Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Chinese Hot Pot of Beef and Vegetables

Gardein's beefless tips are the perfect size for using in beef stews, whether you cook with classic American flavors, add novel twists to old favorites, venture down to South America, or - in this case - take a cue from the flavors of the Far East. If you're short on time, you don't need to simmer the stew a full hour in step 3, as Gardein doesn't need that long to cook. I like the long simmer so the flavors have extra time to blend (especially the cinnamon), but 20 minutes is all you technically need.

  • 4 teaspoons canola oil, divided
  • 1 and 1/2 pounds frozen Gardein beefless tips (about 5 and 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 2 tablespoons peeled and minced fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon crushed aniseed*
  • 4 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 and 3/4 cups vegan beef broth (prepared from Not Beef bouillon)
  • 2 and 3/4 cups water
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon vegan brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon sherry**
  • 2 teaspoons chile paste with garlic***
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 cups (1-inch) peeled and cubed turnips
  • 1 and 1/2 cups baby carrots
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 8 cups fresh spinach
1. Heat 2 teaspoons of the canola oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add half of the beefless tips and cook for about 6 to 7 minutes, until browned.  Remove from the pan and repeat with the remaining 2 teaspoons oil and remaining beefless tips.  Remove from the pan.

2. Add the green onions, ginger, aniseed, and garlic; saute for 30 seconds.  Stir in the beef broth and scrape the pan to remove any browned bits.

3. Return the beefless tips to the pan, along with the water, soy sauce, brown sugar, sherry, chile paste, and cinnamon sticks. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 1 hour.

4. Stir in the turnips and carrots; simmer for an additional 45 minutes, until the veggies are tender.

5. In a small bowl, whisk together 1 tablespoon water and the cornstarch.  Add the cornstarch mixture to the pot and bring to a boil; cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently.

6. Add the spinach; cover and cook for a final 3 minutes - the spinach should be wilted.  Discard the cinnamon sticks before ladling into bowls.

Great accompaniments for this stew include warm French bread:

or Chinese noodles. Serve the noodles on the side, or add directly to the bowl:

*A mortar and pestle make quick work of crushing the aniseed, but you can also use a spice grinder.

**I prefer not to buy sherry for two reasons: a) because most companies filter their product through non-vegan ingredients, and it can be very hard to track down a bottle you're sure is vegan and b) because so many recipes call for just a tablespoon or so; because I'm not a sherry drinker, much of it goes to waste. Enter Napa Valley Natural's cooking sherry, which their FAQ specifies is vegan and which will keep for ages in the pantry.

***If you'd prefer more "hot" to your hot pot, use 3 teaspoons chile paste.

Nutrition Info:
6 servings (1 and 1/3 cups), Calories 359

Tasting Notes:
There is wonderful complexity to the broth - definitely spicy from the chile paste, but with hints of sweetness (the brown sugar and cinnamon), and great fresh ginger. The veggies are super tender and naturally sweet after cooking, which makes them the perfect foil for the savory beef. The spinach is a must, adding lovely freshness, and keeping this dish from seeming too heavy.  A bowl of pure comfort.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Pumpkin-Praline Custards

I couldn't let October end without making one more pumpkin recipe. Ok, I admit this time I'm cheating and using organic pureed pumpkin from a can, but if you want to have fun with fresh pumpkin, see my posts for Sugar-Roasted Pumpkin or Pumpkin, Pear, and Cranberry Gratin.  You'll have some of the canned pumpkin leftover after making these custards, so why not skip Starbucks and make a vegan pumpkin spice latte at home?

For the custards:
  • 1 and 1/2 cups vanilla soy milk
  • 3/4 cup canned pumpkin
  • 2/3 cup vegan sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 vegan eggs*
  • Cooking spray
For the praline:
  • 1/4 cup vegan sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
1. To prepare the custards, combine the soy milk, pumpkin, 2/3 cup sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, salt, and eggs in a bowl, whisking well until combined.

2. Divide the pumpkin mixture evenly among 6 (6-ounce) custard cups coated with cooking spray.  Place the cups in a 13x9-inch metal baking pan, and add hot water to the pan to a depth of 1 inch.

3. Bake at 325 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes - a knife inserted in the center of the custards should come out almost clean.

4. Remove the custard cups from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.  Cover and chill for at least 3 hours.

5. Meanwhile, prepare the praline: combine the remaining 1/4 cup sugar with the water in a small skillet.  Cook over medium-high heat heat for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden.

6. Remove from heat and stir in the pecans.  Immediately scrape the mixture onto a baking sheet coated with cooking spray, spreading evenly, and let cool completely before breaking into small pieces.

7. Sprinkle about 1 tablespoon praline over each custard to serve.

*Normally I would recommend Ener-G egg replacer for the eggs, but I found myself without some at home for the first time, and decided to try my hand at flax eggs (ground flaxseed blended with water). Although the results were fine, I think these custards would have set even better with Ener-G, so don't let yourself get caught in a pinch without it!

Nutrition Info:
6 servings (1 custard, about 1 tablespoon praline), Calories 220

Tasting Notes:
This was definitely a nice and different way to enjoy pumpkin in a dessert, but I was a little disappointed in the end result. The flavor was surprisingly bland, so I'd add more spice (and perhaps cloves in addition to the nutmeg and cinnamon), and I'd probably use tofu in place of the egg replacer to achieve a thicker and creamier final product. As is, this wasn't nearly as good as pumpkin pies I've baked, so I'll stick with pie next time. See my note on Ener-G eggs versus flaxseed eggs above, however, as that might have been part of the problem.


Monday, October 28, 2013

Warm Salad of Mustard Greens and Black-Eyed Peas

Kale is awesome of course, but if you've overdosed on this vegan superstar, try other leafy greens for a little variety. I very rarely buy mustard greens, so they were a nice change of pace in this warm salad. Mustard greens are loaded with folate, and they'll still have strong flavor and great texture even after wilting.

  • 2 chopped Lightlife bacon slices
  • Cooking spray
  • 12 cups torn mustard greens
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 2 teaspoons caraway seeds
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 seeded and chopped jalapeno pepper
  • 1 (16-ounce) rinsed and drained can black-eyed peas
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1. Cook the bacon in a large skillet coated with cooking spray over medium heat until crispy - about 5 to 6 minutes.  Remove from the pan.

2. Recoat the skillet with cooking spray and add the mustard greens; cook for 4 minutes, until the greens wilt.

3. Combine the wilted greens in a large bowl with the salt and black pepper; set aside.

4. Heat the olive oil in the pan, and add the green onions, caraway seeds, garlic, and jalapeno; cook for 1 minute.

5. Add the black-eyed peas and cook for 1 minute.  Stir in the balsamic vinegar and bring to a boil.

6. Once boiling, remove from heat and add the black-eyed pea mixture to the greens.  Sprinkle with the chopped bacon.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (3/4 cup), Calories 168

Tasting Notes:
At first bite, I felt that the balsamic was too strong. But as I continued eating, I decided it needs to be exactly as is, in order to stand up to the pungent and strongly-flavored mustard greens.  The black-eyed peas felt a little bland, but at the same time that meant they provided a nice, neutral background for the greens. I loved the caraway flavor, but I would add another bacon slice or two and leave out the jalapeno next time. 


Friday, October 25, 2013

Burghul bi Jibn wal Batinjan (Bulgur with Cheese and Eggplant)

I'm ashamed to admit that I've rarely used bulgur beyond tabbouleh, and it felt about time to remedy that situation; it's one of those great grains loaded with iron, protein, and fiber, so makes a great base for a vegan entree. This particular dish is actually a Syrian recipe, a cuisine I've never tried before. I recommend coarse-ground bulgur, although medium-ground would work - just don't choose the finely-ground variety. This particular dish would normally be made with halumi cheese, but Follow Your Heart's Vegan Gourmet mozzarella makes a nice alternative.

  • 6 ounces Vegan Gourmet mozzarella
  • 6 cups (1-inch) cubed eggplant
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 4 cups vertically sliced onion
  • 2 cups uncooked coarse-ground bulgur
  • 3 and 1/4 cups boiling water
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1. Dice the cheese; set aside.

2. Place the eggplant in a colander and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt, tossing well.  Let stand for 20 minutes to drain.  Rinse, pat dry with paper towels, and set aside.

3. Meanwhile, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onion; saute for 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until golden brown.

4. Add the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, the bulgur, boiling water, and black pepper.  Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes - the liquid should be absorbed.

5. Heat an additional teaspoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the eggplant; saute for 10 minutes, until browned.

Note: Since you're only using a teaspoon of olive oil here, be sure to watch closely and stir often enough that the eggplant doesn't stick to the pan.

6. Combine the diced cheese, bulgur mixture, eggplant, and remaining 2 teaspoons oil in a Dutch oven, tossing well.  Place over medium heat for 5 minutes.

The dish will be best served hot.

Nutrition Info:
6 servings (1 and 1/2 cups), Calories 325 

Tasting Notes:
The olive oil stirred in right at the end makes this a good bit oilier than the food I normally eat, making it feel indulgent and rich. Nutty bulgur, eggplant that is tender to perfection, and delightful tidbits of cheese all make this recipe a keeper. I would caramelize the onions way down next time though - closer to 30 minutes, with a touch of vegan sugar added - before proceeding to the next step.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Marinara Sauce

Make it a classic Italian pasta night with this homemade marinara sauce. There are differences of opinion on where 'marinara' sauce got its name. Mare means the sea, so the name may originally have referred to the fact that sailors could easily make this sauce with ingredients they had on hand - tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil. No need for vegans to worry though - marinara sauce contains no seafood.

The effort in this version goes into peeling and chopping all those tomatoes, but after that the sauce just needs to simmer mostly hands-free. For a step-by-step guide on peeling tomatoes, see my post for Summer Tomato-and-Carrot Soup.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 6 cups coarsely chopped and peeled tomato
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 8 cups hot cooked spaghetti
1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.

2. Add the tomato, salt, and black pepper.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Stir in the basil and parsley, and cook for a final minute.

4. Meanwhile, prepare the spaghetti (start with 1 pound uncooked pasta to yield 8 cups).  Serve about 1 cup sauce over 1 and 1/3 cups pasta on each of 6 plates or bowls. 

Nutrition Info:
6 servings (1 and 1/3 cups pasta, 1 cup sauce), Calories 384

Tasting Notes:
Exactly as fresh and light as I hoped - not at all heavy or salty like canned sauces can be. I'd use a touch less black pepper and a touch more fresh basil, and then the balance here would be perfect. The portion above yields just a light coating of sauce over each serving of pasta, so use a ratio of less pasta and more sauce if you prefer.


Monday, October 21, 2013

Chicken-Fruit Salad

The mix of savory vegan chicken strips (Beyond Meat or Gardein both work well here) and sweet fruit makes this a different and fun salad. You can make the dressing ahead of time (up to a week), and refrigerate until ready to dress the salad.

For the dressing:
  • 1/3 cup agave nectar
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar*
  • 1/4 cup plain non-dairy yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
For the salad:
  • 1 (10-ounce) package Italian-blend salad greens
  • 2 cups grilled vegan chicken strips
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 cup quartered strawberries
  • 1 cup sliced banana
  • 1 cup peeled and sliced kiwifruit
  • 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts**
  • 1 ounce prepared vegan herbed goat cheese***
1. To prepare the dressing, combine all ingredients listed under 'Dressing' and whisk well to combine.

Note: If you prefer to use this dressing with a different salad, stop reading right here. The recipe yields 3/4 cup, enough for 4 servings (3 tablespoons) of 120 calories each.

2. To prepare the salad, arrange about 1 and 1/2 cups salad greens on each of 4 plates.

3. Divide the chicken, blueberries, strawberries, banana, kiwi, pine nuts, and prepared goat cheese evenly among the plates.

4. Top each serving with 3 tablespoons dressing.

For a quick midday meal or brunch, try serving with poppy seed muffins - I love the ones from Everyday Gourmet, a 100% vegan bakery.

*If you prefer to play up the fruit theme even more, use raspberry vinegar in place of the red wine vinegar

**Toast the pine nuts in a small skillet over medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes. Shake or stir frequently, so the nuts don't burn.

***To prepare the goat cheese, combine 1 ounce crumbled Veg Cuisine Mediterranean Herb feta, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons vegan cream cheese, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons vegan mayonnaise, and a splash of lemon juice. Mash with a fork until well blended.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (1 portion), Calories 332

Tasting Notes:
Take note: the dressing is sweet. However, that makes it a perfect foil to the bitterness of Italian greens (like radicchio), but I'd recommend caution if employing the dressing elsewhere. The salad is full of delightful tidbits (that feels the best way to describe it), my favorites being the blueberries, toasted nuts, and bananas. I'd definitely add more chicken per serving, to make this a heartier entree portion, and also just crumble vegan feta over the top next time instead of taking the extra step to prepare vegan goat cheese.