Saturday, November 29, 2014

American Thanksgiving Brunch 2014...

The Breakfast Table

As I said before my husband had to work on Thanksgiving, and so we celebrated with a huge holiday meal Wednesday night instead. Thursday however I decided to get up early and make an epic Brunch for him so he’d be nice and full for work. Since we’d just had a huge meal the night before I didn’t want to go overboard, so I picked four dishes to satiate us Thursday mid-morning.

Chicken-Fried Seitan Steak
White Sausage Gravy

Our main was the Chicken Fried Seitan Steak and White Sausage Gravy from Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman’s book “Hearty Vegan Meals for Monster Appetites.” Despite owning this book for a number of years now I have never made this recipe, and the reason being - on my very first ever trip to Chicago, back when my husband and I were dating, we went out for Breakfast. I had never eaten, nor in fact heard of ‘Chicken-Fried Steak’ and so I ordered it. I took about 2 bites and wanted to throw up, I thought it was the most disgusting thing I had ever eaten in my life. Literally everything about it was bad right down to the gravy it was smothered in. I hated it, and didn’t understand how people could love it so much. After I went vegan I avoided vegan versions of this popular breakfast food, and then one day earlier this year out of curiosity I ordered it at The Chicago Diner and fell in love. Vegan Chicken-Fried Steak is the bomb! So, since I liked the vegan version so much, I decided to try my hand at making it at home. As par usual Celine and Joni do not disappoint with this recipe. It does however require some advanced prep. The seitan steaks only take 30 minutes to boil but if you’re in a time crunch make them a day ahead. Frying them up is easy as pie and they’re coated in a flour, corn cereal mixture that is so good! The gravy is simple, vegetable broth, butter, flour, and chunks of seitan ss you would expect, but the surprise is that this gravy has vegan sour cream in it! What? I know, it sounded crazy to me too, but trust me when I say this gravy actually turned out really well, it was buttery, and velvety and smothered the steaks in perfection.

Grandma Jo's Tater Tot Surprise 

To accompany our Chicken-Fried Steak I decided to make Grandma Jo’s Tater Tot Surprise, also out of “Hearty Vegan Meals for Monster Appetites.” Basically this is a tater tot breakfast casserole, and I was really taking a chance on this one. It sounded like something I’d never eat - vegan or otherwise - but boy was I wrong. This was the first of our leftovers to disappear, it was THAT good. In addition to tots, this casserole also has vegan sour cream, vegan butter, vegan cheddar cheese, green onions, and vegan cream of mushroom soup. Though there is a recipe for mushroom soup provided in the book I just used the leftover mushroom soup I had from making the Broccoli Casserole the night before. After you combine all of that, you top it with crushed cornflakes and bake, and I know it sounds weird, but trust, trust, trust me on this one. If you own Hearty Vegan Meals and haven’t made this yet, get thee to the kitchen ASAP!

Sweet Potato Biscuits 
Biscuit Gravy

Next up I made the Sweet Potato Biscuits with Gravy from Jenny Engel & Heather Goldberg’s book “Sprok-Fed” I’ve actually had my eye on these for a while but never get the chance to actually make them. I’m glad I made time for it this time around because these were delicious. They did not have an overwhelming sweet potato flavor but they did have a lovely orange color and they were so super moist. Very delicious biscuits, and they came together super quick. The gravy was equally delicious and also really fast and easy to make. It’s your typical vegan milk-based biscuit gravy that has sausage. I used Tofurky Italian Sausages in it because that’s all I had and I think the combination worked pretty well. These were so good I know I’ll be making them again.

Cinnamon Orange Rolls 

To top it off I made the Cinnamon Orange Rolls from Julie Hasson’s book “Vegan Diner” this is another recipe I’ve had my eye on for a while but cinnamon buns are just not something I make regularly. It’s not that I find them difficult to make - in fact these were so easy! - it’s just that I hate waiting for dough to rise, so usually anything that requires yeast as an ingredient makes me stay away, or drag my feet. I know it doesn’t make any sense because it doesn’t require any extra work, just waiting time, but for some reason it’s just one of those things I rarely feel inspired to do. I should definitely make cinnamon buns more often though because these were superb. The orange flavor was subtle, yet strong enough to let you know it’s there. I love that the dough had orange zest in it, and then the glaze has orange juice. The filling is just your basic brown sugar and cinnamon mixture. These were definitely a hit and they went fast! Actually, we don’t have a single one left!

My Over-flowing Plate. I had a Cinnamon Roll too but there
wasn't room on this plate, so I had it on a small plate that I forgot
to Photograph

So that was our lovely Thanksgiving Day Brunch, and it was so good that we were talking about making Thanksgiving Brunch a regular thing. We did it last year and it was awesome, we did it this year and it was awesome again, you gotta love new traditions.

Retro-Strawberry Pie without Whip

Lastly I also made the Retro-Strawberry Pie from Dynise Balcavage’s book “Pies and Tarts with Heart” Originally I made this to take to my husband’s aunts house Thursday afternoon, but in the end I changed my mind and decided to leave it at home for just my husband and I. We had some Thursday and Friday and it was so good. Super easy too. The filling is just strawberries, salt, cornstarch, water, sugar and agar. You cook that up and pour it into a vanilla cookie crust, although I skipped the cookie crust. I had purchased a pack of 2 pre-made pie crusts since the Chocolate Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie recipe just said to use a store-bought crust. Originally I was going to disregard this and make my own as usual, but in the end I had so much work to do that I decided to take a short cut. I’m sure home-made crusts on both pies would have been better but sometimes you gotta cut corners. So I used a regular crust, and I think it actually tasted good in a regular crust. The flaky buttery crust was a nice compliment to the sweet filling. The recipe states to top the pie with vegan whip cream, and there are recipes for making your own at home - which I normally do, but once again I was lazy, and besides that I just had to try the new So Delicious Coco-Whip. Which is basically the most amazing thing ever. Vegan cool whip guys! Since it just appeared in my local grocery I thought that this was the perfect time to give it a try, and it did not disappoint but I’ll save a full review for another post. In any case, the pie was fantastic, I’ve always much preferred fruit pies to any other kind.

Retro-Strawberry Pie with Whip and Garnish 

So that’s it for holiday madness until the end of December, until then I’ll probably be eating pretty clean, green juice, green smoothies, limited sweets, salads, etc... Once again I hope you all had a lovely holiday.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

American Thanksgiving 2014...

The Dinner Table

I hope everyone had a nice American Thanksgiving. Since my husband had to work Thursday, we had our Thanksgiving Dinner Wednesday night. It was peaceful and quiet - more so then other years - which is impressive considering I cooked a lot, par usual. The food was excellent, and I think we both agreed that overall this was one of the best celebratory meals I’ve made.

Green Beans with Beurre Blanc

There were lots of mouth-watering side dishes, like Green Beans with Beurre Blanc from Mark Reinfeld’sThe 30 Minute Vegan’s Taste of Europe.” These were simply steamed green beans drenched in a vegan white wine and butter sauce, from the chapter on French cuisine. If I had a complaint about the dish it would be that I would have liked more garlic, but otherwise these were very tasty.

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Pecans

I also made the Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Pecans from Bianca Phillips book “Cookin’ Crunk.” This is a really simple recipe that involved first steaming the Brussels, and then pan-frying them. The ingredients list is short, but the flavor is out of this world. Once again my husband ate these Brussels Sprouts up like they were going out of style so you know they have to be good! I love the sweetness from the hint of sugar she throws into the recipe, and the slight kick from the red pepper flakes. Seriously, these were the first things to go, and I wish I had more. I’ll definitely be making them again, and again.

Whisky Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Then no Thanksgiving celebration can be complete without a mashed tater, and so I picked the Whisky Mashed Sweet Potatoes from the book “500 Vegan Recipes” by Joni Marie Newman and Celine Steen. These were absolutely fantastic mashed sweets! Really, neither my husband nor I could get over how delicious they were. Unlike other mashed sweet tater recipes I’ve made these had vegan sour cream, and vegan butter in them, in addition to brown sugar, maple syrup and of course whisky. The whisky flavor was nice, and subtle, not the least overpowering. The butter and sour cream made them so soft and creamy. I did cut the sugar content down a bit though, but otherwise this was a perfect dish.

Broccoli Casserole

Then I did something crazy, I made a Broccoli Casserole! It might sound crazy - since I know how popular this dish is in the United States, or at least in the Midwest - but I had never had nor heard of Broccoli Casserole before moving to Chicago. This however has always been one of my husband’s favorite holiday dishes, and his mother makes a great broccoli casserole each year for the holidays. Obviously when we went vegan we couldn’t have it anymore, which definitely made my husband a little sad, and for some reason it never occurred to me to make a vegan version. Lucky for me Bianca’s book “Cookin’ Crunk” contains a Broccoli Casserole recipe, and it looked quite simple enough and so I thought, ‘why not?’ I felt inspired, and I knew my husband would really appreciate it. Her casserole - unlike the traditional one - is made using fresh broccoli and frying it till soft with onions in oil. Then you add it to a bowl of cooked rice, add in some home-made vegan cream of mushroom soup - which I also made using her recipe. Then you add in the final component which is a homemade cheese sauce - also from her book. Then you bake it. It doesn’t taste exactly like the Campbell’s and Cheeze-Whiz version but it tastes pretty darn close. My only complaint is that due to the fact that the cheese cause contains Nutritional Yeast the casserole does have a slight nooch taste. I think I’d make this again without the cheese sauce or maybe using a milder tasting vegan cheese sub. Either way I’ll definitely make it again because it was a big hit.

Walnut Apple Stuffing

Of course no Thanksgiving Feast is complete without stuffing and because I couldn’t decide which stuffing I wanted to make I simply made two! Crazy I know. The first stuffing I chose to make was of a more traditional nature. It was the Walnut Apple Stuffing from Nava Atlas’s book “Vegan Holiday Kitchen” this was a super delicious, super moist stuffing. The apples were sweet, and tart, and I loved the idea of adding in apple juice rather then vegetable broth. The walnuts were not overpowering and even my husband enjoyed the stuffing despite the nuts.

Potato Sauerkraut Apple Stuffing

Our second stuffing was the Potato Sauerkraut Apple Stuffing from the same book. This Slavic style stuffing may sound strange to you, but trust me when I say it was delicious. A perfect mixture of potatoes, sauerkraut, apples, breadcrumbs, and Eastern European spices. Somehow it works, and my husband who si not normally a kraut fan, loved this one too.

Stone-Ground Mustard, Horseradish & Cornichons
Seitan Pot-Au-Feu

For our Pièce de résistance I made the Seitan Pot-Au-Feu from Robin Robertson’s book “Fresh From The Vegan Slow Cooker” This is a slow-cooked French-style stew that is probably traditionally made with beef, but in our case seitan is used. The stew also contains parsnips, carrots, potatoes, huge chunks of savoy cabbage, vegetable broth, red wine, and a bouquet garni of delicious spices. The seitan you form into little patties and place right on top of the vegetables where they steam to perfection while everything else is cooking away. The smell of this thing cooking is tremendous and mouth-watering and the flavor of the finished dish is wonderful. The seitan is magnificent, truly, I think slow-cooker seitan is probably some of the best seitan I’ve ever eaten, so succulent! And the vegetable choices made for a very nice compliment. You serve the Pot-Au-Feu somewhat communal style with bowls of Stone-Ground Mustard, Horseradish, and Cornichons, as well as bowls of the cooking liquid, which serves as a sort of Au Jus for dipping. I have to say that at first this struck me as a bit of an odd idea, but the seitan was particularly delectable when dipped in a bit of mustard and horseradish, so were the veggies.

Chocolate Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie

Now, for dessert. We barley had room after all that and so we waited a good couple of hours before digging into this Chocolate Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie from Nava Atlas’s book “Vegan Holiday Kitchen” I have actually been wanting to make this pie for a long time but never seem to get around to it. Overall I thought it was pretty good, but it’s not my favorite pumpkin pie, nor is it my favorite pumpkin cheesecake. I think it was under sweet, and under spiced but I do really love the idea of it. I would definitely make it again but perhaps with my own spice mixture rather then the ‘pumpkin pie spice’ she recommends. Since pumpkin is hit or miss with my husband - and since this pie contains walnuts - he inevitably was not a fan. Bummer for me, I hate when I make a dessert he isn’t thrilled about.

Vanilla Spice Cupcakes with Pumpkin Buttercream 

But, to make up for the pie I did make a batch of the Vanilla Spice Cupcakes with Pumpkin Buttercream from Bianca’sCookin’ Crunk” and these were delicious. Super easy to make, these came out super moist and flavorful. There is pumpkin puree in the frosting but the overall effect is somewhat understated and my husband wasn’t bothered with it. Somehow he shoved two of these delicious cakes into his mouth before we finally passed out in front of the television, and that as they say is that.

My ridiculously full plate!

I hope you all had an enjoyable holiday, I’ll be back tomorrow with a post about our epic Thanksgiving Brunch!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Quickie Pan Gravy...

The other day when My husband and I had our little impromptu Thanksgiving celebration I needed to make a gravy to go with our holiday roast. Unfortunately since the dinner was impromptu my resources were limited as I had not been shopping. Using what I had on hand at the time I came up with this super simple, yet super flavorful gravy. I couldn’t believe just how good it turned out, and it tasted amazing on our roast and our mashed potatoes. So if you’re in a bind this year, and you need a quickie gravy, this is the one for you. Or if you just want to cut a few corners, and do less work - who’d blame you? - I got you covered.

Quickie Pan Gravy 

1/4 C Earth Balance
1/4 Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
2 tsp Minced Dried Onion
½ tsp Garlic Powder
1 Vegan Beef Bouillon Cube
1 ½ C Water
2 Tbsp Tamari
2 Tbsp Red Wine
1 tsp Thyme Leaves
Black Pepper to taste

- Melt the Earth Balance in a medium sized sauce pan over medium heat.

- Whisk in the flour. Whisk vigorously to form a roux, when the Earth Balance and Flour have come together and are beginning to turn golden, and smell toasty, add in the water, vegan bouillon, onion, and garlic.

- Bring to a boil, and then lower heat and let simmer, whisking frequently.

- Add in the Tamari, Red Wine, Thyme Leaves and black pepper.

- Continue to whisk on low heat until the gravy has thickened. This should take about 5 minutes.

- Once you’ve reached your desired consistency, remove the gravy from the heat. Pour it into a serving bowl and use liberally on your favorite holiday roast or a mound of mashed potatoes.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Impromptu Pre-Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving Dinner...

My Plate!

Last night my husband and I enjoyed a pre-Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving dinner. There are a few reasons for this. 1) My mother-in-law picked up two 1 pound Celebration Roasts by Field Roast for us to have on Thanksgiving. You see, we normally go to my aunt’s husband’s for the holiday and she wanted to make sure we had something to eat. Of course, I’m already way ahead of the game and I already have an American Thanksgiving Menu planned out. She gave them to us anyway and aid then we could eat them whenever. 2) The weather outside is frightful! It’s so cold, so windy. All I want to do is hibernate in my bed, and on days like that I inevitably end up craving either soup, or comfort food. What’s more comforting then a bowl of mashed potatoes? 3) My husband found out that this year he will in fact be working on Thanksgiving. Not black Friday, but actual Thanksgiving. Which means we won’t be spending the holiday with his family, and we won’t be spending it with one another either. Thank you Corporate American Greed. Thank you Capitalism My husband was pretty bummed out, and I was too.

However, I didn’t want to let morons, holiday madness, and corporate greed ruin our holiday and so I decided we should have a pre-Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving. I’m still going to make my originally planned Thanksgiving Menu - probably Wednesday, but in the meantime, we needed a litlte comfort.

Celebration Roast fresh out of the oven

So, since this was an ‘impromptu’ dinner we didn’t have any appetizers or salad or a fancy dessert. I kept things low-key and simple, and used what I had in the house already, and somehow it just worked out really well.

For sides I made the Braised Red Cabbage with Cranberries from Robin Asbell’s book “Big Vegan” this was a really tasty dish, kind of like a traditional German Red Cabbage. It had onions, apples, bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves, red wine, sugar, red wine vinegar and cranberries. It was super moist, and full of flavor, and looked so pretty on our plate. I’m a big fan of cabbage anyway, so I knew this was going to be a win.

Keeping with the cabbage theme I made the Maple Mustard Roasted Brussels Sprouts from Betsy DiJulio’s book “The Blooming Platter Cookbook” this is not so very different then other Maple Mustard Brussel’s I’ve made in the past, except this one adds a splash of balsamic vinegar to kick things up. I really loved these sprouts, and even my husband loved them. Which is amazing, since he’s never liked Brussel’s Sprouts and will typically only eat them if they’re shredded. He’s never filled his plate with whole roasted Brussels before, so that’s pretty impressive.

Then I made the Mustard Spinach Mashed Potatoes from Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman’s book “500 Vegan Recipes” this is mashed red skinned potatoes - skin on - with frozen spinach, earth balance, vegan sour cream, salt, pepper, and stone ground mustard. It’s a really simple recipe, but oh my is it delicious!

Lastly the main event, was our Celebration Roast by Field Roast. I have many Field Roast products in the past but never the Celebration Roast so I was excited to try it. I think it turned out really well, it was chewy and tasty, but I’ll save a full review on this product for a separate post. I will say though, that I baked it super simple, just stuck it in a pan with some vegetable broth and Tamari. I didn’t have any aluminum foil to cover it though, and I neglected to baste so the top got kind of crispy, but I actually really liked that effect.

To go with the roast I made a quick pan gravy. My own recipe, it was just something I threw together but it turned out so well that I made sure to jot down the recipe and I’ll post it tomorrow, just incase any of you find yourself in a pinch where you need a quick tasty gravy.

Quickie Pan Gravy

For dessert I made the Pumpkin Scones with Maple Glaze from Fernanda Capobianco’s book “The Vegan Divas Cookbook” these scones were super moist, and so tasty,. The glaze really brings them together, and they tasted especially amazing straight out of the oven.

Not bad for an impromptu dinner celebration right?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Stir-fried Bean Curd and Chinese Flowering Chives in Garlic Black Bean Sauce....

Black Bean Sauce is one of my favorite things in Chinese Cuisine, something about that salty, earthy flavor really gets me. Since I haven’t had it in a while, and we’ve been on an Asian Food kick lately, I was really craving this long-time favorite. I just didn’t know what kind of stir-fry I wanted to make. The thing about Black Bean Sauce is that it requires a hearty protein, something that can really soak up that black bean flavor. You need a sturdy protein that can get coated and glazed in the delicious black bean sauce. Naturally I’d think to use seitan, only I don’t have any at the moment. My next thought was tempeh but wasn’t in the mood for the distinctive tempeh flavor. The next logical choice then is tofu, only I didn’t have the time to pre-bake or pre-fry the tofu to get it really firm. Then it hit me, why not use that package of Bean Curd I’d picked up at the Korean Market the other day? Oh, and why not pair it with those Chinese Flowering Chives I had sitting in my crisper drawer. Perfection!

Chinese Flowering Chives - or Garlic Chives, as they’re also sometimes called - are a relative of the onion family. They look kind of like a thin green onion - or chive - but they have little white flower buds on the end that taste more like garlic. They have a potent smell, but not a particularly overwhelming flavor. They’re great in stir-fry’s. Fried Bean Curd is a kind of tofu, it has a much lower moisture content then the regular tofu you buy at the store, and it’s been previously fried till golden. The texture is very chewy, very meaty, and it shreds rather then crumbles. It’s a great stand-in for meat in any dish, and doesn’t taste anything like regular tofu which may make it more appealing to people who claim not to like tofu. Actually both the texture and the flavor remind me more of tofu skin, then tofu. Fried Bean Curd stands up really well to stir-frying, and it paired amazing with the Chinese Flowering Chives and the Black Bean Sauce to make the perfect lunch.

Most well stocked Asian Groceries should have everything you need to make this dish, and If you love Asian food as much as we do then I urge you to go on a little scavenger hunt, and then make this dish.

Stir-fried Bean Curd and Chinese Flowering Chives in Garlic Black Bean Sauce

1 Tbsp Toasted Sesame Oil
1 Tbsp Minced Ginger
3 Garlic Cloves sliced thin
8oz Fried Bean Curd Sliced into Strips
12oz Chinese Flowering Chives cut into ½ inch pieces
2 Tbsp Fermented Black Bean Paste
2 Tbsp Tamari
2 Tbsp White Wine
2 Tbsp Brown Sugar
1 Tbsp Chinese Black Vinegar
Sesame Seeds to Garnish

- First make the marinade. Add Black Bean Paste, Tamari, White Wine, Brown Sugar, and Chinese Black Vinegar to a small bowl and whisk together. Set aside until ready to use.

- Heat Sesame Oil in large pan over medium-high heat.

- Add in Garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes until fragrant and garlic is golden-brown.

- Add in Sliced Bean Curd and stir-fry for 8 minutes until golden-brown on both sides.

- Add in the Chinese Flowering Chives and stir-fry for 2-3 more minutes until softened and bright green.

- Add in Marinade, and let cook for 2-4 minutes until slightly reduced.

- Remove from heat, garnish with sesame seeds and serve over a bed of brown rice or eat as is.

*** Note - Make sure you read the labels on your Black Bean Paste. Make sure it is FERMENTED, and made with black soybeans. Do not confuse it with sweet black bean paste which is sweeter in nature and made with mung beans. Fermented black bean paste is more like a miso, where as the other kind of black bean paste is used like red bean paste in pastry’s, desserts, and other confections. ***