Tag Archives: brunch

Good Morning, Southern Fried Tofu with Biscuits and Gravy

So, if the concept of Meatless Mondays are to cut down on overall meat-consumption by dedicating one day to meatlessness, then I am right there with it. Much of my week is dedicated to meatlessness, in fact. But if the concept of Meatless Mondays are to invent and prepare meals that are meatless and healthier than we may normally eat… well, I may have missed the mark.

Vegan soul food exists. Anyone who tells you differently has never been down to the freaky little college towns of the South, like Athens, GA, where soul food and vegan cuisine commingle in ecstatic proportions. Then there are terrific vegan cookbooks like Alicia Simpson’s Quick and Easy Vegan Comfort Food, a book that while not strictly soul food-oriented, has more than a majority’s share of veganized Southern dishes. I have tried many of them (including a take on her pasta salad recipe) and they have all satisfied that soul food craving while being delightfully animal-free.

Today’s recipe does not come from Simpson’s cookbook. It’s a blending of a variation of recipes from different sources, VegWeb, a biscuit recipe in La Dolce Vegan, and some of my own kitchen noodling. It’s not heart-healthy, really, but it’s damn tasty. I make when I need a soul food fix, when I need something special, or when I want to make my partner smile.

Southern Fried Tofu with Biscuits and Gravy

Tofu and Gravy Ingredients
– 1 pound extra firm tofu, pressed and cut into eight equal sized slices
– 1 cup all purpose flour
– 1 tsp baking powder
– 2 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional, but recommended)
– 2 tsp poultry seasoning
– 1 tsp cayenne pepper (or more if you like it spicy)
– Pinch black pepper
– 1/2 tsp onion powder
– 8 ounces soft silken tofu
– 1/2 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk
– Oil
– 2 cups unsweetened non-dairy milk (for gravy)

– Mix together the flour, baking powder, and seasonings and set aside. Mix together the silken tofu and 1/2 cup “milk” in large, shallow bowl.

– To prepare the tofu slices: Dip each slice first in the flour mixture, then coat in the silken tofu mixture, then coat in the flour once more. Fry each slice until both sides are golden brown.

– To prepare the gravy: Save at least two tablespoons of the cooking oil. Add two to three tablespoons of the leftover flour/seasoning mixture and stir in up to 2 cups “milk” (more if you like it thinner, less if you want thicker). Keep stirring until gravy is thickened.

Biscuit Ingredients
– 2 cups flour
– 3 tsp baking powder
– 3/4 tsp salt
– 1/4 cup vegan margarine
– 3/4 cup “milk”
– 1 tsp apple cider vinegar

– Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees. Stir together the flour, baking powder, salt. Stir in the vegan margarine, “milk,” and vinegar until well blended. Knead dough for about a minute, roll out dough on a lightly floured surface, and cut out biscuits using a biscuit cutter, cookie cutter, or do what I do: Lightly flour the edge of a glass and use that to cut out the biscuits.

– Bake the biscuits on a lightly greased sheet for 12 to 15 minutes.

(Recipes adapted from this recipe on VegWeb and “Basic Baking Powder Biscuits” from La Dolce Vegan by Sarah Kramer)

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Good Morning, Spinach Pie!


I love pie. Particularly savory pies. Upon discovering that a decent pie crust is fairly easy to make (after a little personal trial and error, that is) I set about to make as many pies as I could. I made pie after pie after pie. Quiches and pot pies, tarts and tortes. I went a little pie crazy.

Savory pies are great because they require so little work. Make the crust, press it into the pie plate, then add your filling. Bake, cool, cut, eat. They take a little time, especially if you don’t use a food processor to mix your crust dough, but they’re not something you have to watch every second in the oven. Set the time and relax.

What I really want to get is a set of mini pie plates. Because, as we discussed with the almond tarts, everything seems a little better when it’s miniaturized. But big, small, savory, sweet, doesn’t matter. I’m a pie addict. Now you know.

This recipe is an adaptation, of sorts, of a great recipe in The Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen. I really need to do a feature on this incredible collection, and I will at some point, but suffice to say, if you don’t own this book and you enjoy spending even occasional time in the kitchen, but it ASAP. It’s vegetarian cuisine for people who like to eat well, regardless of dietary preferences. The only problem is that it’s a little butter and egg heavy in spots, so it’s not always adaptable for a vegan diet.

However, looking over the recipe for “Spinach Ricotta Pie” got me thinking, however: Silken tofu and ricotta, aside from what they actually are and what they taste like, are very similar. Texturally, they’re identical. This dish requires both the ricotta and 2-3 eggs, and tofu can more than make up for both. The end result of the substitute was pretty satisfying. On the whole, it was lighter than the Katzen recipe, with maybe a tiny bit less flavor, but I can more than make up for that the next time around. And there will be a next time.

Spinach Tofu Pie

Ingredients
For crust
– 6 tbsp vegan margarine
– 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
– 4 tbsp water, non-dairy milk, oil (I went with the water, because the only non-dairy milk I have is vanilla soymilk – delicious, but not appropriate for this.)

For filling
– 8 ounces silken tofu, firm
– 3/4 lb fresh spinach (I stress the use of fresh spinach in this recipe – the frozen stuff gets too soggy too quickly)
– 1 small onion, chopped
– 2 tbsp vegan margarine or oil
– 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
– 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
– Salt and pepper to taste

– To make the crust: In a food processor (or using a pastry cutter or two forks) cut the margarine into the flour until the mixture resembles a coarse cornmeal. Slowly add the water to form a dough. (The recipe works with 4 tbsps, but feel free to add an extra tbsp or two if the dough is proving too dry to work with.) Roll out your dough and press it into a pie tin.

– Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium saucepan, saute the onions in the margarine or oil until translucent. Add spinach and spices. Continue to saute for about three minutes, then crumble the tofu in. Using a fork, combine until the mixture is fairly smooth and the spinach is wilted.

– Pour the mixture into the pie crust. Add extra paprika or vegan sour cream on top, if you like, then place in the oven. Bake for 45 minutes. The top should be lightly golden brown and slightly crisp. Serve warm or cool.

Good Morning, Strawberry-Banana Hotcakes

Something cute and sweet for a Valentine’s breakfast treat.

This is a speed post, mostly because I stayed up too late watching The Social Network, thus waking up late and preventing a pre-work good morning post of any substantial length. (By and by, definitely catch the movie if you have the time. It’s well worth several paragraphs of discussion, none of which I have the time to provide this morning, but trust me, it’s very, very good.)

Basically, I’ve decided that pancakes, for as delicious as they can be, are a pain in the butt to make. They are strictly a weekend breakfast for me, as they have neither the quick-cooking time to properly make them on a workday morning, and they’re also not a thing you can just gobble down, not if you don’t want syrup all over yourself. As for microwave pancakes and pancake-esque products (“A sausage wrapped in pancake… for the microwave… shudder….”), thanks, but no thanks.

Still, can’t argue with these little sweeties. Make ’em this morning for your Valentine, provided that you both get to sleep in a little.

Vegan Strawberry-Banana Hotcakes

Ingredients
– 1 1/2 cup flour
– 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
– A generous pinch of salt
– 1 cup vanilla non-dairy milk
– 3 tbsp oil
– 1 banana
– 5 to 6 whole strawberries, chopped up fine
– 3 tbsp sugar

– In medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Blend or mix together the oil, milk, banana, sugar, and strawberries until completely combined. Gradually fold the dry ingredients into the wet and stir until just mixed.

– Drop by 1/4 cups onto a heated, non-stick pan. Flip when bubbles start forming on the top.

– Serve with strawberries, syrup, strawberry syrup. If you want to a) forget the whole “breakfast” part of your breakfast and b) get totally decadent, add chocolate chips to the equation.

Good Morning, Muffin Mania!

All this muffin talking the past few days has got me curious about the latest and greatest in food-blogger muffin recipes. If I’m going to go through a crisis of muffin preference, I might as well travel the road to an answer that is paved in possibilities. Maybe I’ll start with these recipes:

– I don’t know if English muffins count in this discussion, but how can I deny this tasty-looking offering from This Wisconsin Life? A little time-intensive, maybe, what with yeast being involved and all, but the sound of a homemade English muffin toasted with a poached egg… I mean, just LOOK at those… Maybe this muffin road is the way to go.

Zucchini-Carrot Muffins from We Be Running

– Ah, the zucchini muffin. Poor neglected thing. Usually smaller than other muffins (and mostly devoid of the famed “muffin top”) and not as showy, it gets passed up for its flashier, sweeter brethren in the bakery case. I love making and eating zucchini bread, but have never made zucchini muffins. I think I’ll start with these recipes, the sturdy and slightly intimidating Green and Mean Zucchini Muffins from Baking’n’Books and the dainty, ugly-cute Zucchini and Carrot Muffins from We Be Running. On behalf of the zucchini muffins, I say sincere thanks to these blogs. To the zucchini muffins, I say, “Suffer in silence no more, my slightly sweet, slightly veggie friends!”

– If I could swing it, I’d put coffee in ALL of my food. Whitney in Chicago has taken an ordinary banana nut muffin and made it all the better with a tablespoon of fine-ground espresso. So you get the protein, the potassium, and the full POWER OF CAFFEINE! And do you know what she drank to wash down these powerhouses? A big ol’ mug of Intelligentsia coffee. Damn, straight, Whitney. You are my kind of person.

– I completely forgot how awesome Isa Chandra Moskowitz is at muffin recipes. Thankfully, E.T.F.C has reminded me of the fantastic Cherry Almond muffins from Vegan with a Vengeance. So what if she had a little problem removing the muffins from the tin? Her almond-placement on top of the muffins is nothing short of perfection. (By the by, love E.T.F.C’s elegant minimalist presentation. There’s something so appealing about a vegan-focused blog that doesn’t overly cutefy. Nothing against the sweethearts and kitsch-queens of the vegan blogging scene, but it’s refreshing to have something simple and quick and appealing to look at.)

– Lemon poppy seed muffins. Been there done that. But The Working Wok has baked up a special twist: Lemon Poppy Seed Yogurt Muffins. Desiree even includes a helpful reminder: “Be sure not to let these muffins make you fail your drug test.” Honestly, Desiree, drug test shmug test, I’m going to eat as many of these as I please. Consequences be dammed, I’m in a Muffin Renaissance!

Good Morning, Graham’s!

Featured in this picture: A large cup of Kona-blend coffee and a blueberry muffin, both from Graham’s Bakery in the Mt. Lebanon Shops. The picture was taken at my desk, thus the slightly depressing cubicle colors in the background (and the stapler and tape dispenser).

I had written last week that I had never had a truly good muffin from a bakery, but I may have been too hasty. This muffin from Graham’s, for instance, was delicious. Like Proust’s Madeleine, it transported me to another time and place in my life, to other muffins I had enjoyed. Something about a blueberry muffin always tastes the same, even when the recipes are radically different, and it’s not just the shared titular ingredient. There’s a sameness that make them comforting far beyond the normal breakfast pastry.

That being said, there’s still something about a bakery or store-bought muffin that doesn’t jive so well with me. I think it’s the size. When I make muffins at home, they’re a good hand size, substantial but not overwhelming. Bakery muffins, in particular, tend to have a more-is-better type of approach, which always leaves me with about half-too much muffin. I’m left full of muffin but not satisfied.

The Graham’s muffin had one big positive aspect and that was its relatively mild flavor. It was moist and not sickly sweet (although you can get that variation by buying a muffin with icing or sugar crumbs – I opted to take my muffin naked as the day it popped out of the oven, which judging by the taste of it had only been mere hours before), and it didn’t leave me with the vague sick feeling that most store-bought muffins inflict. It was definitely a quality muffin experience, but I’m coming to terms with the possibility that I just don’t like muffins all that much. I refuse to fully submit to that belief, but it’s something to think about.

Anyway, if you’re in the Mount Lebanon area, do yourself a favor and stop by Graham’s for a sweet snack. In addition to the muffins, I can recommend the cheese-stuffed croissant (sigh…), the pecan bun, their “French” donuts (crullers… they’re crullers, dammit), and, of course, their heavenly Paczki.

Good Morning, Tamale Casserole!

A while back, I made an argument for taking back the microwave, and I stand by that argument. While not appropriate for cooking most dishes, it can be really effective in the throwing together of a meal in under thirty minutes. I’m not necessarily one of those 30-minute-meal types: I like to languish in the kitchen, relax, chop and slice and cook at leisure. This is, understandably, why most of my meals clock in around 45 minutes to an hour, and also why, reasonably, I don’t tend to do a lot of cooking mid-week. Unless eating out or being cooked for, I tend to subsist on whatever is readily available in the kitchen.

Thankfully for my appetite, The Garden of Vegan not only contains wonderful vegan recipes, it features an entire chapter on microwaveable meals. Coming across a recipe for “Tamale Pie” I was immediately entranced – all the goodness of a cornmeal-crusted casserole in exactly half the time I would usually make something like this. Despite a minor error with the cornmeal topping, this came out delicious, hearty, and very, very quickly.

Best of all, this dish is perfect for breakfast, lunch, or dinner time. It’s so fast, make two and save the other one for later in the week.

Tamale Casserole

Ingredients
– 3/4 cup cornmeal
– 1 tsp salt
– 2 cups water
– 2 cans beans, your choice, drained and rinsed (I used black and pinto)
– 1 cup corn
– 1 small onion, chopped
– 1 small green pepper, chopped
– 1 cup tomato sauce
– 1/2 tsp cayenne
– 1 tsp cumin
– 1 tsp chili powder
– 1 tsp dried basil
– 1/2 tsp Cajun seasoning (optional)
– 1/4 cup jalapeno, sliced (optional)

– In a bowl, stir together the cornmeal, salt, and water. Microwave for 6 minutes. The cornmeal should be a firm mush.
– In a microwaveable casserole dish, add the beans, corn, onion, and pepper. Cover with sauce and spices. Cover the whole dish with the cornmeal mixture and add the jalapeno on top, if using. Microwave for 8 – 12 minutes, until the cornmeal is crisp on top and the entire dish is heated through.

(Recipe adapted from “Tamale Pie” in The Garden of Vegan by Sarah Kramer and Tanya Barnard)

Good Morning, Monday Morning Muffins!

I will make a confession: I have never had a really good muffin from a bakery or grocery store. I’ve had good ones. I’ve had decent ones. And I’ve had ones that were downright awful (and really, is there anything worse than trying to get through a chalky, crumbly, mess of a failed muffin?). But I’ve never one that was to die for, and that’s a shame. I’ve been to a lot of good bakeries, had muffins in many cosmopolitan cities, dined in fine establishments worldwide… but I’ve yet to have a decent muffin that wasn’t directly out of someone’s personal kitchen.

Not sure why this is, really. Maybe it’s a muffin preference. I like mine to be a tad crumbly, not overwhelmingly large, moist, and not super sweet. I don’t want icing on the top or even sugared crumbs (good in theory, not so great when they’re dotting the front of your jacket and pants). Also, the window of time for muffin perfection from the time they come out of the oven to the time they go into your mouth is perilously tight. Maybe I like my homemade muffins better because they come out of the oven and as soon as they are cool enough to swallow, they get eaten. (I really have a patience problem when it comes to sweets…)

Get your Monday morning and burgeoning muffin top started off right with these banana nut muffins. They’re extra nutty, cause I’m just feeling that way these days.

Monday Morning Banana Nut Muffins

Ingredients
– 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
– 1 tsp baking powder
– 1 tsp baking soda
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 4 ripe bananas, mashed
– 3/4 cup sugar
– 1/4 cup applesauce
– 3 tbsp vegetable oil
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– 1/4 cup walnuts
– 1/4 cup pecans
– 1/4 cup shaved almonds

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 12 count muffin pan.

Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With a mixer blend together bananas, sugar, oil, extract, and applesauce. Once completely blended, gradually fold the dry into the wet ingredients. Add nuts and stir until just mixed.

Fill each muffin cup to about halfway. Bake in the oven for 18 – 20 minutes.

(Recipe adapted from “Crazy Good Banana Muffins” on VegWeb.com)