Vegan Mini PotPie

vegan pot pie 1

I’ve never had much success with potpies — whenever I tried them before, the vegetables weren’t properly cooked, or the gravy didn’t taste right, or the crust came out too hard. The successful potpie kept eluding me until I finally gave up altogether.

Until today. Oh, my, but am I amazed at this potpie recipe!!! Veganomicon has done it yet again — that cookbook continues to amaze me with all of its creative combinations. I think the secret here is the broth — before, I never paid attention to whether or not I was using vegetable broth, but wow, that makes all the difference. The other secret is the crust — this is some deliciously flaky crust we have here!

The recipe called for a larger potpie to be made, but I don’t like having a large filling-to-crust ratio, so I increased the crust “surface area,” if you will, by just making lots of mini potpies. I used a regular muffin tin and some improv aluminum foil “cup cake” holders.

Also, if you don’t like constantly wiping off a surface to do your dough rolling, do what I did and make your life easier: take your cutting board, or your flat pizza pan, put some plastic wrap or aluminum on top, and roll to your heart’s content. That minimizes clean up big time.

This is a little labor intense, so to save time, I suggest chopping up the vegetables and making the dough beforehand, if possible. Also, it’s important to get the onions, carrots, potatoes, and celery diced finely; otherwise, the vegetables won’t cook evenly and you’ll be left with a somewhat raw potpie. This recipe makes 24 individual mini potpies.

Ingredients:

For the crust (make twice for this recipe):
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup Earth Balance
~2/3 cup cold water
2 teaspoons lemon juice

For the filling:
5 tablespoons olive oil
~ 3 cups seitan, chopped
1 teaspoon soy sauce, or seitan broth
1/4 cup chickpea flour
1 large onion, diced finely (very important!)
1 large carrot, diced finely (very important!)
2 small potatoes, diced finely (very important!)
1 stalk celery, diced finely (very important!)
1  cup frozen green peas or corn kernels
2/3 cup vegetable broth
1 ½ cups vegetable broth (separate)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon ground sage

Instructions:

1. Prepare the dough by combining all the dry ingredients and mixing thoroughly. Cut the Earth Balance into the dough in batches until the dough is crumbly. Mix the water and lemon juice separately, then pour into the dough mixture and knead together. If the dough is too sticky, add a little more flour, being careful not to add too much; if the dough is too dry, add water in tablespoon increments. Roll out the dough into a 8 in x 5 in rectangle, then chill while preparing the filling.

2. For the filling, heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a skillet and pan fry the seitan. Add the soy sauce/seitan broth and cook until the seitan crisps a little on the edges. Set the seitan aside into another bowl.

3. In the now empty skillet, make a chickpea flour roux by heating up the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil and adding the chickpea flour. Keep the heat on medium to low so the flour doesn’t burn; the flour should turn into a darker color as it cooks.

4. Add the chopped onion and cook for several minutes. The mixture will look like it needs more oil; if you’re cooking in a non-stick skillet, resist the urge to add more oil. If the mixture begins to stick, however, add a little oil to keep it from sticking and burning.

5. Add the carrots, potatoes, and celery, and cook until the vegetables are softened.

6. Add the 2/3 cup vegetable oil and cook until the broth has reduced a bit by simmering for several minutes.

7. Add the frozen peas, stir thoroughly, then add half of the remaining vegetable broth (3/4 cup). Add the thyme, mustard powder, and sage. Bring the mixture to a simmer and reduce the volume by allowing the broth to evaporate a little.

8. Add the remaining vegetable broth (3/4 cup) and cook until a thin gravy has formed. Add the seitan and stir, then turn off the heat and season with salt to taste.

9. Remove the piecrust from the fridge; on a clean floured surface, roll out the dough into a larger rectangle. I eyeball this step because I don’t have a ruler that I can just whip out. For mini potpies, cut out circles that are about an inch larger in radius than the muffin tin cups you’re using. I used a large mug that was about the right size to make circle indents into the dough, which I then cut out using a knife.

10. Make aluminum foil “holders” by cutting out a square of aluminum large enough to cover the bottom of the muffin tin. The pastry circle you’ve cut out should be able to fit inside the aluminum square. Press both the pastry dough and the aluminum foil into the muffin tin to create a mini potpie. There should be a little pastry dough left over to make little caps for the individual pies.

 

vegan pot pie shell

11. Scoop a generous amount of filling into each pie crust, then add a square of extra pie dough on top of the filling. You don’t need to seal the edges or anything — I just placed the extra dough on top because I like to have extra crust. If making individual pies is too labor intense, simply add all the filling into a deep casserole dish, roll out the pastry dough so that it covers the dish, and tuck in the pastry trimmings.

vegan pot pie stuffed

12. Bake at 400˚F until the top crust is browning at the edges. Because the pies are small and the filling has mostly been cooked, it shouldn’t take that long for the potpies to be ready.

13. To serve, slip the potpie out of the muffin tin and remove the aluminum foil. Serve warm and enjoy!

vegan pot pie 2

 

Vegan Acorn Squash and Black Bean Empanadas

vegan empanada 1

I’m venturing into new territory with this one here. This is my first time cooking with acorn squash besides just steaming it and eating it as is. I was afraid it wouldn’t taste good, but wow, am I glad I tried out this recipe! This is another recipe from Veganomicon, so all credit goes to the wonderful chefs who realized that acorn squash can taste good in an empanada. And who knew that acorn squash, black beans, and jalapeños make an excellent combination?

I thought this dish would be sweet at first because the recipe uses acorn squash (isn’t that somewhat sweet?) and then calls for maple syrup at the end, but these empanadas are surprisingly savory. The jalapenos give them a nice spiciness and I couldn’t taste anything sweet, really. The black beans also give a wonderful texture since the acorn squash gets more or less squashed by the end. I also modified the original recipe a tad by steaming the squash instead of roasting it and making the empanadas much, much smaller — think dumpling size — but it still came out all right.

Also, the recipe calls for seemingly random things — lemon juice in the crust, and lemon juice and maple syrup in the filling. I was apprehensive at first, too, but trust me, it works. The lemon juice in the crust makes the crust more tender, while I can’t taste any of the maple syrup or lemon juice in the filling.

Ingredients:

For the crust:
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup cold Earth Balance
~2/3 cold water
2 teaspoons lemon juice

For the filling:
1 acorn squash
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 jalapeños, seeded to make less spicy
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 cloves garlic, or 2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 can cooked black beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons maple syrup

1. Prepare the pastry first by mixing all the dry ingredients together. Cut the Earth Balance into the dry ingredients using a pastry cutter. I don’t have a pastry cutter, so I just cut the Earth Balance into smaller pieces, then mashed it into the flour using a fork. That works, too. The dough should be crumbly. Mix the water and the lemon juice separately, then pour into the dough and mix thoroughly. If the dough is too wet, add a little bit more flour. It shouldn’t be so sticky that it’s sticking to your hands — if it is, add a little bit more flour, but not too much. On parchment paper, roll out the dough into an 8 in x 5 in rectangle (it doesn’t have to be precise), then cover with plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour.

2. Prepare the acorn squash as the dough is chilling by steaming it: first cut the acorn squash in half, then remove the seeds using a spoon. Place the two halves, insides facing upward, in a steamer, and steam until soft.

3. In a skillet, sauté the onions and jalapeños with a little oil until softened. As it’s cooking, peel the squash and cut into 3/4 inch chunks. The squash should have a bit of water from the steaming — water was dripping out of my hands as I was peeling the squash.

4. Add the ground coriander and garlic and stir for a minute. Add the cumin and salt and stir for another minute. Add the squash and cook for about five minutes, stirring often. The squash will turn into mush, more or less, and not retain any of its original shape. The mushiness varies on the amount of time you spent steaming the squash — the longer you steamed it, the mushier the squash will be.

5. Add the black beans and mix thoroughly. Add the lemon juice and maple syrup and stir. Turn off the heat and set aside.

6. Take out the pastry dough and, on a floured surface, roll out the dough into a large rectangle. Veganomicon says a 9 in x 12 in rectangle, but I just eyeball it. It should be large enough to have enough shells to use up all the filling.

7. Cut the large rectangle into smaller rectangles by making four long cuts and three cuts — so at least 12 smaller rectangles. You can make 12 large empanadas, or 24 smaller ones by taking each rectangle, rolling it out so that it’s longer, and cutting it in half. The smaller empanadas are closer in size to dumplings.

vegan empanada stuffing

8. Add a spoonful of filling and pinch the edges together to seal it. The dough should be shaped like a rectangle before you add the filling and pinch it shut, but as you can see from the photo above, sometimes the rectangle isn’t there. As long as you can get the stuffing in there somehow, that’s fine.

9. Continue rolling, filling, and crimping until all the filling/dough is used up; this recipe makes 12 large empanadas, or 24 smaller ones.

vegan empanada crimped

 

10. Place the empanadas on a greased cookie sheet and bake at 400˚F for about 20 minutes, or until the dough is brown. Take out of the oven and allow to cool slightly before serving. As a side note, the crust might feel hard when you take it out initially, but it softens up as the air escapes and the empanadas deflate a little bit. Enjoy!

vegan empanada 2

Vegan nachos (sans cashew sauce!)

vegan nachos 1

I first saw this cheese recipe at Veggie on a Penny and couldn’t believe it — a cheese recipe without cashews? Using potatoes and carrots? While cashew sauce tastes delicious, cashews are SUPER expensive, and being a post-bacc on a paltry stipend, I feel like I’m eating liquid gold each time I have cashew cheese.

Veggie on a Penny claims that the cheese is good for anything — pizza, macaroni and cheese, even quesadillas. I’ve only tried it on nachos so far, but it tastes delicious on nachos.

The above photo was taken of the vegan version of this nacho recipe, but I’ve made a non-vegan version as well using Morningstar original sausage patties instead of vegan seitan, and mm, that tastes awesome, too.

This makes enough sauce for two good sized nacho platters; the nacho ingredients listed are also for two nacho platters. I fed a group of four using the below recipe as the main dish.

Ingredients:

For the cheese sauce:
2 cups potatoes, diced
1 cup carrots, diced
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup yeast flakes
1/4 onion powder
1/4 garlic powder
dash of cayenne

For the nachos, vegan version:
~2 cups vegan seitan, chopped finely, with a tablespoon or so of its broth
1 medium onion, diced
1 small green pepper, diced

For the nachos, non-vegan version:
6 Morningstar original sausage patties, chopped

For toppings, both versions:
1 bag tortilla chips
4 cups lettuce, chopped
1 can olives, diced (optional)
2 tomatoes, chopped (optional)

Instructions:

1. For the cheese sauce, boil the potatoes and carrots until soft, then drain completely. Add all the cheese sauce ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Set aside.

2. For the vegan nacho version, saute the onion and green pepper in a pan on high for a few minutes. Add the seitan bits and continue to cook on high for a minute or two, then set aside. For the non-vegan version, heat the Morningstar patties in some oil, then set aside once warm.

3. On a plate, put down a layer of tortilla chips, then add 2 cups lettuce. Add half the cheese sauce, then half the meat, then half the toppings. Serve immediately.

vegan nachos 2

Vegan buffalo chicken wrap

Vegan buffalo chicken wrap

This buffalo chicken recipe is a surprising winner because I never, in all my days, thought of substituting cauliflower for chicken. I’ve been looking for a good chicken wing imitation and was looking for Morningstar chicken nugget type recipes before I came across this one. Cauliflower, unlike chicken seitan recipes, has a few things going for it: for starters, it’s crunchy, and its crunchiness can be adjusted simply by cooking it longer or shorter, giving you more versatility than seitan. Secondly, it has a pretty neutral flavor, so it’s the perfect vehicle for your chicken wing sauce of choice. I went with fiery buffalo because I’ve been craving buffalo wings for a while.

The secret to making a healthy vegetarian/vegan meat substitution is to take texture as well as flavor into account. Texture plays a HUGE role in making something tasty. Have you ever tried kale smoothies processed in a weak blender? Not the tastiest — although the taste of kale is the same, the texture is something like vomit, so it isn’t as palatable. Ever tried juiced steak? The taste might still be there, but it’s missing the chewy, stringy texture, so it won’t be the same.

This recipe imitates the crunchy, chewy texture of fried chicken wings (minus the bones) by relying on the natural crunchiness of broiled (read: BROILED, as in baked on high in the oven, not BOILED, as in cooked in water), breaded cauliflower. If you add the buffalo sauce, you’ll barely notice that it’s cauliflower. I sort of forgot, actually.

One little disclaimer: I actually started this recipe trying to make straight up imitation chicken wings, but it didn’t turn out so great. I think I made the breading a little too thick, so it didn’t come out as crispy as I wanted it. Plus, I could definitely tell the breading was baked, not fried, so that took some of the joy away. I wouldn’t use this as a stand alone recipe — it really should be eaten in something, like a wrap or a sub, but it’s up to you. With that being said, I thought this recipe was delicious!! The crunchy/chewy cauliflower texture was immensely satisfying, and I seriously thought I was eating some fried chicken. This recipe can easily be made vegan by omitting the ranch dressing, or substituting a vegan ranch (which I don’t have, unfortunately).

Note: I used a whole head of cauliflower and that makes a LOT of “chicken,” especially if you’re using this for a wrap or sandwich. I had a whole large container of leftovers afterward, but this keeps well for a few days in the fridge.

Ingredients:

For the “chicken” cauliflower:
1 head of cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
3/4 cup chickpea flour
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 cup water

~2 cups Frank’s buffalo hot sauce
~4 tablespoons vegan butter (optional — it tempers the taste of the hot sauce so that it’s not as hot)

For the wrap:
1 wrap of choice
1 tablespoon vegan mayonnaise
1 lettuce leaf, chopped
1 tablespoon Frank’s hot sauce
1 tablespoon Ranch dressing (optional)

Instructions:

1. After cutting cauliflower into bite size pieces, set aside. Set the oven to Broil on High.

2. Combine the dry breading ingredients and mix thoroughly. Add the cup of water and whisk until the batter is even — there shouldn’t be any lumps. The batter should not be runny; for the purposes of a wrap or sandwich, the batter should be a little thicker so that the breading will stay on the cauliflower and not run off when you place them on the tray.

3. Coat the cauliflower pieces in the batter and distribute onto a cookie tray, one piece thick. The pieces shouldn’t be piled on top of each other.

4. Broil for about 15 minutes; the breading should start turning brown and might burn if you’re not careful. While it’s broiling, prepare the hot sauce — heat the hot sauce and butter over medium heat and set aside. If you’re not using butter, it’s perfectly fine to simple set the hot sauce aside until the cauliflower is done.

5. Once the cauliflower is done, take out of the oven and toss in the hot sauce mixture. Place the now-coated cauliflower back onto the cookie trays and broil again for a minute or two. The cauliflower breading should now be a nice red, but don’t worry if it doesn’t look like chicken wings, because ain’t no way on earth it will. Remember, it’s going into a wrap, so it doesn’t really have to look like chicken wings.

6. After they’re done broiling for a minute, take out of the oven and set aside to cool.

7. For the wrap, heat up a tortilla on a frying pan over medium heat, no oil, by laying it flat for about ten seconds or so on each side. This will soften the tortilla and allow it to stretch a little.

8. Spread the vegan mayo, then add about 4-6 pieces of “chicken” cauliflower. Add the extra tablespoon of hot sauce, if you really want more flavor, and the ranch dressing, as well as the lettuce.

9. Wrap everything together tightly and cut in half. Serve immediately.

Happy eating everyone!

 

Vegan Philly Cheesesteak

vegan philly cheesesteak 3

Not that long ago, I posted a recipe under Vegan Philly Cheesesteak, but I admitted it was more of a roasted vegetable sandwich. This one, however, is a true vegan philly cheesesteak recipe, one that I’m actually proud of posting. My meat craving is gone as of this recipe and I’m super excited!

Android also loved this recipe, which says something since he’s super picky. No, this isn’t going to taste exactly like meat (nothing will), but it’s delicious. What’s even better is that if you slice the seitan thinly enough, you’ll even get that wonderful, chewy, meat-like texture you’ve been looking for.

Honestly, I’m writing down the recipe below, but I don’t really measure when I cook, so all of the measurements are estimates. This made about six philly cheesesteaks, medium size (six inch sub buns), so adjust your measurements accordingly.

Ingredients:

Approximately 2 cups cooked seitan, sliced, with a little bit of broth left
1 large green bell peppers, sliced into medium thin strips
1 large onion, sliced into medium thin strips
2 medium portobello mushrooms, sliced into medium thin strips

5-6 subs, sliced almost all the way through (don’t slice completely through)
~1 tablespoon vegenaise per sandwich
1 slice veggie cheese (optional)

Instructions:

Note: this sandwich is best served warm, so if you’re cooking with your oven that day, keep the oven on while you’re making this recipe. Otherwise, toast your sub bread (before adding the vegenaise and cheese) by laying your bread, open side down, on the skillet on medium heat, and allowing it to become warm.

1. Turn up the skillet to high heat and add a dash of oil and spread around the pan. Add the green bell peppers, onions, and portobello mushrooms and cooks on high for a few minutes. You don’t want to turn the heat down because the point is to cook them fast so that they still retain some of their crunchiness.

2. Add the seitan strips and add several tablespoons of the broth it’s in. The heat should still be on high, so the broth will seep into the veggies before quickly evaporating. Keep stirring the vegetables and seitan so that nothing burns. Cook until the veggies are a little less crunchy than if they were simply raw, but make sure not to overcook them. Turn off the heat.

3. Spread the vegenaise around the top of the sub, then add the veggie cheese. Add a generous portion of the grilled veggies and seitan, then wrap everything in aluminum foil and stick into the oven. If the bread has already been toasted, add the grilled veggies and seal the sandwich partially so that the cheese has a chance to melt. Serve immediately.

vegan philly cheesesteak 4

 

Vegan Seitan from Veganomicon

Vegan seitan 2

Ah, seitan.

Okay, so I have a confession to make. Until recently, I really, really craved some meat. Until recently, I also really didn’t like seitan. I’ve been looking forever for a good seitan recipe, and I’d find one online that I thought was decent, but then the blogger chef would say something like, “These taste amazing! And so real! Mmm, yummy, yummy!” And all the comments would say something like, “Best seitan recipe ever! Tastes like the real thing! Even fooled my meat loving husband!” and all of that made me very suspicious. See, I know my seitan, and seitan does not taste like meat. It sort of seems like meat, sometimes looks like meat, and might even chew like meat, but it is not meat. I also get suspicious of all those seitan photos; if something claims to taste amazing but then looks like a blob, well, I’m trusting the blob over the amazing.

I’m also highly suspicious of recipes that claim to be bursting with flavor, because usually when I inspect the ingredients, there really isn’t a way for flavor to be bursting anywhere. I’ve tried adding raw minced onions and garlic to seitan to make it taste good, but that flavor doesn’t stay. It most certainly doesn’t make it taste like meat, and usually, the minced onion and garlic chunks make it seem even less like meat. Before I found the recipe I like, I was even dubious about the efficacy of nutritional yeast flakes in adding flavor. I’m still dubious, to be honest.

After all of my misgivings and several failed attempts, however, I found a delicious seitan recipe that satisfied my cravings. A few disclaimers: first, this isn’t a stand alone recipe. By that I mean, you can’t make this and throw a slab of it by itself on a plate and expect anyone to think it’s meat, because it’s not. You have to use this WITH something — either as the meat in the sandwich, or the meat in a rice dish, or the meat in something else, but don’t make it and serve it as steak. Second, repeat after me: seitan to flavor ratio. It’s all about reducing the seitan to flavor ratio, because by itself, the seitan is pretty boring — the sauce is where it’s at. In order to have as much flavor cover the largest amount of seitan possible, you need to slice the finished seitan really, really thin and lock in the flavor by flash cooking it on a frying pan.

Third, you have to boil the seitan. I’ve tried baking and frying, and both options aren’t so hot. Frying it might have worked better for me if I had made the seitan pieces smaller, but frying still can’t do what boiling can — slowly marinade in the flavor by boiling it into each nook and cranny. Baking has always resulted in something disastrous — not only has it been super tough, chewy, and bland, it’s also terribly disappointing because it LOOKS so promising. The first time I tried baking it, the seitan puffed up and goldened up so beautifully, I thought for SURE it was going to be meat-like. My fellow guinea pigs were super excited until they tasted it for themselves, and the collective disappointment was thick enough to cut up and serve for dinner.

With that being said, I’m pleased with this recipe I found in Veganomicon. I was dubious about this recipe, too, but since I’d heard thatVeganomicon is as good as it gets, I figured I might as well try it. The secret to this recipe is in the broth, I think. After you finish making it, you let the seitan slices marinate in the broth until you use them. The broth/sauce seeps into the seitan through all of its wonderful porous holes, courtesy of the boiling method, and even if you squeeze most of the sauce out — which I would recommend so that the seitan doesn’t taste too salty — enough of the sauce remains within the seitan pores to give it a good, satisfying flavor.

Enough with the talk. Here’s the recipe below, with some of my own notes:

Ingredients:

For the seitan:
1 cup vital wheat gluten flour
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, pressed or grated (I omitted this completely and used onion/garlic powder and the taste still came out great)

For the broth:
4 cups vegetable broth
4 cups water
1/4 cup soy sauce

Instructions:

1. Mix together the dry ingredients for the seitan in a large bowl. Add the garlic into this mixture, too. Make sure the dry ingredients are thoroughly mixed because otherwise, you’ll have clumps of unevenly flavored gluten.

2. In a separate bowl, mix together the wet ingredients for the seitan, then pour the wet into the dry and stir with a wooden spoon. You’ll need to use your hands to knead the dough into an even lump; everything should be evenly distributed as much as possible and the dough should be elastic.

3. Divide the dough into three equal parts with a knife and shape into a lump/round form, stretching them out a bit. The seitan will expand as it boils.

4. Add all the broth ingredients into a medium sized pot and place the uncooked seitan inside. Cover and bring to a boil, but make sure it doesn’t boil continuously on high for too long — reduce to a simmer, uncover partially, and cook on low for an hour, turning the seitan occasionally.

Vegan seitan 1

5. After the hour is done, turn off the heat and let the seitan sit for 15 minutes, uncovered.

6. Remove the seitan from the broth (don’t throw away the broth!) and cut into thin slices when cool enough to handle. Store any seitan slices in the broth until you need to use them.

I’m back…

Spring is officially here, and with it, Daylight Savings Time! That means it’s still light out when I come home now, which means that I can start taking photos again (or attempt to, anyway).

I’ve been gone for the past few months finishing up my volunteering hours and getting into the swing of family responsibilities. I was supposed to volunteer until April for a total of X number of hours at both hospitals, but family duties started piling up on me, so I made the decision to just go in multiple Sundays (and regular workdays!) in a row to fulfill my hours as quickly as possible. The result was that I worked several 12 hours shifts in the ER for a few weeks, getting to know the nurses and PAs real well, and went in every day at 6:30 am for over a week into the Surgical Ward at the other hospital. My hours started melting away, but that meant very little time for food blogging. On the plus/gross side, I got to see some half-severed ears and candy-bloated vomiting little kiddies. So my time away has been productive at least (…not that anyone asked).

But back to my blog.
It’s interesting being locked in winter — because I work full time as well, when I normally come home, there isn’t enough time to cook and take photos; being tired and hungry after a full day’s work, I just want to crash and sleep. For those of you who haven’t really attempted food blogging, taking pictures takes a lot of friggen TIME. When I first started, I thought it would be as easy as snap, snap, snap in the middle of cooking, but ain’t nuttin’ like that at all. I have to pause, wash my hands, take out the camera, arrange the food just so, and attempt multiple shots before I take one I like. By that time, my siblings are howling with hunger (as is my stomach), and the food isn’t done yet.

But now with spring here and my volunteering done (yay!), that means two things: first, I have sunlight, even when I come home, so if I manage to make something after working all day, I have the option to snap a semi-decent photo. Second, I have Sundays free, so I can indulge my cooking senses to the max!!! Mwahahahaha, but I can smell the vegan cooking goodness already.

One of my labmates recently gifted me with an awesome cookbook called Veganomicon. It doesn’t have many photos, but it does have some interesting recipes which I plan on trying out here on this blog. Their lack of photography made me realize something: it doesn’t need a photo to taste good, although a photo sure as heck helps convince me to make it, so if I end up making something amazing but don’t have time to take any pictures, I’ll still post it on my website and fill in the photo later. At least there will be another recipe on the world wide web for another aspiring vegan to try.

Happy reading and cooking everyone!

Vegan peanut granola bars (no bake)

Granola bar close 1

Cooking takes up energy. By that I mean that each time I bake something, my parents end up getting a ginormous energy bill. Ah, for the good old days of burning wood instead of dollars! I still remember the wood stove we had in our basement way back when I was a wee little lass.

I decided to do everyone a favor and try out a no bake granola bar recipe — not only would we have something healthy to eat, but I wouldn’t cost my parents a penny — hurrah! After much searching, I found a recipe here that I modified to get what I wanted. I tried the recipe twice — first in its original format, and second with my modifications. The first time the granola was too crumbly; although the taste was superb, my bar wouldn’t stick together. The second time I added more stickiness and got a wonderful bar as a result.

Granola bar close 2

Now, a few notes before I unveil the recipe:

1. You can lower the sugar/honey/agave amount by adding more dates, but see note 2.

2. The trick to keeping granola bars together instead of having them crumble is to have enough stickiness. The dried dates are extremely sticky once they’ve been blended, but by themselves they can’t keep the granola together. If you’re taking away the honey, you have to add something else—syrup, or more peanut butter, or more dates. Also, you can’t substitute oil for the vegan butter (unless it’s coconut oil)—it has to be able to solidify at room temperature to keep the granola together. I’ve never tried coconut oil, but since it’s solid at room temperature, it’ll work (the taste is the only question). Water does NOT work as a binder, so do NOT use water or any other liquid at room temperature to bind these bars together.

3. You don’t have to cook either the steel cut oats or the rolled oats. This was my first time ever trying steel cut oats, so when I opened the container and gave one a test chew, I was afraid I would break my teeth. Steel cut oats are chewy; with the rest of the stickiness added in, you won’t be feeling anything solid, really.

Ingredients:

2 cups rolled oats
2 cups steel cut oats
2 cups crispy rice cereal (found in the cereal section—buy the plain, non-sugared box)
3 bags dried dates, pitted  (8 oz each)
1.5 cups nuts (peanuts are fine; mixed nuts are also good)
½ cup vegan butter
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup honey (or agave, to make it truly vegan)
1 jar peanut butter, well mixed (no oil should be visible)
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed meal, with 3 tablespoons water.
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup carob chips (or chocolate chips) (optional)

Instructions:

1. Prepare a pan for the granola before you start the actual recipe as your hands will be too sticky to do anything by the end. Any deep dish pan will do, but one with sharply defined sides is best (so nothing like a salad bowl). I actually used a bread pan because it fit into the fridge the most easily. To prepare the pan, line it with either aluminum foil or wax paper—it should cover both the bottom and the sides so that instead of trying to dig out your granola bars, you can just turn the entire pan upside down and make everything slide out.

Granola bar pan

2. Prepare the flaxseed next: in a small bowl, add 3 tablespoons water to 2 tablespoons flaxseed and let sit for at least ten minutes. The flaxseed will have the consistency of eggs after a while.

Granola bar flax

3. Chop up the dates until they’re in small pieces. The dates really hold the bars together, so you want to expose as much stickiness as possible. If you have a good, sturdy blender, I suppose you can blend them, but exercise extreme caution. I broke my mom’s blender doing that.

Granola bar dates

4. In a large bowl, add both types of oats, crispy rice cereal, and nuts (and carob chips, if you’re using them). Mix with your hands.

Granola bar grains

5. Add the pulverized dates to the oats and mix thoroughly. You’re going to really have to work the dry mixture into the dates—there shouldn’t be any sticky date clusters after you’re finished; all the dates should be spread out over the oatmeal. If you still have dry oatmeal floating around somewhere, squash, squash, squash them together still.

Granola bar mixture

6. In a small sauce pan, add the vegan butter, honey (or agave), vanilla extract, and flaxseed. Stir until the butter is melted and everything is well mixed.

7. Add the melted butter mixture to the date and oatmeal mixture.

8. Add the entire jar of peanut butter at this time.

9. Mix the entire thing. Your hands will probably be better than any spatula. You shouldn’t have any free floating oatmeal or nuts after. The mixtures won’t stick together just yet—it’ll feel a little crumbly, but it’ll set once you put it into the fridge.

10. Add the entire mixture into your pan. This whole thing should fit very snuggly into a single bread pan. PACK IT DOWN. If there’s air space between your oatmeal, it will crumble more easily. (This is why the sharply angular sided pans work better—the granola won’t slide up the sides as easily because it’s literally running into a wall, not a slope.)

Granola bar packed

11. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour; overnight is better.

12. After chilling, cut the granola into bar shapes while still in the pan, then turn the pan over and let the aluminum foil slide the whole thing out. Carefully cut out the bars again (it’ll be very sticky) and pack into smaller bags, or serve immediately. I’m not sure how long they keep, but I imagine not TOO long.

Granola bar cut in pan

Granola bar cut

Granola bar cut side

Enjoy!

 

Maggiano’s Little Italy’s stuffed mushrooms (vegan)

Android and I went to Maggiano’s Little Italy once for an half-year anniversary, and we absolutely fell in love with the stuffed mushrooms appetizer. When we saw the ingredients and the calorie count, however, we nearly fainted. I found a delicious recipe online and modified the original to make it vegan.

mushrooms finished

As a side note, please excuse my photos…I know some of them are rather dark. I’m still learning how to take good photos. It’s made harder by the fact that most of my cooking is done around dinner time when I come home from work, so the lighting starts to fade as the cooking progresses!

This recipe makes three medium sized casserole dishes’ worth of stuffed mushrooms.

Ingredients:
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons freshly minced garlic
1 teaspoons granulated garlic or Adobo seasoning
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons freshly chopped basil
2 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley
2 packages frozen spinach, 10 oz each (defrosted and slightly drained)
4 tablespoons vegan butter (or olive oil)
3-5 oz olive oil
2 packages medium white button mushrooms
5 slices whole wheat bread

Instructions:

1. Remove stems from mushrooms and wash mushrooms gently to remove any dirt.

2. Pour olive oil generously into the mushroom caps, allowing the olive oil to coat both the inside and outside of the mushroom. Sprinkle with salt and place into the oven minutes at 350°F while you continue with the remaining steps, or for 15 minutes, whichever is shorter.

mushrooms with oil

3. Heat some oil in a skillet and begin sauteing the fresh garlic. Add the frozen spinach and cook until well mixed. If you didn’t defrost and drain the spinach beforehand, it’s okay — you can defrost it as it cooks, but you will have some extra water. You can compensate for that by adding more bread.

4. Add the basil, parsley, oregano, and Adobo seasoning/granulated garlic.

5. Shred the bread with your hands and add into the spinach mixture.

6. Add the vegan butter (or olive oil) so that the mixture is soft and moist, not dry. Add salt to taste.

mushroom stuffing

7. Stuff the mushrooms with about a tablespoon of stuffing, pushing the oil out of the cap if need be. The mushrooms should be slightly shrunken.

8. Bake in the oven again for an additional 10 minutes, then serve warm.

mushrooms stuffed

Vegenaise dressing kale salad with breaded tofu

Kale salad

I first tasted this dish at a potluck birthday gathering and absolutely loved it. Seeing as I didn’t have the ingredients that I needed in the house, I tried improvising with what I had. It turns out the original recipe is better (for the kale salad anyway), so the following recipe (below) is the original recipe.

I tried modifying the recipe by using Nayonaise instead of Vegenaise, and marmite instead of yeast flakes. There’s a reason why they’re different products — it’s because they actually taste and feel different. Personally, I like Vegenaise much better than Nayonaise — it feels lighter, tastes better, and isn’t as greasy. Also, while I love marmite for its flavor packing and its tremendous supply of vitamin B12, I have to say that yeast flakes do taste better in some areas. Granted, they’re very similar in same ways and I make marmite substitutions for yeast flakes all the time, particularly in vegan cheese sauces, but not in this one. Yeast flakes are the way to go.

For the kale salad:

Ingredients:
1 large bunch of fresh kale
1 jar of Vegenaise
2-4 table spoons nutritional yeast flakes (you can find them in Whole Foods, Dawson’s Market, and probably other specialty stores)
Breaded tofu (see recipe below)

Instructions:

1. Wash and dry the kale as much as possible. Chop into bite sized pieces. Kale can be bulky, so if you want to only use half the bunch of kale, set some of the bunch aside without cutting it.

2. Add as much Vegenaise as needed to cover the kale when mixed in. The Vegenaise should coat the kale nicely, but it shouldn’t be so covered that you don’t see green. Think salad dressing amount — just enough to coat it, but not enough to drown out the salad.

3. Add the nutritional yeast flakes in a smaller quantity at first, then more if you’d like to add more flavor. Note: if you’re using marmite instead of yeast flakes, you should mix the marmite with the Vegenaise first before adding that to the kale. That way, everything is mixed very evenly. Again, the marmite substitution isn’t my favorite in this recipe, but you can do it if you don’t have anything else.

4. Slice the breaded tofu into thick strips and place on top of the salad. Serve immediately.

breaded tofu

For the breaded tofu:

Ingredients:
2 blocks firm tofu, pressed to let the water out
1 cup bread flour (or white flour)
1-2 tablespoons adobo seasoning (adjust to taste)
1 teapsoon salt
2 teaspoons curry powder
2 teaspoons tumeric powder
4 tablespoons onion powder
oil for pan frying

Instructions:

1. Make sure the tofu is pressed and well drained. The more water you have in the tofu, the easier the breading comes off at the end. If you don’t have time to press the tofu, it’s okay, but the breading won’t stay intact for long. Cut the tofu into thick slices (about the width of your pinky finger), then cut those rectangles into squares.

2. Mix the flour and dry ingredients together.

3. Heat a skillet and add the oil. You want the heat to be on medium to high heat; if it’s too low, then the tofu doesn’t brown as nicely. Coat the tofu in the flour mixture and add to the skillet.

4. Cook until golden brown on both sides. Serve warm over salad or as a side to rice or any other dish.