Saturday, March 31, 2012


As a vegan, falafel balls (Middle Eastern chickpea fritters) play a noteworthy role in my life.  Finding a satisfying vegan meal at a non-vegan restaurant can be challenging, but falafel often saves the day as one of the only vegan-friendly items on non-vegan menus.  I've tried to make falafel myself a few times in the past, but something always went wrong.  The balls would be too crumbly, usually, or it just wouldn't taste great.  Tonight, my luck turned.  We tried a new recipe for falafel and it yielded the BEST falafel I've ever made.  We ate it on pita with toppings, as you can see below.  Yum.

Falafel Balls

Falafel Pita
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley (or more cilantro)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • peanut, vegetable, or olive oil, for frying
  • Pita bread and any toppings you'd like
First, pulse together the chickpeas, onion, herbs, salt, red pepper flakes, garlic, and cumin in a food processor until blended but not puréed. (You could also mash the ingredients together by hand or with a potato masher.)  Add the baking powder and flour and pulse to combine.  The mixture should be able to form a small ball and hold its shape, so add more flour if needed.

Then, heat about an inch of oil on high heat in a large skillet or saucepan.  While the oil is heating, form the chickpea mixture into balls about the size of golf balls.  Drip a tiny bit of water into the pan to see if the oil is hot: if the water sizzles, the oil is ready.  Place one ball into the oil to test--if it falls apart, add a little flour.  Then place the balls in the oil and allow them too cook for a few minutes before turning them over using tongs.  They should be golden brown.  Line a plate with paper towels and place the cooked falafel balls there when they're done.  

Serve hot on a pita with lettuce/tomato/red onion/hummus/hot sauce/tahini sauce/other toppings.  Yields 20 golf ball-sized balls.  

These falafel balls were delicious.  They're crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, and the flavor is great.  None of the spices are overpowering, though there is a strong onion-y taste.  (You could reduce the amount of onion used, if you prefer.)  Of course, the fact that they are fried surely has something to do with their deliciousness.  I might try baking them next time to reduce the fat content. 
We used 1/2 cup cilantro as the only herb in the recipe in order to avoid buying whole bunches of both cilantro and parsley for just 1/4 cup of each.  You could also try using just parsley if that is more appealing to you.   
 Ease of Preparation:    
This is a really quick recipe.  Simon commented that he now understands why people fry things: it's so much faster than baking.   
Non-vegan friendliness:    
The three of us really enjoyed this recipe.  Then again, what's not to like about fried, flavorful fritters?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Noodles with Spicy Peanut Sauce

I've made a few different peanut sauces before with varied levels of success.  Last night we made a new version with great success!  While some peanut sauces can be quite thick and heavy, this one was both light and flavorful.

We served this with Asian Cabbage Slaw on the side.  

A delicious dinner.

Noodles with Spicy Peanut Sauce
  • 1 package whole wheat linguini
  • 1.5 cups frozen broccoli
  • 1.5 cups frozen snap peas  
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound extra-firm tofu, pressed and cut into 1/2" cubes
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1" chunk of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 7 tablespoons (just under 1/2 cup) rice vinegar
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter 
  • 2 carrots, sliced finely or grated 
First, begin preparing the linguini according to the package instructions.  When about 4 minutes remain in the cooking time, add the broccoli and snap peas and cook with the pasta for the remaining time.

Meanwhile, brown the tofu.  Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet, add the tofu to the hot oil, and cook, turning the tofu every several minutes, until it has browned on most sides.  Set aside.

Then, prepare the peanut sauce.  Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and the garlic in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat for 2 minutes.  Add the crushed red pepper flakes, ginger, and brown sugar to the pan and cook for another 2 minutes.  Next, add the soy sauce, vinegar, and peanut butter to the pan and use a whisk to combine the ingredients into a smooth sauce, cooking and whisking for another couple minutes.

Once the sauce is smooth and hot and the pasta/vegetables are cooked and drained, combine these together with the tofu and carrots and toss until everything is evenly coated.

Serve hot or cold. Yields 6 servings. 
As I said above, this was a great peanut sauce.  It was light, unlike other heavier peanut sauces I've had in the past, which was unexpectedly nice.  The addition of uncooked carrots also added a nice crunch to the dish.
Compared to some other Asian-inspired dishes on this blog, this dish is pretty accessible.  We just used plain old whole-wheat linguini rather than rice noodles (we haven't had much luck with rice noodles in the past, unfortunately).
 Ease of Preparation:    
This recipe involves several steps; however, they flow together nicely and allow for multitasking.  Plus, it was pretty quick to make.  We cooked both the tofu and the peanut sauce in the time it took to prepare the noodles. 
Non-vegan friendliness:   
This dish has a great flavor and a variety of textures that would please any palate.  If you're cooking for someone who is suspicious of tofu, browning it is always a good bet--as is covering it in tasty peanut sauce!  This was a filling, satisfying dish. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Curried Noodle Stir-Fry

Last night's recipe made use of another new-to-our-kitchen noodle: chow mein noodles.  These noodles cook extremely quickly, which is a plus, although they seem to me to be a lot like plain old spaghetti...

Oodles of Noodles.

Curried Noodle Stir-Fry
  • 12 ounces chow mein noodles
For the sauce:
  •  2 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
For the stir-fry:
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 1 pound extra-firm tofu, pressed and cut into 1/2" cubes
  • 1 onion, sliced into thin strips
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into thin strips
  • 1 jalapeno or other hot pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1 small bag frozen "stir fry vegetables," thawed
  • 3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
First, prepare the noodles according to the package instructions.  Rinse the cooked noodles in cold water, drain, and set aside.  

Meanwhile, prepare the sauce.  Combine the peanut oil and flour in a small saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture darkens in color and smells toasty, about 7-10 minutes.  Stir in the curry powder and cook for another minute while stirring constantly.  Then switch to a whisk, pour in the vegetable broth and sugar, and stir constantly until a thick sauce forms, about 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Next brown the tofu.  Heat the 2 tablespoons of peanut oil in a large skillet (or wok), add the tofu, and cook, turning the tofu every several minutes, until the tofu is browned on most sides.  Remove the tofu from the skillet--but make sure the oil mostly remains in the skillet--and add the onions.  Cook the onions for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are tender and begin to brown.  Then add the ginger, red pepper, and jalapeno to the pan and cook for another 5 minutes, or until the pepper begins to soften.  Add the frozen vegetables and stir-fry for about 5 minutes or until the vegetables become warm and deeply colored.  At this point, add the noodles and tofu into the pan, sprinkle the contents with soy sauce, and stir-fry for about 3 more minutes, stirring frequently.  I used tongs to mix everything together here.

Finally, retrieve the sauce you set aside and whisk in the remaining 1/4 cup vegetable broth.  Pour the sauce over the stir-fry and toss evenly to coat everything.  Cook a few more minutes until everything is warm, and serve hot (or, serve refrigerated--it's good cold, too).

Yields 4 servings.

This dish looks a lot like what one might get at a nondescript Pan-Asian/Chinese restaurant.  I won't sugarcoat that.  Fortunately, it does taste better than mediocre Chinese food.  The sauce has an unexpected flavor due to the inclusion of curry powder, and that was something I really appreciated.  This dish was good and we all enjoyed eating it, but it's nothing special.  
There are many ingredients in this dish, but we did find everything at our normal grocery store.  The chow mein noodles were located in the international foods aisle.  Also, keep in mind that you can really use any vegetables you like in the stir-fry.  
 Ease of Preparation:    
There are many steps in this recipe.  Rachel and I made this together which sped things along, but don't count on this as a quick-and-easy recipe.  It is a one-pot meal, though, so that saves some time. 
Non-vegan friendliness:   
Simon thinks of this as more of a side than a main dish.  

Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Spread

This toasty, colorful spread goes great with a nice loaf of bread or pita.

Spread and bread.
Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Spread

  • 2 - 3 whole roasted red peppers with seeds removed (fresh or from a jar)
  • 2/3 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 4 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor.  Purée to a smooth consistency, and season to taste.  

Yields 1 cup of spread.

This spread has a pleasantly complex yet earthy flavor.  The roasted peppers and toasted nuts go well with the honey, and the spices add just a touch of heat.  I could have processed our spread a little more, I think, since it wasn't completely smooth; on the other hand, you might like a little bit of texture.     
I used leftover jarred roasted red peppers that we had purchased to make Orzo Pilaf.  They were easy to find but perhaps difficult to use up all at once.  If you don't have honey I do recommend that you still stick with another liquid sweetener, as granulated sugar could make the spread too grainy.   
 Ease of Preparation:    
Food processors are wonderful. 
Non-vegan friendliness:   
This would be a great dish to make for non-vegan friends and family.  It's a tasty spread that you could serve alongside hummus.   

Monday, March 19, 2012

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Caramelized Onions and Pistachios

If you think, "Eww, gross!" upon hearing talk of Brussels sprouts, you're either a young child or someone who hasn't had roasted sprouts.  I'm not sure why Brussels sprouts get a bad reputation because roasted sprouts are delicious (especially when covered in nuts and caramelized onions).

Delicious vegetables!

Give them a try! 

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Caramelized Onions and Pistachios
  • 1.5 pounds Brussels sprouts (about 40), cut in half lengthwise 
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegan butter
  • 4 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup pistachios

First, roast the sprouts.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  Place Brussels sprouts, olive oil, and pepper in a 13" x 9" baking pan and toss to coat.  When the oven is heated, place the pan in the center of the oven and roast for 20 to 40 minutes, stirring the pan every several minutes for even browning.  The sprouts are done when they look pretty dark brown.  

Meanwhile, melt the butter over medium-low heat in a large skillet.  Add the onions and sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions turn dark golden brown and caramelize, about 30 minutes.

While the onions and sprouts are cooking, toast the pistachios in a small skillet over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, for about 4 minutes.  When everything is cooked, toss together the sprouts, onions, and nuts.  Serve hot or at room temperature.

Yields 4-6 servings. 


While roasted sprouts are tasty on their own, the onions and pistachios really add interest to this dish.  All of the components of this dish come together into one amazingly tender yet crunchy, sweet yet salty bite.   
Brussels sprouts are a winter vegetable, so they're especially accessible this time of year.  While it may not feel like winter anymore, I'm still waiting for spring vegetables.
 Ease of Preparation:   
This recipe isn't very complicated but the steps do take a long time to complete.  Caramelizing onions is a slow process but it's well worth it!
Non-vegan friendliness:   
This is an impressive side dish regardless of what kind of diet you maintain. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Shoofly Pie

My dad's side of the family is Pennsylvania German (commonly called Pennsylvania Dutch, though "Dutch" is a mistranslation of "Deutsch," or "German").  Shoofly pie is a traditional Pennsylvania German dessert--something that's well-known to me but probably not to many others.  Shoofly pie is molasses based and therefore gets its name from its sweetness: if left outside to cool, it attracts flies that then must be shooed away.

Shoofly Pie with Coconut-Based Ice Cream
We made a "wet-bottom" shoofly pie last night.  It's "wet-bottom" because the crumb topping sits on a gooey molasses-filling bottom.  

Shoofly Pie

Pie Crust
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
  • 2.5 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup cold vegan butter, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 1.5 tablespoons cold water
Pie Filling 
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt + 1 pinch
  • 6 tablespoons cold vegan butter, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon ground flax seed
  • 3 tablespoons water (you may need a little more)
First, prepare the crust.  In a food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar, and salt until combined.  Add the butter and pulse about 7 more times, or until the mixture is crumbly.  Then add the cold water and pulse 7 more times, or until the mixture just comes together.  Remove the dough from the food processor and briefly knead the dough until everything is well incorporated--be careful not to overknead the dough or it will become tough.  Then roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface to 1/8 inch thick.  Place the dough into a 9-inch pie dish and trim the edges, leaving a little bit of an overhang to fold under.  Crimp the edges of the dough with your fingers, a fork, or a pie crust crimper.  Keep the crust cold while you prepare the filling.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Whisk together the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl.  Add the butter and work the mixture through your fingers until it forms fine crumbs.  Be careful not to over-handle the crumbs, as the heat from your fingers will melt the butter.  Then set the crumb topping aside. Next, whisk together the boiling water, molasses, and corn syrup in another medium bowl.  Whisk in the baking soda, flax, water, and a pinch of salt.  Pour the molasses mixture into the prepared pie shell and scatter the crumb topping over the filling.  Finally, place the pie on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until filling is set and topping is deep golden brown, about 50 minutes. 

Let cool on a wire rack 30 minutes.  (Really, this is important--the filling needs to set!)  Makes one 9-inch pie.

Shoofly pie has a delightfully sweet, interesting flavor, and this version is no exception.  It tastes a little like gingerbread in pie form.  The wet bottom and crumbly top are great together, and unlike any other pie I've tasted.  I usually serve this with vanilla coconut-based ice cream.  Mmm.  It's quite the combination.  
I've made this with both egg-replacer powder and the water/flax combination in lieu of eggs; I prefer it with flax, but you could try another egg-replacer if needed. 
 Ease of Preparation:    
The recipe may look long, but it's pretty simple.  Though it does take a fair amount of time to prepare, I love the fact that the pie crust doesn't need to be baked ahead of time (as many other recipes require).  You could also use a pre-made, frozen pie crust.    
Non-vegan friendliness:   
Simon is making another pie tonight to bring to work tomorrow.  That's quite the testament to its non-vegan friendliness!  I will say that this pie doesn't taste exactly how I remember my grandmother's non-vegan shoofly pie tasting--hers had a bit more of a clear divide between the crumb topping and wet bottom, perhaps--but it's still great. 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Orzo Pilaf

Simon picked out this orzo dish as part of our dinner tonight.  Orzo, which is basically pasta shaped like rice, is neither something I grew up with nor something I've eaten very much of.  This is the first time we've made orzo in the apartment but it went really well.  So, even if you've never heard of orzo before, read on! 

Orzo Pilaf with Roasted Red Peppers and Peas
Orzo Pilaf
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 12 ounces orzo
  • 3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1.5 cups frozen peas
  • 1 - 7.5 ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped (or roast your own red peppers)
  • 1/2 or 1 teaspoon onion powder (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
First, heat the olive oil and garlic in a large skillet over medium heat.  Once the oil is hot, add the orzo and cook, stirring a couple times, for two minutes.  Then add the remaining ingredients, stir, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes or until orzo is tender (not mushy) and has absorbed the liquid.  Serve hot.

Yields about 6 servings.

This is a mild dish.  I generally prefer more powerful flavors, but this was a nice change of pace.  The roasted red peppers and peas work well together; at the same time, I would've enjoyed some more (fresh) vegetables.  Asparagus would be a great addition once asparagus season comes around.  The texture of the pilaf is smooth, verging on creamy.      
This dish requires a small number of ingredients.  We were able to find everything easily at the grocery store, especially since there aren't any fresh vegetables involved.
 Ease of Preparation:   
The pilaf was really quick and easy to make.  I would say it took us 25 minutes at most to put together and cook.      
Non-vegan friendliness:   
As a side dish, this dish delivers what it promises.  I wouldn't serve this as a main dish since it's not especially filling and it lacks protein, but it's tasty and the flavors involved are quite unobjectionable. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

White Bean and Sun-Dried Tomato Medley

Rachel took the lead on dinner tonight, and I must say she did a fine job.  She now arrives home a little early on Wednesdays, allowing her to get a head start on dinner.  While I always enjoy cooking, it was wonderful to open the apartment door and smell the sweet scent of already-prepared dinner!  

It's almost like this dish knows it's Italian...
White Bean and Sun-Dried Tomato Medley
  • 1 - 8.5 ounce jar sun-dried tomatoes in oil (or a 1.5 ounce package dry sun-dried tomatoes, reconstituted)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, chopped finely
  • 3 cups fresh spinach
  • 1 small bag frozen peas
  • 2 cans cannellini beans (or another white bean), drained and rinsed
  • 1 can butter beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground sage
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
First, remove the sun-dried tomatoes from the jar (save the oil if you like--it'll have picked up great flavor) and chop coarsely.  Next, heat the olive oil and garlic in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  When the oil is hot, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion becomes tender (about 5 minutes).  Then add the remaining ingredients--including the sun-dried tomatoes--and stir to combine.  Cook for another 10 minutes, or until everything is heated through and the flavors have combined.

Serve over whole wheat pasta as a main dish or alone as a side dish.  Yields 4-6 servings.


The word "medley" describes this dish quite well.  There's a lot going on.  This turned out to be a good thing, as the dish was very good and the variety of textures and flavors came together into one tasty combination.  The sage, as one of the more prominent flavors, works especially well with the beans.  However, I think there's a bit too much starchiness in the dish as we served it: over pasta.  I might make this again as a side dish and leave out the pasta.      
We didn't have any trouble finding the ingredients listed above.  On the other hand, we wanted to add fresh basil to the recipe but the grocery store was out of it.  If you can find it, I'd try stirring in 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil right after cooking and just before serving. 
 Ease of Preparation:   
While I wasn't actually involved in the making of this dish, I can say that the recipe is pretty simple.  Everything goes into one pot.  If you serve this over pasta, I recommend you start the pasta water and bring that to a boil as you begin to cook the rest of the dish.      
Non-vegan friendliness:  
This is a filling, flavorful dish that anyone would enjoy.  If you're feeling adventurous and you're in the mood for pasta, you could try adding tomato sauce to the medley to make it more of a pasta sauce. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Apricot Hamantashen

Tonight we made a treat traditionally made for the Jewish holiday Purim: Hamantashen.  They're basically filled cookies in a triangle shape.  We filled half of ours with Apricot preserves and the other half with homemade vegan Nutella.  The Nutella didn't come out very well so I won't list the recipe here, but I will include the recipe for the Apricot Hamantashen.  (You can fill the dough with anything you like.)   

Fresh Apricot Hamantashen in the foreground and "Nutella" Hamantashen in the background.
Apricot Hamantashen
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax seed
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1.5 teaspoon baking powder
  • Small jar of apricot preserves

First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and grease or spray a baking sheet.

To prepare the dough, first beat together the flax and water in a small bowl.  Pour the flax mixture into a medium bowl and beat together with the oil and sugar until frothy (or well-combined).  In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, salt, and baking powder and then add these dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, stirring with a fork.  When the dough begins to to form a mass, knead the dough gently using your hands until the flour is completely absorbed. 

Then, sprinkle a flat surface with flour, place the ball of dough in the center, dust the top of the ball with flour, and roll out the dough using a rolling pin.  The dough should be very thin--about 1/8"-1/4" inches thick.  Cut the dough into circles (about 3.5" in diameter) using a cookie cutter or the rim of a glass. Place a heaping teaspoonful of apricot preserves in the center of each circle and create a triangle, pinching the corners to seal in the filling.

Place the hamantashen on the baking sheet and bake for about 30 minutes or until the bottoms are golden brown.  Yields about 16 cookies.

These hamantashen taste good, but I don't think I would make them on a regular basis.  They're a little bit less sweet than many other cookies, in a good way, and the flax seed egg-replacer gives them a bit of a nutty flavor which goes nicely with the apricot (and the vegan nutella).    
There is really only one uncommon ingredient in this recipe: ground flax seed.  If you would rather use egg-replacer powder instead of ground flax seed, that should work, too.  Also, as I said above, you can use a variety of fillings, so don't worry if you don't like or have apricot preserves.   
 Ease of Preparation:   
These aren't too difficult to make, though they are much more involved than a standard drop cookie.  Here's a tip: when you're rolling out the dough, make sure you flour all surfaces that will touch the dough to prevent the dough from sticking.         
Non-vegan friendliness:  
These hamantashen are good and Rachel and Simon both liked them.  However, they do have a somewhat different look than hamantashen made with eggs because the the flax seed is visible in the dough.