Tag Archives: vegetarian

Thanksgiving 2011

This year’s Thanksgiving meal was very tasty, and we were most thankful that we could enjoy it together. One thing that helped a lot was making a detailed schedule of cooking times and temperatures, scheduling times to add more dishes to the oven so they would all finish on time. Everything was done within a 5-minute window. Everything but the turkey and gravy was vegetarian.

I now consider myself vegetarian. I know that might disappoint some of my blog readers, and I understand if you stop following me. I still eat a lot of vegan food and plan to post mostly vegan food here. I still do not eat eggs. Most meals I eat outside the house are vegan, and it’s still my preference because I know it’s the healthiest way to eat. It’s not that it’s difficult to be vegan, but I did find it difficult to be vegan in a non-vegan family, with some of our food preferences. I’ll still be trying a lot of new vegan dishes and coming up with my own recipes. And as I find more vegan dishes we can all enjoy, who knows? I might go back.

On to the meal!

The Post Punk Kitchen posted a delicious-looking seitan roast stuffed with shiitake mushrooms and leeks mere days before Thanksgiving. It happened to be the main dish I was looking for. The roast was HUGE. It took four hands to roll it up and wrestle it into the foil for baking. It serves 6-8 people. When it came out of the oven, it smelled delicious.

And lo, a heavenly light shone down upon my stuffed seitan roast. And it was good.

seitan roast
It was very good.

Thanksgiving Plate 2011

Raw cranberry salad, seitan roast, stuffing, green bean casserole, and mashed potatoes. We skipped dessert. I walked away from the table full, but not stuffed.

This was by far the best seitan I’ve ever made. The roast recipe and technique would work with a multitude of fillings. I think I will try to halve the recipe and stuff it with other things.

 

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

Sushi and pizza: the birthday weekend begins.

Round one of birthday weekend food started with Thursday night sushi.

sweet potato sushiSweet potato, grilled tofu, green onion, avocado, cucumber, sesame seeds. Served with sweet-hot pepper jelly. I love hot pepper jelly.

grilled tofu sushiGrilled tofu, sriracha, cucumber, daikon, avocado, sesame seeds, cilantro leaves.

On Friday night we made homemade pizza with a lot of improvisation. First, I ran out of semolina flour for my usual crust recipe, so I substituted garbanzo bean flour. It worked! Then I ran out of Daiya mozzarella, so I decided to make a Mexican pizza and use the cheddar I had.

Mexican pizzaIt’s topped with smoky oaxaca salsa, seitan chorizo, onions, portabella mushrooms, avocado, cilantro, and Daiya cheddar. It was delicious.


 

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.

Junior Chef Lance Presents: Spinach Mushroom Quesadillas

spinach mushroom quesadillas

My son Lance is 6 and a half. He loves Cholula, swimming, Legos, and Plants vs. Zombies (arguably the cutest, most addictive game ever, and the inspiration behind the name of this blog). He eats just about everything, except brains. He also likes to cook. Last week, he made himself dinner: pasta, black olives, and Tabasco, with raw oatmeal for a garnish. He ate it, so what can I say?

Ball Small Batch Pectin
If you have 2 cups of fruit, you can make our own jam. And control the sugar. It's so easy!

When asked what he wants for dinner, he’s likely to say, “quesadillas”. I asked, and we invented. We sauteed onions, garlic, mushrooms, and spinach. He added pepper, and tasted the cooked mushrooms with a toothpick. (Curious George says food always tastes better when it’s served on toothpicks.) He said it needed more salt, and he was right. We heated some tortillas on a griddle and added some Daiya Mozzarella. The garnish was completely his idea. These quesadillas remind me of what used to be my favorite meal at Chili’s. I think their version contained artichoke hearts, which would be a nice addition here as well. I love my little junior chef!

Blueberries are also in season. My mom and dad gave us 10 pounds of berries on their way back from Michigan. It’s a yearly trip for them, and each year I pledge to freeze some… but they’re always eaten fresh, or given to friends and neighbors. Lance and I ate at least a pound over the weekend.

I really need to save some berries so I can veganize my mom’s famous Blueberry Cream Muffins, which have earned her the name “Grandma Who Makes Muffins.” They are arguably the best blueberry muffins on the planet.

We also made freezer jam, which was so easy, you could do it while watching Doctor Who. Cook and mash 2 cups of fresh berries, add a packet of Ball Low or No-Sugar Pectin, some lemon juice and sugar (or no sugar), then ladle into freezer cups. It can also be canned in a water bath if you’re awesome and know how to do that.

blueberry freezer jam

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.