Saturday, October 31, 2009

Chili from Days Gone & Farewell VMF 2009

Two Bean, All-Day Chili Topped w/ Avocado Creme & Smoked Paprika

Growing up, we always had chili for dinner on Halloween. On Halloween morning, mom would put a big pot on and let it simmer slowly all day…until it was an enticingly well-melded concoction of flavors and textures. My mom makes a mean pot of chili—a veritable tribute to hearty, spicy, tomatoey deliciousness. She served it up in bowls topped with cheddar cheese and saltine crackers.

I understand why it was always chili; this was something mom could throw on the stove and not fuss with throughout the day, allowing her time to get all of us and our costumes organized. But, I think she also had a far more cunning reason for serving us her chili: we devoured it like it was going out of style. Thus, despite all tactical and otherwise strategic intentions on our part to eat as little dinner as possible and leave more room for candy, we went out into the Halloween night with bellies full of beans…clever mom!

These days, it seems like Halloween has changed a lot…at least in our neck of the woods. Kids go trick-or-treating around their parents’ office buildings or at the local shopping mall. What’s up with that? If they tried to pull that sort of thing on us, we would have staged an outright revolt!

Nothing can match the magic of trapsing around in the crisp night air with friends and siblings, never knowing what type of character you might encounter around each corner. The sound of scurrying feet, shouts, and laughter wafting through the darkness as fellow trick-or-treaters made their rounds, gave way to mounting excitement as our pillow cases filled with treats.

Anything could happen on Halloween. Anything, good or bad, was possible in our imagination—we were brave and happy revellers ready for all the night could offer...

Well, we were usually in bed by 8:30…but you know what I mean.

I’m sure that there are places where that kind of Halloween magic still exists, but it certainly belongs to days gone by in our neighborhood. Last year we had a total of two trick-or-treaters come to our door.

Vegan Candy for Bona-fide Trick-or-Treaters

Nonetheless, I put on my pot of chili this morning. The Jack-o-Lanterns are all ready to light up on the porch. A bowl of candy sits full and expectant by the door. We’ll have a playlist of Halloween hits pumping out fun and spooky sounds from our sound system. And heck, I may even dress up as a black cat…all in wait for a glimpse of those rare creatures, those modern-day trick-or-treaters.

And, as I wait patiently on the porch, I’ll be thinking of all the wonderful ideas, recipes, stories, and photos I’ve seen during this VeganMofo. I have enjoyed it so heartily…thanks to all MoFoers everywhere…can’t wait to see you all next year!

Happy Halloween!!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Seitan Follow-up

Just wanted to do a quick post about dinner. We had herb-crusted seitan, spicy kale with chili and garlic, steamed cauliflower, potatoes, and beer-braised chanterelles and leeks, served with a veggie gravy.

It was yummy.

It's a cozy, windy, rainy night here...

....Goodnight Moonbeams

Seitan Day

I'll be the first to admit that my homemade seitan is a little wonky... it comes out more like heavy, savory bread than faux meat...but we like it. I want to start experimenting with other ways to make it, but up until now, I've always just baked mine in foil. One thing I want to try soon is braising some in a rich coconut sauce and use it as a base for a Malaysian-style curry.

On seitan days in the near future, I'll definitely be consulting Alicia's blog for recipes and tips on honing my seitan skills. I think she's a seitan expert and could market her own line of the stuff.

The basic recipe that I use can be found on this post from Vegan YumYum. (BTW, the pot sticker filling on that post is absolutely delicious.) I use that recipe as a base and then play around with different spices and ingredients. Sometimes, I use Old Bay Seasoning, sometimes I add cumin or other spices and flavors.

Today, I made two kinds. The first was two loaves of carrot, leek, and apple seitan:

As you can see, it looks a lot like bread.

I think the carrots, leek, and apple turned out well together; it's slightly sweet, very moist, and the leek is really good in there. It occurred to me (too late because it was already in the oven) that it might be fun to put the filling in the middle and roll it up like a roulade. I'll try that next time.

I usually cut these loaves into 1-inch slices, and keep them in the freezer. Tonight, we'll have a few of these covered with an herby bread crumb crust, along with kale, cauliflower, chanterelle mushrooms, and mashed potatoes. Tomorrow, I'll grind some of this up in the food processor and use it as mince for some chili.

The second kind I made today was in the form of sun-dried tomato and fennel sausages with some red chili flakes. My sausages usually turn out especially wonky. This is largely why I want to try some other methods, like steaming perhaps, to see if I can get a more uniform look to them. No matter how well I wrap them in the tin foil, the sausages always puff out in all different directions:

Again, you can see that it looks like a savory bread stick; but it's yummy to us. I think this type of seitan is good for people who get a little squimy when things are too meat-like.

Can't believe today is the penultimate day of Vegan Mofo...I've never blogged so much in my life.

Ciao for now.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Portabella Burgers w/ Balsamic Tomatoes, Caramelized Onions & Caper-Shallot Vegan Mayo

Comical, but tasty mushroom burger

As you can tell, this was a mouthful in more than one way...they're pretty funny looking, but they were tasty and gave the old jaws a good stretch in the process.

During the week, when I’m short on time, I often turn to veggie burgers for a quick-fix dinner. But lately, I’ve been growing more and more disillusioned with store-bought veggie burgers; I used to buy Garden Burger’s Vegan Veggie Medley , then I switched to Wildwood Tofu Burgers …even those have lost favor with me. Yes, I could make my own burgers, but that would sort of defeat the purpose of eating burgers for the sake of a super-quick, hassle-free meal.

Then, it struck me…mushroom burgers…why had I never thought of this before? In restaurants around here, some variation of portabella burger is ubiquitous and more often than not, the only veganizable item on the menu. So, I roasted up some mushrooms for my quick burger fix…so quick, so easy…yaay!

I also roasted some thick slices of tomato splashed with balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper (substitutes for ketchup nicely), caramelized some onions, and stacked it all on a burger with some homemade vegan mayo.

After all that, it wasn’t as quick as the original intent, but it was worth it.

Here’s the mayo recipe I used:

½ cup almonds, soaked in water for several hours (6-8)
½ cup water
juice of ½ lemon
1/2 tablespoon agave
½ tablespoon raw apple cider vinegar
1/8 teaspoon dry mustard
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ to 2/3 cup olive oil

I mixed up everything except the oil in the food processor, then I drizzled the oil in little by little.

Note: this turned out a little too sweet for me; next time I make it, I’ll leave the agave out altogether.

After the mayo was all blended, I transferred it to a bowl and stirred in some capers and finely minced shallot.

Open wide..!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Attention Garlic Lovers!

Garlic Soup with Saffron and Sherry

I know there are conscientious people out there who moderate their garlic intake for the sake of others, and I applaud their civility. I, on the other hand, walk around wantonly stinking of garlic with pride.

I don't think I could moderate my garlic consumption if you paid me. My need to consume large amounts of it daily is much stronger than me…this is a terrible weakness for which I apologize.

This is also why I absolutely adore this soup. It's perfect for times when you want something comforting but not too heavy--every spoonful ends in a satisfying slurp, and it definitely satisfies that garlic craving.

The recipe is originally from Robin Robertson. About a year or ago, I found it re-posted here.

When I make it, I usually deviate from the recipe slightly by adding saffron, and I'm probably a little more liberal with the old sherry;)

Sometimes, I make this soup with orzo pasta, but this time I used some little alphabets. I found these, organic and 60% whole wheat:

For the record, I tried to do something cute with the letters, arranging them into words floating in the soup, but the letters kept sinking and/or floating away...:(

One last note: if you make this soup, be extra careful not to let the garlic over cook or the soup will turn bitter.

Ciao for now.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Red Cabbage, Pomegranate & Walnut Salad

Here's a quick, crunchy, and tangy salad full of yummy goodness. It combines raw red cabbage, raw walnuts, pomegranate seeds, and orange zest in a pomegranate vinaigrette.

Pomegranate Vinaigrette (makes ~1 cup)
5 tablespoons pomegranate juice
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon agave syrup
1.5 tablespoons very finely minced shallot
1/8 cup flaxseed oil
salt & pepper to taste

The dressing is on the tart side. Those with less acid-loving tastes may want to use a seasoned rice vinegar in lieu of the cider vinegar.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Spinach & Mushroom Manicotti

This turned out fairly well. I added some tofu sour cream to the filling for richness and it is really good. I know homemade is healthier, but I was lazy and used Follow Your Heart brand vegan cream cheese. With good intentions, I did find a recipe for homemade tofu cream cheese, just didn't get around to it this time.

Basic manicotti components:
-- 1 box manicotti, prepared per package instructions
-- homemade pasta sauce
-- mushroom and spinach filling (recipe follows)

Mushroom-Spinach Filling:
- 14 oz (drained) firm tofu
- 1 cup tofu cream cheese
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 lbs mushrooms, chopped into bite-size some to slice and put on top.
(The idea is to keep them big enough to be toothsome, but small enough to pipe them into the manicotti.)
- 3 cups fresh spinach, rinsed, dried off very well, and julienne sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, coarsely minced
- 2 cups leek, very thinly sliced
- pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon oregano (or other herb of choice)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil (or oil of choice)
- 1/4 cup white wine or dry sherry
- salt and pepper to taste

Combine the tofu, "cream cheese", nutritional yeast, pine nuts, and lemon juice in a food processor until well combined. Add salt and pepper to taste. Don't worry if it's quite thick; the moisture from the spinach and mushrooms will even that out. Transfer the mixture into a large bowl and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium and add the garlic, leek, chili flakes, and oregano. Saute this mixture for ~4-5 minutes. Toss in the mushroom pieces and let cook until the mushrooms begin to tender ~ 2-3 minutes. (If the mushrooms start to release lots of liquid, either turn the heat up to cook it off, or drain the liquid off.) Add the white wine and let cook gently for another 1-2 minutes.

Add the mushroom mixture to the tofu mixture, then fold in the fresh spinach. If there is a lot of liquid in the mushroom mixture, you may want to use a slotted spoon when adding mushrooms to tofu mixture.

When combined, the mixture should be thick enough to hold a shape, but loose enough to pipe through a bag. You may want to taste at this point and adjust salt & pepper as needed.

If you have time, refridgerate the mushroom, spinach, tofu mixture for 20 -30 minutes before filling the manicotti; I think it's easier to work with when its chilled.

mushroom and spinach filling

To fill the manicotti, use a plastic quart bag with the tip cut off one of the corners as a makeshift pastry bag. If anyone knows a neat trick for filling manicotti, please let me know, because it's kind of a pain in the hiney.

Put some pasta sauce on the bottom of a baking dish, place filled manicotti on top and cover with more sauce, more spinach and mushrooms. Bake in 350 C oven until bubbly.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Poached Quince

Quince turns a lovely rose color when it's cooked slowly. Today, I cooked it a little too quickly and it started to turn mushy. So, I removed the larger slices that were still holding their shape and left smaller slices in the liquid to simmer for about an hour...I then added the larger slices back into the liquid.

Ideally, all the quince slices would have cooked down in the liquid for the entire time and turned rosy too. As it turned out, the liquid turned rosy from the quince I left in, and the bigger quince pieces remained a lighter color. (Bummer.)

We ate this with vanilla hemp milk ice cream--Living Harvest Tempt Vanilla Bean to be exact. (I must say it is quite good.) The quince is tart, so some may like to add more sweetness to the cooking liquid, but I like it that way. And, it balanced out the sweetness of the hemp ice cream nicely. Poached quince is also good with soy yogurt and granola.

Here's what I used:

(Wait until you have all the other ingredients warming up in a sauce pan, before you peel and core the quince.)

3 large quince
3 cups water
3/4 cup light agave (or more to taste)
1/2 vanilla pod, sliced down the middle
15-20 cardamom pods
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

Add all ingredients (except quince) in a saucepan and bring to slow simmer. (I scraped the vanilla seeds out of the pod and into the liquid, but you could also leave the pod in tact if you prefer.) As the sauce is heating, peel, core, and slice the quince, sliding the slices into the liquid as you cut them. Quince are quite tough, so be sure you've removed all the hard and fibrous bits around the core.

Simmer slowly and gently for 1 hour. When the quince is tender and the liquid has turned rosy, remove from heat and strain out the cardamom pods. Store refridgerated in the cooking liquid for up to a week.

And last but certainly not least.... Happy World Go Vegan Week everyone!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Autumn Fruits

"Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it,
and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth
seeking the successive autumns."
-- George Eliot

It's autumn in this part of the world, and while we've had to say farewell to the fruits of summer for another year...we have the autumn fruits to fill in their place.

The unassuming quince...dined upon by owls and pussy cats:

'Dear pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
Your ring?'
Said the Piggy, 'I will.'
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon,
The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.

--From The Owl and the Pussycat, by Edward Lear

The ancient pomegranate, apple of many seeds:

"Wilt thou be gone? it is not yet near day:
It was the nightingale, and not the lark,
That pierced the fearful hollow of thine ear;
Nightly she sings on yon pomegranate-tree"

--From Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare

Persimmons, fruit of the gods:

"Some things never leave a person:
scent of the hair of one you love,
the texture of persimmons,
in your palm, the ripe weight."

--from Persimmons, by Li-Young Lee

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Apple Dumplings and Autumn Garden

I've been trying to avoid white flour and sugar, but this week, I haven't been doing too well on that score...these apple dumplings contain both.

First, you core the apples and fill them with Earth Balance and a little brown sugar. Then you put them on a square of pie dough:

Then, you fold the ends of the dough up around the apples:

Before baking, you pour a vanilla syrup over the top and they come out looking like this:

The syrup collects at the bottom of the pan while baking and turns into a sort of apple jelly--it's basically 2 parts sugar, 3 parts water and a splash of vanilla, heated until the sugar is completely dissolved. The dumplings bake for ~ 40 minutes @ 400C.

And now for something completely different....

With all the marvelous MoFo stuff, I've been neglecting my garden. Here's a little bit of what's going on out there:

This hydrangea still looks lovely, like a pretty autumn princess.

I planted fava beans as a cover crop about 4 weeks ago; I was excited to see them coming up. They're self-mulched, thanks to the plum tree and his falling leaves:

Here are the kale pots:

We haven't eaten any of the pak choi, chard, and collards yet, but some little critters have been nibbling a bit:

Aren't these little mushrooms cute? They remind me of a little fairy fort:

I imagine pretty little fairies dancing around the delicate stems.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

RRR Sandwich w/ Tomato Marmalade

....Roasted Rosemary Root Vegetables sandwich that is.

I found a lovely loaf of organic vegan potato bread from a local bakery, and root vegetables seemed like just the sort of "autumny" things to put in it. I used parsnips, rutabaga, delicata squash, and carrots. I tried roasting some horseradish root too, but I didn't put it in the sandwich because it tasted very bitter.

The veggies roasted in a 350 C oven for ~20 minutes with olive oil, fresh rosemary, salt, and pepper over the top.

For the "marmalade," I just caramelized some red onion in olive oil, tossed in some chili pepper flakes, deglazed with red wine, and added tomato paste, salt and pepper. The zestyness of the tomatoes goes well with the mellow sweetness of the roasted roots.

Happy Wednesday!

Ciao for now. :)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tomato Soup w/ Grilled 'Cheeze' Croutons

Alicia at Vegan Epicurean gave me this idea when she made a luscious-looking Tomato Fennel Soup the other day. She mentioned that she had thought about serving it with grilled cheese sandwiches, but then decided not to. I immediately imagined little grilled cheese croutons.

For the croutons, I made little grilled cheese open-face sandwiches with some of VE's Vegan Cheddar Cheese Brick Substitute , which I must say, were delicious. Thanks Alicia!!

For the soup, I sweated off 1 large carrot, 1 large celery stalk, 1 medium diced onion, and two minced cloves of garlic in olive oil, with some red chili flakes and some oregano. Then I added 28 oz can of tomatoes, 1 cup veggie broth and 1 cup water. Blended it until smooth, then salt and pepper to taste.

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