Sunday, July 3, 2011

At last -- truly grillable veggie burgers!

Since giving up meat, there’s been some grilling angst in our house. Yes, hubby and I love to grill portabella mushrooms, corn on the cob, veggie kebabs, big zucchini and eggplant planks, potato packets, and even pizza. But, oh, how we’ve longed for a good burger.

The stuff you get at the supermarket works in a pinch — on the stove or microwave. But if you try throwing it on the grill, you’re just as likely to get a crumbled mess or a burned hockey puck as you are something that’s edible. And, honestly, the flavor just isn’t that good. But when is straight-from-the-freezer ever as good as straight-from-your-own-kitchen?

So, we’ve tried the pre-mades; we’ve tried recipes from cookbooks and websites; we’ve made concoctions with tofu and beans and grains and mushrooms, with breadcrumbs and without, pre-cooked and not. And, truly, there are a lot of good veggie burger recipes — but nearly all of them have to be baked or cooked in a skillet before they go anywhere near the grill. And, call me weird, but I just can’t get down with baking a burger in a hot oven in the middle of July! Seriously! Who needs that?!

So, here’s the result of all that experimentation: a veggie burger that’s moist and flavorful and grillable — and, yes, BOTH the boys ate them — another first! This recipe makes a big batch of 10 good-size burgers. I’d recommend grilling them all up; you can refrigerate the ones you don’t eat that night, and just heat them up in the microwave over the next couple days. If you don’t think you’ll eat them that fast, go ahead and pop them in the freezer.

We really like them on whole wheat buns with a little mayo (Vegenaise, of course!); they’re also great served on a bed of mixed greens.

It’s important to refrigerate the patties before grilling them; they need time to firm up, so DO NOT skip this step or you’ll be sad! Also, be sure to oil up the grill really well before you start cooking; you’ll get nice grill marks on your burgers instead of having the patties stick, pull away, and burn. Just follow those simple rules (and this simple recipe) and soon you’ll be in veggie burger nirvana!


Farro and black bean burgers

1 large sweet onion, chopped, divided
1 T olive oil
1 c. farro
2-1/2 c. vegetable broth
1 can black beans, drained & rinsed
3 T soy sauce
2 c. raw cashews
4 cloves garlic, chopped
3/4 c. chopped cilantro, packed
2 tsp. ground cumin
2/3 c. panko breadcrumbs

Heat oil in a saucepan over med-high heat. Cook onions until golden, about 5 mins., stirring occasionally. Add farro and veggie broth; cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until liquid is absorbed, about 20-25 minutes.

Meanwhile, toss all other ingredients except panko breadcrumbs into the bowl of your food processor and pulse until it’s coarsely chopped. Add the farro mixture and pulse until combined. Finally, add the panko crumbs; process until everything is combined and finely chopped.

Form the mixture into ten (10) patties. Mixture will be very wet and sticky; starting with clean, wet hands will help. Chill the patties for at least 45 minutes and up to 4 hours. Cook on a well-oiled grill, about 4 mins. per side. Serve immediately.

Makes 10 burgers.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Dad's Day biscuits and gravy

Father’s Day is one of those days that, in my opinion, demands a hearty, extravagant breakfast. I mean, if you go to any diner in the country, who’s eating the Paul Bunyan Extra-Greasy Five Pound Breakfast Special? Generally not us ladies. It’s as if a love of bacon, sausage and eggs is imparted via the “y” chromosome, along with extra testosterone, a burning hatred of ballet, and the need to wrestle anything that moves (but especially siblings).

So, in honor of my excellent husband, I set about finding a lumberjack-worthy breakfast that wouldn’t give him a heart attack at the same time. Biscuits with sausage gravy was a favorite indulgence back in the day. It isn’t terribly time-consuming, the timing is forgiving, and biscuits are easy enough for even the smallest kids to help make.  Yup, this dish itself well to a laid-back, somewhat lackadaisical Father’s Day morning.

Don’t be afraid of the bean base for this gravy! I know, I know, it sounds weird, but believe me, it’s as good and creamy as, well, cream. I wish I’d thought of using white beans for gravy first, but I have to give props to Isa Chandra Moskowitz (again); she’s a food genius and a constant source of inspiration. The addition of veggie sausage just makes it that much yummier, and it really is reminiscent of an oh-so-bad-for-you-but-oh-so-yummy breakfast at your favorite greasy spoon. Just without all the grease.

Most surprisingly, this was a big hit with the kids. I didn’t think I’d be adding this recipe to the blog, because neither is big on gravy — even when we were meat-eaters, they resisted the siren song of the annual Thanksgiving giblet gravy — but they happily spooned up every last drop of this faux-sausage gravy.

“Dad” savored every bite, too, while feeling very loved and pampered — in a rough, manly way, of course. Happy Fathers Day!


“Sausage” gravy

1 T canola oil
2 links Field Roast Italian Sausage, removed from casings and crumbled (Field Roast is our favorite; if you can’t find it in your area, use about 6-8 oz. of another vegan sausage substitute, such as LightLife Sausage Style)
1-1/2 c. not-chicken broth (plus extra for thinning, if necessary)
1/3 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 med. onion, chopped
4 med. cloves garlic, chopped
2 T fresh thyme, chopped
1 T fresh chives, chopped
1 15-oz. can Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
3 T soy sauce
4-6 drops liquid smoke

Heat the canola oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add sausage and stir until browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Whisk together the broth and flour until smooth. Set aside.

Add onion and garlic to the saucepan. Saute until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Add the thyme and chives. Cook another 2-3 minutes. Give the broth mixture another stir, then add it to the saucepan, along with the beans, soy sauce and liquid smoke.

Remove the pan from heat, and use an immersion blender to blend the mixture until it’s smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

Return the pan to the stove and heat over med-low. Add “sausage.” Stir occasionally; the gravy will thicken further. If desired, add more not-chicken broth to thin to your desired consistency.

Serve hot over your favorite biscuits. Top with some fresh ground pepper for the grown-ups!

Serves 4.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Lettuce give thanks

Sometime around March of every year — when we’re still getting snow and ice but tender little bits of green are starting to poke up from the half-frozen earth — I start having dire, desperate cravings for fresh salad greens. And the pale, tasteless stuff offered by our local supermarkets just doesn’t cut it.

We’ve long been members of a local CSA (the wonderful Sippel Family Farm — we love you guys!!!), so we are completely spoiled by their same-day, fresh-from-the-earth greens. Before the long, cold winter is over, I’m literally climbing the walls with yearning for some of the good stuff. I make giant serving bowls of salad and eat the whole thing myself for lunch, toss greens with grits for breakfast, and sometimes just snack on handfuls of yummy little baby arugula leaves. Ahhhh, bliss.

Of course, once the season starts, we are inundated with lettuce, spinach, baby greens, kale, chard, escarole, and every other type of green imaginable. After about a month of mountains of leafy green bounty, I get to a point where I just don’t want another salad.

I’m terribly fickle that way.

And that’s when I know it’s time to bust out some lettuce wraps.

Yes, they’re messy, but they’re tasty, really easy and fast to make, and the kids love them. And if you have trouble getting your kids to eat leafy greens, this is a good way to get some into their diets; just consider whole lettuce leaves as crisp green tortillas.

The seasonings in this recipe are very mild. If your family has a more adventurous palate, toss in some minced fresh ginger (about a tablespoon) and/or some red pepper flakes at the same time as the stir-fry sauce. It’ll kick it up nicely.

Do all your chopping before you start cooking, because the cooking goes very quickly and if you’re still at the chopping board, everything is likely to get overcooked and soggy. I usually buy a bag of matchstick carrots just to save chopping time, but if you’re a master with a knife (or just really enjoy prep work), go for it!


Asian-style lettuce wraps

3 T soy sauce
1 T seasoned rice vinegar
2 T brown sugar

1 T peanut oil
1 8-oz. package tempeh, crumbled
1 5-oz. can water chestnuts, diced
2 c. mushrooms, diced
1/2 med. onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. matchstick carrots
1 c. fresh mung bean sprouts
2 scallions, sliced

8-10 whole lettuce leaves (butter lettuce works really well, but any kind of leaf lettuce will do)
Hoisin sauce for serving

Make stir-fry sauce by stirring together the soy sauce, brown sugar and rice vinegar. Set aside.

Heat peanut oil in a large wok or skillet over medium-high heat. Add tempeh, water chestnuts, onions, garlic and mushrooms to wok; stir fry 3-4 minutes, until onions are softened and mushrooms have released their liquid.

Add the stir fry sauce to the wok and toss to coat. Add carrots and mung bean sprouts; cook 1-2 minutes, until veggies are tender-crisp and most liquid has evaporated. Stir in scallions and remove from heat. Pour mixture into a serving bowl.

To serve, spoon a couple tablespoons of the mixture into a lettuce leaf (leave enough room so you can fold up the lettuce leaf like a tortilla); top with a little hoisin saucce before folding, if desired.

Serves 4.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Green smoothies to the rescue!

Here’s a yummy, healthy recipe for the whole family to try.  It was inspired by a recipe in Kiwi magazine, but because one of their ingredients was tough to find out in our neck of the woods, I adapted it considerably. But, that recipe was a great find for me, because I would never have considered putting spinach in a smoothie, especially one meant for consumption by my offspring.

Happily, this tastes good! REALLY good! Both the boys love it and ask for it all the time (even my super-picky 4 year old). I think the name helps sell it; my 7 year old thinks it’s totally cool and believes fully in its super-power qualities.

While I think the vivid green color of this smoothie is cool and wild and a little rock-n-roll, if your kids hate all things green, you could use a different fruit in place of the mango, like strawberries or raspberries; they’ll make it more of a brick red color. Also, be sure to use nice, ripe bananas; they’ll sweeten it up considerably. You can use fresh fruit in place of the frozen, but if you do, use ice instead of water to make it cold and frosty.

I keep a bag of frozen mango chunks and a bag of frozen banana chunks on hand at all times for just this reason. They’re cheaper at the supermarket when they’re super-ripe, anyway, so buy a few bunches, peel them, break them into thirds, and put them on a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Throw that into your freezer and freeze them until they’re firm, then transfer the banana pieces to a big freezer bag. This way, they won’t stick together in a big clump. They’ll keep in a storage bag for about six months, but I predict you’ll use them long before then, anyway.

These have become a standard part of breakfast for the school year; whenever I get my kids to eat spinach for breakfast, I feel like a totally virtuous mom for the rest of the day. Halo, anyone?


Green superpowers smoothie

2 c. (packed) baby spinach
2 very ripe bananas, broken into thirds and frozen
1 heaping cup frozen mango chunks
1 c. cold water (or soy milk for a calcium boost)
1/2 c. orange juice
1 T. honey or agave syrup (or more or less, to taste)

Throw everything except the honey/agave into your blender and blend, baby, blend! You may have to stir things up a few times to get it nice and smooth. Taste and add honey/agave if needed and give it another quick blend, or serve if it’s already sweet enough. Enjoy!

Serves 4.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Taco night

Mmmm, tacos! Don’t you just love them? They’re tasty and messy and you can tuck just about anything into those crispy little shells. Back in the day, seasoned ground turkey was the “base” of choice; these days, we stick with beans or tempeh, or a big combo. This recipe relies on black beans, lightly seasoned — and, man, are they ever GOOD!

This is a case where you really need to use coconut oil to get the flavor just right. I know it’s more expensive, but just think of all the money you’re saving by not buying meat!

This comes together really quickly, so it’s a great choice for a weeknight, or a Friday night when you don’t feel like doing much cooking. If your kids don’t mind raw onion, mix it right into the salsa; otherwise, hold it out like I do and just mix it into the adult portions.


Black bean tacos with mango salsa

1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted, and diced
2 T. red onion, diced
juice of 1/2 fresh lime
2 T. chopped cilantro
1 15-oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 T. coconut oil
2 scallions, finely chopped
3/4 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. sea salt
6 taco shells, warmed
1 avocado, diced

Combine mango, lime juice and cilantro in a small bowl. (Add the onion, too, if your kids don’t mind it.) Set aside.

Combine beans, coconut oil, scallions, cumin and salt in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover bowl with waxed paper and heat one to two minutes, until warmed through. Remove waxed paper and mash about half the beans with the back of a fork. Stir to combine.

Meanwhile, warm taco shells in the oven. Remove, and fill 1/3 of the way with the bean mixture, top with a couple spoonfuls of mango salsa, then top with diced avocado. (Remember to add onion to the adults’ tacos.) Serve immediately.

Makes 6 tacos; recipe can easily be doubled.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

I'm the waffler!

If you’ve ever seen the film “Mystery Men,” you’ll get that reference. And if you haven’t seen it, you should! It received mixed reviews from critics and movie-goers alike, but I found it absolutely hilarious. Here we are, 12 years later, and I still think it’s a giant hoot. It’s quirky and funny and weird — yeah, just like me. I guess that explains it!

Anyway, back to the waffles. I’ve always been too afraid to make them. The waffle iron is scary to me. You put stuff in there, and then you can’t check on it or look at it or stir it or poke it — you just have to leave it alone and trust that the right things will happen. That is a NIGHTMARE for a type-A personality like me. So my husband has been the official waffle-maker in our house. But I finally bit the bullet and made some waffles, and dang if they weren’t crazy tasty!

If you’re familiar with Isa Chandra Moskowitz, you already know that she is a vegan goddess. All of her cookbooks are downright fabulous; the recipes are delicious and always turn out as they should, and I just enjoy her writing style. She’s fun to read! Her recipe for tofu scrambles have become the standard for scrambles in my house. I’d love to share it with you, but I think she’d frown at me for that, and that would make me sad. So go buy her book Vegan Brunch and you’ll have happy tofu scrambles every weekend, too.

Anyway, I digress (again). My point was, I was inspired by her to make these waffles. Her Vegan Brunch cookbook had a recipe for cornmeal waffles, and she described them as being improbably light on the inside and crispy on the outside, and who can resist that? I changed things up a little bit by adding a bunch of sliced strawberries and a little bit of this and that — and, oh, wow, the end result was really, really good!

And that scary waffle iron really did what it was supposed to, and I managed not to peek. Truimph!


Corny strawberry waffles

2 c. unsweetened almond milk
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1-1/2 c. cornmeal
1 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 T. baking powder
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
1/4 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 c. canola oil
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1-1/2 c. sliced fresh strawberries

Preheat the waffle iron. Measure out the milk in a large measuring cup; add the vinegar to it, stir, and set aside so it can curdle. (This will approximate buttermilk; it’s a great trick!)

In a large mixing bowl, mix together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and cinnamon. Make a well in the center of the cornmeal mixture and add the almond milk, oil, and vanilla. Mix together until no large lumps remain and it’s relatively smooth. Spray the waffle iron lightly with your Misto or with cooking spray and add an appropriate amount of batter. (Waffle irons vary in size, so check your iron’s directions!)

Close the lid and cook until done (again, check your iron’s directions; with our waffle iron, it takes about 3 minutes to cook these).

Yield will vary depending on the size of your waffle iron; with ours, it makes 10.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The house of weird food

Late last year, my husband and I decided to embrace the "plant strong" lifestyle; as a result we're mostly vegan, with the exception of a very occasional bit of fish. (Truly, sushi calls to me!)

So, we recently relished a beautiful (and succulent, and astonishing) dinner at the wonderful Dragonfly Neo-V restaurant in Columbus. Sitting at the table next to us was Dr. Pam Popper, a well-known proponent of plant-based diets, and two men from Farm Sanctuary, a wonderful organization that rescues abused and abandoned farm animals.

My husband wanted to stop and say hi, but I talked him out of it. Hey, for me, nothing ruins a romantic evening faster than chatting up a bunch of strangers.

He settled for sending an e-mail to Dr. Popper a couple days later, and copied me on their conversation. After the introduction, he asked her if she had any favorite products or foods to serve when your kids’ friends are visiting so you don’t become known as the “weird food” house.


Yes, I took this as a personal affront. I’m sure he didn’t intend offense, but I work very hard to make good, healthy meals and snacks for our family (and friends) that are tasty and approachable — i.e., not “weird.”

But since he’s at work, and not home for most of our day-to-day entertaining, he probably really doesn’t know that it isn’t a big deal.

So, for anyone else who frets about what to serve omnivorous todddlers and school-age friends during a visit, here’s a go-to list of yummy, good-for-you, non-weird snacks.

If you have time in advance, you can make:
 - Healthy fruit/nut muffins (try the recipe for our favorite Blueberrry Muffins below) served with Earth Balance, a nut butter, or a fruit butter
 - Lightened peanut butter or oatmeal raisin cookies with chocolate or vanilla almond milk (my kids are wild about the dark chocolate almond milk from Silk Pure Almond)
 - Homemade guacamole and corn tortilla chips
 - Black bean dip with orange zest served with fresh sliced veggies
 - Individual pizzas (try Daiya vegan cheese)
 - Fruit salad with non-dairy yogurt
 - Roasted cauliflower (really, really good — even hard-core meat and potato eaters love it!)

If you need to serve something at the very last minute, try:
 - A bowl of assorted nuts and a bowl of fresh berries
 - Smoothies
 - Prepared hummus and fresh veggie sticks
 - Breakfast banana splits (see recipe below)
 - Edamame pods sprinkled with a little sea salt
 - Air-popped popcorn drizzled with a little melted Earth Balance and sprinkled with nutritional yeast (tastes just like cheese corn!)
 - Apple slices or celery sticks spread with peanut butter and topped with raisins, if desired

Remember, if one of your children’s friends turns his nose up at something you’ve fixed, that doesn’t mean it’s weird. Kids are notoriously picky eaters; I’ve entertained some who don’t like something as seemingly universal as watermelon, so just don’t take it personally!

Of course, it isn’t a bad idea to have a stash of all-fruit leather or chews and fruit/veggie juice boxes stashed in your pantry, just in case.


Our Favorite Blueberry Muffins

These are moist and delicious, but pack a lot less sugar and oil than most muffins -- and they’re half whole-wheat. Try them; I promise the whole family will love them!

1/4 c. coconut oil, melted (plus more for oiling muffin tins)
1 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 c. sugar (plus more for sprinkling)
1 T. Ener-G egg replacer
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
1-1/4 c. soy milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
1-1/2 c. blueberries

Preheat oven to 375. Grease 12 muffin tins.

In a large bowl, sift together the flours, baking powder, salt and egg replacer. Whisk in sugar.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the soy milk, coconut oil, vanilla, and lemon zest. Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just moistened. Fold in the blueberries.

Spoon the batter evenly into the 12 muffin cups. Sprinkle the top of each lightly with a little sugar (about 1/8 tsp. each). Bake 16-18 minutes, or until tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Makes 12.


This is so easy I hesitate to call it a recipe, but it's good, fun, and (so far!) universally loved.

Breakfast Banana Splits

2 bananas, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
4 T. peanut or other nut butter (Sun Butter is a great alternative if you’re dealing with nut allergies)
2 tsp. chocolate syrup
Crushed pineapple, optional
Chopped peanuts, optional

Place each banana in a shallow bowl or on a small plate. Spread a tablespoon peanut butter on the cut side of each sliced banana, then press the banana back together. Drizzle each banana split with a teaspoon of chocolate syrup. If desired, spoon a little crushed pineapple along the sides of the banana, and sprinkle with chopped nuts.

Note: If you want the bananas to stay upright, just slice a bit off the back, where the curve is, so you have a flat surface. Slice in half lengthwise and proceed with the rest of the recipe.

Makes 2.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

How about a nice pot of chicken soup?

Okay, so, no matter how healthfully you’re eating and regardless of the amazing response of your immune system, if you have kids, you’re going to get sick sometime. It happens. I, too, have lain in bed with a stuffy nose and foggy head and that familiar tickle in the back of my throat and repeated the mantra, “I am not going to get sick. I am not going to get sick. I am not going to get sick….”

Yeah, right. So much for mind over matter.

That’s where having a reliable alternative to chicken noodle soup comes in handy. And, yes, I’m talking about miso soup.

Miso is amazing stuff: it’s a good source of tryptophan (that feel-good, sleep-inducing amino that knocks out half of America every Thanksgiving), manganese, vitamin K, zinc (critical to immune functions), copper, and even omega-3. Besides, it’s salty, and that’s always good for soothing a sore throat.

Please don’t get all squeamish about the so-called seaweed (and, fyi, we’re calling them “sea vegetables” now). If my 4- and 7-year-olds can slurp up giant bowls of this stuff and like it, so can you. Eat those veggies! Drink that broth! You’ll feel better!

Oh, and do make a big batch and freeze at least half of it in one cup portions. This recipe makes way more soup than you think you’ll ever need, but one day you’ll thank me (i.e., on the morning when you wake up repeating your “I’m not going to get sick” mantra and would rather pull out your own fingernails than cook).

By the way, this is a great way to start your day anytime. Many a morning I heat up a frozen cup of miso soup for breakfast; it warms me and makes me feel good and healthy and possibly even virtuous. Add an apple and I’ll bet you’ll be able to keep the doctor away — at least for a while.


(A big pot of) Miso soup

4 c. vegetable OR mushroom OR “no-chicken” broth
8 c. water
1/2 c. dried wakame, cut into small strips or pieces (you may want to use kitchen shears, as wakame can be tough to cut with a knife)
2 medium carrots, thinly sliced on the diagonal
4 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced on the diagonal
6-8 T miso paste
8 oz. firm tofu, cut into 1/2″ dice

Soak wakame in cold water for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, bring stock and water to a simmer in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add carrots and cook until tender. Add drained wakame and simmer one minute. Add scallions and simmer another minute. Remove the pot from the heat.

Remove 1 cup of stock from the stockpot and set aside, then add the tofu to the stockpot. Stir the miso into the reserved cup of stock until it has dissolved. Return the mixture to the stockpot. Taste and add more miso (using the same method for dissolving) if desired. Cover the pot and steep 2 minutes before serving.

Makes 12 servings

Note: If you aren’t sure where to find miso paste, start with the refrigerated “healthy foods” section of your well-stocked supermarket or health store. Miso paste is usually sold in small tubs. Whole Foods stocks several varieties; any will work with this recipe, though I usually favor white miso.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Hmm, it looks like mac and cheese....

We’re members of a local, organic CSA, and our last load of the growing season always includes lots — and LOTS — of squash, pumpkins, and other storage vegetables.  That’s a good thing, because I’m a fan of squash of all varieties; in fact, our whole family really likes it these days, especially when it’s prepared with some yummy spiral pasta.  When I need to make a quick, hot meal, this is almost always at the top of the list; it comes together really quickly, and when you add a side of steamed broccoli, there are few meals that are more nourishing.

This is a great dish to make for kids who don’t like veggies, but could eat mac and cheese daily for the rest of their young lives.  We like to use whole wheat rotini, but if your clan is really picky, you can use elbow macaroni to make it even closer to their favorite pasta.


Butternut twirls

1 small butternut squash, halved and seeded
1/2 box whole wheat rotini
1 T olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
4-6 fresh sage leaves, chopped (or 1 tsp. dried)
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3/4 c. Imagine No Chicken Stock (or vegetable stock)
1 T nutritional yeast (or more to taste)
Thinly sliced scallions (optional, for garnish)
Toasted pine nuts (optional, for garnish)

Cook squash in microwave, cut side down, in 1″ water in a glass dish until tender, about 15 minutes.  Allow to cool enough to handle.  Cook pasta according to package directions (to al dente).  Meanwhile, in skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.  Saute onions until just tender.  Add sage, garlic, salt and pepper to taste, and stir.  Scoop out squash and add to skillet.  Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is fairly smooth and starting to caramelize.  Add broth and nutritional yeast, stirring, until the mixture is the consistency of a thick sauce. Add more broth if you need to thin the sauce.  Stir in pasta until thoroughly coated.

If desired, top with thinly sliced scallions and/or toasted pinenuts.  Serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Chilly day chili casserole

Brr! It’s a cold, snowy day, and I’m really hoping we don’t have a repeat of last February (the snowiest on record).  I’m watching the flakes sift down from the big gray sky right now — although it doesn’t seem nearly as bad since I’m enjoying a nice, big, hot serving of the casserole I made last night.

When we gave up dairy and meat, I thought sadly of the family favorites we’d be leaving behind: turkey pot pie, creamy tuna noodle bakes, cheesy Mexican casserole….  Oh, I could go on and on.  But, happily, we’ve found new recipes for equally delicious dishes.  This falls into that category.

This dish was inspired by a recipe from Robin Robertson’s wonderful cookbook “Vegan Planet”; her version was too spicy for my little one’s sensitive tastebuds (and it also took a little more time to make than I had), but I loved the idea!  With a few tweaks, this turned into an easy, wonderful family dish that both my 3 year old and 6 year old ate with gusto.  (My husband and I are big fans, too!)

Oh, and here’s a quick note on a couple of the ingredients.  This recipe calls for a cup of vegan sour cream.  Many grocers carry vegan sour cream substitutes, but they’re on the pricey side.  Following the casserole recipe is a recipe to make your own vegan sour cream.  It’s quick and easy, and I think you’ll be surprised at how tasty the result is!

As for the cheese, Daiya is the way to go.  I always adored cheese (a plate of brie and crackers left me positively giddy!), and I can tell you, truly and with great sadness, that no vegan varieties come anywhere close to approximating its taste or texture.  However, Daiya is a very reasonable subsitute that you can use in recipes (I would never recommend eating it straight from the fridge, but if you’re cooking with it, it’s a good facimile).  It melts very well and the flavor is as close as you’ll get to the real thing.  If you can’t find Daiya, Follow Your Heart is the next best that I can find locally.  Be careful with other brands; many that are marked as vegetarian or dairy-free still include casein, the protein found in dairy products.  (You can read more about the dangers of casein in T. Colin Campbell’s “The China Study,” where he discusses in detail his research and the links between casein and cancer.)

I hope you enjoy this hearty, healthy dish as much as we do!


Chili and potato gratin

1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. salt
4 med. potatoes, sliced very thinly
1 med. onion, halved and sliced very thinly
1 c. vegan sour cream (purchased or homemade; see recipe below)
2 c. vegan chili (I used leftover chili, but you can also purchase it in cans)
1/2 c. Daiya shredded vegan mozzerella “cheese”
1/2 c. Daiya shredded vegan cheddar “cheese”

In a small dish, mix together basil, oregano, garlic powder, and salt.  Oil a large casserole dish.  Cover bottom with a layer of potato slices, then onions, and then some of the spice mix.  Continue layering the potatoes, onions, and spices until all have been used (you should have 3 or 4 potato-onion-spice layers).  Cover casserole with wax paper and microwave until veggies are tender, about 10-12 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375.

Remove casserole from microwave, and spread vegan sour cream evenly over the potatoes.  Top with the chili, spreading evenly, and then sprinkle with the vegan cheeses.  Bake, uncovered, until hot and bubbly, about 20 minutes.

Vegan sour cream

12 oz. box of soft silken tofu, drained
1 med. lemon, halved
2 T. canola oil
1 tsp. salt

Place tofu, oil, salt, and the juice of half the lemon in a food processor and process until very smooth.  Taste mixture and add more lemon juice if needed, processing after each addition, until desired flavor is achieved.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.  “Sour cream” will keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.  Makes approximately two cups.

Note: If you don’t have a food processor, you can also use a blender or even put all the ingredients in a bowl and use an immersion blender (my preferred method).