Monday, February 28, 2011

Indian-Style Potatoes

This highly scented dish is very versatile - serve it as a side dish the next time you have chickpea curry or lentil dal for dinner (or any other Indian-themed entree) or make it the centerpiece of the meal, and add Indian flatbread and a simple side salad.

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 pound green beans, trimmed*
  • 4 cups (1/4-inch) strips peeled baking potato (about 2 small or 1 large)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind (optional for garnish)
1. Heat the canola oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add the mustard seeds, salt, crushed red pepper, turmeric, dry mustard, and garlic; saute for 1 minute (the mustard seeds should pop about in the pan).  Add the green beans and potato; cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the water and lemon juice; cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 10 minutes - the potato should be tender by the end.

2. Garnish with the lemon rind, if desired, for a pretty presentation.

*I just learned the proper way to trim green beans, after years of doing so incorrectly.  You only want to trim the tough end, by lining the green beans up on a cutting board and chopping with a knife.  Leave the other end - with the pretty tapered tip - intact.

A note when buying Indian flatbread: commercially available naan is almost sure to have milk or butter in it.  But chapatis are a great safe bet for vegans - they will almost always consist of just three ingredients: whole wheat flour, water, and oil. 

Nutrition Info:
3 servings (about 2 cups), Calories 246 

Tasting Notes:
Although the spice mix was delicious, there were a few reasons I didn't love this dish.  First, the green beans were wonderfully crisp, and the potatoes were wonderfully tender... but the two were an odd contrast to each other.  I feel that the green beans need to be cooked separately first, so they are tender like the potatoes.  I also didn't love the overall combination of the two vegetables - until I wrapped them up in a chapati.  With the bread acting as a binder, the flavor cohered better.  You might consider chopping both the green beans and potatoes into smaller pieces, and either rolling up in flatbread, or serving directly over rice.   


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Lion's Head Meatballs in Spicy Coconut Sauce

These meatballs get their name because they are large like a lion's head; I'm making the dish a bit late in the month, as it is an auspicious dish to eat around the Chinese New Year, since lion's are said to ward off evil.  Still, my fiance has been begging me to try a vegan meatball, so I thought it would be fun to give it a go tonight.

For the sauce:
  • 1/2 cup light coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup soy milk
  • 2 tablespoons peeled and minced fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons minced hot red chile pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped green onions
  • 2 tablespoons vegan fish sauce*
For the meatballs:
  • 14 ounces vegan ground beef (such as Lightlife)** 
  • 1/3 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/4 cup chopped water chestnuts
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon minced hot red chile pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
1. To make the sauce, combine the coconut milk, soy milk, 2 tablespoons ginger, 2 teaspoons red chile pepper, 1 tablespoon green onions, and the fish sauce in a bowl; set aside.

2. To make the meatballs, combine the ground beef, 1/3 cup green onions, the water chestnuts, the cornstarch, the flour, 1 tablespoon ginger, the soy sauce, the sesame oil, 1 teaspoon red chile pepper, and the salt in a large bowl; mix with your hands, then shape the mixture into 8 meatballs.

3. Heat the canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the meatballs and cook for 7 minutes, turning frequently so they brown on all sides.  Transfer to paper towels to drain.

4. Place the coconut sauce in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Add the meatballs, then cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 8 minutes.  Garnish with the basil and lemon rind.  Good side dishes for these hearty meatballs include stir-fried vegetables, sticky rice, miso soup, or rice noodles.  I also enjoyed mine with a cup of ginseng tea as a beverage, instead of water, since hot tea is often served with the main meal in China.  However, if you want a good wine to pair with all the flavor going on in this dish, try the Les Enfants Terrible Zinfandel from Dashe - it is unfined and unfiltered, so a good vegan option, and the fruitiness will work with the ginger and spices.

*I cannot tell you how long and hard I have agonized over the paradox that is vegan fish sauce.  I have considered (and read online) everything from simply substituting soy sauce, to using shiitake mushroom stir-fry sauce, to using vegan Worcestershire sauce (itself a British attempt to recreate fish sauce), to using the liquid from soaking dried shiitake mushrooms, to using a vegan version of dashi (fish stock) flavored with seaweed instead of bonito flakes, to using a mixture of soy sauce and lime juice to add a little funk - and on and on and on.

Finally, I turned up the following recipe online yesterday, and was absolutely thrilled with the result.  You'll recall that real fish sauce is nothing more than anchovies, water, and salt, left to ferment and get all funky over time, and I felt that the recipe below captured that essence best.  It also works out to be nutritionally equivalent to real fish sauce (about 5 calories per tablespoon), which I think is an important consideration whenever I veganize a non-vegan food. 

To make your vegan fish sauce at home, combine 1 and 1/3 cups water, 2/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce, 6 (1 and 1/2-inch) pieces dried kelp, and 1 sun-dried tomato (packed without oil) in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Once boiling, strain through a sieve; discard the solids.  Cool to room temperature, then transfer to a jar and store in the fridge.  Take one whiff of this and the lovely, ocean-y smell of the seaweed will make you think it's fish sauce after all. 

**If you prefer, you can also make these meatballs with vegan pork, which is closer to how authentic lion's head meatballs are prepared.  In that case, use 12 ounces thawed Match pork in the recipe above.

Nutrition Info:
8 servings (1 meatball, 3 tablespoons sauce), Calories 297 

Tasting Notes:
There was a lot going on in these meatballs.  From the ginger, to the hot chile pepper, to the green onions, to the coconut, my taste buds were popping.  My only complaint?  With everything else bundled in, I could have used a little more 'meat' in my meatballs!  I would recommend adding another half package of vegan Lightlife ground beef (so 18 ounces total), if you want meatier meatballs.  Still, delicious.  Use a touch less red pepper if you don't want them too spicy.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Lentil Stew with Ham and Greens

This is a thick, hearty stew, tailor-made for a winter night.

  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • 5 cups vegan chicken broth (prepared from Not Chick'n bouillon)
  • 1 cup dried lentils
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrot
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 cups chopped Swiss chard*
  • 1 and 1/2 cups chopped baking potato
  • 1 cup chopped vegan ham (such as Lightlife)
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) drained can diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and garlic; saute for 5 minutes.  Add the chicken broth, lentils, carrot, and bay leaves; bring to a boil, then partially cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes.

2. Add the Swiss chard, potato, and ham; return to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.  Stir in the canned tomatoes, the basil, the thyme, and the black pepper; simmer for a final 10 minutes.  Discard the bay leaves, and sprinkle the stew with the parsley.

Note: because the flavors of this soup - particularly the lentils and ham - are reminiscent of northern European cuisine, serve with wine from a similar region.  A (vegan) dry Riesling from Alsace or Germany marries beautifully with the stew.  All you then need to round out the meal are some French bread rolls and sliced cucumbers drizzled with bottled dressing. 

*Depending what looks freshest at your market, or what your taste buds prefer, you could substitute an equal amount of collard greens or fresh spinach for the Swiss chard.

Nutrition Info:
5 servings (about 1 and 1/2 cups), Calories 320

Tasting Notes:
The smokiness from the vegan ham absolutely infused this broth and the stew in general, resulting in a delicious final product, and intensified the earthiness of the lentils. So yum!  My only complaint is that, once wilted, the Swiss chard felt like an afterthought.  Given the fact that the word 'Greens' is in the stew's title, I would have liked a bit more, and would recommend increasing the amount of whatever greens you choose to use.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tomato Salad with Lemon and Agave

Earlier in the month I roasted tomatoes, which is one method to perk them up even in the middle of winter.  Tonight, I used marinating as the technique instead - adding lemon and agave will brighten the flavor of the tomatoes right up.

  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon agave nectar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 and 1/2 cups chopped and seeded tomato
  • 2 teaspoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 thinly sliced lemon (optional for garnish)
1. Combine the lemon rind, lemon juice, olive oil, agave, salt, and black pepper in a medium bowl.  Add the tomato and parsley, tossing gently to coat; let marinate for 15 minutes.  Arrange on a platter and garnish with the sliced lemon if desired, for a pretty presentation.

You can serve this quick dish as a side salad, or it's lovely right on top of vegan chicken or ecoVegan fish fillets as more of a condiment.

Nutrition Info:
9 servings (1/2 cup), Calories 40 

Tasting Notes:
You could have fooled me into thinking it was mid-summer in my apartment tonight, not late February!  The tomato flavor was so fresh, just from the few simple ingredients in the marinade.  The lemon and olive oil flavors were luscious, and the parsley a surprisingly stronger and lovelier addition than I anticipated.  The only flavor that got a touch lost was the agave.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Longevity Noodles

I ought to have made this dish earlier in the month, to correspond with Chinese New Year (the long noodles are said to represent a long and happy life, around the celebration), but better late than never.

For the peanut sauce:
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced onion
  • 1 teaspoon peeled and grated fresh ginger
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 1/2 cup soy milk
  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
For the marinade:
  • 1 tablespoon vegan dry white wine*
  • 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons peeled and grated fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 Gardein Tuscan chicken breasts (without sauce)
For the noodles:
  • 8 ounces uncooked thin spaghetti**
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup trimmed snow peas
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced carrot
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup diagonally sliced green onions
1. To prepare the peanut sauce, heat the canola oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, 1 teaspoon grated ginger, and the garlic; saute for 5 minutes.  Stir in the soy milk, peanut butter, and lemon juice, and cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and cool completely.

2. To prepare the marinade, combine the white wine, soy sauce, 2 teaspoons grated ginger, cornstarch, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper in a bowl.  Cut the Gardein chicken into thin strips, and add to the marinade, tossing to coat.  Cover and marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, cook the thin spaghetti according to package directions.  Drain and rinse; set aside.

4. To put it all together, heat a large skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat.  Add the marinated chicken and saute for 2 minutes.  Add the snow peas and carrot; saute for 4 minutes.  Stir in the peanut sauce, the salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.  Add the cooked spaghetti, and toss well to combine.  Sprinkle with the green onions. 

*To make the most of the white wine, use a little bit for cooking and serve the rest of the bottle with dinner.  Wine can be tricky to pair with the flavors in this dish, but I really enjoyed a Pouilly Fume, with notes of herbs and lime that complimented the noodles well.

**Do make the effort to seek out thin spaghetti rather than regular spaghetti, since the longer, thinner noodles are in the spirit of this dish.  One option to try: Brad's Organic. 

Nutrition Info:
8 servings (1/2 cup), Calories 213

Tasting Notes:
Although I enjoyed the flavors in this dish - particularly the ginger and the peanut - I found that the sauce was a bit dry and sticky, and that there was an overall lack of spice or seasoning.  You might try dressing up the dish with some hot sauce, or thinning the sauce with more soy milk to address these critiques.  As it is currently, I can't quite say it was worth the effort for the final product.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Rich Chocolate Sauce

Here's my final chocolate fix to get you through February (following on the heels of my posts for Chocolate Bundt Cake and Cocoa Fudge Cookies).  This sauce is incredibly versatile, and is just as at home over fresh fruit as it is over your favorite vegan ice cream. 

  • 1/2 cup vegan sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coco
  • 1 cup plain non-dairy milk
  • 1 tablespoon vegan butter
  • 1.5 ounces chopped dark chocolate
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Combine the sugar and cocoa in a small saucepan; stir in the milk and butter.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly, then continue to cook for 3 minutes, still stirring constantly.

2. Remove from heat and add the dark chocolate and the vanilla extract. stirring until the chocolate melts.  You can serve this warm right away, or let it stand for about 10 minutes to thicken.

Note: when choosing dark chocolate, I love supporting the Endangered Species chocolate company, since part of their profits go towards supporting animals. Use a variety that is about 70% cacao to keep the sauce semisweet, instead of bitter.

Nutrition Info:
12 servings (2 tablespoons), Calories 73

Tasting Notes:
Soooo yummy!  The sauce wasn't overly sweet, which I really liked because it let the taste of the chocolate shine through rather than the taste of sugar.  It was rich and creamy and thick - amazing for dunking pieces of strawberry and banana.  I would go so far as to say this is better than the vegan commercial chocolate sauces I've tried.  A definite keeper! If you want a double-chocolate dose, drizzle the sauce over the vegan chocolate cake from Amy's.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Roasted Tomatoes with Shallots and Herbs

This time of winter is right about when I start to crave the fresh produce of spring and summer - veggies so bursting with flavor they require almost no alteration.  To satisfy a winter craving for tomatoes, try this easy recipe; the roasting intensifies and concentrates the flavor, so that you won't mind the fact that it's a winter-weary hothouse tomato, instead of one fresh off the vine.

  • 4 medium tomatoes (about 2 pounds total)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/4 cup minced shallot
  • 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
1. Cut the tomatoes in half horizontally, and core and seed the halves.  Sprinkle the cut sides of the tomatoes with 1/4 teaspoon salt, then place, cut sides down, on paper towels; let stand for 20 minutes.

2. Place the tomatoes, cut sides up, in a 13x9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.  Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, the shallots, the parsley, the oregano, the thyme, the rosemary, and the black pepper.  Drizzle with the olive oil.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes. 

The tomatoes are great alongside vegan chicken (whichever brand you like) or, if you're feeling adventurous, alongside the vegan fish fillets I've just discovered from a company called ecoVegan (pictured below).

Note: If the herbs at your market look just as winter-weary as the tomatoes, you can substitute dried herbs from your spice cabinet, in which case use 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, and 1/8 teaspoon dried rosemary.  I do recommend seeking out fresh herbs, however, since they add a wonderful note of fresh flavor.

Nutrition Info:
8 servings (1 tomato half), Calories 38 

Tasting Notes:
These tomatoes are a great recipe to have in your collection for a simple weeknight, but not, perhaps, worthy of special occasions.  Rich, concentrated flavor from roasting brought out a surprising pop of sweetness in the tomatoes, and the herb mix was good though not extraordinary.  That said, I may revisit the recipe next week - I have a cold tonight which is dampening my taste buds.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Vegetarians' Delight

My apologies for so long without a new post.  I've been eating leftovers, and enjoyed a delicious vegan Valentine's dinner out last night at Gustorganics.  This NYC restaurant is 100% certified organic, including all of their wines and cocktails, with plenty of vegan options for me and 100% grass-fed free range meat for my carnivorous fiance.

But moving on to tonight's post.  I had a craving for Chinese, and thought I'd test out this stir-fry recipe.  Back when I first became a vegetarian (though not yet vegan), vegetarian or Buddha's delight was my go-to dish on Chinese take-out night. Later on, I worried that restaurants might add fish sauce or oyster sauce, or just stir-fry the veggies in woks that weren't completely devoted to vegetables.  Luckily, it's easy to make your own version at home. Aside from a little prep work, you can have this on the table in a snap.

  • Cooking spray
  • 2 teaspoons peeled and minced fresh ginger
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 cup diced oyster mushroom caps
  • 1 (8-ounce) package Thai-style baked tofu (such as West Soy)
  • 1/2 cup (3-inch) julienne-cut carrot
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn kernels
  • 1/2 cup canned whole water chestnuts
  • 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons rice vinegar
  • 2/3 cup (3-inch) julienne-cut green onions
  • 1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
1. Heat a large skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat (or if you have a wok, now is the time to use it).  Add the ginger and garlic; stir-fry for 30 seconds.  Cut the tofu block into julienne strips and add to the pan, along with the mushrooms; stir-fry for 2 minutes.  Add the carrot, corn, and water chestnuts; stir-fry for 1 minute. Stir in the soy sauce and rice vinegar; cook for 2 minutes.  Stir in the green onions, the sesame oil, the black pepper, and salt.  Serve!

Serve with any other Chinese food you like, whether store-bought or homemade. I added a miso soup bowl and vegan mushroom-flavored meatballs. 

Nutrition Info:
8 servings (1/2 cup), Calories 91 

Tasting Notes:
This was quite yummy, and I appreciated that the sauce was flavorful but not heavy.  However, I actually would have preferred a little bit more sauce clinging to each bite, and I would alter the ratios in the dish slightly; notably I think it could have used a little less tofu, and more mushrooms (perhaps even several varieties) and some broccoli or snow peas thrown in!  Play around with whatever veggies you like until you get the mix you prefer.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Seafood Fettuccine

A year or so ago, I wouldn't have even known it was possible to veganize a recipe like this.  Luckily, I've since discovered three amazing products - vegan shrimp (from Vegetarian Plus), vegan scallops (from Vibrant Life), and vegan crab (from Match meats).  You can purchase all three at, if not available at a store near you.  Do remember that both the shrimp and crab are sold frozen, and need to be thawed in advance of this recipe.  The sauce on this dish is like a fettuccine Alfredo, but not quite so heavy, making for a great supper with a glass of crisp white (vegan) wine.

  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons vegan butter
  • 1 cup chopped green onions
  • 4 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 pound Vegetarian Plus shrimp, thawed
  • 1 pound drained canned vegan scallops
  • 2 cups plain non-dairy creamer
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 8 ounces Match crab, thawed
  • 3/4 cup grated vegan cheese, divided
  • 8 cups hot cooked fettuccine (about 1 pound uncooked)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the green onions and garlic; saute for 1 minute.  Add the shrimp and scallops; saute for 3 minutes.  Reduce the heat to medium-low.

2. Add the non-dairy creamer, the salt, the black pepper, and the crab; cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly (do not let the mixture boil).  Gradually sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the cheese, stirring constantly, and continue to cook for 1 minute.

Note: the original recipe called for Parmesan, and I briefly considered using the Parmesan sprinkles from Galaxy Foods.  However, the sprinkles have a very strong, concentrated flavor. With such a large quantity called for, I opted for the vegan mozzarella from Galaxy Foods instead.

3. Remove from heat and combine the seafood mixture with the cooked fettuccine in a large bowl.  Place 1 and 1/2 cups of pasta on each of 8 plates; top each serving with 1 and 1/2 teaspoons additional grated cheese, and 1 and 1/2 teaspoons parsley.

Nutrition Info:
8 servings (1 and 1/2 cups pasta, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons cheese, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons parsley), Calories 438

Tasting Notes:
This pasta was deliciously seafood-y, which is still a jolt to my taste buds after so long without the real thing, and yet also quite fun.  The weakest point here is the scallops, which aren't as authentic yet as their shrimp and crab counterpoints.  In particular, I loved the way that the crab gave a nice fishy-ness to every bite, since it broke down into small pieces during cooking.  As the recipe had promised, the cream sauce was rich without being too heavy.  Don't skip the parsley on top; the added bit of green and freshness is a welcome contrast to the rich pasta - you could even increase the amount per serving if you like.  I might add some green peas, to increase the vegetable quotient.


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Cocoa Fudge Cookies

I needed another chocolate fix today, and these easy cookies fit the bill.  Mixing the batter right in the saucepan makes for easy clean-up, too.

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons vegan butter
  • 7 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 2/3 cup vegan sugar
  • 1/3 cup packed vegan brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup plain non-dairy yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Lightly spoon the flour into a dry measuring cup and level with a knife.  Combine the flour with the baking soda and salt; set aside.

2. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Remove from heat and stir in the cocoa, sugar, and brown sugar (the mixture will look like coarse - chocolate-y! - sand).  Stir in the yogurt and vanilla extract until combined.  Stir in the flour mixture, just until moist.

3. Drop the batter by level tablespoonfuls onto 2 baking sheets, 12 cookies per sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart.  Don't be at all afraid to neaten up the cookie dough into balls with your fingers - the rounder they are on your baking sheet, the more perfectly circular they will be after baking.

4. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes - the cookies will be almost set.  Cool on the pans for 2 to 3 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  The perfect accompaniment to these yummy cookies?  A big glass of your favorite non-dairy milk.

Nutrition Info:
24 servings (1 cookie), Calories 78 

Tasting Notes:
Amazing.  These little cookies belie their unassuming appearance, short list of ingredients, and the ease with which they come together.  I had read reviews that said they are like a cross between a cookie and a brownie, and that is exactly right; crisp on the outside, decadently soft and chewy on the inside... I would change absolutely nothing about this recipe.


Monday, February 7, 2011

Spicy Green and Red Pork Tostadas

This was a fun recipe to make, and worth the effort even though it was a little complicated.  Don't forget to thaw the Match pork ahead of time - it will need at least 12 hours in the fridge.

For the pork:
  • 1 tablespoon ground red pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 18 ounces Match pork, thawed
For the salsa:
  • 3 cups chopped yellow onion
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
  • 1/2 cup rinsed and drained canned black beans
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1 cup green salsa
  • 1/2 cup diced red apple
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
For the remaining ingredients:
  • 8 (6-inch) corn tortillas
  • 1/2 cup shredded vegan Monterey Jack cheese (such as Vegan Gourmet)
1. Combine the ground red pepper, oregano, salt, and black pepper.  Rub the mixture evenly over the pork.  Pat the pork to about 1-inch thickness on a baking sheet; bake at 400 degrees for 17 minutes - the outside should just be crispy.  Let cool until cool enough to handle, then pull apart by hand; set aside.

2. To make the salsa, heat a skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and garlic; saute for 2 minutes.  Add the red bell pepper, corn, black beans, crushed red pepper, hot sauce, and green salsa; reduce the heat to low and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the apple and cilantro, and cook for a final 5 minutes.

3. Heat the corn tortillas according to package directions.  Top each tortilla with about 1/2 cup of the pork and 1/2 cup of the salsa, and sprinkle each tostada with 1 tablespoon Monterey Jack.

Note: the nutrition values below account for everything up to here, but don't stop there.  If you like, you can also top the tostadas with shredded lettuce, chopped tomato, extra shredded cheese, Tofutti sour cream, or an extra dollop of salsa.  I especially recommend the sour cream to cut the spiciness of the pork rub.

Nutrition Info:
8 servings (1 tostada), Calories 286 

Tasting Notes:
Spicy!  I actually recommend cutting the amount of ground red pepper in the pork rub, since it detracted from the more delicate flavors in the salsa - the apple, corn, and black beans in particular, all of which I wished I could taste more.  This was my first time shredding Match pork, however, and I was delighted with the results - really crispy on the outside, and tender on the inside; definitely something to keep in mind for summer barbecues or pulled pork sandwiches.  I also kept my overall rating lower because I would have enjoyed it better in flour tortillas than corn ones.

Update: I actually preferred these reheated for lunch the next day.  The spices in the rub seemed to have mellowed somewhat over 24 hours, allowing me to savor the full flavor of the salsa, and enjoy the texture of the pork better.


Sunday, February 6, 2011

Chocolate Bundt Cake

Chocolate is just about the best comfort food out there.  Have a slice of this decadent cake after dinner to cure the winter blues - or keep it in mind for a chocolate treat on Valentine's Day next week.

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup vegan sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup vegan butter
  • 3 Ener-G eggs
  • 1/2 cup plain non-dairy milk
  • 2 teaspoons instant espresso granules
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Cooking spray
1. Lightly spoon the flour into a dry measuring cup and level with a knife.  Combine the flour in the bowl of a stand mixer with the sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.  Add the butter and Ener-G eggs, and beat for 1 minute at low speed, then beat for 1 minute at high speed.  Add the milk, espresso granules and vanilla extract; beat for a final minute.

2. Pour the batter into a 6-cup Bundt pan coated with cooking spray, and bake at 350 degrees until a wooden pick inserted near the center comes out clean - it can take anywhere from 35 to 40 minutes depending on your oven, so monitor the last few minutes of baking carefully.  I pulled mine out at the 37 minute mark.

3. Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

Note: A 6-cup Bundt pan is smaller than the standard size you probably already have in your kitchen, so don't make the mistake of using the wrong size.  If you can't find a 6-cup Bundt pan, use a regular 9-inch round cake pan instead.

Nutrition Info:
10 servings (1 piece), Calories 192 

Tasting Notes:
This cake tasted and smelled like the chocolate cake donuts I remember eating in my youth, albeit with a less dense texture.  It was rich and chocolate-y without being overly so.  Although the cake was delicious, I didn't elevate to a 5 because I felt it needed a dollop of chocolate sauce, a berry sauce, or some berries on the side to round out the flavor profile.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Chicken-Ginseng Soup

I'm making tonight's recipe in honor of Chinese New Year, which starts tomorrow.  Coincidentally, I spent the day in a cleaning-out frenzy in my apartment, and only later read that one Chinese New Year tradition is to purge your house of the old, and make space for the new.  I used frozen corn here in the depths of winter, but you could try with fresh corn if making this soup in the spring or summer.  But for tonight - happy year of the Rabbit!

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons peeled and diced fresh ginger
  • 6 minced garlic cloves
  • 3 Gardein Tuscan chicken breasts (without sauce)
  • 3 cups water
  • 42 ounces vegan chicken broth (prepared from Not Chick'n bouillon)
  • 3 cups frozen yellow corn kernels
  • 4 bags ginseng tea*
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1. Heat the canola oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, ginger, and garlic; saute for 2 minutes.  Chop the Gardein chicken into 1-inch pieces and add the chicken to the pan; saute for 4 minutes.

2. Add the water and broth; bring to a boil.  Add the corn and tea bags; return to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.   Sprinkle with the salt and white pepper at the end of cooking.

To round out your Chinese New Year meal, add some sticky rice and simple garlic broccoli on the side: heat 2 teaspoons sesame oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, and add 8 cups broccoli florets and 3 minced garlic cloves; saute for 4 minutes.  Add 1/2 cup vegan chicken broth and 2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce; reduce heat, cover, and cook for a final 5 minutes, until the broccoli is tender.  I also enjoyed leftovers of the soup for lunch the next day with tamari-flavored rice cakes on the side. 

*Ginseng tea was much harder to find than I anticipated, and required trips to several grocery stores.  Another option - although perhaps equally hard to find - is to use 2 sliced ginseng roots in place of the tea bags.

Nutrition Info:
8 servings (1 and 1/2 cups), Calories 188 

Tasting Notes:
I felt like I was out at a Chinese restaurant the instant I lifted my spoon to my mouth.  The soup felt midway between the broth of an egg drop soup and a hot steaming cup of the tea that always accompanies a Chinese dinner.  I can't say I've had ginseng enough to distinguish it precisely on my taste buds, but I absolutely loved the hints of ginger and the silkiness of the broth.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Baked Compote of Winter Fruit

February may look like the shortest month of the year, but I'm always convinced that it takes the longest to end, as we wait for winter to depart and spring to arrive.  Cozy, warming food is the key to getting through these last few weeks of winter, and this dessert fits the bill!  Serve it after a dinner of a hearty bowl of lentil soup and warm bread, and you'll soon forget your winter blues.

  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1 and 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 cup vegan port (such as Casal dos Jordeos)
  • 1/2 cup apple cider
  • 1/3 cup vegan sugar
  • 1 (1-inch) lemon rind strip
  • 4 cups peeled and sliced Golden Delicious apple
  • 2 cups (1/4-inch thick) Anjou pear wedges*
  • Cooking spray
  • 3 cups vanilla non-dairy ice cream
1. Spread the applesauce into a 1/2-inch thick layer on several layers of paper towels.  Cover with additional paper towels and let stand for 5 minutes, then scrape the applesauce into a bowl with a spatula; set aside.

2. Combine the cranberries, port, cider, sugar, and lemon rind in a small saucepan.  Bring to a simmer, then remove from heat and stir in the applesauce.

3. Combine the apples and pears in an 11x7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.  Pour the cranberry mixture over the apple mixture, then cover and bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.  Uncover and bake an additional 10 minutes, basting occasionally with the cooking liquid.  Discard the lemon rind.

4. Serve 1 cup compote on each of 6 dessert plates, and top each serving with 1/2 cup vanilla non-dairy ice cream of your choice.

As mentioned, I recommend lentil stew and warm bread for dinner first. All in all, a cozy night in the kitchen.

*Make sure to chose Anjou pear that is still firm; a ripe pear will cook too far down instead of holding on to its shape.

Nutrition Info:
6 servings (1 cup compote, 1/2 cup ice cream), Calories 260 

Tasting Notes:
This was yummy, though it could have been better; the apples and pears were tender to perfection, but I found the cranberries to be a bit too tart.  I would recommend cooking the cranberry mixture until the cranberries pop and grow sweeter, or adding more sugar, or both.  The best part of the dish was spooning up the last bits of melted ice cream mixed with sauce - it tasted like the cream cheese and jelly sandwich filling I remember from childhood!