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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Vegan Brie en Croute

Artisan Vegan Brie with Sliced Apples, Brown Sugar and Chopped Pecans, 
Baked in Fluffy Crescent Crust.

It haven't been blogging this month, though I have been eating plenty!  I've been a little obsessed lately with cheese.  Handmade, aged, small batch, decadent, cheese.  It all started with the VegNews and the September - October Cheese issue.  Aged Chevre with Herbes de Provence, Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella, Fromage de Brie, Deli-Style Swiss, Sharp Cheddar, even Cream Cheese!  These truly awe inspiring cashew-based recipes are the creation of Miyoko Schinner, author of Artisan Vegan Cheese. They take some patience to prepare, but the results are well worth it.

Well, it just so happened that I had a wheel of Miyoko's Brie aging on my kitchen table when I learned (entirely by chance) about the Artisan Vegan Cheese contest to promote her new book.  There were only a few hours left to enter and I immediately thought of Baked Brie, but the only recipe I knew involved puff pastry and apricot marmalade.  I had neither. 

But I did have one apple and pecans and handfulls of brown sugar and cinnamon.  I popped over to my Pinterest board and grabbed this vegan crescent roll recipe and whipped up a batch.  

I rolled out a little less than half of the dough to cover my brie, topping it first with half of the apple sliced, as much brown sugar as I could balance precariously on top, a heavy sprinkle of cinnamon and a couple of handfuls of chopped pecans.  Scientific right?  

 I then wrapped the corners over each other and mushed them all together and baked at 425 for fifteen to twenty minutes (just until golden!).   Doesn't look like much on the outside...

But inside is just magic...

I got third place in the contest!  I won a fifteen minute Q & A to pick Miyoko's brain about cheese or vegan cooking in general - how exciting!  What should I ask?!

Now for the reason I have not been blogging lately....  I renewed my commitment to losing weight, so I have been busy calculating the nutritional info for all of my recipes.  So from now on I'll be adding that to blog posts.  Disclaimer:  I am human and don't do this stuff for a living, so don't expect 100% accuracy.  What I can tell you is that a serving size of this, at 1/8 of a wheel,  is almost 600 calories!  So I had to give a good deal of it away.  

My neighbor took a piece immediately after I made it and declared it was the best thing she had eaten in a long time...then asked for seconds.  When the subject of vegan cheese came up at a friends wedding reception, she declared it:  better than chocolate!   

So here is the damage:
Serving Size: 1 serving
Amount Per Serving
  • Calories 583.7
  • Total Fat 38.5 g
  • Saturated Fat 20.6 g
  • Polyunsaturated Fat 4.0 g
  • Monounsaturated Fat 11.3 g
  • Cholesterol 0.0 mg
  • Sodium 44.7 mg
  • Potassium 445.8 mg
  • Total Carbohydrate 56.9 g
  • Dietary Fiber 5.2 g
  • Sugars 9.9 g
  • Protein 9.5 g

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Why Mom Makes the Best Spaghetti and a Vegetarian Drive-Thru!

The truth is I have no idea why my Mom's spaghetti is the best in the world.  Her secret recipe includes not much more than tomato soup, garlic, no salt seasoning, and lots and lots of ground beef.  The amazing thing about mom's spaghetti is that when she veganizes it by merely substituting the beef for lots and lots of crumbled soy protein, its still the world's best spaghetti!!!  Must be the company, but I can NEVER make mine taste like hers.

Our route home from Mom's takes us through Asheville, NC.  We usually make a point to have dinner at Plant when we are in the area, but today we were short on time, so decided to give VegHeads Drive-Thru a try.  Yes, you heard that right - a vegetarian drive-thru!

First we pulled up to the order board and were actually greeted!   Remember this lovely customer service tradition of days gone by?  With drive-thru etiquette these days ranging from "Help you?" to "What?, it was refreshing to hear "Welcome to VegHeads; Can I take your order please?" or something equally courteous and professional.

The hubby ordered the Philly Cheese Seitan Wrap sans cheese which prompted the insightful question, "Would you like that made vegan?"  Why yes, yes we would!  I ordered the Korean BBQ Tempeh Wrap and a vegan cupcake because, well, I never pass up vegan baked goods.

We were greeted at the pickup window by a girl who was even more helpful and polite in person than her voice had led us to believe.

The brown bag really does not do the food justice!

I unrolled my wrap to get a look at the beautiful Thai cabbage slaw, but the tangy BBQ sauce is really the show stopper here.  If I could have had my fondest wish, it would have been a tad warmer, but after three or four bites, my mouth was too full to complain.

I didn't dare unroll the hubby's Seitan Wrap because you just don't mess with a man's sandwich!  But I did beg a bite and wow, just wow!  It was warm and savory and gooey and who needs cheese anyway?  Seriously they could probably make some extra $$ by offering vegan cheese as an option, but we didn't miss it one little bit. 

The only thing that did not wow me was the icing on the cupcake.  The cake was wonderful, but I thought the icing texture was a bit like a half melted candy bar, but the hubby loved it (and he hates chocolate, so this is saying something!)  The fact that the icing was more crunchy than creamy does lend it the advantage of portability that other cupcakes lack.  Still, I probably would not order this again because there are a number of sides I would probably prefer - the Israeli Cous Cous sounds divine!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Chili con Cashews and "Crazy Vegans" is a wonderful thing.  The hubby and I attended our first vegan meetup event, a Harvest Dinner Potluck, yesterday.  Almost two dozen "crazy vegans" brought quiche, Italian meatballs, raw pesto and zucchini pasta, potatoes prepared with onions, molasses and paprika (OMG!), sweet potato casserole, and a couple of salads of course.  Soooo much food and the best part...I could eat every single dish.  These were an eclectic group of folks, artistic types and business types and hippie types and fitness types and charitable types.  We even had a professional clown trained by Ringling Brothers who treated us to some impromptu fire breathing/twirling/flinging.  The worst part....I did not get ANY pictures of this veggie laden feast.  Classic amateur blogger mistake I know.  So I will hopefully placate my two followers (I know who you are!) with a recipe and a little video clip of our fire breathing show (you will hear yours truly call out the blog title)!

Chili con Cashews

1 1/2 cups raw unsalted cashews
3 T. fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup salsa + 2 T
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 t chili powder
1 clove garlic minced
1/2 t Dijon mustard
half roasted red bell pepper (or a whole one if you love roasted red peppers!)

Soak cashews in water overnight (this is key to consistency) and rinse
Add all ingredients except 2 T salsa to your blender and go to town! 
Transfer to crock pot or medium sauce pan and heat if desired
Stir in 2 T salsa before serving

Would be good with some TVP or vegan sausage as well if you like your queso a little meatier and I personally like mine with a LOT more salsa, so I usually spoon out a couple of tablespoons of the finished queso and mix into a double serving of salsa.  Use in pasta for a spicy mac n cheese or as base sauce for chili mac.  Very versatile.

And now for the fire!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Chinese Take Out (Of My Kitchen)

My husband and I have become jaded - too many episodes of Restaurant Impossible and Kitchen Nightmares.  We find ourselves wondering what goes on behind the swinging doors of every place we used to dine (except for Plant, the awesome-est vegan restaurant around, which does not hide their kitchen behind doors at all.)  Given our new found reticence to eat out, I have been on a mission to recreate some of our favorite restaurant meals.

Friday is Chinese Take Out night, so tonight I whipped up some Sesame Tufu adapted from Nummy Kitchen's recipe which you can peruse here.  The recipe calls for deep frying the tofu, but since that is a sure fire way to send the hubby's gall bladder into attack mode, I lightly panned fried mine instead in about 2T sesame oil and added some roasted broccoli.  Add in some steamed jasmine rice and we officially feel "chinese-buffet-stuffed."  I need a nap...

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Chik'n and Dumplings

I had been eying IsaChandra's Dilly Stew With Rosemary Dumplings for months, but then it had been summer - a typical southern hot and sticky season of misery - and much too hot for stew.  Besides the recipe looked intimidating.  I'm not sure why...because it has two parts, because it makes soup look pretty.  For whatever reason, I left it collecting dust on my culinary inspiration board too long. 

Then two weeks ago, I felt the first nip in the air, making me crave mulled wine and one bowl dinners.  I filled my Pinterest idea board with vegan soups galore, but, always, the dilly stew called to me.  So I finally sucked it up and made a pot.

What in the heck took me so long!?!  

This recipe takes under an hour to prepare start to finish with plenty leftover for lunch the next day.  And it was a hit with the hubby who asked for (and helped me prepare) it again today. Not nearly so pretty as Isa's, but just as tasty!  I was out of rosemary, so used the leftover oil from the rosemary popcorn I made for Scotch Eggs and Scones and left out the beans in favor of MorningStar Farms Chik'n Strips.  Incidentally I find these way too spongy to use in fajitas or Chinese food, but they seem made for this dish.

I ate too much!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Runner Up!

I am so stinking excited to learn that my Scotch Eggs and Scones recipe was a runner up in the Vegan/Chopped competition (receiving the “oh-no-she-didn’t” award). 

I wish I had taken a picture now of the destruction that was our kitchen during the making of this dish.  Does anyone else have the problem of dirtying dang near every measuring cup, spoon, mixing bowl and cutting board  they own for one meal?

Anyway, vegan validation feels so good.  As my husband is fond of saying, when he met me, I could burn water.  (Seriously it was the pan that burned...the water just evaporated).  I never learned to cook growing up, because my mother issued an ultimatum to my father when I was nine years old after which the only thing she EVER made for dinner was reservations.  It went something like this "If you come home one more time and tell me you aren't hungry because you grabbed a Big Mac after work, that is the last time I am going to waste my time cooking for you."  Perhaps that was my father's plan all along, as he grabbed a burger on the way home the very next day and that was that. (Yeah, before you ask, they are totally divorced now.)

For the first nine years of my marriage, the kitchen was my husband's domain.  Lets just say he did not marry me for my domestic skills.  But when we decided to go vegan a year ago (after a slow transition to a whole food diet that had nonetheless consisted of meat and cheese to that point), neither of us knew what we were doing, and, in an effort to ensure that inconvenience was no excuse to abandon the cause, I told him I would take care of the cooking.

Turns out I couldn't cook vegan either. It is a tragedy when a dish goes straight from the stove top to the trash.

Then enter PPK.

A year later, I have arrived! (Hey, I live in the me, this is arrived!)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Scotch Eggs and Scones

My. First. Original. Recipe. Ever!  (And it was a doozy.)

Rosemary Popcorn Breaded Scotch Eggs with Butternut Squash Yolk and Hot Buttered Popcorn Scones with a Sweet Apricot Glaze.

It all started when I discovered Post Punk Kitchen on Facebook.  The PPK and its creator,
author/chef/vegan genius Isa Chandra Moskowitz, have made it possible to convert to a vegan lifestyle.  I have never made a single recipe of hers that wasn't amazing.

Considering my first vegan cooking attempt one year ago was met with this passionate criticism from the hubby, "I can't eat this crap for the rest of my life," I needed all the help I could get.

So when she announced the Chopped/Vegan Challenge on the Facebook page last week, I felt compelled to enter, to show off the mad culinary skills I have developed since discovering The PPK, and, dare I imagine, to possibly impress my unknowing mentor?

The Ingredients: Butternut squash, popcorn, fresh rosemary, and apricot preserves.
The Challenge: Brunch 

The first thought that came to mind to make good use of the popcorn was "Cookies!"  But seriously who eats cookies before lunch?  Ahem...anyway.  But a scone?  Now a scone is a perfectly respectable brunch goody!

Then I thought "What goes with Scones?"  So I started researching.  I learned scones are British and that traditional British scones have more in common with biscuits than the hard, crumbly pastries sold in US coffee shops.  Interesting.  But more importantly, I discovered a popular British picnic food called a Scotch Egg, which generally speaking consists of a hard boiled egg, wrapped in sausage, breaded and deep fried.

Hmmm.  What an interesting vegan challenge!  Of course, I had to conquer it.

First, I popped my popcorn (one cup of kernels) in canola oil infused with fresh rosemary.  Fancy!

Then I prepared my squash with apricot preserves, brandy, Earth Balance, and salt.

Meanwhile I suckered the hubby into chopping some dried apricots and the rest of the rosemary for me (since it is generally a bad idea for me to get quite so enthusiastic with large knives.)
The most tedious part of the whole process was carving square blocks of tofu into somewhat convincing egg shapes.  It mostly involved cutting all the edges off over and over again in smaller slices.
I blended the left over tofu with the apricot preserve/squash mixture until achieving a nice yolk color and texture, then added about 1/2 teaspoon of black salt to give it that eggy taste (without completely losing the apricot and squash flavors.)  I also gave my tofu eggs a thorough washing in black and white salt, dried them off and re-dusted them with the black salt.  They smelled so much like eggs, it was almost disturbing!

Now for the fun part.  I cored my tofu eggs, then stuffed them full of as much yolk paste as they would hold without splitting, then re-inserted about half of the core I had removed to seal them up again.  In case you can't guess, this was an extremely tedious process.
That's about when things went horribly wrong.  I put together a beautiful seitan sausage mix with lentils, dried apricots and a marvelous blend of spices.  So pretty!
Did I mention this was also my first attempt making seitan sausage from scratch?  I had so much vital wheat gluten in the mix, it would not stretch around the eggs.  In fact, it wouldn't stretch at all!  I came so close to throwing in the towel then.  I felt such defeat.  The kitchen was thrashed.  I now had eight tofu eggs I had no desire to eat and about ten cups of popcorn which go stale long before we finished it off.  But there was no saving it.  I said to hell with it and steamed my sausage into links - which turned out perfectly, but did my eggs no good.  Or did it?

Call it epiphany or sheer desperation, I threw three of those bad boys in the food processor along with about two cups of lentils, two cups of chickpeas, and another marvelous blend of seasonings, then added another cup of vital wheat gluten (1/4 cup at a time so as not to get myself into another sticky situation.)  Now I had something to work with!
After the eggs were wrapped, I wrapped them up in foil, and steamed for about 45 minutes.  After steaming, I unwrapped and let them cool, then dredged in (almond!) milk and flax seed and breaded them in a "flour" of crushed popcorn, fresh rosemary, salt and pepper.
I suckered the hubby into deep frying them for me (three minutes each) because a pot of hot oil makes me nervous. Meanwhile, I whipped up the scone batter, adding in the rest of the brandy/preserve sauce left over from the squash and about two cups of popcorn, hand crushed.
While the scones were baking, I used the last of the apricot preserves to make the icing for the scones and the maple syrup for the scotch eggs.

The results:
It was so satisfying to cut open that first Scotch egg and see those layers - yolk, white, sausage, breading - to realize that everything had ultimately turned out just as I had envisioned (vs. into the homogenous mess I feared).  And yummy to boot.  I've already eaten two!  With that said, I am glad there was not a time limit assigned to this challenge, as I would have surely exceeded it.

On the other hand, the scones came together quickly and are out of this world - sweet, savory, buttery, apricoty, crunchy, fluffy.  They defy logic and come together in about twenty minutes start to finish.  I have decided these will be MY signature recipe at every holiday party this year. You. Must. Try. Them.

The Ingedients:

Rosemary Popcorn:
6 sprigs fresh rosemary
1/2 cup oil
1 cup kernals

Let the rosemary and oil simmer for about ten minutes, then remove rosemary sprigs before popping. Butter and salt to taste.

1 Butternut Squash (boiled until soft, then sauteed in salted apricot sauce)
Leftover tofu from shaping 8 eggs
1/4 t black salt
salt to taste

Process tofu in food processor until smooth and then fold into squash mixture to desired consistency.

Salted Apricot Sauce:
1 cup apricot preserves
1 T brandy (because that's all I had on hand)
2 T Earth Balance
Sea Salt (I twisted grinder eight times...not sure the measurement equivalent)

Simmer until all ingredients are incorporated then strain.

2 packaged extra firm tofu, pressed (sculpt, soak in water and salt, press again)
1 1/2 T Black Salt (+ more for dusting)
1/2 T Salt

Apricot Sausage:
 1 1/2 cups lentils
1 cup veggie broth
1 T oil (reserved from rosemary popcorn)
1 1/2 cup vital wheat gluten
1 t paprika
1 t marjoram
1/2 t thyme
1 t fennel
1/2 t liquid smoke
salt and pepper to taste
4 T chopped dried Apricots

Sausage mixture for egg wrap:
1/2 batch prepared Apricot Sausage
2 cups chickpeas
2 cups lentils
1 cup bread crumbs
1 cup vital wheat gluten
2 T thyme
1 t fennel
1 T paprika
1/2 t cayenne
2 T maple syrup
2 T salted apricot sauce
salt and pepper to taste

I had enough sausage mixture left for ten meatballs too!

2 cups crushed rosemary popcorn (buttered)
1 T dried rosemary
salt and pepper to taste

2 T apricot preserves (melted)
4 T maple syrup

1/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1 t apple cider vinegar
1 T Flax

Set aside for a few minutes until curdled then fold in 1/2 c - 2 T non dairy yogurt

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 t salt
1/2 T baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 cup Earth Balance

Mix with yogurt mixture then fold in 2 cups popcorn and 2 T salted apricot sauce

Bake at 400 degrees 17 minutres

1 T apricot preserves (melted)
2 T unsweetened almond milk
1 cup powdered sugar

I think that's all!  If it seems like I missed a vital ingredient on this list its probably because my notebook is covered in liquid smoke.  A graceful and neat chef, I am not!