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Archive for the ‘Vegan MoFo’ Category

Dear Tofurkey,

You are an ugly little football, but I forgive you of your appearance or lack-thereof and love you anyway. Your salty, chewy texture goes nicely with a side of stuffing, gravy, and cranberry sauce. You are so unlike the real turkey my family attempted to roast on Thanksgiving day. You didn’t leave unsavory, uncooked juices on my counter. You never caused me to hide in the pantry to conceal my laughter and intermittent dry heaves while my father and brother-in-law struggled with carving an undercooked bird that sat around “resting” for two hours. With you around, I didn’t have to worry that my new vegetarian friends would have to make excuses as to why they wouldn’t eat the turkey they witnessed dying a slow death in my kitchen, nor would I have to worry about them getting sick from eating you. Nobody huddled in packs before dinner assessing whether or not they were going to take the risk and eat you.

Tofurkey, if only you looked more appetizing, then maybe my family might have been more inclined to embrace you at dinner time. As my sister tried to microwave the possible disease out of the 18 pound, karma-laden bird that refused to offer itself up as the holiday protein king, there you sat humbly waiting to be consumed. And after that unyielding turkey was boiled down for five hours into a soup that still refused to comply to consumption by staying warm even when left on a freezing cold deck to chill overnight, you lovingly and obligingly presented yourself as a tasty leftover, and most importantly, a loyal disease-free friend. You do your job as turkey substitute better than the turkey itself, and really that’s all this vegan can ask of you. Tofurkey, you held strong four days after Thanksgiving and presented yourself as a mock turkey sandwich smothered in Veganaise, homemade cranberry sauce and piled with lettuce on sourdough bread.

You make a fine substitute turkey sandwich.

Sure, you don’t look like turkey. You probably don’t even really taste like turkey. But after 15 years of not eating turkey, that doesn’t matter to me. I am just happy I can eat you in a sandwich reminiscent of what I ate every Friday after Thanksgiving during my childhood.

So thanks for being there on Thanksgiving, and Friday, and Saturday, Sunday and Monday. See you next year good friend.

Yours truly,

The Thankful Vegan

 

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This year, Scott uncovered the secret to creating authentic curries. A stroll through a Thai restaurant kitchen on the way to escorting our daughter to the bathroom unveiled an awesome discovery: Thai restaurants use pre-made curry. All those cookbooks that list 20 different ingredients (only found fresh in Thailand) to make a green, yellow, red, or panang curry, fail to tell you that really, all you need are these:

 

Palm sugar, tamarind, and your secret friend, curry paste.

For fourteen years, Scott has attempted to create a Thai curry and Pra Ram tofu that tasted like what we get in a restaurant. Our homemade curries never tasted right. They were good, but failed at curbing cravings, and inevitably I needed to eliminate my green curry obsession with what my taste buds deemed to be the real thing. With the frequency of my cravings for Thai food, that can get pricey.

So as you navigate your third day of Thanksgiving leftovers and your cravings move away from harvest flavors, head to your local Asian food store, purchase a curry paste and some tamarind paste, and try making a curry.

Red Curry and Rice—I could eat a plate, twice*

Ingredients

8 ounce can of coconut milk

Curry paste of your choice (make sure to check there is no fish sauce in the ingredients)

Salt or soy sauce

Tamarind paste

Palm sugar

1-2 carrots

Some combination of the following:

1 bunch of broccoli

10-12 small to medium size mushrooms

Half of a small butternut squash

Firm tofu

Thai basil

Long grain white or brown rice

Directions

Start the rice. Heat the coconut milk in a saucepan until it is just starting to simmer. Blend  curry paste by the tablespoon into the coconut milk until you reach your desired level of spiciness. Let the curry and coconut milk simmer for 4-5 minutes. Add salt or soy sauce to taste, two tablespoons tamarind paste, and three tablespoons of palm sugar. Cut up whatever combination of veggies you have in your fridge into big chunks. When adding the veggies to the coconut milk, start with whatever cooks the longest first. Add in basil last. Simmer until vegetables are soft. Serve over rice. This aromatic dish takes about 30 minutes and is perfect for a weeknight meal.

*Play on Michael Franti‘s song, Red Beans and Rice.

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Potato Comfort

I need some comfort food. Now. I need to sit in a pair of soft pants on my squishy couch with a plate of twice-baked potatoes in front of some brain-cell-destroying TV. The personal and political drama of October spilled into the first week of November.  I think it is okay to just say goodbye to 2010 now and check out until January. The year is like a bad container of leftovers left on the counter to fester and rot. We need to let out the gas, dump all the contents, and start over with a new menu. Fortunately, for my little family, we were only forced to eat a small portion of the 2010 meal, but unfortunately, our family and friends were served much larger platefuls.

So, a few days ago I sent out a call on Facebook for new 2011 menu ideas, and my friends came up with some suggestions. I think they’ve helped to create a lovely meal—one in which we could all enjoy. I only hope that next year’s chef  (God, Obama, the universe, fate, destiny, Oprah, whoever you put your faith in, etc.) will actually deliver.

Proposed 2011 Menu

Cocktail

A warm snifter of justice topped with a sprinkling of organic grassroots activism.

Appetizer

Freshly harvested blessings peppered with economic upturn and paired with a fine vintage of full-bodied health.

Entrées

Grilled sense and reason with a side of unbiased information

or

Pizza*

Dessert

A triple-layer cake of compassion, patience and mindfulness drizzled with a love and tranquility sauce.

Until our sumptuous meal is served, or the pizza arrives in a comforting box at your door, please feel free to join me on the couch for some salty, stuffed potatoes.

Vegan Twice-Baked Potatoes

Ingredients

4-6 Russet potatoes scrubbed clean and pierced for baking

3 bunches of broccoli, including stems

1 package of smoky tempeh strips (They have a bacon-y flavor. Check your natural food store.)

1-1 ½ cups (or as much as needed to reach desired flavor and consistency) of Real Food Daily’s cashew cheddar cheese sauce (We use this versatile, smooth and creamy sauce for casseroles, nachos, pizzas, tamales, etc.)

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

–Heat the oven to 400 degrees and bake potatoes until soft (approx. 45 minutes to an hour).

–Make the cashew cheese sauce.

–While potatoes are baking, chop broccoli into very small pieces and steam until soft and bright green. For added texture, chop and steam the stem as well.

–Cut tempeh into small pieces and heat in a skillet.

–Once potatoes are cool enough to handle, slice in half and scoop the insides into a large bowl. Don’t tear the skins. Set them aside as you will need them later to hold the stuffing.

–Add the broccoli, tempeh, cheese sauce, salt and pepper to the bowl of potatoes  and mix well.

–Heap the potato skins full of the potato mixture and put back into the oven for another 20 minutes or until the tops are crispy and golden and the mixture is heated through.

–Serve with a salad and/or beer and your favorite show.

*Special thanks to Dina for keeping it real.

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I’ve never been a real fan of Halloween—particularly the dressing up and decorating part. If my grandmother were still alive to read these words, she would don her witch costume, add a nasty wart to her nose, and hobble around behind my back mumbling curses for speaking ill of her favorite day. I do love annual visits to Cool Patch and wandering through the acres of pumpkins. Except for my father-in-law who was a little grossed out by climbing into a pile of dried kernels, how can you not love a good roll through a corn bath?

Every child should be buried in corn at least once. Never mind that kernels end up all over your bathroom floor hours later.

I am sure my apathy for the day stems from the lackluster Halloweens of my childhood. Like most children, I expected lots of loot from my neighbors. We were the only children living at the end of a country dirt road and should have known better than to try and trick-or-treat. None of our neighbors expected us kids to brave the potholes in the dark and knock on their doors. The results were always disastrous. One particularly awful year yielded a mini Almond Joy (I hated coconuts and chocolate together), two stale Chips Ahoy cookies, a box of raisins, and a dime. For an eight year old, that’s a tragic haul.

As a parent, (particularly one who over thinks things and puts unnecessary pressure on herself to live up to the expectations created in her head) I had an irrational, preconceived idea of what makes a good Halloween and what makes a bad one. Homemade costumes, festively decorated house, and construction paper pumpkins = good. Store-bought costumes and minimal decorations = bad. It doesn’t help that our town is teaming with families who decorate their front walks with lights and fake spider webs. Construction paper jack-o-lanterns and witches jeer through their windows like little signs of art project success.

In an effort to live up to my expectations, I picked the kids up early from school. I figured we could bake cupcakes and create Halloween artwork—you know, do the same things as the perfect moms in my mind. After tracing a witch and pumpkin scene for Calla to color in, she flipped over the paper and drew her own people with a red marker. Lennon couldn’t be bothered with making anything. My kids didn’t want to make pictures for Halloween, and I felt relieved at their lack of care for holiday crafts. I expect they will have many expectations that I will fail at fulfilling as they grow older. Fortunately, decorating the house into a holiday extravaganza isn’t one of them.

In the end, I decorated a bit. It took me all of fifteen painless minutes to gather together our random Halloween items and rearrange our pumpkins on the front porch. I collected our black velvet spider web from the work bench and hung it in our front window, set out a tin witch and pumpkin cookie jar on the dining room table, and placed Lennon’s nasty, overgrown spider as the gate keeper to the fireplace.

I may feel apathetic toward the Halloween, but this year I realized I don’t have to live up to my irrational expectations to enjoy the holiday. I was happy to see our jack o’ lanterns glowing from the street in front of the giant black spider web hanging from the window. With Scott’s addition of Bach’s Toccata in Fugue blaring from the garage, it looked like we actually put some thought into the holiday. I still kind of felt a little like a cheater for not making my kids’ costumes. If the store bought Halloween costumes of today resembled those plastic ones they had when I was a kid, I would have pulled out the sewing machine. Maybe next year I will buy myself a witch costume reminiscent of my grandmother’s, sit on my bench outside my house, and scare the bejeezus out of the neighborhood kids—or not. The only tradition I really care about is visiting the pumpkin patch, and hanging out in the corn bath with my kids.

Between Halloween, class parties, and a kid birthday, I’ve baked about four dozen cookies, a dozen cupcakes and two apple pies in the last week. Of all my vegan treats, the almond thumbprint cookies with peach jam filling were the most requested by my kids. The orange jam made these cookies very appropriate for Halloween.

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This weekend was beautiful, cold and blustery. We spent most of Saturday at the pumpkin patch harvesting pumpkins and gourds to decorate our front porch. A hay bale pyramid, little playhouses and a “swim” through a large pool of dried corn kernels kept us busy for hours. And that didn’t include the massive corn maze that we definitely stayed away from. Four kids lost in a 40+ acre corn maze didn’t really sound like a whole lot of fun. But the acres of pumpkin patch filled with classic Charlie Brown style pumpkins, warty, knobby gourds and smooth butternut squashes served up a spectacular autumn egg hunt.

I love fall. The weather, rustic colors and of course, the food. Winter squashes make tasty boats for rice pilafs, apples provide easy kid snacks, and stews and soups give us new inspiration for dinner meals. And we all know I could use a little inspiration in the dinner department. The best part about the food is that most autumn dishes taste even better with a side of gravy.

Scott makes the best vegan gravy. I am not talking about some wimpy mushroom sauce involving a box of soup doctored with a touch of nutritional yeast and some mustard. That’s my attempt and while it does the trick, it doesn’t even touch Scott’s gravy. Scott’s mushroom gravy tastes rich like old school gravy made from turkey drippings, but without the meaty bits.

If we hadn’t gone out to our favorite vegetarian Vietnamese restaurant to celebrate Scott’s Birthday, I would have created a nice rustic Sunday dinner as a nice end to a great weekend. So instead, we waited until tonight to smother rice pilaf and butternut squash in Scott’s gravy recipe.

Vegan Mushroom Gravy

Ingredients
-3/4 cup flour
-1/3 cup olive oil
-1 heaping teaspoon of marmite (Scott’s secret ingredient)
-1 box of mushroom soup
-1-2 squirts of prepared yellow mustard
-1-2 teaspoons of dried sage or thyme
-splash of soy sauce or salt to taste

Directions
In a small sauce pan, heat the olive oil and whisk in the flour to make a light brown roux. (make sure the roux is not too dry.) Whisk in the box of mushroom soup, marmite, mustard and salt. Keep whisking the mixture the whole time to avoid lumps. Keep on low heat until the gravy thickens. Pour over mashed potatoes, pilaf, tofu, collard greens, biscuits…anything for an excuse to eat gravy.

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My hubby is at a conference for three days, and he is my saving grace when it comes to feeding me. I truly have a hard time coming up with palate inspiring meals when he is out of town. Sure, I can crank out a healthy, bland kid meal, but I can’t say that it is a meal I want to consume myself. One can only eat noodles with vegan cheesy sauce and broccoli so many times before losing all interest in food. After an eight hour work day ending with the task of negotiating two dirty kids away from school and into a car, it is really hard to muster up the energy and inspiration to create some totally fabulous vegan meal in the time equivalent of one Dora the Explorer episode. When Scott is gone, my food ideas dwindle down to burritos and noodles. Someone save me from bland self!

Last night I really wanted try out the new Italian Tofurkey sausages I had just purchased. I thought they would go nice with a box of rice pilaf and a tossed salad. But after wrestling the kids to bed, I didn’t have the energy to cook. So I settled with just the tossed salad. That tossed salad became my saving grace. Literally. Otherwise I might have made some nasty concoction involving a can of baked beans, corn and a cup of soygurt. Or a can of refried beans and leftover polenta. Really, it’s happened before. I shouldn’t be allowed in the kitchen when I am cooking for one.

Hobo Tossed Salad—your mealtime friend made from whatever you have leftover in the fridge

Ingredients: (what I used last night but really, don’t hold back on the creativity)

Romaine lettuce (I like to mix in some leafy greens so there is some variety and crunch)
kidney beans
corn
avocado
cucumbers
carrots
fake bacon bits
vegan Parmesan cheese
ground pepper
Annie’s Goddess dressing

Directions (I am being lazy here…)
Tear it up, cut it up, add it to a bowl and toss. Really, there is no excuse not to fall back on a salad when you are tired and need to eat something filling (she says, scolding herself.)

Enjoy!

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My brain is dry. The words that normally twist and wind like a river through my mind have deserted me. I think they might be slightly offended by my blatant neglect and have left me with blank thoughts and little creativity. I will try to coax them home with a cup of vegan Mexican hot chocolate, an apology for being too preoccupied with the state of the union, and a promise to be more diligent with my writing.

Vegan Mexican Hot Chocolate
Ingredients

Soymilk
Nestle’s Abuelita Mexican chocolate (vegan by default and available in the Mexican Food section of most grocery stores.)
Dash of cayenne pepper

Directions
Heat up one and a half cups of soymilk and a third of a round of chocolate in a small sauce pan. Whisk together until milk is thoroughly heated and the chocolate is melted. Add in a miniscule dash of cayenne pepper for a little extra spice. Give a little shout out to your creative muses, drink it all and immediately start thinking about another cup.

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