Monday, February 25, 2008

California, here I come...

I suspect nobody is reading this, but I wanted to do a short post just for some narrative flow. My computer at home is conking out...specifically the keyboard...and I haven't had time in the past week to post new food. I'll be back, I promise, legions of fans!

But, I'm leaving tomorrow from Fargo, headed to Farm Sanctuary's California shelter for the month of March. I am so excited to be on my way. I'm taking Amtrak, stopping in Portland for a day, and leaving winter in the rear view mirror. I'll be back from the shelter with updates.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

This is what Otter looks like...

It's 31 F below zero tonight in Fargo. That's the coldest documented temperature for this date since 1889. The windchill is absolute zero, defying the very laws of physics. What does that have to do with anything? Nothing. Except that I'm stuck inside and online, looking for something to do. So I'm posting a picture of my buddy Otter, AKA Master Shake, Poppin' Fresh, or Otter Pop. Both of my dogs have about a dozen nicknames, which I hope they don't mind. I can't wait for summer, and neither can they. I don't know what we'd do without beer.

Monday, February 18, 2008

I wrote this letter...

Rising to the top of things that piss me off today is the completely unsurprising story of abuse at the Westland/Hallmark slaughterhouse. Doesn't it just about make your head explode when people express shock at "abuse" in slaughterhouses? I wrote a letter to the Fargo Forum about it...we'll see if it gets printed. If not, I have the massive power of Vegan for the People as my soapbox:

This week news broke of the biggest beef recall in U.S. history. Workers at the Westland/Hallmark beef packing plant in California were filmed ramming downed animals with forklifts and spraying high-pressure water into their mouths and nostrils. This was in order to force the animals, which were too sick or exhausted to move, to get up and walk into the slaughterhouse.
As a result, something like 70 million tons of meat have been recalled from restaurants, grocery stores, and school cafeterias. The logic is that animals too sick to walk can infect the “product” with whatever is making them too sick to walk. There was reflexive talk of “mad cow“ disease in the news coverage, but that is not the issue here. Animals at the business end of modern agriculture don’t need mad cow disease to force them to the ground.
The brutality at the plant was recorded on undercover video from the Humane Society of the United States. We only know about it because somebody was brave enough to break a law and sneak a camera onto the floor. Westland/Hallmark is a mammoth American company under the watchful eye of the USDA and health inspectors and the rest, and this is the kind of thing that happens at work in the morning.
It is no leap to assume this stuff happens at animal processing plants without undercover cameras. The walls around industrial livestock operations in this country grow higher every year, and transparency wouldn’t help the bottom line. We need a business-friendly environment, you know, free of government interference and those nutty animal welfare people. Nobody needs to see where the groceries come from. I'm off to eat some pudding...

Chocolate Pudding Pie

Guess what? You don't need dairy milk to make pudding - something I didn't know for too long. I've made vegan chocolate pudding with silken tofu and cocoa powder, which was good, but didn't have that essential pudding-ness I was craving. This is much closer to what I loved growing up. It's a simple chocolate pudding recipe (from Vegan With a Vengeance), poured into a vegan graham cracker pie crust. I'm usually not one to need dessert after supper, but I think this is the fourth time I've made this pie in the last three weeks. It's good.
Chocolate Pudding Pie
1 vegan graham cracker pie crust (9 in. or so in diameter)
2 cups soy milk
3 tbsp. arrowroot powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder (I throw in some chocolate baking chips too, just for good measure)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1. In a saucepan (this is a good place for nonstick) dissolve arrowroot into soy milk. Add sugar and cocoa, and stir frequently over medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes.
2. At around the five minute point, the mixture will start to thicken up - just like making a gravy. Keep stirring for a couple more minutes and remove from heat. If you do this a couple of times, you'll see how the level of thickness while you're cooking translates to the firmness of the pudding. There's no need to overcook it, since it firms up really well in the fridge. When you turn off the heat, add the vanilla extract and give it a final mix.
3. Pour pudding into pie crust, or individual serving cups. I let it air cool for a half hour or so before putting it in the refrigerator. It is ready to serve in about 3 hours, but benefits from a full overnight stay in the fridge.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Jicama-Watercress-Avocado Salad with Spicy Citrus Vinaigrette

This salad is a joy, all tangy here and crunchy there and avocado-y over there. It's a recipe from Veganomicon. I won't reprint the recipe here, since I think you should go on out and pick up the book. By the way, big thanks to the PPK people for linking me on the website - I feel like I've hit the big time. The curious dog looking on is Maya, my awesome puppy. She arrived in Fargo via the AWARE animal shelter in Sumpango, Guatemala, where I spent a couple of months last summer. Maya likes barking and chewing stuff up and wrestling and chasing things, but she wasn't crazy about the salad.

Buffalo Tofu and Tempeh...oh wow this was good

Last night after work I had this urge coming from deep in my reptilian brain for "Buffalo" something. I drove all the way to south Fargo because I was out of vegan margarine (I hate doing that, but I was beyond rational action here) and picked up a bottle of Franks RedHot cayenne pepper sauce too. The big secret to buffalo sauce is just equal parts hot sauce and butter, with Earth Balance vegan margarine more than holding its own in that role. Since I was all about indulgence last night, I made a double batch of buffalo nuggets, with a package of extra firm tofu and a package of tempeh. The white mass on the plate is a mushed baked potato.
Buffalo Sauce:
1/2 cup cayenne pepper hot sauce
1/2 cup vegan margarine
Chunky nuggets:
1 12 oz. package extra firm tofu
1 8 oz. package tempeh
Mike's "That ain't chicken" marinade:
1 cup broth, made from vegan "chicken" broth powder
2 tbsp. tamari soy sauce
1 tbsp. nutritional yeast flakes
1 tsp. dry sage
1 tsp. dry rosemary
1 tsp. dry thyme
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
Breading flour:
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. nutritional yeast
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1. Cut tofu and tempeh in bite-size pieces. I was in a triangle mood.
2. Combine marinade ingredients in a shallow baking dish, and add tofu and tempeh. Make sure everything is covered with marinade, and marinate for a couple of hours. Toss around a couple of times to make sure everything is coated.
3. After at least 2 hours, remove tofu and tempeh from marinade and toss in the flour mixture until everything is evenly coated.
4. Bake on a lightly oiled baking sheet at 325 F for 20 to 30 minutes, until the breading has browned just a bit.
5. While the tofu and tempeh are baking, combine the buffalo sauce ingredients in a saucepan. Heat just until margarine is completely melted, and mix thoroughly with the hot sauce.
6. When tofu and tempeh are browned, remove from oven and dump into the buffalo sauce pan. Toss until evenly coated. Serve hot, or keep in a covered baking dish on low heat in the oven until ready to serve.
7. You really need some celery around as a counterpoint and to capture that buffalo vibe. There is also a dipping sauce involved, which I forgot about. I'll be back to add that recipe.

Funeral Hotdish

Growing up, I knew this only as funeral hotdish. At the lunch after a funeral at home, some version of macaroni with tomato sauce, sweet corn, and ground beef was a guarantee. This is the same thing, with veggie burger crumbles standing in for the meat. When I'm in more of a whole foods mood, I substitute black beans for the veggie crumbles, but my traditional side favors the crumbles. As my vegan cooking has evolved, I rely less and less on processed products from Boca and the rest, but this is comfort food. Sometimes comfort trumps philosophy.
Mike's Vegan Funeral Hotdish
1/2 lb. dry pasta (elbows are more authentic, but I used Dakota Growers rotini here)
1 tbsp. canola oil
2 8 oz. cans salt-free tomato sauce
1 cup frozen sweet corn
1 1/2 cups veggie grounds or crumbles or whatever you call them (or those black beans)
1 yellow or white onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp. nutritional yeast*
cayenne pepper hot sauce**
1. Bring a couple of pints of water to boil in a soup pot. Add pasta and cook until tender.
2. In a nonstick frying pan, saute onions on medium heat for a few minutes, until tender and translucent. Add garlic, and fry for a minute more.
3. Add tomato sauce, veggie crumbles/black beans, and sweet corn to pan. Cover and simmer on low heat for about five minutes, until everything is nice and hot.
4. When pasta is done, drain and return to pot. Add the tomato-corn-crumbles mix, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Is this easy or what?
5. If serving right away, go at it. Otherwise, keep it in an oven on low heat, covered with aluminum foil. It just feels more like a hotdish if it comes out of the oven in a casserole pan, but that's not entirely necessary.
* yeah, sometimes I throw in some nutritional yeast for that nummy, cheesy flavor. But since nutritional yeast never came near a church basement when I was growing up, I kind of feel like I'm cheating by using it. If you're less troubled by these things, by all means enjoy the damn nutritional yeast.
** Here's another non-traditional move. This could go for almost any of my recipes, but a healthy shot of red pepper hot sauce does good things for a funeral hotdish.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Another Nori Roll experience...

Just posting a picture of my latest batch of avacado-carrot-sweet pepper nori rolls. They're just so cute, I can't help but snap a picture every time I make them. I posted a recipe in January, in case you're inspired to make your own. They are kind of a production, but worth it.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Freedom Toast!

I know the joke is five years old, but that isn't stopping me. French Toast is usually dependent on an egg and milk dipping batter, for reasons that will stop making sense once you try this. This is every bit as good as the traditional version, with all the advantages we vegan folk can't stop talking about. But since it's time for breakfast, I'll save the lecture. Make some freedom toast, watch some cartoons, drink some coffee, and thank me later.
6 slices bread
1 cup soy milk
2 tbsp. nutritional yeast
1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. canola oil or vegan margarine
1. If the bread is fresh, pop it in the toaster on a light setting. The idea is that dry bread will soak up more of the nummy french, nay, freedom toast batter stuff.
2. Meanwhile, mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl wide enough to dip the bread slices.
3. Heat oil or margarine in a non-stick frying pan on medium heat. Dip the bread slices in the bowl, flip them so they're completely soaked, and transfer to pan. Usually you can cook two at a time without overcrowding.
4. Fry toast for about 3 minutes on each side - keep an eye out to avoid burning. When each side is golden brown, transfer to a plate. Keep the plate covered with a stew pot lid so the toast stays warm, or keep them in the oven at low heat until serving time.
That's that. Serve with fresh fruit and your syrup of choice.

La La La La Lasagna

Here's my recipe for lasagna, beloved food of Garfield, the Mafia, Weird Al Yankovic, my dogs, and me. The specimen here is standard issue vegan, with home-made tomato sauce and a tofu ricotta sprinkled with basil leaves. I was roasting eggplant slices for this one, but I forgot they were in the oven and ended up with blackish eggplant chips. Too bad. Other favorites for layering into lasagna are roasted red peppers, spinach pesto, veggie burger crumbles, and black olives. This one has about 6 ounces of sliced mushrooms too, come to think of it. Like pizza, lasagna ingredients are limited only by your imagination, and the size of the pan.
8 sheets lasagna noodles
Let's talk for a second about lasagna noodles. Some recipes, and brands of noodles, claim you don't have to cook them before assembling the lasagna. That very well might be true, but I've been burned a couple of times by this claim, and ended up with undercooked noodles in an otherwise good lasagna. Lasagna is too much work to be ruined by noodles that aren't done, so I recommend boiling the guys for about 10 minutes, regardless of what your recipe or noodle package tells you. They don't need to be completely soft, but tender enough that they cook completely while the lasagna is baking. That said:
1. Bring about two quarts of water to boil in a soup pot. Place lasagna noodles in boiling water for about ten minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water when they're done, just to make them easier and safer to handle - no steamed fingers. Some cooks will probably say that takes the starch off the noodles and whatnot, but this is my blog (and the people's blog, of course), so I'll cook my noodles how I like, thank you very much.
Tomato Sauce
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 14 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
1 tsp. dry basil
1 tsp. dry oregano
1 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
salt to taste
olive oil
1. In a medium sized sauce pan, saute onions in a little olive oil over medium-high heat, until they just start to soften. Add garlic and spices, and saute for about a minute more - as always, be sure not to burn the garlic, which can derail the whole operation.
2. Add tomatoes and sugar, bring to a simmer, and continue at medium-low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Tofu-Basil Ricotta
1 12 oz. package firm tofu (not the silken kind)
1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh basil leaves, or a heaping tablespoon of dry basil
1/2 tsp. salt
1. While your tomato sauce is simmering, combine all of the above ingredients in a large bowl and mix with your hands, or a fork if you're into that. The idea is to get the tofu completely crumbled, but not pureed - don't put this in a blender to save time, please, because it kind of ruins the texture, which is meant to evoke ricotta cheese. (You can't see it, but I'm wagging my finger at you right now).
Building a Better Lasagna
1. OK, I think we have everything ready to go. The rest is easy, and you get the satisfaction of building something - a feeling that is sometimes evasive in cooking.
2. Spread just enough tomato sauce to cover the bottom of your baking dish. Place a layer of noodles (you may need to cut them to fit), a layer of tomato sauce, a layer of tofu ricotta, and a layer of whatever else you're using. Repeat with successive layers of noodles. The trick here is keeping an eye on your remaining ingredients and working your spatial estimation bone, so you don't end up running out of tomato sauce while you still have a ton of other ingredients to work in. Honestly, you're on your own at this point. All the best.
3. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 for 45 minutes to an hour. I usually cover the pan with aluminum foil at first, and remove the foil for the last 10 or 15 minutes.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

I can't believe it's not a Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Here's my vegan grilled cheese/patty melt sandwich. I use homemade seitan for the "meat" and Road's End Organics Cheddar Chreese sauce for the cheese - if you feel ambitious there are a ton of great vegan cheese sauce recipes out there, but I like Road's End quite a lot. This would be great with a tomato soup, and a little salad on the side. I made this today for lunch - my dogs love it too, so they spring to attention when it's done.
4 slices whole wheat bread
8-10 thin slices roast seitan
1 1.1 oz. package Road's End Organics Chreese sauce powder (it's cheap, as a bonus)
1 medium yellow onion, sliced in quarter inch rings
Vegan margarine
Canola oil for frying seitan and onions
1. In a non-stick fry pan, heat about a tablespoon of canola oil and saute onions and seitan slices for about five minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions and seitan are lightly browned. Meanwhile, spread a light layer of vegan margarine on one side of each slice of bread.
2. In a separate saucepan, prepare the cheese sauce according to package directions (or use your own preferred vegan cheese sauce recipe.
3. When seitan and onions are done, remove from frying pan. Keep the pan on the burner and use to grill your sandwiches. Place two slices of bread, margarine side down, in the pan. On each face-up bread slice, spread half of the onion and seitan mixture. Top with a generous dollop of cheese sauce on each, and top with the other two slices of bread - margarine side up.
4. Grill sandwiches on medium heat, checking to make sure they don't burn, for about 3 or 4 minutes on each side. Remove from heat when finished and serve immediately, preferrably with some good ketchup for dipping.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Dahi Vaddi with Coconut Rice and Mango Chutney

I snapped a quick picture of this before supper the other night. Dahi Vaddi (Vaddis?) are fried lentil patties, and so so good. It pairs well with creamy coconut rice and mango chutney. I'm guessing none of this is authentically Indian, but it passed my test. The lentil patties are great - crisp and spicy, with just the right amount of greasiness, which we all need sometime. Dahi Vaddi is standard in Indian vegetarian cookbooks, but my recipe is adapted from Nikki and David Goldbeck's American Wholefoods Cuisine.
Dahi Vaddi
1/2 cup dry red lentils
1 cup warm water
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. cumin powder
1 medium yellow onion, diced
Pinch cayenne
Canola oil for frying
1. Soak dry lentils in water for at least two hours.
2. Place lentils (with any remaining water) in a blender or food processor, along with salt, cumin, and cayenne. Process until lentils are chopped into a thick meal. This takes a couple of minutes - keep a spatula handy to scrape un-blended lentils back down into the mix.
3. Mix diced onions into the lentil meal. I like to refrigerate this for an hour or two to make the patties firmer when it's time for frying, but it isn't totally necessary.
4. To cook, heat about a quarter inch of canola oil in a frying pan on medium-high heat. If the lentil mixture is firm enough, you can form little patties in your hand and carefully place them in the hot oil. If the lentil mixture is a little on the soft side, just drop spoonfuls of the mixture into the pan, being careful they stay separate - don't try to cook the whole works in one batch. Fry each patty for 3 to 5 minutes on each side, until they are nice and golden-brown. Remove from oil and dry on a paper towl, just to absorb some of the oil. Just be careful working with the hot oil - it deserves respect.
Cocunut Rice
3/4 cup basmati rice
1/2 cup coconut milk
1. I prefer to cook rice in a steamer in my soup pot. This avoids any burnt rice, and I think the result is as good or better than the standard method. Steam rice until tender. Move to a saucepot, mix with coconut milk, and heat on low until milk is warmed.
Mango Chutney
recipe pending...I kind of made it on the spot...I'll be back with this recipe
Serve the Dahi Vaddi at once, or keep in the oven on low heat if the rice or chutney isn't ready yet. Garnish with a little cilantro if you like.