Tuesday, April 29, 2008

More Minis!

Yesterday was my birthday, and in honor of yours truly I threw myself a little potluck party. I made mini cupcakes again, and they were so cute I had to post a picture! I made about 90 little chocolate cupcakes and frosted them with an assortment of flavor including chocolate-orange, espresso, coconut, peanut butter, peppermint, and chocolate cinnamon. If I had to choose a favorite it would be the chocolate-orange. I even candies orange peels to garnish them with and I made my sister, Molly, bring all her cute cake stands to display them on. I tried to convince her to give me the stands as an extra birthday present, but she was too smart for that! I'll try again later.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

BBQ Seitan and Caramelized Onion Sandwiches

As much fun as it is to make really fancy, involved recipes, every once in a while it’s nice to make something quick, yummy, and really easy. That’s how I was feeling last night when I made these BBQ Seitan Sandwiches with Caramelized Onions. The onions take a little while to cook, but there’s not much to them and the rest takes no time at all. The BBQ sauce you use makes a huge difference in how the sandwiches taste, so make sure you choose one that’s tasty. I really like Daddy Sam’s BBQ Sawce. It’s sweet and tangy with just the right amount of spiciness. Seitan is wheat glutton with a meaty texture that you can find in Asian markets or most health food stores. Someday I’ll make Seitan from scratch, but for now, store bought works just as well. Serve these sandwiches with Fingerling Potato and Green Bean Salad for a great sloppy summer meal!

BBQ Seitan Sandwiches with Caramelized Onions
Serves 4-5 people

1 Loaf good quality crusty French Bread (I like Ciabatta)
2 Medium sized Yellow Onion
3 8 oz. Packages of Seitan
Granulated Garlic
Soy Sauce
Salt and Pepper
Your Favorite BBQ Sauce (about 1-1 ½ cups)
Vegetable Oil

Cut the onions in half lengthwise, peel, and then slice into ½ inch strips. In a heavy bottomed skillet over medium high heat, add a couple tablespoons of oil and then add all of the onion to the hot pan. Cook the onions for a few minutes over the hot heat, stirring occasionally, to get them going, then turn the heat down to medium-low. Lightly season the onions with salt and fresh ground pepper and continue cooking for about 15 minutes until the onions are soft and have turned a nice caramelized color. Be sure to stir the onions often to keep them from burning and to ensure that they cook evenly. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Seasoned onions just beginning to cook.

Slice the Seitan into 1/3” strips. In a hot skillet (I use the same dirty skillet I just took the onions out of) heat about 3 tablespoons of oil and them add the Seitan strips. Fry the strips, flipping often until they begin to brown and some pieces start to crisp up. Season with a few dashes of soy sauce and the granulated garlic. Pour enough BBQ sauce over the seitan to thoroughly coat it and continue cooking for a few more minutes until the sauce is hot and gets a bit gooier. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Seitan strips just added to the skillet.

To assemble the sandwiches, I like to brush the inside cut parts of the bread with a bit of olive oil and grill them on a hot pan for a few minutes until it gets crispy and golden brown. Plop a pile of seitan on the bottom piece of bread, add a few spoonfuls of caramelized onions, top with the other piece of bread and get ready for a messy, yummy sandwich.

Lightly grilled Ciabatta Bread.

p.s. If you like soy cheese (which I have mixed feelings about) you can add a few sliced of ‘mozzarella’ on top of the caramelized onions and pop it under the broiler for a few minutes to melt before adding the top slice of bread.

Close-up of the messy goodness!

Fingerling Potato Salad with Green Beans

Here’s a little twist on traditional Potato Salad. The green beans add nice texture, color, and flavor and the tangy dressing is lighter than the normal mayo-based dressing. I used small red fingerling potatoes, but really, any small, thin skinned variety will work. Also, if I could have found them, I would have used the long, thin delicate green bean known as Haricot Vert. Their season is short and they’re a bit more expensive than regular green beans, but their flavor is really nice and they look cool!

Fingerling Potato Salad with Green Beans
Serves 6-8 people

Red Wine Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
3 lbs Small Fingerling Potatoes
3/4 lb Green Beans
3/4 Cup Red Onion, chopped
1/2 Cup Celery, chopped
1/3 Cup Fresh Chives, chopped
Salt and Pepper

Red Wine Vinaigrette:
1 ½ Medium sized Garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp Chopped Fresh Parsley
3 tsp Capers, brine drained
1 tsp Dijon Mustard
1 tsp Salt
About 3/4 tsp Fresh Ground Pepper
1/3 Cup Red Wine Vinegar
2/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

In a blender, blend the garlic and vinegar until the garlic is finely chopped. Add the capers and parsley and pulse a few times until roughly chopped. Add the salt, pepper, and Dijon and blend for a few seconds. With the blender on, slowly drizzle in the olive oil and blend until it is evenly combined and begins to thicken a bit. Add more salt if needed (it’s better to have it slightly on the salty side because it’s going to be added to the potatoes and veggies). Set aside.

In a large pot, boil the potatoes until tender, but definitely not overcooked or you’ll have a mushy potato salad. Spread the potatoes on a pan after draining to cool and dry. Once cool, slice in half lengthwise. While the potatoes are cooking, trim the ends off the green beans and steam until tender. Remove the green beans and immediately shock them in an ice water bath to stop the cooking. Drain and set aside.

Once the potatoes and beans have cooled, toss them together with the onions, celery, and chives. Season lightly with salt and pepper, then toss with the Vinaigrette, taste, and season accordingly. If you have time, let the salad sit for a couple hours in the fridge to allow all the flavors to soak in, otherwise you can serve it immediately.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Vegetable Pot Pie

When I was growing up, my mom use to make Chicken Pot Pie all the time, and I loved it. I've been making a lot of lists of things I want to make lately, and I keep coming up with things I used to eat as a kid. Since this was one of my favorites, I decided to try it first. I don't have the recipe for my mom's, but I think I came pretty close. The crust is nice and flaky and the inside is warm and colorful and the perfect meal for a cold day!

Vegetable Pot Pie
Serves about 6

Double Pie Crust
2 2/3 Cup All Purpose Flour
1 Cup Non-hydrogenated Vegetable Shortening (I use Spectrum)
3/4 tsp Salt
7-8 Tbs Cold Water (I like to use ice water)

For the Filling:


4 Tbs Flour
3 Tbs Vegan Margarine
1 1/2 Cup Plain, unsweetened Soymilk
1 Cup Vegetable or Veggie 'Chicken' broth
Dash of fresh Ground Pepper
1 1/2 tsp Salt
2 tsp Fresh Thyme, finely chopped
1 Tbs Fresh Parsley, finely chopped

About 8 Medium Red Potatoes, quartered
4 Medium Carrots, 1/4" slices
6 oz. Frozen Peas
1/2 Onion, diced
8 oz. Oyster Mushrooms, sliced
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
1/3 Cup White Wine
Oilve oil (about 1 Tbs)
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Boil the potatoes in a large pot until tender. Drain and set aside. Steam carrots until just cooked, not to soft. Over medium high heat, sauté the onions, mushrooms, garlic, and olive oil until the mushrooms just begin to brown and the onions begin to turn translucent. Add the white wine, salt and pepper to taste, and continue cooking until most of the liquid has evaporated. Toss the potatoes, carrots, and mushroom mixture together in a large bowl and set aside.

For the gravy, melt the butter over medium heat, the add the flour and stir continuously until a thick, smooth paste is formed. Add the salt, pepper, herbs, soymilk, and broth all at once whisk until the gravy begins to thicken and bubble. Continue cooking and whisking for another minute, and then remove from heat.

Pour the gravy over the cooked vegetables and mix well until everything is evenly coated. Add the frozen peas and mix to incorporate. Set aside.

For the dough,
In a large bowl, stir together the flour and salt. Add the shortening, and with a pastry blender, cut into the flour until the shortening is in pea sized pieces. Sprinkle one Tbs of the ice water over the flour mixture and gently stir in with a fork. Repeat with the remaining water, one tablespoon at a time till the dough is moistened.

With your hands, form the dough into a ball, taking care not to over-work it, which could lead to a tough, hard crust, which nobody wants. Cut the dough in half and reshape into two balls. On a lightly floured work surface, slightly flatten one ball of dough with your hands.

*For some odd reason, I no longer have a rolling pin??

Roll out the dough, working from the center to the edges until the dough is large enough to fit in a deep dish pie pan with at least 3/4" overhang on the sides. Lift the dough into the pie plate, then trim the dough with a sharp knife to 1/2" beyond the edge of the pie plate. Fill the pie with the vegetable mixture. Roll out the other ball of dough in the same fashion, cut slits in the center for air vents, place over filling. Trim the to layer of dough to 3/4", then fold under the overhand of the bottom crust. With your fingers or the tines of a fork, crimp the edges of the pie top seal together.

Crimped and ready to go in the oven.

To prevent the edges form burning, cover them with foil.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, remove the foil and then bake for another 25-30 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the filling begins to bubble. Remove from the oven and let the pie cool for about 10 minutes before serving to allow the filling to set up (Unless, of course, you live with 3 hungry, impatient boys like I do, then by all means, cut away and just scoop out the oozing filling!!!).

Oozing filling and all! 10 more minutes and it would have looked perfect!

p.s. The best part about making a pie is the leftover dough! I like to roll it out, sprinkle it with cinnamon and sugar, and bake it in little squares until they're crispy and golden. When I used to bake at the old restaurant I worked for, the little ladies in the kitchen would get mad at me if I didn't make them!

Cinnamon Sugar Crusts

Monday, April 14, 2008

Vegan Blog Madness

Wow, I had no idea there were soooo many vegan blogs out there till I started this one. I just keep jumping from one to the next, finding a ton of awesome blogs. None though, have been as beautiful as Vegan Yum Yum. The recipes and photography are absolutely amazing. Now I understand what my sister-in-law is talking about when she says she has a 'blog crush'...I'm in love.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Mini Cupcakes!!!

I'm too lazy to look through the piles of old clothes at thrift stores, but I love finding things in the kitchenware section! One of my latest finds was a pair of mini cupcake pans. I keep thinking of all the cute little things I can make in them (I've already asked my mom to send me her Black Bottom Cupcake recipe so I can attempt to veganize it). So since it was my friend Danny's birthday a couple days ago, I decided to make her a batch of delicious mini chocolate coconut cupcakes!

I used the basic chocolate cupcake recipe from the cookbook Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World, which by the way has the most reliable and tasty recipes I've tried. I added about 1/2 tsp of coconut extract to the batter and then frosted them with a Coconut Buttercream Frosting. They were awesome, and next time I'm going to make a big batch, buy some pastry tips, and decorate them all with a bunch of different frostings. Hmmm. I can't wait!

Here's the recipe...I hope I don't get in trouble for posting it!

Basic Chocolate Cupcake
1 cup soy milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar (I use red wine ving. cause I didn't have any...seemed ok to me)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond, chocolate, or more vanilla extract (I used coconut)
1 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line muffin pan with cupcake liners.
2. Whisk together the soy milk and vinegar in a large bowl, and set aside for a few minutes to curdle. Add the sugar, oil, vanilla, and other extract if using, to the soy milk mixture and beat till foamy. In a separate bowl, sift the remaining dry ingredients. Add in two batches to wet ingredients and beat till no large lumps remain ( a few small lumps are okay).
3. Pour into liners, filling three-quarters of the way. Bake 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. (Because I made mini cupcakes, I only had to bake them for 12-15 minutes). Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely.

Fluffy Buttercream Frosting (this makes a lot of frosting!!)
1/2 cup non hydrogenated shortening- room temp
1/2 cup non hydrogenated margarine- room temp ( I use Earth Balance, careful cause a lot of margarine isn't actually vegan)
3 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted if lumpy
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (I used coconut extract)
1/4 cup plain soy milk or soy creamer

Beat the shortening and margarine together until well combined and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat for about 3 minutes. Add the extract and soy milk, beat for another 5-7 minutes until fluffy.

I sprinkled unsweetened shredded coconut over the tops after I frosted them. Deeelish!

Happy Birthday Danny!!!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Seasons of Change

By request, I've compiled a list of seasonal vegetables to go along with my earlier rant about eating what's in season. (Actually I stole all the info from Alice Waters' cookbook Chez Panisse Vegetables. Thanks Alice!). I've been lucky enough to have worked in a nice restaurant for many years that changed their menus with the seasons, so I've grown accustomed to the idea. I also love to grow my own vegetable so I've seen first hand what grows when. But this definitely doesn't mean that I only eat whats in season all of the time. I'm completely guilty of eating green beans in the middle of winter or asparagus in the fall (if I can afford it), so don't get me wrong. I'm not saying we have to be militant, just keep it in mind!

Also, I'm lucky enough to live in the agricultural capital of the world here in California, so it's obviously easier for me to eat what's in season year round. For people who live where it snows in the winter or where no people were actually meant to live (ie. Las Vegas) it's going to be much more difficult to eat local, in season veggies year round. But since it pretty much seems to be that only my family reads this blog and they all live in California, here's my list!!

Broccoli (early)
Fava Beans

Green Beans
Eggplant (mid summer to early fall)
Fennel (early)
Peas (early)
Peppers (mid)
Potatoes (mid)
Shallots (best)
Zucchini (and other summer squashes)

Artichokes (early)
Green Beans
Brussel Sprouts (late)
Celery root
Chicories (mid)
Kale (late)
Parsnips (late)
Winter Squash
Sweet Potato

Broccoli (early)
Brussel Sprouts
Celery Root
Potatoes (early)
Winter Squash (Butternut, Acorn, Spaghetti, Pumpkin, etc.)
Sweet Potato

Dried Beans
Carrots (best in spring and summer)
Cauliflower (best in fall and early winter)
Chard (late spring through winter)
Lettuces (various types throughout the year)
Radishes (best in spring and fall)
Spinach (best in spring and fall)

ps. There's a lot more than what's on this list, this is just an idea!

Balsamic Vinaigrette

This recipe goes along with the Lasagna dinner post. Don't worry though, it's much simpler and faster to make than the lasagna! I've been making this a lot lately because my first crop of vegetables are ready and waiting in my front yard. There's nothing more satisfying than walking outside and pulling a bunch of radishes out of the ground and snipping some baby greens for a tasty simple salad. I can't wait 'til I have fresh tomatoes to add in the summer! This dressings even good with sweeter salad toppings like strawberries, raspberries or candied walnuts.

Balsamic Vinaigrette:

1/3 cup Balsamic vinegar
1 medium garlic clove
1 1/2 Tbs. honey*
2/3 cup olive oil
1 tsp sea salt
fresh ground pepper

In a blender, blend the vinegar and garlic for about 30 seconds until well blended. Add the honey, salt and pepper and blend a bit more. Next, with the blender running, pour in the oil in a slow steady stream until the dressing thickens. If you want the dressing to stay thicker, you can also add about 1 tsp of dijon mustard when you add the honey. It also adds a nice subtle flavor. Toss the enough dressing with whatever salad greens your using until all the leaves are lightly coated.

This dressing keeps a while in the fridge which is great. If the oil solidifies, just let the dressing sit out at room temp for a while before using it.

*You can leave out the honey, but the taste will change a lot.