Saturday, March 30, 2013

Spanish Style Scramble with Piquillo Peppers and Spinach...

A few months ago I was in the grocery store and I just happened to stumble upon a large jar of Piquillo Peppers. I immediately became excited about this because I had a recipe for Stuffed Spanish Peppers that I really wanted to try out but it called for Piquillo’s and I couldn’t find them anywhere. Then suddenly here they were. The jar however was massive, and my recipe only called for six peppers. No matter - I bought the jar anyway and thought I’d figure out something to do with the rest another time.

Well strangely even though I was super excited to try out these Piquillo Peppers, once I got the jar home and put away in the pantry I kind of forgot about it. Until earlier this week anyway when I finally made that stuffed pepper recipe. Which was phenomenal by the way, the only problem was what was I going to do with the rest of the peppers?

Piquillo Peppers are a really delicious sweet chili, cultivated in Northern Spain,  though their flavor is more reminiscent of a roasted red bell pepper then a spicy chili. After they’re picked they’re roasted over embers which gives them a distinct smokey and even slightly spicy flavor. Though when I say spicy, think Paprika not Jalapeno. Once roasted they’re seeded, peeled and packed into jars or tins for sale, and if you can find a jar or a can anywhere definitely pick it up because they are divine. I could eat them plain straight out of the jar, they’re that delicious! Of course I didn’t want to just eat them all straight out of the jar, because what If I never find Piquillo peppers again? I wanted to take advantage of them while I had them, and so I started dreaming about Piquillo pepper combinations.

The first thing that popped into my head was spinach. Piquillo’s and spinach I thought would make excellent partners and then from there I began thinking about onions, and olives. Eventually I worked my way around to Piquillo’s for breakfast and naturally came to the conclusion that they’d be excellent in a scramble. Though Piquillo’s are typically stuffed and eaten as tapa’s in Spain I wanted to do something a little bit different, besides I was really in the mood for a scramble, and who doesn’t love a good hearty veggie stuffed scramble?

The Piquillo’s really add a unique flavor component to a scramble, making it slightly sweet and slightly smoky, combined with the earthy mushrooms, the leafy spinach, the cheesy nooch, and the tart olives it’s a winning combination. You can serve your scramble over toast, or for a really heavy and hearty breakfast do what I did and serve it with avocado toast. A super simple and delicious way to eat your avo. Mashed with lime juice, sea salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes spread nice and thick on a piece of crunchy toasty bread. YUM!

Spanish Style Scramble with Piquillo Peppers and Spinach 

1 Tbsp Olive Oil
½ Large Yellow Onion Diced
6 Garlic Cloves Minced
3/4 C Baby Bella Mushrooms Chopped
14oz Extra Firm Tofu drained and pressed
1/8 C Nutritional Yeast
½ tsp Thyme
1 tsp Black Salt
Black Pepper to taste
1 tsp Chili Powder
1 tsp Smoked Paprika
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp turmeric
3oz Fresh baby Spinach
5 Jarred Piquillo Peppers Chopped
1/3 C Spanish Olives with Pimento sliced

*** Note -  To press the tofu either use a tofu press or place it between two sheets of paper towel and load some heavy objects on top of it. ***

- Heat olive oil in a medium sized pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and saute for 4 minutes until beginning to get soft. Add in the garlic and the mushrooms and saute another 4-5 minutes until fragrant and mushrooms are soft.

- Crumble the pressed tofu in to the pan, and add the Nutritional yeast, thyme, chili powder, paprika, turmeric, cumin, black salt and pepper. Stir until well combined and the tofu mixture begins to look the color of scrambled eggs.

- Add in the Spinach and Piquillo Peppers. Stir to incorporate then cover and cook until the spinach has wilted. 3-5 minutes. Fold in the olives and serve.


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Tempeh, Sweet Potato Stir-Fry with Assorted Vegetables and Plum Sauce...

Last nights dinner was super simple, and super quick and easy to throw together, but it was so delicious I thought I’d share it. You know, when I was an omnivore I loved stir-fry. I used to make stir-fry’s at least 2-3 nights a week, but since going vegan I hardly ever make stir-fry. I think in the 3 years I’ve been vegan I’ve only made a handful of stir-fry’s. When I stop to wonder why this is I think it’s probably because as an omnivore I lacked creativity, not to mention that stir-fry is one of the quickest and easiest ways to cook meat. Where as, as a Vegan there are so many extraordinary things one can do with vegetables that using them in a stir-fry seems a bit - well - meh. Of course, every now and then quick and easy is what you’re after - especially on a busy weeknight - and sometimes you just really want a big ‘ole heaping plate of veggies.

This stir-fry in particular is unique only in that it includes sweet potatoes and edamame - two things I’ve never seen in a ‘traditional’ stir-fry and two things I’ve rarely if ever seen in any other kind of stir-fry. It also includes a plum sauce rather then the standard ginger sauce or teriyaki sauce. I really wanted a different flavor component and I thought plum sauce would work really well with sweet potatoes - spoiler, it does! How much sauce you use is up to you, and how saucy you like your fry’s, since I was in the mood for a plate of mostly veg, I was happy with 1/4 cup of sauce though my husband added a bit more to his own plate. Experiment and see what works best for you, there’s no right or wrong amount. Lastly you can serve this fry over rice for a hearty meal - as I did for my husband - or eat it like me, just plain and on its own a big ‘ole plate of veggies. Or you can find a happy compromise and serve it over a bed of sauteed or wilted spinach, arugula, or kale. Anyway you decide to serve it I hope you enjoy!

Tempeh, Sweet Potato Stir-Fry with Assorted Vegetables and Plum Sauce 

1 Tbsp Sesame Oil
2 Small Sweet Potatoes or Yams cubed
8oz Tempeh
1 Large Yellow Onion
8 Garlic Cloves Minced 
2 tsp Fresh Grated Ginger
1 Red Bell Pepper Chopped
2 Large Carrots Sliced on the diagonal
½ tsp Red Pepper Flakes
2 Heads Broccoli Chopped
1 C Frozen Edamame
1/4-1/3C Asian Plum Sauce (Homemade or store bought)
1 Tbsp Bragg’s Liquid Amino’s (or Tamari)

- Heat the Sesame Oil in a large pan. Add peeled cubed sweet potatoes and cook on high for 10-15 minutes, until the potatoes are al dente, and even a little browned. Stir a few times to make sure they don’t stick or burn.

- Meanwhile cube the tempeh and fill a pot with enough water to cover the bottom. Place a steamer basket inside and steam the tempeh for 10 minutes until fragrant. Remove from the steamer basket and set aside.

- Add in the Garlic, Onion, grated ginger, red pepper flakes,  bell pepper, and carrots. Stir to combine and cook an additional 5 minutes.

- Lower the heat to medium. Add in the frozen Edamame, steamed tempeh and broccoli. Cook for 3-5 minutes until broccoli is bright green and tender crisp.

- Add in the Plum Sauce and Bragg’s Liquid Amino’s. Stir until well combines and then cook for 1-2 minutes until heated through, and vegetables have reached your desired level of doneness.

- Serve spooned over rice or wilted greens and enjoy!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Vanilla Orange Berry Blast Smoothie...

You all know how much I love a good smoothie right? Well over the past week this one has become my absolute favorite breakfast. The flavor is so unique a mixture of berry, vanilla, citrus and that oh so distinct grassy taste of wheatgrass. I love the not quite blended texture of the dates as well. Overall this smoothie packs an energizing antioxidant punch that’ll both nourish and satisfy you, not to mention help you through any busy Spring morning, and if it doesn’t quite feel like spring where you live then at least the light citrus notes will make you daydream of the warmer days to come. Plus, you can’t beat that beautiful, rich, majestic color. Doesn’t it make you want to smile?

Vanilla Orange Berry Blast Smoothie 

1-1 1/4C Vanilla Almond Milk
1 Large Navel Orange
2 Pitted Dates
1 Scoop Wheatgrass Powder (I use Amazing Grass)
2/3-3/4C Frozen Blueberries
4 Frozen Peach Slices
½ tsp Ground Cinnamon
Dash of Ground Ginger

- Place all ingredients into a high-speed blender and blend on high for 1 minute or until smooth. Bits of unblended date pieces are okay, and highly recommended in my opinion.

*** Note - If you prefer you can use unsweetened almond or other non-dairy milk and use a tablespoon of vanilla extract instead. Though I quite like the taste and texture of the vanilla almond milk. Also how much milk and blueberries you use depends on the strength of your blender and your personal preference for how thick you want the smoothie to be.***

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Broccoli Stem and Kohlrabi Salad with Chickpeas and Smoky Pepper Tahini Dressing...

I love a big ‘ole salad, by now this should be perfectly obvious. For me, any day of the year - but particularly on sunny Spring and summer days - there are few things better then a gigantic bowl filled to the brim with a luscious array of rainbow colored vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and legumes.  There are days where I just crave salad, and nothing had me craving salad more then my week long foray into Irish cooking. As much as I loved the Irish cuisine I cooked up leading up to St. Patrick’s Day, the Irish aren’t exactly known for ‘light’ meals, nor are they particularly known for their salads. So after a long week of heavy seitan and potatoes fair I was desperate for a good old fashion salad.

Unfortunately the usual salad fixings were pretty scarce in my house yesterday. There wasn’t a scrap of any sort of lettuce, no avocado, no fresh herbs, and only one tomato. What’s a girl who needs a salad to do? Well, she’s got to get creative. I took a quick inventory of my crisper drawers and then began to formulate a plan. I might not have had lettuce, but I had two kohlrabi that had been in my fridge since who knows when, and two broccoli stalks leftover from the night before. Since I got my juicer I’ve been a big fan of re-proposing vegetables. I save all of my stalks and stems now instead of junking them, and feed them through my juicer. That was the original plan for these broccoli stalks but then I thought, why juice them when I can eat them? Washed and steamed and combined with a bit of red cabbage that I had, some red bell pepper, green onions, sesame seeds and tomato I was well on my way to lunch!

This is a really great way to use up your broccoli stalks, if you’re saving them or don’t want to throw them away, and if you’ve never had Kohlrabi before you’re really in for a treat. Kohlrabi is such a strange vegetable, it’s round like a beet but green, and it tastes like something between a potato, a cabbage and a sunchoke. They’re really unique and they can be eaten either raw or cooked. So a light steam is a really nice way to have them. They also pair really nice with a creamy-smoky dressing. It makes the perfect lunch salad.

Broccoli Stem and Kohlrabi Salad with Chickpeas

2 Broccoli Stems Chopped
2 Medium Sized Kohlrabi Peeled and Chopped
1 Tomato Chopped
½ Red Bell Pepper Chopped
1/4-1/2C Shredded Red Cabbage
1/4C Green Onions Sliced
½ Can of Chickpeas rinsed and drained
2 Tbsp Sesame Seeds (to taste)
3 Garlic Cloves Minced (or to taste)

Smoky Pepper Tahini Dressing 

3 Tbsp Lime Juice
3 Tbsp Tahini
2 Tbsp Bragg’s Liquid Amino’s
2 Tbsp Water (to thin and dilute as needed)
1 Tbsp Agave Nectar
1/4-1/2tsp Smoked Paprika
White Pepper to taste
Black Pepper to taste

- Steam the Broccoli and Kohlrabi together in a steamer basket fitted into a medium sized pot. Steam for about 5-6 minutes until tender, but still a bit firm.

- Combine all other salad ingredients in a large bowl. Add the steamed vegetables and mix together.

- Whisk together all dressing ingredients in a bowl until smooth and creamy. Then pour desired amount over your salad, mix well and enjoy!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Guinness Fondue...

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone! No matter how you choose to celebrate I hope you have a good time, with lots of great Irish food and drink. If you’re looking for a way to kick up your Paddy’s day celebrations you might want to try this Guinness fondue appetizer, it sounds strange I know, but it’s simply delicious! Irish farmhouse cheeses are typically used for the dish, farmhouse cheddar in particular but in my case I decided to use Daiya Cheddar though you could use any of your favorite  vegan cheddars. Served with raw or lightly steamed vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, yams, peppers, cucumber, squash and toasted bread cubes it makes of a really rich, satisfying and unique addition to any Paddy’s Day Party.

Originally I was unconvinced, my husband even more so since he doesn’t’ like either beer or cheese. But after one bread cube dipped in this thick gooey, fondue and you’ll keep going back for more, I swear! It’s neither too beery nor too cheesy it holds perfect notes of both. To make things easier of course you can use any stout beer, but I just found out via The Vegan Society that Guinness Extra Stout is Vegan in the U.S. - it’s not vegan outside of the U.S. - so if you really, really want Guinness use the Extra Stout! And enjoy!

Guinness Fondue 

12oz Guinness or other Irish Stout
16oz Daiya Cheddar Cheese Shreds or other Vegan Cheese
2 tsp Lemon Juice
1 Tbsp Cornstarch
Celtic Sea Salt and Black Pepper to taste
Assorted Bread and Vegetables to serve

- Combine Stout and Lemon Juice in a medium sized saucepan and heat over medium-high heat. Bring to a low boil, then reduce heat and simmer.

- Add in the cornstarch, salt, pepper, and Daiya and stir constantly until all cheese has melted and fondue is nice and smooth.

- Serve with an assortment of lightly steamed or raw vegetables, and crispy bread. I used Steamed Brussels Sprouts, Carrots, Broccoli, and Sweet Potato plus cubes of Rye Bread.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Boxty Potato Pancakes...

Get your Irish on St. Paddy’s Day morning with a delicious, hearty, Irish Breakfast or Brunch. This meal is filling enough to keep you powered through your entire morning and well into mid or late afternoon, as most traditional Irish breakfasts are. Boxty Potato Pancakes are said to have originated sometime during the Irish famine, and it’s not surprising since the word Boxty - which is derived from the Irish aran bocht ti - means ‘poor house bread.’ Boxty are mostly associated with the Northern Midlands, especially the counties of Mayo, Sligo, and Donegal and are so much a part of the local culture that they’ve inspired many a folk rhyme.

Though these delicious potato pancakes may have started off as ‘poor man’s food they are anything but poor. Like most traditional Irish breakfasts they are hearty and filling, filling enough to power you through your entire morning, and well into the afternoon. Though they are delicious served with just a pat or two of Earth Balance they are more typically served wrapped around a hot savory filling tortilla style. Shredded meat and vegetables are the usual filling of choice, and cabbage and bacon are strongly recommended. Though it must be pointed out that when I say Bacon what I really mean is ham. - Vegan ham of course - The Irish refer to almost every part of the pig as bacon, so if you’re an American think of Ham as their actual meaning, if you’re Canadian imagine Back Bacon. In my case however I’ve used home-made Vegan seitan Ham, and I hope you do as well!  There are many good vegan ham recipes out there, or you could simply buy some tofurky ham, or use a vegan bacon of your choice. I chose to make the Vegan Ham from “500 Vegan Recipes” by Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman.

Lastly, if the idea of blending potatoes in milk makes you cringe trust me when I say these pancakes are fantastic! What sets them apart from other potato pancake and latke recipes is that they’re very smooth like an actual pancake, ant not rough or grainy like most other potato pancake recipes. Flavor wise the pancakes themselves remind me very much of a German kartoffelpuffer which really pleases me because kartoffelpuffer are one of my favorite things from childhood and one of my favorite things that my Oma makes. Wrapped around lightly fried cabbage, vegan ham, and a savory, tangy and slightly sweet mustard sauce served with fresh tomatoes, there’s really no beating it!

Boxty Potato Pancakes

1lb Russet Potatoes Peeled and Chopped (2 Large ones)
2/3 C Unsweetened Almond Milk
½-2/3 C Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
3/4 tsp Celtic Sea Salt

Mustard Sauce 

2 Tbsp Earth Balance
½ Yellow Onion finely chopped
4 Garlic Cloves Minced
½ C Vegetable Broth
1 Tbsp Cornstarch
3-4 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
3-4 Tbsp Unsweetened Almond Milk
Celtic Sea Salt and Black Pepper to taste
½ Tbsp Agave or Maple Syrup (Optional)

Bacon & Cabbage 

½ Tbsp Peanut Oil
½- 1lb Vegan Ham or Vegan Bacon
½ Head Green Cabbage Thinly Sliced

To Make the Mustard Sauce 

- Melt the Earth Balance in a medium sized pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute for 5 minutes until beginning to soften. Add the garlic and saute an additional 2-3 minutes.

- Add the vegetable broth and the cornstarch. Whisk until thickened, then reduce the heat and add in the mustard, and almond milk. Whisk until the sauce is creamy. Simmer for 5 minutes then season with salt, pepper and agave if desired.

- Remove from heat and keep warm until ready to use.

To Make the Bacon and Cabbage 

- Heat the Peanut Oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. When sizzling hot add the cabbage and vegan bacon or ham.

- Stir-fry for 5-6 minutes until the ham is brown and the cabbage is bright green and tender but still crisp.

- Remove from heat and keep warm until ready to use.

To Make the Boxty Potato Pancakes 

- Place the chopped potatoes into a blender with the milk and blend on a highspeed until completely smooth.

- Pour the potato/milk mixture into a medium sized bowl and stir in the flour and salt. How much flour you use depends on how thin or thick you want the batter. When it reaches desired consistency heat a large pan over medium-high heat.

- Spray the pan with non-stick cook spray. Using a quarter or third cup measuring cup drop the batter out onto the heated pan, and using the back of the cup spread out to thin a little. As if you were going to make a thin pancake or a crepe.

- Cook for roughly 3-5 minutes on each side until the pancakes are golden brown.

- Remove to a plate and keep warm.


- Spoon 1-2 Tbsp of Mustard Sauce into each pancake.

- Place 3-4 Tbsp worth of bacon cabbage filling on top of the mustard sauce

- Roll the pancake like you would a soft taco

- Dab the top of each pancake with a little extra dollop of Mustard Sauce

- Serve with fresh slices of tomato, and enjoy!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Irish Dingle Pies...

Dingle is a town in Country Kerry, Ireland, situated on the Dingle Peninsula on the Atlantic coast roughly 50km southwest of Tralee. From all I’ve heard it’s a beautiful place, a with lush, rugged and spectacular coastline, unfortunately I never got to see it for myself. When we were in Ireland my husband and I traveled to 14 different cities starting in Dublin, then going North, then west, then south, until arriving back in Dublin to head home. While we had originally planned to go to Dingle, and wanted to very much, it proved to be just a little to far south for us to reasonably fit it into our schedule. So I’ll have to wait until my next visit to see it for myself. In the meantime however I can make these delicious, traditional Dingle Pies!

These pies are traditional in Dingle particularly on special occasions such as Lammas Day which marks the first day of the harvest. Though these pies are normally made with mutton - ew! - recipes abound with multiple variations. Some with more ‘meat’ some with more vegetables, some with gravy and some without. Sometimes the pies are made in individual serving sizes, sometimes they’re made as one big pie from which you can take a slice, and sometimes they are made in individual dishes with the pastry only on the top. It really depends on who’s making the pie, I guess.

Now originally I wanted to make these the traditional way by making six small individual hand pies. However I was in a bit of a rush, and I’m no expert with shortcrust pastry so after many minutes of frustration and swearing down at the pastry, I decided to do myself a favor and take the easy route.  So instead of making six pies I made one, and yes it kind of looks like a pot pie, but it doesn’t really taste like a pot pie, not the kind of pot pie you get in America anyway. In fact this reminds me of something German from my childhood. It’s reminiscent of some kind of pie my mother or Oma, - or even my grandmother - might have made. So even though I’ve never been much of a fan of pot pies, or savory pies in general I found these Dingle pies immensely satisfying, and I hope you do as well!

Now, I list the gravy as being optional and it is. If you choose to make six small pies it’s not exactly necessary though it’s recommended if you want a juicer pie. If you choose to make the big pie I definitely recommend it, and in either case trust me when I say you’ll definitely want to lather some gravy over the top of the finished pie. Small or big, that shortcrust pastry is just begging to be drenched in gravy!

Irish Dingle Pies 


1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1lb Irish Style Seitan finely chopped
3 Celery Stalks Chopped
3 Carrots Chopped
1 Large Onion Chopped
2 Red Skinned Potatoes Chopped
Celtic Sea Salt and Black Pepper
1-2 Tbsp Almond Milk
Vegan Gravy (Optional but highly recommended


2C Unbleached All Purpose Flour
2C Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
1C Vegetable Shortening
1 tsp Celtic Sea Salt

Quick and Easy Pan Gravy 

½ Yellow Onion Chopped
4 Cloves Garlic chopped
1 ½ C Vegetable Broth
1/4C Red Wine
2 Tbsp Bragg’s Liquid Aminos or Soy Sauce
1/4C Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
1 tsp Ground Thyme
½ tsp Dried Sage

To make Crust 

- Combine Flour and salt in a food processor. Cut in the vegetable shortening with a knife and process until the mixture resembles crumbs.

- Stream in the cold water and process until a dough forms.

- Remove the dough from the food processor and kneed for 2-3 minutes, then wrap in a plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.

To Make Filling 

- Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat and add the onion, celery, carrot, potato and seitan. Saute for 10-15 minutes until potatoes are beginning to get soft.

- Remove from heat and let rest until cool enough to handle

To Make the Gravy 
Adapted from Robin Robinson’s Pan Gravy recipe in “Party Vegan

- Heat the olive oil in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Add the onion and saute for 5 minutes until beginning to get soft. Add garlic, thyme, and sage and saute another 5 minutes.

- Add the flour, and mix together. Cook for 1 minute then add 1 cup of vegetable broth.

- When the mixture begins to thicken stir in the red wine, remaining broth, Bragg’s. Simmer over low heat for 10-15 minutes.

- Transfer to a high speed blender and blend until smooth.


- Preheat Oven to 350'F

- Remove the dough from the fridge and remove the plastic wrap. Remove roughly a third of the dough and set aside to make the pie lid.

- Roll out the remaining dough on a lightly floured surface. Once rolled out to desired size and thickness press the dough into a greased pie plate.

- Place the filling inside of the pie crust and top with a quarter of the gravy.

- Roll out the leftover dough to make a top crust. When it’s reached desired size and thickness carefully lift the dough and place it overtop of the pie.

- Press the edges of the dough together and roll the dough up to make a nice tight lip.

- Slice two or three holes in the top crust to let steam escape and brush with the almond milk, then place in the oven. Bake for 35-55 minutes until the crust is golden. Then remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes before slicing.

- Serve drizzled with gravy, and a nice side salad.


- If you want to do it the traditional Dingle way. Roll out the dough, and using a small plate cut out six circles. Re-rolling the dough as needed to make the circles.

- Divide the filling evenly between the six circles. Top with a couple of tablespoons of gravy if desired.

- Roll out the remaining dough and using a slightly smaller plate cut out six circles to make lids.

- Place each lid circle and lay each on top of the crust with the filling. Dampen the edges of the crust and bring the edges of the pastry up around the meat, pleating it to fit the lid. Draw a slice through the top of each pie to let steam escape. Then cook as directed above.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Cream of Parsnip Soup...

I have a confession to make, I have never actually made or eaten a parsnip soup until tonight. I have eaten parsnips in soups, and stews and in other dishes but I had never before had an honest parsnip soup. Why? I couldn’t say. I actually like parsnips quite a bit, they have a great sweet and subtly spicy flavor that I enjoy, and yet I rarely buy them when I go out shopping. They almost never feature on my dinner table. In fact if it weren’t for my recent zeal for Irish cooking I might never have tried parsnip soup at all.

Parsnips you see are a pretty common root vegetable in Ireland and they tend to feature quite prominently in soups, stews and casseroles. Like other root vegetables they make for great hearty fare and are typically quite cheap which makes them an easy, affordable food source for many people. Soups, stews, and broths also hold a special place in traditional Irish cooking as they provide warmth during the long rainy days, and much needed sustenance. Interestingly enough Irish soups were originally made with oatmeal and resembled gruel more then they did the sorts of soups we’re familiar with. Overtime however the traditional Irish soups turned into hearty, heavy, and creamy meals in a bowl and I can tell you from personal experience that if you walk into any pub in Ireland it would be a miracle if you didn’t see soups listed on the menu no matter what time of the year. My husband and I ate a lot of soup when we were in Ireland, even though we were there during the summer we just couldn’t resist those rich creamy soups, because seriously when it comes to creamy root vegetable soups the Irish know what they’re doing.

Though this recipe is super basic, and doesn’t use a lot of ingredients it’s full of flavor. So much flavor in fact that I was quite surprised. The spices are subtle, and the parsnips are slightly sweet, and just a tad peppery. The parsley and onion delivers some texture and another depth of flavor. Overall this soup really amazed me, and I’m so glad I finally tried parsnip soup! One of the other great things about this soup is how fast it cooks. It’s super quick and easy and you don’t really need to pay all that much attention to it. So whip up a batch and enjoy!

Cream of Parsnip Soup

2lb Parsnips peeled and chopped
2 Small Yellow Onions Chopped
8 Cloves Garlic
1/4C Earth Balance
2 tsp Ground Cumin
1 tsp Ground Coriander
3 ½ C water + 1 Vegan Chicken Bouillon Cube
1 C Unsweetened Almond Milk
Celtic Sea Salt and Black Pepper to taste
Fresh Minced Parsley to taste
Sliced Green Onions to taste

- Melt the butter in a medium sized pot over medium-high heat.

- Add the onions, parsnips and whole garlic cloves and saute for 5-8 minutes until the vegetables become tender.

- Add the water and bouillon cube and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and simmer for roughly 15-20 minutes until the parsnips are fork tender.

- Transfer the soup to a highspeed blender and blend on high until smooth. Return the soup to the pot along with the almond milk and stir to combine. Add the salt, pepper, minced parsley and green onions and simmer for 2 minutes or until soup is heated through.

- Serve garnished with additional parsley and green onions alongside a nice garden salad.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Irish Seitan and Guinness Stew With Champ...

The Irish have a long standing tradition of cooking meat in beer. Soups, stews, casseroles you name it, there are a whole slew of Irish recipes that use stout - typically Guinness - as a flavor enhancer. They’re certainly not the only culture to use beer as an ingredients in their dinner, however I think they make better use of it and get more creative with it then some. This particular recipe appealed to me because it was cold and rainy all day yesterday, which made me want something hearty, chewy, heavy and comforting. While this dish may not be one of those extremely clever uses of stout that I just mentioned it is super satisfying. Flavor wise it’s reminiscent of a more traditional beef stew but with a subtly sweet edge a slight acidic tang, and robust undertones of roasted barley and hops. There’s something really pleasing to my palate about this combination, and the smell of simmering beer made me feel ‘home-sick’ for Dublin. Don’t be surprised if as you’re cooking this stew you begin having daydreams of cobble stone streets, and rowdy overflowing pubs.

Now my version of this recipe differs a little from those that you might find in Ireland because rather then strain out the leeks, onion, carrot and celery after a long cooking time I leave the vegetables in. Traditional recipes also use bacon as a flavoring agent. I originally considered using  a vegan bacon substitute in this recipe to achieve the same effect, however I opted to use liquid smoke instead. It's cheap, fast, effective and imparts the perfect smoky-bacon flavor. Of course if you prefer you could use whatever vegan bacon you like, 4oz is the typical amount called for.

Lastly, Guinness - of course - is the recommended kind of stout to use for this dish, however since Guinness - like so many other types of beer and wine - is filtered through the bladders of fish it’s avoided by those who are vegan for animal-rights reasons. In that case any Irish stout will do, but if you’re a little less strict about it then Guinness works perfectly. The Irish say that Stout Beer and Beef are natural partners - which I suppose is why they’re paired so frequently in Irish cooking - but really, you don’t know the magic of stout until you’ve paired it with a good, chewy, home-made Seitan! Forget about beef, Seitan and Stout were meant to be together and I mean that.

Irish Seitan and Guinness Stew

1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 lb Irish Style Seitan Chopped into cubes
1 Small Yellow Onion Roughly Chopped
1 Large Leek Sliced
3 Carrots Roughly Chopped
3 Stalks Celery Roughly chopped
6 Garlic Cloves Minced
1 1/4 C Water + 1 Vegan Beef Bouillon Cube
1 Bottle of Irish Stout Beer
1/4 C Earth Balance
8oz Cremini or Baby Bella Mushrooms Quartered
3 Large Shallots cut into quarters or sixths
1/4 C Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
Celtic Sea Salt and Black Pepper to taste
2 tsp Liquid Smoke
Sliced Green Onions to serve (Optional)
Minced Fresh Parsley to Serve (Optional)

- Heat the oil in a pot over medium-high and add the carrot, celery, onion, and leek. Saute for five minutes until the vegetables are bright and just beginning to become tender.

- Add the minced garlic, the stock, the stout, and season with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer gently over low heat for 20 minutes.

- Meanwhile melt the Earth Balance in a frying pan. Add the cubed seitan, quartered mushrooms, and chopped shallots. Saute over medium-high heat for 5-8 minutes until seitan is nice and brown and shallots and mushrooms are tender.

- After 20 minutes add the browned seitan, mushrooms, and shallots to the pot. Simmer for another 10 minutes.

- After 10 minutes add the flour and stir to combine. Simmer for five minutes to let thicken and then add the liquid smoke and simmer an additional five minutes.

- Remove from the heat and let rest for 10-15 minutes to let flavors mingle. Then serve in large bowls with a heaping scoop of Champ and garnish with Fresh parsley and green onions.

Typically and Irish Seitan and Guinness Stew would be paired with a hearty scoop of Mashed potatoes smothered in butter. However I decided to jazz things up a little and so rather then serve my stew with plain old mash, I decided to make Champ. Champ is a traditional dish that’s basically a glorified form of mashed potatoes. It’s a common side-dish in Ireland and is typically paired with stews, sausages or other grilled meats. It’s most associated with Northern Ireland but you can find it all over the country. What makes it different then a traditional dish of mashed potatoes is that the potatoes are mixed with fresh spring onions that have been simmered in milk, and often other fresh herbs are thrown into the mix for good measure. Chives, Parsley, and Basil are all common addition, and even green peas can be thrown into the mix. For my version of Champ I decided to keep it basic and traditional, after all it was going to be soaked and smothered in Seitan and Guinness stew anyway. Make sure each serving of champ is accompanied by a good dollop of non-dairy butter, as the traditional way of eating champ is to make a well in the center, fill it with butter, then dip your champ as you eat. Yum!


6 Medium Sized Russet Potatoes peeled and cubed
4 Baby Yukon Gold Potatoes peel left on and cubed
1 Bunch Green Onions
1 1/4 C Unsweetened Almond Milk
1 tsp Garlic Powder
½ Tsp Celtic Sea Salt
1/4-1/2 tsp Black Pepper
Earth Balance to serve
Fresh Minced Parsley to serve

- Fill medium sized pot with water and bring to a boil over high heat.

- Once boiling add the potatoes and cook until fork tender and soft. Once desired doneness has been reached drain the potatoes and return them to the pot.

- While potatoes are cooking simmer the green onions and the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer for 5 minutes until onions are bright green and tender.

- Add the simmered milk and green onions to the potatoes, season with garlic, salt and pepper and then mash, or use an electric hand mixer to whip the potatoes into a creamy consistency.

- Serve alongside Seitan and Guinness Stew, and garnish each serving with a generous dollop of Earth Balance and a sprinkling of fresh minced Parsley.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Irish Tea Time Seed Cake...

When it comes to traditional Irish baking the only thing I ever seem to hear about in North America is Irish Soda Bread. Now I love Irish Soda Bread as much ad the next person but there’s way more to Irish baking then just that! So forget all your Soda bread recipes today and make this delicious tea cake instead. Seed cake as it’s known utilizes one ingredient that I would never have thought ot put into a sweet dessert, caraway. In fact I rarely use Caraway anyway even though I like it, it just never seems to feature in anything I make, so I was particularly interested to see how this cake would turn out.

Seed Cake is apparently a long standing feature of Irish baking and is - or was - particularly common in rural and farming communities. It’s perfect for tea time because it’s packed with flavor, yet it’s light, moist and only mildly sweet. Though you could also serve It for a light dessert perhaps alongside a scoop of vanilla coconut milk ice cream. However you decide to serve it, you must give this cake a try, trust me when I say that the caraway lends a really magical element to the cakes complexity. In fact I enjoyed the flavor combination so much I think I just might use caraway in my baking more often.

Irish Tea Time Seed Cake 

1 C Unbleached All Purpose Flour
1 C Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
½ C Earth Balance slightly melted
½ C Raw Sugar + ½ Tbsp
2 Tbsp Ground Flax Seed - Mixed with 6 heaping Tbsp Water until frothy
1 tsp Baking Powder
2 tsp Ground Caraway + 1 tsp
1 tsp Ground Cinnamon + ½  tsp
1/4 tsp Ground Nutmeg + 1/4 tsp
3 Tbsp - 1/4 C Unsweetened Almond Milk (Depending on consistency)

- Preheat the Oven to 350'F

- In a large bowl mix the flour, baking powder, and spiced together.

- In a separate bowl cream the Earth Balance and sugar using an electric hand mixer on high-speed. Once creamed beat in the flax seed/water mixture.

- Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour the wet into the dry and mix with a wooden spoon until thoroughly combined.

- Add three Tbsp of Almond Milk to make a smooth consistent batter. It shouldn’t be wet, but it shouldn’t be too dry either. If it looks a little stiff add additional almond milk up to 1/4 C.

- Pour the batter into a greased loaf pan or small cake pan. Then evenly sprinkle ½ Tbsp of sugar, along with 1 tsp of caraway, ½ tsp of cinnamon , and 1/4 tsp nutmeg over the top.

- Place in the oven and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out dry and the top is a nice golden color.

- Enjoy with tea in the afternoon or as a dessert after an Irish inspired dinner!

*** Note - Traditionally Seed Cakes contain whole Caraway seeds, both in the cake and on top of the cake. I however did not have whole Caraway seeds just ground. If you do have whole Caraway seeds or would prefer to make it with them use roughly 1 Tbsp of Whole Seeds in the cake with another ½ Tbsp of seeds sprinkled over top. Or more or less depending on how you feel about Caraway.***

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Irish Style Seitan In Mustard Cream Sauce With Wild Rice and Crispy Cabbage...

St. Patrick’s Day is only a week away, can you believe it? Now, I’m not Irish, and I’ve never really ‘celebrated’ St. Paddy’s but I do like to observe most holiday’s and occasions with at least a good or special meal. This year I’m feeling a little more festive, I guess it’s the ugly weather we’re having, it makes me daydream a lot, and one of the places I’ve been dreaming about lately is Ireland in the Summer. Thanks no doubt to all of the Flogging Molly, The Pogues, Gaelic Storm and Dropkick Murphys I’ve been listening to of late. Anyway, I feel festive and inspired so I wanted to observe this year’s St. Paddy’s with a weeks worth of Irish style cooking.

Crispy Cabbage

Now, I know Irish fare may not seem all that vegan friendly to you, after all what is Irish cuisine most famous for? Potatoes, Cabbage and Meat - particularly bacon - and it’s also probably never struck you as a particularly creative or mouth-watering style of cooking. You never hear people say “I’m really craving Irish today.” Anyway. However I think the culinary traditions of England, Scotland and Ireland get a bad rap, it may not be ‘haute cuisine’ it may not have the fire of Latin cuisine, or say the romance of Italian but to say the Irish lack culinary creativity is to do them and their cuisine a disservice. Honestly I think the lack of creativity when it comes to Irish cooking has more to do with people outside of Ireland trying to re-create Irish food. I mean just open up any Vegan cook book that includes recipes for St. Patrick’s Day, and tell me what you see. Recipes for Champ, Colcannon - both of which I might add can basically be defined as mashed potatoes - cream of broccoli, pea, asparagus - anything green really - soup, and Irish soda bread. It’s repetitive and boring! But don’t think omnivores are any more ingenious when it comes to recreating Irish cooking. Bacon and cabbage, mashed potatoes and corned beef are about all I ever hear omnivores eating, and corned beef, really? Now I have a huge bone to pick with people who say corned beef is Irish - it’s not. First of all corned beef is just a name for salt-cured beef, and salt curing beef as well as other meats has been done since ancient times. As the dish that we know today noone is exactly sure who started it or when but it became popular with the British Navy during the 18th century English Industrial Revolution. The Irish may have been making a form of corned beef around this time to sell to the British navy but they likely weren’t eating it themselves.

Seitan in Mustard Cream Sauce

In fact, the entire time I was in Ireland - and keep in mind that I traveled the entire country from Dublin to Derry, and the Giants Causeway, to Galway, to Kerry, to Waterford, Cork and the Wicklow Mountains - I never once, on any restaurant menu saw Corned Beef as an option. It’s interesting that in Ireland Corned Beef is almost exclusively only sold to tourists or sold in tourist geared establishments, and that the majority of Irish in Ireland do not identify this food with Traditional, National Cuisine. It’s also interesting to note that corned beef actually has a stronger connection to Jewish Cuisine then it does Irish. But I digress - we were talking about a lack of creativity. When you ask the average person what they eat in Ireland you’ll undoubtably get the response “potatoes” and while it’s true that the Potato - still to this day - is the number one most commonly eaten vegetable in Ireland - along with cabbage and carrots - it does not mean that Irish cuisine has to be bland, boring, or potato heavy.

A lot of wonderful things grow in Ireland, from herbs such as parsley, rosemary, sage and thyme, to garlic, onions, potatoes, carrots, parsnips, cabbage artichokes, sunchokes, asparagus, and seaweed! Eating seaweed in Ireland isn’t just for the vegetarians and vegans! Mustard, wine and cream are also common for making sauces and flavoring dishes, so you see there’s a bounty of available options that any chef worth his or her salt could use to invent a dish that’s far more creative and tastier then corned beef or colcannon.

So for my first foray into Irish cooking I decided to try out a dish that utilized a mustard cream sauce. I’m a big fan of mustard - Dijon or stone ground in particular - and so a creamy, mustardy sauce with fresh garlic and herbs quite appealed to me. Now traditionally this is a sauce usually served with lambs kidneys - or the kidneys of any game animal - which is disgusting, and not something I would have even eaten back in the days when I ate meat, so I had to come up with something else. However since I wanted to keep the spirit of the dish alive I didn’t just want to throw some tofu or tempeh into a mustard sauce, that’s not all that creative is it? Besides organ meat is reported to be so flavorful that I didn’t think tofu would really make a good stand in.

I wanted something meaty and something with flavor and so I decided to make some Irish Style Seitan. I call it Irish Style because I flavored it with all of the most common herbs used in Irish cuisine, basil, celery seed, mint, sage, thyme, onion, garlic and parsley. It may not taste like a lambs kidney but it holds flavor notes true to Irish cooking and that’s all that matters. Seitan also stands up well to a good simmer, and retains a nice chewy texture.

Since the dish is also traditionally served over a bed of white rice - to soak up the sauce - and a salad I decided to do one better. I served my Irish style Seitan in mustard cream sauce over wild rice, and served it with a big ole’ pile of crispy cabbage. Crispy cabbage by the way is also another traditional Irish side dish, and while it may not be super creative it is surprisingly really satisfying as well as delicious! It’s hard to believe something so simple can be so good, but it is.

Make sure when you eat this meal you get a fork full of rice, sauce, seitan and cabbage all at once. Heaven!

The Full Plate - Seitan, Mustard Cream Sauce, Crispy Cabbage
and Wild Rice

Irish Style Seitan with Mustard Cream Sauce 

1 lb Irish Style Seitan Sliced into rounds or cubed (Recipe Follows)
2 Tbsp Earth Balance or other non-dairy butter
1 C White Wine
2-4 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
8 Garlic Cloves Minced
6-7 Green Onions sliced thin
½ Bunch Fresh Parsley Minced
2 Tbsp Fresh Minced Rosemary
1/4 tsp ground Thyme
Celtic Sea Salt to taste
1/4 - ½ tsp White Pepper
6 Tbsp Unsweetened Almond Milk (or other non-dairy milk)

- Melt butter in a pan over medium-high heat. Place seitan rounds or chunks in the butter and fry for 2-3 minutes a side until nice and brown. Remove seitan from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside on a plate.

- Pour the wine into the pan, and add the garlic, onion, and herbs. Stir to combine and then let simmer for 5-10 minutes until reduced slightly and garlic is cooked.

- Add the almond milk to the pan and stir until combined and creamy.  Season with salt and pepper, then return the seitan to the pan and heat through.

- Serve Seitan and mustard cream sauce over wild rice, garnished with extra parsley. With a nice side salad or crispy cabbage (recipe follows)

Now - Making Seitan is super simple and actually really quick. Trust me when I say that if you can bake a cake you can make seitan. I love the steam method, it's fast, cheap, and requires little prep. Basically mix a bunch of stuff in a bowl roll it into loaves and steam away, what could be easier and it's done in under an hour! I like to make a big ole' batch of seitan every 2-3 months and sore it in the freezer for quick and easy use. I will probably use this particular seitan recipe for several dishes to come later this week.

Irish Style Seitan 

1 ½ C Water + 1 Vegan Beef Boullion Cube (Could use a dark vegetable broth instead)
1 ½ C Vital Wheat Gluten
1/4 C Chickpea Flour
1/4 C Nutritional Yeast
1 ½ tsp Dried Basil
½-3/4 tsp Celery Seed
3/4 tsp Dried Mint
1 tsp Sage
1 1/4 tsp Dried Thyme
3 tsp Dehydrated Onion Flakes
3 Tbsp Tomato Paste
3 Tbsp Tamari
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
6 Garlic Cloves minced

- Mix all dry ingredients and spices together in a large bowl.

- Whisk together the broth, tomato paste, tamari, olive oil and minced garlic, in a small bowl.

- Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and pour the wet ingredients in. Mix until combined and a dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a clean surface and kneed for 2-3 minutes. Then return the dough to the bowl and let rest for 10 minutes.

- Cut 4 rectangles of aluminum foil.

- Turn the dough out and kneed for another minute. Then divide the dough into 4 chunks. Shape the chunks into small oval loaves.

- Place one chunk of dough onto one sheet of aluminum foil. Fold the long side of the aluminum foil over the dough. Fold over the sides of the foil, then roll up like you would roll a burrito. Don’t roll the foil too tight because you need to leave a little room for the seitan to expand.

- Once all the chunks are rolled in the foil, place them into a steamer basket and steam for 45 minutes until nice and pulp. Seitan should be firm but springy.

- When seitan is done, remove from the steamer basket and place on a wire rack or plate to cool. Let cool for one hour and then place in the refrigerator or freezer until you’re ready to use it. Should keep in the freezer for 2-3 months if placed in an airtight container or zip-lock bag.

Crispy Cabbage 

1 Medium Head of Green or Savoy Cabbage sliced thin
2 Tbsp Peanut Oil
2-3 Tbsp Fresh Minced Parsley
Celtic Sea Salt and Black Pepper to taste

- Heat Peanut oil in a large pan over medium-high heat.

- Add the cabbage and stir-fry 3-5 minutes, until just cooked but still crisp. Make sure you really watch it, you don’t want it to wilt, get mushy, or burn. A few golden spots are okay but it should retain it’s bright green color.

- Season with sea salt, pepper, and parsley and serve.

Wild Rice

1 ½ C Wile Rice
3 ½ C Water

- Place in a rice cooker and cook according to cooker’s directions.

PS: Sorry I forgot to take pictures of the seitan making process but I promise to do so next time! Also if you need this to be wheat-free you could try it with Tempeh. Tempeh is chewy enough to work, though you wont' get the added flavor of the seasoned seitan.