Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Vegan BBQ "Ribs"

One of my younger brothers, recently married, came to visit last month with his wife, and since I was making them vegan dinner I wanted it to be good, rather than the tasty-but-unimpressive fare I usually consume, too lazy to put much effort into cooking unless I need to. Why shouldn't I have cereal for dinner, after all? So I made them edamame, and some of my fried seitan strips with vegan chili mayo to dip it in. (There was going to be pasta with mushrooms too, but I didn't have time to finish it, and anyway that's incidental to this post.) As I was explaining to them what seitan is before dinner, my brother surprised me by saying that he knew what it was, and that he'd eaten it often while living in Chile. I was astonished and pleased. My brother had spent some amount of time there living with a vegetarian who did most of their cooking, and who would often make dishes using vital wheat gluten, so he was well acquainted with it. (He really enjoyed my fried seitan strips, by the way.)

For the unfamiliar, seitan is dough made from vital wheat gluten. Wheat flour minus starch equals gluten. Vital wheat gluten can be found in bulk in health food-type stores, and even major groceries can be seen to carry little boxes of Hodgson Mill brand wheat gluten, either in the organic section or in the baking section (it's often used in making bread).

Anyway, my brother promised to send me some of those recipes once he got back home, and this is the first one of them that I've tried out: vegan "ribs". I enjoyed it immensely. The "ribs" turn out crunchy on the outside and juicy inside, and flavorful, and they satisfy that craving for savory foods. They're best eaten the same day you make them, as they become chewy and less impressive (though certainly still delicious!) after a night of refrigeration.

Vegan Ribs
2 Cups vital wheat gluten
1/3 Cup nutritional yeast flakes (not the same thing as brewer's yeast! go to a health foods store for this.)
2 Tablespoons paprika
1 Tablespoon salt (really, I use only half a Tablespoon, and it seems fine to me)
2 Cups cold water
1/2 Cup smooth peanut butter
1 large onion, minced small
1/2 Cup olive oil
2 Cups barbecue sauce

In a large bowl, thoroughly stir together the gluten, yeast, paprika and salt. Pour in the water all at once and quickly mix with a fork or spoon. Additional water may be necessary to moisten all of the dry gluten. Don't worry that the ball is rather solid, it is supposed to be. Pour off any excess water.

If you want your ribs chewy, leave the ball just as it is. If you want it slightly less chewy, knead it by hand for 1 to 2 minutes. Return it to the bowl, and coat with smooth peanut butter on all sides. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onion; cook and stir until golden brown. Remove from the heat. Pour the onion and oil over the ball of gluten. Poke the ball several times with a chopstick, knife or even a fork, to allow the oil to soak into the ball. Let cool.

When the ball is just warm enough to be manageable, use your hands to mix the oil and onions in. There will be a lot of oil that will not mix in and tiny pieces of gluten that will not stay attached. That's okay. The oil mainly helps the gluten absorb the spice. Just mix as much as you can.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

Break off chunks of dough and shape them into strips by pulling and twisting. You want them to be about 4 inches long and 1/2 inch thick. Don't try cutting these, or rolling them out, as that will make them behave more like bread and change the texture appreciably. Place the strips on a greased baking sheet.

Bake for 40 minutes in the preheated oven. Remove from the oven and coat each piece liberally with barbecue sauce, then return to the oven for another 10 minutes.


Monday, February 7, 2011

For the Furry Friends: Birthday PupCakes

Today was my dog's third birthday so I thought I'd make her a sweet little treat. With the exception of cracker topping (which you could sub with whatever you like or leave out altogether), it's also gluten-free. She woofed it down so I think it was a hit!
Banana Oat Birthday PupCakes

1 ½ cup steel oats
1 tbsp. baking soda
2 ripe bananas
1 cup water
1 tbsp. agave nectar
1 tbsp. unsulphured molasses
Splash of vanilla (just a drop!)
Crushed crackers (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Put cupcake liners in a pan. Grind the oats in a food processor. Add the baking soda and pulse until combined. Transfer the oat mixture to a medium mixing bowl. Add to the food processor one of the bananas, water, agave, molasses and vanilla. Process until smooth and bubbly. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and whisk or beat to combine. Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes (mine took about 24 minutes on the nose!)

Let the pupcakes cool on a wire rack. Once they’re ready to frost, pulse the other banana in the food processor until some big banana chunks remain. Spoon it over the top of the pupcake. Sprinkle crushed crackers (if you have gluten-free, go for it!) over the top and serve. Your pup will thank you for it.

This recipe was inspired by (and vegan-ized) from the banana carob chip dog cake recipe here.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Joy of Snacking: Slow-Cooker Roasted Nuts

A series of ideas for flavored nuts, from Fresh From The Vegetarian Slow Cooker. These are very easy to crank out on a slow evening, and you can store them in a container in the fridge for snacking over the rest of the week.

Cajun Nuts
1 pound (or 4 Cups) of any raw unsalted nuts
1/4 Cup olive oil
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp celery salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

In a slow cooker, combine the nuts with the olive oil, and mix until they are evenly coated. Cover and cook on High for 15 minutes. Add the spices, and stir thoroughly to coat. Reduce the temperature to Low and cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, for 2 1/2 hours. When finished, spread the nuts on a baking sheet to cool.


Ginger-spiced Nuts
1 pound (or 4 Cups) of any raw unsalted nuts
1/4 Cup corn oil or other mild-tasting oil
1/3 Cup packed light brown sugar
1 Tbsp ground crystallized ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice

In a slow cooker, combine the nuts with the oil, and mix until they are evenly coated. Add the brown sugar, and stir thoroughly to coat. Cover and cook on High for 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature to Low and cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until the nuts are coated with a crisp glaze, about 2 hours. In a separate bowl, mix the spices, and sprinkle the mixture over the nuts, stirring to coat evenly. When finished, spread the nuts on a baking sheet to cool.


Tamari Nuts
1 pound (or 4 Cups) of any raw unsalted nuts
3 Tbsp peanut oil
3 Tbsp soy sauce
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

In a slow cooker, combine all the ingredients, and mix until they are evenly coated. Cover and cook on High for 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature to Low and cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, for 2 1/2 hours. When finished, spread the nuts on a baking sheet to cool.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Did someone say RAW?

Making the truly life-altering change to 'become' vegan is challenging on many levels. And we really do become something different - it's not a simple grocery-list adjustment. This change comes from a freshly opened mind to a concept you may have never considered previously. And if you're not consistently eating from non-animal sources, just remember that every meal you eat -- No -- every portion of every meal that you've exchanged for a non-animal source product, you are making a difference. You are adding to the demand. You're probably also, whether you realize it or not, making a positive impact on someone you know.

It's against our gregarious human nature to go against the flow, so it's no wonder that only 1% of the US population is vegan and 10% that do not consume flesh. Every time you take a step in the direction away from the majority, you are relying on your own mental capacity as an animal with a cerebrum and not on your caveman instincts. You're leaving conformity behind and stepping into your brain's shoes and evolving - go you!
If we are 'supposed' to eat flesh and therefore we 'should', then should we not also crap where we want and breed indiscriminately? You tell me. We're an evolved species with the resources to eat to our optimum health without requiring animals as a source of any nutrition.

It just so happens that I am currently re-living that life-changing experience of a diet change. I've been vegan for nearly four years and during that time I've probably consumed 80% starchy vegetables and grains (potatoes, rice, pasta), 10% beans, 9% fruit, and maybe 1% leafy greens or other veggies. I'm serious! I am an unhealthy vegan! There. I said it.         And boy, it's not easy.

So after much research (just like when I was discovering the atrocities of factory farming and the alternatives to a Standard American Diet before choosing a vegan lifestyle) I have decided to try eating raw foods. My goal is to ease into the exclusively raw diet over a period of 30-45 days and then 'go raw' for 12 weeks. I won't be disappointed if I do not succeed because I'm not causing any suffering by not eating my daily spinach. But I would enjoy the benefits of a healthier body and vitality. So fingers crossed.

Here is my favorite raw recipe from the book, "Thrive, The Vegan Nutrition Guide to Optimal Performance in Sports and Life" by Brendan Brazier (vegan triathlete):

Blueberry Rooibos Antioxidant Smoothie (antioxident rich)

1 banana
2 c cold water (or 1.5 c water plus 1 cup ice)
1/2 c blueberries
1 tbs ground flax
1tbs hemp protein
1 tbs agave nectar
1 tbs hemp oil
2 tsp ground rooibos (leave this out to make it raw)

Combine all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. Makes 2 large servings.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Vegetable Pot Pie

My dad actually whipped this up for me in several little individual casserole pans. It’s absolutely fantastic! With all that starch it's certainly stick-to-your-ribs comfort food, but it's a real treat on a cold night.

Vegan Veggie Pot Pie


1/2 onion, diced
1 stalk of celery, diced
1 tsp. vegetable oil
3 potatoes, chopped and peeled
1 cup frozen vegetable medley
1/4 can green beans
1/4 cup white rice
2 lasagna noodles, broken into small pieces
1 1/2 cup vegetable broth
1/2 tsp. nutritional yeast
1/4 tsp. cayenne
Salt and pepper to taste


vegan crescent rolls, rolled flat and cut to the size of your casserole pan(s)

Saute the onions and celery in a pan until caramelized. Meanwhile, place your potatoes in a pot and cover with water. Bring them to a boil and then reduce heat to medium. Cook the potatoes until soft enough to be pierced with a knife. Drain the potatoes. Place them back in the pot with all the other filling ingredients. Simmer the mixture for 12 to 20 minutes, until your rice and lasagna are perfectly cooked.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Line the bottom of your casserole pan with a layer of crescent roll. Top with pot pie filling and the other layer of pie crust. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Let it cool and sink right in!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Pasta in a Rice Cooker

I love my rice cooker. It makes it so easy to whip up a cup or three of rice to go with beans or curry or anything else. I'd heard that you can cook other things in a rice cooker besides just rice, but hadn't branched out and attempted any. That is, not until a good friend of mine shared with me his method of cooking pasta in one. It's so easy, I've been doing it several times a week. Thanks, Pug! If you have a rice cooker, give this a try. And if you don't, start dropping the hints for a birthday present. :3

Rice Cooker Pasta
2 Cups water
1 Cup tomato sauce
2 Cups pasta (any type except for spaghetti)
1 tsp olive oil
1/8 tsp salt
(optional) 1/4 tsp Italian seasoning (or whatever you enjoy)
(optional) minced garlic or garlic powder to taste
(optional) 1/2 to 1 Cup "add-ins" of any sort. (I use 1/2 Cup of TVP chunks.)
(optional) 1 Tbsp nutritional yeast flakes (makes it so creamy)

Combine everything in the rice cooker, and press the button! Towards the end, I get up and stir everything a bit because some of it tends to get stuck to the bottom of the pot. Just be careful not to burn yourself, or tip the bowl too much if you have to scrape - you risk lifting it off of the pressure sensor too soon and turning off the cooker. I highly recommend including the nutritional yeast. It gives the sauce a creaminess that is wonderful. You could probably replace the tomato sauce with any other sort of sauce or water-and-seasonings you can think of, too.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Vegans Love the Holidays, Too

Got a vegan on your holiday shopping list and not sure what to get? Here are a few ideas to get the ball rolling.

1. VegNews magazine supscription. 2. A useful tool for soy lovers, the Tofu Xpress 3. Vegan-friendly books and literature, such as The China Study by T. Colin Campbell, PhD. 4. Screenprinted produce bags from Wonder Thunder. 5. Color Me Vegan cookbook by Colleen Patrick-Godreau. 6. Appetite for Reduction by Isa Chandra Moskowitz 7. Allison's Gourmet assorted vegan chocolates.