Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Like Rosemary for Chocolate

Thanks to serendipity, vegan blogs and Facebook, I found a wonderful new friend who happens to be an amazing chocolatier, and who happens to live in the town right next door to my sister.  In a recent visit to New Paltz, NY I was able to stop by Lagusta's brand new chocolate shop, Lagusta's Luscious and make a very important trade:

Rosemary for Chocolate.

As some of you know, I happen to have a lovely, large rosemary bush on the side of my house and I happened to have just given her a haircut.  Lagusta makes, well, luscious, rosemary caramels and toffees and had some trouble sourcing rosemary after hurricane Irene, so I brought her the trimmings.  In turn, I got a box of her hand made chocolates. My son is hoarding them in the above (and below!) picture.

Lovely shots of L's lovely shop:

At home, the goods.
 The Sweet.
The secret link to a beautiful, online chocolate guide to your mixed box is included inside your box when you order or stop by the shop.  Pictured above, clockwise from the left are: the Vandana Shiva, the Pomegranate Truffle (my favorite, I think!), Furious Vulva (delish!), I think a large Autumn truffle?, a Selma's Peppermint Patty, and a Croissant Caramel  and I had already eaten the Rosemary Caramel before I took the picture! They were all amazing. Order a box for yourself or order boxes for your friends and family for a special holiday gift. It's a dangerous gift. You just may be addicted, like I am now...must. distract. self. from. thinking. about. Lagusta's. chocolates...Best to get back in the kitchen for that.

 The Savory.  Home Made Chickpea Tempeh.  

My rendition: Pan Fried Chickpea Tempeh Marinated in Sweet and Savory Tomato Sauce, served with Braised Garlic Escarole over Home Made Italian Bread.

The tempeh was so good that I am going to make an incubator and give it a go at home!  Thanks to Lagusta for the wonderfully detailed blog post on how to make your own tempeh at home!!

I'll keep you guys posted on the tempeh situation! My dad is coming down soon to help me make the incubator.


Friday, November 25, 2011

Feast Photos: Thanksgiving 2011

Fueling up for the big event: "Stellar Stuffed Mushrooms" and The Steven (Canadian Whiskey, Polar Ginger Ale and a twist of Organic Lime):

Now, onto The Thanksgiving Feast.

"Honee" Balsamic Brussels Sprouts:

Main Course: Isa's Seitan Roast Stuffed with Cornbread & Vegan Sausage Stuffing,
topped with Home Made Cremini Mushroom Gravy

The Seitan Roast was served with: Mashed, Organic Yukon Golds, Mashed, Organic Yams, Honee Balsamic Brussels and Home Made Apple Cranberry Sauce:

Live Centerpiece: Local, Organic Camellias (they are November blooming):

For Dessert, Organic Pumpkin Pie with Ginger Snap Crust and Toasted Pecans:

The Morning After: Denver Omelet Burgers and Banana Walnut Flapjacks:

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving meal! I'd love to hear what you all had for dinner (or breakfast, or dessert...). 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

It's Not Too Late! Make Isa's Seitan Roast for Thanksgiving!

I know I had planned to make the lovely Tami's delicious Gobbler Roll for tomorrow, but then, last night, Isa released the recipe for an amazing vegan centerpiece loaf, the Seitan Roast Stuffed with Shiitakes and Leeks and I just couldn't help myself.  So, I just made it (please forgive me, Tami, I'll make it up to you!!).

I took pictures of the rolling process, which I learned from watching one of my all time favorite chefs, Jacques Pepin, make his beautiful Buche di Noel (yule log) with Julia Child in their series, Jacques and Julia, Cooking at Home.  I adore Jacques and Julia!  I highly recommend the series (it's not vegan, though, obviously!).

Without further ado, here is how I made Isa's lovely Stuffed Seitan Roast:

 Mix the wet and dry ingredients with a wooden spoon. 

 Now your dough is going! Knead it until it is nice and doughy.  

 OK, here is my first trick: Spread the seitan dough out ONTO your aluminum foil that is already set up.  Just push the dough out into a 12x10 rectangle with your hands right on the foil.  The dough is nice and moist and will not stick to the foil.  Then, load up your stuffing (I used a cornbread and vegan sausage stuffing!)

 Now, in the style of the Buche di Noel (a lovely, cream filled chocolate Christmas cake that Jacque Pepin makes) use the foil to tightly roll your seitan around the stuffing.  Pull the foil up around the dough (with two hands!) to get it rolling, then, tighten the foil over the dough by pushing your hands over the foil and down over the roll, like you are rolling sushi.  You can probably even just keep pulling the foil over the roll and it will go!

 Keep pushing the dough and rolling it forward with the foil! It's fun and easy!  Then, just push/stroke that seam together with your fingers. You don't need to take the roll off the foil at all, just smush it together.  The dough is very soft.

 I just pushed the ends in, like I was wrapping a present, to seal them.  I forgot to take a picture of the sealed ends! Sorry!

Roll your seitan loaf closer to the top of the foil, closer to the top than you see it here, and then roll the foil over the seitan loaf all the way down, then just seal the ends.

 Wha Lah!!

Bake as directed.  

Rejoicing in the glow of Seitan Roast success!


Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Holiday Help: Make Ahead Tips!

If you want to have time to actually enjoy your friends and family during the holidays (or during any get together that you are hosting) it's important to develop some tricks so that you aren't in the kitchen the entire time of your gathering.  Of course there are always things like store-bought hummus, olives from the olive bar, pre-cut veggies, etc. and even complete feasts that are made for you (like the Tofurky holiday feast!).  But, when it comes to breakfast, there is nothing quite like home made pancakes and tofu scrambles.  I like to have me (and serve my guests) a delicious home made breakfast for the holidays!  And I don't want to be in the kitchen all morning making it.

Today, I'm going to talk about making breakfast ahead, which applies more if you have overnight guests (which we  always do since my family is a bit too far away to do a day-trip).

Make Ahead, Freeze Ahead Breakfast (or lunch, or dinner!) Burgers:
To prepare for Thanksgiving his week, yesterday I made the Denver Omelet Burgers from Best Veggie Burgers on the Planet.  I formed the dough into patties (uncooked) and then "flash" froze them on a cookie sheet lined with a Silpat mat (get one if you don't already have one, it saves a TON of parchment paper!!).

Here's how: put uncooked burgers on the Silpat (or parchment paper) make sure your patties aren't touching or they will freeze together.  Put the whole Silpat lined cookie sheet with burgers on it into the freezer (you don't even have to cover it).  I left them in the freezer on the mat for a few hours (you can leave them overnight, too, it's not a big deal).  Once they are frozen solid, you can transfer them to a tightly sealed ziplock bag and freeze for the duration.  You can do this with just about any veggie burger.

Here are my Omelet Burgers and a few Perfect Pancakes that I flash froze.  

Now, you can cook the frozen, uncooked burgers directly from the freezer.  Just saute for about 3 minutes per side in a cast iron saute pan in a little oil.  I tried a frozen patty today to test it, and it worked perfectly.  They cook right through and brown very nicely (and tasted better and had a better texture than the fresh one I made right from the batter yesterday!).  It pays to test!!

Make Ahead, Freeze Ahead Pancakes: 
As far as pancakes go, you do have to cook those prior to flash freezing.  Allow them to cool completely after cooking. Freeze them on the baking sheet in the same way (on the Silpat).  Once they are frozen, bag em.  Then, you can still use them directly from the freezer.  Just put them in the toaster oven for a few minutes to re-toast them.  I use my oven's little tray, line it with foil and spray the foil with a little canola oil before I put the pancakes on the tray (they can stick if you don't spray the tray) and spray them a tiny bit on top so they get nice and crispy when they are toasting.  I'm sure you could put them right on the rack in the toaster oven, too, without a problem (but I like them sort of "fried" a tiny bit in that extra oil :-)

Now, I have frozen breakfast burgers and frozen pancakes and all I have to do is just saute the burgers and toast the pancakes when my guests come.  Or, when I'm hungry.  SO easy.

Here is my "tester" breakfast this morning :-) I fried the Omelet Burgers right out of the freezer. Works great!
Those pancakes were also frozen and just re-toasted in the toaster oven! AWESOME.

For more easy breakfasts, try my Easy Baked French Toast.  You can make the tofu mixture the night before (I'd say minus the egg replacer, add that right before you are going to pour it over the bread) and keep it in the fridge, then just pour it over your bread in the morning about an hour before you want to bake it!

Also, don't forget you can always buy fresh bagels and just make your own spreads. I like to use Tofutti better-than-cream-cheese and then mix in various things like fresh spinach, herbs, garlic, sundried tomatoes, etc. by blending in my food processor, fun! Home made hummus or bean-based dips are easy, too.  A big pan of baked oatmeal or would also be easy and low-maintenance

You can also freeze cookies and brownies.  Bake them as usual, allow them to completely cool.  Then, wrap cookies individually in aluminum foil and put in a ziplock bag in your freezer.  I guess you could "flash" freeze cookies as well, but I like them individually wrapped so I can just grab a cookie or brownie square out of the freezer whenever the need strikes.

Gotta run, I have to make some vegan sausage patties or maybe the Log Cabin Burgers and more pancakes (banana pancakes!) and freeze them all for T-day weekend.

Are you guys making anything ahead for the big day?  What are some of your make ahead tips?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Vegan Thanksgiving 2011: Planning and Resources

Inspiration for my main course comes from my son's "treat turkey" that he made with the sitter:

Adorable, right?

I know those gumdrops are not vegan, but I didn't have the heart to intervene.  And, if you like turkey shaped things, check out Cara's blog, Fork and Beans for lots of turkey shaped foods.  

Anyway, I am going to apply the sitter's awesome treat turkey idea to a Gobbler Loaf for Thanksgiving day!

I'll probably use black olives for the eyes, a carrot beak and a parsley waddle.  That's what I'm thinkin'.

For sides, I'm probably going to make mashed potatoes, mushroom gravy, and I'm going to roast these on the stalk:
Gorgeous, right?  I'm going to do a sweet balsamic glaze.  JL's "honee nut brussels" are another great idea.

If they don't turn out well, I have some asparagus as a back-up.

Now, for breakfast on Friday (or even on Thursday, my dad is coming early), I am going to make two breakfast burgers, the Denver Omelet Burger and the Log Cabin Burger from Joni Newman's new book, Best Veggie Burgers on the Planet, which I actually got from my library (someone there is into vegan cookbooks because there are quite a few of them now).  I love that I could actually try it before buying it (which I plan to do because it is awesome).  

And, my hubby is going to make his famous Hubby Hash, which looks like this:
I love this hash.

For dessert, I am making my favorite pumpkin pie from The Joy of Vegan Baking with a ginger snap crust.

Here are just a few resources if you need more ideas for your vegan holiday meal!

A great main dish is Dreena Burton's Chickpea Tart

Another beautiful tart is Robin's Tuscan Vegetable Tart

Check out Ginny Messina's Easy Vegan Entrees in The Examiner

And, if you don't feel like cooking your main course, here is the first place "turkey" according to some slightly irritable, and not very vegan friendly omnivores at The Washington Post.  (Erica Meier, the Executive Director of Compassion Over Killing was a judge, thank goodness!!)

Here are VegNews's selections for store bought vegan "centerpieces" (all are "turkeys")

A long list from the NYT blog all tagged "**vegetarian** Thanksgiving"

**Please note: At first I thought these NYT recipes were vegan recipes (many of them definitely are) but some contain eggs or dairy, but not a big deal because you guys know how to sub that stuff, right?? :-) Anyway, a lot of good ideas in those links.**

Now Updated for 2012!

Dynise Balcavage & Sarah Kramer have delicious Thanksgiving Recipes featured in The Today Show Blog

Robin Robertson's Thanksgiving Side Dishes for 2012

*I'll add more links as I come across them, guys.*

Don't forget!  You can easily veganize many traditional recipes by using veggie stock (or using Rapunzel vegan bouillon cubes, my fave), non-dairy butter (like Earth Balance for baking or Smart Balance Light for spreading), non-dairy milks (like soy or almond, rice, hemp, etc. etc. use unflavored for savory dishes, please!), vegan cream cheeses and sour creams (my favorites are from Tofutti).  And, don't forget if you are making a vegan lasagna or baked ziti for your main dish, you can make cashew ricotta to stuff it with and sprinkle some Daiya cheese on top!  Daiya is great on top of pizza, too, obviously.  Any further feast related questions, post here and I'll get to them asap.

What are you guys making for the big day??

Friday, November 11, 2011

Party Prep

So, I made the Linguine (I used Fusili lunghi) with Basil-Cilantro Pesto and Artichokes from Veganomicon last night:

I saute the canned artichokes in olive oil, red onion and garlic for a good while until they get nice and toasted. This time I also added a can of white beans and sauteed those (with the artichokes) as well for added protein and nutrition.  They kinda fell apart and coated the noodles, adding interest to the pesto. I love this dish.

And my niece's first birthday is this weekend, so for her party, I am bringing Happy Birthday Gingerbread :-)

 I used the recipe from Vegan Lunch Box, and added the chopped, crystallized ginger on top.
Tomorrow I will dust it in organic powdered sugar for that lovely first snow effect.

 And I made Tamari Roasted Chickpeas from Eat, Drink and Be Vegan
I call these "popcorn peas," because they are kind of addictive like popcorn.  They will be a nice little snack for the party.

I used home made, from scratch organic chickpeas (pressure cooker, baby!) and organic, local (from my yard!) rosemary.

Can't wait to see my niece tomorrow!

What are you guys doing this weekend?  Do you have any special recipes planned?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Breakfast for Dinner

Just wanted to share.  I made both the Tempeh Bacon and Perfect Pancakes (with ground, raw organic walnuts) from Vegan Brunch for dinner!

Tempeh Bacon! I love tempeh bacon.

 I always steam the tempeh for about 10 minutes before marinating it.  It absorbs the marinade much better (put it in the marinade hot!) and it eliminates any bitterness in the tempeh.  I sauteed the tempeh in a cast iron pan, it really works well.  Oh, and I use smoked paprika (one tablespoon) to sub for the liquid smoke (I had a bad experience with one brand, I don't remember which one, and I don't know which brands are good, so I haven't gotten any more, and I use smoked paprika instead).

Perfect Pancakes

I always use all non-dairy milk (subbed for the water) in this (or any!) pancake recipe, as I prefer a slightly thicker texture to my pancakes.  I typically use soy or almond milk, or a combination of both.  Also, I could have cooked these a few more minutes, but it takes forever to make pancakes so I short-cut it a little bit (by about a minute, usually I do 3 min on first side and 1 min on second side, this time I did 3 minutes total).

What did you guys make for dinner?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Gordelicious Pie!

This is a fun, savory pie that can be made with any squash, potato or pumpkin.  It's GOURDelicious!

This is one I made this week with fresh sweet potatoes.  

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

For the crust:
Blind bake a home made or pre-made crust (I use Wholly Wholesome crusts, they are delicious and vegan!) for about 8-10 minutes.  Make sure to prick crust with a fork so it doesn't bubble up, then lightly cover with a double layer of tin foil to prevent over-baking (though I forgot to cover it this time and it was fine :-) Once you are done blind baking the crust, turn oven down to 375.

For the filling:

In a food processor combine the following and process until well combined.

1 package 12 oz aseptic firm, silken tofu (regular or light is fine)
1 can organic pumpkin or sweet potato, OR, about 2 cups freshly cooked sweet potato, pumpkin, squash, etc. If you use fresh pumpkin or squash, you'll need to drain it well or add more dry ingredients (or maybe some breadcrumbs, etc.) to balance the moisture.
1/4 cup cornstarch or 2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
1 tsp Adobo
1/2 to 1 tsp cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
juice of one organic lime
1 tablespoon (or more or less depending on your tastes) of Cholula hot sauce
1 tsp sea salt or Kosher salt

Turn out mixture into a large bowl and add:
One can of rinsed and drained organic black beans
One cup of frozen organic corn
1/4 to 1/2 cup of fresh cilantro, chopped

Stir the mixture well to combine.  Taste for salt and spices and adjust as desired.  Fill pie crust with filling.

For topping, mix together the following and sprinkle on top of pie:
1/2 cup of chopped, raw organic walnuts
1/2 cup Daiya cheddar style cheese
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs (or you can add more walnuts!)

Bake pie at 375 for 45 to 55 minutes or until pie is set and edges of crust are just turning golden brown.  Let cool about 15 minutes before slicing.

Serve with hot sauce, vegan sour cream (I love Tofutti brand), chopped cilantro, and fresh guacamole if you've got it!


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Grandma Margie's Quickie "Meat" Balls

I needed to have spaghetti and meatballs tonight, so I whipped up some veggie balls quickly and painlessly.  Again, I was going for the flavors my mom uses.  You can find the original, from scratch, soy-free version with the secret ingredient, here.

For this quickie version, I just used a whole tube of Gimme Lean Sausage Flavor (which I had in my fridge forever, because I rarely use faux meat stuff) and put it in a big bowl with two minced garlic cloves, about a tablespoon of olive oil, about one or one and a half cups of home made, fresh Italian breadcrumbs (**recipe below), a teaspoon or so of really good 18 year balsamic vinegar (I might try a tiny tiny bit more next time but I just wanted to add depth and not have them taste like vinegar, so I stuck to a small drip), and probably around 1/2 a cup of organic raisins (I love raisins in my meatballs, if you don't, no worries, just leave them out. However, you won't be making Grandma Margie's meatballs!), a little ground red pepper and kosher salt (probably around 1 tsp).  You can't get away with mixing with a fork here, you have to mix it with your hands because the sausage mix is pretty stiff and to incorporate everything fully (especially the raisins) the only way is to mix it with the two things at the ends of your arms :-)

P.S. If I had fresh parsley, it would have gone in, about 1/4 cup, loosely packed.

**To make breadcrumbs, put: 2 slices whole wheat white bread, 1 tsp salt, 2 tsp dried oregano, 1 tsp dried basil, 1 tsp dried thyme, 1/2 tsp dried rosemary, (just use whatever seasonings you want, really) into your food processor. Pulse bread and seasonings into crumbs.

Once your veggie ball mix is incorporated, line a rimmed baking sheet/jelly roll pan with foil and oil it well with olive oil, like there should be a bit for them to swim in.  I use a large Oxo scoop to scoop the meatball mix out, then I roll it into a ball with my hands and plop them on the baking sheet.  Spray or brush exposed tops of veggie balls with more olive oil.  Bake at 375 for 12-14 minutes, then take them out and flip them over, bake another 10 or so minutes.  You want them to be golden brown and perfect!

Serve with pasta and marinara sauce, what else??
This pic so needs a sprig of parsley, but I didn't have it! Oh well.

What did you guys make for dinner tonight?