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.

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