Tag Archives: vegan

“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).

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.

Ingredients:

  • 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

Directions:
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.)

Confetti Ramen Slaw with Hemp Dressing

confetti ramen salad with hemp oil dressing closeup

crushing ramenI just had a salad like this at a potluck two weeks ago, and couldn’t wait to re-create it. I’m certain it didn’t have hemp oil in the dressing, but I thought the nutty, “green” flavor would work. If you’re not a fan of hemp oil, or can’t find it, you could substitute olive or canola. (I special-ordered mine through Common Ground, and it’s available on Amazon.com.)

Did you know that hemp seeds and oil contain an ideal blend of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids? The protein and healthy fats provided by the variety of nuts, seeds, and nut oils make this a hearty main dish salad.

If you need help crushing the noodles, recruit the nearest 6-year-old. Have him squish the unopened ramen packets, but beware – if squeezed hard enough, they can explode.

Confetti Ramen Slaw with Hemp Dressing

Salad:
2 (3 ounce) packages ramen noodles, any flavor (discard packets)
4 cups napa cabbage, finely shredded
2 cups purple cabbage, finely shredded
1 carrot, shredded
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
4 green onions (white and green parts), sliced
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted (see note below)
1/2 cup sunflower seeds

Dressing:
1/4 cup brown rice syrup
1/3 cup seasoned rice vinegar (or add a pinch of salt if using unseasoned)
1/4 cup hemp oil
1 tsp sesame oil
freshly ground black pepper and salt, to taste

lonely pack of ramen noodles with some vegetables
One of these things is not like the others...
Directions:
Combine all salad ingredients (ramen, vegetables, nuts, and seeds) in a large bowl. In a glass measuring cup or bowl, whisk together brown rice syrup and vinegar until combined. Drizzle in oils and whisk until combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Dress salad just before serving in order to keep the ramen noodles crunchy.

* Note: To toast nuts, place in a dry skillet over medium heat until golden brown. Rotate frequently for even browning. Watch them carefully, as they go from toasty to burn-y in a hurry.

Cilantro Pesto and Caramelized Onion Pizza

It’s 52 degrees tonight! But it’s headed up to 90 this weekend, so it’s time to heat up the oven and make pizza while we can.

cilantro pesto caramelized onion pizza

The sauce is a Cilantro Pesto. It’s not just good on pizza, it’s great on black bean quesadillas, taco salads, sandwiches, and as a dip for jicama. All measurements are approximate, as long as you stick to the basic cilantro-cumin-onion-lime plan.

Basic Cilantro Pesto

1/4 of a white onion, cut into large chunks
1 clove garlic
1 bunch cilantro, stems and leaves (trim ends of stems)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp lime juice
1 tsp cumin
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
ground black pepper to taste

Directions:
Combine white onion, garlic, cilantro, salt, lime juice, cumin and pepper in a food processor until smooth. Drizzle in olive oil.

The Crust
My favorite pizza crust recipe
is from Fogazzo, a wood-fired over manufacturer. I don’t refrigerate my dough as the recipe indicates, I just leave it in a warm place for about 40 minutes, punch it down, then divide into 4 balls, and let rise for about an hour more. You can use King Arthur White Whole Wheat flour to add some fiber, and throw in garlic powder or other spices. This time I went with coarse black pepper and oregano. The above recipe makes four 12-inch thin crust pizzas. I bake them on a stone at 450 degrees.

The Onions
So simple: just slice a white onion (Vidalia would work too) into strips and sauté in a bit of Earth Balance until nicely caramelized. I like to slice my strips from the top of the onion to the bottom, rather than cutting the onion into rings. I think the onions turn out less “stringy” after they’re cooked. Salt and pepper to taste.

I also sprinkled about 2 tsp of nutritional yeast on top for a little cheesy flavor.

So long, final days of spring.

Chickpea Salad Wrap with Hot Cherry Peppers

chickpea salad wrap, arugula salad with grapes and sesame

Chickpeas are my Swiss Army Legume.

Steep them in spiced tomato sauce for channa masala. Mash them up with Vegenaise and whatever you fancy for a Chickpea Salad sandwich or wrap. Roast them for a crispy snack. Bake them into burgers. Grind them smooth to make hummus. (I made a wonderfully spicy southwestern-style hummus last week that I’ll post very soon. It disappeared before I could take a pic.)

I could go on, but… Chickpea Salad. This is a new family favorite. My son asked for this wrap in his lunch today, with the hot cherry peppers and everything. He’s six, and he has always liked spicy foods.

I don’t follow a recipe for this salad, but I’ll try to give some general guidelines. The result is something like tuna salad. I love to serve it with hot cherry peppers because it reminds me of the Jimmy John’s Totally Tuna sandwiches I used to order, “with pep”. It disappears instantly.

Today’s lunch: Chickpea Salad Wrap with Hot Cherry Peppers, and Arugula and Grape Salad with sesame seeds and sweet onion dressing.

Chickpea Salad

Ingredients:

  • One 32-ounce can of chickpeas, drained
  • 4 tbsp Vegenaise
  • 4-5 slices white onion, finely diced (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup sweet pickle relish
  • 1/2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • a few twists of black pepper

Directions:

Coarsely mash chickpeas in a bowl. Add remaining ingredients and stir until combined. Serve on bread, in a wrap with baby arugula and hot cherry peppers (as shown above), or on crackers.

Edit: Makes about 5 large-sized wraps with Mission Spinach Herb tortillas.