February 24, 2008

Brain Food: Mexican Oatmeal Soup

Posted in dinner, recipe, soup at 2:35 am by veganalects

My room is a sty. I haven’t had clean socks in days. I have three loads of laundry, 150 pages of reading, and a fearsome paper to do this weekend. But there’s always dinner.

I pried myself out from under the crushing pile of obligations long enough to make said dinner, as dining hall vegan hot dogs seemed somehow less than appealing. Good meals to good think!

My mom sent me a veganized recipe from the New York Times Bread and Soup Cookbook which she figured would be simple and quick enough for a college vegan to make. I had most of the ingredients on hand and a grocery store run covered the rest.

I further adapted my mom’s adaptation by adding spinach and cayenne to the recipe, so I figure it’s different enough from the original to reproduce here. Oatmeal soup sounded a little strange to me initially, but it was quite tasty. The oatmeal gives it a nice texture and substance, and, well, I always like spinach. I eat cayenne on everything these day; you probably should too. The soup was indeed fast enough for a busy college student to make. On a crusty dorm stove, to boot.

(Sort of) Mexican Oatmeal Soup
Serves Six…or one, with five days of leftovers!

1 1/3 cups rolled oats
4 Tbs olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 large cloves garlic, crushed
1 medium (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes, or 2 large fresh tomatoes
6 cups vegetable broth*
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cayenne (or more, to taste)
3-4 cups loosely packed spinach
black pepper, to taste

1. Toast the rolled oats in a large heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until they are brown but not burned. Set them aside in a bowl.

2. Heat the oil in the skillet; add the onion and garlic and sauté briefly.

3. Add the tomatoes, broth, salt, cayenne, and oats. Simmer for 6 minutes over medium heat.

4. Add the spinach and stir in until wilted. Grind pepper liberally over soup and serve immediately.

*Because this soup is simple and barely spiced, the quality of the soup will depend largely on the quality of the vegetable broth. Homemade broth is ideal, but I know I don’t have time for that. Make sure the ingredients don’t include too many things that aren’t vegetables; you might need to try a few brands before you find one you like.


February 17, 2008

Luscious Lemon Bars

Posted in baking, dessert, Veganomicon at 2:11 am by veganalects

I was hoping to make these lemon bars from Veganomicon before I came back to school, but life (and packing) took over and I never got the chance. When I got here one of my (omnivorous) friends raved about them to me. That was all the motivation I needed to make them.

I had never made anything with either agar flakes or arrowroot before. Thickeners are crazy! The bars weren’t hard to make, but I wasn’t sure whether I was handling the thickeners properly. A word of advice: don’t get boiling agar on your hands. Not only will it burn, it will stick to you most persistently. Eventually everything mixed smoothly and I filled the crust and set the bars out to cool.

Having had a half dozen tasters for these, I can say confidently that they’re a hit. Whatever reservations my friends had about the lemon bars’ radioactive hue (hard to detect in this picture) disappeared after the first bite. Want testimonials? “Oh my god, I’m majoring in lemon bar eating.” Fact: making these lemon bars has been proven to increase your popularity by at least 46%.

That said, I should point out that their texture is different from that of the lemon bars I used to eat. The agar makes it quite gelatinous, smooth, and firm (“like a petri dish,” said the lemon bar majorer, and with good reason: most petri dishes are made of agar). The lemon bars I remember from my pre-vegan days were basically thick lemon custard over shortbread. I might try to recreate them someday. Please don’t let that turn you off, though—the only reason we have one lemon bar left is that I’m saving it for the friend who recommended them.

February 10, 2008

Chickpea Curry

Posted in dinner, recipe at 5:16 pm by veganalects

Yikes. Is it Sunday? How did that happen?

Well, I kind of know how it happened. My lovely long winter break ended and I went back to college. In other words, my free time suddenly disappeared and my kitchen became a filthy stove and a clogged sink. So, unfortunately, I won’t be updating (or cooking) as frequently as I have been. I will make my best effort to keep posting regularly, though—but now regularly will probably be a couple times a week. Yesterday I drove to Cleveland to stock up at Whole Foods, so now I can actually get back to cooking. (I’m planning to make lemon bars. Oh yeah.)

In the meantime, here’s a recipe for my favorite dish ever. My parents make it whenever I come home because it’s always the first thing I want to eat. I think it came from my dad’s grad school days, but it’s been substantially adapted to our tastes since then.

Chickpea Curry
serves six to seven

vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1 green pepper, chopped
1 large (28-oz.) can diced tomatoes
(or about 4 large fresh tomatoes)
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp or more cayenne
at least 2 tsp salt
pinch (or more) cinnamon
pinch (or more) cloves
pinch (or more) black pepper
2 large (25-oz.) cans chickpeas, plus at least some of the liquid
olive oil
2-3 Tbs lemon juice
chopped cilantro (or parsley) to taste

1. Sauté onion in oil until translucent.

2. Add garlic and green pepper. Continue to sauté until the pepper is softened.

3. Add tomatoes, turmeric, cumin, cayenne, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and black pepper. Cook 5 minutes.

4. Add chickpeas with quite a bit of the liquid. Simmer for a half hour or more.

5. Stir in lemon juice and garnish with cilantro or parsley just before serving. Serve over rice.

February 2, 2008

Chai Latte Cupcakes

Posted in baking, cupcakes, dessert, VCTOTW at 5:54 am by veganalects

Aren’t beverage-themed cupcakes inexplicably delightful? I can’t seem to stop making them. I love chai lattes, so I figured I couldn’t go wrong with this recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.

Oh my god, let’s just start with the batter. I could have called it a chai latte and drunk it from a cup. The spices were exactly right and it was so creamy and delicious. (Yeah, I lick the bowl. No salmonella risk, right?) Since I was aiming for a solid version of the drink, though, I restrained myself and put them in the oven.

Actually, I think I might have kept them in the oven a tiny bit too long. They were a little spongier than the other cupcakes I’ve made from VCTOTW, but it was certainly nothing grave. They were still good. The only thing I would change in the future is the frosting, actually; I thought they could have used something moist and creamy on top instead of the sugar and spices they recommend. If you wanted to make it really authentic, you could even top it with vegan whipped cream. Ooh, I should do that next time.

February 1, 2008

Sort Of South-by-Southwest Dinner

Posted in dinner, seitan, the Challenge, Veganomicon at 6:15 am by veganalects

Okay, I must admit that this is a meal of ambiguous origins. The corn pudding is southwestern, the collard greens are southern, and the hot seitan “wings” are…from Buffalo? It’s not really a Buffalo wings kind of sauce, though. One thing I’m sure of: it all came from my kitchen.

The Veganomicon Southwestern Corn Pudding caught my eye when I saw it on Vegan Dad. I just wasn’t sure what to make it with. The pudding looked like a bit of work, so I wanted one salty/filling thing and one green thing to go with it that wouldn’t be too labor-intensive.

I settled on seitan for the salty/filling component and collard greens for the green component (you can only eat so much spinach and kale, after all). The former I marinated in the Hot Sauce from Veganomicon‘s Hot Sauce-Glazed Tempeh. (I could have just coated the seitan in Frank’s Red Hot—I practically drink that stuff by the gallon—but I could only find generic! I bought it and it’s just not the same.) Then I coated it in Ener-G Egg Replacer and cornstarch and pan-fried it (a trick I learned from VeganYumYum), topping with more marinade. I used the leftover hot sauce, garlic, and a few drops of liquid smoke to sauté the collards. I’d never cooked collard greens before and I think I could have left them in the pan a little longer. How tender are they supposed to get?

The seitan and the greens were good, but the star of this meal was clearly the corn pudding. It’s not very photogenic, but don’t let that fool you. It’s full of different colors, flavors, and textures. It’s creamy from the coconut milk; it’s crunchy from the corn and red pepper. It’s yellow from the corn (duh), but it’s flecked with red and green from the pepper, scallions, and cilantro. It’s a little sweet and a little salty but mostly just good. Yeah, it’s not the fastest recipe, but I thought it warranted a late dinner. If you like corn—or if you miss summer—make this pudding.

January 31, 2008

Broccoli Soup with Roasted Red Pepper Coulis

Posted in dinner, soup, the Challenge at 8:58 pm by veganalects

My internet was down for a couple days, so I have some posts to make up. Don’t worry, I’ll keep them brief. I made this soup from VeganYumYum when I wanted vegetable soup that was hearty and filling. We all liked it a lot because it has lentils and soymilk, so it sticks your ribs. All it requires is a slice of crusty bread for sopping up the bowl.

What really makes the soup, though, is the roasted red pepper coulis (forgive the psychedelic pattern). Roasting peppers over a gas stove is so much fun. It might make your kitchen smell weird, but trust me, it’s worth it. The maple syrup and the tahini in the coulis complement each other well, and the sweetness of the whole thing contrasts nicely with the savory soup. I recommend making crazy shapes out of the coulis. Faces would be good.

Quick Update: An Omnivore’s Opinion

Posted in dessert, dinner, tofu, Veganomicon at 8:09 pm by veganalects

A couple nights ago a family friend came over for dinner who seemed a bit leery of vegan food. I decided to recycle two of our favorite recipes that I’ve posted about before—no experimenting when doubting omnivores come to dinner. Sure, my dad’s an omnivore, but he’s related to me, so it’s no disaster if I make him something less than dazzling. I made VeganYumYum‘s Pan-Fried Tofu, Kale, and Stir-Fried Noodles and Veganomicon‘s Tea Poached Pears in Chocolate Sauce for dessert.

These recipes worked before and they didn’t fail me this time, either. I may not have dispelled the idea that vegans subsist on tofu, but I hope I at least demonstrated that we eat good tofu. Our friend seemed to like both components of the meal; he’s not the type to gush, but he did compliment. Good enough for me.


January 29, 2008

Oops, I made brunch.

Posted in brunch, tofu, VwaV at 3:18 am by veganalects

I said I was switching to dinners again—and I have—but one of my best friends just came back from El Salvador last night, so of course we had to see each other immediately. And of course brunch had to be involved. As the vegan brunch pickings are pretty slim in my ten mile radius, it looked like cooking was in the cards.

I wanted to test out the Sour Cream Pancakes recipe again to verify the proportions, but it I was also craving something salty. I love a good tofu scramble and I was feeling rather lazy. My friend and I (well, more she than I) made the Scrambled Tofu from Vegan with a Vengeance and ate it in style—with a tablecloth and everything. We both liked it a lot. (And isn’t that some foxy grated carrot?) It’s nice to have a good tofu scramble in my repertoire.

And for the record—the pancakes were just as good this time around.

January 28, 2008

Kid Tested, Mother (and Father) Approved

Posted in dinner, pasta, the Challenge at 4:26 am by veganalects

No, not Kix. (Though I do love my Kix.) I’m talking about vegan mac and cheese.

I was very pleased with the recipe from FatFree Vegan Kitchen, and while I’ve been meaning to try other recipes, I always just feel like making that one. It’s quick, simple, and so good. So when I promised to make lunch today and realized that the cupboard was rather bare, it seemed a divine signal to see how my parents reacted to cheeseless mac and cheese.

Thumbs up! They both had seconds and my dad almost went for thirds. True, that may have had something to do with how long I kept them waiting for it, but I think they liked it, too.

Tomorrow: back to making actual dinners.

January 26, 2008

Sour Cream Silver Dollar Pancakes

Posted in brunch, recipe, the Challenge at 7:50 pm by veganalects

There are two schools of thought when it comes to pancakes. Some prefer sweet batter; some prefer neutral or slightly savory batter. I am a card-carrying member of the Savory Pancake Society, and I can debate passionately about sugarless pancakes’ superiority over their sweetened counterparts. In my book, sweet batter + maple syrup = too sugary. I like the sweet-salty contrast and I like to let the syrup speak for itself. But it’s really just a matter of taste, and no debating can change that. If you share my taste in pancakes, read on. (Or just skip to the recipe and make it immediately.)

What with all the pancakes sprouting up on vegan blogs these days, I could no longer resist making some of my own. I skipped my standard pancake recipe in favor of one I’ve been curious about for a couple years now: the Sour Cream Pancakes in the 1961 New York Times Cook Book. I don’t know why I didn’t make these sooner, but sometimes things need to lie dormant in my mind for a few years before I get around to doing them.

I used Tofutti sour cream for this (I almost got adventurous and used my leftover cilantro sour cream before I realized it has roasted garlic in it—not what I want in my pancakes). Homemade sour cream would probably work too, but I can’t vouch for it. I’ll have to try it out and let you know how it goes. Obviously I veganized this recipe, but I also altered it by adding a significant amount of soy creamer to improve the consistency. I’ll include my version here.

But I’m getting off track. Here’s the verdict: these were great! To return to my sweet vs. savory rant, I loved the slightly salty, slightly sour notes that come from the sour cream. For obvious reasons, these pancakes are also creamier and smoother than most. Their only downside is that the batter is a funny consistency and takes a little bit of coaxing into shape. But that’s really not hard. I made silver dollar pancakes because they’re easier in my pan, but I’m sure bigger ones would work well too.

Sour Cream Pancakes
adapted from the NY Times Cook Book
makes 14 silver dollar pancakes

1 cup flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
1 ¼ cups vegan sour cream (homemade or Tofutti, as long as it doesn’t have things that would be gross in pancakes)
1 Ener-G egg replacement
½ cup + 2 Tbs soy creamer (soymilk also works)

1. In a large mixing bowl, sift or mix together flour, salt, and baking soda.

2. In a small mixing bowl, combine sour cream, Ener-G egg, and soy creamer. Pour into the flour mixture and stir gently until just mixed. Do not beat.

3. Heat a griddle or skillet (do yourself a favor and use non-stick if you have it), grease lightly if necessary, and drop the batter by ¼ cupfuls onto it, spreading carefully into ¼ inch-thick circles. When bubbles break on top of the pancakes, check the underside with a spatula. If it’s golden brown, flip and cook on the other side until that’s golden brown as well.

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