Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Dinner with Van Gogh

As you know, I have three kids. More specifically I have three boys. Three active boys. That often means that dinner time can be utter chaos with everyone talking at once, Vegan Mom and me trying to keep kids in their seats, spilled drinks, etc. So, Vegan Mom came up with a great idea to help focus the dinner conversation. She signed some books about various artists out of the library, and every night each one of us tells the rest of the family what our favourite painting is by the artist of the week, and why. We then all say what we like about the painting, and discuss the elements and principles of art evident in the piece, as well as techniques that define the artist. On the weekend, we all make our own picture in the style of the artist.
It is a lot of fun to see what pieces of art the kids choose as their favourite because they have no preconceptions and don't go for the obvious. And, I have to admit, doing the original artwork is really hard! I loved art in high school and did a few pieces that weren't half bad, but art employs a part of the brain I have not used in a looooong time. I could almost feel my brain creaking and clunking away trying to get my hand to do what I wanted it to. Above is Son #1's interpretation of Van Gogh's self portrait. Below is my attempt at doing this picture a la Van Gogh. Next up: Picasso!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Blog Tour: Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons

Tonight I am doing something different. Nava Atlas asked me to be part of a blog tour for her latest book, Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons (it's actually the 4th edition of a cookbook she originally published as Vegetarian Soups For All Seasons). The idea is for various bloggers to try a recipe from the book and then blog about it on an assigned day. Neat, eh? The cookbook is divided into the four seasons with plenty of soups and stews in each. From Harvest Stew to Carrot Bisque to Asparagus and Spinach Soup to Melon Medley, this cookbook has over 1o0 recipes for you to try. The final chapter contains recipes for breads, muffins, and biscuits to complement all that soupy goodness.

I chose the New England Clam-less Chowder, being in the mood for something hearty. I have never had actual clam chowder so I can't comment on how it compares, but I will say that it was very, very tasty. Son # 2 described it as "super good," and Son #1 also gave it the thumbs up. I did make one change. The original recipe called for baked tofu to replace the clams, but I didn't have any. Instead, I used chopped king oyster mushrooms. It worked perfectly since the mushrooms have a bit of bouncy chew to them--kind of like what I imagine the texture of a clam would be. Son #1, who claims to hate mushrooms, immediately asked what the chunks were in his soup. Wanting to avoid a huge argument over picky eating, I just said "fake clams." "They are really good!," he replied, and ate up his soup.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


My mom used to make stew with dumplings like this when I was a kid. Basically, these are just like mini biscuits, but cooking them on top of the stew makes them tender and moist. My mom also used to serve them with pumpkin soup. Use them as you see fit.

- 1 cup flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup plain soy yogurt
- 1/3 cup plain soy milk
- 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar

1. Mix together dry ingredients in a bowl. Whisk together wet ingredient in a separate bowl, then add to dry ingredients, gently mixing until just moistened.
2. Drop spoonfuls of batter on the top of a simmering stew or soup. Cover, and let simmer for about 10-12 mins, until dumplings are cooked through.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Braised Tofu and Vegetables

I love watching cooking shows. Well, more like cooking competition shows. Top Chef is a favourite, and I love anything with Gordon Ramsay, even though he pretty much mocks everything I stand for. Anyway, it seems like someone on these shows is always braising some piece of meat, so I thought I would apply the method to some tofu. Braising is usually reserved for tough pieces of meat that need to be tenderized, so I guess you really don't need to braise tofu. Still, the end result was quite tasty, and I love the taste of oven roasted veggies.

- 2 tbsp oil
- 1 pkg extra firm tofu, thickly sliced
- 1 sweet onion, halved and sliced
- 1 small red onion, halved and sliced
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 1 large carrot, sliced
- pinch of tumeric
- 1 tsp thyme
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 1/2 cup white wine

Preheat to 350 degrees
1. Heat oil in an ovenproof frying pan over medium heat. Fry tofu slices for a few minutes on each side, until lightly browned. Remove tofu from pan and set aside.
2. Add vegetables to the pan and fry for 8-10 mins, until softened and onion is beginning to brown. Add spices and mix well. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Add wine to the pan. Let bubble for a few mins to let the wine reduce a bit. Place tofu on top of the veggies, baste with sauce, and place pan in the oven.
4. Bake for 30 mins, uncovered, basting tofu every 10 mins, until veggies are cooked, sauce is reduced, and tofu is golden brown. Serve tofu with veggies in the side, and topped with extra sauce.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Orzo Risotto

I was really in the mood for a risotto but didn't have a single grain of arborio rice in the house. I did, however, have a bag of orzo pasta. Since it looks an awful lot like rice, I thought it would make a good substitute.

- 5 cups salted water
- 1 1/2 cup orzo pasta
- 2 tbsp margarine
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1/2 cup hot vegetable broth (or more)
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
- salt and pepper to taste

1. Get the salted water boiling in a pot. Add pasta and cook for 4-5 mins, until pasta is softened but still has plenty of bite. Drain and set aside.
2. Melt margarine in a pan over medium heat. Add pasta and mix well, coating each piece of pasta. Add half of the wine, stirring constantly until absorbed. Repeat with remaining wine.
3. Add enough hot broth, a bit at a time, stirring regularly, until pasta is al dente. Add peas, yeast, parsley, and season with salt and pepper. Mix well, and cook until peas are done. Serve.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Some Tips on Making Great Bread

I know I promised the orzo risotto recipe tonight, but the picture is being held captive on my memory card while the camera battery recharges. So, I thought would share some sagely advice on baking bread from my, uh, weeks of experience as proprietor of a home bakery. It seems that so many people are afraid of making anything leavened, no doubt because the first loaf they ever tried to bake turned out as as dense as a brick and just as tasty. Bread really isn't that hard to make, but it does take some practice to make a really good loaf. The more bread you bake, the better it will be. Here are some tips to help you on your way.

Your bread is only as good as your ingredients. Chuck out that yeast that's been kicking around the fridge for the past year and buy a fresh container. Get some organic flour.
Get a few tools. A baking stone is essential for making artisan breads. An instant read thermometer will tell you when your bread is done. Speaking of tools, a stand mixer helps bring dough together quickly, especially if you are making a lot of bread. But don't let the mixer do all the work. Kneading the dough with your hands will give you a feel for the dough and will let you know if it is too wet or too dry. Find a good place for your bread to rise. Bread will rise even in the fridge, but it goes a whole lot faster in warmer temperatures. I have found the top of the radiator works well in the winter. You can also see that I cover the bowls of dough with plates--no need to use plastic wrap. You will also notice the cookbooks. Get a good cookbook. I really like Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice.Above all, keep on baking. You will undoubtedly crank out a few losers, but you will soon develop a feel for the perfect dough, know when a loaf is baked, and be able to make more complicated breads.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Seitan Scaloppine Marsala

I was in the mood for Italian tonight, but really wanted to do something without tomatoes for once. When I saw Susan's post today on Fat Free Vegan Kitchen for scaloppine with a lemon-olive sauce, I knew what to do. I'm not a big fan of olives (they honestly make me gag) so I used her cutlets to make a faux veal scallopine based on a recipe from The Sporanos Family Cookbook. I was very pleased with the results, and I think this is a meal both vegans and non-vegans will enjoy since it seems that most non-vegan will agree that veal is particularly cruel. In the background of the pic you can see what I am calling an orzo risotto. I will post it tomorrow.

- 1 recipe seitan scaloppine with the following changes:
- add 1 tsp sage
- add 8 dried shitake mushrooms, finely ground (about 1/4 cup)
- use water or veggie broth instead of "chicken" broth
- 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- 2 tbsp margarine
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 6oz thickly sliced cremini mushrooms
- salt and pepper
- 3/4 cup marsala

1. Prepare seitan as per the recipe above.
2. Heat 1 tbsp of the margarine and 1 tbsp of the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add mushrooms and saute for about 10 mins, until nicely browned. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from pan.
3. Add remaining margarine and oil to the pan. Dredge seitan in the flour, then fry in the pan for about 1 min per side, until lightly browned. Remove from pan.
4. Add marsala and let bubble, stirring constantly to thicken. Add mushrooms back to the pan and stir. Right before serving, and seitan to the pan, turning to coat with the liquid. Add a splash of water, if needed. Serve immediately.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Chinese Dumplings

If my kids aren't watching WALL-E these days, they are watching Kung Fu Panda. The upside of this is that they are more receptive to all sorts of Chinese food. If you have seen the movie, then you will understand why they were very keen to try some dumplings. The question was what to fill them with. The boys are not crazy about the tempeh filling in the Chinese Tempeh Buns I made last week, so I went with pulsed chickpeas. That was a good move. These are awesome! I based them on a recipe from an old Martin Yan cookbook which called for the dumplings to be boiled, but I am sure you could steam them as well.

Makes 15 dumplings
- 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 2 green onions, sliced
- 1/2 cup dried mushrooms, soaked and chopped
- 2 tbsp chopped cilantro
- 1 tbsp light soy sauce
- 1 tbsp hoisin sauce
- 1 tbsp sherry
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 1" piece of ginger, minced
- 1 tsp sesame oil

- 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup boiling water

1. Make the dough by mixing the boiling water into the flour with a fork. Knead on a floured surface, adding enough flour to make a soft dough that is not sticky. Shape into a 15" cylinder, cover with a damp towel, and let rest for 30 mins. Use the extra water from the kettle to soak the mushrooms.
2. While dough is resting, get 12 cups of water on its way to boiling in a large pot.
3. While dough is resting and water is heating, pulse the chickpeas in a food processor. Place in a large bowl and add the rest of the ingredients. Mix well.
4. To make the dumplings, cut a 1" slice off the dough cylinder and flatten on a floured surface into a 3-4" circle. Place some filling in the middle, then fold the circle in half and seal the edges. Cover with a damp cloth, then repeat with remaining dough and filling.
5. To cook the dumplings, add as many dumplings to the pot as you can without crowding. Stir to keep them separated. When water returns to boiling, add 1/2 cup of cold water. Return to a boil and cook, stirring, until dumplings float. Remove with a wire strainer and serve.

I made a peanut sauce that I wasn't to happy with, but you could try this peanut sauce I made before. Or, use a sauce of your choice.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Pasta and Potatoes with Tofu Pancetta

We still had half a loaf of ciabatta to finish, so it was more Italian food tonight. I leafed through The Sopranos Family Cookbook and veganized this recipe. I'm pretty sure the tofu tastes nothing like pancetta, but it does provide a burst of smoky and salty flavour with a chewy texture. Actual pancetta is not smoked (it is salted pork belly which is hung and left to go moldy), so I guess this is more like bacon. I think it would taste good in a BLT.

Tofu Pancetta
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tsp seasoned salt
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 1/8 tsp nutmeg
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/4 tsp thyme
- 1/2 tsp rosemary
- 1/2 tsp liquid smoke
- 1/3 pkg extra firm tofu, sliced (see pic below)
- 1-2 tbsp oil

1. Place all ingredients except the tofu and oil in a small pot and bring to boiling. Simmer for 10 mins.
2. While that stuff is simmering, place tofu slices in a non-stick frying pan and place over med-hi heat. Once it starts to sizzle, strain liquid into the pan. Let liquid reduce down, gently turning tofu to coat.
3. Once liquid has completely reduced, add 1 tbsp of oil (more if needed). Fry 3-4 mins per side, until crispy and browned. Reduce heat a bit, if tofu is browning too much. Remove from heat and set aside.
Pasta and Potatoes
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 carrot, chopped
- 1 rib of celery, chopped
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and chopped
- 6 cups water
- 1 small can tomato paste
- salt and pepper to taste
- 12 oz dried macaroni
- 2 cups boiling water
- 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 recipe tofu pancetta

1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Saute carrot, celery, onion, garlic, and parsley for 5-7 mins, until softened. Add potatoes, water, and tomato paste. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to bubbling, then reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 mins, until potatoes are softened.
2. Add macaroni and boiling water and cook, stirring frequently, until pasta is cooked and sauce is absorbed. Add more water, if needed.
3. Add nutritional yeast and tofu pancetta and mix well. Serve.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Tofu Cutlets in a Lemon Sauce

One of the great things about running a bakery is that you get to eat the leftover bread. One customer ordered a loaf of ciabatta today, leaving the other loaf for our dinner. Excellent. I made a batch of pasta fagioli (you can see it in the back--I only had penne on hand), Vegan Mom made the vegan Ceasar salad from Vegan Planet, and I made these cutlets. Mmmmm . . . lemony.

- 1 pkg extra firm tofu, cut into 8 pieces
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 tsp salt
- freshly ground pepper
- 3-4 tbsp margarine
- juice of two lemons
- 1/2 cup dry vermouth
- salt and pepper to taste
- strips of lemon zest
- chopped fresh parsley

1. Mix together flour, yeast, and salt and pepper and place in a small paper bag. Add a few slices of tofu to the bag and shake gently to coat tofu. Repeat with remaining slices.
2. Heat margarine in a large frying pan over medium heat. Fry tofu slices 4-5 mins per side, until golden. Add more margarine, if needed. Remove from pan.
3. Add vermouth and lemon juice to the pan, stirring frequently. Once sauce has thickened, add tofu back to the pan and coat with sauce.
4. Serve garnished with strips of lemon zest and parsley.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Naan Bread

Tonight we packed up the crew and headed out to a friend's 40th birthday party. Indian food was the menu of choice, so I provided the naan bread. I posted this recipe before, but let me say once again how awesome it is. I subbed soy yogurt and margarine for the dairy, and added chopped garlic to half of the dough for garlic naan (which you can see I also sprinkled with chopped cilantro). The party was a blast, the vegan dishes were awesome, and the naan devoured.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Sausages in the Works

I have been working on a tempeh/seitan sausage in an attempt to make a sausage that is a little more tender and a little less "gluten-y." Sometimes I find that the steamed sausages come out a little tough, or give my stomach a gluten overload. So far, my results have been pretty good, but a little too soft, I think. They taste great and have a good texture right out of the steamer, but they turn to mush if placed in a sauce. I am kind of sausaged out right now, so I will experiment again in a little while.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Pan Fried Tofu with Plum Glaze

Vegan Mom and I were in the mood for mashed potatoes tonight. A simple tofu recipe seemed like the perfect accompaniment. Recently, my local Sobey's started carrying this awesome organic tofu made by Sol Cuisine (a Canadian company from Mississauga). It has the best taste and texture of any tofu I have tried, so try some if you can get it at your local grocery store. The sauce is based on a pork recipe I saw online which called for balsamic vinegar. I improvised when I discovered that I had none on hand.

- 1 pkg extra firm tofu, cut into triangles
- oil
- 1/2 cup plum sauce
- 2 tbsp hoisin sauce
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp Tobasco sauce (or to taste)

1. Put tofu in a non-stick frying pan and place over medium heat. Once tofu starts to sizzle, cook on each side for 2-3 mins, until lightly browned. Add a splash of oil to the pan and increase heat to med-hi. Toss tofu to coat in oil, and fry each side until golden brown.
2. While tofu is frying, whisk sauces and vinegar together. Add to pan and toss with tofu. Let sauce bubble and reduce.
3. Serve tofu topped with sauce.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Summer Rolls

Just a real quick post tonight because I have to prepare for tomorrow's 8:30 am lecture. Basically, I made this recipe, and filled the rice wrappers with tempeh, sliced green onion, chopped cilantro, and steamed carrot sticks and sliced savoy cabbage tossed in soy sauce. Awesome. And, of course, I made the chili dipping sauce.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Ciabatta (Again)

This month I am featuring ciabatta at the bakery. The recipe comes from The Bread Baker's Apprentice, which is my second plug for that amazing book. Sorry I can't post the recipe here because the results are absolutely amazing. By far the best ciabatta of the several recipes I have tried.

On another note, the other day I finally got around to putting up this vegan nutritional guide in my kitchen (I bought it years ago, but had yet to put it up after moving to the new house 1.5 years ago). It is a great reference guide, and very handy to have on hand when you are prepping meals. This way you can always ensure that you are getting the vitamins and minerals you need every day.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Chinese Tempeh Buns

These are a vegan take on pork buns. I really don't associate yeast dough with Chinese cooking, and given my love of all things leavened, I thought it would be fun to try. If you aren't a big fan of tempeh, some shaved seitan. crumbled tofu, or pulsed chickpeas would work as well (I think--I did not try all these variations, but I don't see why they would not work).

- 4 tbsp sugar
- 1/2 cup warm plain soy milk
- 1/3 cup warm water
- 2 tsp active dry yeast
- 2 to 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp salt

- 12 dried shitake mushrooms
- 1 tbsp each canola and sesame oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp minced ginger
- 1 pkg of tempeh, grated
- 3 tbsp orange juice
- 2 tbsp sherry
- 2 tbsp ketchup
- 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
- 2 tbsp vegan oyster sauce
- 1 tsp Chinese five spice
- splash of water
- 1 green onion, thinly sliced
- soy milk, for brushing

1. Make the dough: Whisk sugar into warm soy milk and water, then whisk in yeast to dissolve. Set aside to proof. Add in enough flour to make a slightly tacky dough. Knead for 3-5 mins, until smooth. Place in a bowl, cover with damp towel, and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour.
2. While dough is rising, make the filling. Soak mushrooms in hot water until soft. Thinly slice.
3. Heat oils in a frying pan over medium heat. Saute mushrooms, garlic, and ginger for 3 mins. Increase heat to med-hi, then add grated tempeh and fry 5 mins. Add orange juice and sherry and stir well. Add ketchup, sauces, and five spice and stir well, adding a splash of water if needed. Stir in green onion and remove from heat.
4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
5. Remove dough from bowl and roll into a log. Divide into 12 sections. Keep covered with a damp towel. Take one section and roll into a 4-5 inch circle (with a rolling pin) on a lightly floured surface. Place 1/12 of the filling in the centre, then gather the edges over the filling, pinching the seams together and giving them a twist. Place seam side down on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. Cover with damp towel and let rise for 30 mins.
6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush each bun with soy milk and bake for 18-10 mins, or until golden brown.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Cream of Potato and Broccoli Soup

Ah, the news year is here. I am desperately trying to ignore the fact that I have two courses to teach on Monday, starting at 8:30 in the morning. Gack! On the other hand, it is high time the kids stop kicking around the house and get back to school. I am not really one for new year's resolutions, so I think I will just try to keep on keepin' on (as a wise man once said). 2009 promises to bring many new challenges, not the least of which is a 4th addition to our Vegan Family. Yep. 4 kids. Wow, eh? My very own vegan commune. If your kids are like mine, they like broccoli and they like potatoes. Why not put them together in a creamy soup? I keep the skins on for this recipe, but you can peel your potatoes if that is more your style.

- 2 tbsp oil
- 1 large sweet onion, small dice
- 1 stalk celery, minced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 4-5 medium red potatoes, skins on, small dice
- 1 cup water, or veggie broth
- 3 cups plain soy milk
- 1 head broccoli, cut into small florets
- 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
- 1/2 cup soy creamer, or coconut milk cream (i.e. place a can of coconut milk in the fridge to let the fat separate from the water)
- salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Saute onions, celery, and garlic for 5 mins, until softened. Add potatoes and saute for 2 mins.
2. Add water and soy milk to the pot (should cover most of the potatoes--add more if needed). Bring to bubbling, then lower heat, cover, and simmer for 15-20 mins, until potatoes are soft.
3. Remove half of the soup from the pot and blend until smooth. Return to pot along with the broccoli. Return to bubbling, and cook for 5-7 mins, until broccoli is cooked (soft, but not mushy).
4. Add nutritional yeast, creamer, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve with some baguettes. Look at these awesome baguette forms Vegan Mom got me for Christmas!