In which I “umm” and “uhh” and talk about chickpeas and kale

Vegan MoFo 2011 - Vegan Month of FoodI’m going to make my radio debut this weekend! I will be a regular contributor on Food for Thought, a local radio show broadcast on WEFT 90.1. The show is live (eek!) on Sundays from 3-4 p.m.

If you’re not local to the Champaign, IL area, you can listen on the WEFT web site and hear me “umm” and “uhh” and talk about chickpeas and kale.

Food for Thought is about “all things food-related with vegetarian and vegan perspectives.” Hosts Vegan Linda and “Meat-Free” Mike tell me I need to come up with a clever radio personality name. 🙂 Any name ideas?

One of the perspectives I hope to bring to the show is that of the only vegan in a household. Aspects of it can be challenging, but definitely not difficult and certainly not impossible. For the most part it has worked out well. Nobody has gone hungry, and everyone’s tolerances for tofu in things have been duly noted. I am incredibly thankful for my wonderful husband and his open heart and mind. (He’s also a good cook, though you won’t see much of his cooking here.)

Illini Salad

Illini Salad

Vegan MoFo 2011 - Vegan Month of FoodI look back on my college days at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign quite fondly. I lived in Allen Hall, a cool living-learning dorm with classes right in the building, and plenty of weird and interesting people. A great number of these interesting people remain good friends, and I married one of the weird ones. Maybe someday our interesting kid will live in Allen Hall, too.

What I don’t remember fondly was Allen Hall food. But there was better food across campus, like Field of Greens, the weekday all-vegetarian “specialty restaurant” in neighboring Lincoln Avenue Residence Hall. I frequently trekked back from the Quad to eat lunch there, where I experienced new foods like falafel, hummus, and soy milk. (I grew up in a small midwestern town!)

I remember a lot of junk food. Pizza, breadsticks, french fries, waffles, and Edy’s ice cream. Hello freshman (on in my case, junior) fifteen.

Fast forward to modern dorm times, and we have a brand-new state-of-the-art cafeteria right down the street from where I now work on campus. The dining hall at Ikenberry Commons is amazing. The selections for students are so much better than the tiny hot food line and salad bar from my student days. Ikenberry has multiple food lines with themes, like Prairie Fire (hearth-baked pizza), Gregory Street Diner (burgers, fries, and shakes), Hortensia’s (international cuisine, usually featuring at least one vegan dish), and Soy-Tainly which features all vegan food, for every meal. There is always a fresh salad bar with plenty of veggies, some of them grown locally on the Student Sustainable Farm at the U of I. Some soups are vegan. There’s cereal of all types, dried fruits and nuts, and an impressive non-dairy milk selection. You can usually make a hearty vegan meal from these selections. Their non-dairy milk selections are also impressive for those times when you just want cereal for dinner.

University Housing has taken steps to make ingredient and nutrition information available to students by putting it on their web site. It’s not the easiest-to-use interface I’ve seen, but you can drill down to individual dishes served each day and see all the ingredients, and usually the nutrition information per serving. There is also a “vegan” filter that can be applied to view all available vegan food selections on any day. Handy!

When Ikenberry Commons opened (before I was vegan) University Housing held an open house and served several dishes for the public to sample. One of my favorites was called Illini Salad. The original salad also contained goat cheese. I’ve substituted avocado, which offering a similar creamy contrast to the crunchy apples and soynuts.

Illini Salad

Make about 4 servings.

Salad ingredients:
1/2 lb baby spinach leaves
1/2 lb mixed greens (or butter lettuce, torn)
1 green apple, chopped
1/2 cup edamame, shelled
1/2 cup corn kernels; fresh, or thawed from frozen
1 medium avocado, diced
1/4 cup roasted soynuts

Dressing ingredients:
1/2 cup rice vinegar
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp agave syrup
1 garlic clove, pressed or grated
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Combine all salad ingredients except avocado and soynuts in a large bowl. Set aside.

Dressing note: I like to make my dressing in a pint-sized glass canning jar (great for storage!), but you can use a small bowl and a whisk.

Combine vinegar, lime juice, agave syrup, and garlic. Shake or whisk to combine. Add olive oil, salt, and pepper. Whisk or shake vigorously to combine.

Pour dressing over salad, and toss to combine. Top with roasted diced avocado and soynuts before serving.

It’s B-A-N-A-N-A-S!

Vegan MoFo 2011 - Vegan Month of FoodDid you know that a machine has been invented with the sole purpose of turning your frozen bananas into frozen desserts? What specialty gadget will they think of next?



I’m all for this healthy idea, but I have a machine that does this already. It’s called a 13-year-old blender. I guess I’m not a specialty kitchen gadget kind of person.

brown smoothie

My blender made this oddly-colored smoothie many times last week. It has a base of frozen bananas and SoDelicious Vanilla coconut milk, plus kale, dark red cherries (or strawberries, I can’t remember), cocoa powder, and hemp oil. It tastes very much like a chocolate shake, has no refined sugar, and is completely kid-approved. Lance asked for it every day last week. We’ve been plowing through bananas like a herd of wild apes around here.

sausage muffin

When I’m not in the mood for a drinkable breakfast, I’ve been heating up some Herbed Breakfast Sausage patties from the freezer and eating them on toasted English muffins, along with some vegetable juice or a piece of fruit. The patties are from Vegan Diner. Like bananas, they also freeze well.

When it comes to breakfast, the freezer is your friend. It’s easy to keep a few containers of frozen fruit on hand, and a container of non-dairy milk in the fridge to make smoothies. My frequent mix-ins like cocoa powder, agave nectar, cinnamon, and ginger are all within an arm’s reach of my blender. And kale is an easy addition. Just rinse it off, strip off the stem, and place it in the blender. I have the best results when I add the milk first, then put the kale on top of that, then top it off with frozen ingredients. The kale seems to blend more finely when it’s on top of the heavy frozen stuff.

Are you eating breakfast? Did you know that eating breakfast is a characteristic common to successful weight loss maintainers and may be a factor in their success?


Seitan Gyros Recipe

seitan gyros recipe

A lot of vegan gyros recipes on the web use plain seitan. I think they’re missing the things that make a gyro so great: the delicious things happening in the meat. This gyros loaf is spiced, herbed, and baked seitan. It’s sliced thinly and grilled until it has deliciously crispy edges.

For the tzatziki sauce, you can’t do much better than the recipe on, which uses Tofutti sour cream instead of yogurt (my preference).

Seitan Gyros

Vegan Seitan Gyros

One loaf; enough for about 6 sandwiches.

1 1/4 cups vital wheat gluten
4 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp crushed dried rosemary
2 tsp oregano
1/2 tbsp lemon zest
1 1/4 cup water
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp liquid smoke
2 tbsp ketchup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients: wheat gluten, nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, rosemary, and oregano. Grate in lemon zest. Stir until evenly blended.

In a small bowl, combine liquid ingredients: water, soy sauce, sesame oil, liquid smoke, and ketchup. Mix well. Pour liquid ingredients into dry ingredients. Knead until combined.

Shape into a loaf approximately 8 inches long. Wrap in foil. Bake for one hour.

To serve (single gyro):
Let loaf cool completely for best results. Slice seitan thinly. Heat 1 tsp olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Fry seitan strips until lightly browned.

Serve strips in a pita. Top with cucumber, tomato, and onion slices, and tzatziki sauce.

Smoky Mexican Chickpeas and Cranberry Chimichurri Grilled Tofu

smoky mexican chickpeas and cranberry chimichurri tofu

Vegan MoFo 2011 - Vegan Month of FoodSometimes I’m in the mood for channa masala, but I’m out of canned (and fresh) plain tomatoes. So I grab whatever tomatoes I have – in this case, Muir Glen Organic Fire-Roasted Diced Tomatoes with Adobo flavor. They said “NEW” on the label, yet were on clearance at the grocery store. Go figure, but I stocked up. I’m glad I did, because I think they have been discontinued. Boo! If you can’t find them, you could probably use their regular fire-roasted tomatoes, and add two or three tablespoons of adobo sauce.

For the tofu marinade, I had some cilantro and jalapeños that needed to be used. The immersion blender was already out from blending the tomatoes (nobody around here likes tomato chunks except me). So I decided to throw some fresh cranberries in the blending cup with the cilantro and jalapeño and make a tart and spicy chimichurri sauce to marinate the tofu. I left the seeds and ribs in the jalapeño, and the resulting sauce was quite spicy. You can de-seed your pepper if you want less heat.

I love how this marinade worked. Some parts of the tofu immediately took on a pink color from the cranberries, and other parts were dyed green with cilantro. Pretty tofu!


Smoky Mexican Chickpeas

Serves 4.

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 tsp Mexican oregano
1 tsp cumin
3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 14.5 oz cans Muir Glen Organic Fire-Roasted Diced Tomatoes with Adobo flavor
1 15 oz can chickpeas, or your own fresh-cooked chickpeas
1 cup water
salt and pepper (to taste)

In a heavy pan, heat olive oil and saute onions until translucent. Add oregano, cumin, and garlic. Saute until fragrant.

Add paprika, tomatoes, chickpeas, and water. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes or longer, until chickpeas are tender. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve over hot basmati rice.


cranberry chimichurri tofu

Cranberry Chimichurri Grilled Tofu

Serves 4.

1 pound extra firm tofu, pressed and sliced into squares or triangles
3/4 cup cilantro, leaves and stems, packed tightly
1/2 jalapeño pepper, chopped (de-seeded if you want it less spicy)
1/2 cup fresh cranberries
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients except tofu in a blender, food processor, or cup for an immersion blender. Blend thoroughly until smooth.

Pour sauce over tofu and marinate for at least a half hour.

Grill tofu on a oiled indoor grill or outdoor grill until browned on each side.


Baked Peach Pecan Oatmeal

peach pecan baked oatmeal

Vegan MoFo 2011 - Vegan Month of FoodI like oatmeal for breakfast, but sometimes I need a change of texture. This baked oatmeal can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to a week. It can be eaten hot or cold, but I think it’s best served warm, with a drizzle of agave nectar.

If you’re not familiar with agave nectar, it is a sweet syrup extracted from the succulent agave plant, the same plant used to produce tequila. The carbohydrate in agave nectar has a low glycemic index, which provides sweetness without the unpleasant “sugar rush” and unhealthful blood sugar spike caused by many other sugars. Amber agave nectar is darkly colored and adds a subtle maple flavor in addition to sweetness. If you would like to substitute agave for other sweeteners, refer to this guide.

This oatmeal could be made with whatever combination of fruit and nuts you desire. I would try blueberries and slivered almonds, dried cranberries and walnuts, or apples and raisins.

This recipe was adapted from the Fooducate blog. It’s not a vegan blog, but has a lot of interesting articles on whole foods and nutrition.

baked oatmeal in a pan

Baked Peach Pecan Oatmeal

Serves 8.

2 tbsp flax meal
6 tbsp cold water
2 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 cup vanilla yogurt
1 cup non-dairy milk
3 tbsp amber agave nectar
2 1/2 cups chopped fruit (I used frozen thawed peaches)
1/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, combine ground flax and water with a whisk until well combined. Set aside. Mixture will thicken.

Lightly grease an 8×8 baking dish or round casserole. In a large bowl, combine oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Add remaining ingredients and flax mixture to dry ingredients and stir to combine. Spoon into pan and cover with foil or lid. Bake for 20 minutes, remove foil or cover, and bake for another 25 minutes until golden brown.

Enjoy hot, cold, or room temperature. If well covered, this will keep in the fridge for one week.

What I Ate Wednesday: Vegan MoFo #5

Vegan MoFo 2011 - Vegan Month of FoodI have fewer highlights this week, due to a weird stomach bug on Monday and Tuesday. I subsisted mostly on smoothies and English muffins. Also, leftover baked oatmeal – that recipe is coming tomorrow.


shiitake mushrooms and kale with Mexican rice

Clean-out-the-fridge leftovers night: sauteed kale with shiitake mushrooms, Mexican rice, and pineapple.


breakfast burrito and beet salad

Lunch: breakfast burrito and Granny’s Got the Beet salad from Common Ground Co-Op.

tofu dill sandwich

I had not tried the Tofu Dill sandwich (on fresh-made toasted English muffin bread) yet, from The Red Herring. Their specials have been so good, I haven’t been able to pass then up and have anything from their regular menu. This sandwich was sooooo good. Soft, creamy tofu with fresh dill, onions, tomato, and lettuce. Reminiscent of egg salad. I may have this again tomorrow.

roasted red pepper tomato soup

Beside the Tofu Dill, I had a cup of the soup of the day, Roasted Pepper and Tomato. It was spicy and tasty, and had lots of carrots and cute little acini de pepe pasta bits.



Week of Food: Sep. 24-30

Vegan MoFo 2011 - Vegan Month of Food

Here are last week’s random eatings. I did a good job avoiding processed foods and limiting sweets. Add in some intense but invigorating workouts, and although I’m a bit sore, I’m feeling good.

hummus pizza

Inspired by a post on the PPK, it’s hummus pizza! Toasted pita, hummus, kalamata olive tapenade, carrots, spinach, onions. This was dinner on Friday night. I’m trying to eat more for lunch and less at dinner.


seitan tostadas

Speaking of eating more at lunch, the week wouldn’t be complete without a trip (or two) to the Red Herring Vegetarian Restaurant for lunch. The seitan tostadas were on special twice last week. They were served with delicious brown rice and salad with blueberry balsamic vinaigrette. I don’t know how they cook their rice, but it’s twice as good as any brown rice I’ve made at home. I’ll have to see if I can learn their secrets.


sweet potato sage soup with falafel

I missed the first day of sweet potato sage soup, but a random person I sat with said it was good, so I tried it the second day. I added falafel and creamy curry dressing on the side. I freely admit to drinking the remaining curry dressing. It’s that good.


vegan bake sale cookies

On Monday, some of our students held a bake sale which included some vegan cookies. They appeared to contain chocolate chips, banana, and oatmeal. I know, I’m trying to eat better this week, but the vegan cookies need our support!

On Sunday, I went to a Vegetarian International Food Fair, sponsored by the local Seventh Day Adventist church. I didn’t expect to have my health assessed, or my body fat checked, but I found out I’m 37% fat. (A normal range is 20-27%.) On the upside, my “health age” is 33.3, less than my actual age of 35. The assessment is based on whether you follow the Adventists’ seven healthy habits:

  • Get 7-8 hours sleep nightly (yes)
  • Exercise regularly (5-6 days a week)
  • Don’t smoke (yes)
  • Don’t drink alcohol (yes)
  • Eat breakfast daily (yes)
  • Don’t eat between meals (guilty!)
  • Maintain a proper weight of 130.9 – 147.2 lbs (based on my height)

I’m not sure I agree with the last two habits. I like a snack in the afternoon to prevent me from becoming so hungry that I would gnaw at my own arm while making dinner. Self-cannibalism wouldn’t be very vegan, would it? And 147 lbs? I would be quite skeletal at that weight, so that is not happening.

Yes, I had two plates of food. Gotta try everything!

vegetarian food fair

There was quite a selection, and many vegan dishes. Many of the recipes were provided in a booklet, and I’ll have to make a few of them and re-post them here. From the swedish rye bread, going clockwise: kalrabistappe (mashed rutabagas, potatoes, and carrots), Swedish “Meatball”, sauerkraut with barley (awesome!), lentils and jackfruit over brown rice (an Asian dish – very different!), Asian noodles.


vegetarian food fair plate 2

Plate two, clockwise from bread with hummus: dolmeh, split pea curry, rice with dill and lima beans, spaghetti with peas, arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas), Costa Rican black beans and rice.


taco salad

I don’t remember what night this taco salad occurred, but it was tasty and used up some leftovers from the fridge. It has spinach, romaine lettuce, avocado, yellow peppers, onions, cilantro, crushed tortilla chips, and a dressing made from remaining bits of hot pepper jelly and Tofutti sour cream. I like clean-out-the-fridge salads.


Vegan Meetup Group: Oktoberfest


Vegan MoFo 2011 - Vegan Month of FoodMy weekend festivities included a Vegan Meetup Group Oktoberfest party at Linda and Rob’s house. The theme was German food, and many people brought vegan variations of German dishes. I was impressed again by the creativity and culinary talents of our group. I just barely managed to photograph most of the selections before they disappeared.

bierocks - German meat pies

Bierocks – German “meat” pies


apple cake

Apple cake



It’s not German, but it wouldn’t be a Vegan Meetup without hummus.



It must be getting colder outside. We had two soups: squash and potato leek. Also pictured is a delicious apple torte in the lower left corner.



Salads and sides: roasted beets (top left), bread, greens and seitan (right), and fruit salad with walnuts.


energy balls

Linda and Josie made energy balls. I don’t recall what they’re made of, but they include dates and sesame seeds and are rolled in coconut. Sold.


german chocolate cake

Speaking of coconut, this German chocolate cake was spectacular, in both size and taste. I couldn’t finish a slice, it was so rich.


dinner plate

Several items not pictured above made it to my plate, including macaroni and cheese with caramelized onions, a seitan bratwurst, and sauerkraut.


German Fruit Salad with Walnuts (Fruchtsalat Mit Walnussen)

Vegan MoFo 2011 - Vegan Month of FoodThis month has been branded “Rocktober” by Lance, for reasons unknown to me. I like it, so I’m going with it; October certainly rocks. The weather cools down, the trees turn beautiful colors, you get to dress up like whoever or whatever on Halloween, and it’s Vegan MoFo time! It’s also time for Oktoberfest. Yesterday’s Vegan Meetup Group Oktoberfest potluck was a lot of fun, and featured some fancy German fare and hearty fall dishes. Thanks to Linda and Rob for hosting. I managed to snap a few photos as we descended upon the bounty, and I’ll share them tomorrow.

I was in the mood for fruit salad, so this German(ish?) version was my contribution.

fruchtsalat mit walnussen - fruit salad with walnuts

German Fruit Salad with Walnuts (Fruchtsalat Mit Walnussen)

Makes 8 servings.

For the salad:
4 medium red apples, cored and diced (gala or braeburn are good)
2 oranges, peeled and diced
2 cups red or black seedless grapes, halved
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped

For the dressing:
8 ounces vanilla soy yogurt
2 tablespoons lemon juice, divided
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 tsp agave nectar

Combine apples, oranges, and grapes in a large bowl. Sprinkle with 1 tbsp lemon juice to prevent apples from browning. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together yogurt, remaining 1 tbsp lemon juice, orange juice, vanilla, ketchup, and agave nectar until combined.

Pour dressing over salad ingredients. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to combine. Sprinkle with walnuts before serving.

Dressing recipe adapted from: