Sunday, March 30, 2008

Seitan the Second

Many moons ago, I tried the Simple Seitan recipe from Veganomicon with much success. More recently, I tried the Seitan Cutlet recipe from the same book with significantly less awesome results. However, I paired it with the fantastic Sauteed Spinach and Tomatoes so all was not lost.

I don't know if it was the nutritional yeast in the Simple Seitan that made the difference, but this seitan looked and felt different right from the start. It was very elastic and wouldn't really knead, even when I added some extra water. When it was time to put the cutlets in the baking pan, I couldn't even flatten them out into cutlet shapes; they just snapped right back to being blobs.

When I tried to eat them, cutting was a chore and they stretched almost as much as hot melted cheese (though they got less stretchy after sitting in the fridge for a while). I was able to feel the lemon zest in them, but didn't know that was what it was at first, and kept picking it out of my mouth. Even when I knew what it was, it still felt gross in my mouth. I made these a few weeks ago and still have four (of twelve) in the fridge. I ended up ordering take out on two days because I didn't want to eat these. I suspect the last four will go in the trash, but I'm hoping some sort of saving inspiration will strike before that happens.

Spinach confuses me. For about a billion years, I was told spinach is high in iron and if I'm not going to eat meat, I have to eat my spinach and my broccoli. Then I read that spinach contains a compound that blocks iron absorption. The more I Googled, the more confused I got, so I brought the question to the PPK and here's what I learned, in brief:

Cooking the spinach helps break down the compound that blocks iron absorption.
Vitamin C aids iron absorption so eat it with tomatoes or orange juice or something.
Kale is better*.

This recipe gave me two of the three: the spinach was cooked and some tomatoes were thrown in, so I think it was OK, ironwise. That's good news because it's amazing, tastewise. It's chock full of onions and garlic and awesome. And it's super fast to make, so please do.

When good seitan goes bad:

Doesn't that look tempting (the correct answer is no)?

*At the time I made this dish, I hadn't cooked kale yet, but I have now and they were correct. I now love kale. It'll be a June wedding.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Lucky, Lucky, Youre So Lucky

OK, I don't actually know if you're lucky or not (though I hope you are!), but some would consider my friend Lauren lucky because I baked Franz Ferdinand (the band, not the archduke) themed Fauxstess cupcakes, from Vegan With a Vengeance, for her birthday.

This was my second time making the Fauxstess cupcakes and I encountered the same problem I did the first time: I can't get the damn royal icing for the squigglies right.

For some reason, the "red" came out great, but the green just wouldn't loosen up. Even though I skipped the soy milk powder this time. I kept adding water and it just went right on being thick. I ended up giving up, picking the icing out of the pastry bag with my fingers, rolling it like clay and pressing it onto the cupcake tops.

Also, the icing that's not green was made using the food coloring called "Red Red". I don't know who those Wilton people think they're fooling, because that's pink pink.

I finally got to taste one of them this time. SO CHOCOLATEY. Needs more filling, though. Next time, I'm going to try making the hole with my thumb instead of my pinky, so there's more room.

There will certainly be a next time.

The restaurant was nice enough to provide a candle:

Mmmm...creamy filling.

My First Lasagna

I love Italian food. Baked ziti. Eggplant parmesean. Ravioli. Penne pesto. Fettuccine alfredo. Stuffed shells. Pasta covered and filled with gooey, creamy, cheesy goodness.

Wait. That doesn't work when you're vegan, does it?

Enter FatFreeVegan's Easy Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna. The coolest thing about this is there's no fake cheese in it. I'm sure there are great recipes for that stuff, but right now, I just want my food to be what it is, not an imitation of something else. There's tofu in the spinach layer, which thickens it up much like ricotta would, but it's not "fake ricotta".

Wait, I lied. The actual coolest thing about this lasagna is that it tastes awesome. The runner up is the lack of faux cheese.

Hold everything! I'm living a lie! This is not really my first lasagna. I made my first lasagna EVER in October, for my friends as part of their raw wedding present. But I didn't get to taste it (it was for them and I was on the Master Cleanse) and it was raw, so I've decided not to count it.

Back to this lasagna.

It is SO good. My mother tried a bite, then went to a wedding. She came back from the wedding and said they had veggie lasagna there too, but it wasn't anywhere near as good as mine. Win!

I enhanced the recipe a bit. It calls for jarred sauce, but I made the tomato sauce from More Than Twigs & Berries instead (I recommend both the sauce and zine. It's basically vegan Canadian cooking. I've never been to Canada, so it's all new and exciting to me). I topped it with sliced black olives and the vegan parmesean from Yellow Rose Recipes (do I need to mention the fabulousness of this book again?). I know I said no fake cheese, but really, the parm doesn't taste like parm. It tastes like love. I hate parmesean cheese. The smell is enough to make me flee the room. But I put this stuff on everything. There has been a container in my fridge at all times since I got the book.

The most exciting thing about this was cutting into the lasagna, lifting out a piece and watching it NOT fall apart. I was actually able to see the layers! Whenever I've bought a tray of lasagna from a pizzeria, cutting it was the hugest mess ever. This was amazingly tidy. It's probably partially because of the lack of gooey cheese, but I also think it's because of Susan's trick of putting the noodles in the lasagna raw. They aren't pre-boiled. This makes it way easier to spread the spinach and sauce on them and keeps them from getting soggy while they cook. Genius!


I ate it with edamame because I happened to have a bag in the freezer. I always associate edamame with Japanese food, so having it with Italian was weird for my brain but happiness for my mouth and tummy.

Easy Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna

1/2 lb fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp. chopped garlic
2 tbsp. water
2 26-oz jars of spaghetti sauce (one batch of the MTTB sauce was perfect)
9 lasagna noodles
Soy Parmesan
Sliced black olives


10 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 lb firm tofu
1 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. nutritional yeast
1 1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. rosemary, crushed
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

Sauté the mushrooms and garlic over medium heat in the 2 tbsp. water until tender; cover between stirring to keep them from drying out. Remove from heat and add the spaghetti sauce.

Place the tofu and thawed spinach in the food processor and process briefly. Add the remaining filling ingredients to the processor and blend until smooth. (You may do this without a food processor by using a potato masher on the tofu.)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Spread half of the sauce in the bottom of a 9x12-inch pan. Place a layer of noodles over the sauce, using three dry noodles and leaving a little space in between them. Spread half of the tofu mixture on the noodles (I drop it by spoonfuls and then spread it). Cover with another layer of 3 noodles and then spread the remaining tofu mixture over them. Top with a final layer of noodles, and pour the remaining sauce over this. Cover the dish tightly with foil, and bake for 30 minutes. Then, remove the foil and bake for another 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with soy Parmesan and sliced black olives if you want. The lasagna will cut better if you allow it to cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Monday, March 24, 2008

MOAR Indian Food

Fabulous as it was, Eat, Drink & Be Vegan's curry and raita were not enough to satiate my Indian food craving. I needed more. So I made Vegan Planet's Tofu Vindaloo the following week. It really hit the spot.

I was initially hesitant about making the Tofu Vindaloo because I hate cooked peppers; even the smallest touch of them can ruin a dish for me. But I gave it a try anyway. I figured my mother would eat it if I didn't like it.

Well, my mother only got a couple of forkfuls because this stuff is really, really good. The flavor of the cooked peppers blends in with all the seasonings, making it nice and spicy, not peppery. As good as the vegetables tasted, the tofu really made it. I could have snacked on the tofu cubes all day.

Vegan Planet is a huge book. It's so big it intimidates me. I never know what to make from it and I'm afraid that I'll pick the one recipe I won't like and it'll put me off the book altogether. This is why I haven't made much from it, yet. It isn't really in my regular cookbook rotation. But when I'm in the mood for something specific, it's pretty much guaranteed to have what I want in it and I haven't been disappointed by it yet.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Happy Purim!

I'm still not being a good little Blogger-Bee and I'm nowhere near caught up with all I've made lately, but I've decided to Skip to the End (and go back later) because this is time-sensitive.

Purim is tomorrow. If you don't know what that is, and don't feel like clicking the link, it's one of the many Jewish "Hooray! We Weren't Genocided!" holidays. It's customary to eat a metric assload of junk food on Purim, including (but not limited to) hamentashen. Hamentashen are a BFD for me. I look forward to them all year. When I realized they all have egg in them, I wondered if I might actually be tempted to cheat on veganism.

Then I remembered I know how to bake. Behold!

I stole my mother's recipe, looked up egg replacement suggestions in Papa Tofu and got to work. This was my first time veganizing something without asking for help from The PPK and they came out really good, if I may say so myself. Too good. I ate SIX yesterday. Thank goodness I have many friends, coworkers and family members willing to take the rest off my hands. I don't know why, but they taste sort of buttery and the buttery + the preserves = good times.

On to the recipe!


Makes about 33 3" cookies

Note: This is how my mother wrote up the recipe (except for the eggs). The flour measurement is kind of wrong. By a lot. Unfortunately, I didn't measure how much extra flour I added. You'll know you have enough flour when your dough is firm, dry and easy to pass from hand to hand without sticking. And it shouldn't leave any moisture on your rolling pin. Sorry about that.

Also, be generous with your filling. Don't go crazy with it, but I think it's better to have too much than too little. If you're having trouble closing your hamentashen, just scrape some off. That beats having bald spots. If you use jam/preserves, use the thickest, fruitiest one you can find (I used raspberry and apricot Hero preserves, available at Whole Foods). It will boil during baking and if it's too thin, you'll end up with glaze on the bottom of your cookie instead of filling (underfilling can also lead to a glazey cookie).

3/4 cup canola oil
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup soy yogurt
1 1/2 tsp Ener-G egg replacer dissolved in 2 tbsp warm water
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp orange juice
2 1/2+ cup flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
Fillings of your choice

Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In mixing bowl, blend sugar, yogurt, Enger-G, vanilla and OJ well with fork. Add the rest of the ingredients, mix until it gets doughy, then knead it until all flour is blended and dough is desired consistency (see note above). Split dough into two halves. Roll out one half of the dough until it's a bit more than 1/8" thick. It should be thick enough to be able to support the filling, but thin enough to fold easily. Using a glass or cookie cutter, cut the dough into approximately 3" rounds (I used a plastic mug and the diameter was probably closer to 3.25").

Place a spoonful of filling in the center of each round.

Fold the dough up around the filling and pinch the edges together into a triangle.

Repeat with second half of dough. Place hamentashen on parchment-lined cookie sheet. They don't expand much, so it's OK if they're close (though if some of your hamentashen are overfull, they may ooze over onto their neighbors). Bake for about 25 minutes or until browned to your liking.

The variations for these things are practically endless. Other popular fillings are prune, poppy seed and chocolate. If you want to get creative, dip one corner in some melted chocolate. Make it fancy by dipping the chocolaty end in colored sprinkles, chopped nuts or shredded coconut.

That's it. Try it, you'll like it. Have another, you're too thin!*

*That'd be my Jewish grandmother impression.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Eat, Drink & Be Awesome

After hearing some good things about it, I recently picked up Dreena Burton's Eat, Drink & Be Vegan. I like it enough to be interested in getting her other two books, but not any time soon because I have TOO MANY DAMN COOKBOOKS already.

Anyway, I was in an Indian sort of mood, so I made the Zucchini Chickpea Tomato Curry and Cucumber Mint Raita. NOM!

For the curry, the cook time is short enough to keep the green beans crunchy, which is super awesome. And the seasoning is perfect. I think it may be a bit spicier than the Red Lentil Cauliflower Curry from Veganomicon, but it's still very good (if I had to choose between the two, I'd pick the VCON one, though. Sorry! Thankfully, I don't have to!). I ate this for lunch every day for a week, then made myself switch over to something else and freeze the leftovers (the portions are very generous as listed). I finally came back to my frozen curry yesterday and it was such a treat. I ate the last portion today and my belly is still doing a happy dance (metaphorically speaking).

The raita was really interesting. My brother came downstairs while I was grating the cucumber and asked what I was doing. When I told him, he said "That's the stupidest ingredient ever. Cucumber doesn't have any taste. You're doing all that work for nothing."


I had him smell the grated cucumber when it was done, and he couldn't believe what a strong fragrance it had (I don't know how he could miss it). Mixed in with the mint, it added a very fresh, cool flavor to the yogurt. I know raita is supposed to be served with roti, but I ate the curry over rice and didn't want another carb, so I just threw it on a basic salad (usually using much less than pictured below; I just wanted to make sure it photographed all right). It was splendid.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

I Has a Secret

OK, no I don't. But Susan over at Fat Free Vegan does, and it's a good one. The secret: SOUP. Easy, tasty, healthy soup. If I was the sort of girl that cared to settle down, I'd probably marry soup. No joke*.

Susan calls this her "Dirty Little Secret" soup because it's so easy it almost makes itself, but it's so full of healthy goodness and flavor that people will think you had the pot on all day. If you don't tell anyone, I won't.

I usually stay away from prepared ingredients, choosing fresh produce over canned or frozen and even making my own vegetable broth when necessary, but I picked this recipe for a really busy weekend, so I went with frozen vegetables and the recommended box of broth. Crazy. I felt a little dirty while making the soup, but that went out the window as soon as I tasted it. And it took less than an hour to make, so I really didn't feel dirty for long at all! My big deviations from the recipe as pictured were using a different bag of frozen vegetables and adding quinoa. Bold!

Susan's Dirty Little Secret Soup

5-6 cups Imagine No-Chicken broth
1 16-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 16-ounce can Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
1 16-ounce can Kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 1-pound bags frozen Thai Stir Fry vegetables
1 1-pound bag frozen California Stir Fry vegetables
4 cloves minced garlic
1 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoons oregano
1/2 teaspoon thyme
a shake or two of Tabasco
black pepper and salt to taste
1/2 cup quinoa

Put 5 cups of vegetable broth and all remaining ingredients into a large pot and cook until vegetables are done, about 20-30 minutes. If the soup seems too thick, add more broth. Taste and adjust seasonings before serving.

That's it! Can you believe it? Is that not crazy? It's crazy. And tasty. And super healthy. Go eat it. Seriously.

*OK, maybe little joke.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Muffin Tops

Have I ever mentioned that any gathering of four or more people is an excuse for me to bake? It is. So when my friends and I got together to teach other to knit and make blankets for charity, I simply had to bring something. I'd never made muffins before, so I decided that was the way to go and ended up with the Best Pumpkin Muffins from Vegan With a Vengeance. If they weren't actually the best pumpkin muffins, it's only because I don't have proper muffinning skills yet.

I made these muffins twice: once for the knitting and once for my grandmother; she loves pumpkin and I had half a can left over.

The first time I made them, I left them in about ten minutes longer than the recipe indicated and they were still quite underdone. They tasted fine, but were chewy on the inside. I brought them to the party anyway, because it wasn't like there were eggs or anything in them that could make people sick.

The second time, I left them in forty extra minutes and they were overdone. Not burnt, just very well done. My family loved them (they love everything borderline burnt). The above picture is from the second batch.

The recipe was really easy and really tasty. For some reason, my oven just isn't very compatible with muffins, I guess (the cook times for other recipes from the same book are usually spot on and my oven timer was fine). There's only one solution to that: practice, practice practice!

Anyone care for a muffin or five?

First try:

Second try:

Saturday, March 1, 2008

I Fail, Sorry

Point the first: Sorry I haven't kept up with this blog much this month. I have been cooking (and I've certainly been eating!), I just wasn't feeling very writey. I hope I'll be better now. All apologies.

Point the second: Thank you to those who contacted me to make sure I'm OK. Don't worry, I haven't fallen too hard off the wagon. I'm not smothered in fried foods or cheese or anything like that.

Point the third: I thought I had something else to say here, but I don't remember what it is. Might as well get straight to the catching up, then.

Point the fourth: Before I start talking about everything I've cooked lately, I'd like to briefly mention to things I didn't. The rest of this post will be my two cents on the restaurants I've been to this month.

4 Course Vegan

The food is great, but the atmosphere really makes it. It's like you're going to a secret, professionally catered, dinner party only about two dozen people know about. The atmosphere is so homey you may forget you have to pay at the end. Especially since there's no cashier. We all just walked up and paid the chef as we left.

Despite the name, we actually received five courses:

Cashew cheese and parsnip ravioli with a sweet potato cake topped with a horseradish sauce
Hot-n-Sour Lemongrass Broth with Kabocha Dumpling and Sweet Pea Greens
Rice Flour Crepe with 5-spice Black Beans and Sesame Chile Oil
Masmun Curry with Garnet Yam, Thai Basil and Toasted Cashews
Chocolate Almond Torte with Blood Orange Syrup and Vanilla Cream

All delicious. The portions were small, because it's "gourmet", but five courses of small portions are really enough to fill you up. The main courses seemed quite light, but the dessert was dense, filling up any left over room we may have had. I ended up staying out until after 5 AM that night and didn't stop for any kind of snack.

Very recommended. Would definitely go again, preferably for some sort of occasion.

The V Spot

I've been here a few times and am always pleased with what I order. One word of caution: they really like to slather on the sauce.

Their nachos are amazing. I had them when I still ate dairy and couldn't care less that I wasn't eating the real thing. The chicken parmesean was great and there was SO much of it. I shared it with everyone at the table and everyone left with sauce on their pants. The BBQ seitan wrap is a real treat, sort of maply and all sorts of delicious, but not for eating on the go. After half, my hands looked like the end of the movie Carrie and I needed a bit of assistance getting to a sink to wash up without making a mess. The meatball parmesean hero was great. It's all flattened out, so it's not difficult to handle (naturally, I ate the neat sandwich sitting there and took the messy wrap to go) and it's very, very tasty. The cheese was borderline melty, too.

Wheeler's Frozen Desserts

They had another NYC event last week. They brought ginger, margarita and what I think was mango ice creams, all of which were delightful. Hannah Kaminsky of My Sweet Vegan brought a crumble, bundt cake, cookies, brownies and I'm not even sure what else. The crumble and bundt cake were divine. I brought an enormous batch 5-Spice Almond Cookies from Eat, Drink & Be Vegan, which seemed to be pretty well received (more on that later because that counts as something I made).


If you're in the NYC area, do yourself a favor and visit 'SNice at least once. When I saw the menu, I really wanted to try the Chicken Pot Pie Wrap, but several people suggested the Vegan Panini, so I went with that and was not disappointed. It was heavenly. I don't know who the genius is who thought of smoking the tofu, but I'd like to give him or her a great big kiss. Also, the sandwich is huge. Each half should really be a serving, but I ate the whole thing. And a dessert. I got the Apricot Square and it was all sorts of goodness. It's always exciting to be able to eat sweets I didn't make myself.

Also, I am currently battling an addiction to Caramel Brownie Luna Bars. It's been about a week since my last one. Luna, Lara, Cliff and Odwalla bars are all vegan, but Luna Bars have a crunchy thing going on that I find far too exciting.