Saturday, June 30, 2012

5,000 Page Views!

With 5,008 total page views, Dinner is Vegan just passed the 5,000 mark!  Thank you for reading my blog.  It's encouraging to know that these recipes are finding their way into various homes and offices across the country (and the world!). 

Please let me know if there's anything you'd like me to add to or change about this blog.  Or, let me know if you have any questions about vegan cooking or baking.  There's no better time than the present to let me know what you're thinking. 

Friday, June 29, 2012

Peanut Noodle Salad

I've made enough noodle dishes to realize that no one peanut sauce-covered noodle recipe is quite like another.  This recipe for Peanut Noodle Salad is different from more classic Noodles with Spicy Peanut Sauce in a few ways:
  1. It's more of a side dish or salad than a stand-alone main dish.
  2. It can be served cold.
  3. It contains raw ingredients.
We served this noodle salad alongside Asian Cabbage Slaw and crispy spring rolls for a quite satisfying meal.

Peanut noodle salad garnished with crushed peanuts.
Note: this dish is best consumed on the same day you make it.  Enjoy it while it's fresh!

Peanut Noodle Salad
  • 1 box whole wheat linguine or spaghetti, prepared according to package instructions (see note below)
  • 1 - 12 ounce package pre-shelled frozen edamame, prepared according to package instructions
  • 3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 3/4 cup natural peanut butter
  • 6 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce (I prefer Frank's)
  • 1 cucumber, seeded and sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin, bite sized strips
  • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
  • peanuts, crushed, for garnish

First, prepare the pasta and edamame according to package instructions--but reserve 3/4 cup of the pasta cooking water before draining.  Once they're cooked, rinse both the pasta and edamame with cold water and drain before combining in a large bowl.  Add the sesame oil and toss until coated.  Set aside. 

Next, create the sauce.  Whisk together the peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar, ginger, hot sauce, and 6 tablespoons pasta cooking water in a medium bowl until smooth.

Finally, add the sauce and the cucumber, pepper, and cilantro to the noodle bowl.  Toss all ingredients together, top with crushed peanuts, and serve. 

Yields 8 small portions. 

I really enjoyed the freshness that the cucumbers bring to this dish.  I also like that the peanut sauce isn't overpowering or too heavy.  This is definitely a nice summer dish.
Frozen edamame should be easy to find.  If you don't have natural peanut butter, you can always use regular peanut butter.
 Ease of Preparation:       
This recipe is nice and quick.  You can prepare the sauce and chop the veggies while the first two ingredients are cooking. 
Non-vegan friendliness:      
Everyone should enjoy this veggie- and protein-packed side dish. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Homemade Soft Pretzels

Think you can only get soft pretzels at an over-priced stadium concession stand?  (Or from a convenience store, or in the frozen food section of the grocery store?)  Think again!
A pair of pretzels on a plate.

Simon and I took a stab at soft pretzel-making over the weekend.  Without a stand mixer and dough hooks to ease kneading, we put our muscles to good use.  That's what I call a work-out.

Homemade Soft Pretzels
  • 1.5 cups very warm water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 22 ounces flour (a generous 4 1/2 cups) + more to flour your work surface
  • 2 ounces vegan butter, melted
  • Vegetable oil to grease your pans/work surfaces
  • 10 cups water
  • 2/3 cup baking soda
  • Pretzel or kosher salt to sprinkle on top

First, whisk together the warm water, sugar, and kosher salt in a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer, if you have one) until dissolved.  Sprinkle the yeast on top and allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam.

Then add the flour and butter.  Using a wooden spoon (or your stand mixer's dough hook attachment on low speed), mix until well combined. At this point, turn the dough out onto a clean, floured work surface and knead--sprinkling flour to keep it from sticking, as needed--until the dough is smooth, approximately 5 minutes.  (Or, continue kneading in your stand mixer on medium speed until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl.  Then remove the dough from the bowl.)

Grease the inside of the empty dough bowl with vegetable oil and return the dough to the bowl.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise in a warm place for approximately 50 minutes, or until the dough has doubled in size.

Once the dough has risen, preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and lightly grease with oil.  Set aside.  Then combine the 10 cups of water and baking soda in a large saucepan and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, place the dough on a clean, lightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces.  Using your hands, roll out each piece of dough into a 2-foot long cord.  To form each pretzel, start by making a U-shape with the dough.  Then, holding the ends at the top of the U, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U.  Carefully place each pretzel on the parchment-lined baking sheets.  
 Finally, one by one, carefully place each pretzel into the boiling water and cook for 30 seconds.  Remove the pretzels from the pot using a large spatula and return them to the baking sheet.  Sprinkle salt over top of each pretzel while still wet.

Bake the pretzels until they are golden brown in color, about 14 minutes.

Yields 8 large pretzels.

I was thrilled with how these pretzels came out.  Ours were a bit short and stout rather than long and lean, but they were still fluffy on the inside with a nice browning on the outside. 
Sometimes, staple ingredients are all you need.
 Ease of Preparation:      
This is a good weekend recipe because it does take a while to make, between the dough rising and kneading.  That said, it's pretty simple to do (even without a stand mixer).
Non-vegan friendliness:      
These taste better than many, if not most, of the soft pretzels I've had the pleasure of meeting. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Hearty "Sausage" Stuffing

I love stuffing.  It's one of the most under-appreciated foods in existence.  Actually, everyone appreciates it with gusto at Thanksgiving (and maybe one other holiday each year); so, why don't we eat it more often?

Go on, make stuffing more than once a year!  You won't regret it.  Plus, it's a good use for stale bread!

Here's my recipe for Hearty "Sausage" Stuffing. 

Hearty "Sausage" Stuffing
  • 1 package Gimme Lean Sausage, cut into small, bite-sized pieces
  • olive oil, for sautéing 
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 3/4 cup frozen corn
  • 3/4 cup frozen peas
  • 15 ounces low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 egg-equivalent (I use 1.5 teaspoons Ener-G Egg Replacer whisked together with 2 tablespoons warm water, here)
  • a pinch of sage
  • 1/2 cup vegan butter, melted
  • 1 loaf day-old bread, cut or ripped into cubes

First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease a casserole dish or large baking pan with cooking spray and set aside.

Next, brown the sausage.  Add about a tablespoon of oil to a large, nonstick skillet and heat over medium-high heat.  Add as many sausage bits as comfortably fit in the bottom of the pan and allow to brown on one side for a few minutes.  Flip the sausage and continue browning.  Remove from the pan and set aside before browning the remaining sausage in a second batch.  Set all sausage aside. 

In the same (now empty) skillet, add a bit more olive oil and the garlic and heat over medium heat.  Add the celery, onion, and carrots and sauté, stirring occasionally, until tender.  Then add the corn and peas and continue to cook until heated through.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the broth, egg replacer, sage, and melted butter.

Once all of the components are ready, mix together all ingredients in a large bowl.  Transfer the stuffing to your baking dish and bake, uncovered, for 45-50 minutes.

Yields 1 pan stuffing.  

This stuffing is truly hearty and delicious.  It's almost like a bread casserole, and I eat it more like a main dish than a side dish (though it would be great as a side dish, too).  The vegetables and sage come together to create an irresistible, savory flavor, and the browned, crispy sausage adds both protein and varied texture.  Simon likes how the sausage makes it substantial, noting that "it has all of the components of a main dish."
Unfortunately, vegan sausage is scarce at most standard grocery stores.  (It does freeze well, though, so we often stock up at Whole Foods whenever we're there.)  If you're planning to leave out the sausage, though, the recipe becomes much more accessible.
 Ease of Preparation:      
There are several steps involved in this recipe, but they're all worth it.  As I wrote above, I like to reuse the sausage skillet for the veggies to save on prep and clean-up time.
Non-vegan friendliness:      
Stuffing is a pretty everyone-friendly food.  This version is no exception.  Simon even planned to bring it to a work party.  (Sadly, he dropped the glass dish of stuffing on the kitchen floor, and broken glass/floor dirt aren't great additions to the recipe.) 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Lemon Bars

One of my worst nightmares came true last week: I made lemon bars for my fellowship program's year-end event, and it wasn't until I had nearly arrived at the party that I realized I had completely messed up the recipe.  I don't know where my head was while I was making the bars the night before, but I do know that I added three times as much silken tofu as the recipe had called for.  Given that I was about to serve those lemon bars to a group of non-vegans (some of whom had surely never had vegan desserts before), I was worried.

Luckily, they turned out great.  Everyone loved the bars (including me), and they had the tangy, fresh, lemon bar flavor that we know and love. 

So, without further ado, here is the recipe, including that extra silken tofu. 

Lemon Bars
  • 1/2 cup vegan butter at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar + more to sprinkle on top
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons flour (separated)
  • 1 lb. package refrigerated silken tofu, drained
  • 1 cup sugar
  • zest from 2 lemons
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice (2 - 3 lemons)
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch 
First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and grease an 8" x 8" non-stick baking pan with cooking spray.  Coat the pan with a light dusting of flour and set aside.

Next, make the crust.  Cream the butter and 1/4 cup powdered sugar using an electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Add 1 cup flour and beat until the dough just comes together.  Press the dough into the bottom of the prepared pan and bake for 20 minutes, or until lightly browned.  Remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, begin preparing the filling.  In a food processor or blender, process the tofu and sugar for about 1 minute or until creamy.  Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, 2 tablespoons flour, and cornstarch and blend until smooth.  Pour the filling over the baked crust and bake for another 20 minutes or until the filling is set.  Remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool. 

Just before serving, sprinkle extra powdered sugar over the top of the bars.  (The bars will absorb the sugar after some time, so don't do this too far in advance.)  Cut them and serve.  Yields 16 2-inch bars. 

These bars make the perfect summertime dessert.  As much as I love chocolate, I do love a good, gooey lemon bar.  They're easy to serve and they hold together nicely.  The sweet and tart flavor would go great with a side of berries, too.  One note: these bars are best within 1 - 2 days of baking. 
Silken tofu is pretty easy to find, these days.  Look for tofu of all kinds in the produce section of the grocery store.  Since this recipe makes use of the whole package of silken tofu, you won't have any pesky leftovers, either. 
 Ease of Preparation:      
As long as you have a food processor or blender, this recipe is quite easy. 
Non-vegan friendliness:      
You know it's a good sign when a bunch of non-vegans go back for seconds and thirds!  A quick note about silken tofu, for anyone suspicious of tofu in general: it really doesn't taste like anything; rather, it tastes like what you cook it with (in this case, lemon!).  So, there's no need to be afraid of the silken tofu in this recipe.  It's a common, versatile ingredient in vegan baking. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sesame Seitan

Nothing says "It's the weekend" like Chinese take-out, right?  Almost.  This weekend we made our own, vegan version of a take-out classic--sesame chicken--with pretty great results. 

Why order out when you can make Sesame Seitan right in your kitchen?
Sesame Seitan
  • 2 - 8 ounce packages pre-made seitan (or you can make your own), drained and cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 1/2 cup + 1 cup flour (separated)
  • 2 cup ice water (you might not use it all, but have it on hand)
  • enough vegetable or peanut oil for frying
  • 1 yellow squash, chopped matchstick size
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup fresh, minced ginger
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • 1.5 cups frozen broccoli
  • 1 cup frozen snap peas
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup honey or another liquid sweetener
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • sesame seeds, toasted (to garnish) 
First, combine the seitan and 1/2 cup flour in a plastic bag and shake until the seitan is coated.  Set aside.

Next, prepare the batter.  Put 1 cup flour in a small bowl and slowly whisk in the ice water, using just enough water to create a smooth, somewhat sticky batter.

Now you're ready to batter and fry the seitan.  First, right next to the stove, set out a plate covered with paper towels (this is where you will place the seitan once it has cooked).  Pour oil 1/2" deep into a large skillet and heat on high until the oil is hot.  Then dip some floured seitan into the batter and immediately, with care (hot oil will burn you if it splatters!), place the battered seitan into the oil to fry.  Do this with as much seitan as can comfortably fit in the skillet at once.  You'll need to turn over the seitan halfway through cooking, using tongs.  Once the seitan looks crispy, remove it from the skillet using tongs and place it on the paper towel plate to absorb excess oil while you repeat these steps with the remainder of the seitan.  Allow the cooked seitan to rest on the plate and set aside.

Then cook the vegetables.  Take about 1.5 tablespoons oil from the seitan skillet and pour it into another large skillet or saucepan.  Heat the oil on medium-high and add all of the vegetables.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to brown.  Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the soy sauce, honey, and sesame oil using a fork.  Add the sauce to the vegetables, stir, and then add the seitan and stir.  Cook until everything is heated through. 
Serve with brown rice and garnish with sesame seeds.  Yields 6 - 8 servings. 

The breaded seitan is a little bit chewy and a little bit crispy, overall tasting shockingly similar to a dish you might find in a Chinese restaurant.  Beyond the sweet and savory sauce and the crunch that the vegetables add to the dish, my favorite part is the seitan's substantive mouthfeel.  You can really take a bite out of this dish, and each bite taken is incredibly satisfying.   
Unfortunately, a few of these ingredients are hard to find.  We buy seitan in large quantities at Whole Foods and store it in the freezer since we can't find it at our local grocery store.  Sesame oil is expensive, but you can buy it in little bottles (and there are numerous other recipes on this blog that call for it!).   
 Ease of Preparation:       
This was a fairly complicated dish to make, and we made quite a mess in the kitchen in the process.  Batter-splatter was everywhere.  But, I've tried to spell out the procedure as clearly as possible in the directions, above, so that everyone else can benefit from our first try.  
Non-vegan friendliness:      
I look forward to making this for non-vegan friends and family! 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Simple Vegetable-Patata Soup

This week we made one of the simplest one-pot meals imaginable (and it was tasty, too): Vegetable-Patata Soup.  I like to think of this soup as a Latino minestrone soup because it's chock full of tomatoes and vegetables with some south-of-the-border spice and potatoes. 

It's such a hearty soup!
Simple Vegetable-Patata Soup
  • 2 cups red potatoes, washed, de-eyed, and diced
  • 2 cups frozen green beans
  • 2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cans stewed tomatoes
  • 10 ounces frozen corn
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 cup of your favorite salsa
  • A few shakes of salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
Combine all of the ingredients in a large soup pot.  Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Then lower the heat and simmer for at least 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender and the flavors have combined.  
Serve with fresh bread for dunking.  Yields 6 hearty servings. 

I was pleasantly surprised by this soup.  The flavors are neither impressive nor complicated; however, I appreciated the fact that it was spiced without being spicy and had a warm, hearty flavor. 
The ingredients in this dish are both inexpensive and easy to find.  
 Ease of Preparation:      
There's nothing easier than putting ingredients in a pot and letting them cook for a half hour!
Non-vegan friendliness:      
The heartiness of this soup makes for a filling, non-vegan friendly dish.  Plus, you could swap different vegetables  in or out of the soup to please any palate. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Our apartment has been pretty dessert-free for the past few weeks, so I thought I'd change that last night.  Rachel and I made some delicious, chewy oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and they hit the spot. 

"Mmm. That's the stuff" -- Rachel

I am a big fan of oatmeal cookies (and an even bigger fan of oatmeal cookies with chocolate chips in them).  I love the way the oatmeal adds some substance--along with a nice oat-y flavor--to a simple dessert.  These cookies would also be great with walnuts added in, but here's the nut-free recipe.    

Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • 1 cup vegan butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 egg equivalents (I used 1 tablespoon Ener-G Egg Replacer Powder whisked together with 1/4 cup warm water)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1.25 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups quick-oats (uncooked)
  • 1 cup Ghirardelli chocolate chips, or your favorite vegan chocolate chips
First, preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.  Place parchment paper on cookie sheets (or lightly spray the sheets with cooking spray).  Set aside.  
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugars until smooth using a wooden spoon.  Whisk or stir in the egg replacer, and then stir in the vanilla.  In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix until well combined.  Finally, mix in the quick-oats and chocolate chips until just combined.  

Drop the dough by heaping spoonfuls onto the cookie sheets and bake for 12-14 minutes (depending on the size).  Once you remove the cookies from the oven, allow them to cool for a few minutes on the cookie sheets before moving them to a wire rack or paper towel to cool completely. 
Yields about 40 cookies (again, depending on the size).  Store the cookies in an airtight container or bag. 

I've made these cookies twice and they've been great both times.  They're ooey and gooey when they come out of the oven--as cookies tend to be--and they stay chewy and soft once they cool (if they last long enough to cool, that is!).  Rachel liked that they weren't as dense as some oatmeal cookies can be, but she wished they were a little sweeter. 
If you don't have egg-replacer powder, you could also try a number of other egg replacement options, including whisking together 1 teaspoon of ground flax seed with 3 tablespoons of water for each egg.  
 Ease of Preparation:      
These cookies are really easy to make and don't require any special tools. 
Non-vegan friendliness:      
Last time I made these cookies, I gave them to a non-vegan as a gift and she loved them.  They're some quality cookies.