Vegan Brunch Highlights

Unrelated: I am now allergic to both kiwi and pineapple. Found out the hard way, but I didn't get hurt.

You may have heard, Breakfast for Dinner is almost my favorite meal. It's a close second to brunch. I love me some brunch. Since John and I cook a lot of vegan food, I've been fairly intrigued by this book - Vegan Brunch, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. Lots of people I know - omnivores and vegans alike - rave about this book, and I've thought about buying it. But Lord knows we have a ton of cookbooks. I've learned it's good to try before I buy. Luckily, the London Public Library (should definitely be on my list of awesome things about London!) had it. So last Sunday, John and I had a vegan brunch for dinner.

First, a tour of the plate!


Clockwise, starting with the brown stuff at 1 o'clock:
You've gotch'er faux chorizo sausages, made with vital wheat gluten, yer roasted potatoes with curry powder and cumin, yer avocado for topping, and yer tofu scramble with mushrooms.

Let me elaborate.

First, the sausages.
These are made from a small amount (1/2 cup or so) of mashed beans (I used black), a bunch of spices, a tbs olive oil, and 1.25 cups of vital wheat gluten, which is like an extremely gluten-ee flour. It made a sort of dough that I divided into 4 segments and approximately rolled into little sausage-like shapes. If you do this longer and thinner, it'll be more like a breakfast sausage link. Mine were more like the shape of Jimmy Dean's, but it would work either way. You roll them in the foil like little candies, and then steam them for 40 minutes. They magically cohere into this sausage shape and you can either slice them and fry the slices (that's what we did - delicious!) or grill them whole and then slice them, etc. We made the chorizo version, but their book includes two others, and I really want to try the Italian one.
We don't have Morning Star Breakfast Sausage here (as far as I can tell) and these are 200% better than the crappy soy breakfast sausages that I found at our grocery store. We had the leftovers the next night with dinner and then along side another scramble later in the week. They keep fairly well and are easier to slice after some time in the fridge. So a little time consuming, but so worth it.

Next, the potatoes.
These were your basic potatoes, and there wasn't anything particularly vegan about them. They're delicious on the side.

And, a scramble.

I think food tastes are so relative. A year and a half ago, I probably would have thought a tofu scramble sounded unappetizing. Here's the thing: it isn't eggs. And that's fine! As I was making it I thought to myself, "Will I like this? Yeah! I like tofu that's been pan-fried." And that's really all it is. Basically you break apart the tofu pieces and fry them with garlic. Then you add some spices (thyme, cumin, turmeric) with water and a 1/4 cup nutritional yeast and fry a little bit more. Just like scrambled eggs, there are a lot of variations on this. We made it first with mushrooms, then later in the week with spinach, green onions, and cilantro. All of those versions tasted great. I think nutritional yeast is one of those mysteriously delicious toppings for things. I don't really need to understand it, but it tastes wonderful and cheezy. The avocado on top was a great addition as well.

Since we tried these recipes I've already ordered the book on the interwebs; I want to be able to write in it. The next recipe I plan on trying is the one for classic pancakes, since I've been inexplicably craving them. So far, 3 for 3!

Update: the straight up pancakes in this book are fantastic, especially with chocolate chips. A+.


Pasta with Roasted Red Pepper Pesto

John and I aren't big pasta eaters, but it's nice to have on hand for a low key dinner once in a while. When I saw this red pepper pesto recipe, I knew we'd both really like it.
Pesto is sort of too greasy for me to want on a regular basis, but this made enough for a few nights of easy pasta, peppery dinner, and it really hit the spot.

First the pesto:

We broiled these peppers until they were black (though not quite evenly so, and I know now that they need to be all the way black before they're done). Then the skin just peels right off.
Both the pasta and the pesto came from Closet Cooking.
Click here for the pesto recipe.

After the peppers were done roasting, the pesto ingredients just go into the food processor. I really liked the flavor that the balsamic vinegar added.
Then the pasta:

We used the same blog's recipe for the rest of the meal, which was simple and included feta and kalamata olives. If we make this again (and I hope we do!) then I'd add either zucchini or spinach to up the nutritional benefits. If you're a meat eater, I'd recommend adding some Italian sausage to the mix. But it's plenty flavorful just like this. A few red pepper flakes really added some kick. I'll probably add them directly to the pesto next time. It's was an all-around great weeknight dinner.
Click here for the pasta recipe!

Mushroom and Olive Puff Pastry Appetizers

Sometimes I get inspired to improvise with a little puff pastry. In general, puff pastry is pretty forgiving; it's filled with butter, so even if something gets kind of messy or screwed up, it's guaranteed to taste good.

You could make this type of appetizer with any number of ingredients, sweet or savory. For this particular improv, I chopped and sauteed about a cup of mushrooms, then chopped around a 1/4 cup of kalamata olives, and maybe an ounce of gruyere cheese. I only used one sheet of puff pastry, but the second time I made this I just doubled everything and made a larger batch.

Here are some photos of the process I used to create little puff pastry envelopes. If you pinch the dough together slightly, it sticks to itself. Then I brushed the tops with olive oil and threw them in the oven at 350 F for about 17 minutes.

The timing suggestion and temperature were in the directions for an apple galette on the inside of the box. The important thing is to get them golden brown (frak! I have no picture of them when they're done! Sorry!).

Other possible fillings: any kind of sauteed veggie, such as asparagus, with a small amount of cheese; berries and cream cheese; even bananas, peanut butter, and chocolate chips sound good to me (if extremely fatty). I think they're kind of adaptable to whatever you need. If cheese or dairy aren't your thing, just leave them out and have the mushroom and kalamata version, which is plenty flavorful on its own (or ditch the olives for something else you like). They're fairly easy to put together and they end up looking kind of fancy-schmancy.

Note: I recently read in Vegan Brunch that the Pepperidge Farm brand of puff pastry is vegan (which is sort of suspicious, but useful).

Have you ever improv'd an appetizer like this? If so, I'd love to hear about it!

HEAB 2-Ingredient Fudge

Happy Friday! Here's a short post about a dessert I recently made. I love it when I see a recipe on the internet that isn't even so much a "recipe" as a simple, good idea. This one comes from from Heather Eats Almond Butter (or HEAB, for short).

Here it is:
a can of coconut milk
10 oz chocolate chips
(I also added a 1/4 tsp coconut extract and 1/2 tsp vanilla.)
(If you use carob or dark chocolate chips, this is vegan!)

Mix them together in a pan until the chips are melted, then pour into a freezable container and freeze until set.

Chocolate-coconut soup!

HEAB was able to keep hers in the fridge, and I think it's because she used (first) carob chips and then dark chocolate chips with whole-fat coconut milk. I used lite coconut milk and 10 oz of milk chocolate chips. It's still delicious, but it melts relatively quickly. On the plus side, I basically ended up with a pan of creamy, chocolatey fudgesicles.

A little square of it with some strawberries makes for a wonderful, simple dessert. Here's the link to her recipe: HEAB 2-Ingredient Fudge.


Favorite Bittman Recipes of January, 2011

Like I mentioned before, John and I have been taking a stroll through Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. Here are a couple of our favorites so far.

Whole Wheat Couscous with Broccoli and Walnuts.

I think this recipe originally calls for cauliflower and almonds, but like a lot of the recipes in this book, Bittman supplied several variations, including the one we tried. This recipe is super fast and really flavorful. We added goat cheese on top (just a little). John made it again this week to take to school for lunch.

Thai Carrot Soup

This reminds me of other delicious Thai soups we've made but the lemon grass gives it a more distinct flavor. Click here for an adaptation of the recipe. I don't have as many comments about this one because John had the whole thing prepared by the time I got home from class (aka, the best kind of dinner ever). It's great for the crazy snowy weather everyone's been having and the lemon grass makes it nice and thick.

Mashed Potatoes and Edamame

I feel like you don't even need to know the recipe for this, it's pretty simple. Boil some potatoes until they're soft. Add some miso mixed with water (or red curry paste mixed with coconut milk!) and 2 cups of boiled edamame. Mash it all together and serve. We reheated it tonight in the cast iron pan, which was a great idea. Next time we make this, we'll probably crisp it up in the cast iron for round 1. This recipe is more of a side than a main dish, but we're not exactly pulling out all the stops this week, so it went well with a big salad of spinach, arugula, kalamata olives, avocado, cucumber, feta, and a dijon/olive oil/balsamic dressing.