Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Butternut Squash Soup with Carmelized Onions - My Mind

After perusing a few websites that had various recipes (both vegan and non-vegan) with butternut squash as the main ingredient, I decided I would try my hand at inventing an original VEGAN recipe. I am slowly building my kitchen confidence and intuition - breaking out of my "strictly-follow-the-recipe" mentality is challenging and fun.

This recipe yielded 2 large bowls.

1 butternut squash
1/2 onion, sliced
1/2 c. cashews
3/4 to 1 c. plain soy milk
1 tsp. Better than Boullion
1/2 c. water
1/4 tsp. sage (from the spice rack, next time I'll try fresh!)
squirt of maple syrup
black and cayenne pepper to taste
parsley for garnish
1) Preheat oven to 350. Place butternut squash into a baking dish and bake for 1 hour. Let the squash cool to the point that it can be (man) handled. Peel skin then gut and toss the seeds. Slice the butternut in half; cut one half into small chunks. Reserve other half for another exciting vegan recipe. [I wrapped the other 1/2 in plastic wrap and will store in the fridge until I can think of something to do with it...any vegan-friendly suggestions?]
2) Thinly slice and caramelize onion in a bit of olive oil.
3) Blend until creamy the cashews and soy milk. Add in Better than Boullion, water, sage, and a medium squirt (how precise!) of maple syrup.
4) Add the squash cubes and blend, blend, blend! until creamy.
5) Transfer soup into a pot, toss in the caramelized onions, season with the peppers, and heat through. Garnish, if wanted, and serve immediately!

Some thoughts:

The soup was pretty good. The blended cashews lent the soup a thick, creamy texture. In the event that you wanted soupier soup, you could always add in more water until desired thinness is achieved. But I liked the viscosity of the recipe - its just a matter of personal preference, all!

I rushed the caramelization process, so my onions were not as tender or as sweet as they could have been. Next time, I won't rush the process - if I remember correctly, Martha (Stewart, of course) suggests that the process should take at least 1/2 hour. Since it was late at night, I rushed the process, and let the onion slices cook for a scant 10 minutes or so...Next time, I'll try to improve on this aspect of the recipe.

RA suggested the combination of butternut squash and sage. She is a proponent of fresh herbs - I used what I had around the kitchen at the time, which is the powdered sage from a spice rack. Next time, I'd try fresh sage.

What's Better Than Bouillon, you ask? Basically, it is a concentrated veggie paste that you add to water to make veggie broth. Alternatively, using real (homemade or store-bought) veggie broth would be an acceptable substitution.

At Raymonds, I once ordered their Chipolte Butternut Squash Soup and thought it was good, but a tad spicy. In comparison, my soup was extremely mild. Adding more black and/or cayenne and/or other type of pepper is another variation that I might play around with on a rainy day.

When heating the soup, the soup kept splattering out of the pot! Next time, I might use a lower heat for a longer length of time as to avoid the mess left on the stove.

I am excited to see if and how the flavors meld after 24 hours.

Decent soup!

To Be (Vegan) or Not To Be...

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Carb Queen

So many of my vegan recipes rely heavily on pasta! I'd like to experiment with more dishes that do not!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

JL's Vegan Saag Paneer - JL's Brilliant Mind

ORIGINAL Homemade vegan Indian food at its finest. JL experimented and came up with this recipe.

In a food processor, [If its a new, shiny, and white Cuisinart one - all the better!] process: sauted onions, fresh spinach, and chunks of carrot.

JL - what type of oil did you use to saute the onions?
JL - did you cook the carrots before processing or where they raw?
JL - are there any ingredients missing?

Saute some cubed tofu too. Serve hot with oven-baked pita (our version of naan (sp?)].

This is a simple recipe! It might be fun to experiment with various (Indian) spices. Great dish, Julia and thanks for taking care of the dishes, SW! Let's do it again soon :)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Apple-Peanut Butter-Caramel Bars - Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook (p.242)

Holy Christmas Day! This recipe produces an insanely sweet dessert much like warm apple pie (..."It's like warm apple pie" teehee.


3 cups graham cracker crumbs [If you are truly taking the whole vegan thing to heart, you'll have to be sure that your graham crackers do not contain any honey. I used Keebler Cinnamon Grahams:
1/2 c. canola oil
3 TBL. plain soy milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract

I placed my graham crackers in a gallon-sized Ziplock bag, wrapped the baggie in a dish towel, then proceeded to pound the sh** out of the crackers using a heavy, metal mallet utensil thing. Great way to release frustration!

Crumb topping:
1/2 c. all purpose flour
3 TBL. sugar
2 TBL. canola oil
pinch each of cinnamon, ginger, and allspice [I did not have allspice, so I subbed pumpkin pie mix instead]

Apple filling:
6 granny smiths, cored and sliced thinly (peeling is optional) [I peeled]
1 TBL. canola oil
1/3 c. sugar
3 TBL. flour
1 TBL. water
pinch each of cinna, ginger [Kill all gingers!...Yes, this will the first and only South Park reference in my blog], and allspice [again, I used pumpkin pie mix]

Peanut Butter Caramel:
2/3 c. chunky PB
1/4 c. maple syrup
3 TBL. brown rice syrup
I've assembled all of the ingredients, now what?...
Prepare the Crust:
1) Place grahams in a mixing bowl. Drizzle with oil and mix until moistened. Gradually add in the soy milk. Mix with your fingers; the crumbs should hold together if pinched. Press the wet crumbs into a 9 x 13 inch baking pan to make a crust. [My crust didn't extend up the sides, it was a flat-bottom crust]

Prepare the topping:
1) Place flour, sugar, and spices in a mixing bowl. Drizzle two TBL. of oil into the flour and mix with your fingers until crumbs start to form. Add more oil if necessary [it wans't!]

Prepare the apple filling:
1) Combing all the ingredients in a bowl, coating all the apples. [I advise combing the oil, sugar, flour, water, and spices first to make a paste, even before peeling, coring, and slicing the apples. The peeling, coring, and slicing of the apples should come last, as to avoid the apples from turning brown on you. I found that immediately after slicing the apples, if I coated the slices in the paste, they did not turn brown...would that be the apples oxidizing?...rando question...]

1) Layer the apples onto the crust.
2) Sprinkle with crumb topping. The authors note that the topping won't solidly cover the entire pan; just sprinkle it evenly over the top.
3) Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the apples are tender.

Prepare the Peanut Butter Caramel: [Do this about 40 minutes into the bake time]
1) Mix all the ingredients very well, in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat for about 3 minutes, until the mixture "softens and slides of the fork in ribbons" [My mixture never became ribbon-like, rather, it thinned out considerably while hot.]
2) When the bars are done baking [ding!], drizzle the caramel over the top. Please let the dish cool completely before slicing and serving; to speed up the waiting process, its OK to stick the entire pan in the fridge.

Notes: The recipe recommends eating this dish cooled and cut into bars; I say live a little and eat it warm, fresh out of the oven!

I poured my caramel right out of the saucepan and it never really gave that "drizzled" look, rather it just kind of looked gloppy. Of course, it was still delicious, but in the event that presentation matters, I'd recommend putting the sauce into a squirt bottle to achieve that "drizzle" effect. Or alternatively, dumping the caramel into a Ziplock baggie, cutting of a corner, and squeezing it out the opening would result in a more aesthetically-pleasing drizzle.

The sheer amount of oil in this recipe is a cause for concern. I've read that applesauce can sub for oil in baking, so next time I might experiment with this healthier alternative.

JL and SW, I hope you enjoyed this dessert as much as I did!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

"Vegan Hobbyist" - Coined by MD on 12/13/09

Pumpkin Baked Ziti With Caramelized Onions and Sage Bread Crumb Topping - Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry

...Hope Romero (p.194)
Vegannomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook (A BIG thanks, SW, for helping me to troubleshoot linking websites! GENIUS!)

Thanks to JL and SW for getting me this cookbook for my birthday! This is the first of many recipes from this book that I will be experimenting with. Thanks again! You guys are phenomenal friends. And your vegan wedding will be out of this world :)
P.S. If you are reading this, when are we going to do our vegan dinner???

Just the name of this dish gives me goosebumps. MD, myself, and Lady GaGa collaborated on Saturday night to make this baked ziti dish.


3/4 lb. uncooked ziti or penne pasta [We used whole wheat ziti and guesstimated the amount of pasta. We used a full 13.25 oz box plus 3 large handful of zitis from a second box. If you were concerned, the pasta did all fit into the cooking pot, hahah MD!)
2 onions thinly sliced
3 TBL. olive oil
1 recipe Cashew Ricotta (recipe to follow)
1 TBL. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
white pepper and cayenne [We didn't have white so we omitted it, we aren't pepper racists, we swear!]
2 c. pumpkin puree or one 15 oz. canned pumpkin puree
1/4 c. veggie broth

2.5 c. breadcrumbs [The authors strongly advised using homemade bread crumbs, but we used unsalted breadcrumbs straight from the canister]
1/3 c. walnut pieces, chopped in a food processor until resembling coarse crumbs [I am pretty sure MD just chopped the nuts by hand.]
1/4 c. non-hydrogenated vegan marg. [We used either Earth Balance or Smart Balance, whatever is currently in my fridge]
2 tsp. dried rubbed sage [rubbed? haha]
1 tsp. dried oregano leaves
1/2 tsp. ground paprika
salt and freshly ground black pepper [Lunchtime poll: Can you really detect a difference from regular black pepper and fresh ground pepper?"

[The bolded parts are quotes from two of my favorite movies. Hint: the first is straight up 80's and the second is classic 90's...Can you name those films?]

1) Preheat the oven to 375. Lightly grease an 9 x 11 inch lasagne-type baking pan (ours was glass) with olive oil.
2) Prepare ziti according to package directions. Drain then rinse with cool water to stop cooking. Set aside.
3) While the pasta is cooking, caramelize the onions. Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan and saute the onions until brown and caramelized. Set aside. See Notes.
4) Prepare Cashew Ricotta:
1/2 c. raw cashew pieces
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
2 TBL. olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 lb. firm tofu, drained.
1.5 tsp. dried basil
1.5 tsp. salt

1a) In a food processor, blend cashews, lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic until thick, creamy paste forms. Add crumbled tofu and blend. Blend in basil and salt.

5) Place the Cashew Ricotta in a large bowl and fold in pumpkin, brown sugar, nutmeg, white pepper, cayenne, and vegetable broth. Add the cooked ziti and caramelized onions, stirring to coat the pasta. Pour the mixture into the baking pan and spread it out evenly.

1a) Melt the marg. in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in the breadcrumbs, walnuts, dried herbs, paprika, and season with salt and pepper. Stir constantly until the mixture is lightly coated, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat and sprinkle evenly over the ziti.

6) Bake for 28 to 30 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Let dish cool for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

WHOA! What a dish! This is delicious for the fall. The pumpkin flavor was subtle and lent a nice creaminess to the dish. The mushiness of the ziti contrasted well with the dry, crunchiness of the breadcrumbs. The sweetness of the pumpkin was a phenomenal compliment to the zing of the pepper. Both MD and I were ecstatic with the results of this recipe. This is a 5-star recipe. [Note: Going forward, I will be tagging certain entries as being 5-star.]

As far as caramelizing onions, the onions were caramelized to perfection. I used a bronze-y/ copper colored pan from our kitchen, and I do believe that the specific pan really helped to make a difference. I seem to remember that I used a standard, dark non-stick pan to make the caramelized onions for the Onion Tart Recipe, and the results were not as impressive. LESSON LEARNED: When caramelizing onions, go for the bronze cookware! In addition to the olive oil, I added a few small scoops of the marg. to coat the onions in the pan and at one point, I added in a small scoop or two of sugar, to really get the caramelization process rolling. PERFECTION.

One thing I might do differently is to initially under cook the ziti in the pot since the ziti presumably continues to cook in the oven. This might give the dish an even better, al dente texture.

Health-conscious MD made a great substitution in the recipe. In place of about 1/2 c. of the bread crumbs, she subbed in wheat germ! MD also dazzled me and Lady G with her knowledge of the health benefits of wheat-germ. And she also took advantage of her "cooking license" [much akin to poetic license, obviously] by adding in fresh parsley to the sage breadcrumb recipe.

Again, this is a definite 5-star recipe. I cannot wait to experiment with the other recipes in this particular cookbook!

Pepita Fettucini with Spinach & Cranberries - Vegan Yum Yum (p.208)

Fettucini for one [Wow, that's fairly lends itself an "aura of mysteriousness" haha, MD :)]
1/3 c. raw, unsalted pepitas or pumpkin seeds [Couldn't find pepitas, I used pumpkin seeds]
1 TBL. oil
2 large handfuls of spinach, torn
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 TBL. tamari or soy sauce
1 TBL. maple syrup
2 or 3 fresh thyme sprigs (optional) [I opted out of this option]
1/4 c. dried cranberries [Craisins to the rescue!]
1) Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and add the fettucini. While the pasta is cooking, pulse the pepitas in a food processor or blender until chopped fairly fine, then set aside. [I just chopped the pumpkin seeds by hand to the best of my ability with a chef's knife]
2) Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add the spinach. Use tongs to coat the spinach in the hot oil. Add the red pepper flakes, tamari, maple syrup, and (optional) thyme. Toss in the cranberries and mix everything well. Turn off heat.
3) Drain the fettucini and add to the skillet. Add chopped pepitas and toss everything until coated. Serve immediately.

This dish looked impressive, though I wasn't particularly impressed by the taste. The sauce was on the "hot" side - perhaps I just used a heavy hand when tossing in the red pepper flakes...Regardless, I did not think that this was a spectacular recipe. However, in the event that I do, I will double the sauce recipe. Perhaps extra sauce will improve the dish.

Brococoli Almond Sweet-and-Sour Tofu - Vegan Yum Yum (p. 40)

1 tub extra firm tofu, pressed
2 tsp. Ener-G Egg Replacer, plus 4 tsp. water, mixed
1/4 c. cornstarch
1/4 peanut or canola oil [I used peanut]
1/2 c. sliced almonds
1 to 2. c steamed broccoli
sesame seeds for garnish (optional)

3.5 TBL. seasoned rice vinegar
1/4 c. + 1 TBL. H20 [H2 the izzo!]
2 TBL. + 2 tsp. sugar
2 TBL. tamari
2 tsp. ketchup
1 tsp. molasses
1/4 tsp. ginger powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1.5 TSP. cornstarch + 2 TBL. water, mixed.
1) Slice the tofu into triangles or small cubes. [Lauren (the author, of course) suggests that smaller is better. This is where the pre-cubed tofu in the tub would be very handy, since my hand-cut cubes were fairly sizable pieces.]
2) Toss the tofu with the egg replacer/water mixture until coated. Then toss in cornstarch until each piece is coated and dry, adding more cornstarch if needed.
3) Heat oil in a large wok.
4) While the oil is heating, make the sweet-and-sour sauce. In a small sauce pan, mix rice vinegar, water, sugar, tamari, ketchup, molasses, ginger powder, and salt and whisk until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Add the cornstarch/water mixture and whisk until the sauce thickens. Lauren cautions to keep your eye on the sauce and whisk frequently, as the sauce will burn is left unattended. When thick, turn off heat and set aside.
5) Place tofu in the hot oil, and fry for 3 to 5 minutes until golden on the bottom, then flip and brown the other side. Lauren suggests not crowding the tofu cubes and advises cooking the tofu in batches, if necessary. Right before you are going to take the tofu out, add the almonds and fry them for about 30 seconds.
6) When done cooking tofu and almonds, drain the oil and place the mix into a large bowl.
7) Pour sweet-and-sour sauce over tofu and almonds, add fresh steamed broccoli, and gently toss to coat. Optionally, garnish with sesame seeds, and serve immediately.

Comments: What a slimy and sticky mess the tofu was! My methodology was to place the tofu cubes in a bowl, dump in the peanut oil, then dump in the cornstarch on top. This resulted in a sticky, gooey gunk. And the large tofu cubes did not hold their shape well. That said, if I were to make this dish again, I would lightly coat the tofu cubes in the oil, then roll each cube around a plate of cornstarch, much like one does when coating a chicken breast with breadcrumbs.

That said, I am not sure I would bother trying to pan-fry the tofu again. It doesn't seem the healthiest way to prepare the 'fu and, as previously insinuated, the results were underwhelming. ["I know you can overwhelmed and I know that you can be underwhelmed, but can you ever, just be whemled?" "I think you can in Europe" - Name the movie, win a bike!]

On the other hand, the sweet-and-sour sauce was a delight! This would be a great sauce for dipping vegan egg rolls (Note to self: Find recipe for vegan egg rolls) or even drizzled over steamed veggies and rice.

Super Quick Tomato Basil Cream Pasta - Vegan Yum Yum...(p. 216)

This is easily one of my new favorite meals, hands down. The "cream" sauce is made by blending well cashews and other ingredients - the KitchenAid blender worked like a charm.


6 to 8 oz. uncooked whole wheat spaghetti [I eyeballed the amount]
1 to 2 large, ripe tomatoes [I opted to use 2]
1/2 c. raw cashews
1/4 c. water
1 TBL. tomato paste
2 TBL. olive oil
2 to 4 cloves garlic [I don't remember how many I used, but I am going say that I used 2 or 3 and definitely not 4 for fear of rancid garlic breath)
1 tsp. salt
2 to 3 TBL. wine or water [Whoa, that's like comparing apples to oranges]
1 or 2 tsp. black pepper
1 large handful fresh basil leaves, chopped
1) Boil water and cook pasta.
2) Core then roughly chop the tomato(s). Add to blender, along with cashews, water (or wine) and tomato paste. Blend until very smooth.
3) Add olive oil to large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic, and saute until golden.
4) Pour the sauce from the blender into the saute pan and bring to a simmer. Add salt, and let cook for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
5) Add the drained pasta to the saute pan along with the black pepper and freshly chopped basil leaves. Toss to coat and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

This recipe is delicious, as is. No changes or suggestions necessary. This recipe will be incorporated to my meal rotation.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Random Thought

So, as I was reading JL's blog, I noticed that she "tags" her entries. Going forward, I will be tagging entries for quicker reference in the future.

P.S. Damn "Insert Link" button on Blogger is still not functional! In any event, here is the link to her blog. You'll just have to bear with old school cutting and pasting for the time being!

Stir-Fry 2004 Plus! - An ORIGINAL by SDP and LH

SDP and I wanted to make dinner together and I suggested stir-fry...Little did she know that we were making a vegan meal! Again, like Stir-Fry 2004, we did not follow a recipe and instead used our kitchen intuition to throw together this dish. The results were phenomenal.

To start, heat up some tamari, water, and sugar in a wok. Add veggies. SDP bought and brought over a vacuum-packed assortment of pre-washed, pre-cut vegetables, that included carrots, broccoli, onions, red/yellow/green peppers, mushrooms, etc. This was a pleasant convenience. We also added in some finely chopped garlic and ginger. Towards the end of the cooking time, we tossed in cooked brown rice. At the end of the cooking time, SDP added some pan-fried chicken and I added my pan-fried tofu for protein.

Just as good, if not better, than last time!

Nutritious British Broccoli and Spinach Quiche - The PETA Celebrity Cookbook by Ingrid Newkirk (p. 69)


I had made this quiche B.B. (Before Blog) and had enjoyed it very much so. Why is it "British" quiche? That I do not know! Or care!


2-3 garlic cloves
1.5 c. broccoli
2 c. spinach
1 lb. tofu, drained and cut into chunks
2-3 TBS. nutritional yeast
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne (optional)
1 vegan pie crust (See 11/08/08 Entry for recipe)
1 tsp. paprika
1) Preheat oven to 350.
2) Combine garlic, broccoli, spinach, tofu chunks, nutritional yeast, salt, cayenne.
3) Combine in food processor (option) [I opted out of this step; instead I just chopped everything really well]
4) Roll out pie crust and place in pie dish.
5) Spoon tofu mixture into pie crust.
6) Sprinkle paprika on top.
7) Bake for 1 hour and let sit for 15 minutes before serving.

Why is my link not working?! Must play around with Blogger to create active and visible links. In the meantime, the following is the url for the cookbook:

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Ten Minute Brownies Revisited - See 11.15.09 Entry

Did not have any vegan chips, but I did have a hunk of Trader Joe's chocolate. At TJ's there is a physical list of Vegan Friendly Products - just ask at the customer service center! This bar of chocolate is a real value item too. For the recipe, I used a chef's knife and chopped the sh** out of a small hunk of the bar.

Again, there are some issues with pan size/ baking time/ proportions of wet and dry ingredients...the brownies were not cohesive squares when cut. They were crumbly but delicious and fudgy nonetheless. In fact, DP's dad wolfed down two at the dinner table! The brownies were extra energy needed to banish all helicopters on the front lawn!

Homemade Lara Bars -

Its a well known fact of life that Lara Bars are delicious. These homemade Lara Bars, courtesy of the above referenced website, were really good too! The recipe yields two bars.

Here's the recipe:

Very Cherry Bars

1/4 cup chopped dates (roughly chopped whole dates, not pre-chopped)
1/4 cup dried cherries or dried cranberries [I used Craisins]
1/3 cup whole pecans, almonds or walnuts [I used cashews]
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 TBSP peanut butter [I used crunchy Skippy]*

1)Pulse dates and cherries in a food processor (This is where my Magic Bullet came into handy) until processed to a paste; transfer to medium bowl.

2) Add the nuts and cinnamon to the Magic Bullet and pulse until finely chopped. Add the nut mixture to the fruit paste.

3) Use your fingers to knead the nuts into the fruit paste.

4) Divide mixture in half. Place each half on a sheet of plastic wrap, and use hands to form the bars.

Notes: * While the peanut butter was not included in the original recipe, I added it to the mixture since it was so dry and did not hold its form well. It was a tasty addition. It would be fun to roll out the dough and use cookie cutters!

As far as the mixture being a little on the arid side, it may be attributable to the dates I used. The ones I used were purchased in a plastic container. Word on the street from my coworker, RA, is that there are more juicy, fresh dates. She might have mentioned these plumper dates being readily available in a barrel? I'll have to investigate this further...

Also, I encourage you to check out the website mentioned above...the blogger makes suggestions for different variations of Lara Bars. HELLO chocolate chip cookie dough Lara Bars!