Friday, April 29, 2011

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes

I'm having breakfast for dinner tonight, a guilty pleasures that feels fun on occasion. Vegan buttermilk, made with non-dairy milk and lemon juice, adds an amazing, fluffy texture to these pancakes.

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3 tablespoons vegan sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 and 1/2 cups vegan buttermilk*
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 2 Ener-G eggs
  • Cooking spray
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup
  • 3 tablespoons vegan butter
1. Lightly spoon the all-purpose flour and whole wheat flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife.  Combine the flours in a bowl with the sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  In a bowl, combine the buttermilk, canola oil, and Ener-G eggs, stirring with a whisk.  Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture, and stir just until moist.

2. Heat a griddle coated with cooking spray over medium heat.  Spoon 1/4 cup of the batter per pancake onto the griddle - you'll have enough batter for 12 pancakes, so work in batches to avoid overcrowding the griddle if necessary.  Flip the pancakes over when bubbles cover the surface (after about 3 to 4 minutes), then cook for about 1 to 2 minutes on the other side.  Serve with the maple syrup and the butter.  For the best flavor, I recommend warming the maple syrup briefly in the microwave (about 30 seconds).

Note: if working in batches, keep the already-made pancakes warm in the oven at 200 degrees until ready to serve.

To round out my "breakfast for dinner," I added a quick fresh fruit salad on the side: combine 3 cups sliced strawberries, 1 cup blueberries, and 1 cup sliced banana in a bowl.  Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon vegan sugar, tossing to combine, then chill in the fridge while you prepare the pancakes.

Another fun addition to the meal is chai tea - although you can certainly steep chai teabags in hot water, I highly recommend the vegan chai concentrate from Oregon Chai (available online at  Mix with your favorite non-dairy milk for a delicious hot drink. 

On another note, tonight was the first night I got to play with my new Cuisinart Griddler.  This countertop appliance has reversible plates, so you can cook on a smooth griddle surface or a ridged grill, depending on your recipe.  The griddle worked amazingly for these pancakes, and I intend to try out the grill side of the machine next time, so keep an eye out for a grilling post soon.

*To prepare the buttermilk, place 1 and 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice in a liquid measuring cup.  Fill with your favorite non-dairy milk to equal 1 and 1/2 cups.  Let stand for about 5 minutes to clabber (sour) the mixture before proceeding with the recipe.  You definitely don't want to skip this step; it is the acidity from the lemon juice that reacts with baking soda to make the pancakes as light and fluffy as they are. Plain soy, almond, or rice milk alone won't have the same effect.

Nutrition Info: 
6 servings (2 pancakes, 2 tablespoons maple syrup, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons butter), Calories 351 

Tasting Notes:
Woah.  Just about the fluffiest, lightest pancakes I've ever had.  They needed absolutely no embellishment and no changes - they were just gobble-'em-up good.  The butter and maple syrup were super indulgent, and the addition of whole wheat flour added a nice, complex taste.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Zesty Tofu Wraps with Olive Tapenade

These yummy wraps make a great weeknight supper, or brown bag lunch.  I recommend making two batches of the tapenade; leftovers will keep in the fridge for up to a week, and would be great as a sandwich spread or an appetizer served on crusty bread, later in the week.

For the tapenade:
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
  • 1/4 cup pitted oil-cured black olives
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
For the wraps:
  • 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes halves, packed without oil
  • 1 pound extra-firm tofu
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 and 1/3 cups (1/4-inch thick) sliced red onion
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon agave nectar
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 4 (9-inch) flour tortillas
  • 4 cups trimmed watercress
1. To prepare the tapenade, place the kalamata olives, oil-cured olives, lemon rind, and olive oil in a food processor - pulse until minced (anywhere from 2 to 10 pulses, depending on your food processor).  Set aside.

2. In a bowl, combine 2 cups boiling water and the sun-dried tomatoes; let stand for 30 minutes, then drain and chop; set aside.

3. Meanwhile, drain the liquid from the package of tofu, and cut the tofu lengthwise into quarters.  Place the tofu slices on several layers of paper towels.  Cover with additional paper towels and let stand for 20 minutes - the tofu should be barely moist by the end.

4. Heat a large skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat.  Separate the onion slices into rings, and add to the skillet; saute for 5 minutes, until lightly browned.  Place in a bowl, and stir in the balsamic vinegar.

5. In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, red wine vinegar, agave, rosemary, Dijon mustard, salt, and garlic.  Heat a skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat.  Add the tofu and cook for 6 minutes, turning to brown evenly on all sides.  Stir in the lemon juice mixture; cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until the sauce thickens.

6. Warm the tortillas according to package directions.  Tonight I used the whole wheat flour tortillas from Maria and Ricardo's, a company I love because their tortillas are certified vegan.  Spread 2 tablespoons tapenade evenly over each tortilla.  Top each tortilla with 1 tofu piece, about 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, about 1/3 cup onion, and 1 cup watercress; roll up.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (1 wrap), Calories 312

Tasting Notes:
These wraps were really yummy, but there was actually almost too much going on.  Both the tapenade and sun-dried tomato have big bold flavor - you might consider using one or the other but not both.  I liked the slightly pickled taste to the onions, but felt that there was too much watercress and not enough tofu (I recommend two tofu slices per wrap).  A couple elements of the recipe itself also seemed odd - it was a waste to pour so much balsamic over the onions, and the lemon-and-rosemary sauce felt wasted, since although the tofu cooks in it, the sauce isn't added to the wraps.  You might consider marinating the tofu in the rosemary mixture instead, to better capture the flavor.

Update: as mentioned in the intro, the tapenade can easily stand on its own as an appetizer with French bread, or on a sandwich. You'll be able to appreciate the strong bite of the oil-cured olives much more when the tapenade is not competing with all the other flavors in the sandwich.


Monday, April 25, 2011

Potato Gratin with Haricots Verts and Ham

Haricots verts are the slender, French counterpart of American green beans.  They add a delicious touch to this lovely springtime gratin.  The gratin itself is hearty enough to be the main course - just add a mixed green salad on the side.

  • 3 cups plain non-dairy milk
  • 2 pounds thinly sliced small red potatoes
  • 2 thinly sliced garlic cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 ounces trimmed haricots verts
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup chopped vegan ham (such as Yves Veggie)
  • 1 cup shredded vegan cheese*
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1. Combine the milk, potatoes, garlic, and bay leaves in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Note: be sure to stir carefully; because there are so many potato slices, you risk splashing if you do more than gently agitate the contents of the pan.

2. Remove from heat and let stand for 10 minutes, then drain the potatoes in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1 cup of the milk mixture.  Discard the bay leaves.

3. Meanwhile, cook the haricots verts in boiling water for 2 minutes; rinse with cold water, and drain.

4. Arrange half of the potato slices in a 13x9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.  Arrange the haricots verts and the chopped ham over the potatoes.  Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the cheese, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper.  Top with the remaining potato slices, then sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper.  Stir the nutmeg into the reserved milk mixture, and pour over the potatoes.

5. Cover with foil and make 3 (1-inch) slits in the foil with a knife.  Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.  Uncover and bake an additional 20 minutes.  Let stand for 10 minutes before dividing the gratin into 8 equal portions. 

*A note on the cheese.  I highly recommend the Gouda from Sheese for this recipe.  It captures the slightly nutty flavor of Gruyere, which was the cheese called for in the original version of this recipe.

Nutrition Info:
8 servings (1 portion), Calories 208 

Tasting Notes:
Cooking the potatoes in milk first resulted in a wonderfully buttery flavor, even though there was no butter at all in the dish.  The result was a creamy, decadent gratin, with a great blend of flavor between the potatoes, ham, and haricots verts.  The nutmeg in the sauce was subtle but delicious.  I scooped up the last bits of sauce from the plate with my finger - always a good sign.


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Pan-Roasted Shallots with Olives and Sage

Oil-cured olives are actually cured in a dry-salt process first, and then later given an olive oil bath to soften and enrich them.  The wrinkled, leathery olives that result have a rich, strong flavor that pairs well with the sweetness of roasted shallots.

  • 1 tablespoon vegan butter
  • 5 cups peeled shallots*
  • 3/4 cup vegan dry red wine
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  • 1 tablespoon agave nectar
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 12 peeled garlic cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons pitted and chopped oil-cured black olives
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1. Melt the butter in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the shallots and saute for 10 minutes - they should be lightly browned by the end.

2. Add the red wine, sage, agave nectar, salt, black pepper, garlic, and bay leaves.  Cover and transfer the skillet to the oven; bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.  Uncover and bake an additional 40 minutes; the cooking liquid will be thick.

3. Remove the bay leaves.  Stir in the olives, and sprinkle with the parsley.

You'll want an entree that can stand up to the meatiness of the oil-cured olives, like a mini filet fashioned out of Match beef. I added a salad of shaved fennel on the side.

*It doesn't matter how large or small the shallots are, but keep in mind that the larger they are, the fewer you'll have to peel.

Nutrition Info:
6 servings (1/2 cup), Calories 162 

Tasting Notes:
I really liked how sweet and tender the shallots were; when they are roasted like this, I think they're at their best.  Unfortunately, the sweet, strong shallot flavor overpowered the rest of the more subtle elements in the dish including the sage and garlic. You could easily increase the amount of olives to 1/4 cup, in order to showcase them better.


Friday, April 22, 2011

White Bean Salad with Chicken and Sugar Snap Peas

I continue playing with spring's bounty tonight; sugar snap peas, fresh arugula, and more adorable Vidalia green onions enliven this dish  This main dish salad would make an elegant entree for a springtime luncheon.

  • 2 cups sugar snap peas
  • 8 ounces Match chicken, thawed
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 2 cups torn arugula
  • 2 cups rinsed and drained canned cannellini beans
  • Cooking spray
  • 3 Lightlife bacon slices
  • 1/2 cup chopped Vidalia green onions
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 1/4 cup vegan chicken broth (prepared from Not Chick'n bouillon)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1. Steam the sugar snap peas, covered, for 3 minutes.  Drain and rinse with cold water.

2. Sprinkle the Match chicken with 1/8 teaspoon black pepper and 1/8 teaspoon salt.  Heat the canola oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken and cook for 4 minutes on each side.  Let stand until cool enough to handle, then shred the chicken by hand.

Note: to ensure that the chicken cooks evenly, divide into 2 or 3 smaller patties, rather than cooking in one large piece. 

3. Place the chicken in a large bowl, along with the sugar snap peas, arugula, and cannellini beans, tossing to combine.

4. Coat the skillet with cooking spray and place over medium heat; add the bacon and cook for about 4 minutes, until crisp.  Remove from the pan and crumble.  Re-coat the skillet with cooking spray and add the Vidalia green onions and garlic to the pan; cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently - the onion should be soft by the end.  Remove from heat and add the remaining black pepper (1/4 teaspoon + 1/8 teaspoon), an additional 1/8 teaspoon salt, the crumbled bacon, the chicken broth, the parsley, the lemon juice, and the cider vinegar.  Drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss to coat.  Because of the warm vinaigrette, this salad is best served immediately. 

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (1 and 1/4 cups), Calories 229

Tasting Notes:
Wonderful, contrasting tastes - the sweet sugar snap peas versus the savory bacon, the peppery arugula versus the mellow cannellini etc.  Next time I would increase the amount of arugula - or perhaps simply serve the other ingredients over a bed of arugula on each salad plate - since the chicken and white beans dominated and I wanted a bit more green in each bite.  Using broth as the base of the dressing made it a bit thin for my tastes; you might try using equal parts oil and cider vinegar instead. I also would definitely use Gardein chicken next time.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Risotto with Vidalia Green Onions and Blue Cheese

Vidalia green onions (sometimes called spring onions) arrived at Whole Foods this week, and I practically dove at the pile.  This fleeting spring produce is sweeter than regular green onions, and adds a great touch to springtime dishes. The recipe would also work with regular green onions though, or leeks.

  • 4 cups vegan chicken broth (such as Imagine)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 and 1/2 cups thinly sliced Vidalia green onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrot
  • 1 cup uncooked Arborio rice
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 cup dry vermouth*
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup crumbled vegan blue cheese (such as Sunergia)
  • 1 teaspoon vegan butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1. Bring the broth to a simmer in a saucepan (but do not boil), then keep warm over low heat.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the Vidalia green onions and carrot; saute for 5 minutes.  Add the rice, garlic, and bay leaf; cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.

Note: toasting the rice this way heats up the exterior of the rice, which will help it absorb all the liquid you're about to add.

3. Stir in 1 cup broth and cook for 5 minutes, until the liquid is nearly all absorbed, stirring frequently.  Stir in 1/2 cup broth, the vermouth, the salt, and the oregano.  Begin adding the remaining broth, 1/2 cup at a time, and stirring frequently until each portion is absorbed before adding the next - it should take about 25 minutes total (there's a reason they call risotto a labor of love).

4. Discard the bay leaf.  Stir in the blue cheese, butter, lemon juice, black pepper, and parsley.  This risotto makes a great side dish to Match meat (particularly the chicken or pork), or you can also double the portions and serve as a main dish.  Either way, I highly recommend a glass of vegan Sauvignon Blanc on the side.

*It took a little bit of research to dig up a vegan vermouth.  Luckily, I found confirmation from several online glossaries of vegan liquor that Nouilly-Prat is not filtered through any animal products.  Definitely seek it out, since the more common Martini & Rossi is not vegan.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (3/4 cup), Calories 366 

Tasting Notes:
A pleasant risotto, but I would make a few changes.  It was both the Vidalia green onions and the blue cheese in the recipe title that drew me to this dish, yet I wanted more flavor of both in the final product.  I recommend doubling the amounts of each, therefore.  My risotto was also not quite as tender as I wanted - next time I would keep the broth to nearly a simmer at medium-low heat rather than low, to prevent this from happening. The carrot, though, was tender to perfection, and there was great herb flavor from the bay leaf and oregano.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Pasta Primavera with Chicken and Asparagus

Tonight, I'm taking my own advice, and making a variation on the Pasta Primavera I prepared last week - there are too many delicious spring vegetables out there right now not to play around a little.  In this version, asparagus stands in for the baby carrots, I added more peas and green onions into the mix, and I used Gardein chicken in place of the pattypan squash.

  • 2 cups (1-inch) sliced asparagus
  • 3 cups (8 ounces) uncooked corkscrew-shaped pasta (such as cavatappi or gobbetti)*
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 3 Gardein Tuscan chicken breast (without sauce)
  • 1 cup shelled green peas
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup vegan dry white wine
  • 1/3 cup plain non-dairy creamer
  • 1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup grated vegan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons green onions
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1. Bring 2 quarts water to a boil in a large saucepan.  Add the asparagus and cook for 3 minutes; remove the asparagus with a slotted spoon.  Add the pasta and cook according to package directions; drain and set aside.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Cut the Gardein chicken into 1/4-inch wide strips; add to the pan and saute for 5 minutes.  Add the asparagus, green peas, salt, black pepper, and garlic; saute for 2 minutes.  Add the wine, scraping to loosen any browned bits in the pan.

Note: as with last week's recipe, I really enjoyed an unfiltered Pouilly-Fume in this recipe.  Any similar, crisp (vegan) Sauvignon Blanc would work great.

3. Add the creamer and lemon juice; cook for 1 minute.  Add the cooked pasta and the cheese, stirring to combine.  Remove from heat and stir in the green onions, basil, and parsley.

Note: for the cheese, I used the strong cheddar from Sheese, but try vegan Parmesan sprinkles or any other variety you prefer, if desired.

*Gobbetti is the whole wheat version of cavatappi, and is my preference between the two; try the gobbetti from Bionaturae.  If you can't find corkscrew-shaped pasta, any other short variety (such as penne) will work just fine in this recipe. 

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (2 cups), Calories 463

Tasting Notes:
I liked this dish even better than my previous Pasta Primavera.  Because everything was uniform in size, the flavors blended better, and the sauce felt richer even though it was the same (the cheese and cream flavors, in particular, were more pronounced).  A great all-purpose springtime dinner.


Friday, April 15, 2011

Noah's Pudding

I'm taking a trip to Turkey in my kitchen tonight; this Turkish dessert (called asure) is one of the oldest and most traditional from Turkish cuisine, typically served during holidays, and prepared in large batches to share with friends and family.  The name derives from the legend behind the pudding, which says that when Noah's ark landed, those aboard gathered what little food they could, resulting in the small quantities of many ingredients (traditionally 15) in the pudding.

  • 1/2 cup uncooked pearl barley
  • 1 tablespoon long-grain rice
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup vegan sugar
  • 1/2 cup rinsed and drained canned chickpeas
  • 1/2 cup rinsed and drained canned kidney beans
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped dried apricots
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped dried figs
  • 1 tablespoon rose-flower water
  • 3 tablespoons chopped almonds
  • 3 tablespoons chopped pistachios
  • 3 tablespoons pomegranate seeds
1. Place the barley and rice in a bowl and cover with water to 2 inches above the barley mixture; cover and let stand for at least 8 hours or overnight; drain.

2. Place the barley mixture in a saucepan, along with 4 cups water and the salt.  Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 25 minutes.  Drain the mixture through a colander over a bowl, reserving 2 and 1/4 cups of the cooking liquid.

3. Place 1 and 1/2 cups barley mixture and 1/4 cup of the reserved liquid in a blender or food processor; process for 2 minutes (a long duration which prompted my fiance to say, "That was painful."  Sorry!)

4. Return the pureed mixture to the saucepan, along with the remaining barley mixture, the remaining 2 cups reserved cooking liquid, the sugar, the chickpeas, the kidney beans, the raisins, the apricots, and the figs.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.  The mixture looks very much like a thick breakfast cereal at this stage - be sure to stir rather frequently, otherwise you risk either having the mixture stick to the saucepan on the bottom, or forming a skin on top.

5. Remove from heat and stir in the rose-flower water.  Sprinkle with the almonds, pistachios, and pomegranate seeds.

Note: there are many different variations on Noah's Pudding, all of which will involve some combination of grains, legumes, dried fruits, and nuts, so have fun experimenting.  If you like, some versions use vanilla and cinnamon in place of the rose-flower water, but I highly recommend the latter (see my tasting notes below).

To continue the theme, I had fun serving a dinner beforehand built around other common Turkish ingredients.  On the menu was a store-bought eggplant and red bell pepper spread served with mini pitas, and seitan strips tossed with chile powder, to mimic the taste of lamb kebabs (kofte).

Nutrition Info:
6 servings (about 1 cup), Calories 329

Tasting Notes:
One of the most wonderfully different recipes I've tried in a long time.  It was the rose-flower water that made it stand out - like the taste of petals in every bite.  I had wondered how the beans and dried fruits would taste together, and it worked, although I found myself wishing there were fewer beans and more dried fruit.  This pudding is also sweet; I recommend decreasing the sugar to 1/4 cup if you don't have quite so strong a sweet tooth.

Update: although this particular recipe didn't say to serve the pudding chilled, most variations do.  I had leftovers chilled the next day, and the flavors were much stronger, particularly the dried fruits.  I highly recommend making the pudding in advance, therefore, and chilling.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Lemonade Layer Cake

I walked outside today to find that spring had sprung.  Buds on trees, warm sunshine.... it all seemed to demand a dessert that captured the spring spirit, and this cake is it.

For the cake:
  • 1 and 1/3 cups vegan sugar
  • 6 tablespoons vegan butter
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
  • 3 tablespoons frozen lemonade concentrate. thawed*
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 Ener-G eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 and 1/4 cups vegan buttermilk**
  • Cooking spray
For the frosting:
  • 2 tablespoons vegan butter
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
  • 2 teaspoons frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed*
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces Tofutti cream cheese
  • 3 and 1/2 cups vegan powdered sugar
1. Combine the sugar, 6 tablespoons butter, 1 tablespoon lemon rind, 3 tablespoons lemonade concentrate, and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract in the bowl of a stand mixer; beat at medium speed for a few minutes, until well blended.  Add the Ener-G eggs and beat until combined.  Lightly spoon the flour into dry measuring cups and level with a knife.  Combine the flour with the baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a bowl.  Add the flour mixture and the buttermilk alternately to the sugar mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture and beating well after each addition.

2. Pour the batter into 2 (9-inch) round cake pans coated with cooking spray; give the pans a sharp tap against the counter once to remove any air bubbles.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes (you may need a minute or two more than that); a wooden pick inserted in the center should come out clean.  Cool in the pans for 10 minutes on a wire rack, then remove the cakes from the pans and cool completely on a wire rack.

3. To prepare the frosting, place 2 tablespoons butter, 2 teaspoons lemon rind, 2 teaspoons lemonade concentrate, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, and the cream cheese in a bowl.  Beat with a mixer at high speed - the mixture should be fluffy.  Add the powdered sugar and beat at low speed just until blended.  Chill for 1 hour.

Note: I find it helpful to sift powdered sugar first when working with large quantities.  It makes the powdered sugar super fine, and easy to blend with the other ingredients for a smooth, creamy frosting.  Looking for a good organic powdered sugar?  Wholesome Sweeteners specifies right on the package that their product is suitable for vegans.

4. Place 1 cake layer on a plate and spread with 1/2 cup frosting.  Top with the remaining cake layer.  Spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake.  Store in the fridge, loosely covered, until ready to serve.  The cake will be yummy served chilled or at room temperature.

*Try the frozen lemonade concentrate from Cascadian Farms - it is all organic with organic sugar, so you can be sure there was no bone-char filtration used.  Every other brand of frozen lemonade I found used regular sugar as a sweetener.

**To make the buttermilk, place 1 tablespoon + 3/4 teaspoon lemon juice in a liquid measuring cup; fill with plain non-dairy milk to equal 1 and 1/4 cups.  Let stand for 5 minutes to clabber (sour) the mixture, then add to the recipe as directed.

Nutrition Info:
16 servings (1 slice), Calories 322 

Tasting Notes:
If I was being picky, I would say that you could easily get away with increasing the amounts of lemon rind and lemonade concentrate, in both the cake batter and the frosting, for more tart lemonade flavor to every bite.  But how can I be picky with a cake this light and moist, frosting of such perfect consistency, and the wonderful balance between the sweet frosting and the tart lemon cake?  I can't be picky, because I used my finger to lick the crumbs off my plate - a sure sign of a "5" in my rating system.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Pasta Primavera

What would spring be without preparing a pasta primavera (literally Spring Pasta) at least once?  Consider this recipe a template, and use any of the best, freshest vegetables you can find at your local farmers' market or grocery store in place of the ingredients below.

  • 1 and 1/2 cups baby carrots (about 6 ounces)*
  • 3 cups (8 ounces) uncooked corkscrew-shaped pasta (such as cavatappi or gobbetti)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 cups halved pattypan squash*
  • 3/4 cup shelled green peas*
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup vegan dry white wine
  • 1/3 cup plain non-dairy creamer
  • 1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup grated vegan cheese
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1. Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil in a large saucepan.  Add the carrots and cook for 3 minutes.  Remove the carrots with a slotted spoon.  Add the pasta and cook according to package directions, then drain and set aside.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the pattypan squash; saute for 3 minutes.  Add the carrots, the peas, the salt, the black pepper, and the garlic; saute for 2 minutes.  Stir in the wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any browned bits.

Note: try an unfiltered Pouilly-Fume or Sancerre from France in this recipe - the "green" notes to such wines are the perfect complement to the spring flavors in the dish. Serve the rest of the bottle with the pasta for dinner.

3. Add the creamer and the lemon juice; cook for 1 minute.

4. Add the pasta and the cheese, stirring well to coat, then remove from heat and stir in the basil and parsley.  For the cheese, I used the strong cheddar from Sheese, which mimics the sharp taste of a fresh grated cheese like Parmesan or Romano; however, you can use any brand you like best.

*I have several ingredient notes for this dish.  When buying baby carrots, don't even think about using the whittled down little stubs sold in packages and labeled "baby carrots."  These are actually just pieces of big carrots that didn't make the cut to be sold whole.  Instead, look for spring's true baby carrots with their tops still attached.  Trim the tops so there is just a sprig of green on top, before adding to this recipe.

Likewise for the peas - it's worth seeking out freshly shelled green peas; it seems almost a travesty to use frozen green peas at this time of year.

Finally, pattypan squash are one of the most adorable little vegetables (although I may have to give first prize to the ridiculously cute eight-ball zucchini).  Shaped like a small spinning top, these are just a variety of yellow summer squash.  You could substitute summer squash in a pinch, but the pattypan adds a wonderfully whimsical note to the dish, and is worth seeking out. 

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (2 cups), Calories 373

Tasting Notes:
Fresh! is the word that comes to mind, particularly the peas which felt like they'd traveled no further than my back garden (well, if I had a back garden).  I loved the bright notes from the white wine and the lemon in the sauce, but actually wished that it was a little bit thicker; you might try using vegan sour cream in place of the creamer, for a sauce that coats the pasta better next time.


Monday, April 11, 2011

Tofurky Sandwich with Red Pepper-Pine Nut Pesto and Caramelized Onions

A few nights back I made a sandwich using Match crab (see my post for Curried Crab Salad with Coriander-Dusted Flatbread).  Tonight I'm following up with a second, gourmet sandwich recipe.  This sandwich is impressive enough to serve guests - just add glasses of sparkling water with lemon, and fruit for dessert.

  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons vegan Parmesan sprinkles (such as Galaxy Foods)
  • 1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 halved garlic cloves
  • 1 (7-ounce) drained bottle roasted red bell peppers
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 cups vertically sliced onion
  • 2 teaspoons vegan sugar
  • 1 (8-ounce) loaf ciabatta
  • 12 oven-roasted Tofurky deli slices
  • 2 ounces sliced vegan cheese
  • 2 cups trimmed watercress
1. Place the basil, Parmesan, pine nuts, water, garlic, and red peppers in a blender and process until smooth; set aside.

Note: don't forget to toast the pine nuts first; heat in a skillet over medium heat for about 3 minutes, until fragrant, being careful to shake the pan so they don't burn.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and sugar; cook for 8 minutes, until browned, stirring occasionally.

3. Cut the bread in half horizontally, and spread the red pepper pesto evenly over the cut sides of the bread.  Layer the Tofurky, cheese, onion, and watercress on the bottom half of the loaf (it will be piled high), and cover with the top half of the loaf.  Cut the loaf into 4 pieces.

A couple notes on ingredients: ciabatta should be vegan by default (flour, water, and yeast) at your local baker, but check ingredients to be sure when purchasing.  For the cheese, I used the sliced vegan mozzarella from Galaxy Foods, since it comes in thin slices that mirror the Tofurky.  But feel free to use whatever cheese you like.

This sandwich is best served immediately, or the pesto will make the bread soggy.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (1 sandwich piece), Calories 416 

Tasting Notes:
So good that I nearly stopped thinking while I ate this.  Sweetness from the onions balanced by the peppery bite of the watercress, all wrapped around a heaping pile of Tofurky.  Quite honestly, it was hard to taste the pesto because of all the other competing flavors, but I know it was there, and it made the ciabatta bread soft, and I have zero complaints.


Vegan Extra:
The watercress was part of what made this sandwich so great, compared to standard iceberg lettuce. A few other unexpected greens to try for sandwiches include: endive, radicchio, baby spinach, or arugula.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms with Olives and Caramelized Onions

I can think of no two meatier vegan foods than portobello mushrooms and olives - put them together, and you have an earthy, hearty entree.

  • 4 (4-inch) portobello mushroom caps
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 4 cups finely chopped sweet onion (such as Vidalia)
  • 1/2 cup vegan dry red wine
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3/4 cup chopped and pitted kalamata olives
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 (1-ounce) slices white bread
  • 1/3 cup grated vegan cheese
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1. Remove the stems and gills from the underside of the portobello caps using a spoon; discard the stems and gills.  Place the mushrooms, stem side down, on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.  Cool the mushrooms on a wire rack.

2. While the mushrooms cool, prepare the filling: heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and saute for 12 minutes.  Add the red wine, balsamic vinegar, 1 teaspoon thyme, and the salt; bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 25 minutes.  Uncover and increase the heat to medium-high; cook for a final 5 minutes, until the liquid is all evaporated.  Stir in the kalamata olives, lemon rind, and black pepper.

Note: buy kalamata olives that are already pitted and you'll save yourself a lot of time.  Otherwise, place olives on a cutting board with the flat side of a chef's knife on top.  Whack the knife and the olives will pop open, making for easy pit extraction.

3. Meanwhile, place the bread slices in a food processor and pulse about 10 times - you should have coarse crumbs that measure about 1 and 1/2 cups.  Combine the breadcrumbs with the remaining 1 teaspoon thyme, the cheese, and the flat-leaf parsley.  I wanted a sharp tasting cheese tonight that would mimic fresh grated Parmesan, so opted to use the strong cheddar from Sheese.  Sheese is a UK-based company, but you can order their products here through vendors like

4. Spoon about 3/4 cup of the olive mixture into each portobello cap, and top with about 1/2 cup of the breadcrumb mixture.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, until golden brown.  The easiest way to bake this dish - since the topping is piled quite high on each mushroom - is to place the wire rack directly over a baking sheet.  That way, you'll catch any crumbs that fall without creating a burning mess on the bottom of your oven.

Add a simple green salad on the side to round out the meal.  This dish would also be delicious with creamy mashed potatoes in winter weather.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (1 stuffed mushroom), Calories 246 

Tasting Notes:
My taste buds almost didn't know where to begin, since all three layers of this dish - the mushrooms on the bottom, the onion and olives in the middle, and the breadcrumbs on top - were delicious!  I would decrease the amount of onion slightly, since it overpowered the olives, and I would use larger 6-inch portobello caps so that all of that lovely topping stayed on top. I found that flattening the toppings down slightly with a spatula was a good way to get everything to stay inside. Use a good red wine for this dish - the flavor is quite pronounced.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Curried Crab Salad with Coriander-Dusted Flatbread

This creative sandwich uses refrigerated pizza dough as "flatbread," but alas, I know of no company that makes a vegan refrigerated pizza dough. (Note: this is a point of contention I have with PETA's website, which lists Pillsbury's pizza crust as vegan.  It contains sugar, and since I avoid bone-char refined sugar, this item does not make my list of vegan foods).

Luckily, pizza dough is easy to make at home, as long as you don't mind taking the time for a couple of rises, so use any recipe you know or like.  My favorite pizza dough recipe, from Cooking Light, makes a 14-ounce crust; I trimmed off the extra 4 ounces and slipped it into my freezer for the next time I want a mini pizza for dinner.  The remaining 10-ounces got put to work for this sandwich.  For the rest of the recipe, read on.

  • 1 (10-ounce) pizza dough
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup vegan sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 8 ounces Match crab, thawed
  • 4 romaine lettuce leaves
1. Place your pizza dough on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray, and pat into a 12x9-inch rectangle.  Lightly coat the dough with cooking spray and sprinkle with the salt, coriander, and black pepper.  Bake at 425 degrees for 13 minutes - it should be lightly browned by the end.  Remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack, then cut the bread into 4 quarters.  Cut each quarter in half lengthwise, so you have 8 pieces of flatbread total.

2. Combine the sour cream, cilantro, curry powder, and ground red pepper in a bowl.  Crumble the Match crab into a skillet coated with cooking spray and cook until thoroughly heated over medium heat - about 3 minutes.  Add the crab to the sour cream mixture, stirring gently.  Place 1 lettuce leaf on each of 4 bread pieces.  Divide the crab mixture evenly over the lettuce leaves, then top with the remaining pieces of bread.

Since you'll probably have to buy a whole package or head of romaine, toss the rest with bottled dressing for a simple side salad to round out the meal.  I also recommend a glass of crisp, chilled (vegan) white wine.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (1 sandwich), Calories 304 

Tasting Notes:
There was BIG flavor to this dish - strong crab, strong curry, and deliciously flavorful salt and spice on the flatbread.  It all combined perfectly, and for that reason I don't recommend serving the filling on wimpy old sandwich bread - it needs the strongly flavored flatbread to compliment it.  The only reason this recipe doesn't get a 5 in my book is a personal preference when it comes to the Match crab.  It's not that the company has done anything wrong - quite the opposite.  Their crab tastes so real that my vegan tastebuds start reeling after one bite, as I remind myself that I'm not actually eating crab, but this sandwich was still delectable.  If you don't want to buy Match crab, you could try finely diced tofu in the sour cream mixture, in which case it will probably be like curried egg salad.