Saturday, April 7, 2007

Breakfast or Brunch: Pancakes

It has occurred to me that I haven't shared my pancake recipe yet. Pancakes are super-easy to veganize, and they taste virtually indistinguishable from the kind that use dairy.

You need:

• 1 1/2 c flour
• 1 tsp baking powder
• 1 tsp baking soda
• 2 tbsp sugar
• 1/2 tsp salt
• 1 1/2 c soy milk (plain or vanilla)
• egg replacer for 1 egg
• 1/4 c vegetable oil or plain applesauce
• margarine for pan frying, if desired

Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Add soy milk, egg replacer, and oil/applesauce. Stir to combine; batter will be a bit lumpy. Melt some margarine (about 2 tsp) in a frying pan or griddle over medium heat, if desired. Spoon about ¼ c of pancake mix onto pan for each pancake (more or less to your size preference). When the edges appear dry and the center bubbles a bit, flip the pancakes. They won’t need to cook long on the other side; remove them when the second side looks golden. Keep cooking pancakes like this until the batter is gone. Enjoy!

There are lots of variations on this recipe, too. You can substitute whole wheat or spelt flour for white flour (you might need to add a little more soy milk to thin out the batter a bit) for whole grain pancakes. You can add about 1/4 tsp of vanilla and some chocolate chips for chocolate chip pancakes; or blueberries for blueberry pancakes (with a little lemon zest if you're feeling it, yum); or 1 tsp (more or less to taste) cinnamon for cinnamon pancakes. I've also had decent results substituting water for soy milk and/or omitting the egg replacer when I didn't have either of those ingredients on hand.

Another hint: a lot of store-bought pancake mixes don't have dairy products in them, and if you omit the eggs or use egg replacer you can usually make them as-is.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Tonight's Dinner: Falafel With White Bean Hummus and Lemon Spinach Couscous

This was quite easy to make, and pretty quick too.

The couscous and falafel came from boxes, and the only thing I changed was to shape the falafel into patties and pan-fry them rather than roll them into balls and deep-fry. By pan-frying in a non-stick pan on medium-low heat, I was able to cut most of the fat from the recipe (I used about a tablespoon of olive oil for all of the falafel, just to make them a little crispy on the outside).

I haven't been too thrilled with the store-bought hummus I've found around here, so I decided to make my own. I'm not sure what gave me the idea, but in the canned goods aisle of the grocery store I decided to try making it with navy beans instead of chick peas (cannellini beans or great northern beans would work too).

You need:

• 1 can white beans, drained (navy, cannellini or great northern)
• juice from 1/4 lemon
• 1 clove fresh garlic, minced
• approx. 2 tbsp water
• salt to taste

(It makes a big difference to use fresh lemon juice and garlic; I would not recommend using bottled lemon juice or garlic from a jar for this recipe.) Just dump the beans, lemon juice, garlic and water in a blender and blend until smooth, adding more water if necessary. Add salt to taste and mix well.

We had the falafel in whole wheat pitas with lettuce, diced tomato and the hummus with the couscous on the side. The Boy was skeptical of the hummus at first, but as soon as he tasted it he was won over. The navy beans give it a creamier taste and texture than chick peas do, and without any oil added. Most hummus recipes call for tahini, but this was surprisingly good without it.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Expanding My Nutritional Yeast Horizons: Popcorn

I've read in various places over time that some people like to sprinkle nurtitional yeast on popcorn, but I never got around to trying it until today. I was pleasantly surprised; it tasted a lot like that white cheddar popcorn I had occasionally as a kid.

Since we use nutritional yeast flakes (which I would advise, since the flavour is more cheese-like), I'd smash them up a bit or grind them in a food processor so they'll stick to the popcorn easier. Depending on what kind of popcorn you use you might find it necessary to add a bit of salt, too.

Tasty and relatively healthy if you use air-popped or "natural" style microwave popcorn.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Fishless Friday Feast: Butternut Squash Soup, Macadamia-Crusted Seitan, Mushroom Filo Triangles with White Sauce and Zucchini Fritters

My parents observe Lent, so I invited them over for a Friday dinner that would be a change from the same old fish fry.

The Macadamia-Crusted Seitan was the main course, but in case it didn't go over well (I was a little worried the texture would be too weird for my parents), I made Mushroom Filo Triangles with White Sauce as well. Rounding out the meal were Zucchini Fritters, whole grain rolls from the bakery on the corner and some kale (whaat, my mom never had it before and I wanted her to try some!).

None of these recipes are completely my own invention, but I've altered most of them from their original states.

The Butternut Squash Soup is the same recipe I posted here, doubled.

The Macadamia-Crusted Seitan is kind of an amalgam of these recipes from; here's how I did it:

For the marinade:
• 2 pkgs White Wave Seitan
• 1/2 c soy sauce
• 3 scant tbsp dijon mustard
• 4 large cloves fresh garlic, minced
• 2 generous tbsp olive oil
• 1/4 c water

For the coating:
• 1/2 c macadamia nuts
• 1/4 c whole wheat bread crumbs (optional; if not just use more nuts and flour)
• 1/2 c flour
• salt and pepper to taste
• 1/2 c plain unsweetened soy milk for dredging (can substitute corn starch mixed with water to a milky consistency)
• canola oil for frying, about 1/4 c

First, make the marinade, enough ahead of time (at least an hour, preferably more) for the seitan to marinate. Combine the soy sauce and mustard in a bowl and mix until uniform. Add the garlic, olive oil and water; stir to combine. Pour into a bag or small covered plastic container and add the seitan, making sure it's all covered. Let the seitan marinate (I let it sit for about 4 hours, I think that was optimal).

To make the coating, toast the macadamia nuts in the toaster oven or conventional oven until just golden; cool. (This is just to make the macadamias taste a little richer; you can skip this step if you want.) Process the cooled macadamia nuts in a food processer until ground, about the consistency of coarse breadcrumbs. Combine the macadamia nuts, flour, breadcrumbs (if using them) and salt and pepper in a bowl. Pour the soy milk into another bowl. In a small, non-nonstick pan on medium heat, heat enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan until hot but not smoking. Coat the marinated seitan pieces one at a time by dredging in the macadamia mixture (the marinade should be enough to make it stick), then dipping quickly in the soy milk and dredging again in the macadamia mixture. Fry in the oil until golden (it won't take long) and drain on a cooling rack over a couple of paper towels.

The Mushroom Filo Triangles were from the Voluptuous Vegan, and since I don't know if the author would be cool with my posting the recipe here, I'll just post my comments:

These are basically mushroom turnovers made with phyllo dough (filo, fillo, depending on who makes it -- those paper-thin sheets of pastry dough that you brush with oil). The filling is a mix of mostly mushrooms, crumbled tofu and spinach with some onion for flavour. I used fresh baby spinach instead of regular spinach (don't have to wash and de-stem, sweeter taste) and I think that was a good idea. There is also a miso mixture that you add at one point that gave the turnovers a complex, 'gourmet' flavour; it was very good but if you'd prefer a more 'meaty' flavour, then I'd recommend omitting it and just adding soy sauce to taste. I prepped the filling ahead of time and and let it sit overnight; I did this mostly to save time, but it also allowed the flavours to mingle -- always a good idea when working with tofu.

For the White Sauce I experimented with the sauce from this recipe. I made a quarter recipe of the sauce as it is the day before, and I wasn't too thrilled with it: too thin and too orange-y. So I browsed recipes for traditional white wine sauce and here's what I came up with. It actually turned out pretty well, but it really was an experiment, so all measurements are very approximate:

• 2 tbsp margarine
• 1 medium-large shallot, finely chopped (closer to medium or large depending on how much you like onion-y flavours)
• 1/2 c dry white wine (I actually used a dry red, but a dry white would be better)
• 1/2 tsp orange zest
• 1/2 c plain, unsweetened soy milk
• 1/4 c veg. stock
• 1 tbsp flour
• 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil

Melt the margarine in a frying pan, add the shallot and sauté until golden. Add the wine and orange zest; bring to a boil. Add the soy milk and stir, returning to a boil. When it begins to thicken just a bit, strain the sauce into a bowl, discarding the shallots and orange peel. Place the flour and olive oil in the still-heated pan and stir to make a roux; when it bubbles return the sauce to the pan and stir quickly to thicken it uniformly. Adjust consistency (mine was on the thick side) and flavour with vegetable stock, or if it's really bland a little soy sauce. You might also want to add a teaspoon or so of nutritional yeast; I did to the leftover sauce and it complemented the orange essence nicely.

The Zucchini Fritters were taken from this recipe almost exactly, omitting the egg:

• 2 large zucchini (uh, that's grocery store large, not monster-from-your-garden large)
• 2/3-3/4 c flour
• 1 small shallot, finely chopped (you can also use about 2 tbsp finely chopped onion)
• salt and pepper to taste
• oil for frying

Shred the zucchini into a bowl with the coarse side of a cheese grater. Add the flour, shallot or onion, and salt and pepper and mix well. Heat a non-stick pan on medium heat and when heated, add a little oil. (We learned the hard way that if you use too much oil or if the pan isn't heated first, the zucchini will just soak up the oil and your fritters will be soggy.) Spoon the zucchini mixture into the pan in small pancake-sized dollops and fry as you would pancakes, flipping when golden on one side. When they're cooked, dab off the excess oil with a paper towel.

My parents liked the Macadamia-Crusted Seitan even more than I expected them to, although I must admit it's kind of hard not to like. The tangy marinade coupled with the buttery-sweet coating is a great combination. The Zucchini Fritters were also a favourite; they're basically like potato pancakes only less greasy and a little softer. I'll definitely be making them again as zucchini comes back into season. The Mushroom Triangles held their own, but since I made them as a second entree I think I would have preferred a more meaty flavour from them. And it's hard to argue with creamy Butternut Squash soup, fresh rolls and yummy kale.

I'll also mention my mom brought an excellent dessert: Ghiradelli's Chocolate muffins (made with egg replacer), topped with fresh raspberry or strawberry sauce (made by sprinkling sugar on the fruit and letting them sit until they make their own juice), served à la mode. The muffins were more like fudgy cupcakes, rich and moist. If you can find the mix, I highly recommend them.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Dessert: Lemon Cookies Made With Olive Oil

We're having pasta primavera again tonight, and since it's once again gorgeous out I was in the mood for a spring-y dessert. Grocery shopping is tomorrow, though, and so we we're low on a few dessert ingredient staples. After some googling, I came across this recipe, which is mostly vegan on its own, and that I halved and tweaked just a little:

• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• 1/2 c sugar, plus sugar for rolling
• 1/4 tsp baking soda
• dash salt
• 4 scant tbsp light olive oil
• 1 tbsp plain soy milk (vanilla would work well too)
• scant 1/4 tsp vanilla (less if you use vanilla soy milk)
• zest from 1 small lemon
• juice from 1 small lemon (about 1 1/2 tbsp)
• approx. 1 tbsp water

Combine flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in medium-sized bowl and mix well (sifting these ingredients together would be ideal if you have a sifter). Make a well in the center and add olive oil, soy milk, vanilla, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Stir together until mixture comes together. If dough is too dry or crumbly, add water a teaspoon at a time and stir until it forms a ball.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Place 1-2 tbsp of sugar in a small bowl. Form dough into 1-inch balls and roll in sugar to coat. Place on a cookie sheet and bake until just golden. Cool before serving.

These were kind of like a cookie version of lemonade -- light and refreshing (as far as cookies go, anyway). They were very fast to make and I like the fact that they use olive oil, which is comparatively healthier than the shortening or margarine that most cookie recipes use. And no, you can't taste the olive oil, although this is not the recipe to break out your extra-virgin for, either.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Tonight's Dinner: "Beef" With Broccoli

So, about the lack of pictures recently: a bunny appears to have surreptitiously nibbled on the cord to the charger for our digital camera, so bear with me while I try to fix it (or give up and replace it).

On to dinner. I was so stoked on those "chicken" filets from the other day that I figured I'd give their beef strips a try. I was a bit disappointed -- they were exactly the same as the meatless strips that the other grocery store carries, and they're only okay. The texture is great, but they still have a bit of that characteristic, sort of plastic-y taste. But, they're just fine for the kinds of recipes that are usually made with cheaper cuts of meat (since those recipes are less focused on the meat anyway). Hence tonight's dinner: takeout style beef with broccoli.

I modified a recipe I found elsewhere on the internet, but can't find for the life of me now -- if I find it, I'll come back and link to it. I'll also note that the conspicuous absence of soy sauce is due to the fact that I somehow forgot to purchase it this week, and not by design.

Anyhow, the recipe. All measurements are, as usual, very approximate:

• 1 package imitation beef strips
• 1 tbsp black bean garlic sauce (I used Lee Kum Kee, you can get it at most grocery stores)
• 1 tbsp corn starch
• 1 c water
• 3 crimini, oyster or shiitake mushrooms, coarsely chopped
• 1/2 c water
• onion powder
• garlic powder
• salt or soy sauce
• 1 head broccoli, cut into florets
• 2 tbsp vegetable oil
• 3 cloves garlic, minced
• 3 large garlic clove sized pieces fresh ginger, peeled
• 1 tbsp rice wine or rice vinegar (you can skip this if you don't have any on hand)
• steamed rice (I used jasmine)

First, make a marinade for the veggie beef strips. In a small bowl, stir together the black bean paste and water. In a small dish, add a bit of water to the corn starch and stir well to make a milky slurry; add to the black bean paste mixture and stir. Add the veggie beef strips and set aside for fifteen minutes or so.

Next, make a mushroom broth: in a small bowl combine the mushrooms, 1/2 c water, a dash each of garlic and onion powder and a shake or two of soy sauce (or, if you're me, a quarter teaspoon of salt). Stir; microwave for two or three minutes, stir again, and set aside.

Chop the broccoli if you haven't already and get your rice steaming. Heat a wok or large frying pan and add the oil. Add the beef strips, reserving the marinade, and stir-fry until browned. Take out the beef strips and set aside.

Now, put the broccoli in the wok with about 1/4 c water and stir-fry until crisp-tender. Add the beef strips and stir to combine. Make a little well in the middle and add the marinade, garlic, ginger (I just pressed this in a garlic press right over the wok), rice wine, and mushroom broth with mushrooms. Stir fry for a minute or two and taste; you may want to add some soy sauce at this point. Also, if the sauce is too thin make a little more corn starch slurry and add that while stirring. Once you're done making adjustments, remove from heat and serve over rice.

This was surprisingly good, given the fact that I wasn't too high on the beef strips initially. The nice thing about making takeout style food at home is that you can control how much oil goes into it; this was not greasy at all. Next time I'll probably use more ginger, but I'm kind of a ginger fiend. Oh, and soy sauce. I'll remember to buy soy sauce.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Tonight's Dinner: Veggie Burgers and Fries

It was gorgeous out today, so we decided to fire up the grill. Veggie burgers can get really boring, so here's what we top them with to liven them up a bit:

• Grilled green peppers
• Grilled red onions
(throw those on the grill halfway through cooking the veggie burgers)
• Lettuce
• Sliced tomato
• Sprouts
• Dill relish or sliced pickle
• Any combination of the following condiments: dijon mustard, ketchup, vegenaise, dill dressing (or some other kind of dressing), guacamole

All that on a toasted whole wheat roll with a side of fries (we just used the frozen kind, but if you're feeling fancy baked sweet potato fries would go very well) -- yum. Quick and not boring.

I'd also like to take this moment to give a shout out to Lick's, a local burger chain in southern Ontario. They make the best veggie burgers (or "Nature Burgers," as they call them) I've ever had, and not only are they vegan, they sell them in grocery stores so you can make them at home. If you're in the neighbourhood, definitely give them a try. I also like Boca burgers (the vegan Original kind), but alas, none of the stores around here carry them.