Tag Archives: vegan recipes

Cheeky Chickpea Falafel

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One way that I knew I was becoming an adult was that my method of making falafel evolved past using the boxed, pre-made falafel mix produced by Manischewitz. Upon producing my first batch of from-scratch, homemade falafel, I felt something akin to what people must feel when they make their first batch of homemade chicken noodle soup or their first non-frozen, non-Stouffer’s lasagna. Heck, I felt that way when I made my first from-scratch pancakes, and pancakes are one of the simplest (and cheapest) things to produce from scratch.

Why do we rely on pre-made goods to deliver the foods we enjoy? I think it’s a combination of the following things: Over-reliance on the food experiences we are used to, fear of screwing up our favorites, and limited time, patience, energy, and equipment. Also, for years I prepared food mainly for myself and most recipes, whether it’s a pot of soup or a plate of falafel, produce too much for one person to consume in a short period of time. Short of dinner parties and potlucks, a can of soup made more sense for my lifestyle.

I cook for two (sometimes three, if our roommate is home) now, so the amount of food is no question. But I have a long commute to and from work, so when I come home to prepare dinner, fast and simple is usually the rule. One of the defining factors of my adult life is when I decided fast and simple did not have to mean pre-made or processed.

Thanks, adulthood!

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Good Morning, Vegan Strawberry Cupcakes!


Strawberry season is in full swing. When I was a kid, strawberry season meant heading over to Trax Farms where for around two bucks a pound, you could pick your own berries and take them home, where many of them would not get eaten in time and would be thrown out in less than a week.

Strawberries are evocative of many of life’s pleasures: Sweet, crisp, a little tart, a wonderful thing to behold in so many ways, but all to quickly, they turn, they brown and get soft. White little spots of mold cover the stems. Overripe, they have limited uses, but they’re no longer the hand-held confection perfect for snacking. A little farther down the line, the strawberry isn’t good for anything, except maybe compost. So something that starts out so wonderful and appealing is, within a few days time, a rotting, disposable mess.

Luke, of the Food Bloggers Meetup, had a solution to how to use his large yield of strawberries from the East Liberty Farmer’s Market. Much like every neighborhood church, he decided to hold his own little strawberry festival and invite the bloggers into his home to consume his fruit before its time was past.

Because I also had strawberries to unload (and because I hate going to things like this empty handed), I decided to crack open the lovely and reliable The Joy of Vegan Baking and see what uses Colleen Patrick-Goudreau has for strawberries. After paging through pies and tarts and crisps and cobblers, I settled on an unlikely candidate: Strawberry cupcakes.

Most people give me funny looks when I tell them that I hate cupcakes. They don’t really believe me, and that’s fair enough, because I don’t hate cupcakes. But I do think they’re greatly overrated, and not just because of the cupcake craze that still hasn’t left this city, but because even as a child, I disliked the notion of cupcakes, a cake that was supposedly meant for hand to mouth consumption but never quite got there in a fashion that didn’t leave frosting on your mouth, on your face, on your hands.

And the cake was always so disappointing. Dry and crumbly. The frosting, even when good, was always too too much. As a child at birthday parties, I awaited the inevitable dessert with trepidation. While other kids went face first into their cakes and emerged somehow spotless and satisfied, I picked at mine with the slow patience and tact of an archaeologist and still somehow got icing on my clothes.

Anyway, so I don’t hate cupcakes as much as I think they’re a lot of fuss for little payoff. But many of my strawberries were going soft, and I was worried that they weren’t appropriate for most non-baked goods. I’ve made strawberry-banana muffins before, but they didn’t seem to be an appropriate fit for a dinner party. So strawberry cupcakes won out. And I’m glad that they did.

I topped my cupcakes with a variation on Patrick-Goudreau’s chocolate frosting, adding almond extract to give it a bit of Nutella-like flavor. Because the actual cake isn’t super sweet and the flavor of the strawberry is fairly mild, it takes well to almost any frosting. Don’t overdo it on the amount, however, cause too much frosting will overwhelm the rest of the cake. [If you are a frosting junkie, the actual yield of the frosting recipe surpasses the regular dozen cupcakes, so save the leftovers and consume in whatever way will please you.]

Strawberry Cupcakes

Ingredients
– 1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
– 1 tsp baking soda
– 1 cup sugar
– 1/2 cup vegetable oil
– 1 tablespoon white vinegar
– 8 ounces strawberries, pureed
– 5 to 6 large strawberries, sliced (optional for garnish)

– Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease muffin tin or line with cupcake liners.

– In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, and sugar. In a separate bowl, combine oil and vinegar. Add the pureed strawberries and mix until combined.

– Pour the wet ingredients into the dry. Stir until just mixed. Pour batter into prepared muffin tray, about halfway in each cup.

– Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and tin, cooling the cakes on a wire rack. Frost and garnish once cool.

Chocolate-Almond Frosting

Ingredients
– 1/2 cup non-dairy butter
– 3 cups confectioner’s sugar
– 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
– 1 tsp almond extract
– 2 tbsp soy milk

– Cream butter until smooth, then add the confectioner’s sugar. Cream for about two minutes, then add cocoa, almond, and milk. Beat until fluffy, then cover and chill.

(Recipes adapted from The Joy of Vegan Baking by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau)

Good Morning, Apricot Coffee Cake!

I used to make a killer sour cream coffee cake. The original basis came from AllRecipes.com, but as I returned again and again to the dish, I put my own tweaks on it. I toyed around with extra flavors, zests, extracts, fresh and frozen fruits. I got the cooking time just right. I knew when to use icing and when to use a crumb topping, and I knew exactly how much to use.

And they always came out perfect. Soft, but substantial, sweet but not overpowering, absolutely great for either breakfast or dessert. Provided there were any leftovers, they even stored well and could keep for up to three days if packed properly. I ran through every idea I had and the best turnouts- chocolate chips and cocoa powder, cardamom and orange zest, cream cheese and blueberry preserves – more than made up for the few failures. I never got tired of making them and no one seemed to be tired of eating them.

Then I moved.

The new apartment had a rented stove that was about fifteen years older than the one I had during my coffee cake renaissance. When I cooked my first coffee cake in my new kitchen, I was shocked by the way it had turned out. Where was the fluffy, moist cake? Why was the crumb topping so dry and flavorless? Why was everything so flat? And how did it get burned?!?

I was dispirited. Even my failed experiments had never been this bad. This was barely edible (in fact, after bravely eating a piece, most of the remains did find their way into the trash). I tried to learn from my potential mistakes: I must have been careless about the amounts of flour, baking powder, and sugar. It must have baked too long. I must not have greased the pan enough.

So I tried again. But even with the tweaking of cooking time, the careful attentiveness to ingredients and prep, and a watchful eye while the cake sat in the oven, it still failed. It wasn’t the horror show that the prior failure had been, but it was still a failure. I had to face facts.

The magic was gone.

So, flash forward to the present. Since my coffee cake heartbreak, I have made a total of zero coffee cakes. Like any jilted lover, I moved onto other culinary distractions. I had brief flings with cupcakes, dabbled casually with muffins, and settled into a nice routine with the dependable and delightful cookie, a relationship that satisfies me to this day. But sometimes, when I’m craving something that I can’t quite name, I know what I’m actually yearning for.

I was tempted by the coffee cake recipes in Sarah Kramer’s books, as well as the sure-to-be delicious recipe in The Joy of Vegan Baking, but I was always afraid to attempt them. For one, I didn’t want to come back to coffee cake baking after such a long absence just to fail once more. In addition, I had never tried a vegan coffee cake recipe, so I was worried about botching not only my comeback cake, but my first attempt at a vegan one at that.

Sunday, however, after a week that was rich in both pain and healing (a story that I will come back to another time), I was looking for a distraction and picked up my recently purchased copy of Vegan Brunch by Isa Chandra Mokowitz. Thumbing through the recipes, I was about to try out the tomato-rosemary scones when one last courtesy flip through the pages landed me on her recipe for “East Coast Coffee Cake.” And I thought, well, why the hell not?

For my first time back to coffee cakes, I stayed fairly true to Isa’s recipe, tweaking just a few ingredients to match my own tastes. Her basic recipe does include fruit preserves, but she includes handy directions on including any number of ingredients. The recipe turned out to be a cinch to make, and while the results weren’t perfect, they were far from the disasters of my last coffee cake attempts. I’m not sure we’ll ever be as close as we once were, but it looks like me and coffee cake are on the redemption road to a casual friendship.

Apricot Coffee Cake

Ingredients

For the topping
– 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
– 1/3 cup brown sugar
– 1 tsp cinnamon
– 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
– 1/4 cup veg oil

For the cake
– 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
– 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
– 1/3 cup sugar
– 1/2 cup veg oil
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– 1/2 tsp almond extract
– 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
– 2 tsp baking pwoder
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 1/2 cup apricot jam

– Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease an 8×8 square pan. Add the apple cider vinegar to the milk and set aside to allow for curdling.

– For the topping: Mix together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add the oil by tablespoons, mixing it into the dry ingredients with your fingers. Keep mixing until you’ve got a mixture of large and small crumbs. Set aside.

– For the cake, mix together the milk-vinegar mixture, sugar, vegetable oil, and extracts. Sift in flour, baking powder, and salt and mix until smooth.

– Pour the batter into the pan. Pour the 1/2 cup of apricot jam over the batter, then swirl it with a knife or fork. Sprinkle topping over the batter and lightly pat down.

– Bake for 35 – 40 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool, add powdered sugar if desired, then slice and serve!

Good Morning, Brunch Feast!

Despite the time invested in this pile of delicious breakfast, this post is going to be exceedingly brief. I spent Sunday evening in glorious doom and gloom entertainment, first watching the final performance of Next to Normal Downtown [capsule review: Could also have been titled Depression! The Musical], then after post-show drinks, rushed home to watch the 11:00 pm re-run of the latest episode of The Killing on AMC.

I spent Sunday evening enjoying the most downbeat offerings stage and TV could possibly provide, which starkly contrasted with my midday minor vegan feast and the pure joy I felt throwing it together.

The meal was this: Roasted Cajun potatoes, scrambled tofu, navy bean gravy, and tempeh bacon. All delicious items when eaten apart, but as America knows, best when it can be collected in a big sloppy pile. The potatoes are easy enough – sliced and roasted with Cajun seasoning – and the tofu was just your typical scrambled tofu – turmeric, a little bit of vegan margarine, a little bit of liquid smoke, some salt and cayenne pepper – so the real stars here are the tempeh bacon and the amazing navy bean gravy, a vegan gravy so good, it could easily run for the same affections currently claimed by beef and chicken gravy devotees. And it’s incredibly easy to make.

Navy Bean Gravy

Ingredients
– 1 15 oz. can navy beans, drained and rinsed
– 1 tbsp oil
– 1 half onion, chopped
– 3 garlic cloves, chopped
– 2 tsp dried rosemary
– Black pepper (I tend to think more is better than less, but the actual quantity is a matter of taste)
– 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
– 1/3 cup flour
– 3 tbsp soy sauce
– 1/4 cup water

Saute the onions and garlic. Add the rosemary and black pepper and cook until the onions are translucent and garlic is fragrant. Combine the broth and flour and stir vigorously with a fork until there are few lumps of flour left.

– In a blender or food processor, combine the stock mixture, beans, soy sauce. Blend until smooth, then add the onions and garlic. Puree again until mostly smooth.

– Pour the pureed mixture into the stove pot and simmer until bubbling, stirring frequently. Add water to desired consistency.


Tempeh Bacon

Ingredients
– 8 oz. package of tempeh, sliced widthwise into 1/4 inch strips.
– 3 tbsp soy sauce
– 1 tbsp liquid smoke
– 1 tbsp maple syrup (I used honey)
– 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
– 1 tbsp grapeseed oil
– 1/2 cup vegetable broth
– 1 tsp garlic salt
– 1/4 tsp black pepper

– Combine all ingredients (except for the tempeh) into a large bowl. Mix until well combined, then add the tempeh strips. Marinate for 1 hour (can be done overnight as well).

– When tempeh has marinated long enough, heat some oil in a large frying pan. Fry the slices for six minutes on each side, or until both are browned sufficiently.

 (Adapted from recipes in Vegan Brunch by Isa Chandra Moskowitz)

Good Morning, Vegan Pierogi!


Pierogi. Pierogie. Perogi. Pyrogi. Pyrohi. Doesn’t matter how you spell it, this staple of European cuisine satisfies hunger in a way few other dumplings can. What is it about the wondrous pierogi that makes it such a favorite? Could it be the thin dough, crispy and golden when fried? Could it be the filling, flavorful and bold against the neutral flavor of the dough? Could it be the handiness of the little savory pocket, or how easy they are to make, with cheap, accessible ingredients and easy preparation?

Given the cultural demographics of Pittsburgh, the pierogi is a staple of this city’s cuisine. Spend enough time on Urbanspoon, and you’ll find users more than ready to complain about this fact. Their point is not entirely ill-informed, but I think it comes from a place of overexposure, rather than a straight forward dislike of the dish itself. I don’t know the actual statistics, but I’d wager a bet that the majority of local restaurants ( those of unspecified ethnic cuisine, of course) offer pierogi. But don’t go judging a dish by its commonly mediocre preparation. Having pierogi on your menu because you’re expected to doesn’t exactly yield the best tasting versions. Many places are serving the same tired, frozen versions that you can buy in the supermarket. This is pierogi, sort of, but it’s about as satisfying as any frozen food can be.

What I say to these pierogi naysayers is to not hate on a dish until you’ve had it properly served to you, meaning homemade, either from some restaurant’s own kitchen or someone’s own home. Take a recommendation from those who LOVE the pierogi before ordering it at a random restaurant. Some good places to start:
S&D Polish Deli
Bloomfield Bridge Tavern
Rosie’s Pierogies
Gosia’s Pierogies (available at several locations, including the Pittsburgh Public Market)
St. John the Baptist Ukranian Catholic Church (they sell traditional Ukranian pyrohy starting in Fall and going until around the end of May)

Or you could eat some quality pierogi by getting into the action yourself. Making pierogi is easy, even if you have never made dumplings before. The dough can be kind of dry, making it tricky to knead and spread out the dough circles. I’ve been able to keep it workable by keeping my fingers wet. You want them to be damp enough to keep the dough from drying out, but not so wet as to make the dough slimy.

One of the best things about pierogi is how easy they are to make vegan. The dough itself can be made with butter, shortening, etc, but is usually best when it is made with simple vegetable oil. The filling is really up to the maker. For my Saturday evening vegan pierogi, I went with an easy potato and onion filling, that yielded far more than I needed. Darn, looks like I’m going to have to make another batch….

Everybody Polka for Some
Simple Vegan Pierogi!

Ingredients for filling:
– 2 medium potatoes, chopped (I used two larger than my fist and ended up with way more potato than I needed. So about fist sized should do it.)
– 1 medium onion, chopped
– 2 tsp garlic-pepper seasoning
– 1/2 tsp cayenne
– 1 tsp vegan margarine (I actually forgot to add this and the filling was still delicious, so it is optional)
– 1/2 cup of unsweetened non-dairy milk

Ingredients for dough:
– 1 cup all-purpose flour
– 1/4 cup water (and extra on hand, as needed)
– 1 1/2 tsp oil

For the filling: Boil the potatoes until tender. While potatoes are boiling, saute the onions until translucent, then set aside. Drain the water, add the onions (with the leftover oil), seasonings, margarine, and “milk” to the potatoes, and whip everything until smooth. You want to get it nice and creamy, so try to work out all the big lumps.

For the dough: Stir together flour, water, and oil until you get a workable dough. Knead for about three minutes, keeping your fingers wet to keep the dough from drying out. Divide the dough into eight equal chunks.

Assemble your pierogi: For each of the eight chunks of dough, roll into a ball and then flatten into a disk. The dough should be spread thin but sturdy enough to maintain without ripping. Take about tablespoon of the filling and place it into the center of the dough. Fold and pinch closed, then using the tines of a fork, seal the sides of the pierogi. Set each one aside until you have all completed.

Cook your pierogi: Boil a pot of water, then add the pierogi. Boil for about five minutes, or until each pierogi floats to the surface of the water. Scoop out and gently dry, then either freeze them for later use or cook them, either by frying (as I generally do, cause I love me some fresh fried pierogi) or baking in the oven.

Serve with vegan sour cream, a little smoked paprika, and fried onions, if desired. I know that’s how I like ’em.

(Recipe adapted from this recipe on Vegweb.com)

Good Morning… Uh, er… Good Afternoon!


My Sunday afternoon laziness delivers rewards once again!

It was a withdrawal weekend for me and my partner. While the pro football season is still going strong, it’s just about over for college football (except for the bowl games, but we have to wait for those). Luckily, nice weather on Saturday gave us a good excuse to enjoy a few hours outdoors, including some backyard time spent tossing the football back and forth. (I’m getting better, really! I can almost throw a consistent spiral.)

Something I didn’t do this weekend was make it to the Strip for my bi-weekly produce shopping. (After a Friday night out late, celebrating a friend’s birthday, I needed a morning in.) My fridge was stocked with tofu from DeWalt’s World of Health on Potomac (selling extra firm 1lb water-packed tofu for $1.20 each) and I had a few remnants from my post-Thanksgiving Strip trip, but otherwise, not much to work with.

Luckily for our Sunday afternoon late brunch, I had just enough to make us a decent round of vegan “huevos rancheros,” this time with the added novelty of tomatilloes. Note to self: as long as there are cans of beans in the cupboard, you will eat like a king. Good thing to remember when I’m a broke student next fall.


Sunday Afternoon Lazy Man’s Tofu’n’Beans

Ingredients
– 1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
– 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
– 1 pound extra tofu
– 5-7 small tomatilloes, sliced
– 1 large sweet potato, sliced
– 1 avocado, sliced
– 1/2 tbsp liquid smoke
– 1 tbsp turmeric
– 1/2 tbsp Arizona Dreaming spice from Penzey’s (you can use any Tex-Mex style spice blend, or better yet, make your own!)
– 1 tsp onion salt
– 1 tsp cayenne pepper
– Ground black pepper (to taste)
– 1 tbsp salsa (I used an extra hot jalapeno salsa)
– 4 corn tortillas (optional)
– Olive oil (as needed)

– Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Pour about two tablespoons of olive oil on a baking sheet. Peel and slice the sweet potato, then toss on the oiled baking sheet. Lightly season with onion salt and pepper. Toss again to evenly distribute seasoning, then place in oven. About ten minutes later, flip the potatoes. You want them tender, but a little crunchy on the exterior.

– While the potatoes are baking, drain the tofu and squeeze out excess water (if you’re gentle, you can do this by hand just by squeezing the tofu like a sponge, but gentleness is key). Add a few tablespoons of olive oil to a non-stick pot – again, amount is really up to how oily you like your dish – and set at medium heat. Add tofu, tomatilloes, liquid smoke, and turmeric. Cook for about five minutes, then add the beans and the rest of the seasoning (including the salsa). Cover and turn heat to low. Let this cook for about ten to fifteen minutes (the longer the better).

– Suggested plating: Two corn tortillas on the plate, a layer of the roasted sweet potatoes, then the tofu’n’beans. Top with avocado slices.

Vegan MoFo Polenta Casserole!

Oh, cornmeal. In every corner of the world, cornmeal is used in abundance, from the Makki di roti in South Asia to kachamak in Bulgaria to the intriguing national dish of Barbados, Cou-cou and the Flying Fish.

In my kitchen it is mostly used as breading, cornbread and the occasional johnnycake craving. I love working with cornmeal because it is versatile and flavorful, but I haven’t done much with polenta, or boiled cornmeal, despite its terrific heritage and various uses.

[Among my favorite, from the Wikipedia entry on polenta: “In southern Austria, polenta is also eaten for breakfast (sweet polenta); the polenta pieces are either dipped in café au lait or served in a bowl with the café au lait poured on top of it (this is a favourite of children).”]

Vegan Polenta Pizza Casserole! Continue reading