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Archive for December, 2009

Happy holidays! I hope everyone has been enjoying their holiday. I know I have! This is the first year in the past six that Husband and I have been home for Xmas to celebrate with our families; naturally, it’s been very busy.

I did “whip” up a delicious vegan feast for Husband and I to enjoy which included a vegan turkey, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, stuffing with walnuts and golden raisins, roasted brussels sprouts, and ruby-red cranberry sauce flavoured with orange. I even baked some vegan croissants for Xmas morning breakfast and some gingerbread cupcakes with lemon cream cheese frosting for dessert…alas, I did not take a single photo of our Xmas feast. We devoured everything and ate till we were bursting with “food babies” in our stomachs and I assure you it was all very wonderful.

What I did manage to take a photo of was this morning’s breakfast…stunning baked apples! These are so simple to prepare, I almost feel silly posting the recipe; but, they’re just too warm and comforting and perfect not to post.

Baked Gala Apples:

6 lg. Gala apples

-3/4 cup packed brown sugar

-2 tsp. cinnamon

-1/4 tsp. fresh grated nutmeg

-pinch of salt

-1/2 cup pecans, chopped

-roughly 6 tsp. vegan margarine

Preheat the oven to 325. Wash and dry your apples. Using a sharp paring knife, remove a cone-shaped chunk from the centre of each apple, being sure to remove all of the core. The larger the piece that is removed, the more room you’ll have for the sweet, spiced filling.

Stir together the brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and pecans. Scoop generous amounts of this mixture into each apple. You can overfill the apples a little, they’ll melt down some in the oven.

Place the apples in a rectangular baking dish with deep sides and put about a teaspoon of vegan margarine on top of each apple. Fill the baking dish with hot water to come halfway up the apples.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, till apples are tender. The filling should be melted and the pecans should be toasted. Use a slotted serving spoon to gently remove the apples from the baking dish. Serve warm.

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Mmmmmm….I adore wild rice blends. The blend used in this particular pilaf was a simple long grain brown and wild blend and it worked wonderfully with the accent flavours in the pilaf. I decided to flavour it with sliced cremini mushrooms, dried cranberries and fresh baby spinach. When the dish was finished, I served it sprinkled with raw sunflower seeds for a little texture contrast. Alongside the pilaf were steamed broccoli, generously spritzed with fresh lemon juice and some marinated, baked tofu.

This is probably the best dinner we’ve had in the past few weeks. Husband and I have been eating a lot more faux meat convenience foods as of late while we try to become accustomed to our new schedules. I had the day off yesterday and just couldn’t bear the thought of eating one more veggie chicken burger or Tofurky deli slice sandwich for dinner. I started scavenging through the overstocked fridge and pantry and randomly pulled out ingredients until I had piled a plethora of choices on the counter and the idea came together in a flash. The end result was exactly what I was craving…the rice had a wonderful nutty flavour from the toasting, the pre-sauteéd mushrooms added such a desirable chewiness, the cranberries plumped and exploded in your mouth, and the spinach wilted  into almost-creamy perfection.

Wild Rice Pilaf with Creminis, Cranberries, and Spinach

-2 T. olive oil

-1/2 cup sliced cremini mushrooms

-1 cup wild rice blend

-1 lg. clove garlic, minced

-1/4 cup dried cranberries

-1 cup fresh baby spinach, washed and patted dry

-2 and 1/4 cups vegetable stock

-salt and pepper, to taste

-handful raw sunflower seeds, for garnish

Preheat 1 T. oil over medium heat in a medium-sized pan. Add the mushrooms and sauté until browned and the juices have been released, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat the remaining 1 T. oil over medium heat in a medium pot with a tight-fitting lid. Add the rice and stir to coat evenly with oil. Toast the rice, while stirring, for 1-2 minutes or until the rice begins to brown slightly and it starts to smell nutty. Add the garlic and stir for another 30 seconds. Stir in the mushrooms, cranberries and spinach until well combined. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the stock, stir, and cover. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low. Simmer for 30-40 minutes, until rice is tender. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff gently with a fork.

Right before serving, sprinkle each serving with sunflower seeds.

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I wanted to call it a cheesecake; but, it just didn’t feel right as a cheesecake. It didn’t have that cheesecake richness and slight tang. It did have the velvety smoothness of a cream pie so that’s what it shall forever be.

After making my very first batch of graham crackers a few days ago, I was ready to whip up a delicious dessert to rid my poor fridge of all the dessert tofu that had accumulated. I blended and poured and baked and chilled and when it came time to slice and serve, I was thrilled with the results…the filling set perfectly, it had a wonderful smoothness to it, and it actually tasted great!

For something I made up on the fly to get rid of an unwanted ingredient, I have to say I was quite impressed with the results. Husband very literally gobbled it up. He ate almost half the pie in one sitting! Even my steak-loving father-in-law loved it; he said he couldn’t taste tofu at all. So; if you find yourself up to the elbows in dessert tofu for any reason, this pie is a delicious way to use a few packages up.

Peach-Mango Cream Pie:

-1 vegan graham cracker crust, store-bought or homemade (I made mine by moistening the crumbs with a little oil and maple syrup and pressing the mix into a 9″ pan)

-3 pkg. (each 150 g.) of peach mango dessert tofu

-3 T. sugar

-pinch of salt

-T. lemon juice

-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

-2 T. cornstarch dissolved in 2 T. soymilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Blend together all ingredients except the cornstarch slurry until very smooth. Add the cornstarch and blend till completely incorporated.

Pour the filling into the prepared crust. Bake for 30 minutes, or till filling is just set. It should still be a little jiggly in the centre but firm along the edges. Let cool to room temperature. Chill for at least 4 hours. Slice and serve.

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I love graham crackers! They have a wholesome flavour to them; they’re not too sweet and generally have a great depth of flavour. Finding vegan pre-made ones, however, is like searching for the Holy Grail. I’ve been meaning to make them for quite some time but have always assumed they’d be difficult to make.

I have a confession to make: I’m terrified of crackers. I don’t know what it is; but, I have this irrational fear of making them myself. I have a folder full of cracker recipes I want to try and sometimes, when I’m all alone, I’ll sit there looking at them with squinted eyes and pursed lips and I’ll say to those recipes: “You don’t scare me. I can take you. You’re not as tough as you look.” But they do. And I can’t. And they totally are!

Well, I finally found the courage to take on graham crackers recently. It was more out of necessity than out of willingness. My mother-in-law bought me a ridiculous amount of “dessert tofu”…you know the pre-packaged soft tofu that’s flavoured and pre-sweetened that you can eat like pudding…I hate the stuff! I don’t eat it, ever! She saw it on sale and picked up literally 16 packages! SIXTEEN! I have the almond flavour and the peach mango flavour.

Now, I have this thing about food being wasted. I never throw out food…even if I don’t like it. I grew up very poor and that just wasn’t something we did. I’ll repurpose things until there isn’t a molecule left! I even re-use all my marinades so as not to waste the precious liquid (there’s another benefit to vegan cooking…you certainly couldn’t re-use chicken marinade!).

Anyway, with all this tofu stuff sitting in the fridge that I have no desire to eat as is, I figured…hey, why not make a dessert I’ll like out of it?! I figured it could easily become a cheesecake with a little work and creativity…the problem? No vegan graham crackers. Damn! Then I remembered that at my last trip to my new favourite health food store, I bought a container of graham flour for $1. I could make my own graham crackers!

I tentatively began a search for a recipe, entering the words into google with shaking fingers and trying not to fog the monitor-screen with my heavy, dreadful exhales…I gathered all the courage I could muster, and settled on this recipe.

It didn’t actually call for graham flour, so I subbed half the whole wheat flour for graham flour. The results were delicious! Mine were a little on the burnt side after only 12 minutes in the oven; but, I imagine that had more to do with the fact that I’m still getting used to my in-law’s gas oven and should have kept a better eye on them. The dark bottoms didn’t stop Husband and I from munching on them while we waited for them to cool enough to be ground into crumbs for the dessert crust. I’ll post about the finished product tomorrow. In the meantime, feast your eyes on these crisp, lightly sweetened crackers!

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I have such a love affair with chili and cornbread. In fact, in the winter, I almost completely survive solely on chili and cornbread. It’s a perfect meal…hearty, nutritious, dip-able, and because I prefer my cornbread with a little extra sugar, the perfect combination of spicy and sweet.

Some time ago, my mom gave me this cute little slow-cooker cookbook; I think she picked it up at a grocery store checkout aisle. Inside, there was an entire section dedicated to chili recipes and, naturally, that was the first section I turned to. There were recipes for sweet potato chili, chili with cornbread croutons (genius idea, I think!); but, the recipe that intrigued me the most was the white chili. I’d never even heard of white chili before and I loved the idea of a monochromatic chili. That night, I set about veganizing/tinkering with the recipe.

I have no idea how close this is to the original…I found my version scrawled on a piece of paper and then made some notes and adjustments after a quick web-search.

White Chili:

-1 lb. dry white beans (for this batch I used soy…I usually use a blend of white kidney, Great Northern, and chickpeas), soaked overnight, drained and rinsed

-1 tsp. olive oil

-6 cups vegetable broth

-2 cloves garlic, minced

-2 onions, peeled and chopped

-approx. 2 T. canned/jarred minced jalapeno, adjust to taste

-2 tsp. cumin

-1.5 tsp. oregano

-1/4 tsp. cloves

-1/4 tsp. cayenne

-1 package/recipe chicken-flavoured seitan (I used the Simple Seitan recipe from the Vegonomicon and just altered the seasoning to be vaguely chicken-like), chopped into bite-size pieces

Cook beans until tender in plenty of boiling water. Drain and set aside. Preheat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and stir to coat in the oil. Sauté until translucent, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and sauté for an additional 30 seconds, just until the garlic becomes fragrant.

Add the spices and stir well. Add the beans, jalapeno, seitan, and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes, just to let all the flavours incorporate. Serve with a big piece of warm cornbread.

This is my go-to cornbread recipe…I’ve tried probably 100s of different recipes; but, I always come back to this one that I found years ago and altered a million different ways to end up with my favourite result. It’s perfectly sweetened, has a wonderful crust on the top and sides and a soft interior texture.

Cornbread:

-1 cup cornmeal

-1 cup plus 4 T. soymilk

-1 cup all-purpose flour

-3 tsp. baking powder

-1/3 cup sugar

-1/4 cup loose-packed brown sugar

-1/2 tsp. salt

-1/3 cup oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9×9 pan.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the cornmeal and milk; let stand for 5 minutes. Whisk together the dry ingredients. Stir in the cornmeal/milk mixture till smooth. Add the oil and stir till well combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25-35 minutes, till knife inserted in centre comes out clean. Slice and serve while still warm.

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