Monday, June 28, 2010

Vegan Sushi

It is one of the most common questions we get as vegans: is there any kind of food you miss? While becoming vegan has actually broadened our culinary horizon and inspired us to become more creative in the kitchen, the answer, for me anyways, is yes. Quite simply, I miss sushi. It just hasn't tasted as good without the raw fish and cream cheese.

Being vegan isn't always easy. Sometimes we find ourselves craving some of the things we have given up because of our ethical eating. However, when this happens we don't simply give in to our cravings. No, we are simply forced to rethink our old favorites. Here is our ethical sushi.

1 package of Nori sheets
1 Large cucumber, peeled and sliced thinly
1 tomato, peeled and sliced
1 avocado
1 summer squash, grilled and sliced
1/2 head of romaine lettuce
1 package Publix brand Gourmet blend mushrooms
1 carrots thinly sliced
Balsamic vinegar
Bragg's Liquid Aminos
Garlic powder

The Nori, or seaweed, is a sushi classic. I think it kind of has a fishy taste, which makes it great for replacing the raw fish. In an effort to replace the look and texture of our favorite fish, tuna, we decided to peel and slice a tomato. It occurred to me that preparing the tomato in this fashion would make it look a lot like sashimi.

The grilled squash and avocado add a rich, creamy consistency that helps to fill the void left by our old favorite, the cream cheese. Along with avocado, cucumbers and carrots are typical of most sushi rolls so we decided to include these staples along with our more creative elements.

We simmered the mushroom mix in the balsamic vinegar and Bragg's, added a pinch of garlic powder and sugar, and let it reduce. The mushrooms also add an interesting, meaty texture with a great flavor.

After watching an episode of Iron Chef America, in which the challenger used thinly sliced green papaya to wrap a sushi roll, we were inspired to try something similar with cucumbers. As you can see from the pictures, our slices were not quite thin enough, but I think this was due to a lack of technical proficiency and the absence of good, sharp knives. We were able to keep the rolls closed with toothpicks.

Served with soy sauce this light and crispy take on a summer favorite left us feeling pretty satisfied. What are your favorite vegan sushi ingredients?

*Hijacked by Chris (Golden's husband)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The usefulness of beans

I'm a little ashamed that I haven't taken full advantage of dried beans yet. They're not as convenient as canned beans, true, but they're so cheap! Get yourself a bean cookbook, or experiment on your own, and you're set. I tend to stick to cookbooks because I'm afraid of failure.

Creamy Vegetables and Beans
1 Cup cooked white beans
1 Cup cooked kidney beans
2 Cups potatoes, sliced thin or grated
1 Cup sliced cabbage, cauliflower, or broccoli
1 Cup onion, diced or shredded
1 Cup corn
1 quart boiling water
1/3 Cup wheat flour or white bean flour

If using dry beans, wash them and place them in a bowl covered by two inches of water. (Note that beans will increase in size by a factor of two to three after soaking, so half a Cup of dried beans will become one Cup of soaked beans.) Let soak for 8 hours before using. When ready, microwave for 8-10 minutes or until boiling, then reduce power to 50% and microwave for 20-40 minutes or until tender.

While the beans cook, slice up your veggies. Bring the quart of water to a boil on the stovetop, add the vegetables and cook for 15 minutes on medium heat. Mix in the flour or bean flour, it should make a watery paste. Add salt, pepper, and garlic to taste.

Stir in the cooked beans and continue cooking for 5 minutes.

Serve with bread, or over a bowl of brown rice.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Vegan Breakfast: Tofu on Toast

I was in the mood for something savory and filling this morning, thus tofu on toast was born. Bonus: I accidentally kind of made a face with my meal. If you look at it right, the green peppers look like eyes and the tomato positioned between the tofu and the toast looks like a tongue sticking out. Kind of scary, but mostly delicious.

  • Extra firm tofu
  • 1/2 green pepper
  • 1 slice of tomato and a few diced chunks
  • 1 tbsp. garlic
  • 1 piece of crusty eggless French bread
  • Shredded vegan Monterey Jack cheese
  • Tabasco sauce (optional)
To Make

Cut your piece of French bread open and toast in a 400 degree oven for several minutes. If you have a toaster oven, bully for you! That's even better. Slice a piece of tofu lengthwise about 1/2 thick. Lay the tofu flat and cut out a circular shape with the rim of a small cup. Marinate the tofu in soy sauce and black pepper for a few minutes. Meanwhile in a small saute pan, combine your garlic, green pepper and diced tomato. Cook over medium heat until the veggies turn tender. In a separate pan, saute your tofu in a well-oiled pan, flipping occasionally to fully cook either side. Remove your toast from the oven and plate. I sprinkled a little fake cheese over the toast and topped that with a slice of raw tomato. I placed the tofu on top and covered with the green peppers and diced tomato. Serve with your favorite hot sauce or vegan Hollandaise sauce.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Simple Sandwich

For those of us that have absolutely no creativity and are still pulling themselves out of the pit of tradition, here's a simple sandwich.

Just like you make any other sandwich with slices of flesh between bread, but this version is healthier, ethical, and still dee-lish.

If you walk down the bread aisle in the grocery store and randomly select a loaf, chances are it will contain some by-product of the dairy industry. The dairy industry has some of the worst atrocities of all factory farming, the least of which is forcing their cows to overproduce (note "over" produce = painful, unnatural) milk for the likes of greedy humans. If you're interested in educating yourself on the modern dairy industry, pick up a good book like "Eating Animals", "Farm Sanctuary, Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food", or countless others. Both aforementioned books contain current statistics from reliable sources.
If you can find a loaf that does not contain milk, casein (milk protein), whey (milk), or eggs, then you're golden. Some may be concerned about ingredients they aren't certain of like "calcium bicarbonate" or anything with the word "calcium" in it. Most of these are synthetic preservatives that are cheaper to make than to pull from milk. If money isn't an issue then pick a bread with no preservatives and you won't have to question the mysterious additives. If you're like me, on a shoe-string budget, then you'll avoid all products that you are knowledgeable about and buy what you can afford - Publix whole wheat. (may contain honey)

"Sandwich Slices" as we like to call them at home, are found at almost all grocery stores now. Tofurkey brand is most common, but there are others as well (like "Yves"). Many flavors to choose from, just like hunks of muscle.

Mayo & mustard, anyone? I don't like mustard, but my DH does. Mustard generally does not contain any animal products, but you'd be surprised what they add in for the industry sake, so check the label.
Mayo comes in several forms. Traditional mayonnaise is made with eggs. There are several brands of mayo that are vegan including "Nayonnaise". I like canola oil mayo - usually found in the organic or foreign foods section.

"Cheese" if you please:
Sliced vegan cheese comes in many forms now. Some made from Rice milk, some from soy. I really enjoy a good slice of American "cheese" on my sandwich!

Lettuce, sliced tomato, spinach, pickle, onion, pepper...

And that's it! Slap it all together and you have a simple, traditional (apart from being healthy and animal-less) sandwich!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Avocado and Cucumber Wrap

My friend from work has generously shared some of her garden bounty with me. Some delicious cucumbers and cherry tomatoes! It has been so hot and muggy out I have been not really feeling like a hot meal. Besides I am in the process of moving so my kitchen is mostly in boxes!

My solution for a refreshing and easy dinner-- Avocado cucumber wraps!

  • spinach wraps
  • 1 avocado sliced
  • 1 cucumber sliced long
  • hummus ( I recently discovered Publix now makes it's own and it is cheap and tasty. The jalapeno cilantro hummus is the best.)
  • several grape tomatoes sliced

Top it off with some lemon pepper, garlic powder or lettuce.
It is a great way too stay cool but satisfy your hunger on a hot summer day.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Hearty Chili

Do you know how easy it is to make chili? There are so many different ways to make chili I can't even list them all! And if you're cooking for 2 or 20, it is easy to change the recipe to accommodate the serving size.

Here's what I made for a bonfire where friends gathered:

Hearty Vegan Chili

  • Beans - any kind of canned beans. Kidney, Black, Garbanzo (chick peas), etc. I used 1 can each of red kidney beans, black beans, garbanzo beans. All drained (not rinsed).
  • Diced Tomato - I used 1 big can of diced tomatoes
  • Tomato Paste - 1 6oz can is fine
  • Liquid - water works fine if you add lots of spices, or vegetable broth. 1-2 cups, add as needed.
  • Veggies - cut up some carrots, celery, onions, scallions, garlic. All I had was carrots and celery! I used about 10 baby carrots and 3 stalks of celery.
  • BBQ Sauce - this is optional, but because I am terrible at adding the right amount of spices, I used some really tasty BBQ sauce to add the right flavor.
  • Tofu - optional, but really adds a heartiness! Get some extra firm tofu and dice into little tiny cubes. 
  • Mushrooms - I had some Porcinni mushrooms I had not tried yet so I threw in a few handfuls.
  • Spices - onion powder (I didn't have onions so I sub'd with this powder), garlic powder, oregano, dried parsley, cumin, chili powder. Start with 1 tsp each and add to taste.
To Cook:
1) Oil a frying pan and cook the onions, celery, garlic until onions are translucent.
2) Add all ingredients into big pot and simmer for 30-60 minutes.

You could also throw everything into a slow cooker and check on it 8 hours later!

This is one of those meals that tastes just great 3 days later, so plan to make extra and store in a tupperware.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

'Sausage' and Biscuits

Planning on making spaghetti, the other day I bought what I thought were veggie ground rounds. I didn't notice until last night, while my pasta was already cooking, that I'd gotten veggie ground sausage instead. Oops.

Sausage wasn't something I ever really included in my breakfast - why work over a stove when I could just throw some cereal and almond milk into a bowl and go? - but I didn't want this to go to waste. I also didn't want to eat just hunks of 'meat' for breakfast by itself. So I decided on sausage and biscuits.

I have a coworker who's allergic to wheat gluten, and so whenever I want to bring in cookies or something to work I spend some time browsing the gluten-free blogs. Months ago while looking for gluten-free cookie recipes I stumbled upon this excellent recipe for scallion mushroom soup and biscuits. I saved the recipe, and tweaked it to be vegan, and today I figured her biscuit recipe, modified a tad, would be perfect for this breakfast plan. I re-glutened the recipe here to avoid confusion (in case you don't keep rice flour and xanthan gum on hand), but if you're interested in the allergen-free original version just follow the link.

Breakfast 'Sausage' and Biscuits
3-4 Tablespoons vegan margarine
1 Cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon vegan margarine, cut into small pieces
(optional) 3 scallions, washed and sliced thin
(optional) 1/2 Cup shredded vegan cheese
1/2 Cup non-dairy milk
1 packet ground veggie sausage

Preheat oven to 400 F. Put 3-4 Tablespoons of margarine into a small bread loaf pan, and put it in the oven to melt. Meanwhile, mix the flour, baking soda and powder, and salt. Rub the margarine into the flour mixture with your fingers, and add in the scallions and vegan cheese, if using. Add the milk and mix it all together. You can add a little more flour if it seems too sticky. Pull out the loaf pan with the melted margarine, and drop spoonfuls of dough into it. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

While the biscuits are cooking, form your ground veggie sausage into patties as thick or as thin as you want, and brown them in a skillet for 3-5 minutes in olive oil.

Once the biscuits are done, sandwich a sausage patty between two of them, and enjoy.

Man, I really need to get a better camera than my cell phone...

Hearty and filling, and cruelty-free!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Summer Squash Mini-Skewers

If you want to wow some vegan-skeptics this summer with a colorful and tasty dish, look no further than these summer squash mini-skewers. They look and taste gourmet, but are totally foolproof. Like, try to mess them up. You can't. Basically, you can use any yummy gourd you want, but I chose these because they were in season and so vibrantly colored. Here's how it goes:

Summer Squash Mini-Skewers

  • 1 large pattypan squash
  • 1 large golden zucchini
  • 1 yellow crookneck squash
  • 1 cup marinara sauce
  • 1 cup vegan pesto

To Make

Slice your squash into bite-sized pieces. Your squash pieces should be about 1/2 to 1 inch thick. Place a large saucepan over medium heat and (VERY LIGHTLY) spray the pan with cooking spray. You don't want your squash to be too wet or mushy, dry blackening will help prevent this. Add your squash in one layer and heat for several minutes or until blackened. Flip as needed to cook all sides evenly.

Meanwhile, heat your oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil. After your squash pieces are blackened, remove from heat and begin stacking. Place one piece of squash on your baking sheet. Top with a teaspoon of marinara. Layer a second piece of squash on top, add a teaspoon of pesto. Continue to stack squashes and alternate sauces until it's at your desired height. Hold in place with a toothpick or skewer. Bake in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, allowing your sauces to get bubbly. Garnish with dollops of marinara and pesto. Serve alone or with pasta and rice. This would also be ideal for colorful appetizers, served on crispy bread.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Traditional Salad

Do you enjoy those simple iceberg lettuce, romaine, shredded carrots, bacon bits, all swimming in ranch dressing salads you get at restaurants as a side to your meal?
My family orders "extra ranch" with their water lettuce and bacon bits... and boy did I miss ranch dressing when I swore off eating animals!

If you're craving this generally boring, simple, not incredibly nutritious traditional side salad, I've got the answer for you! No cooking necessary!

Bag of salad (any kind! The darker the leaves, the healthier)
Ranch Dressing (Organicville makes a delicious non-dairy, no-egg ranch)
Bacon Bits (there are several brands sold at common grocery stores that contain no meat!)
Baby Carrots
Tofurky sandwich slices (cut/slice cold or hot) OR Morningstar Farms® Meal Starters™ Chik'n Strips
Pepper, of course

Combine ingredients and drench in ranch dressing. Mmm mmm, good!

MorningStar Vegan Products
A List of Vegan Condiments (Bacon bits, dressings)


Friday, June 4, 2010

Living in a Non-Vegan World

Sometimes it can be really difficult being a vegan in a seemingly non-vegan world. At least, it's hard to be social in such a world. I try not to whine because this is my choice and it is one I stand by and am proud of, but it's one that certainly takes an emotional toll.

For example, in Louisiana, there is a tradition generations deep of boiling crawfish outdoors with a group of friends and a few rounds of beer. Since the last frost I have been invited to no less than five such occasions. I find these events particularly hard to stomach because those in attendance delight in tossing the live crawfish into the boiling water only to joke about the brutal act of tearing them apart, leaving piles of shells nearly a foot high on each plate. Tonight I was invited to just such an event, but chose not to go. I couldn't bear to witness yet another waste of life for the sake of a meal. But alas, this left me home alone on a Friday night...working. Not so fun.

Because I have no close friends in town that are vegan, I often have to attend such events if I want to get out of the house at all. While there--not eating anything but the dish or dessert I brought to share--I have to suffer rounds of questions and insults heaved my way about abstaining from the meal. The usual "top of the food chain," "What's the big deal?" and "eating meat is the reason humans evolved to be smart blah blah blah" not only makes me feel unwelcome, but rather angry.

Okay, okay. I feel I should say that my friends are generally supportive. But it sometimes feels as if it's only in a backhanded "Oh, how fun for you" type of way.

I guess what I'm asking is how do you all deal with this? I grew up in a very meat-eating family, have a meat-eating boyfriend and almost exclusively meat-eating friends and I feel overwhelmed with having to defend myself/my diet/my philosophy on an almost daily basis. My initial response is to state my peace, insist that I eat well (and I do!) and just stay positive, but sometimes it can be a little too much to bear. Any suggestions for leading a happy, SOCIAL vegan life would be much appreciated.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Fun with Flatbreads!

Who can resist Italian Restaurants with their pizzas, pastas, and fresh baked breads, but finding cruelty free items on the menu is often a challenge. Thats why I love experimenting with these comfort foods at home where I can make yummy savory dishes and know exactly what's going into them. I recently veganized some flatbreads and they were awesome, so I thought I'd share a recipe with you. The sky is the limit on how you can make them. Start with the first few basic steps, then get creative and add your favorite toppings, or make a variety of them and have a party.

I decided to start with a Grilled Chick'n Flatbread.

  • 1 can Pillsbury Thin Pizza Crust (find this in the refrigerated section of your favorite grocery store)
  • 2 pieces of Gardein Chick'n Scallopini
  • 2 Roma tomatoes
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • olive oil
  • italian seasoning
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 batch of cashew ricotta (recipe below)
  • *optional: shredded vegan cheese for topping. (I used Daiya Mozzarella)

Cashew Ricotta
makes about 1 cup
(this cashew ricotta recipe is enough to make 2-3 flatbreads, so buy two crusts and get creative or store the leftovers in a air tight container and refrigerate for later)
  • 1/4 cup raw cashews
  • the juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove fresh garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • combine above ingredients in a food processor or high powered blender and blend until smooth.

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Prepare Cashew Ricotta and set aside. (recipe above)
  • Chop up onion and garlic and set aside.
  • Slice Roma tomatoes into thin round slices and set aside.
  • Brown the 2 pieces of Gardein Chick'n Scallopini in a small skillet on medium heat with olive oil until golden brown. Don't over cook.
  • Sprinkle Italian seasoning and salt and pepper on Chick'n while its cooking. Cut the Chick'n into bite size pieces with a spatula while its in the skillet. Remove Chick'n from pan and set chick'n aside.
  • Add chopped onions and garlic to the pan and sauté until onions are clear and lightly browned. Remove from heat and set aside.
  • Lightly greece rectangle pan.
  • Roll out Pillsbury Thin Pizza crust onto pan and brush with olive oil. Poke holes in dough with fork so it wont bubble up while baking.
  • Put the crust into the preheated oven and pre-bake until brown, about 5 minutes or longer if you like it crispy. (this step is to prevent your crust from getting soggy when you add the other ingredients.) Remove pre-baked crust from oven.
  • Spread a thin layer of Cashew Ricotta onto the browned pizza crust.
  • Add Roma tomatoes, onions, garlic, and chick'n pieces. Spread out evenly.
  • Top with your favorite shredded vegan cheese. (*optional)
  • Put back into oven until browned to your liking or until the cheese is melted. Be sure not to over cook it if you are using vegan cheese on top.
  • Remove from oven. Let cool. Enjoy!

~ recipe by amber <3

Microwave Vegan German Potato Salad

I'm a fan of microwave cooking. You can do nearly anything in a microwave that can be done in an oven (with the unfortunate exception of certain baked goods, such as yeast breads, puff pastry, and pizza dough, among others), but with the valuable advantage of not heating up your house in the summer! The first vegan cookbook I bought myself was Nancy Berkoff's "Vegan Microwave Cookbook". It has scores of delicious microwave recipes that are easy on preparation and clean-up, making it right up my alley. Here's a filling and tangy potato dish that only takes about 15 minutes to prepare.

Vegan German Potato Salad
1/4 Cup water
4 medium boiling potatoes, peeled and quartered (those are the little red potatoes)
2 teaspoons oil
1 small onion
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablespoon flour
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
(optional) 4 vegan 'bacon' strips, crumbled
1/2 Cup water
1/4 Cup vinegar

Place the potatoes into a 2-quart container, add the 1/4 Cup water, cover and microwave on high for 10-12 minutes. While the potatoes are cooking, chop the onion and cook the vegan bacon strips if you're using them, then chop or crumble them. (If you've never used Smart Bacon before, I highly recommend it. Tastes just like bacon; you can't tell there's no cruelty!) When the potatoes are done, set them aside.

Place the onions into a small bowl with the oil and microwave for 1-2 minutes or until tender. Stir in the sugar, flour, caraway, pepper, and vegan bacon crumbles if desired, and microwave for 30 seconds. Stir in the water and vinegar and microwave for 3 minutes or until thickened. (If it seems too runny, you can add another Tablespoon of flour.) While the onion mixture cooks, slice the potatoes in the bowl to whatever size you prefer - they should be soft enough. Pour the sauce over the potatoes, stir, and microwave another 1-2 minutes. Serve hot.


Summertime Standards: The Veggie Burger

Burgers and fries are truly an American delight. While it's not the healthiest meal around, even vegans should be able to indulge every once in a while. This black bean burger is an easy dish to prepare in advance for a summertime cookout.

Vegan Black Bean Burger

  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • 1/4 cup salsa
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1/8 cup cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • few drops of hot sauce (optional)
  • 1 slice stale bread
To Make

Mix everything but the bread in a food processor until well combined. Spoon into a bowl and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight if possible. Crumble your stale bread in a food processor and add to your black bean mixture. Form into four patties by rolling each piece into a ball and flattening with your hand. Cook on a grill or saute in a frying pan on medium heat.

If you prefer a more beany texture to your patty, consider putting only half of the beans in a processor, adding the rest of the unprocessed beans to the mixture before refrigerating.