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Thanksgiving, Part 1

I never liked Thanksgiving food all that much. Sure, pie is always good, and my grandma could make the hell out of some pie, and I always loved the sweet potatoes (but only because they were simply roasted with butter, none of that marshmallow crap, which sounds truly disgusting to me and I will never try), but nothing else was of much interest. But once I was able to cook the food for myself and realized that this was a holiday (two whole days off of work) completely devoted to food and shopping, I was in. Dan and I usually make Thanksgiving an opportunity to make food that is a bit more complicated than our everyday meals. And I always have to include as many seasonal foods as possible. Squash and cranberries? Yes, please! This year I set out to conquer pie dough once and for all with two pies, one sweet, one savory. But first up was a soup that I made once before a few years ago, Nigella Lawson’s Lentil Chestnut Soup. I was initially amazed that Nigella had any recipes that were even remotely veganizable, so I had to make it. And every year since, I’ve thought of it over and over. But since peeling fresh chestnuts could send me straight to a mental hospital in less than half an hour, it had to wait for a sale on canned chestnuts. But this soup might have made chestnut-peeling insanity worth it. It’s so velvety and packed with flavor, despite its sad, muddy appearance.
The main course was a butternut squash and caramelized onion galette. The original recipe had some sort of stinky cheese in it, but it was perfect without. And the dough turned out so flaky. Truly worth all the effort. The Brussles sprouts and golden beets up there, though, not too memorable.
Seeing that beautiful galette crust, you’d never know that earlier in the day I’d had a huge fight with some dough, throwing it against the wall and ripping it to pieces before finally sacrificing it to the trash can. Which is pretty much the experience I’ve had with pie dough for the past eight years or so. And amazingly, it’s because I tried to listen to Martha Stewart. While she’s given me invaluable advice on other things, girl just doesn’t do shortening. When I first learned how to make pie crust, it was from a recipe my mother had given me that came from my pie-making grandma. Years later I discovered that this might have actually come from the side of the Crisco can, but it made some damn flaky and easy to work with crust. But then I saw Martha. Her dough was so beautiful and thick and it never cracked. But of course using margarine did not work at all. So over the years I’ve tried more and more crust recipes, most of them with disastrous results. This time I went for Martha’s “alternate fat” recipe using shortening. And it was HORRIBLE. It didn’t stay together, it was impossible to roll out, it ended up in the trash. So then I went back to my grandma’s recipe. And everything was perfect. No sticking, no cracking, no banging my head against the countertop. The conclusion? A food processor is no place to make pie crust. It has never ever worked for me. And pastry blenders are just fun to use, so why use anything else?
For the filling I went with a Martha recipe that I knew was great: Autumn Havest Pie. I made it a few years ago and it was incredible. This time, not so much. The Granny Smith apples were just too tart, and combined with the cranberries it was a bit much. But the natural remedy for this tartness was a scoop of Temptation vanilla ice cream, which helped achieve a perfect sweet/tart balance.
But the highlight of the day was breakfast. Pumpkin cinnamon rolls. Holy crap are these things amazing. I never make cinnamon rolls because the idea of waiting for dough to rise in the morning when I could just make scones and by nibbling on breakfast and doing a crossword puzzle in half an hour is crazy to me. But I planned ahead and make these the night before, putting them in the refrigerator for the second rise and baking them in the morning. They were perfectly moist and just incredible. Dan said the only thing that could them better would be cream cheese frosting, but I’m sure that would have me keeled over with the sugar shakes halfway to lunch.

VeganMoFo #7: Love for Isa

I had the best intentions of blogging the hell out of VeganMoFo. But as always, complications arose. First off, my oven broke, making a recent trip to the farmer’s market a new kind of hell where everywhere I looked I saw beautiful fall vegetables just begging to be roasted. But today, thanks to $180 and a man named Ivan, I’ve got an oven again. After nearly three ovenless weeks, what’s a girl to bake? Cookies! I decided that in between making Matilda’s Halloween costume (my first very amateurish adventure in this kind of frightening arena) and finally getting up another blog post, I’d throw together one of my favorite easy cookie recipes, pumpkin oatmeal cookies from Vegan with a Vengence. They have flax seed, walnuts, molasses, and oats in them, so they’re practically health food, right? Well, except maybe for the white flour, sugar, oil, and chocolate chips. But that’s at least a balance of good and bad, so I’m going with it. I can’t wait to eat some tomorrow, as they are way better the next day, nice and chewy.

And while I’m proving that roughly 82% of my culinary repetoire relies on Ms. Isa Moskowitz, I might as well write about last night’s dinner, seitan chops smothered in apples and ginger. I had to saute the apples, since the oven was not yet fixed, but they turned out great. And even though I think I misread the seitan instructions just a bit (I formed the dough into four chops before boiling, meaning I had very thick chops in the end) and had a bit of trouble getting the breading to stick (that never quite works for me), they turned out great. The inside was so tender, a little like a super dense bread. Maybe due to the altered boiling technique, maybe due to the chickpea flour, but this seitan was very different from any other I’ve made, and I loved it. Spongy yet toothsome. It was a nice balance, as were all the flavors in the dish. I took it easy on the ginger, as I’m just getting over a long-held hatred of the stuff, but it came out totally mellow and warm and wonderful. And really, what’s better than getting to eat apples and cranberries for dinner? It was sort of like eating a totally sophisticated version of my oh-so-high-class childhood favorite, pork chops and applesauce.

Broiled Tofu and Beets with Lemon-dill Yogurt Sauce


A friend of mine is on an extreme elimination diet and is seemingly eating nothing but beets, greens, brown rice, and quinoa. OK, it’s not quite that extreme, but almost. Two words: no salt. But he has inspired me to finally cook beets. I’ve eaten beets plenty, but usually on a salad, where someone else had to deal with the pink hands. Seeing Martha Stewart prepare beets while wearing latex gloves scared me off. But I finally dove in, and it wasn’t bad. The mess rinses off no problem. And beets are delicious, especially with this yogurt sauce. The sauce was maybe a touch too sweet, so next time I’ll reduce, or maybe leave out, the maple syrup (and maybe increase the lemon). But all in all a winning combination. And the sauce was great with the kale too.

Broiled Tofu and Beets with Lemon-dill Yogurt Sauce

1 lb. extra-firm tofu, sliced into eight pieces
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp soy sauce

1 bunch small beets, cut into even chunks
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp maple syrup

Press tofu for at least ten minutes to remove excess moisture. Whisk together olive oil and soy sauce and dip tofu pieces in the mixture. Drizzle olive oil and maple syrup over beets, season with salt and pepper, and toss. Place tofu and beets on foil-lined baking sheet and place in broiler. I set my broiler and high and cooked for nearly twenty minutes, tossing the beets every once in a while and turning tofu halfway through. But keep on eye on it, as broilers can vary a lot.

Lemon-dill Yogurt Sauce

1/2 cup plain soy yogurt (I used Silk)
2 Tbsp chopped dill
1 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
1-2 Tbsp chopped shallot
1 tsp maple syrup
salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl. Serve with tofu and beets.

Teese Baked Mac and Cheese


I’ve been experimenting with a decent mac & cheese using Teese vegan cheese for a while now, and I think this is the closest I’ve come to deliciousness yet. As usual, there are still things I think I’d tweak, but overall it seemed to be a success. The interior was gooey but not runny, and the large bread crumbs on top added a nice crunch. Curiously, the Teese I sprinkled on top (below the breadcrumbs) didn’t melt much in the oven, but every last bit that was stirred into the macaroni and sauce melted wonderfully, so next time it’s all going inside, which should make it even moister. This batch turned out a bit on the spicy side, which was nice, as I’m still working my way through an especially potent batch of cayenne pepper, but if you don’t have super cayenne, you want to add more.

Teese Baked Mac & Cheese

1 Tbsp Earth Balance
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup water
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp sweet paprika
a few grinds of black pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp prepared yellow mustard
1 1/2 cups Teese vegan mozzarella cheese, shredded
1-2 slices whole wheat bread, toasted and crumbled into pieces
1/2 pound macaroni

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook macaroni until it is almost al dente but still slightly undercooked. Melt Earth Balance in small saucepan and add 1 Tbsp flour. Cook until it gets bubbly, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Whisk in remaining flour, water, nutritional yeast, soy sauce, turmeric, paprika, pepper, and cayenne, and cook, whisking often, until the sauce thickens but is still runny enough to drip off of the whisk. Mix in mustard. Add sauce and Teese to cooked macaroni in a casserole dish (I used an 8 x 6 1/2 inch Pyrex dish) and mix until well combined. Top with breadcrumbs and cook for about twenty minutes, with a couple of minutes under the broiler if you want the breadcrumbs extra crunchy.

Dan’s Birthday Dinner


Last week was my lovely husband Dan’s birthday. But since we had just returned from our Seattle/Portland vacation (where we ate roughly 80,000 calories, I’m estimating) two days before, there wasn’t much time to plan much of a celebration. On the cab ride home from the airport (at 11:30 on a Tuesday. ugh), Dan declared that he wanted cheesy mac and garlic bread for a birthday dinner. Now, due to those roughly 80,000 calories, I wasn’t too stoked on this idea, as what he wanted was one of the first recipes I mastered when I was in college. I have no idea where the original recipe came from, as I think I received a stained print-out from someone along the way. It was incredibly creamy and velvety and delicious but called for loads and loads of both oil and margarine. Add super greasy garlic bread to that, and my vacation-stuffed stomach wasn’t thrilled. So I decided it was finally time to de-fat (at least partially) the recipe and see how it turned out. It still needs some tweaking (I think the tempeh needs to be grated for a more “sausage” like texture, and it could maybe be a bit moister), but overall it was a (much-healthier) success. And it gets even better the next day. The tempeh sausage crumbles are straight from Vegan with a Vengeance (minus the spices I had unexpectedly run out of), but the rest is straight from my head.

Tempeh Cheesy Mac

1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 – 1 3/4 cup water
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp turmeric
3 Tbsp margarine
paprika
1 1/2 cups macaroni, slightly undercooked
1 recipe tempeh sausage crumbles

Mix nutritional yeast, flour, water, soy sauce, garlice powder, and turmeric together in a small saucepan and heat over medium until thickened. Melt in margarine. In an 8×8 casserole dish, mix together sauce, macaroni, and tempeh and sprinkle with paprika. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.

And to totally mess up the “healthiness” of the cheesy mac, Dan made his “world famous” garlic bread. Whenever he cooks something, he calls it world famous, even (or maybe especially) when it’s the first time he’s ever made it. I think the only time I’ve disputed this title was when he found a cucumber in the fridge, thought it was a zucchini (not sure how one makes that mistake), and put it in chili! Then again, maybe that is world famous, just not in a good way.

And dessert. Strawberry shortcake, with biscuits from Martha, with WAY less sugar on the berries, and whipped Soyatoo. Oh my God, Soyatoo is the best thing ever. Seriously. I whipped it up with half a vanilla bean and a few spoonfuls of sugar, and it reminded me of being a kid and eating spoonful and spoonful of Cool-Whip straight out of the package. I loved that stuff. But knowing that it’s 99% chemicals, 1% whey freaks me out now. So thank you, Soyatoo, for actually resembling whipped cream (or whipped-cream-like product) without being icky. The whole thing was incredible, and such an improvement over those weird little sponge cakes at the grocery store.

Almond Crusted Tofu

The moment I saw the pistachio crusted tofu on Fat Free Vegan, I immediately wanted it. But of course when I went to Whole Foods that night, they were all out of shelled pistachios. So almond crusted tofu it was! Sure, it’s not as pretty as the original, being so beige and all, but it’s still crunchy and delicious. And I learned that the combination of Veganaise, German mustard, maple syrup, and soy sauce actually tastes good. So all in all a success, and a good way to use up the ridiculous amount of almonds lingering in my freezer, hiding behind leftover chickpea cutlets and half-used flours.


Mexican Pizza, or: What Happens When I Have to Shop at Jewel


Dan and I were on our way home from work and I had nothing planned for dinner. Completely out of character, we decided to go to Jewel. I’ll admit that I have an aversion to normal (i.e., not Whole Foods) grocery stores–something about the two aisles containing nothing but chips and soda–but I’m really against Jewel. It always smells funny. It probably comes from years of living in Wicker Park, home to Junkyard Jewel, which is a truly disgusting place. Plus, the lines are always super long. But at the Jewel I ended up, on a search for something to use as a pizza crust. I knew there wouldn’t likely be anything actually pizza-crust-like to be had, but I thought I’d at least find pita bread. Nope. No pita bread in the whole store. After walking up and down the “natural foods” aisle (gee, that’s a lot of cereal and soy milk) six or seven times, I spied some refried black beans (thank you, Amy), and the Mexican pizza was born. Another search turned up some flour tortillas with fewer than twenty ingredients–as well as a pile of super moldy tortillas. Yum. After an incredibly long wait in line, it was home to assemble the suckers. And you might look at this creation and say, “That looks like a tostada.” Yes, it does look like a tostada, but we wanted pizza, so it’s pizza. Refried black beans between two flour tortillas, topped with melted Teese, olives, red and yellow peppers, avocado, mango, and a lot of Cholula and baked until crispy and melty. Sure, it didn’t quite satisfy the pizza craving, but it was still pretty incredible. How can anything topped with avocado and mango be anything less?

Cook’s Illustrated Recipes

Last weekend I got the new issue of Cook’s Illustrated in the mail. The few issues I’ve received so far haven’t much excited me; lots of tips on searing roasts and other useless things, plus a lot of stuff I already know. But this latest issue was actually pretty good. So good in fact, that I made two of the recipes soon after reading through them for the first time. The first was lemon artichoke hummus. I’ve made hummus countless times, and I’ve always loved it that way it was, which was somewhat on the chunky side. But this turned out super smooth, like restaurant hummus, only with tons more flavor. The complexities were lost when I put it on a sandwich the next day, but it was the perfect dipping hummus, especially with baked pita chips.

The next day I made spring vegetable risotto, which was also fantastic. (Unfortunately the pictures didn’t turn out as well.) It had leeks, peas, asparagus, and lemon juice and was topped with gremolata with parsley, mint, and lemon zest, which added so much flavor to the dish. This may be my favorite risotto, but I think I just love risotto in general. Something about all that stirring makes it seem very special.

Teese Vegan Cheese


I’ve been lucky enough to be a guinea pig for Teese Vegan Cheese, and I think I’ve probably blown through at least five pounds already. Of course, I’ve had help eating it, but I have been more full of cheese lately than even in my life. It’s super melty (just look at that cheese toast above!), doesn’t mold in the refrigerator after two days like some other vegan cheeses (in fact, I’ve had some in the fridge for weeks now that’s still good), and tastes great (even though my cheese memories are about thirteen years old now, it tastes like what I think cheese should taste like). But the best part? It holds all the toppings on a pizza! The one thing that has always irritated me about vegan pizza is when you bite in and half the toppings slide off onto your plate (maybe my love of way too much sauce has a little bit to do with that too). So far pizza has been my main Teese use, but I’m still working on a gooey mac & cheese that I’ll post about soon.

The first Teese pizzas

I made the pizza-dough recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance, which is basically the same as every other pizza-dough recipe I consulted but with extra sugar and olive oil. The crust was perfect, and the pizzas were delicious, with peppers, mushrooms, and olives.


The weeknight Teese pizza

We picked up some dough from Whole Foods, which they keep in the refrigerator. This isn’t so great for when you want pizza NOW, as the dough is impossible to stretch. Plus, it turned out too chewy for my liking, but Dan loved it. Still tasty though. Peppers, mushrooms, onions, olives, and store-bought veggie pepperoni (which I usually pick off).

Pizza party

When in the possession of large quantities of melty cheese, it’s definitely time for a pizza party. I made the VwaV dough again, only this time I made it too early and let it rise for over an hour too long, which made the dough too soft and resulted in holes (there were also some oven sticking disasters, which are best never mentioned again). For one batch of dough, I replaced half of the flour with whole wheat pastry flour and added some agave nectar, and that batch turned out wonderfully, light and crispy and wheaty. The first pizza was my favorite: blanched red-skinned potatoes, roasted garlice, roasted asparagus, rosemary, and Teese. The combination was spectacular. I wish I’d made three more of the same.


This one was sort of hodgepodge (and not the prettiest pizza in its class). VwaV pizza sauce (DO NOT use canned tomatoes with added salt. It so super, super salty, and I even halved the salt called for), roasted garlic, caramelized onions, roasted red peppers, mushrooms, olives, Teese.

This one has my homemade seitan pepperoni (adapted form the seitan o’ greatness recipe), which turned out pretty awesome. Everyone was snacking on it while we waited for the pizzas to bake.

Baked Seitan Pepperoni

1 1/2 cups vital wheat gluten
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper

3/4 cup water
4 Tbsp tomato paste
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp soy sauce
3 cloves garlic, grated

Combine wet ingredients in one bowl and dry another, then add wet to dry and knead for a few minutes until elastic and somewhat tight. Divide into two logs and wrap tightly in foil (be careful not to rip the foil, but try to get the logs as tight as possible). Bake for 90 minutes at 350.

The pesto pizza seemed to be the hit of the night. Homemade pesto, roasted garlice, roasted red peppers, caramelized onions, Teese. Tomato sauce is so over done. Pesto!


Leftover pizza

We had tons left over from the pizza party, so Dan and I had pizza again a few nights later. I used Whole Foods dough again, but after it warmed up a bit it was (slightly) easier to work with. But I think the non-stretchiness worked well, because this was the absolute anti-minimalist pizza. It turned out thicker than deep dish, with the bottom of the dough nice and crispy and the inside super doughy. We piled everything on here. Pesto, roasted garlice, roasted red peppers, caramelized onions, mushrooms olives, seitan pepperoni. It was pretty incredible.

Two of My Favorite Quick Meals


Sometimes I get jealous when I hear people say that everything they know about cooking they learned from their mother. I sure didn’t. Everything I know about cooking–and pretty much everything else–I learned from Martha Stewart. It infuriates me to watch her current show, because she just kisses minor celebrity ass while throwing a few things in a pot, and it’s impossible to actually learn anything. But once upon a time Martha took me from Minute Rice to risotto. And half of the recipes I turn to again and again come from Martha, one of my favorites being soy-glazed tofu and carrots. It’s simple, it’s sweet and salty and crunchy and mushy, and it always makes my husband, Dan, happy. Sometimes I add other vegetables (like the asparagus here) or serve it over rice, but most of the time the tofu and carrots are enough to totally satisfy. If only I could keep the broiler from turning the cookie sheets all burnt and nasty.


The open-faced seitan sandwiches from Table for Two by Joanne Stepaniak is another winner. I must make this once a week. It takes maybe twenty minutes and is super comforting, especially when it’s cold outside. And the saltiness goes perfectly with mashed sweet potatoes (which I love so much, I’ve been known to eat nothing but for dinner when I’m home alone).

And because the tofu and carrots pics turned out so well, here are a couple more.


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