Thursday, December 30, 2010

Vegan Fantasy Fudge

Growing up, my mom made the most delicious fudge. In fact, it was one of the few chocolate things I can remember that I actually liked, but it had to be my mom's. Other fudge I found distasteful at best. Crumbly, grainy fudge just doesn't do it for me. Little did I know, however, that the fudge wasn't exactly her recipe. Like many of the dishes I associate with my mom, this one came from the back of a jar--the Kraft Marshmallow Creme jar to be exact.

So, this year, I set about to duplicate that fudge without the grossness that is gelatin. The recent explosion of vegan marshmallow options promised to make that fairly east and, indeed, it was. The fudge turned out good. Not as smooth as I rememeber it, perhaps, but still really good. I'm pretty sure Eames lived off nothing but fudge for 3 days and had a keen eye for the container we kept it in, sneaking his little hands in whenever he got a chance.

 Vegan Fantasy Fudge (based on the original Kraft recipe)

3 cups sugar
3/4 cup Earth Balance or vegan margarine
2/3 cup coconut milk
1 12 oz. bag Ghiradelli's semi-sweet chocolate chips (the gold bag is vegan)
1 10 oz. bag of Dandies vegan marshmallows
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 t vanilla extract

In a medium cast iron (or any other heavy) pot, combine sugar, EB, and coconut milk. Over medium-high heat, being to a full rolling boil. Stir constantly! Once it's reached a full boil, continue to boil for 5 minutes. Stir constantly! After 5 minutes, remove from heat and immediately stir in marshmallows and choclate chips. It really helps if you use an electric beater. I had to put it back on the heat for a minute to get everything to melt, but with electricity you should be fine. Once the marshmallows and chocolate chips are melted, add nuts and vanilla. Pour into a greased lasagna pan, taking care not to scrape to the bottom or sides of the fudge out of the pan--let a toddler with a mean sugar tooth eat that off a spoon--so you don't get any grainyness.
Let cool at room temp for several hours, then use a sharp knife to cut into bite-sized pieces.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Mofo 2010: Walnut Tempeh Scramble

See, I love breakfast. I'll eat it for any meal and I'd much rather go out for breakfast than dinner.  When I was still in California, we went to breakfast as a family every Sunday and it's a tradition I dearly miss. The problem is that going out for breakfast as a vegan isn't always the easiest undertaking.Of course, I miss my family most of all, but I also miss going out for breakfast in general. The problem is that, as a vegan, it isn't always the easiest undertaking. Even in the Boulder area, offering tofu as a replacement option for eggs is rare.  But, there is one place that has a couple of vegan choices--and one is more than worth seeking out.

Honestly, the title of this post is a little misleading, since there are no actual walnuts involved in the making of this scramble. Instead, it's my version of the Walnut Cafe Tempeh Scramble. While I love going to Walnut Cafe, it's often very crowded and, with Eames eating as much as I do these days, it's gotten somewhat pricey for us to go there regularly (and don't even get me started on whether or not they actually have vegan sausage--it changes from month to month). So, for endless seconds and guaranteed vegan  sausage, I make it at home with my own expanding family.

Walnut Tempeh Scramble

Olive oil
 1 T tamari
4 medium potatoes, small dice
1 package tempeh, diced
1 green bell pepper, small dice
1 onion, small dice
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 package Gimmelean, crumbled
1 1/2 t smoked paprika
1 t thyme
1 t Spike seasoning
3 T water
salt and pepper to taste

In one medium skillet, heat oil over medium high heat. Add tamari, then potatoes and tempeh. Cook for about 7-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. While those are cooking, mix seasoning and water in a very small bowl. When potatoes are semi-cooked and tempeh is browned, add in seasoning and water. Stir and cover.

At the same time, heat oil over medium high heat and add Gimmelean, onion, and bell pepper. Cook stirring occasionally, about 5-6 minutes. Then add garlic and cook until the Gimmlean is browned and onion/bell pepper is softened.

Once the potatoes are soft, add Gimmlean/onion/bell mixture to potatoes and stir well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Top with Daiya, Cholula, and serve hot.

Makes about 4 good sized portions.

Mofo 2010: Cuban Black Beans

I can't believe we're already a week in Vegan Mofo and I haven't gotten one post up. Sigh. Between making actual progress on my dissertation, grading, and the destructive force of a particular 23 pound toddler, I simply haven't made time for posting (nor have I for weeks, as is obvious from the date of the last post. The good news, however, is that I've taken pictures of a few dishes and they will be posted soon.

The first is my neighbor's Cuban Black Beans. These have become a staple around this house, since all 3 of us LOVE them. In fact, to see just how popular they are, you can read all about Eames's bean butt over at the other blog (Sorry if you came here for more civilized conversation).

Cuban Black Beans (served here with chili-roasted sweet potatoes and TJ's cornbread)

1 lb. dried black beans, sorted and soaked overnight

Rinse soaked black beans and cover with 1 inch of water in either a crockpot or regular pot. Add the following to the uncooked beans:

1 can diced tomatoes
1 t oregano
1/2 t cumin
1 bay leaf

If cooking in the slowcooker, cook on high for about five and a half hours. If cooking on the stovetop, do the norm: Bring water and beans to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer and cover. Cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. When beans are al dente, add the following ingredients to the beans:

The Sofrito: Make this while the beans are cooking so it's ready to go in when they're done.  You want to cook this as long as possible over medium heat to bring out the flavor. In other words, cook them to within an inch of their lives, but don't brown them if possible.

1/4 cup olive oil
1 onion, small dice
1 bell pepper, small dice
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced

After the sofrito, add the following (adjust to your taste):
2-3 T red wine vinegar
2-3 t salt
fresh ground pepper

Let the beans cook for another 30-40 to really let the flavor meld. The beans should still be in tact, but they should also be really soft. Taste again for vinegar (which will mellow). For a traditional take on the dish, serve over rice (I prefer brown). A dollop of cashew sour cream, some cilantro, and a slice of lime finish the dish perfectly.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Fried Green Tomato BLT

I had fried green tomatoes one time. I was in New Orleans and newly vegan and I was meeting a group of people at a restaurant that had exactly one vegetarian thing on the menu (but, happily, there was plenty of vegan food elsewhere on the trip). I knew that it probably wasn't vegan, but I decided ignorance was bliss and ordered the fried green tomatoes. I may have been a bad vegan, but it was indeed bliss. I've been thinking about them ever since.

So, when I spied green tomatoes at our CSA's farm stand, I knew it was time to make some. Then, when we walked by a restaurant in Fort Collins serving a fried green tomato BLT, I thought it might be my destiny. That sounded a lot like my food soulmate. The only problem: I just started a diet. And, I'm pretty sure that fried green tomatoes and sandwiches loaded with vegenaise are not on the Body for Life  plan. So, I waited until my free day.

And by was it worth the wait. It was also so filling that my free day consisted of a bagel sandwich for breakfast, the BLT, and a teensy-tiny amount of panang curry for dinner--so full was I from that sandwich. I can't wait to have them again.
That fried stuff in the foreground? Deep fried avocado slices.

The Fried Green Tomatoes
3 Large Green Tomatoes, sliced about 1/2 an inch thick
1 1/2 c soy milk
1 1/2 t apple cider vinegar
1 c flour
1/2 c corn meal
2 t garlic powder
1 t salt
Peanut oil for frying

Lay tomatoes in a colander and sprinkle with salt. let sweat for about 30 minutes while you prepare everything else. Whisk together soy milk and vinegar. Set aside to curdle. Combine the corn meal, flour garlic powder, and salt in a long shallow container. Mix well. Whisk in soy milk mixture to your desired consistency.

Fill a frying pan about 1/2 inch deep with peanut oil and heat over medium high heat. While the oil is heating up, gently pat dry the tomatoes with a paper towel, getting them as dry as possible. Test the oil by dropping a small amount of better in the oil. It should sizzle and begin to turn brown. Coat 3 slices of tomato in the batter and drop into oil. Flip when the bottom half is a nice caramel brown color and cook until both sides are that color. Remove from oil and place on a paper towel-covered plate. Continue with all the tomato slices.

A note: This is way too much batter for 3 tomatoes, but I didn't want to worry about running out of batter or having to scrape it together. Plus, I didn't want to do the math, but I think you'd have just enough if you cut the batter recipe in half. Or you could fry whatever you have lying around, which is what I did with that avocado.

Also: This batter was great. It had nice crunch. It stuck and stayed together well--no eggs necessary. And could be used on any number of things, like zucchini. 

The Sandwich
2 pieces of soft sandwich bread (I used light rye)
3 fried green tomatoes
3 slices of tempeh bacon
3 leaves romaine, chopped
2 slices of tomato

I'm sure you can figure this part out.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Lemony Mint Ricotta-Stuffed Squash Blossoms

Besides enjoying a few hours with friends, there are two definite advantages to spending time Saturday night and Sunday morning preparing a big brunch: 1) the house, or at least the main floor, gets cleaned, and 2) there are lots of leftovers that provide a variety of lunches and dinner for a good part of the week. So, after making brunch again this Sunday (which consisted of a breakfast burrito bar), the last thing I wanted or needed to do last night was make dinner.

That, of course, was until Josh brought home the CSA haul and sitting right on top was a round bag o' squash blossoms. Which I had been hoping for. But have to be used the same day because they wilt hella quick. Sigh.

So, after trying to talk myself out of cooking, I gave in and started thinking about what I wanted to stuff the blossoms with. I even thought of doing quesadillas, but the consensus seems to be that you can't really taste the blossoms in quesadilla form and I thought that a plain vegan cheese quesadilla sounded less than appetizing. Stuffing them seemed the way to go (especially since I'm cooking solely out of the pantry this week), so I threw together a kitchen sink/CSA tofu ricotta and fried 'em up. They definitely needed a dipping sauce of some kind, but they turned out pretty good.

I would definitely make these for a dinner party, especially if I was already using the fryer for vegan cream cheese wontons. They are, above all else, a little exotic and a whole lot impressive to behold.
20 squash blossoms (you can do less but you'll have extra filling)

Lemony Mint Ricotta Filling
1 lb. extra firm tofu
1/3 cup tofutti cream cheese
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 read onion, finely diced
4-5 sprigs mint, chiffonaded
4-5 springs basil, chiffonaded
Zest of 1/3 lemon
Juice of 1/3 lemon
Coarse ground salt and pepper to taste

The Batter
1 cup AP flour
1 cup club soda
1/2 t salt

In a small saute pan, saute garlic and red onion in a bit of olive oil on medium heat. Cook until the red onion in soft and beginning to carmelize. Meanwhile, drain tofu, squeezing as much of the water as possible out of it. Crumble into a bowl and keep massaging it until it resembles the texture of, well, ricotta. Add cream cheese and mix well. Add the remaining ingredients. Mix well. Add fresh ground salt and pepper until you get the desired flavor. Put filling a gallon size ziploc bag and push it all toward one bottom corner.

I used a deep fryer, so, at this point, I filled the fryer to the maximum line with canola oil and heated it to 375 degrees.

Next, you need to prep the blossoms, which basically involves removing the stamen. Many sites say you need to use a knife or cut the blossom open, but it's easy to get out while leaving the flower *ahem* intact. Just gently pull the petals apart, stick you finger into the blossom, and press the stamen to the side of the petal (believe me, I tried to make this as non-sexual as possible as I was writing it--it's a challenge). If they're fresh it should break off easily, then you can shake the stamen out. You may need to use you nail, but it should break off easily. I did all of them this way without any mishaps.

Once the blossoms are ready, cut half an inch off the corner of the filling bag. Hold hte flower in one hand, using your fingers to pull back the petals, and squeeze a couple tablespoons of filling into each flower. Twist them closed gently. They won't stay closed but they don't need to. Just make sure it's not overflowing with ricotta.
Lemony Mint Tofu Ricotta Filling

Next, you have to fry them. The blossoms are delicate, so I went with the deep fryer--which had it's challenges. Because they're battered, the first two blossoms stuck to the frying basket. So, with the frying basket lowered into the oil, I would dredge a blossom, covering it at least 3/4 with batter (which is thick), and drop it into the oil. Give it a couple seconds, then gently nudge it around with tongs to make sure it didn't stick to the basket. Then I'd add another dredged blossom. I only did two at a time, frying until they were a golden brown color. After the first couple, they came out fine. But, if you're doing this for the first time, I'd plan on making more then you need.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Refried Beans

Let me put this bluntly: I love refried beans. And, while I don't mind using canned ones for adding to burritos and whatnot, I would never eat them straight. Canned refrieds just don't cut it. After hearing a lot of buzz here and there on the internets, I decided to try this recipe, which has gotten stellar reviews (5 stars with 708 people reviewing the recipe). Unfortunately, I was disappointed. I thought they lacked flavor and it wasn't for lack of salt (which, strangely, the recipe calls for before the beans are cooked...I'm guessing that's why they take so long). So, I set about trying to combine this recipe with mine and the results were pretty damn good, if I do say so myself.
"Fat-ish" Refried Beans

1 pound of pinto beans, sorted and rinsed
3 cups of veggie broth
1 onion, quartered
1 California bay leaf
1 piece of kombu
1 t cumin
1 t garlic powder
Fresh ground pepper (to taste)
3 t salt (more or less, to taste)
1/3 cup of oil (I've used olive and canola and liked them both)

In a large bowl (I use the insert to my slowcooker), cover pinto beans with serveral inches of water and let soak overnight. The next day, drain the beans and rinse them. Put them in a slowcooker, add the veggie broth and cover the rest of the way with an inch of water (You can also use all veggie broth or water). Add all the ingredients, except the salt, pepper, and oil. Cook on high for 5 1/2 to 6 hours. Using a ladle remove as much liquid as you can (just try to get the liquid level below the beans) and set the liquid aside. Add oil and salt, and cook for 15 more minutes. Using a hand blender (or mash them with a fork or potato masher), puree the beans, adding the reserved liquid as needed to achieve the desired consistency. I usually like them thinner as a side dish and thicker for the filling of burritos.

Refried beans freeze wonderfully. Just add a little bit of veggie broth as you reheat them, since they will thicken up in the freezer.

Spicy Chickpea Puree

While Aspen was here, I made a lot of beans, since she seems to like them and every meal was hit and miss on whether she'd actually eat it. This Spicy Chickpea Puree was a great big fail with Aspen (she likes beans, she likes hummus, but the chickpea puree is a fail? Teenagers.). BUT, it was an unqualified success with the adults and toddlers in the house. It may only be a slightly dressed up version of hummus, but there's something about this meal that felt fresh. On another note, the chickpea puree is spread on a loaf of bread that I baked that day--the practice loaf out of My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method. Due to a small error on my part, it came out slightly dry/tough, but the flavor was incredible and it was one of the easiest loaves I've ever made.