Vegan Junk Food (is surprisingly healthy!)

Sunday, June 10th, 2012

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(Last night’s) Dinner! Baked tofu scramble (based on the Tater Tot Breakfast Casserole in Lane Gold’s Vegan Junk Food ), topped with some diy parmesan cheese (also from VJF – put parmesan on ALL the things! ) and served with sweet potato tots and some teensy tiny salad tomatoes.

I love summer!

Baked Tofu Scramble & Sweet Potato Fries

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

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SO GOOD! The baked tofu scramble is adapted from the Tot Casserole in Lane Gold’s Vegan Junk Food – the bottom layer of blended tofu mixed with nooch and other assorted spices is the same, and I used Lightlife Smart Links in place of the required Gimme Lean sausage. Topped off with mixed veggies, ’cause mixed veggies are good. So are tater tots, but I decided to omit those for my jelly belly’s sake.

On the side is a serving of sweet potato fries. There’s a recipe for these in Vegan Junk Food, too (of course! is there anything this cookbook can’t do?), but I winged it. Sweet potato fries are easy to make, to wit:

 

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

(Makes two generous servings.)

Ingredients

3 sweet potatoes
1 to 2 teaspoons olive oil
spices to taste (salt, pepper, lemon pepper, cumin, cinnamon, sugar pumpkin pie spice, chipotle powder, smoked paprika, etc. – be creative!)

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 450F.

2. Clean, peel, and slice the baked potatoes. You can cut them into any number of shapes: wedges; short, stubby fries; or long, lean fries 1/4 or 1/2″ in width. Here I went with a standard french fry shape, about 1/2″ in thickness. The most important thing is to keep the shape as uniform as possible, so they’ll all bake at the same rate. And don’t make ’em too thick, or else the outsides are likely to blacken before the insides are done!

3. Combine the potatoes, olive oil, and spices in a medium-sized bowl. (This time around, I used a bit of salt with 1 teaspoon cumin.) Cover with a lid and shake until the oil and spices coat all the fries.

4. Arrange the fries on a baking sheet (or two, if necessary), taking care not to overlap any of the potatoes. Bake at 450F for about twenty to thirty minutes, or until the potatoes are tender and golden brown, flipping them at the halfway point. Serve hot and often!

Tip: Clean, peel, and slice some sweet potatoes ahead of time and store them in the fridge until ready for use. I find sweet potatoes terribly annoying and difficult to prepare (so unyielding are they that sometimes I feel as though I’m trying to dice a stone); doing so ahead of time, and in batches, makes it more likely that I’ll actually eat the sweet potatoes I buy.

Moldy sweet potatoes, such a damn tragedy.

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simple pleasures

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

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The vegan parm in Lane Gold’s Vegan Junk Food is so delish that I can’t help but put it on all the things. Here’s a bowl of orzo with a pat of margarine and a heaping serving of parm. Seriously, I must’ve put an entire batch on this pasta. I make it in quadruples, yo.

Possibly I should sample some of the other recipes out there – those using almonds instead of walnuts, for example – but I don’t wanna. Why mess with perfection?

Vegan Junk Food Up the Wazoo!: Creamy Ranch Dressing

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

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So here we have a batch of the Creamy Ranch Dressing from Lane Gold’s Vegan Junk Food. Super-yummy, and very close in taste to its dairy counterpart – or so the husband tells me. (This is the first ranch dressing I’ve tried, vegan or otherwise. Look out Thousand Islands, you’ve got competition!)

The name of the recipe is a little deceptive, actually, as Gold gives you options for creating both a dressing and a dip. You begin by making a sort of “spice packet” with garlic, onion, chives, and other goodies. (This, in turn, makes about 6 batches worth of dip/dressing.) Next, the base: one part vegan mayo to one part vegan sour cream. (There’s also a recipe for the latter, fyi. I thought I saw one for mayo, too, but I can’t seem to find it now!) Mix in a tablespoon of the spices and voilĂ ! – you’ve got dip! Prefer dressing instead? Simply water it down with some soy milk.

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The taste of the dressing pairs especially well with sundried tomatoes and bacon bits, imho. I’ve got to find a way to work these into the recipe. I’m inclined to add the bacon bits to the spice packet, so they get nice and pulverized; but the sundried tomatoes might fare better when added at the last minute, when you’re actually making the dip/dressing. I wonder how well the base will soak up the flavor of the tomatoes if it’s allowed to sit for several days? THERE’S ONLY ONE WAY TO FIND OUT. I smell an experiment!

The dressing, though? Still makes for a nice dip, especially when chilled:

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(If you’re wondering why there are so many damned saltines around, it’s because they’re an ingredient in the spice. Seriously!)

Last night, having depleted my salad reserves, I was snacking on some potato chips and ranch dressing over the kitchen counter* when suddenly a few of the dogs started barking at me. Out of nowhere! “Put down the chips, fatty, it’s eleven o’clock!” I’m pretty sure that’s what they were saying; they’re super-rude like that. Mags especially.

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True story!

* While watching – shhhh! don’t tell! – Toddlers & Tiaras. Two of the prizes in the featured pageant? PUPPIES! Freaking PUPPIES! Gifting animals with the advantage of advanced planning is bad enough, but handing them out as door prizes? WTF! How do you know whether the winner even wants a dog? I mean, the kids do, obvs – the temper tantrums and cryfests from the losers were evidence enough – but what about their parents? You know, the ones who will actually (hopefully) be caring for these living, breathing, sentient creatures? Just when you thought the train wreck couldn’t possibly get any more twisted. Oy.

Parmesan "Cheeze" Spread

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

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I accidentally discovered this recipe when I tried – and failed epically – to make a batch of vegan Parmesan cheese from Vegan Junk Food.

(In retrospect, I really should have seen it coming: it was still early in the day; I had just eaten breakfast and normally would’ve been getting ready to do my workout. But I was tired and groggy and not at all in the mood, so I decided to get myself going with a few rote chores. Like those that involve reading comprehension, measuring, and mathematics. WHAT COULD GO WRONG?)

The original recipe calls for 1/4 cup nutritional yeast, 1/2 cup walnuts, a pinch of salt, and a teaspoon of olive oil; simply toss in a blender or food processor and pulse until mixed. Only instead of a teaspoon of oil, I used a tablespoon.

But wait! It gets better! I’d quadrupled the recipe so that I’d have plenty of extra cheese left over, so the disaster was four times as bad. In a last-ditch attempt to save the cheese, I quadrupled the recipe yet again, this time omitting the oil entirely. No such luck. The damage had been done!

The result wasn’t crumbly like Parmesan cheese, but more of pasty concoction, similar in texture to hummus or even almond butter.

And rather delicious, too! Use it as a spread or dip: put it on crackers, warm bread, or toast. It’s wonderful spread thinly on bagels, along with a little pat of margarine for added moisture.

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Or mix a little in with sauteed veggies and a dash of water, to make a sauce that tastes great on pasta. The possibilities are … savory.

After I’d depleted my supply of Parmesan “Cheeze” Spread, I did a little experimentation to see if I could recreate the dish; this is what I came up with. The hubs has requested a garlic version, so keep an eye out for variations. Or create your own and share ’em in the comments!

The extras keep well in the fridge (idk if refrigeration is necessary, but better safe!), so feel free to double or even quadruple the recipe. Just pay attention to the quantities!

 

Parmesan “Cheeze” Spread*

Ingredients

1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 cup walnuts
a dash of salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/4 teaspoons water, if needed

Variations: reduce olive oil to 1 teaspoon and omit the water to make vegan Parmesan cheese.

Directions

Combine the nutritional yeast, walnuts, salt, and olive oil in a blender or food processor and pulse until well blended. If the “cheeze” is still crumbly, add a teaspoon of water and continue to process. If necessary, continue to add water in 1/4 teaspoon increments until the spread begins to stick together. The finished product should be smooth and paste-like in texture, spreadable but not too creamy.

Eat, enjoy, repeat!

 

* I don’t usually care for this cutesy, “cheese with a ‘z,’ because vegan cheese isn’t really cheese” spelling, but here it seems somehow appropriate. Probably because this recipe was a total accident? Who knows. Just, you know, going on the record!

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!

More Vegan Junk Food: Sticky Caramel Baked French Toast

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

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What vegans eat on Zombie Jesus Day: Sticky Caramel Baked French Toast!

This is another dish from Lane Gold’s Vegan Junk Food – Lane, by the way? A VEGAN FRENCH TOAST GENIUS! – that proved to be a winner. Gooey caramel underside, soft/sometimes crispy vanilla cinnamon top. And minimal effort, cause it’s baked instead of fried! (Think: my ginormous oven-baked pancakes. ONLY BETTER.)

You’re supposed to assemble this dish anywhere from an hour to half a day in advance, so that the bread can soak up the caramel sauce and cinnamon vanilla batter. Make it before going to bed and the next morning you’ve got a hot, sweet breakfast in thirty minutes or less. Bake in while you’re in the shower for maximum time efficiency. You’re welcome!

This bog, by the way? Is now officially a food blog. All vegan food, all the time. No regrets.

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!

    (More below the fold…)

  • Vegan Junk Food Giveaway!

    Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

    Wanna win a copy of this awesome cookbook?

    Vegan Junk Food by Lane Gold (2011)

    OF COURSE YOU DO, IT’S COVER-TO-COVER VEGAN JUNK FOOD!

    The nice people at Adams Media sent me three copies of Lane Gold’s Vegan Junk Food, one for me and two for you. Enter for your chance to win a copy over on fuck yeah vegan pizza! Since I’m shipping these myself, the contest is open internationally. Don’t say I never did anything for you, Australia!

    By the by, I’ve only been able to try one recipe out so far, but it’s a doozy: Pesto Chicken Pizza with Creamy Garlic Sauce.

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    Gold’s pesto is the besto, and the garlic sauce – made out of pureed white beans – is reminiscent of garlicky mashed potatoes. Super-delish, I could definitely see myself whipping up a batch to eat on its own.

    Did I mention that Gold devotes an entire chapter to pizza and bread? MY KIND OF COOKBOOK! No ice cream, but that’s alright; I already own two ice cream books as it is. Although, I would love love love to see someone veganize Ben & Jerry’s flavors; Jimmy Fallon’s Late Night Snack, with the chocolate-covered potato chips, is the stuff that dreams are made of. Much like donkey semen.