Saturday, December 14, 2013

Totally Necessary Food Pun Video - Show Me Where Ya Noms At

Why didn't I post this before? I'm in a state of both shock and shame.

This is Hannah Hart, y'all. And she's mad amazing. This video is not necessarily vegan-friendly, but it is deliciously pun-friendly.

I just bet... you'll be a little hooked. These lyrics are worth memorizing!


Happy December & Happy Saturday!
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Stuffed Shells with Sweet Potato (or Pumpkin!)

I started planning for Thanksgiving long before Thanksgiving even began occurring to other, normal, sane people. I also began planning Thanksgiving in England, which made me twice as crazy.

My insanity was compounded by the strange looks of various shopkeepers throughout the wild land of Cambridge. I was thwarted in my efforts to obtain two very specific (and TOTALLY NECESSARY!) Thanksgiving ingredients. More exactly, no one understood two phrases: "canned pumpkin"and "apple cider."

To be honest, I did find a single pumpkin hanging out somewhere, but being someone who's only ever used the orange gourd to make it look like a grinning fool carved with the rough, choppy strokes of a mad caveman, I wanted canned. Which, it turns out is "tinned."And no one carries tinned pumpkin because pumpkins are a thing early settlers of North America used to replace turnips -- which, for instance, formed the basis for the original Jack O'Lanterns. And I'm not replacing my pumpkins with turnips, no matter what you say.

As for apple cider! It exists neither in form nor in spirit over in England. It is not even dreamed of. I received variations on the following responses: Apple cider? Oh! You mean apple cider. Hard cider. Apple cider? Oh! You must mean apple juice, you silly American. Apple cider? Oh! Are you sure you didn't mean apple cider? You know, cider, cider?

Seriously, I had that conversation like 15 times. Like, 15.

It broke my heart, though, that a place that a) has apples, b) uses apples in various forms of drink, and c) is cold enough to warrant use of hot apple drinks neither traded in nor understood the concept of apple cider. Cider! I tried to exclaim. You know, cider! Non-alcoholic cider! Spices, seasonings! Warmth! Stove-tops! Craft shows and pick-your-own orchards and county fairs! ...Right?

I'm not trying to be a cultural chauvinist, but they just don't know what they're missing. Why can they have mulled wine but no mulled juice-of-the-apple?!


Anyway, on to my Thanksgiving plans! It was September. And in England. And I was cold and wanted pumpkin. So I used the next-best thing, which is the ever dependable sweet potato, and I concocted a delicious meal that I so enjoyed preparing that I allowed myself to take a full 2 hours. This will not take you full hours. It just took me 2 hours, because I was tired and literally watched the sweet potatoes roast in the oven while I was waiting to begin preparing the feast.

My British Thanksgiving feast in September was largely based on this Vegweb post submitted by permanentgrin, to whom I am grateful for their wonderful creativity in designing this stuffed-shell marvel.

On to the meal!

Vegan Stuffed Shells with Sweet Potato (or Pumpkin)!

Serves 4 - 5 people; recipe is easily doubled!

3 cups mashed pumpkin or sweet potato (1 med-large sweet potato)
dash cinnamon
1 tablespoon brown sugar salt, to taste
4 mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 medium-large onion, sliced
oil, for frying

1block of firm tofu, pressed
2 tsp lemon juice
4 tsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ tsp salt
4 Tbsp nutritional yeast
black pepper to taste

1/2 pound fillable pasta (I used jumbo shells)
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
4 cloves garlic, crushed and finely minced
2 tablespoons raisins
2/3 of a package of spinach, rinsed and coarsely sliced
nutmeg, to taste
salt, to taste

½ of a small-medium butternut or acorn squash

Start by roasting your sweet potato. Set the oven to 375 F (or 190 Celsius) and slide your sweet potatoes lengthwise. Place the cut sides down on a tin-foil lined baking or roasting pan. Bake for 30 - 40 minutes, or until they are gentle and pliable.

Prepare your tofu ricotta by taking your block of tofu, pressing it to get rid of excess liquid. Place the tofu in a small mixing bowl (even a large soup bowl would do) and either crumble it with your hands or with a fork or spoon. Add lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper and mash again until very mushy. This may take a few minutes. Add olive oil and nutritional yeast and mix. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Meanwhile, boil water for your shells; once boiling, turn the water down to simmer and leave your pasta covered for the requisite amount of time. Once it's done, drain and set your pasta aside.

Next, prepare a dry pan on medium heat and toss on your pumpkin seeds. Stirring and flipping your seeds constantly, let them continue heating until some seeds "pop" and begin to crack open, releasing a lovely aroma and generally becoming quite toasted! Once you've tired of doing this, set your toasted seeds aside.

By now, hopefully your sweet potatoes or pumpkin are cooked and cooled a bit. Peel off the outer layer and coarsely chop your root vegetable. Place these chunks in a small mixing bowl or large soup bowl and mash with a fork. Add brown sugar, cinnamon and salt and mix.

Add some olive oil to your earlier pan and, once heated, toss in a few sliced mushrooms. You may want to do this in stages in order to avoid crowding the mushrooms. Don't over-cook -- remember, you are going to still be baking everything afterward! Add your pan-fried mushrooms directly to your sweet potato mash. You may choose to add some water or soymilk to think this sauce out -- it deepens how truly "saucy" you want it to be. I chose to leave my sauce thicker and add it in dollops to the top of each individual stuffed shell, but it's your choice.

Back in your frying pan, drizzle some more olive oil and, once heated, add your onion. Cook over low heat for several minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion has moved past translucent to become yellow and caramelized. Add the garlic and cook for about 1 more minute. Now, spoon out half of this onion-garlic mixture and add it to the sweet potato or pumpkin sauce. Leave the other half in the pan.

With the heat on med-low, add your spinach to the pan along with your raisins and pre-toasted pumpkin seeds. Sprinkle in salt and nutmeg to taste. Once your spinach is just beginning to wilt, remove from heat and add in your ricotta.

Now it's time for the fun to begin.


Preheat your oven to 350 Fahrenheit (175 Celsius). Grease a glass or ceramic casserole dish and start separating our your shells. (Be very careful not to break them!)

Stuff each shell with your spinach-ricotta mixture and place it opening-up in the casserole pan. (I leave it opening-up to prevent everything from falling out, but also to allow the sweet potato or pumpkin sauce to seep in). Once every shell that can fit has been loaded into the dish, pour or dollop on your mash-sauce. You may choose to sprinkle some additional nutritional yeast and garlic powder on top, or not, as you see fit. (I didn't bother, and it was great!)

Bake your stuffed shells for 15 minutes or until heated throughout. Do not let them over-cook, as they will dry out, begin to blacken at the edges, and crack.

While your shells are baking, prepare your sides. You may choose to stir-fry some additional greens or mushrooms, cut up some bread, or prepare a salad. I chose to steam some butternut squash in the microwave (I was afraid of steaming it on the stove-top).

To do this, I cut off the "neck" of my butternut squash and wrapped the bulb in clingwrap and set it aside. Cut the neck in half and place each half face-down on a plate. Poke the skin with a fork in around 10 places and cover it with another large plate or plate-like bowl. Microwave the squash for roughly 8 minutes. You may choose to first microwave for 5 minutes, then check, then add another few minutes.

It will be very steamy and hot when it is done! Be careful. Peel or cut off the outer skin (this should be quite easy now) and chop the squash innards into cubes. Arrange these nicely on a plate along with your hot-from-the-oven, carefully-spooned-out stuffed shells and any extra sides you may have...

...and, bravo! We're done! Happy Autumn and/or Thanksgiving!! Make sure to enjoy these with plenty of friends and family, as it's sure to get them all curious about how you can make stuffed shells without real ricotta. (And the best part is that they'll still love 'em!)

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Friday, September 27, 2013

Best Brownies Ever

Making vegan brownies is tough. I don't think anyone would disagree with that. Next to making or eating vegan cheese, making vegan brownies is the toughest part about vegan food-ing.

Most vegan brownies crumble, or they fail to fully cook. They sog, they lack flavor and texture -- and conviction. But, today, all of that is about to change.

Because today, my friends, I am going to provide you with 2 things that will change your vegan brownie world as you have always known it. Today, I will provide you with both a recipe, and a tip that will save your vegan brownies' lives.

Actually, first I will share the tip:

Always allow your vegan brownies to completely, fully cool after baking -- and always refrigerate your vegan brownies.

That's it.

While they're cooling, they're still "gelling." The vegan brownie in its purest, post-birth form is still half-formed, living on the edge between existence and non-existence. Like Schrodinger's cat, it seems it can be both edible and solid -- until you go in for the kill. And then you discover whether all your vegan brownie fairy tale dreams will come true.

But, if you cool them and refrigerate them, I can guarantee that they will.

Regarding the recipe: Mmm. Seriously, these brownies are so good, your non-veg friends will be crying, sobbing for the recipe. I took 40 of these suckers -- because this recipe delivers on its brownie-count -- to a medium-sized social event function after my very first experiment with them, and all of them were gone. I had also brought my best chocolate-chip cookies and peanut butter cookies, but these were gone.

Also, my mom, who doesn't believe in vegan brownies due to their repeated failures throughout her many faithful attempts, is now a believer. Big win.

These brownies come from the Love Food Eat blog and I will basically be repeating, verbatim, every thing the original baker and poster said about these things, because she got them perfect. Okay, slight lie, because I subbed some regular flour instead of using all whole wheat, and also I took out 1/4 of the sugar. I like them less sweet. I have pretty much nothing to add, except for my own less-impressive pictures.

And now, on to the good stuff. 

Best Vegan Brownies Ever

Serves: a million.

½ Cup over ripe banana mashed well -- basically 1 banana (can be frozen and thawed)
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 Cup regular flour
1 ¼ Cups of whole wheat flour
1 ½ Cups brown sugar
1 Cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ Cup olive oil
1 ½ Cups water
4 tsp apple cider vinegar
½ Cup chocolate chips

Start by thawing your frozen banana if you've frozen it. Once your banana is ready to be handled by the living (i.e. those who cannot touch frost-caked banana peel), deposit its innards into a large bowl. Now mash that sucker. No lumps, no regrets. You want to create nice, smooth, beaten-egg-consistency banana. Good! You've done well.

Now, add in your baking soda and salt and stir it all up so that there are still no more lumps. It's now time to add your flours, sugar and cocoa powder. Once you've mixed your banana-dry ingredients concoction well, add in everything else except for the chocolate chips. Mix your dough until it resembles a smooth paste (no lumps), but don't over-beat.

Fold in your chocolate chips.

Preheat your oven to 350 Fahrenheit (170 Celsius). Pour the batter into a large greased (with olive oil) and dusted (with whole wheat flour) baking pan. The pan should be rectangular-shaped, around 9" x 13". Bake your brownies for about 20-40 minutes or till the top looks cooked. You can bake them until a toothpick or sharp knife comes out clean and the top of the brownies is firm, or you can leave them slightly undercooked for a gooey, fudgier brownie.

(Gooey is good. Just make sure you really let them cool.)

Remember that the brownies will still continue to cook inside the hot pan after you remove them from the oven. So don't over-cook them before you take them out!!!! That's a biggie.

Okay! Now you sit back, bite your lips and wait. And then, when they're ready, the brownies will rock your world.

(more pictures to come. I was hungry and ate them greedily. Not the pictures, the finished brownies)
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Vegan Burgers with Sweet Potatoes and Black Beans!

**Warning! This recipe requires refrigerating your veggie burger dough prior to baking. Make sure you account for that time! I um, almost did not. It led to a very, very late dinner and a very unhappy family... until they tasted these little treats, after which their prior grumbliness faded away like vegan truffles on a hungry tongue!


To begin: I took forever to finally make this recipe. When first I began researching food processors, I stumbled upon an Amazon review that claimed something like: this made making vegan burgers a breeze!

And I thought "... vegan burgers? in a FOOD PROCESSOR?"

The idea stuck, but then I never did anything with it.

Until now! Buoyed by my delicious successes with tofu-alfredo sauce, I thought I'd raise the stakes. Vegan burgers. That even my family would love. So I threw out the question: did anyone have any special requests? The response I received was: yes! Sweet potatoes, please! Luckily I happened to be just then reading a post by Cookie + Kate on sweet potato-based black bean burgers, adapted from the Cafe Flora cookbook.

These are good.

My family loved them. They craved them. They ate the leftovers, even though I'm pretty much the only one in the house who eats leftovers.

Some caveats, though: I did not follow the previous cook's instructions, because I am lazy and don't like following instructions. Also, she did not want me to food process all the ingredients. To which I innerly responded: "How DARE you!" I'd started this game with the intention of using my new nifty machine. I did not care what ingredients were required, so long as they were vegan and could be stuffed into a 10-cup bowl. And I just happened to now be roped into making the one recipe that didn't want my 10-cup bowl.

So I did it my way, with a contented inner battle cry of: "Ah-ha! Take that!"

It turned out that doing things my way significantly altered the texture of the recipe, but so be it. If you'd prefer to mash your burgers the intelligent and possibly tastier way, you may follow the link I have posted here and above. However, if you prefer to live life on the wild side and throw both caution and sanity to the wind... then, my friends, I have the recipe that was made just for you:

Food-Processed Vegan Burgers with Sweet Potatoes and Black Beans!

Makes 10 -12 burgers (half-inch think)

1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (3 smallish potatoes)
1/3 cup quinoa or brown rice
1 cup old fashioned oats
1 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained (or 2 cups cooked)
1/2 small red onion, rougly chopped
1/2 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons cumin powder
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 - 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt

hamburger buns
lettuce, tomato, onion
saucy condiments

Begin by roasting the sweet potatoes. Preheat your oven to 375 Fahrenheit (190 Celsius). While the oven is heating, slice your sweet potatoes lengthwise and place the cut sides down on a tin-foil lined baking or roasting pan. Bake for 30 - 40 minutes, or until they are gentle and pliable. 

Meanwhile, cook your rice (or quinoa or couscous, etc.). Bring 1 cup of water to boil and then stir in your grains. Reduce heat and leave your grains to simmer, covered, for about 20 - 30 minutes. Once finished, drain any excess water. Your sweet potatoes should now be finished, too. You can now choose to either pull of the skin and coarsely chop your potatoes (once cooled, of course!), or to chop with the skins on.

(I always keep the skins on. Very healthy! Also, you'll never taste them once you've food processed them. And even when I pull off the skins, I just snack on them while I continue to cook/bake away...)

Leave your sweet potatoes and quinoa / rice to finish cooling completely.

Now: take out ye olde food processor and set 'er up. Grind them oats coarsely -- don't make it too fine. Pour your oats out into a large bowl and add your freshly cooked-and-cooled grains and set aside.

Now, back in your food processing bowl, add your rinsed black beans, onion, cilantro, spices and salt. Top it all off with your freshly baked-and-cooled sweet potatoes (or you can put those in with your oats and set aside for now). Blend those suckers. Make sure they're good and incorporated, and then stop. Don't over-do it. Dump out your mixture into your oats and quinoa bowl and mix it all up with your hands or a spoon. (It's sticky -- just a warning).

Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Now, preheat the oven to 400 Fahrenheit (200 Celsius). Grease the large baking or roasting pan you used earlier for the sweet potatoes (don't use the tin foil again -- the burgers will stick mercilessly). Take out your dough and start shaping it into patties. Bake your patties in the roasting pan for 15 - 20 minutes on each side, for a total of 30 - 40 minutes.

You can try panfrying, but beware the soggy middle of the burger.

Now load 'em up and get eating! Yum! Hooray! Vegan burgers in a food processor!!!

Hope you like :)

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Monday, August 26, 2013

Tofu Linguine Alfredo ... with Seitan!


I have been telling myself for years now that, one day, when I am old enough and rich enough to own a food processor, I will make myself tofu-based fettucini alfredo. And it will be glorious. How do I know this? I don't. I don't even remember the last time I had (real) fettucini alfredo. I have almost no idea what alfredo sauce tastes like. It has certainly been well over 10 years, but I'm wondering if I even ever had this dish, non-vegan style.

Not to be discouraged, I still lusted after this dish. It must be good -- creamy, milky, thick white sauce over pasta? I mean, just look at those Olive Garden ads. Tell me it won't be good! And that was my thinking. Or hungering. Or whatever. Sort of like how you think you know what seaweed tastes like, without ever eating it? And then one day you drink water from your elementary school's water fountain and you think: OH MY GOD! That's what seaweed tastes like! Disgusting! Thank goodness I never ate that!

Maybe that was just me. But, anyway, I would spend weeks trying to tell myself what alfredo sauce must taste like, and what it would taste like once I worked up the dough and tofu to make it.

So then, last Christmas, I got my food processor. And promptly discovered that food processors are... food processors. They are only that. When you buy a food processor, I'm sorry to tell you, you are not also automatically buying a blender. It doesn't work like that. And the words are not interchangeable. So all those years of lusting? Yeah, ruined. Because it turns out my tofu fettucini alfredo recipe requires a blender.

I gave up and used my mom's.

And then! The night of tofu alfredo... behold.

(Warning: these photos were taken with a phone and my shaky, blinded-with-hunger hands. Sorry!)

It's relatively quick, taking about 20 - 40 minutes to prepare. 20 if you're quick, 40 if you're obsessed, like me, with getting every smidgeon of tofu sludge out of the blender -- which is, of course, an impossible task. Here's how you do it:

Tofu [Fettucini / Spaghetti / Linguine] Alfredo with Seitan

Serves: 2 voraciously hungry people, 3 moderately hungry people, 4 only mildly hungry people

Note: this will use a lot of dishes. I'm sorry about that. If you do your best, you can get it down to 1 pot, 2 skillets, and 1 blender. I used... more than that.

** Remember that tofu devours seasonings, so don't be afraid to be a little generous with your basil, parsley, salt and pepper. Don't be too generous -- remember to taste-test frequently so you don't overdo it, but! be prepared to heap on them seasonings.


vegetable of your choice (mushrooms, spinach, peppers, green peas, broccoli are all great)

olive oil
4 cloves' worth of garlic
1/4 - 1/2 Cup non-dairy milk (soy, oat, almond, coconut...)
1/4 Cup nutritional yeast
1 - 2 Tbsp vegan parmesan (optional)
1/4 Cup basil, chopped finely -- you can be generous with these
1/4 Cup parsley, chopped finely -- you can be generous with these
salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste

seitan (cubed)

Begin by heating some olive oil in a pan. Add your garlic and heat briefly, until just browned. Put your tofu and soymilk in the blender, and break the tofu block up once in the blender with a spatula or wooden spoon. Add garlic once cooled, and blend away to liquify your alfredo base. You may need to scrape down the sides and manually move the tofu sludge around a bit to make sure everything gets liquified evenly.

Now you should boil your water in a small pot in preparation for adding your pasta.

Pour your tofu mixture into a large pan with sides (can be the garlic one) and heat on med-low heat for about 8 - 10 minutes. Add nutritional yeast and parmesan (if using) and stir frequently. Make sure to keep an eye on your pasta-water: once boiling, add your pasta and set an alarm for when it will be done.

After the tofu base has spent 10 minutes thickening, add your chopped herbs and salt and pepper, and stir. Allow to cook for another 2 - 3 minutes. Taste test to make sure your herb and spice levels are appropriate for what you prefer. (You can also add the green peas now if you like).

Meanwhile, set up a separate skillet and add a tiny hint of olive oil. Heat oil over med-high heat. Place your seitan on the skillet, and allow to cook on all sides until just browned. You will need to keep an eye on the seitan so that it doesn't stick to the skillet.

Finally -- voila! Your pasta is ready, your alfredo sauce is ready, and your pan-seared seitan is ready! Drain your pasta, heap your alfredo right on top of it back in your pot, and mix it up. Serve the pasta alfredo with your seitan on the side, and whatever vegetables you like.

Enjoy! Yum :)

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Monday, April 15, 2013

TVP and Veggie Fajitas


They're easy enough to make -- take some refried beans, warm 'em up, sautee some veggies, and you're done! Right?

But what if you want something a little more exciting. Something just slightly out-of-the-ordinary?

Then, my friends, I give you: TVP Fajitas (or Tacos)
My partner bought two giant bags of soya mince (TVP) a while back, and promptly realized he wasn't exactly sure how to use them. We were hungry one night, the computer was nearby, and we had a bunch of bell peppers on hand, so the idea came to us: a-ha!

What is TVP? I hate getting this question because the answer sounds so unappetizing, and I'm sorry about that. But trust me: TVP is really good. TVP, otherwise known as "textured vegetable protein," "textured soy protein," or "soy(a) mince," is basically dehydrated soy. It looks like small dusty pellets, and once rehydrated (with hot broth or with regular hot water), it can be made into ... just about anything. Add some flour and spices, and you have TVP Cutlets (a staple in my house). Add some tomato sauce and soy sauce, and you have a filling for delicious tacos and fajitas. Add some other things, and you can make sloppy joes. (I usually make my Joes with lentils, but I could be persuaded to change my mind).

We've stolen this recipe from about a dozen sources online, so I'm not going to credit any of them. It's basically the same as the Mince filling used in my Quesadillas recipe. Suffice it to say, we were not as original in our design as we'd like to believe ourselves to be. Lest I delay us any further, I give you:

TVP Fajitas (and/or Tacos)

serves however much you want to eat. It's so tasty that we usually have waaaaay too much in one night. But, typically lasts the two of us about 2 - 3 meals each = 4 - 6 servings.

2 Cups TVP
2 Cups hot water
1 - 2 bouillon cubes (vegetable broth)

1/4 - 1/2 of an onion, minced finely
1 - 2 tsp red chili flakes
1 tsp cumin
1 - 2 tsp oregano or "mixed herbs"
2 cloves garlic
1/4 red bell pepper, minced finely
1/4 green bell pepper, minced finely

1/3 Cup tomato sauce (or salsa, or several chopped tomatos)
1 Tbsp soy sauce
black pepper, to taste

Add bouillon to water and stir until it dissolves. Add TVP and let sit for 10 minutes as it "reconstitutes."

Heat some oil over med-high heat in a large pan with sides, and add onions. Once they start to soften, add chili flakes and cumin. Saute for about 30 seconds, then turn heat down to medium and add the herbs and garlic. Saute for between 30 seconds and a minute, and add bell peppers (and probably a bit more oil). Once the bell peppers have begun to really soften, add the reconstituted TVP. Stir together, and then add the tomato and soy sauce. Let any extra liquids boil off, but make sure to keep the mixture from burning or sticking to the bottom of the pan. Pepper to taste (you should have plenty of salt from the soy sauce and bouillon).

You'll also need some vegetables!

Fajita Vegetables

1/3 onion, thickly sliced
3 button mushrooms, sliced
red and green bell peppers left over from TVP mixture, thickly sliced or chopped

Season the vegetables with:

optional: dash of soy sauce
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano or "mixed herbs"
1 tsp paprika
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste

Saute the vegetables, beginning with the onions, over medium heat until all veggies are soft. Make sure they're all coated in the herbs, as well. Don't over-do it. If you wanted, to could hold back on all the herbs, even, since the TVP mix is pretty heavy on the spices.

and, finally, the guacamole. The problem with guacamole is that it doesn't keep very well. So I always make it fresh every time we have our fajitas or tacos -- even if we're eating leftover filling.


Serves 2 - 4

2 avocados, peeled and pitted
1/2 - 1 tomato, chopped into small bite-sized chunks
1/4 onion, chopped
2-3 sprigs cilantro (coriander), chopped
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (or chopped jalapeño)
1/2 - 1 Tbsp lime juice
salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste
* optional: 1 small garlic clove, minced

Mash the avocados with a fork and add everything else! Mix it all up well. Enjoy!

If you've never heard of Vihart, the creative popularizer of math concepts on YouTube, you ought to fix that problem now! She has a tutorial on creating amazing fajitas using a "hexaflexagon" made of tortilla. Her new creation? The Flex Mex.

Her original hexaflaxagons video can be found here.

And here is our valiant attempt:

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Friday, March 22, 2013

Chocolate Orange Liqueur Cake

This is a variation upon my standard family Chocolate Applesauce Cake, as requested by my dad for his birthday this year. You can do without the Sabra, if you like -- just substitute more orange juice or soymilk / water as you see fit.

Chocolate Applesauce Cake (with orange liqueur infusion!)

Makes 1 double-layer cake

3 Cups flour
1 1/2 Cup sugar
1/2 Cup cocoa powder (unsweetened)
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

2 Cup applesauce (unsweetened, if possible)
1/2 Cup water
1/4 Cup Sabra orange chocolate liqueur (or more OJ)
1/4 Cup orange juice (or more Sabra)
1/3 Cup cooking oil (or olive oil -- I'm beginning to enjoy using this when baking!)
1 Tbsp vinegar
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit (180 C).  Grease and flour two cake-pans (8" square or round).  Mix all ingredients together and pour into pan.  Bake 30-35 minutes (don't over-bake! this is a GREAT moist cake!), or until toothpick comes out clean. Remember that while the cake will puff significantly in the middle, once it cools, the cake will flatten back down. You're welcome to drizzle 1 - 2 tsp of the Sabra on the surface of each cake if you feel so inclined.

Orange Chocolate Buttercream

1 Cup (2 sticks) Earth Balance or other vegan margarine/butter
2 Cups confectioner's sugar
1/2 Cup cocoa powder (unsweetened)

4 Tbsp orange juice
2 Tbsp finely grated orange zest
2 tsp vanilla extract

Cream together the Earth Balance, cocoa powder, and 1/2 Cup of the sugar. Add 1 Tbsp of orange juice, then another 1/2 Cup of sugar. Repeat this back-and-forth procedure until all the juice and sugar are incorporated. Either beat vigorously with a fork until the frosting is creamy and fluffy, or use a mixer. Add the orange zest and vanilla extra, and voila! You're done!

Now top one layer of the cake with a hearty, thick portion of the buttercream (almost, but not quite, half the batch of frosting), then add the second layer of cake on top, frost that, and then cover the sides. Yum! Some orange sprinkles would look cute on top of this.

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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Cashew Mac & Cheese!

I've made many vegan mac & cheese dishes. I've made the ones where you melt Earth Balance + store-bought cheeses + soymilk and feel your arteries suffer for days. I've made the nasty Mac & Chreese boxed mixes. And I've made nooch sauces, in which broth + nutritional yeast + flour become the base of a disgusting paste that no one will come within 10 miles of.

And now, having finally invested in a 10-cup a food processor, I have made cashew-based mac & cheese. And it's good.

It's almost soul food good, as a matter of fact. My omni dad, vegetarian friends and I all fell in love with the nooch & mustard-heavy version at Soul Vegetarian Exodus in D.C. near Howard University. It is unbeatable. And difficult to replicate. And they won't tell me their recipe! I have been trying for years to figure out their secret. In a very lazy, inconsistent kind of attempt.

So, I turned to Vegan Dad. I've been loving his recipes for a while now (SOME DAY I will make vegan donuts using his recipe...but not yet), and seeing a cashew-based Kraft-esque recipe listed, I had to try it.

I've made some alterations. He uses a blender and so starts off pureeing the raw cashews with what seemed to me to be a lot of water (twice as much as the volume of cashews). My food processor didn't like this arrangement, and plus the sauce was too watery in the end. So, I've cut the water back from 1 1/2 Cups to 1/2 Cup - 3/4 Cup. I also didn't have any onion powder on hand, so I minced about a quarter of a large white onion instead, which I'm sure added liquid he didn't have to deal with. The recipe also made a lot of sauce -- so much that I had leftovers to drizzle on other foods like bread and veggies etc. And I am definitely going to use the leftovers to make my first vegan Grilled Cheese sandwich.

The "too much sauce" problem was probably because I used bowtie pasta, which is huge, so 3 Cups of it turns out to not be as much pasta as 3 Cups of, say, macaroni. I also only had around 2 1/2 Cups of it around, so you might not have the same problem I did. Or, if you do, you could just put the extra sauce on quinoa or go ahead and make some more pasta!

All told, it's not identical to my soul food favorite. I think the roasted red pepper adds a little bit of sweetness that I'm not used to, so next time I might try this recipe without that addition. I may also put it in a casserole pan, top it with bread crumbs, and bake it. We shall see.

It's delicious, though. And my omni dad said it was perfect.

Cashew Mac and Cheese

adapted from Vegan Dad

1 large red pepper
3 Cups pasta (or more, if pasta is a large shape)
3/4 Cup raw cashews*
1/2 - 3/4 Cup water
1/2 Cup nutritional yeast
1 Tbsp spicy brown mustard (like Dijon)
1/4 of a large white onion, minced (around 1/2 Cup)
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp flour

1/4 Cup Earth Balance
2 Tbsp or so soymilk (adjust to taste)

* Note: I actually used 1/2 Cup raw, unsalted cashews, and 1/4 Cup roasted, unsalted cashews. Your choice.

Start by preheating your oven to 450 degrees F (230 C). Line a baking pan with aluminum foil, and place your washed red pepper in the pan. Once the oven's ready, put the pepper in to roast. After 10 - 15 minutes, turn the pepper once. After another 10 - 15 minutes, you can either take the pepper out, if it's looking sufficiently wrinkled and blackened, or you can broil the pepper for another 5 - 10 minutes. I baked the pepper for about 23 minutes and broiled for 7.

Meanwhile, cook your pasta and start on the sauce. Put your cashews and some water (you don't have to put it all immediately) and start pureeing. You're going to want your cashews to be blended until they're totally smooth, which will take a few minutes. Add water as you see fit, but don't put too much water in, or you'll have liquid seeping out the top of the processor, and a very watery mac and cheese. Add the nutritional yeast, mustard, spices, salt, and flour.

Once the red pepper is done roasting, take it out of the oven and wrap it up in the aluminum foil and let it sit for another 5 - 10 minutes. Once the pepper is done, unwrap it, and pull off the crispy outer skin and de-seed your pepper. Cut it up into large chunks, and throw the pepper into your food processor. Blend until smooth!
Now that your sauce is ready, drain your pasta. Using the same heated pan the pasta was once in, melt your Earth Balance and then slowly add the sauce. Cook until thickened, adding the soymilk as desired. (I suppose you could add none at all!). Add the pasta and mix.

Voila! At this point, you could transfer the pasta and sauce to a glass baking pan or casserole pan, top with vegan bread crumbs, and cook at 350 F (180 C) for 20 minutes. Or you could just eat it.

I think the most fun thing about this recipe is that it's actually good for you. It's not a gross thick combination of pre-processed foods with no protein or nutritional content at all. For instance, if we're just looking at protein, this recipe contains about 75 - 80 grams, not including the pasta. My pasta added another 17 grams or so of protein (92 - 97g total). I have no idea how many that is per serving, because it depends on how hungry you are.

Tomorrow night: Roasted Butternut Alfredo, a la the Post Punk Kitchen.


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Friday, March 15, 2013

Tofu Scramble, Notes on

I don't know why everyone thinks you need a recipe to make tofu scramble. You don't. You need some tofu, some onions, some turmeric, some salt, and some oil, and that's it. If you want to make it really, truly tasty, you need some cumin, a clove or two of garlic, maybe some fun mixed herbs (oregano or something), some veggies (bell peppers, mushrooms, spinach), some nutritional yeast, and maybe a dash of black pepper. This method has never failed, except the time when I used tofu that had gone off. I do not recommend you do that. You can not cook your way out of having let your tofu go bad.

Along these lines, it's easy to turn a tofu scramble into something more -- a breakfast scramble with french toast or pancakes on the side, a wrap with salsa or hot sauce, some avocado or guacamole, and vegan cheese layered on top, or even the basis for understanding how to make some nice cheesy fillings like ricotta for stuffed shells and pizza topping.

Basically, it's like soup-making. You find some ingredients that you like, and you throw them in. You mix things around and heat them up and taste a bit until you get it right. My music teacher used to say: "Whenever anyone asks me for a soup recipe to put in a collection, I tell them the same thing. Step One: Open your fridge. Step Two: Take ingredients out of fridge. Step Three: Fill a large pot with water. Step Four: Throw the ingredients in. Step Five: Taste and adjust."

This is essentially the same idea.

  • Don't skimp with the salt (or with the oil). It's an easy mistake to make, but tofu absorbs a lot of salt. Obviously don't dump too much oil or salt in, either -- you'll need to taste-test a few times, and watch to make sure everything in the pan is moving around easily. 
  • Make sure to boil out most of the water from the tofu, but don't let the whole mix shrivel up and dry out in the pan. 
  • Make sure to cook the onions first, then add the spices, then add the garlic, and then after these have cooked a bit on their own you may add the tofu. Mash it up in your hands and then plop it into the skillet, or drop the block of tofu in and chop it up haphazardly with a wooden spoon or spatula. Make sure it really crumbles.
  • Taste-test again and add more spices if needed. As for the turmeric, stop once you've seen that it's successfully coated the tofu. Too much turmeric is a weirdly dusty thing.

These are the main tenets of Tofu Scramble making. Follow them, and you will succeed!


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Valentine's Meal with Spaghetti and Homemade Meatballs

I'm not usually a Valentine's Day aficianado, but I'm back at home now, so I have people around me who will appreciate my efforts. For this Valentine's meal, I chose to make a pinto bean-based Meatball dish, with the meatballs shaped (as best I could!) as hearts :)  A heart-shaped chocolate cake with raspberries lining the perimeter finished the evening off, and filled us right up to our noggins. With food-knowledge. Or something.

This recipe comes from the Vegan Lunchbox blog, and has quickly become a household favorite (along with the tahini and falafel from Vegan with a Vengeance).

I warn you that the steps involved in making the meatballs may seem atrocious at first, but it's not as bad as all that. You have to start off by sauteeing some herbs, onion, and mushrooms, and then mix in your mashed-up pinto beans, shaping these into balls (or hearts), and pan-frying them. The next step made me indignant at first (more dishes to wash?!) but is so worth it, and doesn't really result in that much more cleaning after the meal.

While pan-frying the vegan balls, heat a jar's worth of tomato sauce in a tall ceramic casserole dish (in the oven). Once both processes are finished, pull out the dish of sauce, plop the balls in, and set them back in the oven for 20 minutes. It doesn't need longer than that. The balls won't stay together perfectly, but they're not really meant to -- they're meant for eating!!

Serve the meal in the casserole dish, on the table, with the oven mit. Dive in! Fed my hungry family of 3 for about 3 days. Mmmmm...

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Vegan Pizzas and Quesadillas

I am always confused by baking in England. I walk into a kitchen and ask for the tablespoons, and I am handed an ordinary large spoon for the table. Similarly, requests for a teaspoon are frequently met with being handed an actual, normal tea spoon.

Nevertheless, I like to keep my spirits up by defying the odds. So, I recently decided to make two recipes I knew wouldn't fail, regardless of the kitchen limitations I faced. These were: pizza and quesadillas.

The dough for the pizza is adaptable enough to withstand slight changes in sugar and salt levels between each making, and the quesadillas require no dough at all! I went out and bought tortillas for those little buggers, and I'm pleased to say they were quick and required no measuring at all.

Pizza Dough:

Adapted from Vegan with a Vengeance

1 Cup lukewarm water (8 oz)
1-2 Tbsp sugar
1 packet of yeast
3 Cups self-rising flour (or 3 Cups plain flour + 1 tsp salt)
2 Tbsp olive oil

Begin by dissolving the sugar in the water, then add the yeast and let the concoction sit for 10 minutes until it bubbles and foams. Add the flour and oil in a large bowl, and once the yeast/sugar/water mixture is done, pour that in. Mix until combined, and then knead for 10 minutes. If the dough is too floury, add small bits to your hands and to the dough itself, but be sure not to over-flour. If the dough gets too tough, kneading and shaping will become difficult for you.

Form the dough into a ball, fill the bowl with 2 Tbsp oil and roll the dough ball around until its entire surface area is coated in the oil. Cover with clingwrap or a towel for an hour.

After an hour, punch the dough and knead for 1 minute. Cover it again and let it rise for somewhere between 30 min - an hour. When the dough has risen again, cut it in half to form two chunks, and start shaping those chunks as you please. We made rectangular pizzas, but you may choose to make circular or hexagonal pizzas! Be careful not to let the dough rip.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F or so (200 C). You should really cook the pizzas at 500 F (250 C), but I never get the centers cooked enough, so I like to start off low and turn up the temperature for the last few minutes to crisp it up.

Layer your pizza with 3 - 4 Tbsp of tomato sauce. Make sure it's not too thick, or the pizza will be soggy. It's okay to have semi-bare spots. Then layer on your nutritional yeast, vegan cheese (homemade or store-bought -- we used Tofutti mozzarella  but have used Cheezly mozzarella in the past), veggies, and herbs. Drizzle the top with 1 Tbsp olive oil so that the veggies won't dry up, and use your finger to dab olive oil along the crust edges. Mmm.

Cook for 10 - 12 minutes, then increase heat to 500 F (250 C) for another 3 - 5 minutes. Modify as you see fit.


We didn't know what we were doing, so we basically made it up. Upon reading food blogs since then, I think we did okay. My partner had never had quesadillas before and didn't even really know what they were, so we figured this whole thing out together. (Note: we both loved them!). We used store-bought cheese and nutritional yeast to get the flavor right, and to stick the tortillas together once folded over, and filled these babies with homemade soy mince crumbles.

Serves: 2 half-quesadillas, or 1 extra-large quesadilla

2 flour tortillas (extra-large!)
a little oil

divide all of the following in half, one for each quesadilla:

1 block vegan cheese (we used Tofutti Mozzarella)
1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
    * 1 red bell pepper
    * 4 very large button mushrooms 
    * 1/2 onion, chopped coarsely
    * handful of spinach leaves, torn up haphazardly into small pieces
1 Cup vegan mince


1 Cup hot water
1 bouillon cube (vegetable broth)
1 Cup soya mince / textured vegetable protein (TVP) / textured soy protein

1/2 onion, minced finely
1 - 2 tsp olive oil
1/2 - 1 tsp red chili flakes (mm!)
1 - 2 Tbsp tomato sauce
* dash of soy sauce (optional)

Heat the water and add the bouillon cube. Mix and let dissolve. Once dissolved, add the dried mince / TVP and let the whole thing sit for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil into a large pan with sides and add the onions. Once the onions start to soften, add the chili flakes. Stir for a minute or so, and then add the damp TVP mixture and integrate everything. Once cooked through, add some soy sauce if you'd like, and add the tomato sauce. Let any extra liquids boil off, but make sure to keep the mince from burning.

Finally, begin to assemble your first quesadillas. Place a dollop of oil in a large frying pan, and swirl it around. Heat the tortilla on medium heat, trying to elevate one side (you'll be folding this tortilla in half, and you don't want it to crack!). I rested half the tortilla edge on one of the lips/sides of the pan. Then start topping your tortilla: add half of the cheese and nutritional yeast you're going to be using for this tortilla (so, that's a quarter of the total cheese amount you have). Layer on your veggies, and top with your mince. Finally, put your other half of cheese on the very top, and flip the unused, less-heated half of the tortilla over the whole thing. You should have a nice semi-circle now. Let the quesadilla cook for 2 - 3 minutes, and then flip it over if you can. Let the other side cook for about a minute, and then serve.

Repeat for the second tortilla / quesadilla. 

Alternatively, if you have a large enough pan, you can simply put one tortilla down, top it with everything you want, and then put the second tortilla on top. Presto! The whole thing is done, no flipping or heat-avoiding necessary.

And there you have it! Several cheesy, tomato-y, yummy meals for two, and almost all with the exact same ingredients. Very little time needed to prepare, besides a few minutes kneading the dough, and the time it takes to fix up the pizzas and quesadillas with toppings. Nice, right? Enjoy!

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