Sunday, May 31, 2009

Snow!

I just wanted to say that it snowed 2 cms today. That's just not right.

Vegan Brunch: An Unsolicited Review

Although I am still convinced that vegan cupcakes will indeed take over the world, I am now starting to think that vegan brunch is also key to global domination. Case in point: the Mother's Day brunch I hosted was enjoyed by vegan and non vegan alike (even the tofu!). So, I was very excited to hear that Isa had a new brunch book, and was even more excited when it came in the mail last week. First off, let me say this is probably the prettiest book Isa has put out--lots of great pics, soft pastel colour schemes on the pages, and multi-colour text. The layout and design are also nicely done, with most recipes taking up one page so they are easy to follow while cooking. But the real test, of course, is the food.
First up: pancakes and pumpkin french toast. The pancakes are a repeat from Vegan With a Vengeance, but who cares? These are still the best pancakes around, vegan or not, hands down. The french toast was also spectacular--soft and moist with the perfect spice blend to complement the maple syrup.
Joining the brunch party were these baked hash browns. The great thing about these is that your house does not have to smell like frying oil, and you can put them in the oven and forget about them while you make the rest of brunch.
Finally, Tofu Benny. I have never had eggs benedict so I have no idea if this is a good likeness or not. But I also don't care. This dish is so amazing it has now become one of my brunch staples. Mine doesn't look half as nice as the picture in the book, but it tastes great. I am definitely going to use the hollandaise sauce for other things, too.

So from just this small sampling I am declaring Vegan Brunch a winner. I am looking forward to many awesome brunches to come.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Vidalia Onion Relish

Let the canning begin! My plan this summer is to can and preserve as much as I can so we can rely less on canned food. Fresh and local is the way to go, right? The grocery store has had Vidalia onions on for real cheap lately (not even close to local, I know) and that got me thinking about the Vidalia relish I used to buy at Trader Joe's. Man, that stuff was good. With a little Googling I found this recipe, which seemed pretty much like the relish I used to buy. It is easy to make (if you have a food processor to chop the onions), and taste so good it will make even the lamest veggie dog a real treat.

Speaking of veggie dog-like things, let's not forget our good friend the homemade veggie sausage. I recently made the bratwurst version, grilled it, and was reminded of how quick, easy, and tasty they are.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Rhubarb Walnut Bread

I throw this one out as a recipe/idea you can play with. I was thinking of ways to use up the rhubarb that is growing like crazy in the backyard. After a few rhubarb crisps I thought I would try to make a rhubarb bread. I really liked the end result: a dense but moist bread with that trademark rhubarb tang. And, because it has whole grains and rhubarb, there is enough fibre to totally clean your clock. I based the recipe on Peter Reinhart's whole wheat cinnamon bread, so I apologize for the wonky mix of measurements.


INGREDIENTS
Rhubarb Mix
- 2 1/4 cup chopped rhubarb
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 tbsp minced ginger
- 2 tbsp sugar
Dough
- 18 oz whole wheat flour (plus up to 1 cup more)
- 6 oz oat flour
- 1 tbsp instant yeast
- 2 tsp salt
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 3/4 cup oat bran
- 1/4 cup vital wheat gluten
- 6 oz soy milk, warm
- 1/4 cup oil
- 2 tbsp ground flax seed
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
- 1 cup dried cranberries (soaked in hot water for 10 mins, then fully drained)

METHOD
1. Place ingredients for rhubarb mix in a saucepan and bring to bubbling. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 15 mins, until rhubarb is very soft and mushy. Remove from heat and let cool down to room temperature.
2. Place rhubarb mix in a large bowl and add all other ingredients (except the extra 1 cup of whole wheat flour). Bring together into a dough with your hands or with a stand mixer. Let sit for 5 mins (the bran will soak up some water and firm up the dough). Add in as much of the extra flour is needed to make a soft and slightly tacky dough. Knead of a floured surface for 10 mins, until smooth.
3. Place dough in a large, clean bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place for about 90 mins, until doubled (or as near doubled as you can get it).
4. Divide dough in half and shape into loaves. Place in lightly greased loaf pans, cover, and let rise until loaves crest the top of the pan.
5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place loaves on the middle shelf of the oven. Reduce heat to 325 degrees and bake for 20 mins. Rotate pans 180 degrees and bake for another 25-30 mins, until loaves are a nice golden brown and sound hollow when thumped on the bottom. Let cool on racks.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Mexican Fast Food

Son #1 wanted to play soccer this summer, so I am now officially Vegan Soccer Dad. Of course, I totally forgot about his first practice and stayed later than usual at the office figuring I had all the time in the world to make dinner when I got home. Upon arriving home I was reminded of the error of my ways and suddenly had to get everyone fed and Son #1 to practice in one hour. I kicked into high chopping gear and made this. The kids adore all Mexican food, but having tortilla chips makes it all the more special (bags of chips are a rare commodity in this house). They think they are having a treat and are getting nutrition at the same time.


There is no real recipe tonight since topping are really up to you. This plate has:
1. Tortilla chips
2. Tofu (fried in a bit of oil, then seasoned with one of those Old El Paso taco seasonings packs (the shame! I told you I was in a hurry!) and mixed some water to coat the tofu.
3. Chickpeas cooked in some chipotle salsa.
4. Chopped veggies: onion, romaine lettuce, tomato, avocado.
5. Salsa
6. Chili Lime Yogurt: about 1 cup of plain soy yogurt mixed with juice of 1 lime, large pinch of sugar, salt to taste, and 1/4 tsp chili powder.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Ultimate BBQ Tofu

If you follow this blog you know that I have made BBQ tofu before. So, what makes this "ultimate?" Good question! It's all about the method. I noticed that freezing tofu makes it rather like a sponge; much more able to soak up sauces. So, I thought I would try freezing the tofu in BBQ sauce, thawing it, then throwing it on the grill. The experiment was a success--full of flavour and with a great texture. It does takes some planning to make this dish, so consider throwing a few batches in the freezer at the beginning of the week.


INGREDIENTS
- 1 pkg firm or extra firm tofu, sliced into 8
- 1 recipe Sweet and Sticky BBQ sauce (but finely dice the onions)

METHOD
1. Bring ingredients for BBQ sauce to bubbling in a saucepan. Add tofu, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10 mins.
2. Remove tofu and place in a Pyrex dish (or whatever you use to freeze stuff). Cover with sauce, cover, and place in the freezer. Let freeze completely.
3. The day before you want to eat said tofu, place in the fridge to thaw. Or, just thaw in the microwave before grilling.
4. Grill tofu on a hot grill 3-4 mins per side, then rotating 90 degrees and repeating. Baste regulalry with the BBQ sauce. If you like, set aside some sauce and thicken in a saucepan on the stove, then slather over the grilled tofu.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

PETA's Vegan College Cookbook: A Review

I wasn't a vegan as an undergrad, a fact I am sometimes grateful for when I see the food offerings on campus these days (and when I think of how hard it was even to get a decent vegetarian option back then). While things are getting better these days, vegan options are still few and far between. To make matters worse, dorms have pretty much restricted cooking appliances to a microwave and a kettle (unless you want to use the communal kitchen at the end of the hall, which no one ever does). So, until you can get an off campus house with your own stove, what's a college vegan to do?


One answer is PETA's new Vegan College Cookbook--275 recipes all made (well, almost all) in the microwave. Written with wit and flair, the book makes no apologies for what it is: a collection of recipes that make liberal use of fake meat, dairy, eggs, and cheese (there is even a comprehensive mini encyclopedia of all the vegan alternatives available). The recipes are comprehensive, including the expected lunch, breakfast, and dinner; but also with sections devoted to salads, soups and stews, drinks, dips, snacks, and desserts. If you've ever been a student you will appreciate the special spotlight on ramen noodles.

For those of us with access to a stove, this book is probably of limited use (though there are some good ideas for quick and easy snacks and drinks), but I think the book is perfect for college students (and I should know--I teach them!). While I would like to see more focus on fresh veggies and perhaps some raw dishes, let's not kid ourselves: cleaning out the crisper is not high on the "to do" list for freshmen. The great thing about the book is that you don't have to be a culinary wizard to execute these recipes. So, kids, if you are college-bound (and if your parents are wondering what you will eat whilst at school), consider PETA's Vegan College Cookbook.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Fire Roasted Pepper and Mushroom Salad

This is a pretty easy dish to make if you already have the BBQ on. Fresh thyme really is a must here so you get those wonderful bursts of flavour when you bite down. I didn't even try to get the kids to eat this one, what with Son #1's professed hatred of both peppers and mushrooms.


INGREDIENTS
Serves 4
- 1 red pepper
- 1 yellow pepper
- 1 orange pepper
- 10 large white or cremini mushrooms
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- fresh thyme sprigs

METHOD
1. Roast peppers on the BBQ over med-hi heat for 12-15 mins, turning regularly, until skin is blistered and wrinkled. Place in a large bowl, cover with a plate, and steam for 10 mins.
2. While peppers are roasting, toss whole mushrooms in a bit of olive oil and place cap side down on the grill. Roast for about 10 mins, until mushrooms release most of their water.
3. Skin and seed peppers when they have cooled enough to touch. Dab off excess water and cut into chunks. Thickly slice mushrooms. Place peppers and mushrooms in a bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil, add lemon juice, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
4. Place in serving bowl and top with fresh thyme. Serve.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Rice Vegan Cheese: A Product Review

I was contacted by the folks at Galaxy Foods to see if I would like to sample some of their new rice cheese. I'm really not one to turn down free food, but I will admit that I am skeptical of vegan cheese. The kids like it, but I would rather just do without for the most part. Despite these caveats, they still sent me the cheese. There are three flavours: Pepper Jack, Cheddar, and American. So, I put the cheese to the test. First up, classic grilled cheese with the cheddar. The flavour was good (for fake cheese), and it melted quickly and easily (which is a big plus).
Next up, potato quesedillas with the pepper jack. I did sample some of the cheese before cooking and, quite frankly, the texture was terrible: grainy, yet pasty. But, when melted in the quesedilla, it was much better.



Lastly, Tofu English Muffin Sandwiches for brunch with the American flavour. This one actually does not taste too bad uncooked and it was a nice addition to the sandwich.

So, in the final analysis the cheese was better than I expected. On the plus side, it melts well, is soy free (if that matters to you), and tastes better than most vegan cheeses. On the downside, it has a lot of packaging since each individual slice is wrapped in plastic inside a plastic package. It would be nice to see this as a block to cut down on the plastic.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Easy Cheezy Garlic Bread Sticks

We make pizzas every week for the boys' lunches (Thursday is pizza day at school and they don't like feeling left out). I had some extra dough this week, so I made these bread sticks to go with our pasta dinner. So, I guess this recipe is really only easy if you already have some dough on hand (I just couldn't pass up the rhyming title). I used Isa's recipe from Vegan With a Vengeance, but any pizza dough recipe will suffice since they are all pretty much the same. Try this one, if you like. The nutritional yeast develops a nice flavour after being baked in the oven, giving these sticks a cheesy taste. Perfect for mopping up extra sauce!


INGREDIENTS
- pizza dough
- olive oil
- garlic powder
- nutritional yeast

METHOD
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
1. Divide dough into equal pieces (I weighed out 100 gram pieces). Roll into sticks about 10" long (or whatever will fit your baking sheet).
2. Place on prepared baking sheet 1" apart, brush with olive oil, then sprinkle with garlic powder and a healthy dose of nutritional yeast.
3. Bake for 12-15 mins, or until nicely golden.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Lemon Dijon Tofu and Potatoes

I love cooking with cast iron pans, but I now have a ceramic topped stove and the user's manual explicitly forbids the using of the cast iron. That means I have to use the BBQ when I want to cook with cast iron. Of course, you can use the stove if you want to. I think the lemon and Dijon work well with the two kinds of potatoes, making this a nice spring dish. Well, if potatoes and lemons remind you of spring.


INGREDIENTS
Serves 6-8
- 2 tbsp oil (more if needed)
- 1 pkg extra firm tofu, cubed
- 3 leeks, thinly sliced (white and light green part)
- juice of 4 lemons
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 lb baby Yukon Gold potatoes, halved
- 4 small sweet potatoes, thinly sliced
- 1 cup white wine (more as needed)
- 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
- salt and white pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley

METHOD
1. Place a large cast iron over a BBQ grill set to medium heat (around 450 degrees). Or, put it on the stove over medium heat.
2. Heat oil and fry tofu cubes until golden. Remove from pan and set aside. Add more oil, if needed, and saute leeks for about 5 mins, until then soften. Add lemon juice and cook for 2 mins.
3. Add garlic and Yukon Gold potatoes along with some of the wine. Cook for 10 mins, stirring regularly, and adding more wine if things get too dry. Close the BBQ lid in between stirs.
4. Add tofu back to the pan along with the sweet potatoes. Cook for 15-20 mins, or until potatoes are cooked through. Keep adding wine when needed (like you would a risotto).
5. Stir in Dijon, season to taste with salt and pepper, stir in parsley, and serve.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day Brunch

To celebrate Mother's Day we invited 2 other families over for vegan brunch. While I really wished that Isa's new brunch cookbook had come out already, I was able to put together a great spread. The other families contributed a fruit tray and some vegan cinnamon buns (true friends make vegan baked goods for you when they are not vegan themselves). First, I made English muffins from The Bread Baker's Apprentice. They were awesome, and better than the recipe I posted a while ago.
I also made the pancakes and herb roasted potatoes from Vegan With a Vengeance. Joining the spread was Vegan Mom's Scrambled Tofu (we also provided tomato and avocado slices for those who wanted to make an English muffin and tofu sandwich thingy (I refuse to call them McMuffins)).
We washed down the food with orange juice and chai tea (I'm not the biggest coffee drinker), and ended the meal with the Apple Walnut Maple Pudding Cake from La Dolce Vegan (a terrible picture of a fantastic dish). I am still full.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Maple Balsamic BBQ Tofu

The weather is getting warmer, the days are getting longer, and my thoughts have turned to the BBQ. I usually BBQ right through the winter, but there was no much snow this winter that I just did not feel like shovelling a path out to the grill. But, now that the porch is snow-free, it's time to BBQ again! This is a very simple dish, and the kids just love it.


INGREDIENTS
- 1 pkg extra firm tofu, cut into 8 slices
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1/3 cup maple syrup
- 2 tbsp water
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste

METHOD
1. Whisk together all ingredients (except tofu, of course) in a bowl. Place tofu in a baking dish and pour half of the marinade over it, turning to coat. Let marinate for 30 mins, if you have the time, turning once.
2. Heat grill to med-hi. Place remaining marinade in a small saucepan and bring to bubbling over medium heat. Reduce heat and let simmer for about 10 mins, until reduced and syrupy.
3. While marinade is reducing, grill the tofu, 3-4 mins per side, then rotating 90 degrees and grilling 3-4 per side again. Baste tofu with marinade with each turn.
4. Gently toss tofu in reduced marinade and serve.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Pure Delights Chocolates

You've probably read an article somewhere about the health benefits of chocolate; something about flavonoids or lower cholesterol. Of course, that doesn't mean you can chug back a candy bar and pat yourself on the back. Most of the chocolate products out there today are crammed full of sugar and fat, not to mention milk. Enter Pure Delights chocolates. The proprietor, Chrissy, sent me an email a while ago complimenting me on the blog. A few emails later, I had arranged a trade: my cookbook for some of her handmade chocolates. These are not your average chocolates: organic, fair trade, raw, and vegan. Sweetened with agave, they do not put you in a sugar coma, and the sweetness does not overpower the taste of the chocolate. These are the kind of chocolates that actually do have health benefits. So, if you are in the mood for some chocolate, check out Pure Delights and help support a vegan home business.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Mexican Hotdogs

Sometimes the kids just want a veggie dog and some fries (and sometimes I just don't feel like cooking much else). But, let's face it: veggie dogs really aren't that great. So, I tried to dress mine up a bit to make things more interesting. My deepest apologies to Mexican cuisine.


First, I made the hot dog buns (variation 3) from Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice. They were totally awesome. Next, I roasted a red pepper and a jalapeno pepper on the grill. I skinned, seeded, and chopped them. The final hot dog had the peppers, chopped tomatoes, onions, and avocado, and some salsa. Not bad for a hot dog.
The other dog you see in the picture has vegenaise, mustard, onions, and sauerkraut. Mmmm.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Ultimate Pecan Sticky Buns

These babies are truly decadent and will surely add inches to your hips, thighs, and buttocks just by looking at them. As you may remember, Vegan Mom and I have been involved in a fight to keep the local school open (it is almost 100 years old and a pillar of the community). That has meant hosting many strategy meetings and providing lots of vegan baking for hungry activists. The great news is that we have prevailed! The school will stay open for now, giving us time to raise money to restore and renovate it to its former glory, and hopefully get it a well-deserved historical landmark designation. We probably owe it all to these buns. The recipe is modified from The New Basics Cookbook--I didn't like their some of their ingredients or method. The combination of the orange and the rum make these truly amazing.


INGREDIENTS
Dough
- 4 1/2 to 5 cups all purpose flour
- 2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
- 1 cup warm soy milk
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup margarine, melted
- 1/2 cup soy yogurt (or replacement for two eggs)
- 1 tbsp orange zest
- 2 tbsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp salt

Filling
- 3 tbsp light brown sugar
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 2 tsp cinnamon

Topping
- 1 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- 1 cup margarine
- 1/4 cup rum
- 1 1/2 cup pecan halves

METHOD
1. Mix 3 cups of the flour and the yeast together. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Add enough the remaining flour to make a soft (but not sticky) yet firm dough. Knead for 10 mins until smooth.
2. From here, you have two choices: a) place dough in a buttered bowl (turning to coat), cover, and place in the refrigerator overnight (this way you can make them fresh in the morning. Do step three and beyond in the morning as well); or b) place in a buttered bowl (turning to coat), cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled.
3. Mix together the filling ingredients and set aside.
4. Make the topping. First, butter the sides of an 9 x 13 pan. Put sugar, margarine, and rum in a saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring constantly. The trick here is to melt the sugar and start the caramelization process. I like to bring it almost to bubbling, then remove from heat and pour into prepared pan. Distribute pecan halves evenly in the topping, then place in the fridge to cool.
5. Punch down dough (if you left it in the fridge overnight, you may want to let it warm up for an hour first). Roll out on a lightly floured surface into a 12 x 18" rectangle. Sprinkle filling evenly over, then tightly roll up like a jelly roll along the long edge.
6. Slice into twelve 1.5" pieces and place in prepared pan in 4 rows of three. Cover, and let rise for about an hour. Before the hour is up, preheat oven to 350 degrees.
7. Bake for 30 to 35 mins, until nicely browned and topping is bubbling. This is actually a bit tricky. Remember that what you see is actually the bottom of the rolls, and the trick is to make sure that the tops is cooked and the topping has fully caramelized.
8. Let buns cool for 15 mins, then invert on to a large plate. You may want to invert it on to a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. That way, if the bottom (now the top) is not done, you can put it back into the oven for 5 mins or so to firm up. Serve.