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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The happiest pig ever!

26 Feb

Reading over Farm Sanctuary’s stories of rescued livestock animals.  There was a video of a visitor and farm worker bottle-feeding three baby calves, but I can’t seem to find it, so please enjoy this bouncy piglet.

If you have some time and are in search of adorable things, reading through Farm Sanctuary’s “Featured Adoption” page is totally worth it.  Also, they just rescued a ton of farm animals who need veterinary care!  So, if you’re looking for a good place to send some advocacy money, there it is.  Plus, cute animals.  Hooray!

Stout Little Cupcakes

21 Feb

I mean it!  There’s stout in these!    (Fortunately, Guinness Extra Stout, North America is vegan according to Barnivore.)

I was going to do a writeup of some of the more practical and also-delicious things I’ve made lately that are backlogged, but I feel like I don’t make enough pretty things to post here, so I am posting this takeoff of the Chocolate Stout Cupcake recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take over the World, which we all know is the only cupcake book for vegans.  Be happy!  Now you have a recipe to impress your coworkers, friends, and other people who need impressing.

The only change I would make is to not whisk the dry and wet ingredients for two minutes, as suggested in the original recipe, because I personally think that’s over-mixing and it resulted in slightly crunchy tops, despite a moderate sugar content, smooth batter texture, and a constant oven temperature, which I watch like a hawk while I am cupcaking (thanks, oven thermometer.)

The original also called for a crumb topping, but I had just made a crumb topping for the ginger snap-apple-peanut butter thing I have in my fridge right now, but I don’t like cupcakes to be smothered in sugar and fatty toppings, so I decided to go a little different.  Chocolate and raspberry go together!  So I made a half-recipe of raspberry buttercream frosting, a little chocolate ganache, and got out some powdered sugar/unsweetened cocoa powder (trust me, you’ll like it!) to make little pink flowers crowned with an eensy ganache truffle rolled in cocoa powder.

They turned out pretty attractively!

Cupcake group photo. See, not too terribly boob-shaped.

They’re a little boob-like, thanks to the lighting that is washing out the color of my icing (because I’m an awful photographer), but if you’re really worried about it, add extra red to the icing and make your rosettes bigger and more floral.  You can also substitute a little piece of fruit for the ganache drop, but personally I like them fine this way, and think their appearance as boobs is questionable enough to serve in settings unrelated to the Vagina Monologues.

In the interest of preventing well-intentioned cupcake disasters (and strudel sadness), I am making a “Challenging” category for this blog–stuff that requires special equipment, assembly, lots of time, or exotic ingredients.  This would probably fit here–both ganache and frosting should be prepared ahead of time, for example.

Click through for this moderately-challenging recipe!

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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.

Serve!

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.

Skyline-Style Chili for the Planning-Challenged

13 Feb

People who have never been to Cincinnati are probably going to ask: What is Skyline chili?  And why is this chili different from all other chilis?

Short answer: Because I like it more.

Long answer: Skyline chili refers to a particular Cincinnati chain of chili restaurants, which make a Greek-style chili with a spice profile that diverges from Texas-style chili (less cayenne, more cinnamon and cocoa.)  While not sweet, Skyline chili has a rich, moderately spicy flavor profile that is not as tomatoey as other chilis.  It’s a little unusual, but ever since I went with my Cincinnati-native boyfriend to a Skyline, it has been my favorite type.  (And obviously, it’s his favorite!)

We have a long history with Skyline chili.  Back in the day, when I ate meat and we were first dating (and I didn’t know how to cook!  Whaaaat), he came to visit with a bottle of wine and a can of Skyline, which he made for me.  Of course there’s the Skyline runs on visits to the ‘Natti.  And he grew up eating it.

But it is basically a big pile of beef, covered with an absurdly big pile of cheese.  Dammit (Don’t click this if pictures of meat and/or cheese upset you, I know that’s the case for some people.)

Woe was me until I found a recipe for Cincinnati chili in The Happy Herbivore.  I texted my boyfriend the night I received it for belated-too-bad-I-was-sick-Christmas because I knew we had to try it.

I have a few bones to pick with this recipe.  Firstly, the filling is made with bulgur wheat, which I don’t use for anything else (I don’t think I have any other recipes that involve it), and it is generally not my practice to keep ingredients on hand that are only used for one thing.

Secondly, the TVP (which I use, and is an allowed substitution in the original) is made beef-style.  And unless you are wise enough to remember to buy pre-made no-beef broth, and vegan Worcestershire sauce, you have to synthesize it yourself (using ingredients that are commonplace enough) in advance.  But it’s the quantities that really kill me here.  The included Worcestershire sauce recipe makes A WHOLE CUP of the stuff.  The faux-beef broth, plus the chili recipe, uses 2 1/2 teaspoons.  For sports fans counting at home, one cup is FORTY-EIGHT TEASPOONS.  Unless you have a bottle or jar to spare to dump this stuff in–which I often don’t!–you are wasting ingredients and time.  And since I don’t have anywhere to store it, because I am not Martha Stewart and (like many normal people) use my Tupperware for other things, I have to make the sauce, then the broth, and THEN do the chili.  I did that the first time I made the chili, and frankly, it was hell on wheels.

This time, I just mixed up a broth that contained the seasoning elements of the Worcestershire sauce and the broth, plus some other things that I liked, reconstituted the TVP in that, and saved myself the aggravation.  Now that I know how to do that, I can save you the aggravation, too!

Also, I made cheese!  And this chili does not have beans.  UNBELIEVABLE!

Here is what your glorious chili will look like when complete, and served over pasta, as is good and proper:

A less cheddar-y version of that is going in vegan lasagna.  I mean it.

Vegan Skyline-Style Chili For the Planning-Challenged

Special equipment: Nothing special, but get a, say, two-quart saucepan for broth/sauce/TVP and a four-quart saucepan with lid for the chili itself, and put them both on the stove.

BEFORE YOU START: I recommend dicing the one yellow onion for this recipe, so you can saute it as the TVP cooks.

Broth ingredients:

Be sure to make this to taste!  I generally use approximate measurements in my cooking because I won’t sit and measure out everything because it takes forever.  Generally speaking, I visually estimate the amount of spices or liquid to sprinkle in, and (not to brag!) I’m usually spot on.  But never hesitate to taste!  Your palate and mine may differ, and professional chefs don’t let anything leave a kitchen without tasting it.  Keep a testing utensil handy, no need to slurp your mixing spoon.

1 1/2 – 2 tbsp chili powder (for the spice-frightened of you, stick to 1/2 – 1 tbsp; I actually cut it from the original because neither of us like burning)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp allspice
dash of ground cloves
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp soy sauce/tamari
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
2 -3  tsp agave syrup
2 tsp liquid smoke
1 tsp ground mustard
1 1/2 tsp onion powder
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
dash of ground ginger, cinnamon, paprika, allspice, and salt/pepper
1 cup water

With the cup of water, whisk all ingredients together in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil; simmer for one minute.  Then add the TVP and begin reconstitution.

While the TVP is cooking, start the chili!

Chili ingredients:

1 onion, diced small
2 – 3 garlic cloves (my broth is somewhat more garlic-y than the original, so feel free to omit these if you don’t love garlic like we do)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp water
1/2 cup water
1 bay leaf
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes (the original used crushed, so I assume those are fine if you have them)
Reconstituted TVP with chili spices

As the TVP is reconstituting, swirl equal parts olive oil and water in your large saucepan/stock pot and preheat on medium; cook until the onions are translucent.  Add the TVP, 1/2 cup water, the tomatoes, and the bay leaf, then stir to combine.  Bring to a near/low boil over high heat, then cover and reduce to low.  Simmer for 20-25 minutes, until water is absorbed, tomatoes have disintegrated, and spices have blended.

SPECIAL TIMING NOTE:

Set your timer for 10 minutes.  When it’s ten minutes, it’s time to get that water for pasta boiling.  Time is needed to boil and to cook.  If I was paid money for every time I’ve screwed that timing up, I would probably be too busy eating gold-plated kale to write this blog.

Once the chili is simmered and the liquid is absorbed, you can serve over pasta, veggie hot dogs, or without anything else.

Chili Toppings by the Numbers

1-way: chili alone
2-way: over pasta or hot dogs not made from animal butts
3-way: over pasta, with cheese-like substance*
4-way: all of the above and diced white onion
5-way: all of the above and kidney beans

*You’ll note there is a homemade faux cheese thing on there.  I made it!  I will update with the recipe later when I successfully reproduce it and write everything down.  I won’t subject my dear readers to an untested recipe!

Another cheese pro-tip: If you use Daiya as your ready-made cheese substitute of choice, buy it in the little blocks (my boyfriend found some for me at Whole Foods because he is the best) and flake it off with a vegetable peeler.  The pieces are smaller and thinner than the shreds, have a nicer texture to begin with, and (because they’re smaller/thinner) melt  more easily.

Add your toppings and–here is an important part!–microwave it till the cheese is melted!  (Even if you’re using real cheese for some reason.)

Now your chili is ready to eat!  yaaaay chili