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Posts Tagged ‘VeganMoFo’

Vegan BLT Salad

tempeh-bacon-on-toastI’ve been vegan for nearly fifteen years, but it wasn’t until about two years ago that I succumbed to the most intimidating member of the protein triumvirate: tempeh. And it took even longer to come around to what is now one of my favorite convenience foods, Fakin’ Bacon. Since I gave up the real thing somewhere around age ten, I never really felt the need for a replacement product. Plus, it had one of my most hated flavors, liquid smoke. Smokiness reminds me more of the neighborhood house I watched burn to the ground at five more than a fourth of July spent in the cloud of a backyard grill. But once I sucked it up and finally bought my first package of Fakin’ Bacon (probably to toss on top of pizza), I was hooked.

My favorite use of Fakin’ Bacon is ridiculously simple. I heat up two slices in a dry skillet, lightly toast one piece of bread, slather on a bit of Vegenaise, and plop the bacon on top. Tempeh on toast. It’s the absolute perfect snack when it’s one o’clock on a Sunday afternoon and I realize that I’m starving but don’t have time to make a proper lunch before I have to fold yet another load of laundry. And it keeps me from eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich again.

Almost knocking tempeh on toast out of first place is the BLT salad. Why it took me so long to put spinach and tomato and croutons and tempeh bacon together and cover it all in a garlicky mayonnaise dressing I have no idea. It’s so simple. So obvious. Yet so genius.

vegan-BLT-salad

Vegan BLT Salad Dressing

2 Tbsp Vegenaise

1 Tbsp soy milk

1 tsp red wine vinegar

1 tsp mustard powder

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

1 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp minced garlic

Whisk ingredients together. Pour over spinach, tomatoes, and warm tempeh bacon and toss with croutons.

Vegan Fondue Party

vegan-fondue-partyThe first time I made fondue, I got drunk. We invited our friends Jay and Jennifer and their kids over for some celebratory dipping. It was before Dan was vegan, or even vegetarian, and since we only had one fondue pot, I had to cook my nutritional-yeast-based sauce in a pan on the stove and eat out of the cooling pot at the table. I based the fondue on my usual nutritional-yeast sauce, only I subbed wine for the water. ALL of the water. And I didn’t think about the fact that I needed to cook off the alcohol before serving. So as soon as the sauce began to thicken, I began my dipping. With every hunk of bread and asparagus spear I ingested more and more alcohol, and by the end of the meal I was more than a little tipsy without having taken one drink. But damn was it tasty.

My next foray into fondue took a few years, but this time it was among all vegans, and since there was a small child involved, I opted for apple cider rather than wine, but I stuck to the basic nutritional-yeast formula. The thing was, since I was sort of winging it that first time, every subsequent trial of apple-cider fondue turned out differently, and most were sickeningly sweet. I have since learned to write things down. Most of the time, at least.

Mary, Megan, and I had been talking about throwing a fondue party for nearly a year, but there were always other parties, holidays, obligations. Plus, the only open dates seemed to fall during warm weather, and fondue and air conditioning just seems like a ridiculous combination. When we finally had an appropriately chilly date set, I planned on finally perfecting the apple-cider fondue, but then I made a vegan mornay sauce and realized it would make the perfect fondue. Cheesy, melty, able to cling to the crevices of roasted cauliflower, and just drippy enough to make me wish a had remembered to lay down a tablecloth.

As for dessert, I can’t take credit for that, except for a batch of orange-scented mini madeleines. Megan made peanut butter caramel fondue and Mary made chocolate marshmallow fondue. We probably could’ve skipped right to dessert and been completely happy. And completely nauseous.

dessert-fondue-dippers

vegan-dessert-fondue

Totchos

totchos

After college I came to Chicago and moved in with my best friend, Amanda. And let’s just say we didn’t have the healthiest eating habits. We went to the grocery store maybe once a month, bought as many non-perishables as we could carry from car to apartment in one trip, and hoped we didn’t have to go back for a while. Considering that one of our first joint trips to Dominick’s included an overgrown frat boy making lewd comments while we tried to choose cucumbers, it’s not really a mystery why we didn’t go back often. Our haul generally consisted of a few loaves of bread (some to freeze before they got moldy), boxes of veggie burgers and various frozen fake meat products, frozen broccoli (for me), canned green beans (for her), instant mashed potatoes, boxes of a now-forgotten brand of Mexican rice, and an instant coffee-cake mix that came with a disposable baking tray and a bag to mix the batter in, perfect for a couple of kitchen-lazy girls with no dishwasher.

But our absolute favorite disgusting convenience food was Betty Crocker hash browns. They cost about 89 cents a box and were perfect for two people, mine slathered in a repulsive amount of ketchup, hers not. They were so good, in fact, salty and buttery and crispy in all the right places, that I would probably still eat them today if they hadn’t been discontinued. I’d probably just skip the step of checking out the nutritional information before chucking them in the cart.

I’ve been thinking about those convience foods a lot lately, and I was reminded of the last time Amanda visited, when she told me about something she’d been eating a lot lately: tater tot nachos, or totchos. I finally tried it tonight, and it was exactly what I needed after a horrible commute. A pile of warm, crispy tater tots globbed with spicy refried beans, a quick nutritional yeast cheese sauce, pepper-heavy salsa, and green Tabasco. Somehow the tots, with their steaming, fluffy interiors, seem more suited to an especially chilly, rainy fall night than a handful of tortilla chips.

Soy-Mirin Tofu with Snow Peas and Peanut Sauce

Soy-mirin tofu with snow peas and peanut sauce

The other morning, as I walked from the office kitchen to my desk, tea in hand, I craved peanut sauce. I needed it. And right at that moment. No matter that it was ten A.M. or that the smells in the air consisted of nothing more than over-roasted coffee and fake-maple-laden instant oatmeal (and a few things less savory, I’m sure). I wanted peanut sauce. But not just any peanut sauce. I wanted the vinaigrette-thin, slightly grainy peanut sauce from Vegan Yum Yum, the one that accompanies soy-mirin-glazed tofu and blanched snow peas.

It took me a long time to come around to peanut sauce, and I can blame it all on one thing: Peanut Sauce Delight. The Vietnamese/Thai/Japanese restaurant I worked at after college had a truly repellent dish by that name on the menu. Once in a while a customer would be swayed by it, and any waitress who wanted a decent tip would do everything in their power to unsway them. But if that failed we would have to deliver a bowl filled with peanut sauce, a smattering of broccoli, and a few pieces of tofu/chicken/beef, served with a very inadequate portion of mostly dried up, often leftover (and sometimes, if the owner was around, “saved” from another diner’s plate) jasmine rice. Let me repeat that: a bowl filled with peanut sauce. But this wasn’t any peanut sauce. This was the same thick, gloppy mixture that accompanied the satay appetizers—and was too rich in even that small amount. It resembled nothing so much as peanut butter soup with broccoli croutons. And I never once saw anyone eat more than a few bites.

But once I got over the horrors of Peanut Sauce Delight, I began to embrace peanut butter as a suitable ingredient in Asian dishes. When mixed with sweetness and acid, such as lime juice or rice wine vinegar, and used sparingly, it could be downright delicious. This sauce serves as more of a garnish, giving the rice, tofu, snow peas, and shredded carrots the perfect hint of salty and sweet.

I used the recipe in the Vegan Yum Yum cookbook, but this recipe is nearly identical except for the broccoli. I may never recover from Peanut Sauce Delight enough to accept the combination of broccoli and peanut sauce.

A Simple Sweet Potato

Roasted sweet potato

Never have I been subjected to sweet potatoes sullied by the addition of sugar and marshmallows. This is pure insanity to me. Kind of like taking a taste of soy sauce and saying, “Yeah, it’s salty, but you know what would make it better? Put some salt in it.” Sweet potatoes are sweet. It’s right in the name. Don’t mess with them.

The idea of a vegetable side dish that looks more like a super-rich dessert is disturbing enough, but the truth is, sweet potatoes are one of the most delicious, well-balanced foods in existence. Baked in a hot oven until they get all squishy, they are so hard to resist that I always get a blast of steam in my face when I plunge the knife in the crackly skin. Then I top it with small dabs of Earth Balance and flaky, crunchy Maldon sea salt for a comforting lunch that somehow seems indulgent—creamy, sweet, salty, buttery, utter perfection.

Penne with Roasted Delicata Squash and Vegan Mornay Sauce

Vegan Mornay Sauce

Until a few years ago I hadn’t ever cooked winter squash. Hell, I probably hadn’t even ever eaten winter squash outside of the canned pumpkin in a pie. They always seemed so daunting. The peeling, the cleaning of the seeds, the stained hands. And then there was the cutting. In my mind it was akin to opening a coconut, and one slip of the (very dull) knife in my (very clumsy) hand and I’d be down a finger. But maybe the acquisition of a couple of proper grown-up knives gave me courage.

I started with acorn squash. They’re so cute and curvy and ready for stuffing. So they became a Thanksgiving centerpiece. But the flesh came out stringy and dry and mushy, making for nothing more than a really pretty and seasonally appropriate bowl.

And then I found this. The simplest, most delicious butternut squash soup you could hope for, perfect for topping with cranberry compote for a really stunning color combination. And I haven’t looked back since.

Last year I fell in love with the delicata squash. It’s sometimes hard to find, and its smaller size and less flashy appearance make it easy to overlook. But here’s the thing: You can eat the skin. Meaning none of that annoying peeling. Just chop it up, toss it in olive oil, salt, and pepper, and throw it in the oven for a wonderfully comforting side dish that’s nicely crunchy on the outside, with a bite provided by the slightly waxy skin, and incredibly smooth on the inside. Or do as I did here and, after roasting, toss it with penne and a vegan mornay sauce for an indulgent, grown-up version of mac and cheese. And don’t forget to roast the seeds (delicata is a way better payoff here than stingy butternut) and sprinkle them on top.

The best part? Matilda, who had recently decried a loaf of pumpkin bread for being ” too pumpkiny,” said, without prodding, “I like this squash.” Success.

Vegan Mornay Sauce

adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child et al.

I used Teese vegan cheese in this sauce, as I prefer its flavor over other brands. And when I opened the pantry to grab the flour and realized the all-purpose canister was empty, I used whole-wheat pastry flour instead, which worked just fine. This is best served very hot, as it loses it’s silky texture as it cools.

1 Tbsp Earth Balance Margarine

1 1/2 Tbsp flour

1 cup unsweetened soy milk

Approximately 1/4 cup mozzarella-style vegan cheese, grated

salt and pepper to taste

Heat soy milk in small saucepan or in the microwave until warmed through. Melt margarine in small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour and let the mixture bubble, stirring constantly, for about two minutes. Slowly pour in heated soy milk. Whisk until the sauce thickens and can coat the back of a spoon. This should only take a couple of minutes.