Random Food: Aug. 20-27

vegan firm tofu banh miFirm Tofu Banh Mi from Xinh Xinh Cafe. Cucumber, daikon, onion, carrot, super-hot jalapeños, cilantro, and delicately fried slices of tofu. There are herbs embedded in the tofu. I don’t understand how this is done, and I can’t question the deliciousness.

veggie fried spring rolls with riceVeggie fried spring rolls with rice.

vegan "Big Mac"-style Gardein burgerVegan “Big Mac” Gardein burger. Special sauce, lettuce, homemade pickles, onions, tomato.

pretzel rollsPretzel rolls from Serious Eats, made without the egg white-brushing step.

Vegan Sausage Gravy and Biscuits

vegan biscuits and sausage gravy

The phrase “stick to your ribs” comes to mind here. If you like hearty, peppery cream gravy (without the cream), this is a breakfast (or lunch or dinner) for you. Feel free to add as much pepper as you like.

The flaky, buttery biscuits come from the Veganomicon recipe for Leek and Bean Cassoulet with Biscuits (pg. 172) and they’re so easy to make. Just make the biscuits as directed, cut them into circles, and bake on a cookie sheet in a 425 degree F oven for about 10 minutes. Everyone in my house loves these biscuits. And I love Veganomicon! Everything from this book has been fantastic.

The sausage gravy recipe makes enough for a crowd. You can half the recipe, or refrigerate or freeze the leftovers. Add a little more soy milk when reheating to thin the gravy to a consistency appropriate for serving.

Vegan Sausage Gravy

Makes about 8 cups, so I hope you’re hungry!

Ingredients:
1 tbsp canola oil
1 pound LightLife Smart Ground sausage
1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 cup Earth Balance Buttery Sticks (2 sticks)
3/4 cup unbleached flour
1/4 tsp ground sage
1 1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp white pepper
dash of nutmeg
1-2 shakes Tabasco
2 tsp vegetable bouillon concentrate (I like Better Than Bouillon)
7 cups unsweetened soy milk

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add olive oil. Crumble in Smart Ground sausage and fry until golden, breaking up into small crumbles. Season with coarsely ground black pepper. Remove sausage from pan and set aside. *

Melt Earth Balance sticks in the saucepan. When fully melted, add flour and whisk until fully incorporated. Add sage, onion powder, garlic powder, nutmeg, Tabasco, and bouillon concentrate. Cook over medium low heat (mixture should be bubbly), stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes or until flour is toasted.

Add soy milk and whisk mixture until flour incorporates with milk. Bring to a simmer, and stir frequently until mixture thickens, about 15-20 minutes. Add a little more soymilk if mixture becomes too thick. Just before serving, add sausage back to mixture, and season to taste with salt and more freshly-ground black pepper. (We like it peppery!)

* Tip: I have tried making the roux right in with the sausage, as I have done for non-vegan sausage gravy, but it doesn’t work with Smart Ground, which absorbs liquid and becomes rather flabby when simmered in sauce. If you want a really close texture to actual sausage, add the Smart Ground back to the gravy right before serving.

buttery flaky vegan biscuitsHere are the biscuits flying solo. So light, flaky, and fluffy.

vegan biscuits

This biscuit looks a little worried! He’s about to be eaten with homemade blueberry jam. (Another one of Lance’s creations.) These babies are also great with a little amber agave nectar.

“There’s Something About Your Chili”

vegan chili with fried plantainsWe made chili last weekend in two pots: one vegan, and one with beef. Dave tasted both and ate the omni version, but he commented that there was something about the vegan chili that was really good – better than the beef. Neither one of us could pinpoint exactly what it was. I’m going to make a big crock pot of this and take it to work.

The ground coffee and chocolate provide very subtle flavors. You will not taste this chili and say, “ooh, coffee!” but you will taste a certain something something.

This was really yummy with a few fried plantains on the side.

damn good vegan chili

Damn Good Vegan Chili

Ingredients:
3/4 cup vegetable broth
1/4 tsp liquid smoke
1 cup TVP granules
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium white onion, chopped *
2 tbsp chili powder (good quality stuff, like Penzeys)
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tbsp ground coffee (use a good quality, dark roast, preferably fresh-ground – NOT Folgers!)
1/2 tsp cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
a few dashes cayenne
1 15 oz can black beans, undrained
1 14.5 oz can Muir Glen Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes
1 15 oz can peeled crushed tomatoes
1/2 tbsp jalapeño vinegar – the juice from the jar of pepper rings
1 tsp agave nectar

Directions:
In a bowl or 2-cup glass measuring cup, bring broth to a boil. Add liquid smoke and mix well. Add TVP granules and stir until moistened. Cover with plastic wrap or a folded towel and let stand to absorb liquid.

Meanwhile, in a heavy saucepan, saute onion in olive oil until translucent. Add chili powder, cumin, garlic, coffee, cocoa, salt, cayenne, and TVP mixture. Cook and stir until spices are fragrant, about two minutes.

Add black beans, along with their juice from the can, and both cans of tomatoes. Stir in jalapeño vinegar and agave nectar.

Simmer slowly about 15 minutes. The chili reheats well, and the flavors are even better the next day. It can also be frozen.

Makes 4-6 generous servings.

* What exactly is a medium onion, since “medium” is a relative measurement? Well, the standard medium onion is 1/5 of a pound, and equals about 1/2 cup when chopped. A large onion will yield about 1 cup, and a small onion will yield about 1/3 cup.

P.S. – The non-vegan chili was labeled truthfully to avoid confusion.

chili label

The Red Herring is Back!

The Red Herring Vegetarian Restaurant is back in the lunch business after a long summer vacation. I ate a lot of vegetarian meals in college, but never visited the Herring until last year. What a shame! I guess I need to make up for lost time.

The Herring’s menu features a popular array of delicious vegetarian options, most of which are vegan or could easily be ordered as vegan. The sandwiches are served on hearty, homemade breads or pita. Portions are generous, and prices are very reasonable for fresh made (and often local and organic) fare.

Salads are topped with homemade dressings. A daily soup offering (vegan Cream of Broccoli on the day I visited) and vegan chili are great if you need a warm-up, and are served with moist, delicious cornbread. They also offer falafel plates, rice and beans, breads, a daily special entree, fair trade coffee, tea, juice, sodas, and desserts.

Red Herring Vegetarian Restaurant menu

Red Herring Vegetarian Restaurant menu 2

Red Herring Vegetarian Restaurant menu 3

I chose the BBQ Seitan sandwich because I really missed it this summer. It’s tender strips of seitan, dressed with a homemade barbecue sauce and topped with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and vegan mayonnaise. It was served atop a little nest of popcorn with a pickle spear. Lance ordered the PB&J, and devoured it before I could take a picture. The raspberry jam tasted like it could have been homemade, and the bread was the same fluffy and hearty whole wheat english muffin bread pictured with my seitan.

Red Herring Vegetarian Restaurant BBQ Seitan sandwich

Though their processing machine was not working when we visited, the Herring now accepts credit cards. I don’t usually carry cash, so now I have yet another option for a great vegan meal on campus.

Be sure to “like” The Red Herring Vegetarian Restaurant on Facebook to get all the latest specials and up to date hours. You can also give them some love on Yelp.com. They’re located at 1209 W. Oregon Street in Urbana, IL. Here are some more pictures of the Herring’s funky and friendly atmosphere.

Red Herring Vegetarian Restaurant - welcome locavores!

Red Herring Vegetarian Restaurant artwork - let's make pie!

The monkey on the left says, “let’s make pie.” I’m down with that.

the john, aka think tank

the divine throne room - the seat of revelation

you are here.

Today’s Smoothie with Zucchini

I hope that today’s smoothie helps me fight off whatever annoying bug is trying to take over my body. I woke up with a foreboding throat tickle and sinus congestion. Yuck.

vegan smoothie with melon, cherries, romaine lettuce, and zucchini

Cinnamon and ginger are going to be a regular addition to smoothies. And though it’s not listed on the photo, there is a little agave nectar in here too.

The zucchini is just some “scraps” left over from making zucchini pasta ribbons. I peel the outside meaty parts off with a vegetable peeler, and save the seedy insides for smoothies. You don’t taste the zucchini at all.

This Week’s Random Food

Here’s another installment of random things I have eaten this week.

vegan curry udon with tofu and vegetablesBest photo first! This is Curry Udon Noodles with Tofu and Vegetables, from Cravings Restaurant in Champaign. “Meat-Free” Mike from Food For Thought suggested this, and it was excellent. I love the shape of the carrots. Thanks, Mike!

vegan macaroni and cheese with beer cheese sauceNext on the carb parade: Macaroni with Beer Cheese Sauce. We made fondue last weekend, and I tossed the leftover vegan beer cheese sauce with some hot pasta and seasoned it with black pepper. The beer cheese sauce is based on Classic Fondue from The Uncheese Cookbook. It was delicious as a fondue, but subbing all beer for the wine in the original recipe meant the beer flavor was a bit too strong. Next time I’ll go with half veg broth and half beer. Very creamy, cheesy, and easy to make in a blender.

vegan tofu, lettuce, and tomato sandwich with olive saladHere’s a version of one of my favorite vegetarian sandwiches, the Tofulatta from Strawberry Fields in Urbana. The original sandwich contains grilled tofu, lettuce, tomato, provolone, and olive salad. No provolone here, but plenty of yummy olive salad. It’s the Tofuletta!

I am thrilled to have successfully grilled tofu. And now I can’t stop eating it. I used an indoor panini maker, and it was fast and easy.

tofu on the grill

The Best Tofu In The World is from the deli case at Common Ground Food Co-Op, sold in bulk. Thank you to Sarah, my vegetarian friend and colleague, for the suggestion. It’s the perfect firmness, and requires very little pressing. I slice it about 1/2 inch thick, press it briefly between towels, spread it out on a plate, and brush it with a soy/garlic marinade, then grill for about 3 minutes. The texture is great for sandwiches: chewy and a little crisp on the edges. I’m working on a post featuring several marinades. I prefer these a lot over vegan deli slices.

vegan smoky white beans and kaleThese smoky white beans and kale were awesome, and so easy to prepare. I started with roughly-torn kale, sauteed in some olive oil, with garlic and black pepper. When the kale was slightly wilted, I added about 2 cups of leftover canellini beans I had slow-cooked earlier this week, and 1/2 cup of vegetable broth with a few drops of liquid smoke mixed in. I also added vegan bacon bits. In about 10-15 minutes, the kale was tender but not completely mushy – just right.

vegan zucchini pasta with white bean basil sauceThis is a weird late-summer combination resulting from excessive heat and too many produce odds and ends.

The corn is topped with mayonnaise and lime juice, like elotes served from a local Mexican food truck. I’m really not a fan of mayonnaise on corn, but at least I tried it. The tomatoes have bacon bits on them, because I really wanted something with tomato and bacon flavors. The zucchini is sliced into ribbons with a vegetable peeler. This is the first time I have tried that, and I found that I liked slicing off the outer part of the zucchini only, just down to the seeds. I sliced the leftover seedy “core” I was left with and saved it for smoothies later. Let no vegetable go to waste, right?

The sauce on the zucchini isn’t very visible, but it’s a leftover white bean and basil dip that I made over the weekend. I will definitely post this recipe later, because it’s AWESOME. I was surprised how well it transformed into a creamy sauce over the warm zucchini. I think serving it over wheat pasta would be too bland, but the zucchini “pasta” really works.

vegan Doodles cup: ramen, tofu, bok choy, marinated carrotsThis cup of noodles is from Doodles in Champaign. It’s a little restaurant on campus serving customized bowls of ramen noodles. You can choose your broth flavor (a few flavors are vegan, most surprisingly the “beef” flavor; must be a hydrolyzed soy-based flavoring) and top it with whatever you want. There are a number of meats, of course, and plenty of vegetable options, including vegetable gyoza (not sure if they’re vegan, though).

Interstate Love Song

Rachel Weber
A really nice picture, thanks to Joseph Hedges.

We spent most of last weekend in the Chicago area, spending an awesome Friday night with friends at Medusa in Elgin. Every second Friday of the month, they have an evening of industrial, electronic, and darkwave music. This week, special guest DJ (and vegan) Peter Propaganda shared his famous and well-traveled vegan chili. I have no idea what makes it so good, which can be said for many good things I’ve eaten. It’s definitely some of the best chili I’ve ever had, vegan or non – and I think most people would not be able to tell it’s vegan. You can follow Peter Propaganda’s Vegan Chili on Facebook to see where it will pop up next in the Chicagoland area.

On the way there from Champaign, we stopped for dinner – and NOT at McDonald’s this time! Yay! Am I starting to get through, maybe?

There are decent vegan fast food meals to be found if you do your homework and ask for what you want. I’m still not sure how much I trust employees to tell me whether or not there’s dairy in something – like bread, am I right? – so I try to look things up online before I go out. What I really need to do is pull a bunch of information into a PDF and keep in on my iPod Touch. Or maybe someone could make an app for this? Hmm.

We stopped at a combination Taco Bell/KFC. I wouldn’t eat it every day, I’m not a fast food fan, and I don’t really like supporting KFC, but when you’re captive on the interstate, what are you going to do? I had a 7-layer burrito (no cheese or sour cream), a side of rice, and some really HOT corn on the cob (NOT pre-buttered!). And I picked up nifty packets of KFC hot sauce, which tastes a lot like Frank’s Red Hot. I love that stuff!

I also like Taco Bell’s nutrition calculator. I wish other fast food restaurants would create similar applications so people can scare themselves see what they’re actually eating. I don’t normally count calories, but I was curious to calculate my meal. It came to a surprising 760 calories! It’s the tortilla – nearly 300 calories right there. Yow! I’m glad I danced all of that off.

We stayed with family on Friday night, and I played with my niece Alison. She’s 7 months old, and either the happiest little vampire ever, or teething. She chomped into Lance once or twice, and grabbed Dave’s arm to use as a giant teething ring. My mother-in-law was very cool and bought me an Amy’s Black Bean Tamale and Rice meal for lunch, and we all had chips, guacamole, and fresh fruit.

And whatever happened to Stone Temple Pilots? I’d like to think that Scott Weiland’s hair is safe out there, somewhere.

Cilantro Cumin Slaw

Cilantro Cumin Slaw

Two of my favorite flavors – cilantro and cumin – combined with Reduced Fat Vegenaise. A creamy and relatively healthy side dish. Now with nutrition information! It’s easy to calculate your own nutrition information for recipes at SparkRecipes.com.

Cilantro Cumin Slaw

Makes 3 servings.

Ingredients:
2 cups purple cabbage, shredded
1/2 yellow or orange bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup Reduced Fat Vegenaise
1 tsp lime juice
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp agave nectar
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
salt to taste

Directions:
Combine cabbage, bell pepper, and cilantro in a large bowl.

In a smaller bowl, combine Vegenaise, lime juice, cumin, vinegar, agave nectar, onion powder, pepper, and salt. Pour over salad ingredients and toss well to coat.

Let stand for at least an hour before serving, or overnight, to allow the flavors to blend.

Nutrition Information (per serving)

  • Calories: 74.3
  • Total Fat: 5.3 g
  • Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
  • Sodium: 130.9 mg
  • Total Carbs: 7.9 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 1.4 g
  • Protein: 1.2 g

Random Eats: Week of July 31

Tofu with Black Bean Garlic Sauce from Cravings Restaurant, Champaign, IL. We love the owner of this place. He will cook us anything. My favorite dish is the green beans with spicy lemongrass. Their szechuan chili oil dishes are served sizzling-hot in little iron kettles, and will make you cough from across the room, they are so extremely spicy.

Black Bean Garlic Tofu

Our regular Channa Masala, cooked on the stove instead of the crock pot, with added cubes of super firm tofu. After marinating in the sauce, the texture is very, very close to paneer. I foresee a lot of vegetable + indian tomato gravy + cubed tofu combinations in my future.

channa masala with tofu

Pita with Cashew Goat Cheese (Vegetarian Times), fresh basil, and local tomatoes. With some fruit and nuts, it was enough to fuel a 9-mile run.

tomato basil pita with vegan goat cheese

Very Red Berry Smoothie. Super thick, almost like a dessert. I think this one contained frozen dark sweet cherries, frozen mixed berries (blackberries, raspberries, blueberries), kale, golden flax meal, coconut milk, and a little cocoa powder.

red berry smoothie

I didn’t get a picture of the finished product for the ingredients below, but they became sauteed zucchini with Penzeys Greek Seasoning. Lance and I battled over the second helpings.

zucchini with greek seasoning

Fresh Gazpacho

This nutrient-rich cold soup is easy to make in a blender and keeps well in the refrigerator.

fresh gazpacho

Ingredients:
5 roma tomatoes, cored and cut in half
1 cucumber, halved and seeded, unpeeled
3 yellow, orange, or red bell peppers, seeded
1 small yellow onion
1 tbsp tomato paste (I used a concentrated version from a tube)
3 garlic cloves, pressed
1/4 cup parsely, finely chopped
1/4 cup seasoned rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tbsp kosher salt (or to taste)
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Directions:
Grab a blender and a bowl large enough to hold your finished gazpacho. It’s a good idea to choose one with a lid, so you can refrigerate the soup later.

Roughly chop the onion, cucumbers, and bell peppers into 1-inch cubes. First blend the cucumber and onion, pulsing until finely chopped but not completely pureed. You want a few chunks to be left. Pour the cucumber and onion mixture into the bowl. Next, blend the peppers to the same consistency, and add them to the bowl. Lastly, place the tomatoes and tomato paste in the blender, and pulse until small chunks remain. Add to bowl.

Stir in pressed garlic, parsley, vinegar, oil, salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to let the flavors develop. Serve ice-cold.