Monday, January 23, 2012

Pumpkin Pie (no tofu here!)

I first made this recipe a couple of years ago, when I hosted my very first ThanksVegan. I ambitiously decided to have 8 people over for a full Thanksgiving meal (albeit a couple days after real Thanksgiving) made completely vegan. Most of the recipes I was making were tried and true favorites, but one thing I had never been able to get quite right was a vegan pumpkin pie. If you google "vegan pumpkin pie" you will encounter probably a hundred different recipes, and nearly all of them will include some kind of tofu. I've tried some of these recipes and sadly, never had any success. I love me some tofu, but something about the taste and texture never really worked for me. I am also very partial to the mix of spices I grew up eating in my mom's pumpkin pie, and no other mix would do for me. Thankfully for my adventurous friends, I managed to cobble together several different recipes, including the spices from my mom's version, and came up with what has become my go-to vegan pumpkin pie recipe. I made it again this holiday season for a little get together of friends and remembered to take a couple of pictures so I could post the final recipe here.

First make your single pie crust (or buy one I suppose). I'm a Betty Crocker girl when it comes to my pie crusts. Yum, shortening! Mix 1 and 1/3 cup all-purpose flour with 1/2 tsp. salt. With a pastry blender or fork, blend in 1/2 cup shortening and 3-4 Tbsp. cold water. This is important. Put an ice cube or something in your bowl of water to cool it down. Work the dough as little as you possibly can to get it to stick together in a ball. Roll the dough out, then roll it up on your rolling pin loosely to transfer it to a 10-inch pie pan. Finish the edges however you like.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and gather the ingredients for the pie filling:
2 15-oz. cans of pureed pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie mix!)
1 1/2 cup plain soy creamer (Silk makes a good one)
1 cup sugar
3 1/2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
scant 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
scant 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. salt

Combine all ingredients and mix very very well
with an electric mixer. Bake the empty pie crust for about 15 minutes, until it is beginning to cook. Fill with the pumpkin mixture and bake for about 1 1/2 hours. I cover the crust completely until the last 10 minutes with these neat little silicone things, but you can also make a ring of tin foil to protect the crust from burning.

Your pie filling will still be jiggly when you take it out of the oven, but don't fear. Let the pie cool completely on a cooling rack, then cover and refrigerate overnight before serving. Don't worry that the color is a bit darker that the usual color of pumpkin pies. You probably did not overcook it, that's just the coloring with the spices and all. Enjoy!

Perfect Vegan Lasagna

I know, vegan lasagna might sound like an oxymoron to most people. Usual lasagnas contain serious amounts of meet and at least several different kinds of cheeses. But if you step back and open your mind a little bit, I promise that this lasagna really will remind you of the way grandma used to make it (but minus pretty much all of the fat and entirely all of the cholesterol).

I've been toying around with lasagna for a number of years now. It was always a favorite of mine when I was a kid and it surprisingly easy to recreate using a tofu-based filling. The key is to dress up the tofu with lots of sprices and seasonings and to include hearty vegetables. You won't miss the heavy, greasy quality found in most lasagnas, and despite how warm and comforting this recipe is, it is one of the lightest winter meals I make.

Start by preparing the noodles and sauce. This is not a gourmet recipe and I'm using bottled sauce. You could definitely make homemade sauce, but this way is just so easy!

Cook 12 whole wheat lasagna noodles until
tender but not completely cooked. Rinse them in cold water and set aside.

For the sauce:
1 onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp. fennel seeds
2 jars of your favorite plain spaghetti sauce
1 package brown mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

Saute the onions, mushrooms and garlic over medium heat, then add fennel seeds and saute a minute more. Add the spaghetti sauce and heat through. Set aside.

For the filling:
1 bag frozen spinach, defrosted and drained well
1 package firm tofu, pressed
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
2 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. rosemary
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

In a large bowl, crumble the tofu with your fingers until no large clumps remaine. Add the drained spinach and all remaining ingredients and mix well.

Spread half of the sauce in a 9x13 pan and place 4 noodles over the sauce. Cover the noodles with half of the tofu mixture and top with another layer of noodles. Repeat. Spread remaining sauce over the top of the noodles and cover pan with aluminium foil. Bake for 25 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for an additional 45-50 minutes until the whole thing is cooked through and the sauce on the top is starting to get a bit crusty.

I love love this recipe. I can't even really remember what regular lasagna tastes like and I don't think I will ever crave it again. This recipe makes a whole lot of food...but trust me you'll need it. Even if you are not vegan, give this recipe a try and you won't be disappointed.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Quinoa Falafel

Falafel is delicious. It's also one of those foods I think vegetarians end up eating frequently because you can count on finding it at restaurants that aren't as vegan-friendly as you'd like them to be. I had toyed around with making my own non-fried version of falafel for quite a while before I finally found this particular mixture. It's a little unusual because of the quinoa, but I think that's what manages to keep these moist when many of my other attempts turned out dry as a bone. Making the patties is really quite easy, and the real trick to making these delicious is in assembling an awesome assortment of toppings. (The same rule, by the way, applies to tacos. As long as you have 5 or so fun things to put on top, I don't even care very much what the "meat" of the taco is. Spend that extra time prepping the toppings and the result will be 10x better.) This recipe for the falafel patties is a mixture of a recipe from a cookbook I can't remember and also mixes in ideas I read on another blog. The final recipe involves this:

1 can garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1/2 cup fresh parsley
1 cup cooked quinoa
1 1/2 tsp. yellow curry powder
1/2 tsp. cayenne powder
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 cup bread crumbs
salt & pepper

Combine all ingredients from garbanzo beans through cayenne pepper in a food processor and pulse until everything is evenly mixed. Don't overdo it, you still want the mixture to be a little chunky. Transfer everything to a bowl and add remaining ingredients. Mix with your hand and form into small balls. I find making them into balls first, then flattening them helps me keep the size even. Don't be tempted to make them too big....smaller will allow more surface area to cook.

Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray and arrange flattened falafel balls on the sheet. Spray everything lightly with nonstick spray again and bake in the oven at 400 degrees for about 20-30 minutes. You aren't actually "cooking" much here, just warming through and browning each side, so flip the falafels once and when they look done to you, they probably are.

In the meantime, prep all your toppings:
chopped romaine lettuce
chopped cucumbers
chopped tomatoes
chopped red onion (optional)
lemon wedges

I also make a quick yogurt sauce. I just made up this recipe in my head. Mix together:

1 small container of plain soy yogurt
1 generous handful of chopped fresh dill (dried will work too if you need to, just use a lot less)
1 Tbsp. or so lemon juice
salt and pepper
1 handful of very finely chopped cucumber

Mix it, taste it and adjust seasonings as necessary. This sauce is really good. Usually when I make this I'll end up making a little side salad out of just the vegetable toppings and eat it with a dollop of this sauce as well.

Serve falafel hot with pitas and all the toppings. Yum!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Pumpkin Stuffed Shells with Sage (Remix!)

I'm being a little lazy today. How long has it been since I've blogged? Months perhaps? I figured I'd get back into it with a super easy post today.

This is actually just going to be an update on one of the very
first recipes I ever blogged about. I said at the time I made it that I felt it was a fantastic recipe idea, but that if I made it again, I would definitely make quite a few changes to the original recipe. This is very very common, and if I look at some of my favorite recipes that I consider to be truly my own creation, most of them started this way. Check back in a few years and I'll probably have a million more changes to add to this recipe.

Most recently, my dad and sister were in town and we wanted to make a big hearty and delicious meal to eat together. We decided to make this one, and I kept track of the many changes from the original reci
pe. Here's what we did:

First make the vegetable marinara sauce. Gather and prepare your ingredients:
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 cup baby carrots, roughly chopped1/2 large red bell pepper, roughly chopped (or one small pepper)
1-15 oz. can fire roasted diced tomatoes w/ green chiles
1/2 can water
2 Tbsp. grade B maple syrup
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
Pinch garlic powder
Pinch onion powder
Pinch crushed red pepper1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk
Pinch salt
Pinch black pepper
Saute onion, garlic, carrots and red bell pepper about 10 minutes until tender. Add the remaining ingredients except the soy milk and simmer for about 15 additional minutes. Let sauce cool to room temperature, then place in food processor. Process sauce until smooth, then stir in soy milk and season with salt and pepper.

Next gather your ingredients for the make the pumpkin filling:
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh sage
1 15-oz. can pureed pumpkin
2 Tbsp. of the vegetable marinara saucePinch salt
Pinch black pepper
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
Pinch nutmeg
1 Tbsp. white miso
1 box firm tofu (I like extra firm lite, but anything along those lines will do)

Saute onion and garlic with the sage until tender. Add onion mixture with all remaining ingredients except the tofu in a food processor and pulse until will combined, but not totally smooth. Transfer to a bowl and add the tofu, crumbling it well with your hands. Stir to combine everything well.

Cook about 20-25 large pasta shells in salted boiling water for
15 minutes, drain and rinse with cold water. Ladle all of the marinara sauce into a large baking dish, fill each shell with pumpkin mixture and place each shell into the bed of sauce. Bake shells uncovered in a 350 degree oven for about 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, slice 10-15 cremini mushrooms and saute them in a bit of olive oil with another 2 Tbsp. or so of chopped fresh sage. Set aside. When the shells are cooked, remove from oven and spoon mushrooms and sage over the top. Turn the oven up to broil and cook the shells for about 5-10 more minutes under the broiler until the bits of pasta begin to get brown and crispy.

This dish gets a super-special flare when you garnish it with a few fried sage leaves. An amazing (and not that really guilty) pleasure, I'm completely obsessed with fried sage leaves. Just heat up a bit of oil and add the sage, a few whole leaves at a time. Let them sizzle and cook but not get brown, only a few seconds. Take them out of the oil and onto a paper towel. Sprinkle with a little salt while they are still hot.

Needless to say, this is a very elegant and pretty looking dish, perfect for guests. It is also filling, hearty and comforting while still being very healthy. The tangy vegetable sauce and the unique pumpkin and sage flavor is a welcome bit of variety from the usual stuffed shells or lasagna with red sauce. Give it a try!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Homemade Gluten Ribs

My family has been asking me to blog about this one for a while now, and I'm finally getting to it. I've been making this recipe for about a year, but way back when I made it for the first time, I liked it so much that I made it again the very next week when my family was out visiting us. We've always been a big grilling family and I liked the idea of my husband and dad out in the back yard grilling up some meat while my mom and I made veggies and potatoes inside. Yes, I am just that traditional at heart. Anyway, my parents are pretty adventurous when it comes to trying strange vegan foods, but the true testament to how much they liked this is that my mom has since taken to making it herself back in Boston. I'm very proud.

The first time I ever heard about gluten, it was in the context of gluten-free. I know there are a lot of people out there who can't eat gluten, so I'm sorry about that -- this recipe is not for you. For those who can eat it, I highly recommend gluten as a fun alternative to soy and other usual vegan protein sources. It's really quite easy to buy the gluten flour and to make homemade seitan. From there, you can dress it up any way you want. In all honesty, I'm not a huge fan of the seitan I've had in restaurants. Most often you see it in BBQ sandwiches (not too bad) or in Asian stir-fry or curry dishes (pretty bad), and I'm just not a fan all the way around. I have to admit that I've never even had the nerve to buy the pre-packaged seitan they sell at my natural food store. It looks so grey and slimy that it honestly turns my stomach looking at it. BUT, this recipe for homemade seitan (which came pretty much directly from Susan Voisin at Fat Free Vegan) tastes nothing like any seitan I've ever eaten. It's chewy and firm and just a perfect texture. Slather it in barbecue sauce and slap it on the grill and I promise you a delicious cook-out that will satisfy all of your cravings and please your meat-eating guests. Hey, it's almost summer. Break out the grill and give this a try!

First you have to make the seitan. Think of it as a very dense loaf of bread. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Mix together the dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately, then mix them together.

1 cup gluten flour (vital wheat gluten)
2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. chile powder
2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
2 tsp. dried onion flakes
1 tsp. garlic powder or 2 tsp. fresh garlic, minced
3/4 cup water
2 Tbsp. tahini
1 tsp. liquid smoke
1 Tbsp. soy sauce

Once the ingredients are mixed, go ahead and knead the dough with your hands for a good 2-3 minutes. You will notice the gooey, stringy texture of the gluten holding everything together. Lightly spray a square 8x8 baking pan and use your fingers to stretch the dough to fill the entire square pan. Next, take a knife and scar the dough once down the middle and then 7 times across. This will help the ribs cut apart more easily at the end. Bake the seitan in the oven for about 25-30 minutes. When it's done you should be able to easily lift the entire thing out of the pan with a spatula.
If you want to make your own barbecue sauce for this dish, go ahead. Myself, I'm pretty happy just using the All Natural Barbecue Sauce from Trader Joe's. Either way, you need about a cup of it to make these really tasty. Fire up the grill and let it preheat for a while. Brush the ribs generously with barbecue sauce on both sides and grill for about 8-10 minutes or so. Flip the ribs and give them another coat of sauce and grill until you think they look done. I like them pretty well done where the sauce is getting crispy and there are dark black grill lines. Serve it up with some baked or mashed potatoes and some veggies and you have yourself a pretty awesome vegan version of an American classic. My dad even liked it. I bet yours would too.

Monday, April 25, 2011

5-Minute Blueberry Pancakes

Breakfast again! I figure that after posting my all time favorite savory breakfast recipe a few weeks ago, it's a good time to complete the circle and post my all time favorite sweet breakfast recipe. While this recipe may not boast the variety of healthy vegetables present in tofu scramble, it does hold up pretty well as a not only delicious, but remarkably heathy breakfast option. That and it takes 5 minutes to make. Seriously, 5 minutes. I promise!

I make these pancakes with whole wheat flour, mostly because for some reason, in this dish you really can't tell that they are whole wheat, so why not? There are 8 ingredients. Mix together the dry ones first:
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
pinch of salt

Once these are blended up, add the wet ingredients:
1 cup soymilk (vanilla, original or unsweetened, I've done them all)
2 Tbsp. canola oil

Mix well to combine then stir in 1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries. Cook pancakes in a medium-hot griddle sprayed with nonstick spray. I like to sprinkle each side with a bit of cinnamon for extra flavor.

This recipe is fairly small and makes about 6 large or 8 small pancakes (perfect for two very hungry people). The baking powder allows them to rise very nicely and creates a thick, fluffy pancake. The sweet and tangy flavor of the blueberries gives the pancakes a sweet, rich flavor with only 1 Tbsp. of added sugar. Even I, a self-proclaimed condiment addict, don't have to use that much syrup on these pancakes. The flavors stand on their own and the moisture of the blueberries goes a long way.

So the next time you want an extra special breakfast, or a leisurely brunch, or the perfect item to whip up in no time for house guests, try these blueberry pancakes. I promise you won't be disappointed.

P.S. I feel that I say this quite often, but this is another recipe J and I like to take camping. In fact, I don't think we have ever had a camping trip that did not include these pancakes. I mix up the dry ingredients in a ziplock and pack the oil and soymilk in little plastic jars. In that case, we use dried blueberries rather than fresh and they work quite well. Nothing like a hot breakfast after a night of sleeping in a tent!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Spicy Black Bean Patties

What vegetarian doesn't like veggie burgers? I think that pretty much anyone who makes the decision to become vegetarian or vegan goes through a phase of relying on things like veggie burgers as a simple way to fill out a meal. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of good veggie burger options out there, but when I began to care more about eating whole foods and less processed and packaged items, I realized that many of the veggie burgers available are made up of a very long list of ingredients that don't sound particularly healthy or delicious. I set out looking for ways to construct my own "burgers" out of ingredients that taste good and are actually good. The first recipe I ever tried, and still my favorite today is Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's Spicy Black Bean Patties. Not only is the flavor of these patties hearty, smoky and rich, but because they are packed full of vegetables, they taste bright and fresh. I must mention right off the bat that I decided to call this recipe Black Bean Patties, rather than Burgers for a reason: I don't really think they taste good on a bun. While they can, of course, be slathered in ketchup and eaten on a roll (and my husband eats them this way quite frequently), I think that the texture of the mashed beans is too soft to hold up against a roll. The soft bread and the soft beans are too similar and tend to meld together into one texture. You can serve them however you like, but I tend to best enjoy them alone, paired with various sides, and not as a sandwich.

Preparing these burgers is not complicated at all, but it does take a moderate amount of time. The best thing about this recipe is that you can make the entire thing up to a day in advance (maybe more than a day...haven't tested that out). When you have formed all the patties, simply wrap them in saran wrap or in a tupperware separated by wax paper. About a year ago for July 4th, J and I were camping and I brought four of these patties along in our backpacks all day to cook over the fire at night. I think our meat-eating fellow campers were actually jealous.

Begin by gathering all of the ingredients:
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp oregano
1 jalapeno pepper, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 cups cooked black beans
1/2 cup frozen corn, defrosted
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp chili powder
1 Tbsp dried parsley
1/8 cup whole wheat flour
1/8 cup cornmeal or grits
nonstick cooking spray

Saute the onion, garlic, oregano and peppers until tender. In a large bowl, mash the beans with a pastry masher or a fork until they are pretty well broken up.
Mix in the cooked veggies and all other ingredients except the flour and cornmeal. Use your hands to really mush everything up. You may want to let the veggies cool a bit before you add them, so as to not burn your hands, but usually I'm too impatient. The moisture from the veggies really combines with the beans to make a texture that is easily formed into 6 round balls. Flatten each ball into a hearty patty with your hands and set aside. Mix the flour and cornmeal together in a shallow dish and coat each patty lightly in the mixture. This last step is really optional, but I find that it goes a long way to keep the patties together and creates a tiny crust on the outside which is delicious.

Heat a cast iron or nonstick skillet over medium high heat and spray with cooking spray or oil. I usually cook three patties at a time. Place the patties in the pan and cook until toasty brown, then flip. Sometimes I spray the pan again when I flip the patties. That tiny bit of oil goes a long way to crisp up the outsides. Serve the patties with any assortment of sides you wish. Most of the time we go with grilled or baked vegetables or a big salad. Sometime we'll serve some rice or other starch, and as I mentioned, J usually eats one with a bun. I find that ketchup or barbecue sauce mask the delicate flavor of the patties, to I prefer to put a bit of pico de gallo or salsa on top and leave it at that. However you make them, these patties are a definite winner and put any veggie burgers you can buy in the freezer case to shame.