Blueberry Streusel Muffins

blueberry streusel muffins

My mom is known as “Grandma Who Makes Muffins” because of the recipe that inspired these muffins. Every year, mom and dad drive to Michigan and bring back large cases of fresh, in-season blueberries. This year, I used part of my ten pounds to create a veganized version of a favorite blueberry muffin recipe, with an added streusel topping.

The original recipe was loaded with oil and full-fat sour cream. I went half and half with the whole wheat pastry flour and all-purpose flour. You might be able to use all ww pastry flour, but the muffins will probably be more dense. The vanilla soy yogurt substitutes well in sweet baked goods. You could also use regular flax meal, but the golden flax is easily disguised in this recipe.

Blueberry Streusel Muffins

Adapted from Blueberry Cream Muffins at

2 tbsp golden flax meal
1/4 cup cold water
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup + 1 tbsp canola oil
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup vanilla soy yogurt (I used Silk)
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup fresh blueberries

Streusel topping:
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 tbsp flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp vegan butter (well chilled)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with liners.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk flax meal and 1/4 cup water. Let stand to thicken while preparing dry ingredients.

In a separate bowl, mix flours, salt, and baking soda.

After flax mixture has thickened, whisk in sugar, applesauce, oil, vanilla, and yogurt. Fold in dry ingredients until just combined. Gently fold in blueberries. Batter will be thick.

Fill muffin tins with batter. They will be quite full.

In a small bowl, mix brown sugar, 2 tbsp flour and cinnamon until combined. Cut in butter with a fork until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Top muffins with streusel mixture.

Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes.

Makes 12 muffins.

Bacon Salt

Bacon SaltSomeone once asked me if I “cheated” as a vegan with bacon. With everyone gushing over all things bacon these days, that would be an easy assumption. I love smoky and salty flavors, but my true weakness is pepperoni. Yes, mechanically-separated, processed-to-hell-and-back pepperoni. Turkey pepperoni in particular. The regular version is too greasy. Don’t ask me to explain the inconsistency of my “standards”.

The kind and supportive folks at the Vegan Meetup Group assured me that craving such disastrously-processed foods is normal, that those flavors are still programmed into my brain, and eventually the allure of processed meat will fade. Highly-engineered processed foods know how to push all the right buttons, because they were designed that way. It’s difficult to repress our primal cravings for sugar, fat, and salt. And did you know that the casein in cheese acts just like an opiate in the brain? It’s also been called one of the most relevant cancer promoters ever discovered. A lot of vegetarians say they could never give up cheese, and I understand the allure. I was one of them, too. Or maybe I still am. Cheese may always be a temptation.

Bacon Salt ad campaign: zombie housewife. This pic is all win.Knowing how highly-processed pepperoni is, but also how much I like that smoky and salty flavor, I picked up some Bacon Salt. It seemed like a joke. And yes, I know it’s highly processed. “Everything should taste like bacon” the tagline claimed. We tried it, liked it, and occasionally used it. I used to eat it on scrambled eggs. I have added it to split pea soup in place of ham.

Now I’ve discovered that the Hickory, Peppered, Applewood, and Mesquite varieties are vegan. All varieties are kosher, which seems hilariously wrong. I’ve had Hickory and Peppered, and the Peppered can be quite spicy if you overdo it. Unfortunately, all varieties contain MSG and traces of hydrogenated fat. Not so good, but I don’t plan to eat the whole bottle at once.

I like it on scrambled tofu and sprinkled over steamed or sauteed green beans. And I really like J&D’s new ads, featuring zombie 50s housewives.

Quick Polenta with Black Beans and Mole

polenta with black beans and mole

Today’s lunch is brought to you by the secret word: drool.

Here we have a few slices of prepared polenta and black beans, topped with Doña Maria Mole. This prepared mole comes as a sauce that you can use right out of a little square Tetra-Pak, about the size of a juice box. It’s convenient for our family, because I can serve the omni-people their chicken with mole, and save some sauce for topping my veg protein of choice. (I should try it with tempeh.) It all comes together in under 5 minutes, minus cooking the Mexican Rice on the side (which takes about 25 minutes).

I packed up two lunch portions in these Pyrex “frozen dinner”-sized containers. They’re about the same size as one of those overpriced meals you buy out of the freezer. I’ve eaten my share of Healthy Choice, and they never compared to my own leftovers. I’m trying to phase out plastic containers and use more glass for reheating. These containers come with plastic lids which do an adequate job of sealing, except for really juicy foods. When I’m concerned about leakage, I seal the container with plastic wrap under the lid.

Pyrex lunch containers

And… check out my new To-Go Ware utensil set! It’s made from bamboo, and includes chopsticks and a fabric carrying case (not pictured). It fits in my small purse, so it can go to restaurants, or wherever I eat my packed lunches. The sets retail for $12.95 each at the manufacturer’s web site, but Common Ground Food Co-Op has them for only $9.99.


Cashew Goat Cheese, Take One

I love the combination of leafy green salads with fruit, nuts, and goat cheese. I am looking for a goat cheese-like vegan substitute, so I tried this highly-regarded Vegetarian Times recipe for Pepper-Crusted Cashew Goat Cheese.

I don’t think it turned out as it should have. Maybe I really need cheesecloth, as called for in the recipe, versus a paper towel I used to attempt to shape it into a log.

The texture is very soft, and it’s much too salty. It’s missing a sweetness that real goat cheese has. I’ll adjust the recipe and try again.

As a spread, it’s good on a bagel thin, with fresh blueberry jam.

cashew goat cheese on a bagel

Junior Chef Lance Presents: Spinach Mushroom Quesadillas

spinach mushroom quesadillas

My son Lance is 6 and a half. He loves Cholula, swimming, Legos, and Plants vs. Zombies (arguably the cutest, most addictive game ever, and the inspiration behind the name of this blog). He eats just about everything, except brains. He also likes to cook. Last week, he made himself dinner: pasta, black olives, and Tabasco, with raw oatmeal for a garnish. He ate it, so what can I say?

Ball Small Batch Pectin
If you have 2 cups of fruit, you can make our own jam. And control the sugar. It's so easy!

When asked what he wants for dinner, he’s likely to say, “quesadillas”. I asked, and we invented. We sauteed onions, garlic, mushrooms, and spinach. He added pepper, and tasted the cooked mushrooms with a toothpick. (Curious George says food always tastes better when it’s served on toothpicks.) He said it needed more salt, and he was right. We heated some tortillas on a griddle and added some Daiya Mozzarella. The garnish was completely his idea. These quesadillas remind me of what used to be my favorite meal at Chili’s. I think their version contained artichoke hearts, which would be a nice addition here as well. I love my little junior chef!

Blueberries are also in season. My mom and dad gave us 10 pounds of berries on their way back from Michigan. It’s a yearly trip for them, and each year I pledge to freeze some… but they’re always eaten fresh, or given to friends and neighbors. Lance and I ate at least a pound over the weekend.

I really need to save some berries so I can veganize my mom’s famous Blueberry Cream Muffins, which have earned her the name “Grandma Who Makes Muffins.” They are arguably the best blueberry muffins on the planet.

We also made freezer jam, which was so easy, you could do it while watching Doctor Who. Cook and mash 2 cups of fresh berries, add a packet of Ball Low or No-Sugar Pectin, some lemon juice and sugar (or no sugar), then ladle into freezer cups. It can also be canned in a water bath if you’re awesome and know how to do that.

blueberry freezer jam

Corn Blinis with Dill Cream

corn blinis with dill cream
Kelley gave me a huge amount of dill, which didn’t even make a dent in her backyard supply. I have yellow flowering heads, green seedy heads, and a lot of fronds. Our refrigerator smells like pickles. Look for a super-easy refrigerator dill pickle post later this week.

I made these corn blinis for breakfast. The recipe is heavily adapted from The Complete Encyclopedia of Vegetables and Vegetarian Cooking. At 500+ extra-large pages, this hefty volume has an extensive catalog of vegetable varieties, storage, and preparation. I’ve owned it for years and haven’t cooked much from it, but it has a lot of good ideas.

The dill cream recipe is approximate. Feel free to season with more black pepper, more or less dill, or add some crushed or roasted garlic to taste. The key components are the sour cream and dill.

Corn Blinis with Dill Cream

2 tbsp ground flax seeds (I used golden, but the dark variety would work)
4 tbsp water
1 cup soy or almond milk
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tbsp olive oil
3/4 C unbleached all purpose flour
2/3 C whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 C fresh sweet corn kernels; or frozen corn, thawed
canola or olive oil, for the griddle

For the dill cream:
1/2 C vegan sour cream (Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream is good)
2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
2 tbsp chopped fresh scallions
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat a griddle pan or heavy-bottomed frying pan over medium high heat.

In a small bowl, whisk the flax seeds and water together. Let stand until it forms a thick gel.

Combine soy or almond milk with lemon juice and let stand while you measure the dry ingredients.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flours, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Mix well. Stir in flax mixture, milk mixture, and corn kernels. Stir until just combined, so that no dry ingredients remain. Do not overmix.

Brush the griddle or frying pan with a little bit of oil. Drop spoonfuls of the batter onto the griddle. Cook until holes appear on the top and the mixture begins to set around the sides. Flip the blinis and cook briefly on the other side. Keep warm in a low oven until all are cooked.

To make the dill cream:
Blend the sour cream with the dill, scallions, salt, and pepper.

Serve blinis warm, topped with dill cream.

Makes about 9 3-inch blinis.

Conference Happy Hour: Bruschetta

Today’s conference in Peoria had some decent bruschetta, a reminder that tomato season has begun. I need to get some tomatoes from Common Ground and make my own. I would make my own bread, but it’s too hot.

conference bruschetta

The selections at happy hour were better than what I had for lunch: romaine lettuce, black olives, orange & yellow carrots, green beans, and rolls. Quality: okay. Selection: poor, but at least it was something.

I’m glad I brought a Kind Fruit + Nut Bar for dessert/snack. The macadamia apricot flavor will probably be cloned later, or added to a Larabar style recipe.

Kind Bar Macadamia ApricotI also brought some carrot sticks, which traveled well in the heat. You’re either prepared, or you’re hungry!

Finds: ZerGüt Peppetizer

“Finds” are products I like enough to recommend. I haven’t been paid to write about them, nor have I obtained them as free samples (unless specified).

ZerGüt Peppetizer is a chunky spread with a thick salsa-like consistency. It’s made from crushed roasted peppers, roasted eggplant, tomatoes, and onions. All pronounceable ingredients here. It is mild and not spicy (to my taste), and would probably not be considered “hot” to anyone except those used to very bland foods. The label indicates it is medium spicy, but I don’t think so. (It is also available in a “hot” version.)

Despite the eggplant, it’s not exactly baba ghanoush. The pepper flavors predominate. Everything tastes deliciously roasted.

I’ve used Peppetizer as a sandwich spread, mixed it with some Vegenaise to dress a pasta salad, and eaten it with crackers. It would be great on a veggie burger, or with falafel.

World Harvest (my favorite local ethnic food store) as well as some other stores, offer several brands of similar spreads, but this one is my favorite. Some others I’ve tried were too briny or had too much vinegar. ZerGüt Peppetizer’s predominant flavors are definitely peppers and eggplant.

If you’re looking for a break from traditional chip-and-dip offerings, pick up some ZerGüt Peppetizer and whole grain tortilla chips.

A Batch of Breakfast Burritos, and Mexican Rice

breakfast burritos

I made ten breakfast burritos last weekend, which I froze or refrigerated for future grab-and-go breakfasts. Each burrito contains:

  • a flour tortilla
  • a smear of vegetarian refried beans
  • Mexican Rice (see recipe below)
  • basic scrambled tofu
  • breakfast potatoes
  • a little hot sauce (Cholula is good)
a batch of breakfast burritos in a bag
Why not use the tortilla bag to hold them together in the freezer?

The process took about an hour. All components except the refried beans were prepared from scratch. A lot of the time was not hands-on, such as when the rice was simmering. I could have used two separate skillets for potatoes and scrambled tofu and cooked them simultaneously, but I wanted to keep dirty pans to a minimum. I cooked the breakfast potatoes in the skillet, followed by the scrambled tofu.

The breakfast potatoes are simply diced potatoes sauteed in olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper.

These burritos are very filling. I prefer to let them thaw a little in the refrigerator overnight (or longer) before microwaving. I heat them on medium power to avoid hot ends and a cold middle.

I tossed one in my bag this morning and it was an excellent post-run breakfast.

Mexican Rice

This recipe makes more than double what you need for ten breakfast burritos, but reheats well. Use any type of rice you prefer, including long-grain or basmati. I used a medium-grain rice because that’s what I had on hand.


  • 3 cups medium-grain rice
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 8-oz can tomato sauce (not spaghetti sauce)
  • 2 tsp vegetable stock concentrate (Better Than Bouillon is what I use, or substitute 2 cups of broth)
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

In a deep saucepan, heat canola oil over medium heat. Add rice and stir to coat. Toast rice for a few minutes while preparing liquid mixture, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, in a 4-cup measuring container, combine tomato sauce, spices, and vegetable stock concentrate or broth. Add enough water to make a total of 4 cups of liquid.

Stir liquid into rice. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 20 minutes. (Be sure to follow cooking time guidelines for the rice you’re using.)

Uncover rice and remove from heat. Stir to separate grains and let stand for about 10 minutes before serving.

Tip: When reheating rice, it helps to sprinkle a little water on it before microwaving, in a covered dish. It keeps the rice moist.

Vegan Meetup Group: Salads in the Park

refreshing white teaLinda and Rob hosted the Champaign-Urbana Vegan Meetup Group last night at Davidson Park next to their home. It was a nice setting with enjoyable company, an abundance of great food, and slacklining.

I had about 30 seconds to snap some pictures from the time the dishes were unveiled until the feasting commenced. As usual, several dishes showed up later after we had filled our plates, so my apologies to those whose dishes did not get photographed. My favorite not pictured here was a zucchini bread topped with vegan cheese, made by Amelia.

Linda brewed some fragrant white tea in a nifty jar. White tea is great on ice. I think it would taste great over some chunks of frozen fruit.

channa masala and rice

Linda and Rob also made channa masala, with black tea, and no tomatoes. Interesting, and some of the best channa masala I’ve ever had.

tempeh saladThis is a tempeh/garbanzo bean “mock chicken-or-the-egg” salad from Kathryn, a long-time vegetarian, now vegan. She has forgotten what chicken or tuna salad is supposed to taste like. I don’t think that matters, it just tastes like good food to me.

slaw with daikon radishes Dana made a slaw with kohlrabi and daikon radishes. Way to use that CSA produce, Dana. She also brought the sought-after peanut butter cups, which proved too elusive for me to photograph. Or maybe I was too busy eating one.

broccoli salad with grapesI was too full to try this broccoli salad with grapes. It looks like there’s broccoli, celery, carrots, and grapes in here, with a vegan mayonnaise dressing. I see this salad all the time with raisins, but this grape idea has potential.

corn frittersKatie whipped up some delicious gluten-free corn fritters, with a top-notch presentation! I think the black bean spread on the right is also hers. The ceramic bowl containing it is adorable, with its little pocket for the spreader. Aww! Don’t you think these would make a great savory breakfast?

confetti ramen salad with hemp oil dressing closeup

I contributed a Confetti Ramen Slaw with Hemp Dressing.

Other offerings included Jason’s green beans with chili sauce, bread from Pekara, and delicious dessert bars from Robin, which turned out to be strawberry chickpea blondies, I think. (I may have found the recipe.)