Saturday, November 29, 2008

Creamy Mushroom-in-Phyllo Appetizers

Sometimes when you wing it, it goes not that great. Sometimes when you wing it, it's really, really yummy! I got lucky last night. I wanted to use cream cheese and mushrooms in a savory pocket. Puff pastry is awesome for some things, but I wanted something really flaky and crisp without as much fat so I got some Phyllo. I had seen Mollyjade's post earlier in the week and wanted to do something with a different direction.

It's not terrible to work with if you do several things:

*Have enough space- make space for the phyllo itself plus space for working with it (I used a cutting board for the work surface)
*Work quickly- you don't have to rush things but the key is that the sheets don't dry out. They are super-thin and pretty delicate but not so delicate that they can't be worked with.
*Don't Let Them Dry Out-Keep a damp paper towel on top of the dough. Wet a paper towel and ring it out really, really well. If the towel is too wet, your layers can stick to the towel and break apart.

3/4-1 lb button mushrooms, chopped small
1 large shallot, minced (can use 1/4 regular white onion, minced)
large pinch dried rosemary
large pinch dried thyme
1-3 tsp soy sauce
about 1/2 c white wine (or vegetable broth)
2-3 Tbsp tofutti cream cheese
small piece of vegan cheese, grated (about 1/4 c. I used FYH Mozz.)
fresh cracked black pepper\
melted margarine, for "buttering"

Melt a little margarine/oil in a large, high-sided pan, and add shallots. Let sweat, but do not brown. Add mushrooms and cook until they release liquid.

Add rosemary,thyme, and soy sauce and continue to cook until almost all of the liquid is almost gone.

Toss in the wine and stir well, getting all the good bits from the pan. Add cream cheese and shredded cheese until smooth. Cream cheese should dissolve and mix in but it's not crucial that the shredded cheese melt.

Add in pepper and salt to taste (may not need salt). If a little bitter, add a small pinch of sugar and mix well.

Let cool, and wrap in Phyllo. I did *every* step in these pictures, so don't be intimidated. I am also left-handed so if you are right-handed, just put the filling on the other side and wrap to the right if it makes you comfortable.

Place sheet on surface.


If using 2 sheets (optional) place 2nd sheet directly on top of first. And butter.

Fold sheet over lengthwise.

Butter it.


Folding it over and over and over

When you come to the end, just add more margarine and fold over.

Place seam side (last side that was open) down, and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes, flipping over at the 10-minute mark. They should be crispy on the outside and golden-colored.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

"Veal" and Ricotta Manicotti

I don't usually like to heavily on any one book, but Bryanna Clark Grogan's books are so good that I would suggest you buy it anyway. *I made the "veal"/"turkey" seitan with the baking method from Nonna's Italian Kitchen. Even as an omnivore, once I knew what veal was, I wouldn't eat it, so it's weird for me to type out. That's why I have to use the quotes, you see. Anyway, the seitan is delicious. I guess you could use a different flavored seitan, but it won't be quite the same. I think a "chicken" or "beef" version would still be very good, though!

You can make this recipe in 2 parts if you like. Make the "veal" filling, the ricotta, and cook the noodles the day before. You can even fill the noodles, cover with sauce, and refrigerate overnight.

Variation- If you'd like to have an all-meat style manicotti, omit the ricotta. I would definitely use the bechamel sauce if you do this. You may also want to try "veal" and spinach.

"Veal" and Ricotta Manicotti (Makes 12-14 Stuffed Pasta Noodles)
1 Package Manicotti Noodles (12-14 noodles), cooked and drained- save plastic cartons
1 recipe of your favorite tofu ricotta (using 1 pkg. tofu, about 1 1/2 c.)
1/2 Recipe "Veal"* seitan, as mentioned above
Favorite Spaghetti/Tomato Sauce (I use what's jarred and on sale)
Favorite Bechamel sauce (optional. You can use all spaghetti sauce.)
shredded vegan cheese (optional)

"Veal" Filling
4 c (or so) small-chopped "veal" seitan (mentioned above, uses the whole amount cooked)
1 average onion, minced finely
2 cloves garlic, minced
2-4 Tbsp + 2 Tbsp margarine
2 Tbsp flour
1 c soy/non-dairy milk
2 large pinches salt
2 large pinches sugar
few fresh grinds pepper

Heat 2-4 Tbsp margarine in a large saute pan on MED and sweat onions and garlic. Do not brown, just soften.

Add seitan and cook on MED-HI for about 7 minutes, until heated through and some parts browned. (Not too crispy. Do this in 2 batches 7 min each, please.)

Remove and put in food processor and pulse until pretty well broken down, about the consistency of chunky wet cat food (sorry!!)

Heat remaining 2 Tbsp. margarine and add flour. Stir around the pan for about a minute or two. Add the soymilk and stir really well. This makes a thick sauce and also gets all the good bits off the bottom. Add the seitan back to the pan and mix really well with the thick sauce. Stir really well. Remove and fill noodles or refrigerate for later.

Fill The Noodles
To fill the noodles, I would really suggest using a pastry bag. To make your own pasty bag, cut the end off of a ziploc bag. Ta-da! This is also easier if you employ the use of the plastic cartons your uncooked pasta came in. Just set them back in their little trays and they'll stay still.

-Use up all the "veal" filling evenly amongst the noodles. Just kind of make sure it's evenly distributed along the bottom of each noodle. There's plenty of filling.
-Do the same with the ricotta, except try to get it on top of the meat filling and not mix it. For the ricotta, it's easiest if you just pump a little in from both sides, instead of trying to fit the piping bag into the noodle and squirting too much out the other end. Be frugal with the ricotta at first then go back and add more (I didn't do this and had 2 ricotta-less manicotti!).

Cover with bechamel, then spaghetti sauce, or all spaghetti sauce. Cover with shredded vegan cheese (optional).

Bake at 350-375, 30 min. covered. Uncover and bake about 20 min more. Place on top shelf and broil under broiler if using cheese. Watch closely so nothing burns. Adjust time for colder/thawing manicotti. You want the sauce around the noodles to bubble, and the center of each noodle/filing to be hot.

Watch the Sopranos and say "Manni-got!" like they do on the show. Serve with some garlic bread and a nice salad.

For Freezing- Cover baking pan in plastic wrap for easy lifting out- Place a thin layer of spaghetti sauce on bottom, and place in noodles. Freeze and remove in one piece (noodles and sauce), wrapping tightly and placing in a ziploc bag. I use vacuum freezer bags. Day of service: place more spaghetti sauce on bottom of cooking pan, unwrap frozen noodles/sauce, and place in pan. Let defrost in refrigerator. Before cooking, pour on bechamel and more spaghetti sauce. Bake as directed.
I have also heard of people preparing the whole thing, sauce and all, in the pan then just covering with plastic or aluminum and freezing it. It's up to you. Freezing only the noodles with a little sauce saves space.

Italian Pasta Salad with Baked Tofu and Beans

If you're like me, your budget is a little pretty tight and you may need some meals that stretch. Luckily, pasta is there for you. So are canned beans and some tofu.

This pasta salad uses left over baked tofu, which is really firm and delicious the next day cold. Even more protein is added to the mix when you toss in your beans. You can throw in whatever vegetables you like as well. I know some people aren't crazy about leftovers, but generally those people aren't the ones who cook and should say "Gee, thanks for the grub! You are gorgeous!" instead of complaining about leftovers. Just saying.

Italian Pasta Salad with Baked Tofu and Beans
Makes about 4 servings

1/2- 3/4 box small pasta shells
3-4 slabs cold baked tofu*, diced into small pieces (about pea-size)
1/2 can beans (I used kidney beans. Can use any bean you like)
1 carrot, finely grated
1 green onion (include white part), minced
3-4 Tbsp. vegan mayo (Vegenaise), more to taste
2 Tbsp. Italian Dressing (your favorite), more to taste
Cavender's Greek Seasoning
Salt and Pepper (fresh ground)

Cook pasta according to package directions, rinse and drain very well. Place in refrigerator.

Meanwhile, whisk vegan mayo and dressing, and do all of your chopping. Rinse and drain beans if necessary.

Mix everything (pasta, dressing mixture, tofu, beans, carrot, onion) and season to taste with the Cavender's. Go a little easy at first.

Refrigerate for 10-30 min (or overnight) and taste again, adjusting seasoning if necessary.
Can eat right after mixing, but cold pasta salads are better if the flavors hang out for a while.

*Italian Baked Tofu (same as in the link)

1 1b/block tofu, pressed and cut into 8 slabs. (Can double if you wish)
2 Tbsp peanut or canola oil
1 Tbsp. tamari or soy sauce

Preheat oven to 350
Whisk oil and soy sauce very well. Place tofu in a 9x13 pan and pour oil/soy sauce on top, and flip over, coating tofu well on both sides.
Bake 1 hour, turning every 15 minutes. Cool and place in refrigerator, topping with 2 Tbsp. of your favorite Italian dressing, once again coating the tofu. Place in fridge.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Italian Tofu-Polenta Stacks with Vegetable-Mushroom Ragout

This dish has quite a few components, but it's easy to do if you do half of it one day, and the rest the next. It has homemade polenta, dill, mushrooms, and asparagus. I really love the presentation.

DAY BEFORE SERVING- Make Polenta, Bake Tofu, Soften Shiitakes

1/4 c margarine, divided
1 small onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
3 3/4 c vegetable or vegan "chicken" broth
1 c yellow or white cornmeal (I used white)
2 Tb. soy creamer/soymilk
1 large or 2 small green onions, minced
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh cracked pepper

Line a 8x8 or 9x9 cake pan with saran wrap across the bottom both ways. (so all 4 sides of the pan have saran wrap overhanging.

Melt 1 Tb. margarine, and saute onion and garlic until tender. Stir in broth and bring to a boil.
Stir in corn meal, reduce heat and simmer 10 min., whisking well most of the time.
Stir in cream, green onion, salt, and pepper.

Pour into prepared pan and smooth the top. Cover with another piece of saran wrap.
Chill overnight or at least 8 hrs.
To cut the next day: Remove SOLID polenta block with the saran wrap overhang. Place on cutting board and cut into 4 quadrants. Next cut each of the 4 squares in half horizontally, so they are half of their thickness (about 1/4"). Can saute as squares, or cut each square into 2 triangles. (I used triangles)

Meanwhile..Italian Baked Tofu

1 1b/block tofu, pressed and cut into 8 slabs. (Can double if you wish)
2 Tbsp peanut or canola oil
1 Tbsp. tamari or soy sauce

Preheat oven to 350
Whisk oil and soy sauce very well. Place tofu in a 9x13 pan and pour oil/soy sauce on top, and flip over, coating tofu well on both sides.
Bake 1 hour, turning every 15 minutes. Cool and place in refrigerator, topping with 2 Tbsp. of your favorite Italian dressing, once again coating the tofu. Place in fridge.

Heat a small pot of water to boiling, throw in dried shiitakes, and set aside for 20 minutes. Cool, drain well, and chop, making sure to remove any woody stem. Put in fridge. You can do this the day of as well if you'd like.

DAY OF- Make Mushroom-Vegetable Ragout, Saute Tofu and Saute Polenta and Tofu

While making this ragout, you want to heat a nonstick skillet to MED or MED HI and saute tofu slabs with the Italian dressing it was marinating in. No need for extra oil. Saute until lightly crisp on each side.
Empty and place on a baking sheet and keeping warm in the oven.
Drop 2 Tbsp. margarine and saute the cold polenta squares or triangles until browned on each side. Also keep warm in oven.

Vegetable-Mushroom Ragout
1 medium succhini, large diced
1 medium yellow squash, large diced
about 12 large asparagus spears
large handful fresh green beans, ends trimmed
1 c dried sliced shiitakes, soaking for 20 min in hot water, and chopped
1 large or 2 small button mushrooms, diced
1 shallot, minced
1 garlic, minced
scant 1 c vegetable/vegan "chicken" broth
1/2 c white wine
1/2 c (plus extra) soy cream
1/4 c chopped dill
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp flour

Cut the woody 1/3 of the bottom of asparagus off. Cut each spear into about thirds, making the spear end bigger than the other 2-3 parts.
Cut green beans into about thirds
Boil a medium pot of water and cook asparagus, green beans, yellow squash, and zucchini for 2 minutes. (May need to do 2 batches). Submerge in an ice bath to stop cooking. Drain very, very well.
Melt a Tbsp. margarine and saute softened shiitake and button mushrooms. Remove and place in bowl with blanched vegetables.
Heat 1 more Tbsp. margarine and saute shallots and garlic until tender. Add wine and broth. Cook about 15 min. or until it is reduced to about 1 1/4 c.

Use pan you cooked polenta in, adding 1-2 Tbsp oil/margarine (depending on how much oil you have left in the pan) and add flour. Whisk until it forms a paste, and add some of the broth/wine mixture. Whisk again, while adding the rest of the broth and the dill. This is where you reduce until slightly thickened, and add more cream if you like. You do not want a gravy.
Add the vegetables back, and season as desired.

Stack: Polenta, Tofu, Polenta, Tofu, Vegetable-Mushroom Ragout, spooning in extra sauce.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

"Chicken-Style" Seitan-Vegetable Fajitas

This recipe really needs to be adjusted to YOUR personal taste, so the measurements are really up to you as far as the marinade goes. I cook the seitan twice, giving it a firm texture and crispy outside.

Makes about 6-7 small tortillas (serves 2 hungry people if you have rice and beans)

1 small onion, cut into rings
1 large unpeeled carrot, cut into coins (maybe 1/8 in thick)
handful (about 3/4 c) broccoli florets, chopped if large
5-6 small button mushrooms, quartered
1-1 1/2 c chicken-style seitan, cut into strips and sauteed
pack small flour tortillas
dry fajita seasoning (opt)

Marinade (equals about a half cup):
olive oil
lime juice from 1/2 decent lime
soy sauce/tamari
dash apple cider vinegar
Green Tabasco Sauce (it's really not spicy!)
agave nectar
garlic powder

You will also maybe want some:

Guacamole (!!! Duh)
Tofutti Sour Cream
Chopped Green Onion

Make marinade to taste. It has a really unique flavor, but it will work. You want it sort of acidic and a little sweet.
Place sauteed seitan in marinade. The longer it sits, the better. At least 30 min.

When ready to cook, have all of your ingredients ready, this cooks quickly like a stir-fry.

Heat a large, tall sided pan (MED-HI) and put a generous amount of canola oil. Heat oil until hot and add seitan strips. Stir frequently. You want them heated through and seared on the outside.

Remove from pan and add more oil and heat until oil is hot.

Add all vegetables and stir continuously for about a minute and add the rest of the marinade.

Cook until vegetables are tender-crisp. Some will have a slightly charred outside.
Adjust heat as necessary. Add a couple shakes of fajita seasoning (optional)

Add seitan back to pan and make sure everything is hot.

Serve immediately. Cover a plate of the tortillas with a wet paper towel and microwave 30 seconds to soften, then fill with the seitan and vegetables.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Swirly Breads- Cinnamon/Raisin & Garlic Italian

I saw that Vegan Dad had some delicious-looking breads on his site, so I wanted to try them. Let me tell you about vegan dad. I like Vegan Dad. He's apparently probably Vegan, and probably also a dad. I don't see as many male vegan bloggers, so it makes me happy. I love to see people taking real concern in their kids' lives/nutrition. Sometimes people forget how much love can be put into the meals they eat. I like the fact that he has good recipes, I like his pictures, and I like that most of the food he makes is kid-friendly. Go, Vegan Dad!

On to the bread.
I'm not a baked goods purist, or any other type of purist for that matter. I like some chunky stuff. I like chunky stuff in my ice cream, I like chunky stuff in my soup. I like chunky stuff in my brownies. Give me texture!

The cinnamon raisin bread is just slightly modified, and I decided to make the other one Italian garlic swirl. I would suggest not halving this recipe even though it makes 2 loaves. Just stick one in the freezer/give it away as a gift. You think your neighbor won't enjoy a nice loaf of bread? You are going to be waiting the same amount of time anyway, and 2 loaves is barely more work than 1. Other ideas for filling include mixed chopped olives, chocolate chips, other spices besides Italian (maybe cardamom, curry spice, jerk rub..Chinese 5-spice powder, even?), maybe pumpkin seeds. Maybe poppy or sesame seeds on top, sunflower seeds throughout, maybe even jam or jelly inside.




1/3 c warm water
2 tsp active dry yeast
3/4 tsp sugar
2 c warm water
1/3 c sugar
scant 3/4 tsp salt
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp ground flax seed, whisked into 3 Tbsp of water
1/3 c vegetable oil
6-7 c white bread flour OR 6-7 c All purpose flour + 1/4 c gluten flour (opt)

Cinnamon/Raisin: 1 c raisins, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/3 c brown sugar, 1-2 Tbsp softened margarine
Garlic/Italian: 7-8 cloves garlic, olive oil, Rosemary, Italian spice, and garlic powder (*see instructions below)

Stir 3/4 tsp sugar into 1/3 c water. Mix in yeast and set aside until foamy.

Mix together 2 cups water, sugar, salt, vinegar, flax mixture, and oil in a large bowl. Mix in yeast mixture and 2 cups of flour. Beat until smooth. Can use paddle attachment on a stand mixer.

Add in 2 more cups of flour and mix until smooth. Add in enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough (either by hand or with the dough hook attachment). Knead until smooth. (I let the machine do the work.)

Place dough in a well-oiled bowl, turning to coat the whole loaf. Cover with a towel and let rise for at least an hour, until doubled in size. I put them in a (turned off) oven and close the door (*See instructions for garlic bread below!)

Punch down risen dough and knead for a minute or so to get out the air bubbles. Separate dough into 2 balls and gently fold raisins into one of the dough balls.

Roll out each ball into a rectangle, making sure it will fit your loaf pans. Spray loaf pans with nonstick spray.

For cinnamon/raisin: Mix brown sugar, softened margarine, and cinnamon and spread the paste all over the rectangle. Roll up tightly, tuck edges in, and place in a loaf pan, "seam" side down.

For garlic/Italian: exact same procedure, except with the garlic paste

Let rise for 45 minutes, uncovered. (Once again, I do this in the turned-off oven).

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. (Don't leave your bread in there, duh). Place loaves in oven and bake for 35-40 minutes, until loaves are nicely browned and sound hollow when you knock on the bottom. You can brush on some soy milk or oil before baking for more color, but it's not necessary.

Let cool slightly and remove bread onto racks to finish, and make sure to "test" a slice (or 2!) while they are still nice and warm.

*Garlic Bread-
We will be making a roasted garlic flavored paste. While bread is rising the first time, Peel garlic cloves and place in a heated pan with a couple Tbsp. olive oil. You want the pan on the lowest setting possible. We are not trying to saute or sear the garlic. Cover pan and shake every so often.
When garlic is soft and a golden color, pour (with oil) into a bowl, add a pinch of Rosemary, generous shaking of Italian seasoning, and and a little shake of garlic powder. Mash into a paste with a fork. You can also use fresh chopped herbs. Proceed as with cinnamon bread.

A Note About Yeast:
If your yeast mixture does not get foamy, your yeast is dead. Get some new yeast. It could have been age, temperature of the water, or just your bad attitude that killed it. Just kidding. Make sure the water is warm and not hot, because this can kill yeast. And another thing- yeast isn't an animal. So next time a non-vegan Dexter (or your grandma- she's just trying to help!) tells you that yeast isn't vegan, tell them that it's from the kingdom of Fungi and that we can (ethically) eat everyone in the kingdom of Fungi, even though we certainly wouldn't want to eat ALL fungi.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

I Have To Post This

Generally this blog is just about food, but damn!


I AM SO PROUD. Congratulations, President Obama.

Look at that handsome first family!

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

I really like pineapple upside down cake, but most of the recipes available call for cake mix and I don't know of any vegan cake mixes. It's really easy enough to make your own anyway (not to mention less expensive). Don't let the long-looking recipe fool you. It's all ready to go in the oven by the time the oven is preheated. I use coconut extract here for a creamier tropical taste.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

1/3 c earth balance margarine
1/4 c + 2 Tbsp. Brown sugar

1-8oz can pineapple rings in pineapple juice, juice reserved
Maraschino cherries

1 3/4 c flour
1 c sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda

1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp coconut extract
1/2 c water
1/2 c reserved pineapple juice (can use water, but it’s better with juice)
1/4 c + 2 Tbsp vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350
Trace a round 8-inch baking pan (with sides at least 1.5 inches high) onto a piece of parchment and cut a circle to place in the bottom of the pan. Spray with nonstick spray all over the inside of the pan.

Place margarine and brown sugar in a pan on the stove and turn on medium heat, stirring often until both are melted and lightly bubbling. Remove from heat. May be runny. Do not over-boil. (It doesn't have to come together, but if you want it more caramely, you can cook a little longer. Just don't burn it.)

Meanwhile, drain pineapples really well and save the juice. Place rings in pan. You can use a larger can if extra rings are desired. Place maraschino cherries in and around rings in desired patterns.

Pour sugar/margarine over pineapple, careful not to move them around. Spread sugar/margarine evenly around pineapples and cherries.

Make cake mix:
Sift flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda.
Mix in a separate bowl: vinegar, extracts, water, pineapple juice, and oil.
Add wet to dry, mix well and carefully pour over pineapple/sugar in the pan.

Cook for 25-40 min, checking every 5 minutes after 25. When a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean, it’s done.
NOTE: Thank you Lori for mentioning that it took you 35-40 min. My oven was off the day I made this cake.

Let cool most of the way, loosen cake from pan with a toothpick around the edges. Gently turn over onto a plate (It’s easier to put the plate upside down on the pan, and flip the whole thing together). Peel parchment off of the pineapples.


NOTE: Today my oven was acting funky and I had to cook this FOREVER and if this happens to you (the sides are cooking before the center is set) then just cover the sides with aluminum and hope for the best.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Non-Partisan Chocolate Cookie Sandwiches

I made these for people at work for something fun. Most of the people I work with are Republican/Conservative and there are a few of us who aren't. I still voted Obama (early voting), but these were a hit across the party lines.

Chewy Chocolate Cookies from The PPK and Buttercream Icing (1/2 recipe) from VCTOTW