Photo Credit: Google Image Search

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A trip to the Chicago Diner!

I am new to the Chicago Vegan food world. Now, Chicago may not exactly be known for its vegan fare (have you SEEN our deep dish or hot dogs??), so I figured that dining out in this amazing city might be a bit of a test.

I love going out to dinner. More than anything probably.

And I looooove Chicago.

But were these two loves of mine destined for failure now that my food options were limited?


One click on this website and I saw countless options for vegan fare within this fair city (see that play on words? Did you like that? I did...)

The first stop on my list: Chicago Diner.

*Image Credit Google Search

I had heard about this place from various friends and fellow bloggers, but was hesitant. This place sounded like it served up greasy lookalike dishes and as I've said before, I am not a fan of imitation foods!!! But, I wanted to check this out nonetheless.

Matt and I made the mistake of going to this place on a Friday night around 8:00. This place does not take reservations. This sucked.

We walked into the cramped restaurant and were told that it would be an hour and a half wait at the least, but that we could "go out to the tent in the back for some tea."


Oh, because tea in tents makes EVERYTHING better...

We did go out there. and get this.


Matt went next door to the 7-11 and grabbed some Jack Daniels soda. So we made do. I played Words with Friends, Matt was busy counting forearm tattoos on all the hipsters in that tent.

We got into the restaurant after about an hour wait, and the rest of the experience was pretty good! It was a little cramped in there, but the food made up for it.

I ordered a Dark Horse Raspberry Ale which, although it doesn't necessarily sound all that good, was the best beer I think I've ever had. Seriously, I am going to seek this beer out on a regular basis. I tried a fruity flavored beer a few nights later and it was nasty, so I understand that many fruity beers are gross, this however, was heavenly.

We had the Grilled Potstickers as an appetizer and these were fab. The sauce especially was delicious. We inhaled these in approximately 45 seconds, mostly because it was 9:00 (we eat at 5:00 usually) and we had been told there would be tea, and there was none.

Then, for my main course I ordered the Reuben and Matt got the Dagwood Sandwich. My Reuben was really good and since Reubens are probably my most favorite sandwich, ever, this was a welcome substitute for the absence of this in my diet. Matt liked the Dagwood and didn't seem too flustered by the seitan.

I wish I had taken pictures.

And I wish I had left room for dessert.

The real excitement came after the meal was over.

I'm not exactly sure what the deal was, but both Matt and I were extremely ill after this meal. Our stomachs were rebelling from the seitan I'm pretty sure. It was truly an unpleasant evening and morning.

I am 99.9% sure we just weren't used to this kind of food, and I fully intend on going back to this place.

Matt on the other hand...he has sworn off seitan.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Chutney sounds like a mean nickname...

I decided to try a recipe that looked weird from the Supermarket Vegan cookbook. Not sure what prompted me to do this, but from the reviews on the interwebs, it seems like others have been intrigued by how crazy this recipe sounds/is.

The recipe is called "Chutney Peanut Pita Pizzas with Broccoli."


I'm not sure I know what chutney is. So there's that. BUT, I had some spicy mango chutney in my fridge from another recipe I had tried out and figured that it's not like I'm going to just add chutney to random things, I probably need to proactively cook with it from a recipe.

So that's probably why I decided on this recipe.

I screwed up changed a good deal of this recipe because as the sauce kept coming together, the flavors started to make me want to puke.

So, here's MY TAKE on Supermarket Vegan's recipe for Chutney Peanut Pizza with Broccoli!!


1/4 cup peanut butter (I used Jiffy)
3 T mango chutney
1 T tamari (or soy sauce)
1/2 T water
1 tsp lime juice
1 tsp sesame oil (the recipe called for 2, but I really can't stand the flavor of this stuff)
2 garlic cloves, large, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste
8 tortillas (the recipe called for pita bread, but I didn't have any, so I doubled the tortillas and had 4 completed pizzas)
1 head of broccoli, broken into bite sized florets (hahahahaha, I sound SO much like I know what I'm talking about...)
1 cup of fried onions
Rooster sauce to taste (I realized I used obscene language the last time I referenced this sauce, so I apologize. I really had no idea...)


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a small mixing bowl, stir together the peanut butter, chutney, tamari, water, lime juice, 1 tsp sesame oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Spread the peanut-chutney mixture evenly over the tortillas (I used 8 tortillas, doubling them to make 4 pizzas).

Arrange the tortillas on a non-stick baking sheet, top each with broccoli.

Bake in the center of the oven 10-12 minutes, until broccoli starts to soften.

Top with fried onions and rooster sauce and serve immediately.

These were...interesting. At first, I HATED them. But after a little bit, I started to like them. I think I would go easier on the PB next time because the issue I think was that the peanut sauce was dancing a fine line of being too sweet. The rooster sauce helped balance it out, but still.

Give these a go if you like peanut butter though! Hey-o rhyme.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Jelly Doughnuts....I mean cupcakes.

Sorry I've been absent a few days, friends. I've been travelling. And although I'm fully capable of blogging from my hotel rooms (I even uploaded pictures to my computer before I left hoping that would encourage me to blog), I just can't seem to do it. It's like, a hotel room still makes me feel like I'm vacation even if I'm doing nothing but work travel. I feel like I've never watched tv from that's all I do when in the hotel rooms.

Anyways, I'm back now. And have tons of things to blog. Yet I'm sitting here with no food in my house because I've been gone and it screwed up my cooking schedule. No food at house=no leftovers=no lunch=I just ate a really strange veggie burger that I have a sneaking suspicion was not vegan. Must remedy this soon, but not sure when I can get to the grocery store.

One thing that was still in my house when I got home last night was a couple of these Jelly Doughnut cupcakes from Veganomicon that I made last week. Don't worry, I polished those off.

These were pretty good. I don't think they tasted ANYTHING like jelly doughnuts, but I was pleasantly pleased by how much I enjoyed continously being surprised by the jelly in the middle. These are more like breakfast cupcakes in my opinion. And yes, I did test that theory and they do in fact taste better in the morning. :)

Here's a picture of the finished product.

Rather unimpressive appearance I know. And I wanted to take a picture of the inside, I really did, but could never convince myself to take a picture in the middle of eating the cupcake. It just seemed sacrilegious to the cupcake. But no worries, I used apricot jelly and not a bright reddish jelly like was instructed, so it would have been hard to see anyways.

Here's the recipe from Veganomicon:


1 cup soy milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup canola oil
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/3 cup grape jelly (I used apricot)
confectioner’s sugar


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake pan with liners. Pour the cornstarch, vinegar and soy milk into a measuring cup. Mix well.

In a large mixing bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg and salt. Create a well in the center of the flour to pour your wet ingredients into.

Restir the soy milk mixture, then pour into the flour well. Fold everything in until just combined. Add the oil, granulated sugar and vanilla. Stir until combined.

Fill the cupcake liners 3/4 full with batter. Place just a teaspoon of jelly in the center of each. The cheaper the jelly the better. Don’t worry about the filling, it will sink right into the cupcake and spread out pretty well.

Bake for 21-23 minutes, obviously, the toothpick test won’t work with a jelly filled cupcake.

Remove from the oven and take them out of the pans to cool on a wire rack.

The book said to leave these puppies out overnight, which I did. But I tried one when it was still warm and it was just as good as those that sat out longer.

Verdict: Very easy and a nice change to normal cupcakes.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


I've started cooking more labor intensive meals on Sunday afternoons. This is strange for me because Sundays are generally one of my busier days, and adding the additional stress of cooking a meal I may not have a huge likelihood of success with is tricky.

But I live on the wild side.

I've been looking to the Veganomicon book for the more challenging dishes and this is not to say that the recipes found in that book are all challenging, in fact, I think there are some really simple and delicious meals in there. But what I love about this cookbook is that it has a pretty good array of difficulty levels and time necessary. Have I mentioned that I love this book?

I digress.

Anyways, I chose these Enchiladas because I love enchiladas. And I felt like it. Plain and simple.

There were quite a few mistakes in this one...

Let's start with the sauce, shall we?

-I don't know what green chiles look like. There it is. In the grocery store I spent approxiimately 5 minutes getting more and more flustered as I stood in front of the pepper section. I ended up buying some long light green pepper and a jalapeno. No idea if those substituted well.
-I roasted the peppers with their seeds and did not remove their skins. This was the first time I have EVER roasted...well, anything. And can I tell you, that may be what heaven smells like...roasted peppers.

Now let's move on to the filling.
-I didn't weight the potatoes.
-No kale at the grocery store, so I subbed red swiss chard (why is that ALWAYS in season seemingly?)
-No pepitas, so I used the meat from sunflower seeds. This actually worked out ok, surprisingly.

These turned out pretty great! I would do a few things differently next time: i.e. try and follow the recipe, but also adding a lot more spice. I also would use flour tortillas. Now, I know corn tortillas are more authentic and better for you, but I just don't like them. They are just not my cup of tea...or my tortilla if you will...

So here's the finished product. I didn't take a picture of the insides which were pretty because they had the white potatoes and reddish green of the chard. Maybe next time.

I'm too sick to even copy and paste the recipe, so if you want it, click here.

I'm also pretty convinced someone from Veganomicon is going to yell at me for posting all of their recipes (i.e. like 5). So, click over to this gal's blog if you feel so inclined.

I have to admit that this would have tasted better with cheese.

Oh the horror, I know.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I finally cooked with tofu chunks.

Just like the title said, I decided to try a recipe that highlighted tofu as the main character. In order to do this though, I needed to make sure the flavors in the dish were incredibly strong because the texture of tofu sort of gives me the willies.

During one of my 30 second wanderings in the grocery store (I follow a list for like 95% of the trip, then give myself a few short spurts to wander and see if anything calls out to me), I decided to buy some Thai Cock Sauce. I love spicy and this sauce is like, one of the best spicy sauces ever, and I wanted to make a Thai there. I had like 500 reason to buy it, right? Quick question though: is that Cock Sauce (is that the real name??) the same as Thai red curry paste? I assumed it was...

And then I decided to make "Spicy Thai Tofu Salad with Cherry Tomatoes and Basil" from Supermarket Vegan.

We had a few meltdowns with this one.

Matt put the tofu in the freezer.

Now I know that there is a way to defrost tofu that is even better than squeezing out all the liquid, but I couldn't remember what that was. So day after day I kept forgetting to take it out of the freezer. When I did, it took 48 hours for it to thaw in the fridge. Then I put it out on the counter for like 5 hours and there were STILL ice chunks. Not going to freeze it next time.

Also, I was lazy and bought the pre chunkified tofu. This probably cost $.50 more, but in reality made my life more difficult because it's more complicated to squeeze liquid from a whole bunch of chunks than from just one chunk.

This probably makes no sense.

I'm still sick.

The tofu was one thing, but the other thing was that I was missing key ingredients for this recipe. I didn't have any cilantro. I also didn't have any bean sprouts. Therefore, the only thing produced from this recipe was flavored tofu chunks. And not many at that. So I had to scramble and ended up making whole wheat Jasmine Rice (not as good as regular Jasmine Rice, if you were wondering...) and serving the tofu on top of that.

All in all, the sauce was awesome. This didn't make enough food. Tofu is still not my favorite texture.

Here's the recipe:


1 pound extra-firm tofu, drained
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
Juice of 2 limes (about 1/4 cup)
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 teaspoon Thai red curry paste, or to taste
4 to 6 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Bean sprouts (optional)


Place the tofu on a deep-sided plate or shallow bowl. Top with a second plate and weight with a heavy can. Let stand a minimum of 15 minutes (preferably 1 hour). Drain excess water. Cut the tofu into 3/4-inch cubes and season with salt and pepper.

In a wok or a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the tofu and cook, stirring often, until crispy and golden, 5 to 7 minutes, adding the garlic the last minute or so of cooking. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

In a medium bowl, stir together the lime juice, remaining 1 tablespoon oil, brown sugar, curry paste, salt, and pepper. Let stand a few minutes to allow the sugar to dissolve. Stir in the scallions and let stand another few minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Add the warm tofu mixture and toss well to combine. Let cool to room temperature. Add the remaining ingredients, except the bean sprouts, and toss well to combine. Serve at room temperature over the bean sprouts (if using), or cover and refrigerate a minumum of 2 hours or up to 1 day and serve chilled, or return to room temperature.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Curried Cauliflower Conundrum

Sorry for my silence these past few days. I've been ill. I could hardly bring myself to post today, but then I realized I was starting to forget all that I have cooked since last week, so I figured I needed to get this out before it is lost in the abyss. I apologize if this post seems crazy, I am having to pause between sentences to blow my nose and sanitize my computer.


The show must go on.

Curry. Don't love it. Don't know how to use it. Don't really know what it is. Interestingly enough, it seems every vegetarian/vegan cooks a curried dish at LEAST once a week. So I realized I needed to make my mind up about this spice rather than sit on the fence. So this post and probably tomorrow's post will be curry-themed. Enjoy. Or don't. I couldn't care less about anything right now because I'm sleep deprived and feel like my brain is going to come out of my nose. It probably already has...

My first confusion is the amount of different KINDS of curry you can have. Red curry, brown curry, yellow curry, polka dot curry. I just bought "curry" and then realized it said mild. I'm not a huge fan of the curry I have right now, so if you have any suggestions about your personal faves, please send them my way.

I tried a recipe for "Curried Cauliflower and Potatoes with Black-Eyed Peas" from Supermarket Vegan because I like cauliflower and this looked easy.

Here's what I did wrong:
-I used a yellow onion, not red.
-I used a lot more than 2 cloves of garlic...teehee...ouch, it hurts to laugh even virtually...
-I still have never weighed my food, so I have no idea how many potatoes I should/shouldn't have put into this stuff.
-I had some leftover orzo, so that's what I put the stuff on top of.

This was...ok. I've always imagined curried dishes to be so fragrant and flavorful, but honestly, this was bland. I need spice! I also am starting to come to the conclusion that I don't like black-eyed peas. They just aren't for me.

Here's a pic (I added some paprika on the top for color):

Here's the recipe:

Curried Cauliflower and Potatoes with Black-Eyed Peas from Supermarket Vegan


2 tablespoons canola oil
1 small red onion (about 4 ounces), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon mild curry powder, or to taste
2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth or water
1 large head cauliflower (about 2 pounds), cut into bite-size florets
3/4 pound boiling potatoes, preferably red-skinned, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 (15-ounce) can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
2 to 3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice


In a large deep-sided nonstick skillet with a lid, hea the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and curry powder and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Add the broth, cauliflower, potatoes, salt, and pepper; bring to a brisk simmer over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, until potatoes are just tender, about 10 minnutes. Add the black-eyed peas and lemon juice and bring to a brisk simmer over medium-high heat. Cook, uncovered, adjusting the heat to maintain a brisk simmer and stirring occasionally, until potatoes and cauliflower are tender, about 5 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and let stand, covered, about 5 minutes, until much of the liquid has been absorbed. Serve at once.

I need some recipes for curried dishes asap. Please send them my way so I have something to live for...

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Chocolate Cookies, because really, chips aren't enough.

I've been trying to bake my weekly desserts rather than purchase something processed (although, that ice cream from a few weeks ago has DEFINITELY been on my mind lately...)

Since I had SUCH HUGE success with Veganomicon's Chocolate Chip Cookies (even though they were haunted), I decided to go back for more, only this time, omit the non-chocolate parts and substitute in more chocolate. Enter "Chocolate Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies" from Veganomicon. Teehee.

Here's what I did wrong (and warning, this was a stressful endeavor for me for some strange reason):
-I didn't sift, again.
-I added the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients rather than vice versa as the directions instructed. This caused me to panic and think I had ruined the entire batch of cookies. I may have then decided I needed to eat 1/3 of the dough to make sure it tasted ok. And to make myself feel better about the situation.
-I thought I lost my engagement ring mid hand mixing. Then remembered I had taken it off to avoid chocolatizing it.
-I only had one sheet of parchment paper, so this process took a little longer than necessary as I had to bake one baking sheet at a time.

I needed a nap after these ones.

BUT, these were freaking AWESOME! So chocolatey and delicious. Matt told me these were the best cookies I'd made yet. He's been saying an awful lot of nice things about my cooking lately which makes me think he has alterior motives...hmmm.

So try these out, and buy the Veganomicon book because they have suggestions for a bunch of other variations on this recipe.

Chocolate-Chocolate Chip-Walnut Cookies:

2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2/3 cup canola oil
1 ½ cups sugar
4 teaspoons ground flaxseeds
1/2 cup soy milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoons almond extract
¾ cup vegan chocolate chips
¾ cup walnuts, chopped small

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.

In a separate large bowl, mix together the oil and sugar. Add the flaxseeds, soy milk, and vanilla, and mix well.

Fold in the dry ingredients in batches. When the batter starts to get too stiff to mix with a fork, use hands until a ball of dough forms. Add the chocolate chips and walnuts, and mix with your hands again. A bit messy, but worth it.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll the dough into 1-inch balls and flatten into disks about 1 ½ inches in diameter. Place about an inch apart on cookie sheets.

Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Monday, March 7, 2011

This Quiche is off the LEASH!

Matt came up with the title.

Blame him.

I don't generally like quiches. Never have. Something about making something savory in a pie crust/form makes me uncomfortable. I also tend to not like omelettes or anything that strays too much from the traditional breakfast, yea, this wasn't looking so good in terms of my tastes, but I wanted to challenge myself. And since I've been told by at least 3 people now that it can't REALLY BE a quiche if it doesn't have eggs or cheese, I thought maybe this one had a chance. And I do love asparagus...

So, I went to Veganomicon again (everyone should buy, blah blah blah, if either of the authors are reading this blog and think I should cut back on posting your recipes, please let me know, I just want people to realize that this book is AMAZING!!!), and again, had a huge success.

But here's what I did wrong:
-In terms of the crust, the shortening was really hard. I refrigerated it like the authors said to, but it was basically impossible to cut the shortening up, so different parts of the crust had chunks of shortening while other parts had none.
-I ended up using all the water (1/4 cup and the 2 tablespoons) mostly because the shortening wouldn't cut up. Haha. Cut up.
-In terms of the quiche filling, I couldn't find navy beans at the grocery store (weird, I know), so I used Canary Beans??? Not sure what those are.
-I burned the shallots a little bit...whoops.

Here is the crust (yes that's a rolling pin in the background, yes I know how to use it):

Here's the green asparagus goo (i.e. filling):

Here's the quiche on it's way into the oven (so pretty):

And here it is after being baked (I am SUPER proud of this, can't you tell?):

And finally, a slice:

I think I turned a corner in my cooking skills with this one. Not only was it beautiful, it was tastey. But tastey in that "this marries the flavors well" more than the "I liked it because it has my favorite things and it tastes like something else I like," you know? Like, it was trying something new and the taste was unique. I may be growing my palette...

This coming from Ms. Ketchup 2011.

Anyways, here are the recipes for the crust and the filling. My crust was pretty hard, so I'm not sure how I would remedy that. Maybe I'd try using unexpired shortening...that could help.

Basic Single Pastry Crust:

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup cold non-hydrogenated vegan shortening
1/4 cup cold water, plus 2 tablespoons if needed
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Add the shortening by the teaspoon, but you don't need to be precise about this. You just want to add it in small chunks in three batches and then cut it into flour with each addition. Cut the shortening in until the dough is crumbly and pebbly.

2. Combine the vinegar with 1/4 cup of the water. Add the mixture to the dough in three batches, gently mixing it into the dough with a fork, until the dough holds together when pinched. If need be, add up to 2 tablespoons more water.

3. Gather the dough into a ball and knead gently a few times, just until it holds together. Sprinkle a clean work surface with flour, then flatten the ball into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about an hour.

4. When ready to roll out the crust, place a large piece of baking parchment on your work surface. Unwrap the dough and place it on the parchment. Sprinkle your rolling pin with flour and roll the dough into a 12-inch circle. It may slip around a bit from the parchment, but that's okay, just work steadily and gently. Your crust is now ready to use.

5. If using as a bottom crust, lift the parchment and flip the crust into the pie plate. Tuck in and trim the edges.

Asparagus Quiche Directions:

1 recipe Basic Single Pastry Crust (recipe follows)
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound asparagus, rough ends discarded
2 shallots, skins removed, chopped coarsely
3 cloves garlic
1 cup walnuts
1-1/2 cups cooked navy beans, or 1 (15-ounce) can, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh tarragon, plus 2 tablespoons finely chopped
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Several pinches of freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup plain whole wheat bread crumbs
4 slices beefsteak or Holland tomato, or any really big tomato
1. Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cut the tips off four pieces of the asparagus and set aside for garnish. Slice the rest into 1/2-inch lengths.

2. Sauté the asparagus (except for the reserved tips) in a tablespoon of the olive oil for about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. While the asparagus is cooking, place the walnuts, the 1/4 cup of tarragon, and the nutmeg, salt, and pepper in a food processor. Pulse into crumbs, so that no whole walnuts are left.

4. Remove the asparagus from the pan and transfer to a shallow bowl to cool a bit. Sauté the shallots in another tablespoon of the olive oil for about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 3 more minutes, being careful not to burn it. Transfer the shallots and garlic to the asparagus and let cool for a few more minutes.

5. When the vegetables have stopped steaming, add them to the food processor. Pulse a few times and scrape down the sides. Add the beans and puree until relatively smooth, although the walnuts will still be grainy. Add the cornstarch (sift first, if very clumpy) and pulse until thoroughly combined. Transfer the mixture to a bowl (use the bowl the veggies were cooling in, to cut down on dish duties), cover, and refrigerate for about 45 minutes.

6. Preheat the oven to 350 F.

7. Roll out the pastry dough to fit an 8-inch glass pie plate. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 15 minutes.

8. Remove the baked crust from the oven. Spoon the asparagus filling into the crust and smooth out evenly. Sprinkle the top with half the bread crumbs and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Then, place the tomato slices on top of the bread crumbs with an asparagus tip between each tomato. Sprinkle on the remaining bread crumbs, some freshly ground black pepper, a few pinches of salt, and the chopped tarragon. Drizzle again with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil.

9. Bake for 45 minutes. Let cool for about 20 minutes before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Penne VODKA - I'll drink to that!

I've sort of held back on entering into making creamy sauces for dishes. The idea of squishing up nuts to get the same consistency and flavor of cream makes me a little uncomfortable. As you can see, I don't really like imitating meat/dairy based foods because I think that disrespects the true essence of the food. Ok, I sound crazy and that would defeat the title of this blog, but hear me out.

There are SO many different foods out there that the idea of mimicking one food with another just seems silly. Yes I love the flavor and texture of cheese and no, I don't particularly like the flavor and texture of watermelon (I know, weird right?), but that doesn't mean I need to try and make the watermelon taste and look like cheese now does it? No, I think not.

So, that's why I've been avoiding using imitation cheese or meat or whatever, and this whole sauce ordeal seems to be dancing the fine line between imitation and reproduction.

So, I stuck my toe into the sauce the safest way I knew how: Vodka sauce - red pasta sauce that usually has a hint of cream to it.

I found this recipe in, suprise suprise "Veganomicon" and if you haven't been able to tell yet, I love this cookbook and think everyone should own it. I really haven't had a bad experience yet.

Here's what I did wrong:
-I got a little cocky and decided not to measure anything out, specifically seasoning, so I am pretty sure I used too much thyme and not enough oregano.
-My basil plant was looking a little bit rough, so I didn't use the suggested amount of fresh basil, instead used some dried basil which I think was ok.
-I don't have a hand mixer, so I put the almonds in my food processor along with a little bit of olive oil and tried to make those bad boys turn into a pastey cream. Then I added that creamy pastey thing to the sauce and tried to mix it together. Not sure if that worked all that well.

All in all, this was pretty delicious. I have to say, I could hardly taste the almonds but the texture was nice. It wasn't exactly what I remember Vodka sauce to be, but that's ok, especially in my opinion (I don't like to imitate, re: look up about 2-3 paragraphs).

I served this over a bunch of leftover noodley type things that were in my cabinet (there might even be a lasagna noodle or two in there). Then I cooked up (i.e. microwaved) some frozen green beans (which I hate - frozen veggies, not green beans), and Matt fried up some shallots to serve on top of those. He thought he might be able to trick himself into thinking he was eating green bean casserole. I don't think it worked. As a sidenote, I read the other day that shallots are generally a more mild flavor than other onions, EXCEPT DURING WINTER! Those puppies have been making my eyes water like no other recently...guess I know why now.

Here's the finished product:

I know you are wondering why I took a picture of a cracked bowl. Well, my answer: all my bowls are cracked, you jerk. Get over it.

Here's the recipe:

Penne Vodka
(from the cookbook “Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook” by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero)

2 tsp olive oil
4 cloves minced garlic
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup vodka
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt
a few dashes fresh black pepper
1/2 cup sliced or slivered almonds
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil, plus a little extra for garnish
1/2 pound penne

Bring a pot of water to boil for the pasta. Preheat a saucepan over medium/low heat. Add the oil, garlic and crushed red pepper to the saucepan and saute for about a minute, until fragrant, being careful not to burn. Add the crushed red tomatoes, vodka, thyme, oregano, salt and black pepper. Cover, and turn the heat up a bit to bring to a simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, add the pasta to the water and cook according to package directions.

Once the sauce has simmered for 20 minutes, add the almonds. Use an immersion blender to blend the almonds into the sauce until creamy and only slightly grainy. The pasta should be done by now, so drain and set aside. Add the basil to the sauce, and mix the sauce and pasta together in the pot. Serve, garnished with a little extra chopped basil.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Mango+Black Beans=True Love 4eva

It's no secret that certain fruits are wonderful complements to Mexican-inspired dishes. My favorite salsas ALWAY include mangoes (is there an e in the plural of this word?), or peaches or something of the sort. So when I was perusing Veganomicon before going to the grocery store, the recipe for "Quinoa Salad with Black Beans and Mango" really spoke to me. So I headed out.

I've been on a fast from Whole Foods for about 3 weeks now (3 weeks of abstaining will ALMOST cover how much money I spent there on that one trip), so I've been having to succumb to the realities at my local grocery store. Unfortunately, one such reality is that this store does not carry Quinoa. I keep looking for it every time I go, but it never appears. It's really surprising because each trip I find a more specific and random ingredient that I can't imagine more than one can is sold of each year, but whatever, it's my reality. I ALMOST went and visited the Customer Service desk to put in a request, but then I chickened out. I don't want to be that crazy girl who requests the crazy thing especially since I was dressed like a hobo and had already reached my maximum amount of time to be spent at a grocery store before freaking out.

So, long story short, I had to make this dish without Quinoa. I substituted with some whole wheat Jerusalem Cous Cous which I assume has less nutritious goodness than Quinoa, but whatever.

I also am still confused as to what the difference is between scallions and green onions, so I used green onions. I googled this conundrum and unfortunately, the websites I found said that they are basically the same, if you have any info on this subject, send it my way.

Oh yea, and I used olive oil, not grapeseed.

So pretty!!!

All in all, this was a nice dish but I would suggest cooking it in summer. Also, it was REALLY onion-y and I don't know if that was because I was using green onions and not scallions, but I would half the scallions if I were to make this again. I'd also add a jalapeno because I like spice. This is a great leftover lunch though.

Quinoa Salad with Black Beans and Mango from Veganomicon by Moskowitz and Romero

1 mango, peeled and diced small
1 red pepper, seeded and diced as small as you can get it
1 cup chopped scallion
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups cooked quinoa, cooled
1 1/2 cups black beans, drained and rinsed (a 15-ounce can)


Combine the mango, red pepper, scallions, and cilantro in a mixing bowl. Add the red wine vinegar, grapeseed oil, and salt and stir to combine. Add the quinoa and stir until everything is well incorporated. Fold in the black beans. Serve immediately or let it sit for a bit to let the flavors meld.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


I made a rookie's error. I saw one tweet about February 27 being National Chocolate Cake Day, and I decided I needed to participate. The mistake was not that I made the chocolate cake, or even that I made the chocolate cake on the wrong day, the mistake was that I should have known better and realized that if February 27 had in fact REALLY BEEN National Chocolate Cake Day, the twitter-verse would have been all aflutter about that subject. And it wasn't. It was only that one person (who will remain nameless), and me.

But I made some damn good chocolate cake.

I found this recipe for Lower-Fat Deep Chocolate Bundt Cake in Veganomicon. Now I know, I know, this is the SECOND bundt cake I've made in the span of about two weeks, but what can I say, bundts are bangin' and I love how simple they are.

I didn't really do anything wrong with this recipe except that I didn't sift the flour (don't have a sifter), and I hand-whisked everything because I don't have a hand held mixer (never fear, it has been registered for!).

But this may be the best chocolate cake I've ever had.

I'm serious.

The applesauce added such a m**st consistency (I refuse to use the entirety of that word because it gives me the heebeejeebees) and the flavors were so perfect. The coffee flavor was hardly even present (which was a relief because I don't really like mocha-flavored desserts).


I may just make this cake every week from here on out.

Bake this. Tonight. You'll thank me.

I think that maybe EVERY 27th of EVERY month should be National Chocolate Cake Day. And then, maybe every 2nd and 7th. And then multiples of the number...

Here's the recipe:

Lower-Fat Deep Chocolate Bundt Cake
From "Veganomicon" by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero

1 ¾ cups freshly brewed coffee
2/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup Canola oil
1/3 cup applesauce
¼ cup cornstarch
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups all-purpose flour or whole-wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons confectioners' sugar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease an 8- or 10-inch Bundt pan.

Bring coffee to a gentle simmer in a saucepan over medium heat. Once it is simmering, turn down heat and whisk in cocoa powder, until it has dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together granulated sugar, oil, applesauce and cornstarch until sugar and cornstarch are dissolved, about two minutes. Mix in extracts. Once chocolate has cooled, fold into applesauce mixture.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Fold into wet ingredients, beating until relatively smooth, about one minute with a hand mixer or two minutes with a whisk.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for about 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. If pan is on smaller side, cooking time could be as long as 55 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool for about 20 minutes, then invert onto a serving plate to cool completely. Once cool, sift confectioners' sugar over top.

Makes about 12 servings.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Tomato Soup and Brussel Sprouts!

As a child, my favorite meal was my Mom's tomato soup and grilled cheese. My grandmother made me one of those books that has your name in it and talks about things you love and are relevant to you, and at the end of the book when the heroine (your's truly) returned home, she ate a celebratory meal of grilled cheese and tomato soup. At least I think I'm not making this whole thing up...there was a hand on the cover of the book.

Anyways, what I'm trying to get across is that I loved tomato soup. The Campbell's version. And up until this whole vegan thing took off, I ate Campbell's tomato soup once a week. Now, I've cut back. Mostly because a) I'm not sure Campbell's tomato soup is vegan and b) if the condensed stuff IS vegan, I'm not sure substituting soy milk for cow's milk will get the job done.

So, I went to the internets in search of some tomato soup. I found this recipe on vegweb by "yabbitgirl."

I made it a little differently because I had other vegetables on hand (i.e. I added a lot more celery). I also plopped some of my leftover silken tofu into the mix to attempt to creamify the soup.

Unfortunately, this soup was not ideal. BUT, I do have to admit, things got a little crazy as the transfer of the hot liquid soup to the food processor got underway. That's my LEAST favorite thing to do in the world, I'm pretty sure. Someday I'll have a hand mixer...someday.

I added a bunch of spices and unfortunately, this just could not live up to the Campbell's soup in my mind. But maybe if I could get to the place to accept this tomato soup for what it was, I would like it, but I'm working on it.

ON THE OTHER HAND, I made some BOMB DOT COM brussel sprouts.

Matt told me that I have a gift with the sprouts.

He's a keeper.

And this is MY OWN RECIPE! This is huge, folks, HUGE. Now if only I knew how to measure things out.

I think I had a pound of brussel sprouts. I trimmed them up, and sliced them into quarters (this were big suckers).

Then I heated up some olive oil and balsamic vinegar over medium heat in a pan. Once the oil was hot, I tossed in the sprouts and started to cook them down. I added some beer mustard (had it in the fridge), some seasoning salt, soy sauce, cayenne pepper, and some additional balsamic vinegar to taste but this is really up to you. I just adore the flavors of mustard and balsamic vinegar together. It took about 20 minutes for the sprouts to soften, but I didn't want them too soft, so that's a matter of taste. As the final shazam, I tossed some Panko breadcrumbs onto the sprouts.

So delicious.

And here was the meal.

That's Earth Balance on vegan bread (I will someday attempt my own vegan bread. Today is not that day).

That's also Matt's finger on the plate. He hates taking pictures of food because it slows down the process of getting the food into his stomache.

Anyone have any good CREAMY tomato soup recipes out there?