Saturday, February 28, 2009

Back to Basics

Sometimes I get so caught up in trying to recreate dishes I used to eat before I went vegan that I forget how great simple veggie dishes are. This pizza (thinly sliced eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms, tomatoes, red and green peppers, and red onions) was fresh and tasty and unsullied by fake meat and cheese. A good reminder to get back to basics.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Southern Style Greens

We all know that dark leafy greens are awesome for you. Kale always ranks at the top of the list as a super veggie. This month's Nutrition Action newsletter reminded me of this fact with their veggie chart. I must admit, though, that I am always a bit stumped when it comes to finding exciting ways to serve greens. Simple steaming or sauteing always results in a chorus of "eeewwwws"from the kids. And sometimes I go crazy and cook them with a few splashes of white wine and lemon juice. This recipe, however, are by far the tastiest method of serving greens I have come across yet. And the kids like them! I used swiss chard because it cooks quickly, but you could use kale or collards as well.

- 2 tbsp margarine
- 1 red onion, small dice
- 1 garlic cloves minced
- 1 bunch swiss chard, tough stems removed, roughly chopped
- 1 tsp hot sauce
- seasoned salt to taste
- pepper to taste
- splash of liquid smoke

1. Heat margarine in a large pot over medium heat. Saute onion and garlic for 5 mins, until softened.
2. Add swiss chard and cook until tender, stirring regularly. When cooked, add hot sauce, season to taste with seasoned salt and pepper, and stir in liquid smoke. Serve.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

On Bread and Canning

I love cookbooks. I have a very large shelf of them and enjoy sitting down, flipping through them, and thinking about ingredients and flavours. I recently bought two new ones and thought I would share.First, I picked up Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads. This books employs new methods to draw out maximum flavour from the grain. The breads do take some time to make, but my experience has been is that it is always worth it. Since my bakery customers prefer whole wheat breads I thought I would try to expand my repertoire. Now, I am not sure how this is legal, but Google Books has an almost complete digital copy of the book if you want to check it out.
Second, I got the BALL Complete Book of Home Preserving. As the blurb says, the book contains "400 innovative and enticing recipes include everything from salsas and savory sauces to pickling, chutneys, relishes and of course, jams, jellies, and fruit spreads, such as: Mango-Raspberry Jam, Damson Plum Jam Crab Apple Jelly, Green Pepper Jelly Spiced Red Cabbage, Pickled Asparagus Roasted Red Pepper Spread, Tomatillo Salsa Brandied Apple Rings, Apricot-Date Chutney." Aside from a few canned meat recipes (blech), everything in the book is vegan. In my ideal world I would live off the grid, growing all my own food and snubbing anything with a UPC. Until then, I just have to make due with this book.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Light and Lemony Pasta

I've been meaning to blog this since Valentine's Day when Vegan Mom and I ate it. Needless to say, things have been busy, busy, busy lately. If I have not responded to a question you left on a post, just send me an email and I will get back to you. This dish, as the name indicates, is light and lemony. Even though it is pasta (which we seem to be eating a lot of lately), the bright flavour and wine sauce make it a refreshing meal.

- 250g capellini
- 1/2 head broccoli, cut into small florets, steamed
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp margarine
- 1 red onion, halved and sliced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 1/2 cup white wine
- juice of 1 lemon
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 can white kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- 2 cups cubed chicken-style seitan (optional)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1. Get your pasta cooking, and get steaming your broccoli.
2. Heat oil and margarine in a frying pan over medium heat. Saute onion and garlic for 5-7 mins, until softened.
3. Add wine to the pan with the lemon juice. Let reduce for about 5 mins. Add zest and nutritional yeast and mix well. Add beans, seitan, if using, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
4. Drain pasta and return to post over medium heat. Pour sauce over top and bring to bubbling. Cook for a few mins to let sauce absorb into pasta a bit. Stir in broccoli and parsley and serve.

Friday, February 20, 2009

That's Why We Don't Eat Animals

One of the great things about blogging is that you get to meet all sorts of interesting people. One such person is Ruby Roth, a talented author and illustrator who is publishing a new kids' book, That's Why We Don't Eat Animals. As you can see, the illustrations are fantastic, and the message is spot on. So for all you Vegan Dads and Moms out there, check out her website and the video below.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Ultimate Almond Peach Shortcake

Here is what Vegan Mom and I indulged in on Valentine's Day. We've never been big Valentine's Day people, and with 3 kids, celebrating now means trying to stay up past 10:30. Ha! On the 14th we enjoyed a nice pasta dish (I will post that next), and then bolted these down while taking in a class piece of cinematic comedy: Dragnet.

Makes 6
- 1 3/4 cup flour
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 5 tbsp cold Earth Balance margarine
- 1/4 cup sliced almonds
- generous 3/4 cup soy creamer (or soy milk)
- 1 tsp almond extract

Preheat oven to 450 degrees
1. Whisk together flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Cut in cold margarine (or use your fingers) until it resembled coarse bread crumbs. Mix in almonds, soy creamer, and extract with a wooden spoon. Add a splash more creamer if dough is too stiff.
2. Spread batter into an extra large non-stick muffin tin (or, grease and flour a pan if you don't have a non-stick one) with a silicone spatula. You should have 6.
3. Bake for 15-17 mins, until lightly brown on top. Let cool for a 5 mins, then remove from pan and cool on a wire rack.

- 2 cups chopped frozen peaches
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 2 tbsp amaretto
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 1/2 tbsp soy creamer

Vegan Whipped Cream

1. Heat peaches and sugar in a pot over med-hi heat. When bubbling, add amaretto, reduce heat to medium, and let bubble away for a few mins. Add cinnamon. Dissolve cornstarch into creamer and add to peaches. Bring back to bubbling and stir for one min, allowing to thicken. Remove from heat and let cool in the fridge.

To Assemble the Shortcakes:
Cut shortcakes in half. Spread some whipped cream on the bottom half, and then some peach filling. Place the top of the shortcake on, then top with more filling and a dollop of cream.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Pasta Primavera

Pasta Primavera sounds soooo much better than what this actually is: Clean out the Fridge Pasta. I used to hate pasta primavera because back when I was a vegetarian it seemed to be the only thing available when I went out to eat (kind of like the way I feel about salad and grilled veggies now that I am a vegan). Hmm. That tells you how long ago I was a vegetarian; I actually had the time and money to out to a restaurant. Anyway, despite Son #1's protests about the presence of mushrooms, this dish went over very well. It's not overly saucy, so increase the flour and soy milk if you want more.

Serves 6
- 300g capellini, cooked
- 2 tbsp oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 red pepper, seeded and diced
- 1 large carrot, cut into thin sticks
- 8oz sliced mushrooms
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups frozen peas, thawed
- generous tbsp of flour
- 1 1/2 to 2 cups soy milk
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- salt and pepper to taste

1. While pasta is cooking, heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Saute onions for 3 mins, until beginning to soften. Add red pepper and carrot and saute for 5 -7 mins, until carrots are starting to get tender. Add mushrooms and garlic and cook until mushrooms have released their water.
2. Add peas and heat through. Sprinkle flour over veggies and mix well. Add 1 1/2 cups of soy milk and nutritional yeast and bring to bubbling. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
3. Drain pasta and return to the pot over medium heat. Pour sauce over top and mix well. Add more soy milk if pasta is too dry.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Creamy Cajun Rice

Here is the second dish we had on Cajun night along with the chickpea cakes (I made a few adjustments to the recipe after reading some of the comments). I guess this is something like a gumbo. It's easy to make and is very tasty. You can adjust the spices to your liking if you are not making it for a bunch of kids.

- 2 tbsp oil
- 2 tbsp margarine
- 2 tbsp flour
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 green pepper, seeded and diced
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp thyme
- 1 tsp paprika
- cayenne pepper to taste
- 3 cups of water
- 1 cup long grain rice (I used basmati)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 cups chopped seitan (optional)
- 1 cup soy milk (plus more, if needed)
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1. Heat oil and margarine in a large pot over medium heat. Add flour and stir constantly for a minute or so, until flour becomes a nice golden brown and has a nutty smell.
2. Add onion, green pepper, celery, and bay leaf and fry, stirring regularly, until softened (about 5 mins). Add spices and fry for another minute. Add water and rice and mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
3. Bring to bubbling, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until rice is cooked (about 15 mins). Stir regularly to keep rice from sticking.
4. Add seitan, if using, and soy milk. Cook until liquid thickens a bit.
5. Stir in greens onion and chopped parsley. Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Crispy Cajun Chickpea Cakes

This really isn't an attempt to make some kind of vegan crab cake. I thought some Cajun food would hit the spot, but I was also in the mood for some chickpeas (weird craving). I kept these mild for the kiddies, so you can spice them up as you see fit.

Makes 12
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1/4 cup diced onion
- 1/4 cup diced green pepper
- 1 celery stalk, diced
- 1 28 oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 1 tsp thyme
- 1 tsp paprika
- pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp hot sauce
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- 2 tbsp flour
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- salt and pepper to taste
- oil for frying

1. Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Saute onion, green pepper, and celery for 5-7 mins, until softened. Remove from heat.
2. Place chickpeas in a food processor along with the onion mixture. Pulse until chickpeas are no longer whole, but dont process them too much. Place chickpeas in a bowl and add spices, hot sauce, and parsley. Mix well. Add flour and cornstarch and mix well. Place in the fridge for 30 mins.
3. Heat oil in a frying pan over med/med-hi heat (around 350 degrees). Shape chickpea mixture into 12 patties and fry in batches, about 2-3 mins per side, or until crispy and browned. Flip a few times if they are browning too quickly. If you have trouble forming the patties, add some more cornstarch to hold it all together.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Pasta Carbonara

Someone suggested making pasta carbonara when I posted the tofu pancetta recipe. Great idea. It is simple and tasty and perfect for a busy week night.

- 1 recipe tofu pancetta, cut into small pieces
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 300 g pasta, cooked
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1/2 cup coconut cream (place a can of coconut milk in the fridge. When cold, open and skim the cream off the top)
- 1 tbsp arrowroot powder
- 1/2 cup soy creamer (more as needed)
- salt and pepper to taste
- chopped fresh parsley to garnish

1. Make pancetta while pasta is cooking. In the final minute of frying the tofu, add the garlic and fry. Remove from heat. Dissolve arrowroot into creamer and set aside.
2. Drain pasta and return to the pot over medium heat. Add tofu pancetta and nutritional yeast and mix well. Add coconut cream and creamer/arrowroot mixture. Stir constantly. As it heats up, the liquid will thicken. Add a bit more creamer if needed.
3. Season to taste with salt and pepper (keeping in mind that the tofu is salty). Garnish and serve.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

More Dinners with Artists

Just a quick post tonight. We have continued with our Dinners with Artists, and I really can't recommend them enough to you. Of course, it works best with older kids (Son #1 is 8 and really loves it; Son #2 is 5 and waxes and wanes), but it is such a rewarding activity. Not only do we get to discuss art, we also spend quality time together being creative. It doesn't matter if your pictures turn out great or not, what matters is that you and the kids have fun. It's also amazing how the kids can nail essence of each artist every time in their own pictures, while the adults (who try too hard) end up with trite and stilted pieces.

These are from Picasso Week. Son #1 totally gets it.
As does Son #2.
And here you can see what I mean by trite and stilted.
Here is Monet week. Vegan Mom agrees that her blackberries aren't particulalry Monet-esque, but I think it'a nice piece anyway.
Son #1 and I both did version of a picture I took on one of our hikes along the waterfalls that run in the forest nearby.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Vegan Butter Tarts

If you aren't Canadian then you may not understand the need to find a suitable vegan substitute for butter tarts. They are one of Vegan Mom and mine favourite treats, and we would make them on special occasions. The non-vegan version has butter in it, of course, and relies on eggs to set the filling. So, how to make a passable vegan version? The answer is some agar, which firms up the filling but lets it stay a bit runny. I did not bake these (I will experiment with that next time), so the top is slightly different, but they are still pretty great.

Tart Shells
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 cup Earth Balance margarine, cold
- 5-6 tbsp ice cold water

1. Mix flour, salt, and sugar together. Add margarine in small chunks and mix in with your fingers, until mixture resembles bread crumbs. Mix water in with a fork, enough to make a soft but not wet dough. Knead into a ball.
2. Divide ball in two, then flatten into rectangles, about 1/2" thick. Wrap in a plastic bag and put in the fridge for 30 mins.
3. Roll out dough to desired thickness on a floured surface (I like a thicker shell for a butter tart). Cut into 4.5 inch circles and press into muffin tin cups. You can make at least 12 thicker tart shells and about 18 thinner ones. Cover with plastic bag and place back in fridge. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
4. Prick bottoms and sides of the shells with a fork and bake for 25-30 mins, depending on how thick the shell is. They should be lightly golden brown.

Makes 12 tarts
- 1/2 cup Earth Balance margarine
- 1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
- 1 tbsp agar flakes
- 1/2 cup soy creamer (+ 2 tbsp)
- 1 tbsp arrowroot powder
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 2/3 cup raisins
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1. Heat margarine and sugar over medium heat. Bring to bubbling, stirring regularly. Reduce heat to med-lo to keep it from burning.
2. While that is going on, heat agar and creamer over medium heat in a separate pan. Whisk regularly until agar is dissolved. Add to sugar mixture and mix well.
3. Dissolve arrowroot in 2 tbsp of creamer. Add to sugar mixture and stir well. Make sure the sugar has all dissolved. If it hasn't, increase the heat a bit and stir until dissolved.
4. Mix in vanilla, raisins, and walnuts.
5. Fill tart shells 3/4 full. Let set, then eat.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Tofu Reuben Sandwiches

I was really in the mood for a reuben sandwich tonight, but after an afternoon snowshoeing on the lake with the family there was not enough time to make seitan. So I adapted the method from the tofu pancetta to make a corned beef-esque tofu. The result was very good. The texture was a bit different, of course, but the flavours were all there. This is a good option for those who shun fake meat.

Corned Beef-esque Tofu
- 1 cup water
- 4 tsp seasoned salt
- 4 tsp smoked paprika
- 5 whole cloves
- 1 tsp allspice
- 2 tsp dried mustard
- 5 dried juniper berries, lightly crushed
- 1 pkg extra firm tofu, thinly sliced, and dabbed dry
- oil

1. Heat water and spices to boiling and simmer for 5 mins.
2. Meanwhile heat slices of tofu in two frying pans over medium heat. When they begin to sizzle, strain (though a fine mesh sieve) half of the spice mixture into each pan.
3. Bring liquid to bubbling, and simmer until reduced. When reduced, add a few splashes of oil and fry until crispy on each side.
4. Assemble sandwiches as per this recipe.

Here is the amazing view on the lake today.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Big Fat Failures

Things have been crazy busy around here lately. That hasn't left a lot of time to be creative in the kitchen, and a few recent failures haven't helped things. First up, I can't get my sourdough starter to actually start. It bubbles away, but never actually rises. I have started and re-started so many times I have lost count. I eventually made my way over the Peter Reinhart's blog (I am using his recipe) and found out that there is a bacteria in flour that masquerades as yeast by producing carbon dioxide. I thought I have finally found the solution, and did what Rienhart suggested to fix the problem. But, alas, it did not work. Here is my starter . . . mocking me. Any suggestions from experienced bakers?
Second, I made a tortilla casserole. Do you need to fry the corn tortillas first? This casserole turned into a big pile of mush.
This one started out as a fabulous stir fry. But then I ruined it by using a pre-made sauce. Lesson learned: take a few minutes to make your own. Or, don't buy pre-made sauce in the first place.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Chickpea and Cashew Biryani

I find I am getting into a rut when I make Indian food; the same dishes every time. They are great dishes, but it's time to branch out. So, tonight I made something I have never made before: biryani. It is fantastic. Baked rice has a wonderful texture, and with chickpeas and cashews this is a hearty meal unto itself. The raisins add small bursts of sweetness to balance the spices. In a word: yum.

- 5 cups water
- 1 1/2 cup basmati rice
- 5 green cardamom pods
- 1/2 tsp tumeric
- 1 cinnamon stick, broken in two
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3 cloves
- 2 tbsp oil
- 3 onions, sliced
- 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1" piece ginger, minced
- 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp coriander
- juice of 1 lemon
- salt and pepper to taste
- 3-4 tomatoes, thickly sliced
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- 2/3 cup plain soy yogurt
- 1 cup raw cashews
- 1/2 cup golden raisins
- 2/3 cup hot water

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a casserole dish. Get water boiling in a pot. Add rice, cardamom, tumeric, cinnamon, salt and cloves. Parboil for 3 mins, drain, then return to pot and cover to keep warm.
2. While water is boiling, heat oil in a large frying pan. Dry onions for 8-10 mins, until a deep golden brown. Add chickpeas, spices, lemon juice, and season to taste. Fry for 3-4 mins, until heated through.
3. Place chickpea mixture in the prepared casserole dish and top with cilantro. Top with enough sliced tomatoes to cover the chickpeas. Spread yogurt over the tomatoes, then top with cashews and raisins. Top that with rice, and pour water evenly over the top.
4. Cover and bake for 60-65 mins, until liquid is all absorbed and rice is cooked. Serve topped with more chopped cilantro.