Candle Cafe’s Wheat Ball Heroes – and a Pita Pizza!

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

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I’m pretty sure I don’t eat enough sandwiches. Or at least not compared to my high school years. I used to have a sammie a day, like clockwork, and now I’m lucky if I make one or two a month. Adulthood, man. (On the plus side, I eat so much pizza and ice cream that my mom would be appalled if she knew. IF ONLY.)

I decided to rectify this oversight with the Wheat Ball Heroes from Vegan Holiday Cooking – one of the last recipes I’ll try before finally getting around to a review! (Just in time for the holidays, yay!) The recipe involves making both your own wheat balls and marinara sauce from scratch, but seeing as I had a bunch of homemade sauce in the freezer, I took a bit of a shortcut there. fwiw, the Candle Cafe’s marinara sauce recipe looks pretty solid; I’m sure it’s delish.

As for the wheat balls, they’re really tasty, but also rather troublesome. They’re made of seitan (homemade, using the Simple Simmered Seitan recipe from Vegan on the Cheap!),

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fried onions and garlic, bread crumbs, and assorted seasonings. After mixing the batter in the food processor, it turns into a crumbly mixture, which you’re supposed to form into little balls and bake. The dough didn’t hold together quite as well as I hoped, even after adding a little extra oil and a splash of water. Some balls took multiple tries, and still imploded while in the oven. To wit:

(More below the fold…)

W is for White Bean Pizza

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

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Tuscan White Bean Pizza, that is! This recipe’s courtesy of Robin Robertson’s Vegan on the Cheap, which I’ve owned forever but haven’t had much occasion to use yet. (Seriously, I’ve accumulated enough cookbooks at this point that I could cook from them once a day for the rest of my life and never run out of new recipes. It’s a wonderful problem to have, anyway.)

Both the dough and pizza recipes are super-simple: the white sauce is all of five ingredients (salt and pepper excluded) and the dough, even less. My only modification was to double the sauce; one batch hardly seemed sufficient to cover a pizza. I figured that, if I got stuck with any leftovers, I could always use ’em as a dip. Also, I ran the mashed white beans through a food processor for an ultra-creamy sauce; the hand masher just wasn’t doing the job.

On another note: there are just a few days – and letters – left. Any bets on what I’m making tomorrow?

 
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Mac-and-Cheese Monday: Slow Cooked Mac and Cheesy

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

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This week’s mac & cheese is a bit of a departure from the norm, since it’s slow cooked. The afternoon that I made it the thermometer topped 90F, so it was rather refreshing not to have to stand over the stove for an hour plus. Just ten minutes to cook the broth and taters and that was it. Shiny!

Aside from last year’s Christmas pizza, we really haven’t had a ton of luck with our slow cooker. To be fair, we haven’t done very much experimenting with it, either. Can you say “vicious circle”? I even own a copy of Robin Robertson’s Fresh from the Vegan Slow Cooker – it was a x-mas present to myself, actually! – but it hasn’t provided the motivation I’d banked on. Slow cookers require so much advance planning, yo! So not my forte.

Luckily, the Mac and Cheesy recipe is easy peasy, at least as far as crockpot dishes go. It takes maybe a half hour to set up, and then just 2 1/2 hours to cook. Technically you’re supposed to soak the cashews overnight – ugh, there go the preparations, getting away from me again! – but I let them sit for a mere hour and it worked well enough.

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Veggie broth, cashews, and boiled potatoes form the base of the cheese sauce, which is further seasoned with nooch, mustard, miso, lemon juice, onions, garlic powder, and pimientos (or roasted red peppers! I used a combo and it was mmm, mmm good!). Additional Daiya (or whatever) cheese shreds are optional, but after two hours of cooking, the cheese sauce was so thick and creamy that I didn’t think them necessary. (Ugh I know, what’s wrong with me!? Someone rush me to the doctor stat!)

The finished dish is tasty, but of course not as deliciously junky as one made with 100% procressed vegan cheeses. I used gemelli in place of the traditional elbows or (for me) shells, on accounta I wanted to add some variety to the pictures. As it turns out, the sauce is so thick than you can barely see the shape of the pasta under all the saucy goodness. Shane thought it was fusilli! Ah well.

The recipe only makes eight ounces of pasta, but I was able to double it without trouble. (Though I did have to process the cheese sauce in two batches. My slow cooker may be big enough to handle a double batch; my blender, not so much.) Don’t try this at home unless you have at least an 8-quart slow cooker, as the original recipe calls for a minimum of four!

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T is for Tuscan Bread Soup

Sunday, September 22nd, 2013

T is for Tuscan Bread Soup [Vegetarian Meat & Potatoes Cookbook] (0003)

So this meal started out as the Tuscan Bread Soup from Robin Robertson’s The Vegetarian Meat & Potatoes Cookbook – but I tinkered with it enough that I’m no longer sure it qualifies as either “Tuscan” or a “bread soup.”

First up, the white beans had to go, on accounta beans make my belly bloated and gassy. I replaced those with a cup of mini pasta shells. And celery? Ew! It’s so stringy, like a coil of dental floss. I swapped that out for carrots. I also used fewer onions and more garlic, ’cause that’s how I roll. And more broth – vegan chicken instead of vegetable, since that’s what’s in my cabinet – so there would be leftovers. Fresh tomatoes, too; ’tis the season! Of course I just had to make the bread garlic, which I then served alongside the soup rather than under it; I just couldn’t bear the thought of diluting its extra-awesome garlicky flavor. (With minced garlic AND garlic powder. That’s what I’m talkinbout!)

This soup was so kickin’ that I decided to write down the modified recipe, since it’s definitely something I plan on making again. Probably it’s a little more in the area of a minestrone now, but that’s okay. A soup by any other name.

T is for Tuscan Bread Soup [Vegetarian Meat & Potatoes Cookbook] (0010)

Some Kind of Soup, Not Necessarily Tuscan Bread Soup

(Adapted from the Tuscan Bread Soup found in Robin Robertson’s The Vegetarian Meat & Potatoes Cookbook.)

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 large white onion, diced
3 tablespoons minced garlic
4 cups grape tomatoes, halved
3 large carrots, diced
8 cups vegan chicken or vegetable broth
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional)
1 teaspoon oregano
2 tablespoons parsley
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup miniature shells (or the teeny tiny pasta of your choice)

4 large slices French or Italian bread
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic
a dash of garlic powder

Directions

1. In a large stock pot, heat the olive oil on medium. Add the onion and cook on medium until translucent. Add the minced garlic and cook for another minute. Add the tomatoes and reduce the heat to medium low. Continue to cook for about fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes release some of their juices.

2. Add the carrots, chicken broth, and spices. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low. Continue to simmer for another fifteen minutes, or until the carrots and tomatoes are to your liking. (I prefer mine on the tender side.)

3. While the soup is cooking, prepare the garlic bread. In a small bowl, mix the olive oil, minced garlic, and garlic powder. Spread onto the bread and let sit until step #4. When the soup’s nearly ready, bake the bread at 450F for five to ten minutes, or until the bread is golden brown.

4. Bring the soup to a boil and reduce the heat to medium. Add the miniature shells and cook for about five minutes, or until the pasta is tender. Remove from heat and enjoy while hot. You can either pour the soup over the bread in a large bowl, or serve the bread alongside the soup for dipping.

 
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Roasted Carrot and Potato Soup & Sicilian Bread Pie with Broccoli

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

Epic mealtime was epic.

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After a slew of cold and rainy weather, I was craving some hot soup and warm bread something crazy. Enter: Roasted Carrot and Potato Soup from Robin Robertson’s The Vegetarian Meat & Potatoes Cookbook (hint: not just for vegetarians!) and Sicilian Bread Pie with Broccoli from Vegan Italiano, by Donna Klein. (Reviewed yesterday, in point o’ facts!)

Rich, creamy, and super-savory, the soup is a new favorite. It takes a little extra planning, since you’ve gotta roast the veggies beforehand, but it’s so worth it. (Bonus points for using leftover roasted vegetables.) You’re supposed to process the whole shebang in a blender or food processor, but I like my soup a little chunky, so I set about 1/3 aside – you can spot a stray carrot piece in the photo above.

Pre-blender, the soup resembles chicken noodle, with potatoes playing the role of featured carb. Also quite delicious! Not creamy, but still totally nom-worthy.

The bread pie was more of a pain; the refrigerated french bread dough didn’t take kindly to my efforts to reshape it from a rectangle to a circle. But I persevered and, while the pie ended up a bit misshapen (like all my pies inevitably do), it was still really good.

The top and bottom pieces didn’t completely fuse together, so I was able to remove the top piece for dunking purposes. Turns out that this soup? Was made for bread.

Craving, satisfied.

Creamy Tahini Broccoli and Pasta Bake

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

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This one’s quite similar to the Baked Macaroni with a Twist, also from The Vegetarian Meat & Potatoes Cookbook. Both dishes feature pasta smothered in a creamy silken tofu sauce, with a super-delish topping made of mixed breadcrumbs and cheese (Daiya).

Naturally, I couldn’t help but tinker with this recipe too. As with the Baked Mac, I added about a half a cup of nutritional yeast for that extra cheesy goodness. This made an already-thick sauce (damn you tahini!) even thicker, so I threw in one half cup of water for good measure. Better, though still a little on the thick side, especially after thirty minutes in the oven. Next time around, I think I’ll make it a full cup of soy milk. But the combination of tahini with nooch? Definitely a winner.

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Whereas the Baked Macaroni has Daiya shreds both on top of and mixed in with the casserole, the Tahini Bake just plops ’em on top. Big mistake! The shreds in the middle of the casserole stay soft and gooey, while the ones on top can sometimes dry out. Creamy Tahini Broccoli and Pasta Bake 2.0 will definitely be outfitted with some internal Daiya cheese.

Oh, and I also doubled the cheese and breadcrumbs scattered atop the casserole. And since I ended up with more sauce, I used a full pound of dry pasta instead of twelve ounces. Elbows instead of radiatore, but whatever. Pasta is pasta, yo!

You know, just in case you’d like to play along at home.

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The end.

Baked Macaroni (and Cheese!) with a Twist

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

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Every time I acquire a new cookbook, I inevitably discover another macaroni and cheese recipe I’ve yet to try. This around it’s the Baked Macaroni with a Twist from Robin Robertson’s The Vegetarian Meat & Potatoes Cookbook.

The first twenty or so times I scanned this recipe, I mentally added in some tomato paste or sauce, since the title is suggestive of regular old baked macaroni. Imagine my shock when I actually began to make it and realized that it’s actually good old mac & cheese. Vegan Christmas came twice this winter, my friends.

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Surprisingly moist and creamy for a baked mac and cheese dish, it’s the topping that really won me over: homemade breadcrumbs mixed with cheese – in this case, cheddar Daiya. The sauce is mainly silken tofu, but there are some Daiya shreds hiding in there too.

Of course the crispy, crunchy edges didn’t hurt either.

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Being the picky vegan that I am, I made a number of modifications to the original recipe. For starters, the cheesy sauce: it doesn’t call for a single flake of nutritional yeast. Blasphemy! Perhaps nutritional yeast wasn’t quite so popular back in 2002, when this book was published? That’s the only explanation that makes sense. Anyway, I added a half a cup, along with several tablespoons of miso and some minced garlic.

Also, you might notice that my macaroni isn’t particularly twisty. While it’s the rotini pasta that makes this mac & cheese do the twist, all I had in my cupboard was boring old elbows, so there you go. Go vanilla or go home.

Penne Primavera with Avocado Cashew Cream

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

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Ugh, this was SO GOOD!, you guys. Penne (really fusilli; of course I run out of penne the one time I actually need it. OF COURSE!), carrots, broccoli, and zucchini in a avocado-cashew cream sauce. There are supposed to be fresh grape tomatoes in there too, but the tomatoes currently available in the Midwest taste like iceberg lettuce, so I didn’t bother with ’em. Definitely gonna try a proper version of this dish come summer. I can’t wait to get my garden on!

And this time I have a recipe to link to! Go try it and we can be kitchen pals or something mkay?

Pile-It-On Pepperoni and Pesto-Potato Pizzas

Sunday, March 24th, 2013

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…from Robin Robertson’s The Vegetarian Meat & Potatoes cookbook. Don’t worry, the pizzas are all-vegan! I wouldn’t have it any other way.

First up: the Pesto-Potato pizza. Now I’ve had pesto pizzas and I’ve had potato pizzas, but pesto and potato? Who woulda thunkit!

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As it turns out, Pesto-Potato Pizza is pretty damn delicious. Both pesto and potato pizzas can sometimes be on the dry side, so this is a pizza best enjoyed fresh – or perhaps with some kind of dipping sauce. I veered from Robertson’s directions a bit; whereas she would have you coat the potatoes in a cup of pesto and then layer them on the pizza, I used the extra few cups (one recipe makes three cups) as a base, for extra besto pesto goodness. Plus the pesto is thick enough that it didn’t really take to the potato slices. Whatever, it’s all good.

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We also made a “Pile-It-On” Pepperoni Pizza, which is really just a cute name for a pepperoni pizza. Shane was craving pepperoni anyway, so we figured what the hey? Two recipes with one stove. Robertson only calls for four ounces of vegan pepperoni, but I’m pretty sure we used more than that. Pile it on, right?

The Basic Dough recipe is pretty solid: it’s a little thinner than we normally make (which is to say, medium-ish; our crusts are usually pretty thick and fluffy), nice and crispy, with a slightly butter flavor. I like!

Vegan Slow Cooker Greek Frittata – and a Tofu Scramble Recipe!

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

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Even though I’ve owned it for a few months now (Shane and I bought it as an early x-mas present to ourselves!), I haven’t had much occasion to use Fresh from the Vegan Slow Cooker. Some of the recipes look quite appetizing, but most of ’em require so much advanced planning! I know, I know – that’s kind of the point of crockpots: slow cooking and all. But the plan ahead type, I am not.

So yada yada yada, I decided to give the Greek Frittata a try since I had some tofu that needed eating and the whole process is relatively short, at just two hours of cook time. Plus I loved Isa’s Curried Cauliflower Frittata and wanted to see how a slow cooker version would measure up. Turns out that frittatas? Are better baked in the oven.

The Greek Frittata is tasty enough – I love the combination of spices and veggies, minus the overcooked spinach (but then again we all know how fussy I am when it comes to cooked greens!) – problem is, it didn’t quite bake all the way through. While the edges crisped up nicely, the middle portion remained soft and mushy (kind of similar to the cheesy tofu layer in this Spaghetti Pie). Removing it from the slow cooker – mine’s a deep one – was a straight-up hot mess.

Overall, it was edible, though nothing to write mom about.

Still craving a Greek Frittata, I decided to try combining Robin’s recipe with Isa’s, i.e.: Robin’s ingredients + Isa’s cooking method. Then I realized that I’d have to chop the peppers and olives super-small so that the frittata would hold together, and quickly nixed the idea. Instead, a Greek Tofu Scramble, complete with big, meaty chunks of veggies. And spinach! I even kept the spinach! But I added it in the last minute of cooking so that it doesn’t get overdone.

The result? νόστιμα! (That’s Greek for delicious.)

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(More below the fold…)

The Great CriFSMas Food Roundup, 2012 edition!

Sunday, December 30th, 2012

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A basket of chai cookies, oatmeal cream pies, and eggnog cookies for our neighbors.
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You guys, I did so much baking this holiday season! Instead of buying my family the customary vegan treats from etsy, I had the bright idea to make everything my own bad self. (“Make everyone’s presents by hand, she said. It’ll be fun, she said.” reads a mid-December entry in my journal.) Several weeks and a dozen or so batches of cookies later, and I am wiped out. Good thing I have extra cookies to keep me going, eh?

Many of the recipes are from Kelly Peloza’s The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur, which I’m quickly growing to love. My mom gave it to me a Christmas or two ago, but given my awful track record with cookies and other baked sweets, I hadn’t gotten much use out of it. (Until now!)

Much to my surprise, everything came out wonderfully! Not a single burned cookie in the bunch. I think the secret is in the parchment paper. I’ve been resistant to using the stuff in the past, because it feels like I’m wasting paper or something. But it really works! Pro tip: as long as they haven’t picked up any cookie residue, you can reuse sheets of parchment paper several times to save money and resources. This is especially helpful if you’re baking multiple batches of cookies in a single day.

Without further ado, here’s a rundown of all the holiday goodies to pass through my kitchen (and gullet! yay the imagery!) this month. Mostly cookies, but also fancy nuts, truffles, ice cream, pizza, and pasta!

 

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Chewy Spiced Molasses Cookies from The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur (page 228) – Mine didn’t come out quite as plump and chewy as the ones pictured in the book, but I think that’s because I made the cookies a little smaller than suggested.

Actually, that was a trend pretty much across the board – I ended up with more, slightly smaller cookies vs. fewer, larger cookies (the latter being the norm for me). It was all good though, because the smaller cookies were a better fit for the tupperware I used to pack and ship them. Score!

Chewy or not, these were still super-delish, though not nearly as nommy as some of the other cookies I tried.

(More below the fold…)

you say potato, I say pottata

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

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A few months ago, and on Ryan’s suggestion, I bought a used copy of Robin Robertson’s The Vegetarian Meat & Potatoes Cookbook on Amazon. (Published waaaay back in 2002, I guess it’s what you might call a “classic.”) I really wanted it for the pierogi recipe (mmmm, piergoies), which I’d planned on working into my Vegan MoFo “Eat to the Beat” theme. Alas, I ended up with an excess of posts as it was, so the pierogies – and the cookbook – got pushed to the back burner. That is, until last week when I decided to try out a tofu recipe.

After a bit of leafing (not to mention, cursing my empty fridge and dearth of fresh ingredients) I settled on the Potato-Tofu Frittata. It’s similar to many of the tofu scrambles/omelets I’ve made before, only you bake it half on the stovetop, half in the oven. I love oven dishes – so much easier to time, don’t you think? You know exactly how long it’ll take to bake, and that’s that.

Plus half the tofu is crumbled and half blended, so it really is a marriage of scramble and omelet!

With baked potatoes and melty Daiya cheese, it’s about as delicious as you’d expect. I took the liberty of adding some nutritional yeast and chives because YUM, but those were my only tweaks. I think the end product was supposed to be a little more solid than it was, but that was my fault – I accidentally added all the cheese to the frittata instead of setting aside half to sprinkle on top. Possibly this resulted in a moister, less structurally sound frittata? You got me. Either way, really freaking good.

btw, The Vegetarian Meat & Potatoes Cookbook? From what I can see, it’s basically vegan save for the option to use non-vegan cheese. E.g., none of the recipes contain eggs, so you don’t have to do any pesky substitutions. The more you know!