Tag Archives: not quite as healthy

Who says there’s no such thing as a free lunch?

L.A. Gourmet Lunch

There is, and sometimes it shows up unexpectedly at your desk.

L.A. Gourmet catering left us with some samples at work, and the vegetarian portabello was assigned to me.

Inside the neat little box, I found:

  • A sandwich of hummus, provolone cheese, sauteed mushrooms (not the large cap I was expecting, but a few tiny pieces), yellow peppers, cucumbers, and romaine lettuce. It was a little thin for a sandwich, and I expected much more mushroom to live up to the name. The roll was tasty.
  • A bag of super-crispy kettle crunch potato chips – my favorite variety. (Salt and vinegar is actually my favorite flavor, but these are my favorite texture.)
  • A cup of pasta salad, swimming in dressing that was light on oil and heavy on vinegar and sugar. Not bad, if a bit ordinary.
  • A bag of apple slices. Pre-cut produce makes me nervous, but they tasted good.
  • A brownie with a caramel center.

I didn’t mean to eat the the whole brownie. I can already tell that I should not have eaten the whole brownie. I feel like a hummingbird on crack. At least I have the energy to prepare for the sugar crash later this afternoon. Maybe this is the price of a free lunch. Ugh.

Cupcake Overload

For my birthday this year, I decided to run the Chicago Half Marathon. I finished, and it was fun. Those were my two goals. Running down Lake Shore Drive with about 20,000 other people on my birthday, which also happened to be the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, was quite an experience.

I was unsure of vegan cupcake availability on a Sunday in Chicago. We also detest city driving, even if it’s for cupcakes. So I brought along some cupcakes from Strawberry Fields here in Urbana, and took them on the road to share with the rest of the family.

These were serious cupcakes – enormous, jumbo-sized, and loaded with enough sweet frosting to send anyone into a sugar coma. They were delicious, but I’m surely not going to order as many of them next year! One half of a giant cupcake per person would be plenty!

Carrot Cake Cupcake

 Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

German Chocolate Cupcake

German Chocolate – we detected a hint of coffee flavor in this one

Hazelnut Cupcakes

Hazelnut – my favorite. Very hazelnutty, throughout the cake and frosting.

Lemon Citrus Cupcake

Lemon Citrus

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!

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.

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 Allrecipes.com

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.

“Steakhouse” Potato Salad

Vegan "Steakhouse" Potato Salad

This is a clone of a supermarket potato salad. I’ve also seen it on salad bars at actual steakhouses. I never tasted the real thing, so I don’t know how this one compares to the original. The family says it’s close.

2 lbs petite red potatoes, cut into 1/2″ dice
1 1/2 cup Vegenaise
2 tbsp non-dairy milk (or more if you like a thinner dressing)
2 tsp dijon mustard
3/4 tsp garlic powder
3/4 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp salt (or to taste)
1 tbsp parsley, chopped
2 tbsp green onions – green tops only, chopped
1/2 cup Daiya Cheddar Style shreds
1/4 cup imitation bacon bits

Cook potatoes in boiling water until just tender. (Do not overcook, or you will end up with mashed potatoes! Not that there is anything wrong with that.) Drain potatoes and set aside in a large bowl to cool.

Meanwhile, mix the dressing in a small bowl. Combine Vegenaise, milk, mustard, garlic, onion, pepper, parsley, and green onions. Fold in Daiya and bacon bits.

Pour dressing over potatoes while they are still lukewarm. Fold gently until combined. Refrigerate until ready to serve.