? Bitter from the first to last bite and a spicy bitter at that. I like bitter and I like spicy, but they hardly appear together in my cuisine.

As expected, when my first bag of arugula surfaced this season, I fell into a sad little salad slump. So many enticing recipes – pear and arugula salad with walnut and pomegranate seeds, arugula orange salad with rose water dressing, blah blah blah. That’s for the baby stuff. I had to figure out a way to tone this bad boy down…tomatoes worked perfectly. After whipping it up with some garlic, tomatoes, and a generous pinch of NY the magic really happened when I added that drizzle of walnut oil. Instead of adding pine nuts as I would in a traditional pesto (mainly because I didn’t have any), I used a nut oil to replace olive oil. Holy walnut yum yum, this was fabulous. If you haven’t invested in a good bottle of walnut oil, you should seriously consider splurging the $10. That way when you have to explain to carnivores how you get your Omega-3s if you don’t eat fish, you have a suitable answer.

Arugula Tomato Pesto
Makes about 1 ½ cups
Prep time: 10 minutes


3 c. Arugula
1 c. Yellow and/or red tomatoes, chopped
2 T. Nutritional yeast
½ T. Garlic, chopped
1 tsp. Walnut oil
½ tsp. Salt


Puree all ingredients in a food processor and adjust salt to taste. Serve over pasta or toasted baguette.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Five Spice Tofu Spinach Salad with Miso Dressing

It’s not often that I write a recipe for one, but the odds of me cooking for one are high. Now the odds of me making a ginormous, delicious salad....those are odds you don’t wanna mess with. While I say over and over how undervalued and underestimated good salads are, I really do think they are the bees knees and next to perfect. I don’t have that heat obsession that most people have - where any food that isn’t served hot isn’t perceived as filling. Learn a thing or two about fiber and you’ll learn your lesson about salads being filling. What I like most is that they are a hodgepodge of wonderful ingredients in a creation that at best is a reflection of your persona or at worst a compilation of stragglers in the fridge when you’re too lazy to hit up the food store. Sometimes it’s not one or the other, but both.

This recipe is written a little differently than others. Most ingredients lack measurements, because it’s totally up to you. In fact, I almost feel silly putting this up since you could substitute half of this for something else. But if this recipe gets your vegan juices flowing, my goal is accomplished. I typically choose a themed salad when making it as a main course, in this case - Asian. Sauteed tofu is all the protein you’ll need and if you add some cooked brown rice on top, this fill you further than a gritty burger. If you’ve never cooked with 5 spice, it’s a wonderful tool in the kitchen that encompasses all five flavor regimes: sweet, sour, astringent, bitter and salty. If you like Pho, you’ll definitely like the 5 spice blend. If you’ve never heard of Pho before now, quite reading and find a Vietnamese noodle shop.

I’d like to throw a tofu tip to the non-veg heads or novice cooks out there: be smart about flavor and don’t under cook the cubes. Once you’ve seasoned tofu, cook it at medium-high heat and WAIT until it’s brown. So many people tell me they can’t get tofu to taste like anything. Those are somehow the same people who enjoy moo muscle marinated in jungle juice for 4 hours. Tofu needs the same TLC, the same flavor saver - soak tofu in something saucy and spicy for an hour. In a pinch, a quick marinade (like this recipe here) can be very effective. Just make absolutely sure you cook it relatively slowly until golden brown. No white patches. No soggy spots. Tofu doesn’t have to be flavorless flab

5 Spice Tofu Spinach Salad with Miso Dressing
Serves: 1
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 5-10 minutes


For the Tofu
2-3 oz Tofu
1 tsp Soy sauce
1 T. Rice vinegar
1/4 tsp. Chinese 5 spice
1/4 tsp. White pepper
1/4 tsp. Chili or sesame oil
2 T. Leeks
Cooking spray

For the Dressing
1 T. Warm water
1 tsp. Miso
2 tsp. Rice Vinegar
1/4 tsp. Sriracha
1/4 tsp. Agave

For the Salad
Large handful of spinach
Small handful arugula (optional)
Bit of cilantro, chopped
Couple of basil leaves, chopped
Carrot, thinly sliced
Cucumber, thinly sliced
Pickled Radish, thinly sliced
Broccoli, lightly steamed
Roasted Cashews


Slice tofu into 1/4-12 inch thick slices, about 2. Place on paper towel and pat dry. Combine remaining ingredients in a small bowl and throw in tofu. Stir to completely coat with marinade. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Coat with cooking spray and add tofu to pan, reserving any remaining marinade. Saute stirring frequently until all sides are golden brown. At the last minute pour any leftover marinade in pan and remove from heat. Or just remove tofu from pan into leftover marinade.

Combine all dressing ingredients together in a small bowl.

Combine all salad ingredients on a large plate or in a large bowl. Top with tofu and drizzle miso dressing over the top. Enjoy!