The HappyCow Cookbook, page 186

Sunday, June 15th, 2014

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Today’s recipe is (deep breath!) Roasted Spaghetti Squash, Cauliflower, Garlic, and Mashed Potatoes with Porcini Mushroom Gravy from the Peacefood Café. Page 186 in The HappyCow Cookbook for short!

It sounds like more trouble than it is! Truth be told, the spaghetti squash and cauliflower all but cook themselves: just prep and bake for an hour and 15-20 minutes, respectively. That gave me exactly the right amount of time to make the gravy and mashed potatoes.

The gravy’s pretty simple, though I did have to add an extra 1/2 cup water + 2 tablespoons arrowroot on top of the cornstarch to thicken it to my liking. Plus I couldn’t find porcini mushrooms, so methinks my version tasted a bit more like vegan chicken broth than the original, but no matter! It was pretty bangin’ anyway.

The mashed potatoes were made infinitely easier with the help of my brand spanking new potato ricer. (Magic!) There were no tears or curse words to be found, and my mashed potatoes were the fluffiest they’ve ever been. Best $25 I’ve ever spent.

I was a little skeptical about the combination of veggies, but they all went well together, and of course gravy makes everything taste better. And who doesn’t love spaghetti squash? Instant noodles, right off the rind!

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Giant pot pie or legit pizza pie? You decide.

Friday, November 29th, 2013

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I’ve been feeling bummed about the holidays, so Shane volunteered to make Thanksgiving dinner this year. All by his little lonesome! And to sweeten the deal, he made it a Thanksgiving pizza. (Back off vegans, he’s mine!)

This year’s pie was a lot like 2011’s masterpiece, but with one crucial difference: Shane added a top crust, thus doubling the carb count. The result was kind of like a giant pot pie..or an honest-to-goodness pizza “pie.” He also stuffed it with mashed potatoes (I swear the layer was nearly an inch thick!), stuffing, Tofurky (slices AND Kielbasa; a weird choice, but I’m not complaining), and gravy, with extra gravy to garnish. Basically I ate my weight in gravy, is what I’m saying.

We weren’t sure what to expect – would the bottom crust cook all the way through, or simply collapse under the weight of all that deliciousness? would the gravy leak? would our oven implode from the sheer awesomeness of it all? – but the end result was bitchin’. Seriously, this is one good pizza. I might even like it better than the naked, one-crust version – but not if I’m the one making it. That top crust is tricky, yo! You’ll need two pairs of hands and a giant spatula to pick it up.

Shane mostly winged it, but here’s a basic recipe for you to follow, if you’d like to try it for your own bad self. Feel free to swap out any of the “side” recipes (mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy) for your own favorite version. Each recipe makes a big batch, so you WILL have leftovers. Better to have a little extra than not enough, though, am I right?

Pro tip: You can make some of the items a day beforehand, so pizza assembly goes more quickly. BUT the mashed potatoes and gravy are easiest to spread/drizzle when a little warm, so if you’re using leftovers, you should reheat them a bit first. You don’t want them hot, though, since they can compromise the integrity of the crust. Room temp or slightly warmer is best.

Also, one caveat: I have zero idea how easy this is to cut without a Pizza Press. My guess is, not very. Consider yourself warned!

 

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Homestyle Thanksgiving Leftovers

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

Normally I wouldn’t bother blogging my leftovers – but seeing as the gravy’s a new recipe, let’s have a gander, shall we?

 

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Naturally, the gravy was the first of the Thanksgiving foodstuffs to go. But mashed potatoes and stuffing just aren’t their best unless they’re drowning in gravy – so for the leftovers, I made a double batch of Homestyle Gravy from Tamasin Noyes’s American Vegan Kitchen. It was fairly easy to make (it’s gravy!), but super-tasty. A very high nom-to-effort ratio, is what I’m saying. With tons of seasonings – including soy and Worcestershire sauce – it’s definitely one of the more flavorful gravies I’ve tried. You can see all the yummy bits in the above photo: onions, garlic, rosemary. Too shy to make an appearance: thyme, nooch, and sage.

In fact, I started to get worried during the taste-testing phase that I’d added too much soy and/or Worcestershire sauce – but the strong taste of the gravy is tempered by all the delicious vegan food it’s served with, so no worries. (But if you’re planning on chugging hot gravy from a mug? Maybe go easy on the soy sauce, hmmm?)

This year’s dinner was so amazing that I’m finding it hard to say goodbye. Until next time, Thanksgiving Burgers. I will see you in my dreams.

 

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Cookbook Review: Cooking Vegan, Vesanto Melina & Joseph Forest (2012)

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

Cooking Vegan: You Know It!

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: the publisher sent me a free copy of this book for review.)

The second collaboration between (vegan) dietician Vesanto Melina and (not-vegan) professional chef Joseph Forest, Cooking Vegan: healthful, delicious, and easy is a nice introductory vegan cookbook, particularly for newbie vegans and skeptical omnivores, as well as veteran vegans who want to eat a more healthful diet.

With chapter headings like “Vegan Nutrition” and “Vegan Ingredients,” the first fifth of the book is devoted to describing the basic building blocks of a vegan diet: fats, sweeteners, nondairy milks, soy foods, thickening agents, etc. (Spoiler alert: the age old question “But where do you get your protein?” will be answered!) There’s also some more general info about organizing your workspace, following recipes, and the like. Twelve suggested “theme” menus (Children’s; Super Simple; North American; Japanese) provide additional guidance for overwhelmed cooks.

Now for the food! The recipes in Cooking Vegan are divided between nine categories: breakfasts and beverages; dips, spreads, snacks, and sandwiches; soups; salads; salad dressings; entrées; sauces and gravies; side dishes; and sweet treats. Each recipe is accompanied by detailed nutritional information, and many come with suggested variations.

Before I begin reviewing a cookbook, I leaf through the recipes and come up with a list of dishes I’d like to try, so that I can check my pantry for ingredients and update my shopping list accordingly. For Cooking Vegan, this meant about thirty recipes, give or take – roughly enough to fill up a sheet of legal paper. At this point, I’ve tackled about half of them – enough that I feel comfortable writing a review.

With few exceptions, I enjoyed nearly all of the dishes I tried. In particular, the Scrambled Tofu, Marinara Sauce, Tapenade and Pesto Pizzas (including the pizza dough!), Good Morning Granola, Mac Uncheese, Light Mushroom Gravy, and Vegan Dazs Ice Cream stand out in memory, and all will be joining the regular rotation here in the Garbato-Brady household. (Actually, the Vegan Dazs already was a staple, just under another name: One-ingredient banana ice cream. Look it up!) The sole dud? The Holiday Pie Topping, which has a rather unpleasant aftertaste.

Still on my to-do list: Gooda Cheez (for which I bought a bag of agar, all special!); Heart Healthy Hummus; Black Bean Soup; Tuscan Minestrone; Wild Rice Salad; Shepherd’s Pie; Mushroom Lentil Patties; Corn with Bell Peppers; Scalloped Potatoes; Cashew Cheeze Lasagne; Blueberry Muffins; Almond Butter Balls; and the Cashew Cream Topping. I’ll blog these as I get to them, so keep an eye out!

Based on my experience, the recipes found in Cooking Vegan are straightforward and easy to follow, with few unusual or hard-to-find ingredients required. While some of the recipes (such as the Mac Uncheese) call for a second recipe (in this case, the Gee Whiz Spread), this is kept to minimum, with one added recipe at most. (One notable exception are the pizzas, which reference recipes for dough and a topping. Both of which are super-easy to make!) When referring you to another recipe, the authors include a page number, which I really appreciate. (All that flipping back and forth to the index when you’re trying to cook dinner? No thanks!)

My main complaint is that Melina and Forest are rather light-handed with the seasonings. With the Scrambled Tofu, for example, I found myself doubling – even tripling – up on some of the spices. Likewise, before I worked my magic, the Mediterranean Lentil Soup could best be described as “bland.” Still, the fix for this is easy enough: taste, taste, taste! as you cook, and don’t be afraid to adjust the ingredients to fit your own style.

As someone who’s been experimenting with banana ice cream for a while now, I do have to point out one glaring error in the Vegan Dazs Ice Cream recipe. While the primary recipe uses a juicer to blend the fruit (I’ve yet to wrap my mind around the logistics of this…not a big juicer, me), one variation gives these instructions for using a food processor: 2 cups of frozen bananas to 1 cup nondairy milk; serve immediately. In my experience, it’s best to use as little liquid (be it nondairy milk, creamer, or water) as possible, since the liquid will form ice crystals as it freezes. While it’s clear that Melina and Forest don’t intend for this version to be frozen and enjoyed later, there’s no reason why it can’t be!

Either way, one part liquid to two parts bananas is still excessive, even if you’re enjoying it immediately as soft serve. Better to leave the frozen bananas to defrost on the counter for 30 to 60 minutes prior to making the ice cream – this will give you a richer, creamier dessert, whether eaten soft serve or frozen ice cream styley.

Under the jump: photos and summaries of all the dishes I tried. Feast your eyes!

 

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Vegan Junk Food Mashup: Tater Tot Casserole & Sausage Gravy

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

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How do you improve upon perfection? Slather it in (vegan) sausage gravy!

Last week I made a batch of Sausage Gravy to use as a dipping sauce for french fries; an extra dash of flour here and a little extra soy milk there and, next thing you know, I’d nearly doubled the recipe! And so I ended up with leftovers. A big old bowl of ’em!

Rather than enjoy them on even more fries, I decided to “recycle” the gravy into a Tater Tot Breakfast Casserole (both recipes via Vegan Junk Food): a layer of tofu-slash-“eggs,” followed by Sausage Gravy, frozen mixed veggies, and tater tots. (So much for no more fries!) Recall that the casserole calls for a layer of fried Lightlife Gimmie Lean Sausage, and the gravy seems a natural fit.

I was worried how the extra moist ingredients and added volume might affect the finished product – particularly the “egg” layer – but all in all, it was a delicious success! The tofu didn’t come out as firm as it did the first time around, but it was still yummy and edible, and also firmed up a bit as it cooled. More similar in consistency to lightly cooked scrambled eggs instead of a well-cooked omelet, if that makes any sense. (Does it? I haven’t had chicken’s eggs in what feels like forever!)

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Bedazzle your omni friends with this dish! They’ll never know it’s tofu!

Vegan Junk Food Cookbook Review: Riots, not diets!

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

Vegan Junk Food by Lane Gold (2011)

 

five out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review from the publisher.)

Lane Gold’s Vegan Junk Food is my new favorite cookbook. (The previous title holder? Wheeler del Torro’s The Vegan Scoop – which should tell you a little sumthin’ sumthin’! Namely, that I like my vegan food filled with empty calories.) At my request, I was lucky enough to receive a review copy – along with two copies to give away – from the publisher, Adams Media. With a name like “Vegan Junk Food,” I figured it couldn’t disappoint.

Whether you like your junk food sweet or savory, chocolaty or cheesy, Lane (can I call you Lane?) has got you covered. The 225 recipes in this collection are divided into ten categories: breakfast foods; deli favorites (i.e., sandwiches, wraps, burgers, and sliders); comfort-meets-takeout foods (entrees); crusts and carbs (pizzas and breads); festive grub (party foods!); dips, hummus, and sauces (including sundae toppings!); savory treats; cakes; candies and cookies; and grab ‘n’ go sweets (brownies and bars). As you can see, the recipes are roughly divided between meal-type items (entrees, main courses) and snacks/desserts.

The husband and I tried out about twenty recipes before I sat down to write this review; and, while I don’t usually review cookbooks, this is easily the largest number of recipes I’ve sampled for a cookbook review, like, ever. (I just couldn’t stop myself; everything looks so good!) Possibly it’s the most recipes I’ve made from a single cookbook, period. Though I own a ridiculous number of them, I don’t use cookbooks with much frequency; more often I cook from memory or pull recipes off the internet. But Vegan Junk Food? Most definitely joining my repertoire!

The book’s obvious strength, of course, is the food: oodles and oodles of junk food! Pizza. Pasta. Tacos. Pot pies. Casseroles. Cupcakes, pies, and brownies. Empty calories as far as the eye can see! Wait, that’s not entirely fair: some of these foods aren’t all that bad for you. Ironically, many of the recipes in Vegan Junk Food are actually healthier than my own versions. The Mac and Cheese Bake, for example, uses a vegan Velveeta-like cheese sauce made of potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, nutritional yeast, and soy milk. Even factoring in the additional vegan cheese shreds in this dish, it’s still way better for you than my own mac & cheese recipe, which is basically just pasta and processed vegan cheeses (namely, Daiya and Follow Your Heart). Don’t let the book’s title fool you: while these foods may look and taste like junk food, they’re not all super-trashy.

With options for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert, Vegan Junk Food is versatile. Mix and match the recipes for something new – or experiment to make them your own. For example, I used leftovers from some of the recipes to create new banana ice cream dishes!

While some of the recipes call for pricey vegan meats and cheeses, Gold doesn’t rely on these products exclusively. (Unlike the PPP blog, Vegan Junk Food doesn’t read like a Lightlife ad!) In fact, she offers diy recipes for many of these vegan staples so you can make ’em your own bad self, oftentimes at a fraction of the price! See, e.g., gravy (page 61); ricotta (pg. 120); sour cream (pg. 120); cheese sauce (pg. 121) basil pesto (pg. 124); and ranch dressing (pg. 126), to name just a few!

My complaints are few and relatively minor. Some recipes reference other recipes – to return to the Mac and Cheese Bake, the Cheese Sauce is its own recipe, located in a different section of the book – but don’t include a page number alongside the recipe title, thus forcing the reader to consult the index in order to find it. A minor annoyance, compounded by the index’s lack of user friendliness. (I find it counter-intuitive and difficult to use.) An estimated cook time and rating for difficulty on each dish would have been nice too, but I suppose both are easy enough to gauge by reading through the instructions.

I also ran into issues with two of the recipes – the Almond Joy Bar Cake and the Red Pepper, Caramelized Onion, and Hash Brown Quiche – which I’ll explain below. Still, out of twenty recipes, two small glitches? Not so bad! Especially when you consider my lackluster track record with baked goods. Brownies, why you no like me?

What follows is a run-down of all the dishes I’ve tried thus far. I’ve only tackled about half the items on my to-do list, so I’m far from done with this cookbook! I’ll post additional pictures as I take them, so keep an eye out for those.

 

  • Pesto Chicken Pizza with Creamy Garlic Sauce (page 85)

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    This was the first recipe we tried out, and quite possibly it’s also my favorite! The pureed white beans, seasoned with vegetable broth, nooch, and garlic, makes for a savory and filling pizza sauce, and the Basil Pesto is simple yet delicious. Enjoy this pizza with a fork and bib, though – it’s a messy one!

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  • For Dogs & their Peoples: Low-Sodium, Onion-Free Gravy & Vegetable Broth / Soup Stock

    Monday, December 14th, 2009

    Since I received a copy of The Simple Little Vegan Dog Book for review, I’ve slowly been working my way through the recipes. I say “slowly” because I only cook meals for the dogs once every 5-7 days. There may be five of ’em, but when you combine their weights, they only equal 2 or 3 medium- or large-sized dogs (or “real dogs,” as I jokingly call them).

    Anyhow, I spent a good 1 1/2 hours in the kitchen last night; writing on Twitter, I noted that my mother did this damn near every night for nearly 20 years – how she lasted so long is beyond me. 16 hours later, and I’m still beat.

    Why so intensive, you ask? The recipe – a canine Shepherd’s Pie dish – called for both low-salt, onion-free gravy and low-salt, onion-free vegetable broth, neither of which are staples easily found in the grocery store. I had to make each from scratch, so essentially I cooked three dishes last night. Add to this the fact that low-sodium, onion-free recipes are scarce, and – well, you can see where I’m going with this!

    Since precious few vegans seem to be making their dog-kids gravy and veggie broth and/or sharing this culinary wisdom with the rest of the internets, I figured I’d record and share these recipes with y’all. The gravy is pretty straightforward; basically I adapted this recipe from eHow to make it low(er)-sodium and onion-free. It’s gravy, plain and simple, and is great for people and dogs alike.

    The vegetable broth, on the other hand, was a little more complicated. Most of the DIY veggie broth recipes I found involve slow-cooking copious amounts of veggies, after which you strain the veggies from the broth, resulting in actual broth. What you’re supposed to do with the sad, soggy veggies, I know not. What I do know, however, is that I had neither the time nor the veggies to go this route. Instead, I relied upon spices and seasonings for the bulk of the flavor, and added in a few (non-disposable) veggies for extra flavor. In other words, my vegetable broth isn’t a broth, really, but more of a soup. Naturally, if you’re making a recipe that doesn’t involve chunks of veggies, this soup-broth won’t really work for you. But if you’re just going to mix a veggie broth with additional veggies (such as with the Barking Barley and Wheat Surprise I shared a few weeks back), look no further than my Low-Sodium, Onion-Free Vegetable Broth / Soup Stock!

    Low-Sodium, Onion-Free Gravy

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    Ingredients

    1/2 cup olive oil
    1 tablespoon minced garlic OR 1 tablespoon garlic powder 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder (optional; see Scott’s comment below)
    1/2 cup whole wheat flour
    4 teaspoons nutritional yeast
    2-4 tablespoons Braggs Liquid Aminos OR 2-4 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
    2 cups water
    1/2 teaspoon sage
    1/4 teaspoon black pepper

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    Tofurky -n- Tots

    Saturday, November 24th, 2007

    As promised, more veg*n food p0rn!

    Here’s our Thanksgivingliving day menu, along with the obligatory food p0rn pics. Obviously, it’s too late to try any of these dishes this t-day (unless you’re a hardcore procrastinator), but you’ve got plenty of time to prepare for Christmas x-mas FSMas, assuming that one or more of the following dishes strikesyer fancy, of course.

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    Recipes and photos after the flip.

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