Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Vegan Thanksgiving, Part II: Carrot, Apple, & Leek Soup

I’m now into the active planning stages of my Thanksgiving menu. I have multiple documents arranged by food, course, and recipe source. And, after all of this organization, I’m ready to really begin making some things. So, last night I started with my potential first course. I found a recipe in Vegetarian Times for a Winter Squash, Apple, and Leek soup with Cider Crème Fraiche. Obviously, I won’t be partaking of the Crème Fraiche, but I was wildly intrigued by the soup. The other roadblock between this recipe and my mouth, is the fact that my mom is not a fan of squash. Since she is providing the pots, pans, ingredients, stove, oven, and kitchen generally, I do have to take her opinions into account. But, this was easily remedied, when I suggested substituting carrots for the squash. What resulted from this adaptation was a creamy, smooth, and filling soup, with bright color, and even brighter flavor, grounded by the butteriness of the leeks, and the sweetness of the apples. I think I’ve found my starter for Thanksgiving Dinner!

1 pound carrots (about 6 medium carrots) chopped roughly
1 apple cored and quartered
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 leeks sliced (only the white and light green part)
2 cloves garlic minced
1 cup white wine
6 cups vegetable stock
1 bay leaf

Heat oven to 400º. Place carrots and apple in a baking pan. Cover with 1 cup water, cover with foil and place in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the carrots and apple are tender.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the leeks and sauté until just tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for about 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of the white wine and cook until almost completely absorbed. Add the apple, carrots and stock to the pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Purée the contents of the pot with an immersion blender (this could also be done in a traditional blender). Add the remaining 1/2 cup of wine. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve immediately!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Spaghetti Squash with Roasted Vegetable Tomato Sauce

This may seem crazy to you, or maybe you’re just like me, but until last week, I had never had spaghetti squash. They were selling them for some ungodly low price at Trader Joe’s a couple weeks ago, and it has been staring at me expectantly since then. Just when it was starting to stare at me accusingly, I decided to cook it. Apparently, the most common way to treat spaghetti squash is just like spaghetti, that is, topped with a lovely tomato sauce. I was skeptical at first; it’s not spaghetti, it’s a squash. But, this is the type of thing at which I am often happily surprised. So, if you have been cagily eyeing a new food, I say take the plunge and give it a try. This was so phenomenal, I had it for breakfast the following two mornings. Going vegan, or changing your diet in any way, is a great opportunity to expand your scope of foods. So, if you find yourself making the same meals, over and over, head to the grocery store and choose something you’ve never made before.

Spaghetti Squash

1 spaghetti squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh herbs chopped (try parsley, basil, oregano, thyme, chives, or sage)
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 375º. Cut the spaghetti squash in half, lengthwise. Lay face-down in a baking pan and add water 1/2” up the side of the pan. Cover with foil and place in the oven. Bake for 45 minutes. Turn the squash onto its back, recover with foil, and cook for another 15 minutes. Remove and allow to cool. Remove the seeds and throw away. Using a fork, pull the squash in strands away from the peel. Place the squash in a large sauté pan. Add the olive oil to the squash and sauté over medium heat for one minute. Add the herbs and toss gently. Taste for salt and pepper.

Roasted Vegetable Tomato Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 container baby bella mushrooms sliced
1 zucchini halved and sliced
1 onion sliced
1 eggplant diced
1 large can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup walnuts chopped
1 tablespoon basil chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oven to 375º. Cover a sheet pan with foil. Spread the mushrooms, onion, zucchini, and eggplant in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, and bake for 25 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. In a small pot, combine the vegetables, tomatoes, and walnuts. Simmer until the sauce starts to thicken, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the basil and taste for salt and pepper. Spoon over the spaghetti squash and serve immediately!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Vegan Products I Love: TCHO

What is most immediately evident when you come to my blog is the title, Dinner Peace. However, I would also like to direct your attention to the subtitle, “The Non Fanatic Vegan Lifestyle.” I think of this blog, in many ways, as a vegan beginner’s guide, or a starter kit for the veg-curious. Whether you’re coming at this from the position of not knowing what the word vegan means, or being a vegetarian looking to take the next step, or as an active vegan looking for recipes and tips to staying healthy, I hope you will find what you’re looking for here. In the interest of being even more comprehensive, I have decided to start a list of vegan products that I love. Some of these are directed to the vegan population, and some are just vegan-friendly.

I thought I would bring out the big guns on this first entry with TCHO Hot & Cold Drinking Chocolate Mix. TCHO is a new chocolatier based in San Francisco with a shop and factory at Pier 17. They do tastings and tours, the latter of which I have not had a chance to take advantage of yet. It is the only chocolate factory in San Francisco, and they are deeply committed to making great chocolate humanely and fairly, and educating their patrons to become chocolate connoisseurs. Luckily for me, I live less than an hour away from this dark chocolate Mecca; luckily for you, they sell their products online. This drinking chocolate mix contains only three ingredients: dark chocolate, sugar, and cocoa powder, all of the highest possible quality. It makes a rich, slightly bitter, but undoubtedly chocolatey cup of pure joy. I not only recommend this product, but the company as a whole. If you live in the area, check out the factory. If not go online to and see for yourself what this company is all about.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Vegan Thanksgiving, Part I: Mushroom Pot Pies

In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s fall. And, in case you hadn’t noticed, it’s almost November. This can only mean one thing: Thanksgiving is almost here! Forgive my excessive enthusiasm, but Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. This is mostly because it is a day revolving around food, many of which happen to be my favorite foods: stuffing, mashed potatoes, multiple kinds of pie, cranberry sauce, green beans...did I mention pie? I also love Thanksgiving because, for the past 7 years, we have spent it with my aunt and uncle’s family in Minnesota. You would not be the first to wonder why the California relatives go to the Minnesota relatives’ in November, but it’s tradition. Unfortunately, we are not going to Minnesota this year, but this does give me an opportunity to work out my most compelling and delicious vegan Thanksgiving dishes.

So, this is my first vegan Thanksgiving, and I could not be more excited. One of the great effects of becoming vegan is that it forces you to reexamine your food choices, and shake them up. Well, I am turning Thanksgiving upside down this year! A meat and dairy free Thanksgiving is not traditional, but I believe it can still be delicious. I decided to start cooking early this year, so that I might inspire some of you with the delicious foods I’m going to be posting over the next few weeks. If you are hosting a vegetarian or a vegan at your Thanksgiving, or even if you’re just looking to make a change to your usual holiday menu, I hope you’ll check out the recipes I will be posting.

This first dish is intended to be a main course, a kinder version of the turkey, if you will. I made these in french onion soup bowls for dinner, but I think ramekins would be sufficient for the big day, as this will be accompanied by several side dishes, plus appetizers and desserts. These individual pot pies were absolutely delicious, but I am already planning ways to dress them up for the big event.

Mushroom, Lentil, and Caramelized Onion Pot Pies


1/2 cup French green lentils
3 cups cold water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
3 cups boiling water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion halved and sliced thinly
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 oz. fresh baby bella mushrooms
1 carrot diced roughly
1 tablespoon thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons sage chopped
1 clove garlic minced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 cup all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons cornmeal
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons chilled non-dairy butter diced
1/2 cup non-dairy milk
1 1/2 teaspoons white distilled vinegar

In a small pot, combine the lentils, 3 cups cold water, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, reduce temperature, and simmer for 35 to 40 minutes.

In a small bowl, pour 3 cups of boiling water over the dried porcini mushrooms, and let sit for 30 minutes. Remove the mushrooms, but reserve the porcini liquid.

In a large sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and add the sliced onions. Spread the onions over the surface of the pan. Stir occasionally, allowing the onions to stick and brown, but not burn. Sauté until golden and rich, about 20 to 30 minutes.

In a large pot, heat one tablespoon olive oil. Sauté the fresh mushrooms, carrots, thyme, and sage, until the carrots and mushrooms are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. When the onions are done, add them to the mushrooms and carrots. Add the garlic and sauté for one minute more. Add 2 tablespoons flour and cook for one minute. Add the porcini liquid, porcinis, soy sauce, and tomato paste and stir. Bring to a boil and simmer until thickened, about 10 to 15 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine the milk and vinegar and let sit for 10 minutes.

Heat oven to 400º. In a food processor, combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. Add the butter and pulse until it forms crumbs. Add the milk mixture and process until it forms a moist dough. Place the dough on a floured surface, cut into quarters, and flatten into 2/3” thick discs.
Spoon the filling into oven proof bowls, and lay the dough discs on top. Place bowls on a foil lined cookie sheet, and place in the oven.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the topping comes out clean. Allow to cool for 5 to 10 minutes, then serve!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Roasted Radicchio Risotto

When I was a junior in college, I had the amazing opportunity to live in Rome for a year. I met people whom I consider my closest friends. I traveled to more than a dozen countries, and ate incredible food everywhere I went. Weekends in Rome were spent scouring the city for funky shops, hole in the wall restaurants, and cinnamon gelato. During the Christmas break, my mom and sister came to visit for two weeks. It was so fun to show them around the city and the country I had fallen in love with. We decided to meet in Venice and work our way down the country through Florence, and finish the trip in Rome. I arrived in Venice very early the morning they were to arrive. I was giddy with anticipation, not having seen them in four months. I picked them up from their water taxi in Piazza San Marco, then wound us back through the streets to the hotel. We did a quick circle around the neighborhood and settled in for dinner at a dim but stylish restaurant. We got several dishes to share, but the only one I can remember is the risotto con treviso. It was purple from the aurbergine leaves and smooth and buttery. Nostalgia for that dinner, and that trip, propelled me to recreate the dish at home.

I made it with brown rice, however it is traditionally made with arborio rice, and I would not recommend attempting the brown rice version unless you are willing to stand and stir for an hour and a half. I used a pressure cooker which cut the time in half, and left my hands free for other tasks. I also used roasted radicchio, but wilting the raw radicchio in the risotto would also work.

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot minced
2 cloves garlic minced
2 cups short grain brown rice or arborio rice
2 cups red wine
3 cups vegetable stock
2 heads of radicchio
Salt and pepper

Heat the oven to 400º. Quarter the radicchio. Place in a pan and cover with one tablespoon olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Place in the oven and bake for 7 minutes. Turn the quarters over and bake for 7 more minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool

Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the shallots and sauté until tender, about five minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for one minute more. Add the rice and stir until it is coated with oil, and the rice turns translucent, but for a white center. Add 1 cup of the wine and stir until the liquid is absorbed. Add 1 cup of stock, and stir. Continue adding liquid as necessary, never allowing the risotto to look dry. When the rice is almost tender, add the remaining wine. Taste for salt and pepper.

Chop the radicchio quarters and add to the risotto. Stir and serve immediately!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Good Morning Corn Muffins

As I’ve mentioned before, I am a huge fan of breakfast. When I was little, I lived near a delightful bakery, Le Boulanger. My family and I would walk over on weekend mornings and have breakfast together before our day’s adventure. The place was always packed with families, bikers coming in from their early morning ride, and neighbors swinging by while walking their dogs. My mom and I always got the double chocolate muffin (it’s like cake for breakfast!) and my dad always got a corn muffin and a big cup of coffee. I never understood why anyone would choose corn when they could have chocolate. I assumed it was a cultural thing; the corn muffin is the official muffin of his home state, Massachusetts (I bet you didn’t know states had official muffins; incidentally, California’s is the poppyseed muffin). Driven by curiosity about this fatherly foible, I tried his corn muffin one morning. And I loved it! From then on, I was on Team Corn Muffin, and I have tried many more since then. I find these ones delightful because they are on the small side for muffins. Two make a great breakfast, and one is perfect with your afternoon tea. With jam, non-dairy butter, or plain, these muffins have a light crumbly texture, and lots of whole corn pieces. Make them and bring them to the office, or surprise a friend. You can even throw them in the freezer and reheat them later on for unexpected guests or a lazy Sunday morning.

1/2 cup coarse yellow cornmeal (e.g. polenta)
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup non-dairy milk
1 1/2 teaspoons Ener-G egg replacer
2 tablespoons water
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup non-dairy butter
1 1/2 cups whole corn kernels (canned or frozen)

Heat oven to 375º. Prepare your muffin tins with paper cups, or lightly grease them. Melt the butter and allow to cool. Combine the cornmeal, 1/2 teaspoon salt and milk in a small bowl, and let sit for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, blend the egg replacer and water until thick and creamy. Combine flour, sugar, remaining salt, baking powder and baking soda in a medium bowl. Add the cooled, melted butter and the egg mixture to the cornmeal and stir. Add to the dry ingredients. Add the corn kernels and stir. Spoon mixture into muffin cups about 3/4 full. Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool before serving.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Girl Meets Brownie, Part 1

This is a reflective post, as it is about a particular brownie I had 7 months ago, long before this blog was a twinkle in anybody’s eye. I am pensive about this brownie, not because it was such a spectacular iteration, but because it set me on the path to my calling; developing a knockout vegan brownie recipe.

As a new vegan, I was apprehensive about baked goods. Every success seemed like a miracle, so it was only a matter of time before I was underwhelmed. I was heavily reliant on Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s The Joy of Vegan Baking, as I still am. She is definitely the best starting point for compassionate treats. However, her brownie recipe is not perfect. I was skeptical when I saw the applesauce and flaxseed in this recipe (I have always shuddered at healthifying my desserts), but I was new to this and Colleen was my guide, and I didn’t know enough to ask questions. Well, that was 7 months ago. This was not a bad brownie, but it wasn’t a great brownie. I also realize that I have incredibly high standards for brownies, and am not satisfied with your average offering. So, if you aren’t as invested in a perfect brownie, then you may be happy with some of the recipes  you’ll see along the way. But, my journey is far from over. I have had some promising results, and some very disappointing ones, but it is all a step on the path to my dream brownie. So, follow along with me on this decadent, dramatic, occasionally disappointing, but ultimately triumphant adventure!

I’ve decided to provide all the recipes, even for brownies that I deem unsuccessful, as it may aid you in adjusting the recipes to your own liking.

Chocolate Brownies

from Colleen Patrick Goudreau’s The Joy of Vegan Baking

1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons ground flaxseed (grind in a coffee grinder or spice mill; measure after it’s ground))
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts

Heat the oven to 350º. Grease an 8” x 8” baking pan. Combine applesauce, sugar, and 2 tablespoons water in a medium bowl. In a food processor or blender, blend the ground flaxseed and 1/2 cup water. Add this and the vanilla to the applesauce mixture. In a large bowl, mix the flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt, and chocolate chips and nuts, if desired. Add the applesauce mixture to the flour mixture and stir. Pour into the pan and bake for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Bake longer if a cakier product is desired. Cool before cutting and serving.

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Senegalese Peanut Soup

When I was a little girl, my favorite meal was this strange amalgamation called macaroni and cheese soup. I got the recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens Step-by-Step Kids' Cook Book. This literary treasure also included gems such as Spaghetti Crust Pie (perhaps the origin of my pie obsession) and Gumdrop Nut Bread. I know it sounds like an acid flashback, but I swear I am not making this up. It was the one thing I loved to help my mom make. She liked it because she could sneak in lots of vegetables. I liked it because of the savory, rich, cheesy broth. Now, macaroni and cheese soup is neither vegan nor dignified, so I haven’t had it in years. But I still have a fondness for that rich bowl, full of comforting and homey flavors, so when I saw this peanut soup I had to give it a try. Obviously the African spices, and all the vegetables make this a much more grown up dish, but it is still reminiscent of that childhood favorite. It has the same savory richness and nourishing feeling of my macaroni and cheese soup, but with a whole lot more nutritional value. And it was perfect for this gray and rainy Saturday evening.

2 tablespoons peanut oil or vegetable oil
1 onion diced
1 sweet potato diced
1 carrot diced
2 cloves garlic minced
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder or Garam Masala
1 can diced tomatoes
3 cups vegetable stock
2/3 cup peanut butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped green onion, cilantro, and peanuts for garnish.

Heat oil in a large pot. Add onions, carrots, and sweet potatoes. Sauté until the onion is tender, about 10 minutes.

Add the garlic and spices and sauté for one minute more. Add the tomatoes and vegetables stock and bring to a boil. Simmer until the sweet potato and carrots are tender, about 15 minutes.

Scoop the peanut butter into a small bowl. Ladle a few cups of broth into the bowl and whisk until the peanut butter is smooth. Add the peanut butter mixture to the soup and stir until combined. Reheat the soup and then scoop into bowls. Garnish with green onions, cilantro, and peanuts. Enjoy immediately!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Slow Cooked Black Beans & Tomato Salsa

This is a continuation of my previous post on Jalapeno Corn Pancakes (see here). These black beans are an excellent dish to have in your repertoire. My traditional way of serving them is over brown rice with fresh chopped tomatoes on top. Because they are cooked slowly, they have so much flavor and a velvety texture. They are also perfect for freezing, so make a big batch, and save yourself the task of cooking dinner for a couple nights.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 carrot diced
1 onion diced
1 red bell pepper diced
2 cans black beans drained and rinsed
1 bottle beer (or 1 can vegetable stock)
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a sauce pan. Add the carrot, onion, and pepper, and sauté until tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the black beans, the beer, and the seasonings. Bring to a boil, and simmer, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes.

Tomato Salsa

1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes
1 serrano pepper seeded and diced
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
Juice of 1/2 lime
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and mix well.

When the corn pancakes are ready, cover them with a scoop of the black beans, and top with the tomato salsa. Enjoy!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Jalapeño Corn Pancakes

This dish was partly inspired by a meal I had at the Berkeley restaurant Herbivore. Herbivore is a wholly vegan restaurant that makes tons of delicious foods including chicken fried rice, macaroni and cheese, and chocolate milkshakes. It’s a very fun place for a vegan to go, because you can eat everything on the menu without thinking twice. No asking for things without meat and cheese, or asking what’s in this salad or pasta.  It’s also a wonderful way to try foods like tempeh and seitan, or other things that might be intimidating to a home chef. At Herbivore, you know it will be prepared deliciously, and it gives you ideas for menu items to cook at home, like this one. Although not difficult, this dish has a lot of steps, and takes some coordination. It’s definitely a weekend, not a weekday, meal. Let’s start with the jalapeño corn pancakes!

2 cups corn kernels fresh or frozen
3 jalapeño peppers minced
2 cloves garlic minced
1 red bell pepper minced
3 scallions minced
3 teaspoons Ener-G egg replacer
4 tablespoons water
1 1/4 whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 1/2 cups unsweetened non-dairy milk
ground black pepper

In a large bowl, combine the corn, jalapeños, garlic, bell pepper, and scallions. Combine the water and egg replacer in a food processor and whip until thick and creamy. Add the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and lime juice. Pulse until combined. Add milk and black pepper, and process until smooth. Add wet mixture to the vegetables and combine well. Let stand for thirty minutes.

Heat a griddle over medium high heat, until a splash of water sizzles on it. Scoop 1/4 cupfuls of batter onto the griddle Flip after 3 or 4 minutes, or until golden and crispy on the outside. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes on the other side. Keep warm in a 200º oven until all the pancakes are ready to serve.

Check back tomorrow for slow-cooked black beans and tomato salsa!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Compassionate Chocolate Cupcakes

Chocolate cupcakes are a quintessential part of every diet, or at least they should be. When I decided to stay vegan, I knew there were certain things I could never live without, and chocolate cupcakes is on the top of that list. Vegan baked goods get a bad rap. This is because many vegan treats try to be healthy on top of cruelty-free. This means cutting out fat, sugar, and, let’s face it, taste, along with all the animal products. This is totally unnecessary. I don’t eat baked goods to get fiber and protein. I eat them for fun! I promise that these cupcakes are both compassionate, and delicious. There have been so many accomplishments in developing vegan friendly foods, that there is no reason to sacrifice flavor anymore. So the next time you’re making chocolate cupcakes, give these a try. You won’t be disappointed!

These cupcakes also make a festive addition to any party!
Chocolate Cupcakes

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour sifted
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon white distilled vinegar
1 cup cold water

Heat oven to 350º. Prepare cupcake pans with canola oil spray, or cupcake liners. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Make a hole in the center of the dry ingredients. Add the vanilla, oil, vinegar and water, and stir until just combined. Scoop batter into prepared pans. Bake for 15 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Alternatively, this can be made into a cake. Just bake in a 9” round cake pan for 30 minutes. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

Chocolate Frosting

1/3 cup non-dairy butter
2 cups confectioners sugar sifted
1/4 cup cocoa powder sifted
2/3 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 to 3 tablespoons water or non-dairy milk (add more as needed)

In a stand mixer, whip the butter until smooth. Add alternately 1 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon water or milk while mixing. Add cocoa and vanilla and mix well. If frosting is too dry, add more liquid. If it’s too thin, add more sugar. I like to scoop frosting into a freezer bag, snip off one corner, and swirl onto the cupcakes.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Weekend in San Francisco

I had visitors from out of town this past weekend, and we spent most of the time in San Francisco. Anytime I have friends visiting, I always take them to my favorite restaurant in the city, House of Nanking. Located on the edge of Chinatown and North Beach, it is a favorite haunt of Francis Ford Coppola. Francis and I are not the only ones who adore this restaurant, as there’s usually a line out the door at dinner or lunch time, and their windows and walls are covered in awards and rave reviews. The food is only part of the appeal. They have a quirky vibe and rowdy atmosphere that make it less of a restaurant, and more of an experience. I was introduced to this restaurant by my friend Charity. She took a group of us on a particularly busy Friday night. We waited in the line for close to an hour, and I couldn’t imagine it would ever be worth the wait. They didn’t even give us menus, so I had no idea what to expect. In the end, I got the greatest bok choy, mushrooms, and sweet potatoes I’ve ever had. Their house specialty is the sesame chicken, but this restaurant is still a vegan’s dream. They have a whole section of their menu devoted to tofu dishes, and a separate section for vegetables. I can never quite put my finger on the ingredients in each individual dish; I only know that each vegetable is prepared to its greatest flavor potential. My favorite dish is the pea shoots, which I am always trying to recreate at home. I haven’t been able to get it quite right, which only means I’ll have to go back and try it again!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Minced Tempeh in Lettuce Cups

Before I became vegan, I was a complete omnivore. Unlike many vegans, I did not make a gradual transition from omnivore to pescetarian, vegetarian, and finally vegan. No, I went all in. As such, I have spent a lot of time thinking about the foods I loved before I made this transition, and how I can find a satisfactory reinterpretation for my new dietary values. One of my favorite omnivorous dishes was the Minced Chicken in Lettuce Cups from my favorite Chinese restaurant, Wok City Diner. I had been thinking about them, and craving them, but I knew I could find a more compassionate and healthful version that would satisfy my hankering. Tempeh is one of the first foods I started experimenting with when I switched to a plant based diet. I have enjoyed it in many of my favorite meat-based dishes, including tacos and stir fry, so it seemed like a good fit for this dish. After tweaking some of the flavors, this dish tastes even better than how I remembered the original. One of the gifts of this lifestyle is realizing, over and over, that I don’t have to give up the foods I previously loved. I get so much more out of the vegan lifestyle than I ever had to renounce.

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 carrot diced
1/2 onion diced
1/2 bell pepper diced
1 package tempeh, diced in 1/4” pieces
1/2 cup cashews diced
3 tablespoons chili garlic sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 can water chestnuts diced
1/2 cup parsley
3/4 cup bulgur wheat cooked
Lettuce cups

Heat oil in a large pot. Add onion, carrot, and bell pepper and sauté until softened, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the tempeh and cook until browned. Add the cashews and allow to soften, 5 minutes. In a small bowl, combine chili garlic sauce, sugar, soy, rice vinegar, and sesame oil. Add to the pot with water chestnuts, parsley, and bulgur. Simmer for a couple minutes. Scoop into individual lettuce leaves, and serve immediately.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Brown Irish Soda Bread

I wasn’t very excited about this dish when I made it. My baby sister was attending an international dinner at school where the students were asked to bring a dish representative of their ancestral heritage. My sister has eleven different nationalities, so we struggled to find something simple and appropriate. In the end we settled on this Brown Irish Soda Bread. Not the most exciting thing, especially for a kid who is only 1/8 Irish.  Little did I know that this seemingly humble bread would become a new staple in my diet!  It smelled so good while it was baking, I cut a slice almost immediately and slathered it with cherry jam to enjoy with a pot of tea. The next morning, I toasted it and spread it with butter and mango pineapple jam. It was heaven. It’s also super easy, and versatile. This recipe calls for raisins, but I am already plotting variations for my next batch.

2 cups non-dairy milk
2 teaspoons white distilled vinegar
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup rolled oats
2/3 cup golden raisins (also try currants, craisins, or dried cherries)
2 tablespoons non-dairy butter softened

Heat oven to 425º. Prepare a 9” round pan with butter, or canola oil spray. Combine milk and vinegar in a small bowl. Combine the whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Stir in the oats and raisins. Add the butter to the dry ingredients and use your fingertips to mix it in until the mixture forms large crumbs. Add the milk mixture and stir until just combined. The dough will be very sticky. Knead the dough about ten times in the bowl. Place the dough in the pan and spread out to the edges. Cut a cross in the center surface of the dough, then place in the oven. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when you hear a hollow sound when knocking the bottom of the pan (It’s weird, I know, but it works). Allow to cool slightly before serving. If eating in the next few days, reheat under the broiler. Spread with your favorite jam and try not to devour it!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sixteen and a Half Pounds!

This is less of a food post, and more of a moment within the greater journey that has been my vegan transition. After sixteen weeks, I have lost sixteen and a half pounds! This is a huge accomplishment for me, and I am very proud of it. I feel healthier than I've ever been, and I feel more confident and comfortable in my body than I have in a long time. But, the real reason I am sharing this with you, readers, is because this triumph has been so easy to achieve.

I have felt uncomfortable and nervous about my weight for a few years now, not because I was especially heavy, but because it felt out of my control. I have mild hypothyroidism, so that does add to the challenge of maintaining a healthy weight. But, more so, I felt like I was already pretty healthy, eating fruits and veggies and whole grains, never drinking soda, exercising consistently.  So, if I was gaining weight even while doing all of these things that are good for me, how was I ever going to lose weight? I was full of fear for the future. Would I have to starve myself in order to get to a healthy weight? That seemed counterintuitive. What would happen when I got pregnant? I didn't want to be one of those women panicking over every pound. How would I ever find a balance within my body?

So, this summer, I made it my goal to take back control of my body, figure out what works for me, and banish the fear from my life. In order to live as blissfully and joyfully as possible, I needed to figure this out, now. I thought about going to see nutritionists and dieticians, but first, I thought I would just try something simple. Andrew Weil's food pyramid was suggested to me, and I decided to follow it, to the letter for two weeks. I bought a scale, and took my measurements, and then I waited. As some of you already know, those two weeks were life-changing for me. I lost three pounds. That's three more than I had lost in the last three years (without counting food poisoning and bad breakups). The next week, it was four and a half pounds. And every week after, it has been a little, or a lot, more.

The very best part of this is how effortless my weight loss has been. As you can see from my blog, I eat incredibly delicious food every day. I feel amazing. I am not living in a place of denial. I am living in a place of exuberance. I eat birthday cake, brownies, pie, and pudding alongside my whole grains, vegetables, and legumes. I am never hungry. I am never dissatisfied. And I am lighter, by sixteen pounds, and unquantifiable stress. If any part of this resonates with you, whether it's dissatisfaction with your weight, or just not feeling like the best version of yourself, I strongly urge you to give a plant based lifestyle a try.  I feel so lucky to have found the answer to my problem, and now that I see how easy the solution is, I don't want anyone to go through the same struggle. This lifestyle is not a punishment, it's a gift. So please take it. It truly can change your life!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Blueberry Pancakes

In looking over my posts recently, I realized that I don’t talk about breakfast very often. This is a huge oversight, because breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. Also, breakfast is one of the easiest meals to make vegan, as many breakfast foods are already plant based, like oatmeal with dried fruit, or peanut butter and banana english muffins. But my favorite breakfast items are not inherently vegan, namely blueberry pancakes. These pancakes are the most perfect, fluffy, hot and juicy blueberry pancakes ever created. Instead of the usual all purpose flour, I use a combination of whole wheat and whole wheat pastry flour to keep the lightness while incorporating the chewy nuttiness of the whole wheat. Drizzled with some warm maple syrup, and topped with more fresh blueberries, these pancakes are sure to get your day off to a great start!

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup non-dairy milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons orange juice
1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Combine all the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Combine milk, oil, and orange juice in a small bowl. Add milk mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until combined. Add blueberries and stir briefly. Heat a griddle or pan over medium-high heat. Pour 1/3 cupfuls of batter onto the griddle. Flip pancakes over when bubbles appear on the surface. Cook for approximately 2 minutes on the other side, or until golden. Top with maple syrup and serve immediately.

Friday, October 15, 2010

White Bean and Escarole Bruschetta

In transitioning to a plant based diet, and especially in trying to be healthy, I end up cooking most of my meals. I know that this is not easy for everyone, which is why I endeavor to provide as many easy and efficient meals as possible for my readers. I find that with some planning, and a lot of gallon size freezer bags, it’s possible to eat really good, and good for you, food every day. This is one of those tasty, effortless recipes that makes being vegan, and being healthy, so easy.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion diced
2 carrots diced
2 cloves garlic minced
1 can vegetable stock
2 cans white beans drained and rinsed
Salt and pepper
1 large bunch escarole
1 loaf crusty bread

Heat olive oil in a pot. Add onion and carrots and sauté until tender, about 15 minutes. Add garlic and sauté one minute more. Add vegetable stock and beans and bring to a boil. Simmer until the liquid is reduced and thickened, about 15 to 20 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper. Add the escarole and stir until it’s wilted.

Meanwhile, slice bread and brush with olive oil. Broil the bread until it’s golden and toasted.

Scoop bean mixture into bowls and spoon onto bread slices. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Baked Onion Rings

Mmmm...onion rings. As delicious as they are, I have always had a love-hate relationship with onion rings. I love them because they are delicious, vastly superior to a french fry in flavor, and perfect on the side of so many things. However, they are also not very good for you, not vegan, and the onion is always coming out of its crispy shell, leaving you with a limp onion, and fried batter. I’m sure many of you can relate to my onion ring despair. Okay, I may be hyperbolizing a bit, but it is important to me to rehabilitate the onion ring for the vegans, and the health conscious. These would obviously be good on the side of a veggie burger, or soy-sage, but I also think they make a festive appetizer for any occasion. So, don’t wait until your next barbecue. Make them now!

4 cups baked original potato chips, processed into crumbs
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 cup non-dairy milk
1 tablespoon vinegar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 or 2 large yellow onions, in 1/2” to 3/4” slices

Heat oven to 450º. Combine milk and vinegar in a small bowl, and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Combine potato chip crumbs and cayenne pepper in a shallow dish. Combine milk mixture, 2 tablespoons flour, salt, and pepper in another dish. Place onion rings and remaining 1/2 cup flour in a sealable bag and shake to coat. Remove onion rings from bag, and one at a time, dip in the milk mixture, and then the potato chip crumbs and place on a greased sheet pan. When all the onion rings have been coated, spray lightly with vegetable oil, and place in the oven. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden and crispy. Serve hot from the oven!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Moroccan Vegetable Stew with Tomato Couscous

My mother often tells a story from when my sister and I were younger. I came downstairs, drawn by the smell of something delicious, and asked my mom what she was cooking for dinner. She replied, “Lentils with roasted vegetables!” I looked at her and said, “On the side of...” My baby sister burst into tears. I think this is how many people feel about the idea of a plant based diet, like you won’t be satisfied, like you’ll be hungry. When I first became vegan, I was inspired by how much of the food I already loved was almost vegan, or at least easily adaptable. In this process, I noticed how often we make amazing, delicious, nourishing food, and then throw beef, chicken, or pork on top of it. Now that I have moved away from these foods, it seems strange to me that I ever thought they were necessary for a complete meal. If anything, they are inhibiting us from feeling the very best that we can. Embracing a vegan diet has made me feel strong and powerful. I feel light, as if I am vibrating with my own energy. Most of all, I feel nourished by the aliveness of everything I eat, the colors, and the flavors, and all the good I am doing for myself. So think about a dish you love, and try it without meat. I think you’ll be surprised by how much it fulfills you, gastronomically, and emotionally.

This dish was inspired by the Frugal Gourmet’s Chicken Tagine with Seven Vegetables. Because I removed the chicken, I just added more vegetables!

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion diced
1 eggplant diced in 1” cubes
2 carrots diced
1 red bell pepper diced
1 sweet potato diced in 1" cubes
2 cloves garlic minced
3 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup raw cashews
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon curry powder (or Garam Masala)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 zucchini diced
1 large can diced tomatoes drained (reserve liquid)
1 can garbanzo beans drained and rinsed
1/2 cups golden raisins
4 tablespoons cilantro chopped
Salt and pepper
1 cup whole wheat couscous

Heat olive oil in a large pot. Add onion, eggplant, carrots, bell pepper, and sweet potato. Sauté until tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

Add the garlic, and sauté for one minute more. Add the vegetable stock, cashews, cinnamon, curry, cumin, turmeric, and black pepper. Bring to a boil, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the zucchini, and simmer for 10 more minutes. Add the tomatoes, garbanzo beans, raisins, and cilantro and simmer for 10 more minutes.

Meanwhile, combine 3/4 cup of the tomato liquid with 1/2 cup water and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil. Add 1 cup couscous, stir, cover, and remove from heat. Allow to sit for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork. Scoop couscous onto a plate, cover with vegetable stew, and enjoy!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Finishing Your Soup

For the first part of this soup click here: Wonton Soup

Vegetable broth is a variable beast. If you’ve been here before, you’ll know that I only recommend Swanson’s pre-made broth. I’ve tried others, and they are horrible. The broth is what ruined my first attempt at wonton soup, suffusing everything with the taste of old vegetables. Blech! Vegetable stock, unlike chicken broth, does not get better with time. 30 to 40 minutes tops, and it’s done. Otherwise it tastes like, you guessed it, old vegetables that have been sitting around for hours, which is what they are. So, in order to make a successful wonton soup, I knew I had to make my own wontons and my own stock. And this time, it was great! This is, unfortunately, not a great soup for freezing, but the filling and the wrappers can be frozen, as can the stock, so you can thaw them out and put it all together again!

Vegetable Broth

2 medium carrots, roughly chopped
2 medium onions, quartered
1 daikon radish, roughly chopped
1 bunch scallions, roughly chopped
4 dried shitake mushrooms
Handful of parsley
3 garlic cloves peeled
2 bay leaves
20 peppercorns
2 tablespoons salt

Place all ingredients in a large pot with 3 quarts of water (12 cups) and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes. Strain out the vegetables.

Finishing Your Soup

8 cups baby Bok Choy, chopped
1 carrot sliced
2 green onions sliced

Steam bok choy in a pot with three cups of stock. Remove bok choy and add carrots. Cook until tender. Remove carrots and add wontons. Cover wontons with stock. Boil wontons gently until the skins look wrinkled, about five minutes depending on the thickness of your wrapper. Add salt to taste, 2 tablespoons soy sauce and 1 tablespoon rice wine to the broth. Add bok choy, green onions, and carrots to the soup. Add more broth if necessary. Stir gently, drizzle with spicy sesame oil, and serve immediately.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Wonton Soup

Wonton soup is the perfect meal for many occasions; it’s great for when you want something hot, something light, or something filling. It somehow manages to accomplish all of these things while also being healthy and delicious. Clearly, wonton soup is one of those things I was going to have to adjust for a vegan diet, if I was going to continue to be a happy herbivore. I got the inspiration for these when I made the eggplant meatballs a few weeks ago. I was amazed, and a little grossed out, by how truly meaty the meatballs were, and wondered how else this might be used. When I first became vegan, I tried to make wonton soup, and it was disgusting, almost inedible. But, it taught me a few very important lessons.

First, not all dumplings are created equal. I initially used frozen, pre-made dumplings for my soup, and they were okay, but nothing special. I have since discovered Trader Joe’s vegetable gyoza which are crispy, light, and loaded with good ginger flavor. So now, I eat those when I want a quick dumpling. But to make my wonton soup spectacular, I knew I would have to start from scratch.


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium eggplant unpeeled and diced in 1/4” to 1/2” cubes
6 green onions chopped finely
3/4 cup walnuts
Salt and pepper
2 cups dried bread crumbs
1/2 cup firm tofu, processed until smooth
8 water chestnuts chopped
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 inches of ginger grated finely
1/4 cup carrot very finely minced
2 cloves garlic minced
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 pound fresh wrappers (These are most easily found at a Chinese market; be sure they don’t contain egg. Don’t worry if you can only find potsticker or shu mai wrappers. They work just fine)

Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add the eggplant and cook until it is tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Add the green onion and cook briefly. Transfer into a large bowl.

Process the walnuts with one cup of the eggplant and onion mixture. Pulse until smooth. Return to the eggplant mixture. Add the bread crumbs, tofu, water chestnuts, soy sauce, rice wine, sugar, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, and cornstarch and mix thoroughly with a fork, taking care not to smush the mixture. Taste for salt and pepper (don’t worry! there’s no raw meat or eggs in this)

Lay wonton wrapper flat. Scoop 1/2 tablespoon (roughly) of filling into the center of the wrapper. With your finger, paint fresh water along 1/2 of the outer edge of the wrapper. Fold wrapper in half and press edges together firmly. Now, wet the two corners of your half circle, fold them toward each other, and pinch them together. Repeat. Place prepared wontons on wax or parchment paper to keep from sticking.

Check back tomorrow for vegetable broth and finishing your soup!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Four Lessons from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau: The Etymology of Meat

Colleen Patrick-Goudreau is a woman after my own literary heart. Along with having our name in common, Patrick-Goudreau also has a Master’s degree in English, and she truly gets the most out of her linguistic and communication training. The bulk of her talk was about the power of language, and how we can use that power to our advantage in the dialogue about a vegan lifestyle. My favorite example came from a discussion of the etymology of the word “meat.” Patrick-Goudreau, in an effort to emphasize how dominant the omnivorous lifestyle is in America, pointed out how “milk” is synonymous with cow’s milk, “meat” is synonymous with animal flesh, “butter” is synonymous with animal fat, but they are not inherently so. The etymology of the word “meat” originates in the Old English word “mete” which means “food, item of food (contrasted with drink)” and that is all. So forget the idea that being vegan means giving up meat, milk, and butter. As a vegan, I eat as much nut meat, meaty mushrooms, almond milk, soy milk, hemp milk, and non-dairy butter as I want. Buttery toast, milk and cookies, and buttercream frosting all have a place in the plant based diet. The real key is to divest these harmless words from the animal products we currently connect them to in order to divest ourselves from the assumption that we need animals in order to obtain these products.

 If you've been inspired by these lessons, I encourage you to visit Patrick-Goudreau's website, I like her podcasts in particular, Vegetarian Food for Thought, so check it out!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Four Lessons from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau: Having all the Answers

“Being vegan doesn’t mean you have all the answers.” Through my awakening to a plant based diet, I have read a lot of books, articles, magazines, and watched movies, and TV shows to get information about following a vegan diet. The more I see, and the more I read, the more inspired I feel about transitioning to this lifestyle, which is why I always recommend them to my readers. Despite all of this reading, I am not an expert. However, I feel so much pressure from skeptics to be an expert not only on a vegan diet, but all health, all nutrition, all agricultural laws and practices, global climate change, environmental laws, the sustainable food movement, the local food movement, restaurants, cooking, etc. Hopefully the preceding list impresses upon you how impossible it would be to be expert on all of these topics. I try to be educated; I try to be well-informed, but I am not a computer. I cannot pull statistics and references and talking points out of thin air. Please don’t let this deter you from asking me questions. I love to get questions. I love to meet open-minded and curious people. But don’t be disappointed if I tell you, “I don’t know.” I will do everything in my power to find the answers for you, and provide you references and reading materials if at all possible. I want to spread the joyful word that is veganism. But, I might not have the answer in my back pocket. For me, this has been freeing. The facts, and the research support the decision to follow a vegan diet, so I want to give this information to people. But, I don’t want to make things up, so please give me the chance to find the truth for you. In most cases, the most honest thing I can tell you is “I don’t know,” but I will always try to find the answers you are looking for.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Four Lessons from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau: The Protein Myth

Vegans get plenty of protein! Protein is found in everything we eat! The average American eats twice the recommended amount of protein, which is only 50 grams per day, or approximately 10% of your day’s calories. This recommendation itself is an overestimate to ensure there is absolutely no protein deficiency. Patrick-Goudreau made her point succinctly asking, “Have you ever heard of heart disease? Cancer? Diabetes? Osteoporosis? Kwashiorkor?” You are not alone if you had to Wikipedia that last one. Kwashiorkor is the official name for protein deficiency, and the reason most people don’t know that is because no one they have ever met suffers from it. Not even vegans. It is the result of severe acute malnutrition, and it is beyond rare in developed countries. Most people are aware of the common plant based proteins: tofu, tempeh, seitan, and legumes like beans and nuts and seeds. But, I was amazed at how many unexpected foods contain protein, like lima beans, quinoa, bagels, peas, spaghetti, bulgur, whole wheat bread, brown rice, spinach, broccoli, and potatoes to name a few! The most insightful thing Patrick-Goudreau pointed out to me was the absurdity of eating animal flesh in order to get protein, when even those animals get their protein from plants. Chickens, cows, pigs, rabbits, turkeys, lambs, and goats are ALL vegetarian. None of these animals that we consider so essential to our protein obtainment eat other animals. So where did we get this idea that we need to eat the flesh and products of other animals in order to get “enough protein”? The answer really boils down to, because we feel like it. Animal products taste good, so we like to eat them. But please don’t confuse that with the idea that we need to eat them.  

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Four Lessons from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, Part One

I am not a morning person. My ideal way to spend a Saturday morning is to make blueberry pancakes, lie on the couch and watch cooking shows, or maybe “Hoarders.” But I sacrificed all of this last Saturday for something way better; a chance to see my favorite vegan, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. She was speaking at the World Veg Fest (more on that later), and gave a talk on “Effective Communication: Tips & Tactics for Compassionate Conversations.” This is something that is obviously important to me; otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this blog. I have Patrick-Goudreau’s book The Joy of Vegan Baking, and I’ve referenced it in my posts many times. So, needless to say, I was excited to see her in person.

First of all, the woman is a goddess. She is the single most compelling reason I’ve seen for being vegan. She has great hair, great skin, a great figure, a huge smile, and so much energy. She also looks a decade younger than her 40 years. But more importantly, I left her talk feeling so inspired and motivated by the things she said that I wanted to share some of them with all of you.

“Don’t do nothing because you can’t do everything.” I often feel frustrated by the status of our current food system, and its impact on our health, the environment and global climate change, animal treatment, school lunches, and more. There is so much to fix, and the system is so broken, and resistant to change, it feels hopeless. But this is exactly when we shouldn’t give up hope. It sounds cheesy, but truly, every little bit helps. Even when I feel guilty for slipping from my vegan principles, I remind myself, that every vegan meal I eat makes a difference. And even when I feel frustrated that the people around me aren’t embracing this change as much as I am, every time someone tells me that they made one of my recipes, I know I’ve made some difference. So, the message for all of you is this: even if you’re not ready to become a vegan, or a vegetarian all the time, don’t do nothing instead. Every time you eat a vegan meal, revel in all of the good you just did for the planet, the animals, and most of all yourself. Imagine what it would be like if you could multiply that good by two, or four, or twenty? Think of all of that change! The fact of the matter is, no matter what, you are already making a difference; whether that difference is for joy, health, and compassion is up to you. Wherever you are on this spectrum, you are capable of effecting a positive transformation, so just do something.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Ladies Who Lunch, Part Three

This is the trifecta of dinner party desserts: incredibly easy, made ahead of time, and delicious! It’s also open to a lot of augmentation. You can make it a ginger chocolate pie with some candied ginger in the pudding. You can make a graham cracker crust and add vegan marshmallow fluff for a S’mores Pie. Chocolate lends itself well to orange, mint, and raspberry flavors, so any of these can be swapped in for the vanilla in the filling. However, I’m partial to the classic, as it’s hard to go wrong with these clean, chocolate flavors.

Chocolate Pudding Pie

Chocolate Cookie Crust

1 ½ cups chocolate cookie crumbs
6 tablespoons non-dairy butter
¼ cup sugar

Melt the butter. Mix cookie crumbs and sugar in a bowl. Add the melted butter to the dry ingredients, and mix together with a fork. Pour the crumb mixture into a greased pie pan and press evenly across the bottom and the sides of the pan. Place in the freezer for 20 minutes.

Chocolate Filling

½ cup sugar
¼ cup corn starch
¼ teaspoon salt
3 cups non-dairy milk
2 tablespoons non-dairy butter (I prefer Earth Balance)
¾ cup chopped bittersweet chocolate
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Turn the heat to medium, and gradually add the milk, stirring constantly. Then add the butter, continuing to stir. Bring mixture to a boil. Simmer for one minute, then remove from heat. Add the chocolate and vanilla and stir until completely blended.

Pour the filling mixture into the chilled pie crust. Place the pan in the refrigerator and allow to set overnight.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Ladies Who Lunch, Part Two

This recipe is a bit complicated, but it’s a great one to have in your repertoire. The key is just to follow all the steps exactly, and your pizza will turn out perfectly. Pizza crust is a very versatile food, and can be used as the foundation for many toppings, or even as a bread for soups and stews. It’s also a wonderful thing to have in your freezer for busy weekday dinners, or lazy Saturday lunches. Just wrap the crusts tightly in plastic wrap and foil before putting in the freezer.

Whole Wheat Pizza Crusts

Adapted from James McNair’s Pizza

1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup warm water, 110º to 115º F.
1 envelope active dry yeast
1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

Dissolve the sugar in the warm water. Be careful that the water is the correct temperature (use an instant read thermometer) as it will affect the yeast otherwise. Add the yeast to the water and stir until it is dissolved, about 1 minute. The mixture should be a beige color. Let stand for five minutes, allowing a foam to cover the surface. This tells you that the yeast is active. If no foam forms, get a new packet of yeast, and start over.

Combine one cup of the all purpose flour and all the whole wheat flour in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the yeast mixture, salt, and olive oil. Using the flat beater, mix for 1 minute at medium speed. Now using the dough hook, beat for 5 minutes at medium speed. If the dough feels sticky, add more flour. If it is dry, add warm water, one tablespoon at a time. Remove from the bowl, and shape into a ball. Place in a large, well-oiled bowl. Coat the ball with oil, then cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to rise until it has doubled in size. Then punch down the dough, compressing all the air bubbles. Form into a ball, turn to coat and cover tightly again. This process can be repeated up to four times before the dough is spent. It can also be refrigerated overnight if necessary. Make sure the dough is at room temperature before moving on.

For this particular dish, I like to cut the dough in fourths and stretch the dough by hand. But you can use a rolling pin, and the entire ball of dough as well. Gravity is your greatest ally here, so stretch the dough by allowing it to hang in the air, as you gently manipulate it onto a circular shape. Heat the oven to 450º. Once the dough is stretched to the proper size, place it on a pizza stone or baking sheet. For a traditional pizza, add your toppings now. Bake for 15 minutes, or until cooked through and gently browned. Serve immediately, or cool before freezing.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Ladies Who Lunch, Part One

One of the most rewarding parts of being vegan is cooking for others, and seeing the enjoyment on their faces when they realize how good this food is. I had the pleasure of cooking for my friend Jessica recently. She is a real foodie, and has made me so many delicious meals that I wanted to wow her. I fretted for days, and tore through cookbooks pondering my menu. In the end I settled on my salad pizza with homemade whole wheat crusts, tomato basil soup, and chocolate pudding pie. You’d have to ask her, but I think it went over pretty well. So make this for someone you love, and introduce them to the joy that is compassionate food.

Congratulations to Jessica for being the first human being to appear on my blog!
Tomato Basil Soup

1 onion diced
2 carrots chopped
2 cloves garlic minced
2 large cans diced tomatoes
2 small cans vegetable stock
½ cup basil julienned
Salt and pepper

Sauté the onions and carrots in a large pot until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for one minute more. Add the tomatoes and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes. Take ⅔ of the soup mixture and put it through a food mill. Return to the pot. Alternatively, you can put the whole mixture in a blender or food processor and blend until it’s smooth, but still a bit chunky. Add half of the basil to the soup mixture, and reheat. When it’s warm, serve with the remaining basil as a garnish.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

A Minestrone Awakening

Minestrone and I have had a complicated relationship. It’s long been a favorite of my mother’s, so I’ve been eating it all my life. But, I can’t say it’s ever been a favorite of mine. It has its upsides, like it’s quick and easy, accommodating to a variety of ingredients, and so good for you. But, I was never crazy about it…until now! One of the little known joys of going vegan is a taste bud awakening. I don’t know if the dairy and meat make it hard to taste other ingredients, but in the last few months, everything tastes better, and more alive than ever. Even things I used to make taste more vibrant and flavorful than I remembered. So when I ate this minestrone, it was like meeting for the first time. It was so good! It’s sitting in my refrigerator right now, and I want another bowl of it. It’s also perfect for summer (see my summer corn) or winter vegetables. It’s great to have in the freezer with a loaf of my favorite garlic bread to break out on days you just don’t feel like cooking. So, if you feel like you need something warm and nourishing, root around in your refrigerator and make a pot tonight!


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion chopped
1 clove garlic chopped
5 cups vegetable stock
1 large can tomatoes with liquid
2 carrot
½  head of cabbage
1 cup green beans
1 cup wax beans
1 can kidney beans
1 can white beans
¼ cup basil
1 tablespoon oregano
A pinch of sugar
A splash of balsamic vinegar
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper
5 cups spinach

Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the onion and carrots and garlic and sauté until soft. Add the stock, tomatoes, green and wax beans, cabbage, basil, oregano, sugar, and bay leaf. Simmer until vegetables are tender, but not limp, about 20 minutes. Add the beans, balsamic vinegar, and spinach. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot!

Herb Garlic Bread

1 loaf Ciabatta bread
2 cloves garlic minced
1 cup assorted herbs (basil, parsley, oregano, thyme, rosemary, etc.) chopped
¼ cup olive oil plus a little more
Salt and pepper

Heat oven to 375º. Slice the bread into two thinner slabs, running parallel to the cutting board. In a large sauté pan, add the olive oil and garlic, cooking until tender, about 1 minute. Add the herbs and cook until wilted. Spread across one half of the bread. Drizzle the other half with extra olive oil. Sandwich together and wrap in foil. Place in the oven for ten minutes. Then, open the bread so both halves are facing up, and broil until golden, about 5 minutes. Slice and serve. You can also cut the loaf in halves, or even thirds before baking, depending upon how many people you are serving, and freeze the rest. Reheat in a 375º oven for 15 to 20 minutes, then broil for five minutes at the end.