Thursday, April 10, 2008

Cheesy Broccoli Rice Casserole

I'm kind of on a "veganize things I used to love" kick right now, so Veganomicon is on the back burner a little, so to speak. People on one of the forums I frequent have been RAVING about a Mac and Cheese recipe from VegNews, so I decided to test it out. Cheese substitutes are difficult. There are a few decent ones that you can buy. Most homemade recipes rely heavily on nutritional yeast, which has a very distinct flavor that people tend to have a strong opinion about: love it or hate it. I do not love it so much, though I'm going to try out the Veganomicon Cheezy Sauce to give it another chance. The important thing to remember I think when trying out cheese alternative is to NOT think of them as cheese substitutes, but as their own thing. I decided to try this sauce out because it does not call for nutritional yeast or any soy ingredients. I altered it slightly to increase to give it a sharper taste. Yum!

Then I remembered: Mom's Rice-Broccoli-Cheese casserole. Mmmmm. So good. So, I though, if this sauce makes a good Mac and Cheese, I wonder how if I could use it make a vegan version of my old favorite?

Oh yes. I actually liked this sauce BETTER with the rice and broccoli than I did with just pasta. I think it added more texture and flavors. I topped it off with bread crumbs, which gave it that nice, crunchy brown top that help make casseroles so tasty. And the leftovers are even better!

Coming up: tortilla soup and "chicken" enchiladas! So stayed tuned!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Rum Cake! Mmmm, rum...

My mom makes a kick ass Rum Cake. It's a little scandalous, really. My parents are basically teetotalers* who don't keep any alcohol in the house EXCEPT the rum for the rum cake. I grew up in a dry city, so it was a big deal when the rum ran out and one my parents, usually my dad, had to go to the store to buy more. He'd walk in after work with the brown paper bag, all solemn about his brief venture into satan's territory. Not surprisingly, this cake was always a big hit at the church socials, where someone was always bound to joke about having "one too many" which is crazy since the alcohol cooks off, but whatever.

*sidenote: my parents will now drink wine occasionally, especially if we are out to dinner and I order a bottle, stating that they can join me, or they can watch me drink the whole damn bottle myself. They usually join in.

Fast forward: So last year when my roommate went to the Caribbean, she came home with at least 5 little rum cakes. Apparently, the only time she ever had rum cake was when her family went to the islands. She gave me one, thinking it was this crazy special treat I'd probably never had, and I was like, "Oh rum cake? That's cool. My mom makes this all the time." This year we were coming back from Aruba and she REALLY wanted to buy a rum cake in the airport, but they were $20 for the little mini-bundt pan ones. TWENTY FREAKIN' DOLLARS!!! I promised her I'd bake her the damn cake myself if she would just PLEASE for the love of God not spend $20 on that tiny little thing.

I got the recipe from my mom, and then played around with it a little bit to make it vegan. My bundt pan is in storage, so I made do with two loaf pans, but it really is prettier if you have a bundt pan to make it that way. I tested it out on my roommate and she gave it her full approval. Even after I told her it had tofu in it. ;)

So, for your enjoyment:


1 pkg. yellow cake mix
1 small pkg. (3 3/4 oz.) instant vanilla pudding mix
1/2 cup cooking oil
1/2 cup water
1/2 light rum
1 cup silken tofu
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Grease and flour Bundt pan (or two small loaf pans). Sprinkle with chopped nuts. Place cake mix, pudding, oil, water, and rum in a bowl. Mix for a minute. Puree tofu in a blender, pushing down the sides as needed. Add to mixture. Mix well. Pour batter into pan over the nuts. Bake 50-60 minutes @ 325 degrees. Remove from oven. Pierce with toothpick or fork and pour RUM GLAZE over warm cake (while it is in the pan). Let set 30 minutes before removing from pan.

1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 cup water, 1/4 cup rum, 1/2 cup Earth Balance margarine (1 stick)

To prepare GLAZE, melt EB in a saucepan. Add sugar, water, and rum. Bring to a boil. (Beware that it may boil over -- be prepared to take it off the stove as needed.) Boil 2-3 minutes. Pour over hot cake.


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Red Lentil and Cauliflower Curry

I’ve been craving Indian food lately, and this recipe has been on my top “to make” list since I first browsed Veganomicon, so I decided it was time to test it out. Plus, I have a LOT of red lentils on hand right now, despite making several batches of various red lentil soups. It’s like they’re secretly breeding and multiplying in the cupboard at night.

Indian curries range from very simple to rather complicated, both in terms of ingredients and cooking skills, and this falls on the simpler end of both scales. (For great vegan Indian food, check out Alternative Vegan by Dino Sarma.) You can moderate the spice and heat depending on the type/amount of chili pepper and the heat of the curry powder that you use. I’m from Texas so I can take the heat!

I served this over a pilaf of millet, quinoa and brown and white rice, although I think it would be really great over just white basmati rice. A sprinkle of coconut flakes on top would be tasty as well, though I didn’t have any on hand. If you want to up the nutrient factor, you can add a bunch of chopped spinach towards the very end. I add spinach to practically ever soup and stew that I make, because it is such as easy way to sneak in those leafy greens without even having to think about it. This particular night I really wanted my spinach separately, so instead of adding it to the curry I sautéed it with some garlic and mushrooms and a splash of balsamic vinegar.

This made for a GREAT one-pot dish (bonus: easy clean-up). The sweetness of the parsnip really helped round out the flavors of the curry. I had seconds. And thirds. And the leftovers held up well for lunches for the next few days.

Now to check on what those cheeky lentils are up to…..

Friday, March 28, 2008

Caesar Salad and other goodness

So nothing today comes from Veganomicon but they're still worthy of mention.

So for lunch today I had a burger and a Caesar Salad. I have heard AMAZING things about the Living Caesar Dressing recipe from Dreena Burton's Eat, Drink and be Vegan. Normally, Caesar dressing is made out of raw egg and anchovy paste, among other non-vegan ingredients. Dreena's recipe is made out of cashews and pine nuts blended together with a few seasonings and thinned out with lemon juice and water.

I was skeptical. I how on earth could this list of ingredients create anything vaguely resembling caesar salad dressing? Well, I have no idea, but this dressing is AMAZING. If this were served to unsuspecting diners in a restaurant I seriously doubt anyone would guess that it wasn't just a regular, fabulous caesar dressing. I think I could drink the stuff. It should be called Caesar crack or something. I can't wait until dinner so I can have some more.

I have never made my own veggie-burgers and intend to try it out sometime soon, but today I just paired the salad with a Gardenburger Black Bean Chipotle burger on a bun topped with salsa and sliced avocado. If you've never tried veggie-burgers and are wary of the idea, I think these are a great place to start. In no way do they attempt to resemble beef, so there are no "this doesn't taste like a REAL burger" issues. They aren't supposed to--they have black beans, corn and chipotle peppers in them and are very nicely seasoned. Also, it only takes a few minutes to heat them up, so they're a great thing to have stashed in the freezer for when you need a quick meal.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


So usually, my starch of choice in the humble sweet potato. Easy, tasty, healthy. While a sweet potato serves as an excellent base for chili or a tofu scramble, most of the time I just eat them plain with perhaps a dash of salt. I used to always just microwave them, but I've been dabbling with macrobiotics lately, which eschews microwave cooking, on the grounds that it is sooo completely unnatural and that nothing should cook that fast. Overall I agree, though I'm not tossing mine anytime soon. But it is kind of freaky if you think about it. I mean, SHOULD something that takes an hour at 300 degrees F to cook in an oven be ready to eat after five minutes in a microwave? And what, exactly, is a microwave? (come on science geeks!) What is it really doing to the food? Anyway, so recently I started baking my sweet potatoes and OH MY GOD what a difference. Even the skin is delicious. I just can't go back.

All of this is just a really long way of saying that 1. I like my sweet potatoes, 2. I like them BAKED in the oven, 3. tonight my oven was otherwise occupied so I had to come up with another starch to round out my meal, and 4. I didn't have time to make rice. And then, I remembered: couscous!

Couscous is a tiny little round "grain" that is actually a pasta made out of wheat. And it cooks in five minutes. My only problem is that I have a difficul time seasoning it so that it tastes good if I'm not using as the base for some sort of pilaf. So, I turned to Veganomicon, and found a recipe for Tomato Couscous with Capers (p 117).

Now, I am weird about tomatoes. I don't like them raw, and I don't like big chunks of cooked tomatoes. I like tomato everything: salsa, as a base for soups, pasta sauce, etc... But I like them finely diced or pureed and I like them cooked. And yes, I have had amazingly fresh straight-off-the-vine tomatoes (my grandparents are farmers) and I still feel this way. So instead of mixing in the diced tomatoes later, as the recipe indicates, I pureed to the tomatoes and cooked the entire can with the juice/water/couscous. I also doubled to total amount of liquid, just because the recipe calls for a 1:1 liquid to couscous ratio, while the directions on the couscous calls for a 3:1 liquid to couscous ratio, so I compromised with a 2:1 ratio.

Taste-wise I enjoyed this dish. I think it might still need some more seasoning or something. Or more texture. Next time I might just chopped up the tomatoes so the diced chunks are smaller instead of pureeing them. And I might add some toasted pecans or something for a little extra flavor and crunch. Oh, or maybe ground flaxseed for a little texture and some omega-3s. Hmmm. But still, it was a really easy, quick recipe that would definitely go well with a lot of different things. It would also be great as a base for a pilaf with chickpeas and some lightly sauteed chopped spinach mixed in. I have lots of leftovers, so if I try anything that truly makes me go WOW! later this week, I'll let you know.

Monday, March 17, 2008


Hey all you vegan freakies and other well-wishers: I am back with a vengeance! With yummy goodness to share!

So I had a friend in town not too long ago who requested that I experiment on her. So, in honor of having someone around to appreciate my efforts, I busted out the Braised Seitan with Brussels, Kale and Sun-Dried Tomatoes (p. 182) and served it with the oh-so-tasty Broccoli Polenta (p. 114).

This was my first attempt at making homemade seitan and I think it came out pretty well. I used the Simple Seitan recipe in the book (p. 131). I don't think I'm a big nutritional yeast fan, so in the future I might leave that out, but who knows. I'll experiment. I really don't eat a lot of tempeh or seitan, as I love legumes of every shape and form and could live on lima beans if I had too, but it was fun to try something new.

I do however looove polenta, and I love broccoli, and the Broccoli Polenta was so easy and so tasty that you must make this right away. I basically ate the leftovers like muffins or cupcakes or something. Mmmmm.

Once the seitan was ready, the recipe itself was simple and fast to prepare. The sauce is very basic, just a little red wine, veggie broth, and a few spices.

This dish seemed to get more interesting as we ate it. At first, both my friend and were like, hmmm, it's ok, not that much to it. But the more we ate, the more we both liked it. And it's so colorful and it full of nutritious goodness, what's not to love? I may try it with baked tofu instead of the seitan in the future, but that's just a personal preference.

Fresh Direct came today, so I'm browsing through Veganomicon deciding what to conquer next. (For you non-NYC'ers, Fresh Direct is basically an online grocery store where you click, order, and then have food magically appear at your doorstep the next day. If you never shopped in a NYC "grocery store" or had to lug said groceries up five flights of stairs, you may not fully appreciate the magic. But it's about as close to waving a magic wand and having food just appear as you can get.) So check back soon!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

A break from our regularly scheduled programming

Hey everyone-

Sorry I've been so MIA lately. Real life keeps getting in the way. I'm taking some time off from blogging to deal with some personal issues, but I'll be back! Veganomicon, I WILL conquer you!

Thanks to everyone for your love and support. Check back soon!