Updates coming, I promise

October 8, 2009

Work is starting to slow down and I can get into the kitchen at home again. I’ve got some stuff stashed and ready, but don’t want to post it until I can be sure they’ll be a steadier stream of updates.

We interrupt the complete dearth of meaningful posts

August 31, 2009

to inform you that vegan cheese has finally hit the big time. Daiya is as good as it’s been billed – leaps and bounds above Teese (which was no slouch, either). Hopefully they don’t pull an Emes on all of us.

Shiitake Mushroom and Bok Choy Udon Noodles

August 19, 2009

Lo Mein

I love Asian-influenced noodle dishes. Lo mein, udon noodles, buckwheat noodles. But I’ve always reserved them for dining out. Why? I can’t make the sauce taste as good as a restaurant. Until now. Well, almost.

There’s a particular udon noodle that my wife and I love. It’s precooked and in the refrigerated section at the Dekalb Farmer’s Market. They’re pillowy soft and gigantically thick and work well as a quick stir fry or as a ramen-type ingredient. I’ll take a picture of the packaging next time I pick them up.

While we were there, I also grabbed some shiitake mushrooms and some baby bok choy. I like baby bok choy leaves, but the stalk has never been my favorite. So I came up with a way to make it a bit different this time around.

I trimmed the leaves into bit-sized pieces and gave a pretty fine chiffonade to the stalk, keeping them separate. I sauteed the stalk in some garlic oil until tender and added the mushroom. As soon as the mushrooms released all of their water, I added the udon noodles, the sauce and the leaves of the bok choy, stirring just until hot. This way, the stalk of the bok choy was tender and the leaves still crunchy – the best of both worlds.

The sauce this time around was some kind of crazy concoction of the following: cherry butter (by McCutheon’s), soy sauce, dijon mustard, sweet chili sauce, teriyaki sauce, no chicken base (by Better Than Bouillon), dried ginger and cornstarch. I was on a roll and didn’t measure anything or write it down, and considering I made this over a month ago, the fact that I can remember everything (I hope) I put into it is an accomplishment all on its own. The key was the cherry butter which has a wonderfully complex flavor filled with vanilla and cinnamon. It’s become my favorite jam/jelly and I routinely enjoy it with whatever nut butter I’ve made (walnut was the most recent).

While it was no restaurant-quality, it did relieve some of my fears of being able to duplicate it at home and I can’t wait to try it again.

Krispy Kreme-Style Doughnuts, Veganized

August 6, 2009

Vegan Doughnuts

I’ve started deep frying again. I got rid of my Fry Daddy several years ago and never looked back. But you just can’t beat a deep-fried french fry. Really, it all started with me wanting to make my own potato chips (something I still plan on doing). Then I realized I could make doughnuts, too.

I had made the baked ones before (bought a mini doughnut pan and everything – used it once), but never the fried variety. So, with family in town, I decided to treat them for breakfast. Twice. I knew I didn’t want them to be like the baked variety, leaving me with Krispy Kreme-styled (read: yeast raised), so I went about finding a recipe. I came across this one and veganized it straight up. Ener-G for the eggs, soy milk for the dairy milk and Earth Balance for the butter. I also cut the recipe in down by half.

I then found this video which gave me a comfort level of being able to pull it off, so I went about it.

The whole process is pretty easy and anyone with a modicum of confidence in the kitchen (less would suffice as well) should be able to pull these off. I fried mine in my 3-gallon pot with less than 1.5 gallons of oil (to prevent it from burning down my house – I also have a fire extinguisher right next to it every time I fry something and turn off the burner when adding anything until I know it’s splatter free before turning it back on).

After removing the doughnuts from the oil I drained them on the paper towels and either glazed them (mmmmmmmm) or coated them in cinnamon and sugar (less, but still mmmmmmmm). There is nothing like still-warm fried doughnuts for breakfast. Just be prepared: it’s like a two hour process and you should start it accordingly. We ended up having them more for lunch, but that didn’t put a damper on their enjoyment.

I made them again the second day (bigger batch) but ran out of all-purpose flour, so I had to sub whole wheat. I also think I didn’t put enough yeast in the dough (I don’t measure it anymore), so they were a bit dense. I want to experiment a bit more with the recipe so I can get a good-for-you-if-you-ignore-the-fact-that-they’re-fried recipe in place.

Mango Salsa, Hummus

August 5, 2009

Mango Salsa, Hummus

For years, I’ve been telling my wife I’d make her mango salsa. And for years I’ve put it off. So, I wasn’t surprised when a mango ended up in our basket at the farmer’s market, whether I was conscious of it or not. But there it was when we got home and I was left without choice. Fruit salsas are a great summer treat and are really easy to prepare.

I diced up the mango and added some chopped cilantro, sugar, salt and a very tiny amount of cumin (very tiny). I finished it with a quick splash of Simpy Orange with Mango Juice to give it the necessary consistency. Let the flavors marinate for a few hours or overnight (or several days in my case as I ran out of time) and you’re good to. Enjoy with your favorite chip, rice or chicken subsitute.

For months I’ve been meaning to make hummus. I bought the dried beans, but they sat in my pantry forever. Until I decided to just do it. So I soaked the beans overnight and boiled them until tender. Puree in the food processor with tahini, roasted garlic, olive oil, salt and black pepper. It took me a while to find the right consistency, so I kept adding varying amounts of tahini and olive oil until it looked right (well, actually, a little looser than what you’re expecting as it will set up a bit when refrigerated). The only problem? I oversalted it. A lot.

So a few days later, I put it all back in the food processor with more soaked and boiled beans and it came out much, much better. Frankly, and not to boast, I like it better than most of the of ones you can buy in the store. The other problem? I made too much. Like a half gallon, which is a lot of hummus for two people. But, it can be frozen with very good results. So I put it in smaller containers and froze it so I can pull it out as needed.

Vegetable Lasagna

August 4, 2009

Vegetable Lasagna

We’ve been trying to eat more locally (much to the chagrin of my wife, who thought I was crazy before). So, we hit up a few of the local farmer’s markets to see what kind of produce we could find. It’s pretty hit-or-miss, but a few weeks ago, we managed to get a good haul:

Roma Tomatoes
Zucchini
Yellow Squash
Eggplant
Vidalia Onions
Bell Peppers
Shiitake Mushrooms
Peaches

We had gone into the shopping day with the intention of making two things: marinara sauce and lasagna with said marinara sauce, so we got exactly what we needed (and a few peaches).

I made my standard marinara sauce with the tomatoes, onions and bell peppers and thinly sliced the the squashes and eggplant, salting them to draw out the water. We did have a difficult time finding whole wheat lasagna noodles. It seems as though when I don’t need them they’re everywhere and when I’m looking specifically for them I can’t find ’em. We settled for some organic noodles with jerusalem artichoke flour, which were pretty good.

To approximate the ricotta cheese, I had an idea that turned out to work extremely well. I took some Teese and put in the food processor, added roasted garlic oil, dried basil and some breadcrumbs until it go to the consistency of ricotta. Perfect. And delicious. My first attempt a few years ago was a disaster. I tried using mashed cannellini beans and vegan parmesan. Not terrible, but not even close to giving the same flavor or texture.

Layer up the lasagna as follows: thin layer of sauce, noodles, Teese, vegetables, repeat. I finished mine with julienned shittakes and sauce, foregoing the traditional final layer of cheese. Bake at 350 degrees until you can easily insert a fork all the way through to the bottom of the pan (about 40 minutes). Lasagna is one of those really easy dishes that pack a lot of “wow” when entertaining.

Seared Potatos, Asparagus, Gardein Brochettes

August 3, 2009

Seared Potatoes, Asparagus

I’ve been hearing such good things about Gardein’s line of plant-based proteins, and having been a fan of their Meal Starter Strips, I was elated to find the whole line available at my local Kroger. Even better, they had a $1 off coupon attached to each kind. So, I grabbed them all.

I wasn’t entirely sure what to do with the “beef” brochettes, but I figured a very traditional potato, asparagus and “beef” dish was in order. Not wanting to take the time to mash the potatoes, I went with seared slices. As always, a nice hot pan is in order. I made a olive oil, garlic, dried basil, salt and black pepper marinade of sorts and dredged the potatoes in it before adding to the pan to sear. After I got a nice color on each side, I put them in a very low oven until everything else was ready.

Using the same pan, I sauteed the asparagus while I prepared the brochettes according to the package directions. A little ketchup for my wife and we were in business. Pretty easy, and quick meal, all-in-all.

Seared Potatoes, Asparagus, Gardein Brochettes

Busy, not dead

July 24, 2009

April-October is a really busy time for me and these past few weeks have been even more so. I’ll be back, hopefully soon, with a ton of good stuff (vegan donuts!).

Vegetable Fajita Quesadilla, Guacamole

July 14, 2009

Vegetable Fajita Quesadilla, Guacamole

One of my wife’s guilty pleasure used to be a chicken fajita quesadilla, which, as you might surmise, is a quesadilla stuffed with everything that would normally be served with fajitas – notably onions and peppers. It had been literally years since I had a quesadilla myself (vegan cheese sorely lacking – until recently) so I decided to try and approximate her guilty pleasure. And the results were immaculate.

I’m not one to just throw a bunch of onions and peppers in something and call them vegetables and be done, but she was pretty adamant about not using things like broccoli and cauliflower. So I went with a pretty standard mix of zucchini, yellow squash and carrots – all diced small – in addition to the onions and peppers. In a very hot pan I added some garlic oil (a shock, I know) and began to sautee the vegetable mix until everything was cooked through.

While that was sauteeing I shredded some Teese so that as soon as the vegetables were done I could combine everything in a bowl. I’m glad I didn’t try to add Teese directly to the pan – it would have melted too fast – as well as not trying to use it from a cold state. Adding the hot vegetable mixture to the cold Teese in a separate bowl was the perfect idea.

I laid out my whole wheat tortillas, filled them halfway and began to sear each one individually to get the optimum crust. The key here is to have a hot pan, low amount of oil and not be scared of hot things – it will allow you to keep an eye on the bottom of the pan without flipping too early or too late.

Before all of that had begun, however, I had made some guacamole. I love guacamole – I eat at work almost daily. I also criticize guacamole a bit too harshly. It sounds like it’s a really easy dish/condiment to make, but to make a really good guacamole takes more than just an avocado, salt and lime juice.

For mine I use the following in varying amounts – literally until it tastes right:
Avocado
Lime Juice (I cheated and used the bottled stuff – shhh) [Lemon Juice will suffice as well]
Salt
Pepper
Tomatoes
Cilantro
Cumin

The key here is to get that perfect blend of salt, lime and cumin. Too much of either will overpower everything, but the right blend? Sublime.

Kitchen Cart

July 11, 2009

Kitchen Cart

I’ve been looking for a way to increase my kitchen space for about a year now. Every time I think I’ve narrowed down my options, something creeps up and I throw it all away. So, it was one random day while in Bed Bath and Beyond that I turned the corner away from the kitchen area. And what did I see? The cart I had been looking at off and on. It was bamboo. It had counter top space. It had drawers. It had a cabinet. It was less than what it cost online AND I had a 20percent off coupon. It was literally everything I wanted. So I bought it, built it and it’s seemed like I’ve doubled my productivity space. No longer am I forcing all of my kitchen utensils into one small drawer. No longer am I forced to do the dishes to make space to make more of a mess (I know, I should).