Saturday, December 31, 2011

Tortilla Pizzas

There aren't very many of you here yet, but I want to thank you for reading, and for encouraging this new little blog project of mine. Some of you have told me that I'm inspiring you to add some healthy vegan meals to you diet, even if you aren't totally vegan (yet!). This makes my heart sing! In the coming year, I plan to bring you lots more great food, and plenty of good reasons to go vegan, one meal at a time. The more you do it, the better you'll feel, and the better off our beloved planet will be. It's all baby steps, and I'm especially proud of those of you who are bravely exploring something so new to you, even though your families might think you're crazy. Keep going! You're doing great!

Let's celebrate with one of the first vegan dishes I came up with when I started my own vegan journey, while living in a travel trailer in Oregon. Pizza!!! Rick and I used to own a pizza shop in Seattle, and we still adore pizza. But going vegan presented the "cheese challenge," and cooking in a trailer made elaborate dishes almost impossible. I came up with this easy version of pizza that can even be done in a big covered frying pan if that's all you have. These days, back at home in Taos, I use my oven. Make this pizza on work nights, for something easy but wonderful. It's also great for parties, because you can keep making them until everyone is full. Tortillas make a nice thin crust, and Daiya cheese comes to the rescue where all other commercial faux cheeses have left me stranded.

I'm trying to keep things gluten free these days, as an experiment for myself, and because so many people seem to be gluten sensitive. I want you all to eat! So I've used rice tortillas in this recipe, but of course you can use any kind you like. Ezekiel makes a terrific sprouted grain tortilla that I also love.

This recipes is as easy as it gets. I've listed the ingredients and toppings I used for these pictures, but of course you can use anything you like. I started with the "sun-dried" tomatoes as inspiration, because I'd just made a test batch in the new little dehydrator a friend gave me for Christmas. They came out great, but the kind on the jar are just as good.

Tortilla Pizzas

Brown Rice Tortillas
Olive Oil
Spaghetti Sauce
Daiya cheese
Sliced Mushrooms
Sliced Black Olives
Sun-dried Tomatoes
Dried Basil

Lightly oil a baking sheet with olive oil. I just got a Misto (because I asked for it, and my husband paid attention), and I love it beyond reason. It sprays a fine mist of oil without weird chemical propellants. Bravo Misto!

Spray or brush a little oil on the tortillas.

Sprinkle a little Daiya on each tortilla. Pop in a few olives, and then top with another tortilla. You'll have sort of a double crust, "glued" together with cheese. Oh so good!

Spray the second tortillas with oil, and spoon some sauce around, almost to the edges. Add a little more Daiya (I find that a little goes a long way with this stuff), then olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and mushrooms. Top with more Daiya and a sprinkle of basil or other herbs.

Bake at 350º for 12-15 minutes. The Daiya will "melt," but it won't look like regular cheese, so be careful not to overcook your pizzas. Let them cool for a minute or two before slicing.

Here's to a healthy, compassionate, and fabulously delicious 2012! Happy New Year!!!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Middle Eastern Feast

Christmas dinner at our house was unusual this year. I decided to go with a Middle Eastern Feast, since I just took a terrific Middle Eastern cooking class, and given the location of the first Christmas, it seemed fitting. I kept it "simple," because there were only four of us for dinner that night, but it still took me all day to prepare everything. I lose a lot of my kitchen efficiency when there are friends around to distract me, which is just the way I like it, as long as nobody is in a hurry to be fed. I made three "sauces" - Tahina, Baba Gannouj, and Hoummos, a beautiful layered lentil dish called Megadara Koshari, and Arab Salad. And for dessert, my first-ever go at Baklava. It was all...wonderful.

I have permission from Chef Chris Maher, of Cooking Studio Taos, to share the following recipes with you. Please note: all recipes Copyright Chris Maher - Do not reprint or republish without permission. Thanks Chef!

Let's start with the Tahina, which is delightful on its own, and is also the base for the Hoummos and Baba Gannouj.

Tahina Sauce

1 lb jar tahina (Usually called Sesame Tahini. Get the toasted kind.)
fresh garlic, minced - about 1 heaping T
onion, minced - about 1 heaping T
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 lime, juiced
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
salt to taste
water, olive oil to finish

Add onion, garlic, cumin, and cayenne to tahina and mix thoroughly.

Mix in vinegar - the tahina will get very thick, so then add water slowly and continue to mix until desired consistency is achieved. (This part is really fun. Do all the mixing by hand.)

Add lime, salt, and olive oil to taste.

To make Hoummos, place about 1/3 of the Tahina Sauce in the food processor, and blend it with 16 oz cooked or canned garbanzo beans. (I also added lemon juice and olive oil to thin it down a bit.)

To make Baba Gannouj, grill a whole eggplant until soft (and burned on the outside). Place the grilled eggplant in a paper bag to steam for about 20 minutes. When it's cool enough to handle, peel and mash, and mix with 1/3 of the Tahina Sauce, adding more cumin, cayenne, garlic, and salt to taste. (You can also throw it all in the food processor, and let the machine do the mashing.)

(You can "burn" your eggplant directly on a burner of your gas stove if you have one, or on an outdoor grill. I don't have either, so attempted to "grill" my eggplant under the electric broiler. It exploded! And then it took over an hour to soften... Next time I'll just bake it in the oven for an hour or so. We make do with what we have.)

Arab Salad

2 red onions, chopped into very fine pieces by hand (1 onion is enough for me)
1 large tomato, cut into tiny cubes, without seeds if possible (I don't worry about the seeds)
1 English cucumber, chopped fine (I used a regular cucumber, and it was still good)
1 large bunch parsley, chopped fine
romaine lettuce, chopped fine
1 jalapeño, finely minced
vinegar (distilled white, which I learned adds the right acidity without adding a flavor of its own)
olive oil

Mix all ingredients together and dress with a touch of vinegar, a good amount of lime, and add salt and olive oil to taste. After tasting, adjust acid by adding more lime or oil.

Megadara Koshari

1 lb lentils - black or green
1 lb medium grain white rice (I used my favorite brown basmati)
4 medium onions
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup olive oil
1 - 6 oz can tomato paste
6 whole garlic cloves
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 oz butter ( I used Earth Balance)
sea salt
3 T chopped parsley for garnish
3 cups water
1 T brown sugar
1 scant cup distilled vinegar

1. Rinse lentils under cold running water. Place clean lentils in a pot and cover generously with cold water and a tablespoon of salt. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to a vigorous simmer until lentils are soft (not al dente).

2. Caramelize onions: place julienned onions and 1/2 cup of oil on high flame - stir often until they begin to brown. Turn heat down to medium. Stir frequently until all onions are browned.

3. Picant Sauce: In a 2 qt sauce pan, add 1/4 cup oil and thoroughly brown the whole garlic cloves. Add tomato paste and fry it with the oil and 1 tsp cayenne pepper. Add 3 cups water, 1 T brown sugar, and 1 scant cup of distilled vinegar. Let mixture simmer until consistency thickens a bit. (I'll use a little less vinegar next time I make this.)

4. Make rice - 2:1 water to rice, salt and a little butter. Bring water to a boil with salt and butter. Add rice and stir. Once boiling again, stir and turn down to a simmer. Cover and cook for about 18-20 minutes. (Cooking time will be longer for brown rice - about 45-50 minutes here.)

Assembly: On a generous platter, place rice on bottom, lentils over rice, then cover lentils with caramelized onions and dot with Picant Sauce. Serve remaining sauce on the side. Enjoy!

Serve everything with pita bread and plenty of wine. You are going to love this meal. But leave room for dessert...

The Baklava was a combination of recipes I found online. I didn't want to make a sugar syrup, and found their instructions overly complicated, so I did it my way... Basically, you thaw a package of phyllo dough, and mix a bunch of chopped nuts (I used walnuts and some almond pulp from our last batch of nut milk) with lots of cinnamon and a little bit of cloves. Melt a stick of Earth Balance butter, and have some agave syrup handy. Unfold the phyllo and cut it in half for easier fitting in the pan. Brush some melted butter on the bottom of the pan, and layer 6-8 sheets of phyllo, with a bit of butter brushed on each. Sprinkle some of the nut and spice mixture on the dough, and drizzle with agave syrup. Add three or four more layers of dough/butter, and then more nut/spice/agave. Keep layering in this way until you have a final 6-8 sheets of phyllo left. Place these on top, with butter between each sheet. Score the top layer in little triangles for easier cutting later. Drizzle on remaining butter and some more agave. Bake at 300º for and hour or more, until it's golden brown on top. Everyone loved this, and while it wasn't as "juicy" as some baklava I've had, it was voted "even better" than most by my family. This version is rich, but not so rich that you can't eat a little in the morning with your coffee.

I hope you'll give some of these recipes a try. Don't be scared. They're all really easy, and so worth the effort, especially if you have someone else to clean up for you! I'm finding that most people are more than happy to wash dishes in trade for a meal at my table. This is nice!

I cooked all day, wore a silly hat, and never got around to putting makeup on. No complaints! I got to eat too!
And notice my eager taste-tester, Lucy, just waiting for... anything she can get.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Date Balls

This is a recipe my mom got from Aunt Camy back in the 50's, and made every year at Christmas. It's still a family favorite, and if I don't make these in December, I'm in big trouble. It was easy to veganize this recipe, and honestly, nobody can tell the difference.

Here's the original recipe. I love this tattered, sticky card, which still resides in the ancient, banged up metal recipe box I got as a stocking stuffer a long time ago.

Here's the vegan, lower fat version...

Vegan Date Balls

2 cups chopped dates
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup silken tofu
2 T tapioca flour (this isn't all that necessary, so just leave it out if you don't have it)
1/2 cup organic sugar
1/2 cup organic brown sugar
1/2 stick Earth Balance "butter," melted

Bake in an oiled square baking pan at 325º for 25-30 minutes, or until it's nicely browned. The toothpick test doesn't work with this. (I usually double the recipe and bake it for a little over an hour.) Pull the molten goo away from the edges of the pan with a spatula or knife, and let it cool off for a while so you can handle it. Roll into small balls, and roll those in organic powdered sugar.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sagey-Nut Paté

This one came to me in my sleep, and it must be good because when I had Rick and a friend sample it last night, they both got this dreamy little look on their faces. My original thought was to stuff ravioli with this, but I don't have the equipment (or patience) for that, so I stuffed some mushrooms instead. What a great little appie for your holiday get-togethers. I can also see it schmeared on bread and popped under the broiler, or used in a sandwich with grilled veggies or even faux lunch meat and some crisp lettuce. You might thin it with some nut milk and make a lovely, rich sauce for pasta, or serve it as a dip with a plate of raw vegetables. It's especially good with celery. There are loads of possibilities for this stuff, but let's start with the paté itself, and stuff a few baby portobellos.

Sagey-Nut Paté

Soak 1 cup of raw cashews in cold water for 20-30 minutes. Longer is fine, but 20 minutes is the minimum.

In a dry food processor, chop 1/2 cup of walnuts, and place in a large mixing bowl.

Drain and rinse the soaked cashews, and place in the food processor, along with:
3 T olive oil
2 T water
2 tsp ground sage (the herb, not the brush that grows all over here)
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4-1/2 tsp fresh black pepper

Process until you have a smooth, thick paste.
Stir this into the mixing bowl by hand, with the walnuts and one small can of chopped black olives.
Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

I used baby portobellos as the "vehicle" to eat this with. Pull out the stems, and gently wipe the outside of the mushrooms with a damp paper towel or soft cloth. Run your finger around the inside edge to widen the opening, making room for lots of stuffing. Spoon a generous mound of the paté into each mushroom, and place them on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Bake at 350º for 30 minutes. Make enough to share with some special friends, and enjoy with a nice glass of wine by the fire.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Food and Beads

In my world, Food and Beads are inextricably linked. Both are creative outlets, and each supports the other. Although I've tried, I can't eliminate either of them. They are Soul Mates who thrive in each other's company, and wilt when left on their own. I get it now. Took me long enough.

I woke from a dream about food this morning. It's kind of vague - sort of a nutty, sagey spread or filling or sauce that might go inside of mushrooms or ravioli or... it's not clear yet. I'll make notes right away, before it fades, and then I'll get to work on it over the weekend. Of course you know I'll share it with you when it's ready!

Meanwhile, there's a bead project to finish up. I'm wrapping up my December Bead Giveaway this evening, after I get home from another volunteer day at Taos Feeds Taos, yet another thing that feeds me, inspires me, makes me grateful for all I have, and always puts me in the mood for Christmas.

Have you entered the bead drawing yet? Well, I hope you will! It's free, and if you only know me through my cooking blog, you can meet the Cook's Evil Twin, the Beadmaker, who plays with fire and melts stuff for a living. The beads make the cooking possible, and feed my artist's soul in some ways. The food feeds me in other softer, more nurturing ways, and it feeds my friends too. Visit TakingTheLongWayHome to meet the Other Kim, and to enter the drawing. I'll see you back here next week, with something good to eat!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Feed Somebody

Today I'm going to volunteer at Taos Feeds Taos. It's not a vegan operation, but sometimes you just have to do the best you can. People need to be fed! I have to rush off, but I want to encourage everyone to get out there and put in a little volunteer time. You'll help more than you'll know, and you'll get more than you'll give!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Vegetable Fried Rice with Tofu

This is one of the first things I learned to cook back in my earliest vegan days. I wanted restaurant-tasting fried rice, but I also wanted it to have some serious veggies in it. The measurements are approximate. The idea is to have at least as much "stuff" as rice, which is kind of backwards from how restaurants tend to make fried rice. This is fast and simple to fix, and because it's easy to change it up, we still eat it at least a couple of times a week.

You'll need:

A nice big skillet or wok, preferably with a lid. I use my big cast iron "chicken fryer" from Lodge for just about everything... except chickens.
Brown rice. Never eat white food when brown food is available! Leftover rice is fine, or cook up a fresh batch if you need to. About 2-3 cups of cooked rice with all the veggies will feed 2-4 people, depending on if you serve this as a side dish or the whole meal, which we usually do.

1/2 a block of extra firm tofu (organic! always!)
coconut oil
1/2 a yellow onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
red pepper flakes (optional)
1-2 cups chopped cabbage
1-2 cups chopped kale

While a generous amount of coconut oil is heating in the pan, place the tofu in a dish towel and squeeze out as much moisture as possible. This makes the tofu brown much faster.

Carefully add the tofu to the hot (but not smoking) oil. It will still sputter and splatter, so keep the little kids out of the way for this step. Cook and gently stir the tofu for a few minutes, until it browns a little bit.

Add the onion and celery. Cook for 2-3 minutes.
Add the rice and red pepper flakes to taste. This is also a good time to add fresh ginger and/or garlic if you have them. Cook for a few minutes, until the onions and celery soften.
Add the carrots and cook 2-3 minutes.

Add cabbage and kale, gently stirring them in until they wilt.

Add a generous slosh of tamari (don't stir it in yet), cover, and turn off the heat, leaving everything to steam for about 5 minutes.

Stir the tamari in and serve.

(If you don't have a lid, just stir in the tamari and cook everything for a few extra minutes before serving.)

We also like this with frozen corn and peas added before the cabbage and kale. To do this, move all the frying rice and veggies to the edges of the pan, leaving a hole in the center. Add the frozen veggies to the hole, and defrost them there for a minute before stirring them in. This keeps them from making the rice soggy. Also feel free to use broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, and other vegetables you like. Don't like tofu? Leave it out. Love cashews or almonds? Add them in. Cooking is art. Get creative with it, and change recipes to suit you and your family. This can be a really different dish every time you make it. We find it a comforting, nutritious staple to throw together quickly. Enjoy!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Thumbprint Cookies

It's cookie baking season, and I have a simple, fabulous recipe for you. A friend sent it to me from another website, so I'm just going to pop you over the kitchn for some festive little Life-Changing Vegan Thumbprints.

I'll add a few notes to the original recipe:

I had some nut pulp in the fridge from my last batch of Nut Milk, so used it instead of chopping more almonds. 

I used organic rolled oats, the slow cooking kind, and the resulting cookies are probably not as soft as they would have been if I'd used quick cooking oats. I'll try it both ways and see what I prefer.

Canola oil creeps me out, and I won't have it in my house. I used melted coconut oil in this recipe with wonderful results.

I ended up using the entire 1 1/2 cups of flour. I used white whole wheat flour, which is a type of wheat, not a bleached flour. I'm sure you could substitute other types of flour if you're gluten sensitive.

Organic, all fruit jam is perfect for these treats, and I also used date halves on some of them. Good stuff.

That's it. Go make some cookies, and meet me back here later!

Update - December 13

I made these again today, using the quick-cooking oats suggested in the recipe. I also used 1/2 coconut oil and half Earth Balance "butter" - which comes in stick form, just like regular butter - melted together in a little saucepan. For the nuts, I used 1/2 almond pulp and 1/2 chopped walnuts. The result was a far superior cookie to the first batch I made. These are softer and more delicate, and the "butter" adds a really nice flavor. This is how I'll make them from now on!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Farewell to a Great Chef, and an Even Greater Human

I'm posting this on both of my blogs today...

Rick and I are on our way to Denver, to attend the funeral of a very dear man, Noel Cunningham, who left this world last week. Noel and his wife Tammy took Rick and I to Ethiopia in November of 2008, changing our lives for the better, forever. Noel will be greatly missed by many across the world, and I hold the belief that given all the wonderful and loving things he did here in this life, he has even greater work to do now, from the other side.

Just because this is all we can see doesn't mean it's all there is.

I am so very sad, and yet so hopeful and inspired, and so proud to have crossed paths with Noel Cunningham. I'm setting aside business as usual for a few days, and I'll be back here with you next week, beading, cooking, musing, and celebrating life.

Carry on.
Love each other.
Know you are loved.

Thank you Laurie Maves for the beautiful video...

Monday, December 5, 2011

Middle Eastern Vegetarian Cooking with Chris Maher

I took my first ever cooking class yesterday, through Cooking Studio Taos, with local celebrity chef,  Chris Maher. It was Middle Eastern Vegetarian cooking, and it was an amazing experience. There were only 5 of us in the class - two couples, and me. I was actually sort of surprised by the couples things, but of course there must be lots of pairs who enjoy cooking together. Rick and I do too, sort of... but our kitchen is really a one-person place, and I often joke when friends offer to help, No thanks! I cook alone! Maybe I should have that printed on an apron or something. In Chris Maher's kitchen, I definitely did not cook alone, and I loved every minute of it.

Chris is a great guy - relaxed, friendly, welcoming, and super knowledgeable about all things food. I think he said he's been cooking professionally for 30 years. He had one of the best restaurants in Taos, Momentitos de la Vida, which he closed a few years back. He teaches cooking here in Taos, travels to teach cooking and team building, and creates the Caleb & Milo line of Distinctive Artisan Foods. He also does a fair amount of acting, in movies and TV. His wife Valerie works with him, keeping track of students and details, and was there to welcome us yesterday when we arrived for class.

Chris and Valerie are a great team, and the kitchen itself is huge, but also warm and welcoming. It's located on the Blackstone Ranch Institute property, where it's a nice drive past beautiful meeting facilities, guest houses, barns, and happy looking cows, to the kitchen and adjacent greenhouse. (I did find it sort of "interesting" to be learning vegetarian cooking on a working cattle ranch.) Because it's a commercial kitchen as well as a teaching kitchen, there are stoves, sinks, and prep tables all around the room. And the enormous dining table near the windows that look out to a huge greenhouse give it a real feeling of family. There's room for everyone, and room for lots of food, which we certainly needed.

So what did I learn? Aside from several terrific recipes, plenty! I learned how to hold my knife properly, for starters. I never considered that when held correctly, the knife is an extension of my arm, and I have much more control and stability. How did I not know this before?

I also learned that fava beans often have skins on them when you buy them, and those can be tough... I wondered why that batch of favas I made a while back had the texture of shoe leather. Now I know. And... lentils don't need to be soaked before cooking, garbanzo beans and fava beans need a long soak but no cooking before becoming falafel, caramelized onions need to swim in olive oil, never put oil on your salad before the vinegar because it closes the vegetables pores, Black Box makes a very palatable cabernet, and my favorite, Don't cook your spoon. Mixed in with all of that, and more, was some of the best food I've ever had.

The menu was:
Megadara Koshari (a lentil dish with rice and caramelized onions)
Arab Salad
Baba Gannouj

It's all vegan really, except for a tiny bit of butter used in a dish or two. At home I'll change that, but otherwise, this class was perfect for me. I was in charge of the Tahina, Hoummos, and Baba Gannouj. Chris grew up in Egypt, so the recipes were all the Egyptian versions of these dishes. The spellings might be somewhat different than what you're used to seeing in restaurants, but the flavors are familiar and comforting. I am now officially hooked on the beautiful Tahina, which is a rich, thick sauce made from sesame tahini paste. A big batch of Tahina doubles as the base for the Hoummos and Baba Gannouj. I'll never go back to my old way of making my humble little hummus. My world just got a little bit bigger, and a whole lot tastier.

I would love to share all these recipes with you, but I think that would be wrong. Maybe once I play with them a while and make them my own, I can share some of them. They're traditional recipes, sure, but they aren't my recipes, and Chris makes his living teaching people how to make them. So come to Taos and take a class, any class, at Cooking Studio Taos. It's affordable and fun, and would be a great part of any vacation to the area. Come now. Today if possible. New owners are taking over the Institute soon, and the lease on the kitchen might not be renewed. I'm sure Chris and Valerie will find another beautiful space to hold classes in, but it was a real added treat to be able to see the ranch, which I didn't even know was here until yesterday, and it's only about 10 minutes away from my house. I'll be watching for Thai Vegetarian and Indian Vegetarian in the coming months, so if you come for one of those, you'll be likely to share some kitchen space with me. I hope you do. I know we'd have fun.

I think I know what our Christmas dinner will be know... A Mid-East Feast seems appropriate, given the geographic location of the first Christmas. Not traditional? Well, says who, and furthermore, who cares? I can't wait to make these dishes at home, and share them with people I love. This morning I still smell like garlic, but right now, to me at least, it smells like perfume.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Thai Green Curry with Pineapple and Tofu

My friend Paul Graham posted a picture of something like this on his blog, Eating Vegan in Vegas, and since I can't dash off to Las Vegas to try all the restaurants he reviews, I decided to make my own version at home. I'll give you two different ways to make this amazing dish. Try which ever you like, given your time, and willingness to make a mess. Either way, it's just so good - rich and spicy with bits of sweetness... Heaven in a bowl.

Thai Green Curry with Pineapple and Tofu

(This makes a big batch, to serve 6 or more)
Start a pot of rice cooking. I like brown basmati, but choose your own favorite.
Drain a can of pineapple chunks.
Slice a block of extra firm tofu into triangles, and fry it in coconut oil. Remove from pan.
Add a little more oil to the pan if necessary, and saute 1 chopped medium yellow onion and 5-6 stalks of chopped celery until they begin to turn transparent.
Add 3 cups broccoli, 1 chopped red bell pepper, 4 chopped carrots, and the pineapple chunks, and cook until the broccoli and carrots just begin to soften.
Add 1/2 head of chopped green cabbage (or substitute kale), and stir in gently until wilted.
Add 1 or 2 cans lite coconut milk (depending on how big a batch you're making), and enough vegetable broth to cover the vegetables. 
Mix 3 T, or more, store bought Thai green curry paste with a little water to thin, and stir it into the pot.  (for a large batch, I'll use the whole jar of curry paste)
Season with tamari, maple syrup, red pepper flakes, and fresh or dried basil.
When everything is nice and hot, and the veggies are as tender as you like them (not mushy!), gently stir in the tofu, and serve in bowls over rice.

If you have more time, and want this dish to be extra special, try this:

Cut a fresh pineapple into chunks. (you'll only really need half of it for this dish, so use the rest for something else)
Cut a block of extra firm tofu into 8 slices.
Marinate pineapple and tofu in equal parts tamari and maple syrup. 1/4 to 1/2 cup of each should be enough if you place everything in a big plastic container with a tight-sealing lid. Marinate for 30 minutes to 2 hours, flipping the container every so often to evenly distribute the marinade.
Place marinated pineapple and tofu on a large baking sheet, in a 350º oven. Remove pineapple after 30 minutes. Flip the tofu and bake it for another 30 minutes.
During the last 30 minutes of baking, proceed with the rest of the recipe as above, omitting the canned pineapple and tofu-frying parts.
When your curry is ready to serve, stir in about half of the baked pineapple, and cut baked tofu into triangles.
Serve in bowls over rice. Place baked tofu and pineapple on top, and garnish with chopped fresh basil if you can get it.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

the Feast - Part III

After a fabulous feast, you have to wait a while for dessert (sometimes I wait until the next day), but now it's time for something sweet! As I've said before, I'm not really much of a baker, and I find pies especially intimidating. Cobbler makes way more sense to me, so that's what I made for our Thanksgiving dessert. This is a combination of several recipes, including a favorite my Mom used to make.

Apple-Cherry Cobbler

6-8 apples, cored, peeled, and sliced, the amount depending on the size of your pan. Use a mix of different kinds of apples, such as Pink Lady, Fuji, and Granny Smith. 
1 cup dried cherries

Arrange apples and cherries in a baking dish. 
Stir together the following, and pour over fruit:

1/2 cup organic sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup apple juice
1/2 tsp each nutmeg and cloves
2 tsp cinnamon
1 T arrowroot powder


1 cup quinoa flour (or any flour you prefer)
1 cup oats
1 cup organic sugar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (or nut pulp from nut milk)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla

Mix the above together in a bowl. Place 1/3 to 1/2 half of the topping in a food processor, and buzz in 3 T vegan butter and 2 T coconut oil. Stir back in with the rest of the topping in the bowl, and sprinkle over the fruit. This is enough topping for a large 9x13 baking dish.

Bake at 375º for 45 minutes to an hour, until hot all the way through and apples are cooked to your liking. We prefer them a little bit crisp. Cover with foil if topping begins to brown too much. This is a very sweet dessert, so feel free to cut back on the sugar if you want to. I served it with vanilla Rice Dream Ice Cream, which was the only thing not made from scratch in the entire meal.

I hope you'll enjoy playing with these recipes, and including them in some of your own Holiday Feasts.

Cheers, and Happy Holidays!!!

the Feast - Part I
the Feast - Part II
the Feast Part III

Monday, November 28, 2011

the Feast - Part II

I'm back, with more recipes from my terrific Thanksgiving Feast. Today we have Mashed Cauliflower, Chipotle-Orange Cranberries, Sweet Potato Biscuits, and Spinach Salad. Let's go!

First the cranberries, because I love them so much. These are really easy to make, and infinitely better than the kind in a can. I think of these more as a side dish than a condiment.

Chipotle-Orange Cranberries

1 12 oz. bag fresh cranberries
zest and juice of 2 organic navel oranges
apple juice added to orange juice to make one cup
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 tsp chipotle powder

Rinse and sort cranberries, and bring all ingredients to a boil in a saucepan. Boil gently for 10-15 minutes, until berries pop open and sauce starts to thicken. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate. Sauce will thicken as it cools.


Both cauliflower and potatoes are full of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Cauliflower is lower in calories and carbs, and is a good choice if you avoid foods from the nightshade group. It's a nice change from the usual potatoes, and just as easy to make. 

Mashed Cauliflower

Boil or steam fresh cauliflower until very tender. Mash by hand, or whip with a mixer, adding vegan butter and nut milk to get the right consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Think about adding fresh garlic to the cooking water, and stirring in some Daiya cheese and fresh basil to the mash. Oh yum!


The Sweet Potato Biscuits I tested last week were just the right addition to this meal. So often, bread at Thanksgiving is just filler, and something to sop up gravy with, but these stand alone as a high fiber, high protein, delicious part of the meal. All that, and they're really pretty too. Click this link for the recipe. Here they are, ready to pop in the oven. I cut them smaller this time, so everyone could go back for seconds, which they did!

I don't know about you, but I like to have greens with almost every meal. People tend to wrinkle their noses at salad on a Thanksgiving plate, but I made everyone take some, because I knew the fresh crunchy spinach and root veggies would be so good with all the softer cooked foods, and the gently smoky dressing complimented the other flavors without competing. The colors were gorgeous too. I was right, and they all happily ate their spinach!

Spinach Salad

baby spinach
chopped raw beets, carrots, and jicama


1/4 c flax seed oil
1 T rice vinegar
1 T maple syrup
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
salt & pepper to taste

That's it for today. Next time, we'll have dessert - a beautiful Apple-Cherry Cobbler!

the Feast - Part I
the Feast - Part II
the Feast Part III

Saturday, November 26, 2011

the Feast - Part I

This Thanksgiving was my first attempt at a major vegan spread. I spent three days shopping and cooking, so I took my time and prepped everything I could the day before the big meal. I had a fridge full of ziplock bags stuffed with chopped vegetables, and even went as far as to measure and bag the dry ingredients for the biscuits and cobbler. I knew I'd be distracted with family and friends in the kitchen, and wanted to be sure I could keep my place. I also have a big spiral notebook I write all my "working" recipes in. It's full of scribbles, notes, and changes. Without it, I'd never remember what I made last night, let alone a month ago. I wrote out the entire menu, and then gave each recipe a page of its own. It worked beautifully, and it never occurred to me as I planned all this that I might be taking on more than my kitchen could handle. I probably was, and even though I had a very good assistant, for a few minutes there I wondered how it was all going to come together. Then, in the last few minutes, the Kitchen Angels arrived, aprons on and hands washed, and miraculously, everything was ready to serve, all at the same time. I'm still kind of amazed.

Here's the menu for our Vegan Thanksgiving 2011:
Nut Crusted Tofu - marinated tofu, baked with a cashew-coconut crust
Grilled Portobello Mushrooms - marinated in a red wine sauce, and grilled on the stovetop
Quinoa-Corn Stuffing - quinoa and polenta, baked with traditional stuffing seasonings
Mashed Cauliflower - simply whipped with vegan butter
Mushroom Red Wine Gravy
Chipotle-Orange Cranberries
Spinach Salad - baby spinach with raw beets, carrots, and jicama in smoky-sweet vinaigrette
Sweet Potato Biscuits
Apple-Cherry Cobbler with Vanilla Rice Dream Ice Cream

Where did all this come from? I'm not really sure, and I can't really take the credit. It all sort of came to me last week, while I was soaking in the hot springs. The stuffing idea was Rick's, and the tofu is my simplified version of Mark Reinfeld's award winning recipe. We brainstormed a lot that day while I made notes and soaked my bones. I guess relaxation is a good thing!

And now I'm going to share all of with you here. There's no need to make all this at once. Try a recipe here and there. They were all big hits at my table, and we all had a hard time deciding what our favorites were. Keep in mind that I was cooking for 5 people, and had lots of leftovers, so you can adjust quantities as you need to. Also, I was cooking my brains out, so didn't get as many pictures as I wanted to. My helpers took a few for me, and I think you'll get the idea. Here we go!

Nut Crusted Tofu

2 blocks of extra firm tofu, each sliced into 8 pieces
Marinate several hours, or over night, in:
          1/2 cup tamari
          1/2 cup maple syrup
          apple juice to cover the tofu

Bake marinated tofu on a shallow baking sheet for 30 minutes at 350º

While tofu bakes, mix a little nut butter (peanut, cashew, almond, tahini) with some of the marinade, and set aside. Make the Nut Crust.

Nut Crust

Pulse in food processor until crumbly:
1 cup raw cashews
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut
2 inches fresh ginger, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

Remove tofu from oven and flip the slices over. Spoon on a little of the nut butter mixed with marinade, and spread to the edges of the tofu. Bake 20 minutes more.

Top tofu with Nut Crust and bake 10-15 minutes more.

Grilled Portobello Mushrooms & Mushroom Red Wine Gravy

I made these as "steaks" recently. This time I cut the mushrooms into thick slices for grilling. Then I turned the extra marinade into gravy, adding the chopped mushroom stems, thickening it with quinoa flour, and adding some almond milk for richness. It makes more of a wine reduction sauce than a traditional gravy. Here's the recipe from a previous blog.

Quinoa-Corn Stuffing

This recipe make s a vat of stuffing. You might want to cut it down for a normal family dinner...

Boil 6 cups vegetable broth in a large pot.
Add 1/2 cup polenta, and boil gently for 20-30 minutes, till tender.
Add 2 cups rinsed quinoa.
Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook 15-20 minutes more, stirring once or twice, until the broth is absorbed.

1 chopped onion and 6 stalks celery in olive oil until they begin to soften.
Add 1 chopped apple and 1 cup frozen corn. Cook until hot, and season with salt & pepper, sage, rosemary, and thyme.

Stir the saute into the quinoa-polenta, and add more seasonings to taste. Place in a baking dish and bake for 30 minutes to an hour, until it's lightly browned in top, and hot all the way through.

Okay - Let's stop here for today. This is going to be a three part blog, so I don't overwhelm anybody, including myself. Here's a picture of the entire meal. There's more to look forward to, so I'll see you back here in a day or two!

the Feast - Part I
the Feast - Part II
the Feast Part III

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

More Power to You - Power Balls

I have my Vegan Thanksgiving Feast all planned, and will start the prep work today. I'm sure you've got your meal all figured out by now too, so I'll share my recipes after the holiday, and maybe you can use some of them later in the season. Meanwhile, we can all use some extra energy this time of year - quick bites of pure fuel that can keep us afloat on the busy days ahead. Store bought energy bars can be okay, but many of them are loaded with processed sugars, which are totally bad for us, and besides, they're ridiculously expensive. I got a version of the following recipe from my friends Kat & Kathleen, and proceeded to mess with it until it was super simple, and extra good. I call them Power Balls because they pack a real nutritional wallop, but best of all, they're a tasty treat. 

These are a great snack to take along just about anywhere. I'll sometimes munch one or two with a cup of tea and call it lunch. I think they're quite fancy enough to call them cookies, but you could dress them up by stirring in things like tiny chocolate chips and chopped dried cherries, and maybe roll them in organic powdered sugar and give them as holiday gifts. I might do just that.

Here's the basic recipe. Please feel free to play with it. You can't really mess these up.

Power Balls

Buzz together in a food processor:
2 cups coarsely chopped dried fruit
          Dates are especially good, but try adding in some apricots, figs, prunes, raisins, etc.
1/4 cup maple syrup
          You can also use agave or brown rice syrup.
1/4 cup peanut butter
          Or use cashew or almond butter. The original recipe calls for coconut oil, which is extra decadent.

Add, and pulse until medium-to-finely chopped, but not pureed:
1/2 cup nuts and seeds
          I like cashews, walnuts, almonds, and sunflowers seeds, in any combination.
1/4 cup chia seeds
          These are a Super Food favored by the Aztecs for strength and stamina.
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut

It will look something like this...

Roll into small balls, and place on a baking sheet. No baking though! Just place them in the fridge for an hour or so, and then store refrigerated in an air tight container. They'll keep for at least a couple of weeks, but I'll bet they get eaten long before that.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone! And if you're cooking a Vegan Feast, yay YOU!!!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Vegan Video Stars

Talented, inspired, creative, silly, fun, amazing self-produced Vegan Video Stars are popping up all over the internet, and some of them are really worth watching. Not only do they offer some great vegan education and recipes, they do it with style and humor. The entertainment value alone makes it worth checking some of them out, even if you're not vegan. I'll get you started with three of my favorites.

At the top of my list is Vegan Drag Queen. Oh yes, darling! Honey LaBronx is the most adorable vegan, activist, drag queen you could ever hope to meet. Well, I certainly hope to meet her. She has some fine cooking skills, a terrific outlook, and a slightly naughty sense of humor that probably won't offend most of you too much. You can watch Vegan Drag Queen's cooking show videos on her website, or find them on YouTube. Here's Episode One. Go Honey, go!

Next up, Vegan Black Metal Chef. This one left me speechless the first time I saw it, but VBMC has developed a huge following, so clearly, a lot of people like this stuff. I wonder if they're watching it for the black metal-ness, or for the food, which is actually quite good. Check out this version of Vegan Pad Thai. Fair warning, Vegan Black Metal Chef can be kind of a potty mouth at times. But oh... what a cool knife he has!

After you've recovered from VBMC, check out the Vegan Zombie. This one's been around quite a while, but I don't get out much, so I've only just discovered it. At first I wasn't sure about the connection between vegans and zombies, but it does get your attention, right? Then I read the "about" page, and well, that cleared it all up... "The zombie apocalypse is coming and we will be ready. Infection will originate from within the meat flesh the people zombies consume. Vegans will be one step ahead…"
There's a movie trailer that will help you understand what TVZ is all about, and here's the most recent of many, many cooking videos. Weird stuff. I love it.

So I'm wondering... if I wanted to do a cooking show, what would my gimmick be? I have absolutely no idea, but the wheels are turning... Meanwhile, I'm going to watch more of these tasty videos.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Sweet Potato Biscuits

I have big plans for Thanksgiving this year. Some of the recipes can be trusted to improvisation on the big day, but there's one in particular I don't want to leave to chance. I'm not really a baker, and I want the Sweet Potato Biscuits to be perfect, so I decided to take them for a test drive. As it turns out, there was no need to worry. This is a simple, traditional biscuit recipe that takes no real "skill." If you can Measure Stuff and Stir Stuff, you can make these! They came out perfect the first time. So perfect, in fact, I made a second batch because my taste testers ate them all up and wanted more.

I had two fat sweet potatoes sitting on the counter, so I poked some holes in them with a fork, threw them in the oven and baked them until they were nice and soft, then pureed them in the food processor with just enough water to make them smooth. I had more than enough for the biscuits, so some of it became my grandson's first homemade baby food. I'm so proud. He's been eating sweet potatoes from a jar, and I'm thrilled to finally be able to cook something for him. And yes, of course you can buy canned sweet potatoes or yams. Don't beat yourself up if you decide to go that way. It's faster and easier, and your biscuits will still be wonderful.

Sweet Potato Biscuits
(These amounts make about 6 biscuits. You might want to double the recipe!)

1 cup sweet potato puree
1 cup flour (I made one batch with quinoa four, and one with whole wheat. Nobody had a real preference.)
1 T baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup olive oil
2 T maple syrup

Stir everything together just until mixed, and turn the dough onto a floured board. Sprinkle a little flour on top, and pat dough into a rectangle about 3/4 inch thick. Cut into 6 squares. Place biscuits on a lightly oiled baking sheet, and bake at 375º for 15-20 minutes. Mine took the full 20 minutes at our 7,000 foot elevation.

They came out moist and flaky, and just so lip-smackin' good with a little vegan butter. You could call them scones if you want, and serve them with jam for breakfast, but I think they'll be just perfect with our Thanksgiving dinner, and maybe yours too.