Tag Archives: omni-friendly

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 vegweb.com, which uses Tofutti sour cream instead of yogurt (my preference).

Seitan Gyros

Vegan Seitan Gyros

One loaf; enough for about 6 sandwiches.

Ingredients:
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

Directions:
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.

Random Eating: Aug. 28 – Sep. 3

seitan fajitas

Seitan Fajitas: Simple Seitan from Veganomicon (similar recipe on Post Punk Kitchen), sauteed with taco seasonings (chili powder, paprika, cumin, onion, garlic), water, and vinegar. I was going for a chorizo-type flavor. It was very tasty, but I’m not sure about the texture of simmered seitan. I like it more chewy, like what you get from the Julie Hasson steaming method.

peaches and greens smoothie

It was still hot this week (it’s September already!) so I had a few smoothies. This is a Peaches and Greens Smoothie: coconut milk, agave nectar, kale, frozen bananas, frozen peaches.

ukranian borscht and waldorf salad

Lunch at work: red peppers and basic homemade hummus, grapes, waldorf salad (granny smith apples, black raisins, walnuts, cinnamon, low-fat Vegenaise), with Ukranian Borscht from Common Ground Co-Op.

portabella steak dinner

Portabella steak dinner: steak sauce-marinated mushrooms, yellow basmati rice, sauteed zucchini.

zaatar

This week I finally tried Za’atar. I am SO addicted! I’ve seen this many times at World Harvest foods, always sold in what seemed like very large bags, and wondered… who would need that much of a spice? Now I know.

Za’atar is a mixture of thyme, oregano, sumac, sesame seeds, salt, and other spices that you can mix with olive oil and use as a spread, dip, or condiment. I like it mixed with olive oil on bread. I sprinkled it on some spring mix salad. It’s also good with hummus.  I should make some chapatis for dipping.

channa masala with zaatar

Here is more za’atar, with basmati rice and channa masala.

mobile crockpot unit

Despite the 90 degree heat this week, I made a big hot crock pot of vegan chili to share with colleagues. Everyone liked it. I’ve made chili twice in the last two weeks, and I’m a little tired of it, so I think I’ll freeze the leftovers for later.

Indian Lentils + Coconut Makhani Sauce – Failed Ravioli = Soup

makhani lentil soup

There’s a best practice in debugging computer programs that recommends changing only one variable at a time in order to isolate the problem. I’ve also found this to be true when trying new ingredients, techniques, and combinations in cooking: try only one new thing at a time!

Failure to follow this rule resulted in some really bad ravioli last weekend. My vision was to combine Indian flavors in an Italian preparation: Indian-spiced lentils and carrots, stuffed into a chickpea flour ravioli, topped with a creamy makhani sauce made with coconut milk.

I’ve never made fresh pasta, or worked with chickpea flour. The result? Gummy, chewy, too-thick pasta with an odd, beany flavor. Not good.

At least the other components of the dish worked well on their own. These Indian-spiced French green lentils were simple to make and worked well as a side dish later in the week. The Coconut Makhani Sauce tasted like a warmly-spiced, slightly creamy tomato soup. They worked well together, too!

French lentilsLentils are fantastic. These are French green lentils, prior to cooking.

I’m offering the lentils and sauce as separate recipes. If you have other uses for one of the recipes, please share them!

Indian Spiced French Lentils

Ingredients:
1 tsp olive oil
1 1/4 cup french lentils, sorted and rinsed
2 cups vegetable broth
1 medium white onion, diced
1 large carrot, shredded (about 3/4 cup)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
2 black cardamom pods

Instructions:
In a saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, garlic, cinnamon, coriander, cumin and cardamom pods and sauté until tender. Add lentils and broth, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes, or until lentils are tender. Do not overcook lentils, or they will become mushy. Cooking time will depend on the age of your lentils. Older lentils are generally more dry and may take longer to cook, or require a bit more water.

Serve with rice, or add to Coconut Makhani Sauce to create a soup.

Coconut Makhani Sauce

Ingredients:
1/4 cup Earth Balance, melted
1/4 cup ginger, finely minced
6-7 garlic cloves, pressed
2 black cardamom pods
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp celery seed, crushed
5  cups tomato sauce
1/8 tsp cayenne
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder
Salt to taste
1 14 oz can coconut milk

Instructions:
Heat Earth Balance in a saucepan. Add cinnamon, cardamom pods, and mustard seed.

Once the seeds start to sizzle, add ginger, garlic, salt, and cayenne. Cook until small bubbles form on surface of the mixture.

Add tomato paste or tomato puree, cinnamon powder and celery seed.

Simmer the sauce for about 30 minutes, until reduced by about one third.

Just before serving, whisk in coconut milk and simmer for about 5 minutes.

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.

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).

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

Veggie Burgers and Pretz-A-Bagels

I have had mixed experiences with store-bought veggie burgers. Some are tasty, and some try too hard to be meat-like. My favorites are those which have interesting flavors, such as the Gardenburger Original (cheese, rice, and mushrooms), the Morningstar Tomato Basil Pizza Burger (self-explanatory, soy-based), or the Morningstar Spicy Black Bean Burger (mostly beans and corn). All of these contain cheese and/or eggs, and many other vegetarian burgers contain dairy and egg ingredients.

Why not try to make veggie burgers at home? There are a ton of recipes to be found on the web using easy-to-find ingredients. I picked up The Best Veggie Burgers on the Planet, an excellent book that’s a virtual world tour in burger form. It’s a complete celebration of the burger, offering plenty of recipes, including buns, condiments, sides, and even homemade bacon bits. Most ingredients are easy to find in supermarkets.

I’ve made other veggie burgers before with great success, and I love that they freeze well for later. Just separate them with waxed paper or parchment, and pop them into a bag or plastic container.

Tonight’s high-energy cooking session produced two patties. First, a Millet and Black Bean Burger recipe from Terry Walters’ book “Clean Food”, spotted last week on the No Meat Athlete blog. These were very good on their own, or eaten in a wrap. I topped mine with cilantro lime mayo, onions, and salsa.

millet black bean burgers

I had to add some extra water and lime salsa to make the mixture stick together, and as the last patties were assembled there seemed to be too much corn left that didn’t stick in the patty. I would use less corn next time.

The Bacon Cheeseburger patties come from The Best Veggie Burgers on the Planet. I didn’t have maple syrup, so I used some unrefined sugar (less than called for) and water. Next time I would eliminate the sugar entirely, and cut back on the peanut butter. They’re a little too “peanutty” for me. We’ll see how they reheat. My barbecue sauce may also have been too sweet. Overall, these are very good, and definitely have a “cheesy” flavor from the nutritional yeast.

bacon cheeseburgers

And they’re really not burned, I swear! I just like them very crispy. I plan to take one or more of these to work, along with these new bun-like things I discovered: Mini Pretz-A-Bagels! They’re like a bagel on the inside, with a chewy, caramelized texture of a soft pretzel on the outside. Lance likes them for sandwiches in his lunch. I like them dipped in hummus.

Pretz-A-Bagel

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.