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The sort-of saddest food post ever.

26 Feb

World's easiest tofu recipe. I mean it.

You may be wondering what is going on in this post, because it doesn’t look like where I usually take my food photos.  That’s because it isn’t.  This is an awkwardly-taken picture from me sitting (alone, like all the other saps in there enjoying a five-seater table to themselves) in my university lunchroom on a very short lunchbreak with my undeniably hip $5 food thermos thing I bought from CVS when I picked up my prescription last.  You can even see my Kindle (on which I’m currently reading this and this) and backpack in the background.

I am in class 5 days a week, generally for 3-5 hour stretches with (maximum!) a 25-minute break.  I now bring my own lunches for two reasons: 1) eating out vegan at a place that isn’t expressly vegan can be an exercise in frustration that I don’t have time for and 2) a healthy lunch won’t make me crash in the middle of the day (or I could just get a pile of fat on a piece of bread or something, but whatever).  Usually, this is pretty easy, since I just take a pile of leftovers from the night before.

But this time, the night before, I made curried tofu.  Big mistake.  The spice blend smelled great!  But both my boyfriend and I discovered that we are not fans of turmeric-heavy, super-spicy Indian food (though there are types of Indian food I like!)  The recipe came out fine, it was just not my favorite, because it burns.  So, even though I usually use leftovers to make lunch, I was left in a tight spot.  I didn’t want a pasta dish and I didn’t have leftovers–what to do?  Emergency tofu!

Read about how emergency tofu preparedness after the cut.

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Back to Basics, Part 2: Oat-Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies

18 Feb

I found these in Veganomicon immediately after making the Pasta e Fagioli.  I know it sounds weird!  I’ll be honest, I was not particularly arrested by the title (wheat-free chocolate chip cookies) because I don’t have a wheat sensitivity, but I was excited by the sentence: “These couldn’t be easier to make unless someone made them for you!”

Now, personally, I disagree with that.  I maintain that my peanut butter chocolate chip cookies are the flat-out easiest cookies, ever.  You don’t even need two bowls!  See?  Also, it would have been easier if the original recipe did not turn out a batter the consistency of pancake batter.  But don’t worry, follow my recipe and these will turn out fine!

However, these do have an advantage that mine lack.  They’re made with whole-grain oat flour, flaxseed, and just a little less sugar.  So, if you are feeling guilty about wanting that cookie for some reason (you should never feel guilty about food!) or you have wheat-related health concerns*, here is a recipe to try!  As for texture and taste, they are delicately sweet and mellow, pillowy-soft, with a noticeably nice crumb.

*Note: If you do have a wheat allergy (or if you want to bake cookies for someone with a wheat allergy), be sure that you/they are not, in fact, avoiding oats as well as wheat!  To my knowledge, some celiac patients do avoid oat products.

Recipe and tips after the cut.

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Back-to-Basics Double Feature, Part 1: Pasta e Fagioli with Kale

16 Feb

So I’ve been having a rough few days in the kitchen.  It’s bound to happen when you try something new pretty much every night!  First the baked barbecue tofu was a touch too sweet.  Then I tried to make meatballs with Simply Lean as the base, and the texture was not right (no savory crust on the outside/fluffy meatball center.)  Then I tried a new recipe for vegan mac and cheese–or, as my boyfriend calls it, the Ark of the Covenant.  (I poured it over whole wheat rotini and it looked like brains, oh god.)  Note for future generations of vegans: There is such a thing as too much nutritional yeast.  You don’t want that ashy aftertaste.  (Which, no matter how good the sauce was on first bite–and it was pretty good!–never went away.)

But the thing about cooking is that you can’t give up on it, because you have to eat!  Every day!  Sometimes more than once.  And if you are going to eat vegan, and you’re coming home kind of late from the gym, it’s all you.  You better figure it out.

So I threw up my hands and went for a recipe from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Appetite for Reduction, which is great for a couple of reasons: 1) quick food 2) healthy food.  Okay.  I can handle making moderately fancy pasta.  So I did!

I was pretty delighted, because it turned out quite attractively!

Originally, the recipe was supposed to use spinach, but I suspected (correctly) that it would also work just fine with whatever other green I had on hand.  My only regret is not adding more kale.  (Attention vegan health people: Kale is a good source of calcium that is absorbed much more efficiently than equal quantities of the same mineral in cow’s milk!)  Plus it has vitamin A and lots of other good things.  Also, I genuinely like kale, mixed in with things or separately, and I really don’t like cooked/wilted spinach.  The leaves are too flat and slimy and whatever, and blue curled kale is much less bitter, I find.  I also used canned diced tomatoes instead of chopped plum tomatoes because I don’t have the patience and I do keep a bunch of cans of unsalted diced tomatoes on hand.  Plus there’s probably a touch more olive oil in mine than the original, but a little olive oil won’t kill you!

Plus, there’s beans for protein and nice whole grains, with just a touch of olive oil and garlic.  (Besides its health benefits, I actually really like the taste of whole grain rotini here!)

Pasta e Fagioli with Kale

Special equipment: Possibly a steamer for making greens; it keeps more of the nutrients than boiling

1-2 teaspoons of olive oil
4-6 cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons of Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup of vegetable broth or white wine (I used vegetable broth because I keep forgetting to buy cooking wine–I could get wine, cook with it, and also drink a little with the same meal, but I still don’t seem to plan that well)
about 2 pounds of tomatoes, diced or chopped in some form or fashion (original called for 2 lbs of roughly chopped plum tomatoes, but diced regular ones from a can will give you something close enough; I also only had two 14.5 oz cans available, which is off by 3 oz, but fine)
1 15-oz can of navy beans, drained and rinsed (about 1.5 cups dried)
whole wheat pasta that is not spaghetti (I had some of the rotini left over, which worked out well.)
dash of coriander, garlic powder, and agave syrup (optional)
1-2 cups frozen kale or other green (you can use fresh; directions given for both.)

Set a pot of water to boil on the stove.  Preheat olive oil in a large skillet and mince garlic.  Saute for about a minute with salt and pepper, then add the tomatoes, wine/broth, and Italian seasoning.  Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil; once it comes to a boil, add the navy beans, then keep on medium-high, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes start to fall apart and the sauce reduces a bit.  (If you do have cooking wine, I would use it–I found that the sauce did not reduce as perfectly as I would’ve liked with broth.  It might just be me.  If you are using wine, keep the heat a little lower.)

While the sauce reduces and pasta cooks, bring about a cup of water to a boil in a saucepan and get your steamer assembled.  Once steam starts rising out of the steamer holes, toss the frozen greens onto the steamer and let them cook until de-thawed.  Set aside.  (If you have fresh greens, skip this step.)

The pasta and sauce should finish cooking at roughly the same time.  Drain the pasta.  In batches (again, I like to use a still-warm, emptied pot), mix the sauce and beans, the pasta, and the greens.  Keep stirring (with a pasta fork?  I don’t have one of these!  Stir with whatever, I guess) until the greens are completely wilted and soft.


Veggie Gravy and Potatoes

13 Feb

No picture for this, alas.  I was writing up the Skyline recipe when I thought I ought to include this as well.  Not that anyone will miss my poorly-lit food photography.  Thanks, tiny kitchen and lighting-deficient apartment!  Oh well.

In any event, this recipe came originally from the Everyday Happy Herbivore, which I like because it is a nice change from the meals I always yearn to make (behold!  Soul-satisfying slow-cooked chili!  Spicy Spanish-inspired garbanzo beans and crushed fresh coriander!  Sauteed kale and caramelized onion quinoa!) when I am tired and busy and not in the mood, which does happen.

I decided to originally try this recipe on one such night.  This was first served over biscuits, which I was willing to try (because they were also easy), but unfortunately, disaster struck.  I popped the nicely-formed biscuits out of the oven, was about to carry them to my food-staging counter, and then–for reasons I don’t recall at all–lost my grip on the baking sheet, flung the biscuits all over the floor, and bounced the baking sheet right against the trash can.  Of course, the veggie gravy was already on and going.

I’m pretty sure I actually cried.  At the very least there was a bit of shouting.  I am pretty sure I tried to make the biscuits again but added too much soymilk because I was too frazzled to, you know, look at a recipe I’d only seen once before, and they ended up as oozing lumps.

So I finally decided to try my hand at making heavy cream- and butter-free mashed potatoes (olive oil and soymilk instead.)  Guess what, they’re awesome!  Slap some potatoes on a plate, hollow out a little bowl for veggies and gravy, and you have a moderately attractive and easy meal.  Plus, a great way to get in some veggie and starch.  (And mostly low-fat!  Personally, I don’t agree with making everything no-added-fat, but it works well here.)  The key here to thickening the gravy is (instead of the binding/simmering of fat and flour, like in a roux) the cornstarch and heat.

The other nice thing about this is that it’s a simple kitchen-sink type of recipe.  Use up those frozen veggies and add a little soymilk, seasoning, and thickener, and ta da!  Dinner.

Veggie Gravy and Potatoes

Special equipment: Maybe a potato masher counts as special equipment?  I used a fork/spoon/meat tenderizer (haha) for ages, but a potato masher has totally upped my mashed-potato game.  It’s also good for smashing beans for burgers.  I don’t like to use a hand mixer on my potatoes because it’s too much work and I like my potatoes a little chunky and peppery/garlicky, but feel free to use them yourself.   Other than that, a whisk, saucepan, and stockpot–maybe a prep bowl!–will serve you well.

Veggie gravy ingredients:

Again, feel free to cut down on the salty-type seasonings like garlic and onion powder if it’s not your thing; it’s mine (and especially the boyfriend’s), so I cook for that palate.  It’ll work equally well with less of what you don’t care for as much.  I think the paprika adds a nice, subtle warmth to the gravy, but it won’t be spicy.  It is veggies and gravy.

1 cup vegetable broth
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 cup unsweetened nondairy milk
3 tsp Italian seasoning blend
1 tsp dried marjoram
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tsp paprika
2 tsp onion powder
3 tsp garlic powder
2 1/2 cup mixed frozen veggies (or one regular-sized bag)

Vegan mashed potatoes ingredients:

4-6 medium-sized potatoes
salt, pepper, paprika, garlic, dash of nutmeg to taste
olive oil
unsweetened nondairy milk

Boil water, mixed with a few drops of olive oil, in the stock pot.  Wash, peel, and chop the potatoes; when the water is boiling, drop them in and cook until fork-soft (you should be able to stick a utensil in the pot and break apart a potato chunk with minimal effort.)

While the potatoes are cooking, mix the broth and cornstarch in the prep bowl; whisk together until smoothly combined.  Set aside with all the other gravy ingredients.

Put all the ingredients (minus the potato stuff, of course) in the saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Stir occasionally while the gravy simmers and taste.  Season to taste; if the spices are too strong, slowly pour in a touch more unsweetened nondairy milk.  Leave the gravy and vegetables on to simmer as you go to make the potatoes.

Drain the cooked, soft potatoes immediately.  I like to return them to the (still-warm) pot in which they were cooked, to retain heat and because a lot of my mixing bowls are cheap plastic.  I smashed a hole in one making mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving.  (I know, this kind of thing happens to me a lot.)

Pour in a little olive oil–not enough to cover the potatoes, but a pretty good drizzle–followed by approximately 1/3 cup of unsweetened not-milk, and start mashing.  If things get away from you, use a spoon to clear out the masher and scoop the potatoes into a centralized pile for easy mashing.  If the texture is too chunky/thick, add more milk/oil slowly.

Season to taste!  I usually like a bit of Montreal steak seasoning (steak seasoning and meat tenderizers for potatoes, this post is rife with vegan re-appropriation of meaty things!), garlic, paprika, and just a dash of nutmeg.  If you don’t have Montreal steak seasoning (I think it’s a McCormick thing), salt and pepper will be perfectly fine.  I just think it makes the potatoes look nice, too.

Plate the potatoes first and hollow out a space for the gravy; pour into the “bowl” and a little over the potatoes.

Enjoy dat cruelty-free country dinner.

“Creamy” Spinach Walnut Pasta

24 Jan

Okay, so I first found this recipe–or the inspiration for this recipe–at Eat Me, Delicious, which is a vegetarian but often vegan-friendly site where I found a recipe for Peanut Butter Pasta that I love.  This recipe, though, is also one of my favorites!  But since I’ve stopped eating dairy, too, I had to replace the cottage cheese and omit the Parmesan entirely, since I had no Italian-style faux cheeses on hand (except for sandwich slices, which–surprise!–don’t do food processors especially well, even when sliced up smaller.)

To keep the creaminess, I added silken tofu, and to account for the cheesiness, a little nutritional yeast.

This is a great recipe if you’re looking for some protein!  I can’t speak to how this version will reheat, though I will probably find out one day and make a edit here.

Sorry for the lack of pictures–my omni boyfriend and I ate it all :3

Recipe after the cut.

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