Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Dijon Doodad Veggie Mix

I love all things mustard. All things. Having spent 6 months in France and 2 months in Germany a while back, I developed a whole new appreciation for quality mustard. We're starting to make some good competitors in the US with spicy stone ground, stout infused, red wine swirled varieties. But are we cooking enough with it? I think not. It goes into almost all of my salad dressing and lately it's been going into the stove top dishes as well.

Another new ingredient in my cooking routine that has surfaced since Christmas is apple juice. We get mini single serving bottles each year in our stockings and since I'm not a big juice drinker, it usually sits in the fridge until I remind my other half to drink it. I know it's a weird choice, but for some reason a splash of apple juice can completely change a dish! (I've heard this to be true of apple cider vinegar, but I can't subscribe to that recommendation after trying it.) If a dish is a little too sour/acidic, overly salty or missing depth, it could be just the thing to give it a quick makeover. I now highly recommend having a single singer bottle in the fridge to use a tablespoon or 2 at a time.

Which is what I needed today making lunch. This was of course a classic instance of trying to use up the almost-gone ingredients in my fridge. Many of the ingredients are interchangeable with something you might have in your fridge. Use summer squash instead of winter squash, chard instead of kale, celery instead of fennel, or whatever you have lying around. The method is what will give you lovely results. Braise everything to start in broth but finish during the last couple of minutes with apple juice and a dollop of good Dijon mustard. Neither French nor German, this little ditty is still zer gut.

Braised Vegetable Medley with Apple Dijon Sauce
Makes: 1 servings
Cook time: 15-20 minutes


1/4 c. apple juice
2-3 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. maple syrup (optional)
1/2 c. fennel, chopped
3/4 c. veggie broth, divided
1/2 c. artichoke hearts, from jar or frozen (drained or thawed)
1/2 c. green beans, chopped
2-3 sun dried tomatoes, chopped (drained if packed in oil)
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. dried rosemary
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1 c. cooked or parboiled butternut squash, cubed
1 c. kale, chopped
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Parsley for garnish


In a small bowl, whisk the juice, mustard and maple syrup (if using) together. Set aside while you prepare the veggies.

Heat a medium skillet over medium high heat and coat with cooking spray. Add fennel and saute 2-3 minutes or until it softens. Add 1/2 cup of broth and the next 7 ingredients (thru the salt). Lower heat to medium and cook until broth evaporates, about 5 minutes. Add butternut squash, kale and remaining broth. When the broth has evaporated again (another 3-4 minutes), add the apple juice mixture. When the liquid start to boil, lower heat and simmer until liquid has reduced and thickened, about 3 minutes. Top with freshly ground black pepper and chopped parsley.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Spicy Cheezy Cauliflower Casserole

Last night we were getting ready to go to a show and decided we'd make dinner at home to save some moolah. My token omnivore opted for his very own grilled cheese. In a moment of laziness, my intention was just to whip up some cauliflower "rice" with other veggies in it and call it a night. But something happened. Some sriracha made its way into the pan and, the next thing I know, the Daiya cheese is beside me begging to be next. Low and behold, a masterpiece appeared. A delicious, cheesy, midwest-with-a-kick style hot dish.

As my other half chewed away at his semi-burnt sammie, I exuded "mmmmmm" after "mmmmmm" and finally came up for air with a "oh my god, you gotta have a bite." He looked at me with those envious eyes that told me his cheesewich was not very satisfying, begrudgingly leaned over and let his taste buds behold the wonder of this cheesy concoction. Then I got the straight up jealous look: "Yeah that's amazing."

So my mission tonight was to recreate this dish in a larger quantity fit for a complete meal. Served on top of a scoop of jasmine rice and beside a nice lil spinach salad, we were good to go. My other half added a couple of over easy (local, nest run) eggs between the rice and cheesy cauli to add some protein. Then after he was done with all of his "mmmmmm"s, he said "This is my favorite meal you've ever made. I want this for my birthday dinner, write that down." So here it is. I wrote it down.

Spicy Cheezy Cauliflower 
Makes: 2 servings 
Cook time: 30 minutes


2 c. cauliflower flowerets, broken into small pieces
1/2 c. vegetable broth (bouillon or homemade)
2 garlic cloves, sliced 
3/4 c. zucchini, shredded or thinly sliced
1/2 c. red pepper, finely diced
1 T. apple juice (or extra broth*)
2-3 tsp. Sriracha
2 tsp. soy sauce or tamari
½ c. Daiya white cheese, shredded
2 T. reduced fat Veganaise (or other vegan mayo)
2 T. nutritional yeast 
Optional: 1/2 c. frozen peas, thawed


Preheat oven to 400*F and spray a small baking dish with cooking spray.
Pulse the cauliflower in a food processor 20-25 times or until cauliflower is crumbly and resembles rice. Set aside.

In large skillet or wok, bring the broth to boil over medium-high heat. When boiling, add garlic. Cook for 30 seconds or so and add zucchini and peppers. Cook for another minute and add cauliflower. Deglaze the pan with apple juice. Stir in Sriracha and soy sauce. Reduce heat to medium and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated and cauliflower is al dente, about 3-4 minutes. (Add thawed peas if using here.) 

Fold in Daiya cheese, Veganaise, and nooch until thoroughly incorporated. Adjust seasoning to taste by adding Sriracha for more spice or a little more Veganaise to soften the spice.

Transfer cauliflower to baking dish and bake in oven for 15 minutes, or until the top has browned a little. Serve over rice or plain by itself! 

* The apple juice is just a touch of sweet to compliment the spicy. You can just use more broth with an optional teeny tiny pinch of sugar. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Years Day Brunch

After many many many moons of ringing in the New Year with Swedish Crepes and 50+ family members racing around a table set for 10, I’ve sought to start a New Year’s tradition in AZ. With the help of my curly red co-conspirator, this has been a success. We tried crepes one year, and it was a blast. But we were both stuck in the kitchen for a better part of the gathering. So this year, we decided to ditch the typical feast and create our own make-ahead, ready to bake meal.

And what an amazing meal it was. In searching for a make ahead savory dish, I wanted to prepare something that wasn’t a lot of work but really wowed people’s taste buds. I found this recipe on Epicurious and decided it would be ridiculously easy to veganize thanks to the amazing Trader Joe’s soyrizo stand-in. This was super easy to put together and held up really well overnight. Not to mention it was just as tasty as leftovers.

For a sweet counterpart, we chose to actually (well mostly) follow an actual recipe for vegan Baked French Toast. Now I have to admit, that I’ve been known to crash my vegan ways for my mom’s baked French toast, laden with about a dozen eggs and a carton of cream. I am SO happy we found this alternative. No, it’s not healthy. Yes it’s full of sugar. But it’s damn good. We forgot to pick up pecans and didn’t have any walnuts on hand, so we improvised with oats. It worked big time.

The real kicker of the meal however was our starter. BLT Bruschetta. I don’t even know how to illustrate how delicious these little bugger were. I did have to make a large batch of tempeh bac’un the day before, which was kind of a mess. Totally worth it. I prepared everything else the day of and this was the highlight of the meal for me. I even got a request for a particularly stubborn omnivore to patent this bacon recipe. While I do have one on my blog, I must admit that I strayed and tried a new one (but with the same technique of the old one). I don’t have it in my heart to share it yet because I’m hoarding all the credit. Someday I’ll finally let go and divulge the secrets.

Breakfast Polenta with Soyrizo
Makes: 16 servings
Cook time: 1 hour 20 minutes

Feel free to skip any or all of the crazy polenta additions. I like my polenta to have a cheesy taste, and all of these small accoutrements create that cheesy flavor. But if you don't have them, this dish will still taste great. You can simply omit then and just season with salt and pepper to taste.


6 c. water
½ bouillon cube (optional)
1 ½ c. polenta
¼ c. nutritional yeast
2 tsp. white miso
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. yellow mustard
½ tsp. turmeric

1 ½ pkg. Soyrizo (I like Trader Joe’s the best)
5-6 medium tomatoes, chopped (about 3 cups)

Fresh Cilantro, chopped
Vegan feta or raw nut cheese (optional)


Lightly coat a 9X13 baking dish with cooking spray. If preparing the night before, preheat oven to 400°F.

Prepare the polenta: In a large sauce pan, bring water and bouillon (if using) to a boil. Gently whisk in the polenta, adding it to the water in one steady stream. Continue stirring to avoid clumps. When polenta is boiling, reduce heat to low. Stir often while the polenta maintains a low bubble. Cook until almost tender, about 15-20 minutes. When the polenta starts to really thicken and pull away from the pan, stir in the remaining ingredients. Season with salt to taste. When the polenta is really sticky and pulling away at the pan, pour it into the baking dish in one even layer. Set aside to cool.

Prepare the soyrizo sauce: Coat a deep skillet or cast iron pan with cooking spray or a couple of teaspoons of oil over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add the soyrizo and cook for about 5-7 minutes. When the soyizo is staring to brown on all sides, add the tomatoes. Increase heat to bring sauce to a brief boil and cook for 5 minutes. Lower heat to low and simmer for another 10-15 minutes. Slightly mash up to the tomato pieces by smooshing with a fork or spatula. Remove from heat and pour over polenta.

At this point, you can garnish with cilantro and feta and serve, or you can prepare the dish the day before, let it sit overnight, and heat in oven for 15-20 minutes until bubbling.

BLT Bruschetta
Makes: 24-30 slices
Prep time: 30 minutes


For the Aioli
½ c. Veganaise
1 garlic clove
1 tsp. Dijon mustard

For the Bruschetta
2 10-inch Ciabatta loaves
2-3 Roma tomatoes, thinly sliced
5-8 outer leaves of green lettuce (such as Boston leaf)
1 avocado, thinly sliced (optional)
1 ½ pkg. smokey tempeh or your own homemade Tempeh Bac’un


Prepare the aioli: Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until completely smooth. Set aside.

Make the toasts: Preheat oven to 400°F. Slice the bread into ½ inch thick slices and spread out on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Spray the tops with cooking spray and bake until golden brown, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

To prepare the bruschetta: Spread aioli on each toast with a knife or spatula. Carefully rip a few pieces of lettuce to fit the bread. Next place a couple of tomato slices and a slice of avocado over the lettuce. Finally top it off with with a strip of tempeh (cooked if using pre-packaged smokey tempeh bac’un*).

*Note: if you choose to make your own tempeh bac’un, this tastes best with the tempeh still warm and glazed from the pan. If you are buying premade smokey tempeh, fry the tempeh in a generous amount of cooking oil until brown on both sides to get a nice crispy texture.