Friday, May 28, 2010

Beans, Beans, and Beans

I spent a few days looking at the leftover can of coconut milk in my fridge after I used about half for that tasty peanut sauce. I needed to think of a use for the remaining coconut milk. I decided to make some seriously tasty black bean soup from the Horizons cookbook. Horizons is a wonderful fancy-pants vegan restaurant we used to visit in Philadelphia, and I got the cookbook as a gift after we moved away. This was a couple of years ago, before I really started cooking, and at the time was a little overwhelming as it was filled with tasty, but complicated-looking, recipes filled with ingredients I had never bought.

The Horizons black bean soup was one of the least intimidating recipes in the cookbook, so it’s one I made early on and has been a favorite that I’ve made many times.


This soup is made with black beans, vegetable broth, garlic, onion, jalapeno, spices, diced tomatoes, then pureed and finished with coconut milk and topped with cilantro. Another bonus is that it comes together pretty quickly because nothing needs to cook for too long.


Because I was already cooking up some dried black beans, I also made an old favorite that’s super simple, but also super tasty and easy. Every time I make black beans and rice, I can’t get over how good it tastes.

I used brown jasmine rice, black beans cooked from dry beans, the same spice blend I used for the soup, and some frozen corn. This was my first time using Trader Joe’s roasted corn and it was pretty tasty. That's it. Nothing special, nothing complicated.

The rice took the longest to cook out of any part of this dinner, but since it doesn’t require supervision, that still counts as easy in my book.

Confession: I ate black beans and rice for breakfast today. Yum, yum, yum.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Homemade Hummus!

I have never made real, actual, hummus before. It was surprisingly easy, and much cheaper than my favorite brand which is now running $5 in the grocery store. I’ve had so much mediocre hummus, and there’s such variation among the different brands and what you’ll get in restaurants that I figured it was difficult to make good hummus. It’s not difficult. Mine turned out great, maybe just because I could make it the way I wanted.

I started with dry chickpeas. Or garbanzos. Whatever, I’ll use the words interchangeably in a single sentence if I don’t watch myself. I soaked them in water in the fridge all day.


Then, after work, I simmered them for just under two hours, adding salt at the end of the cooking time. They were actually done after about an hour and half, but a little too firm to make really creamy hummus.

Finally, I tossed everything in the food processor without being too specific about my measurements:

  • cooked chickpeas (about 1 cup of dried beans, cooked)
  • a little of the cooking water
  • a clove or two of garlic
  • a teaspoon or two of tahini
  • lemon juice from 1/2 lemon
  • olive oil, enough to make this desired consistency


That’s it. Add a little more salt if necessary. Now that I have a jar of tahini on hand, I’m looking for more ways to use it. I will say that the raw garlic was a little rough on my breath, but I’ll figure out what I want to do next time.

As you can see, I scooped the hummus from the food processor directly into a storage container, but this only lasted a few days. I can’t believe I’ve never made my own hummus before, it’s so easy to have a fresh batch of this stuff I like to spread on sandwiches or snack on with veggies or pita.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Sunday Brunch, buffet style

As I mentioned, I scoured the web to find places to eat on our little getaway to Louisville. I checked out Urbanspoon’s #1 vegetarian restaurant, Ramsi’s Cafe on the World, and saw broadcast on their page they are now serving brunch. Score!

It was a buffet. I didn’t realize it was a buffet. I checked the website later and I completely missed it, it does say it’s a buffet. Does that matter? Well, when I was trapped in line between the wall, three people behind me, and an old man picking through the bacon strips it mattered. And I overate, trying to try everything. Can you blame me?


Pictured here is tofu huevos rancheros, which is a crisp tortilla topped with black beans, tofu scramble, tempeh sausage, pico de gallo and green onions. This was probably my favorite dish as I prefer the savory even at breakfast. The tofu scramble wasn’t great – Alex, who ate some by itself, mentioned that it was runny – but I think I’ve spoiled him with my own scramble.

Next you see the breakfast potatoes, which were good (you know I like me some taters) with a side of the vegan chipotle cheeze. Man, that was spicy! And I tried a potsticker with tempeh sausage. It was okay. I probably overdid myself on fried foods between the potatoes and potsticker, but I blame that on the buffet and not wanting to waste everything I wanted a bite of. Keep in mind, we took a two-hour sweaty hike the day before.

I also tried the ginger plantain french toast, which was incredibly yummy, even as I admit I'm not a huge fan of sweets. I even finished Alex’s plantain. We shared a few items, including some pastries from the dessert bar, a black bean patty, a biscuit, and a soy sausage. Actually, the black bean patty was nothing to sneeze at. That was another favorite. But the vegan biscuit could use some help. Even looking at it, you could tell it wasn’t near competing with the non-vegan biscuit. I’ve seen much better. I’ve made much better.

Since this isn’t a local-to-me restaurant, I don’t really have to decide whether I would go back. If it were local, I’m not sure what I would do. All the food was good, but I’d rather pay a little less, eat a little less, and have food that’s freshly made for me. I’m still glad I got to try so much stuff, especially the sweet dishes I’d never order on their own. Neither Alex nor I ate again until after 8:00 p.m., so this “brunch” really filled the role of two meals!

Ramsi's Cafe on the World on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Philly Flyers Cheese-unsteak

By the time I got to Philadelphia, I was vegetarian, so I have never had a real Philly cheesesteak. I don’t think that bothers me at all, and I did have a vegan cheesesteak from Reading Terminal, once, so that could count. I’m not going to count it because I’m not ready to pick a fight with a bully.

By now, if you care, you know that the Philadelphia Flyers, also known as the Broad Street Bullies because of their rough playing style in the 1970s, are headed to the Stanley Cup. That’s a pretty big deal. Alex is a hockey player and big fan, so this is really special for him, and because we’ve watched so many games together, I’m not a bandwagon-jumper.

To support the Flyers, I put together some sandwiches in the style of the cheesesteak. The main ingredient is Trader Joe’s beefless strips, plus grilled sweet onions and green bell peppers. I served these on wheat buns with a smear of Vegenaise. Perfect. These TJ’s strips are not only better for me than the Morningstar variety, but they also taste better.


What’s that by the sandwich? Colcannon. I had some kale I wanted to use and some potatoes, so I made colcannon. This is made by boiling kale and green onion in almond milk and margarine until it was tender, then added to smashed potatoes. Perfect. I can’t believe I’ve only made this once. Maybe I’m not Irish, even with my red hair.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Weekend Getaway in Louisville

I love the internet. Love, love, love. You can find just about anything.

This weekend we took a little road trip to The Abbey of Gethsemani and Bernheim Forest in central Kentucky and spent the night in Louisville, which is just about 90 minutes from where we live now. I don’t know where we would have eaten if I hadn’t been able to search for good vegetarian food on the internet. We found two good meals in Louisville.

For dinner Saturday night, we wanted something simple and filling after a day sweating and hiking at Bernheim. I found the Third Avenue Cafe, read some reviews, perused the menu, and confirmed that they serve beer. There were several selections on the menu that looked promising, and they make it known that everything is homemade on the premises, and that they have a dedicated fryer for meats and a separate one for non-meat items. They also specially mark vegan items on the menu so you don't have to worry about your sauces or anything else. That's nice.

We did meet the Elvis on the bench as we walked in, but we sat outside on the patio along the sidewalk. We started with the portabella strips appetizer. This was thick strips of portabella, a whole mushroom cut into half-inch slices, then lightly battered and fried. The batter was very, very light. Lighter than the lightest tempura I’ve ever had. The mushroom was juicy and flavorful, and the horseradish sauce was a delightful touch, although giving each of us a cup of it was more than is necessary.


I considered getting the black bean burger or tofu burrito, but each of those dishes are something I can quickly get at home. Instead, I opted for the barbecue tofu sandwich and Alex got the veggie Reuben. Each comes with a choice of chips, fries, potato salad, cole slaw, soup, or soybean salad. Because I was getting barbecue, I opted for the honey mustard cashew cole slaw.

Our waitress, who attempted to memorize our orders, brought me the potato salad instead. I asked about the slaw and she blamed it on the cook (ah! we saw on the receipt that she entered potato salad). My point here is this: the potato salad is in the photo, but I didn’t eat any. The cole slaw was okay, but kind of limp and not special. The potato salad looked better, but she took it away, so there’s no sure way to tell.


As for the tofu, it was okay. The barbecue sauce was good, sweet, and sticky. And messy. The sandwich was mostly bread, and the red onion dominated the flavor. I must say, though, that the bread was good. They say it’s homemade tomato foccacia, and it was tasty. That said, I’d still rather have the yee-haw barbecue seitan sandwich at Melt.

Alex’s sandwich, on the other hand, was amazing. The marbled rye bread was toasty and tasty, and the sandwich was mostly sauerkraut. There was a flavorful, thin layer of smokey tempeh, some Thousand Island dressing, and some soy-Swiss. This sandwich was perfect. I have never had an actual Reuben, but this was a really good sandwich in itself. His chips were also good. So, there was a typo on the menu and it gave one choice as “homemade mesquite potato chops.” So he asked for the chops. The waitress giggled and said chips. These thick-cut chips were good and came with some kind of ranch-dill dipping sauce that was yummy.


So, all in all, Alex’s selections were the winners. The good news is that we now have a lunch/dinner stop for when we drive through Louisville. We were actually commenting to each other when we were driving home from Saint Louis through Louisville that we didn’t know of any good places to stop, and this could easily be a stop when we drive through on our way to Memphis. It also shows that even these small cities have gems for vegans and vegetarians.

Third Ave Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Speaking of a quick supper… Hurry Up!

I made pasta & veggies with Hurry Up Alfredo from Vegan Yum Yum. I had some broccoli I wanted needed to use and didn’t want to bother grocery shopping, plus I’ve eaten so much broccoli lately I could only think of one way I haven’t had it lately: with alfredo.

I boiled some water and blanched my broccoli and some carrots, then used the same water (gasp!) to boil some Trader Joe’s whole wheat penne. I also sautéed some cremini mushrooms, then tossed them all in a baking dish with the alfredo and some tomato sauce. I like it mixed.

The best part is that while this baked, I could wash the two dishes I used to boil and sauté, plus take a shower, then sit down to this and be ready for my night.


Although the vegan alfredo wasn’t like the Classico jarred stuff I used to eat, it was good in its own way. It’s made from soymilk, cashews, nutritional yeast, garlic, tahini, lemon juice, and a few more ingredients all thrown in a blender. I tried some right from the blender and some mixed with the tomato sauce because I didn’t want to commit to something sub-par. It was go-od. If you’re not convinced yet, I encourage you to click the link above (or here) because the photo over there is so much prettier than my photo.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Quick & Easy Taco Night

Spring is here! I’m busier than normal with plenty of commitments after work, but I’m still trying to have some good, quick suppers.

I’ve used Fantastic World Foods sloppy joe mix before, and this was my first time using the taco mix. It’s quick and easy and vegan – just add water and the crumbles come to life and look like taco filler. I might tweak the seasoning next time as it was a little bland, or even incorporate some onions or mushrooms, but this was good for what it was. Between you and me (ssh!), I make these faux meats for Alex. I like beans, he likes the crumbles. We both eat both.


I also had a bag of frozen pinto beans in the freezer, which I thawed during the day and warmed on the stovetop with some seasoning (salt, cumin, oregano) and mashed them with a teeny bit of oil and some water. I’ve taken to making dried beans in a crock pot and dividing them into three bags.

I also used a mashed-up avocado, sliced grape tomatoes, green leaf lettuce, and home grown cilantro. Wrap all this in a soft yellow corn tortilla and you’ve got a quick and easy homemade supper.

What? Yes! I’m growing cilantro and it’s popping up quite nicely. I hope to have several home grown goodies this summer.


Monday, May 17, 2010

Oatmeal Blueberry Muffins

I had some blueberries I wanted to use and asked Alex whether he’d prefer I make pancakes or muffins. Secretly, I hoped he would say pancakes because I thought that was easiest. Maybe I should have just made pancakes for us, but I’m glad I didn’t! The muffins were just as easy, plus they make for better leftovers. I had another one this morning.


I used this recipe I found online and just substituted whole wheat flour, soymilk, and an Ener-G egg. Perfect! Now that I’ve made muffins twice in the past three weeks, I’m getting into a baking mood. I would be more excited if it weren’t coinciding with the summer heat.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Cornstarched Tofu & Peanut Sauce

You've got me. I am a copycat.

019 Tofu, broccoli, carrots, onion, and water chestnuts in peanut sauce, topped with bean sprouts and scallions. Twinkie Weener cat is the window, as usual.

I am not ashamed. Would you be? Look at those golden pieces of fried tofu. Am I the last one on earth to learn how to fry tofu in just a few tablespoons of peanut oil?


Thank you, happyveganface, I used your recipe for peanut sauce and used coconut milk instead of almond milk. And yes, I followed your link to the Post Punk Kitchen for the cornstarch tofu frying.

To quote Alex, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but this was better than I expected it to be.” Seriously better. Wow, wow, wow. Try this. You’ll like it, I promise.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Patty Day: Garbanzo Bean Burgers

Did I ever talk about why I’m working through burger and patty recipes? The biggest reason is simple: popularity. Veggie burgers are visible on menus, at cookouts, and in your grocer’s freezer. They’re easy to serve and somehow less threatening than tofu, seitan, or unfamiliar whole grains. When I talk about my cooking to friends and coworkers, they’re typically most interested in how I made a veggie burger. And, importantly, Alex loves the burgers. This is like an adventure for the semi-adventurous.


I’m beginning to get an idea of how to get patties to hold together, and I’ll work on some flavors next. These garbanzo patties were pretty good. I found several similar, simple, recipes scattered on the web. Alex dressed his up on a bun and was singing its praises. I ate mine by itself, proudly forking solid foods, even if they’re mushed and re-formed foods. It was a little bland on its own, but I guess a patty is really intended to be dressed.

I mixed one can of garbanzo beans, a stalk of chopped celery, a carrot, about a quarter cup of diced onion, about a quarter cup of wheat flour, a few spices, some salt, and a splash of water as it was pretty dry. I actually just mashed the beans with everything else; next time I might puree at least half so some get a finer mash and others are left whole.


I took a tip I learned and put the mix in the fridge for a while before forming them into patties. This really helped them stick together! I formed the whole mix into three large patties. They were probably too large, so I’ll remember that for next time. I cooked them on the stovetop, in a small amount of oil for about 15 minutes, and they browned on the outside and warmed on the inside.

This attempt left me feeling pretty good. I think I’m ready to start thinking about my next patties already!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Jacques Pepin Potatoes, via Rachel Ray (really!)

I’ve been watching a lot of television lately. Much more than normal, and branching out to programming I don’t typically watch. So, while napping on the couch this weekend, I awoke to Rachel Ray and was intrigued by her squished potatoes. Over the past few days I’ve eaten so many mashed potatoes because they are a soft, filling food, and I had half a bag of Klamath pearl potatoes left. These were perfect for pommes fondantes in the style of Jacques Pepin, or, as Rachel calls them, squished (rather than smashed) taters.

012 Squished potatoes with ketchup, roasted broccoli, and a patty I’ll write about tomorrow.

These little potatoes turned out perfectly. I was a little worried at one point that they would not brown, or that the liquid would not evaporate, but they were delicious. The first potato I squished, though, I pressed a little too enthusiastically, and it collapsed under the pressure of my drinking glass-turned-squisher. Other than that, it was a foolproof recipe.

To make these you’ll need:

  • small potatoes, scrubbed thoroughly and bad spots removed
  • vegetable broth
  • oil
  • salt and pepper
  • fresh herbs, like rosemary, chives, or parsley, if you have any

Place the potatoes in a single layer in a pot or skillet with a lid. If your potatoes don’t all fit in a single layer, save some for later. (Or get a bigger pot!) Fill the pot with enough broth so that it comes halfway up the potatoes and add a tablespoon or so of oil, depending on how many taters you have.

Cover the pot with the lid and bring to a boil. Once it boils, turn down to a simmer and let the potatoes steam for 10-15 minutes. Then remove the lid and boil until the broth evaporates. I turned my potatoes because I wasn’t sure they would cook evenly. Rachel Ray didn’t tell me to do that, but I was paranoid about getting these taters cooked through.

When the broth is evaporated, “squish” each potato. You don’t want to smash them. I used a tall drinking glass but you can also use a mug, a ladle, or even a spoon. Just put a crack in each potato. Continue to cook them, turning once, to brown each side. With the oil they steamed in, and a non-stick pot, this really works like a charm. Season with salt and pepper, and garnish with herbs.


Yeah, so, I didn’t use any herbs, as the entire reason I tried this recipe at all was to use some potatoes I had on hand. Instead, I ate these taters with some LocalFolks Foods ketchup. To me, it’s like what you’d get if you made apple sauce with tomatoes instead of apples. This stuff is so good and so different from Heinz. Funnily enough, it’s sweeter and it tastes more like tomatoes. They use evaporated cane juice rather than h1gh fruct0se c0rn syrup* along with tomato puree, vinegar, and spices.

I’ve written about LocalFolks Foods before when I tried their mushroom patties (also delicious!) and yet again I can’t wait to try more of their stuff. Just like I’m encouraged to try more recipes in a cookbook when the first few I try are great, I’m encouraged to keep buying LocalFoods in my Farm Fresh bin.

* I get spammy comments when I spell this out!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Biscuits & Tofu Scramble


My favorite brunch place has been letting me down lately, so I decided to try cooking up a little something at home. This was my first attempt at tofu scramble. It was delicious. No, it was really, really good. Better than what I get at that restaurant, and not just because I didn’t have to eat it cold.* The spices were perfect. The texture was perfect. Yum, yum, yum. Another wonderful dish thanks to Vegan Brunch.

It’s simpler than I thought it would be. You start off by heating some oil and garlic, then crumbling in your tofu and cooking it for a while. Make your spice mixture separately: cumin, turmeric, salt, thyme, and combine with water. Then add the spices and some nutritional yeast to the tofu and cook another few minutes. Voila! It would be really easy to incorporate other ingredients as well. I’m thinking onion, peppers, tomato…

The biscuits were ordinary drop biscuits, with soymilk substituted. I guess I should also start looking for my favorite biscuit recipe now, because I think I’m going to start making my own Sunday brunch from now on.

Update: this is even good cold. I might have had a few bites of leftovers right out of the fridge.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Sweet Potato Chili

Several days after having my wisdom teeth removed, I was feeling better, but still not up to chewing or eating normal foods. On top of that, I was hungry and bored with store-bought soup. I made some sweet potato chili, which I first heard of at Sweet Art but I’ve heard it mentioned several times since.

I grabbed a recipe from Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker, so all I had to do was chop some veggies, peel some sweet potatoes, and let my crock pot do the rest. (While I slept all afternoon.)


This is made with sweet potatoes, kidney beans, crushed tomatoes, onion, and red bell pepper, and is seasoned with chili powder and garlic. After all this cooks in the slow cooker, add some smoky chipotle peppers. In my bowl there, I mashed it slightly. This was good, and I like the combination of beans and sweet potatoes, but I still feel like it was missing something. I’ll try sweet potato chili again, but I think I’ll look at different recipes.

Friday, May 7, 2010

A Brief Break from Eating, and my first Green Monster

I had my impacted wisdom teeth removed on Wednesday, something I probably should have had done five years ago, when a dentist first suggested it and before I was on a high deductible health plan.

I imagined that afterward, I’d be lounging on the couch, watching movies and sipping smoothies. Well, that didn’t happen. Instead, it was all I could do to get a little soymilk down so my pain pills didn’t make me too loopy, and I ate store-bought soup pretty much straight from the tetra boxes it came in. And I slept. And slept, and slept some more.

On the third day, I began feeling better. I still can’t chew, but I was able to make myself some food this morning. Good, because I was hungry!

I decided to be a little adventurous and try a Green Monster, a green smoothie. I know people both online and in real life who love these things, but I’d never tried them. Maybe I was a little scared of the spinach and banana, or maybe I can blame it on not liking to pull out my blender. Anyway, I figured this was a good time to give it a go – and I’m a convert! It’s sweet from the banana and even the baby spinach is sweet. The soymilk and banana give it nice body.


I made the simple “Virgin Green Monster” since this was my first time. I left out the flax because seeds are on my bad list until my gums heal completely. This smoothie was made with baby spinach, a banana, soymilk, and ice. That’s it. It was yummy. I told my mom about it, and she seemed skeptical. I asked Alex to try a sip, and I think he either pretended to sip it or took the tiniest sip in history. More for me, right? So if you’ve been on the fence about trying the green monster, give a try.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Zucchini Spelt Muffins

I see it happen every year: people are inundated with zucchini in the summer and are looking for new recipes to use it in. I’ve never been overloaded with zucchini and have never, either of necessity or of interest, tried many zucchini recipes. I’ve steamed it, baked it, had it fried and not-fried, and put it in a pie. That’s a pretty thorough list, right? It’s missing one big area: zucchini in breads.


Not only was making zucchini muffins a good way to use the zucchini, but this was a good way to make a dish that was great to have to eat as a quick snack or breakfast (for as long as the dozen lasted!).

This is yet another recipe from Vegan Brunch. I’ve been cooking enough lately with “different” ingredients that I’m familiar with everything it requires, and had most of it on hand. These muffins are made with spelt, which gives them a healthy nutty flavor and also is really easy to work with.

Just add some spices, soymilk, flax seeds, spices and a little brown sugar and oil along with two grated zucchini and bake. Here's a tip for grating the zucchini: you don't need to trim both ends before you grate them. Just trim one and hold the other one while you grate! These were delicious, even to me a zucchini break newbie. They were somewhere between a sweet bran muffin and a crumbly wheat bread, but they are all together delicious.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Peperonata and Panini

Why peperonata?

I was perusing menus online, trying to decide where we can go for a nice meal out for our anniversary. Maybe I’m just not sophisticated, but I see a lot of unfamiliar words on menus these days I like to figure out what they mean. Maybe you’re smarter than I am, but which of these would you eat: peperonata, chorizo, calabaza, asadero, haloumi, porcini, pappardelle, cotija, chayote, sultanas. You know it’s confusing to review a menu when you’re trying to be careful, but not trying to be un-adventurous.

So the first recipe that comes up when I searched for peperonata is from Epicurious. I was drawn to this because I’d heard a story on The Splendid Table about how people search for recipes and get bad ones, or incomplete ones, or unclear ones, when they search the web, and meanwhile the trustworthy ones were further down the page. Well, I decided to trust Epicurious and not just read about what peperonata is, but rather to make it for myself.

Peperonata is slow cooked bell peppers with onion. It can include garlic, tomatoes, or spices – or not – and is finished with vinegar, either red wine or balsamic.

I got a three pack of bell peppers: orange, red, and yellow, and a sweet onion. I don’t like cooked green peppers. I sliced those not-too-thinly and cooked them in a little oil with a little salt for about an hour in a skillet over very low heat. I had mine in a sandwich. Alex had some in a quesadilla.

I also grilled an eggplant on my grill pan, sliced long ways, and then packed peppers, eggplant, and mozzarella into a sandwich with some extra balsamic and some basil pesto. I pressed the sandwich with a cast iron skillet and it came out with the ridges from the grill pan and was super duper yummy. I have considered getting a panini maker, but I just don’t have room in the kitchen. I don’t think I need one, anyway, when I can do this!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Mystery Ingredient: Scallions

Sometimes it’s easy to use all the produce in my bi-weekly bin. Sometimes it’s difficult, mostly if it seems like everything is only going to last a few days or if I have plans to go out while I’m overloaded with goodies at home. Other times, though, I’m simply not sure what to do with the veggies I get.

This past week, I got scallions and snow peas. Is the answer obvious? Maybe, but it was tastier than I expected it to be.

We use scallions often enough: in pad thai, on taco night, with frittata or tofu scramble. I typically only use snow peas in stir fries, but for this meal I intentionally kept things simple and made the snow peas central item.

I cooked a few diced carrots and the snow peas and added some fresh ginger and lemongrass from a tube I have on hand in the fridge, plus some soy sauce. Then I added some frozen corn and the leftover brown basmati rice from my dinner earlier in the week. After the corn and rice were warmed, I added the scallions and tossed to cook them slightly. These were such a nice touch of mild onion flavor. Voila! A nice meal from leftovers and orphaned veggies.