Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Cornbread: as my dad might say, it's one of the four main food groups!  It also happens to serve as a great accompaniment to Hoppin John and Collard Greens.

A fluffy yet moist square of cornbread.

The egg-replacer in this recipe incorporates a technique that I've never tried before but that I'll definitely make use of in the future: heating a mixture of water and ground flax seed.  These ingredients are commonly used as an egg-replacer in vegan recipes; however, the act of heating the mixture results in an incredible, viscous texture that comes closer to an egg than any egg-replacer I've used.  Eureka!
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt 
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup soymilk
  • 1/4 cup canola oil

First, preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease an 8x8" baking dish and set aside.

Then, in a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.  
Next, prepare the egg-replacer.  Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan.  Add the flax seed, and simmer the mixture on low heat for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Add the egg-replacer mixture to the dry ingredients, along with the soymilk and canola oil.  Mix with a wooden spoon until just combined.  (Do not overmix.)

Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish.  Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cornbread comes out clean.  Cool 10 minutes before cutting. 

Yields 16 small squares. 

Moist, yet fluffy?  Check.  Sweet, but not overly so?  Check. 
These ingredients should be easy to find, with the possible exception of ground flax seed.  Tip: If you buy a whole bag of ground flax seed, store it in the refrigerator--it will keep for a long time.     
 Ease of Preparation:        
This is a really quick dish--even with the 20-minute cooking time.  Honestly, waiting for the oven to pre-heat was my biggest delay.   
Non-vegan friendliness:             
The only off-putting element of this dish is the visibility of the flax seeds.  The cornbread is light-colored, so the flax seeds stand out.  Taste-wise, this corn bread is just as good as non-vegan versions.  (Large pat of vegan butter, optional.)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Hoppin' John and Collard Greens

I've been wanting to try Hoppin' John for quite some time.  What could be better than a New Year's tradition that centers around simple, flavorful food?

Hoppin' John is a Southern dish traditionally made with black-eyed peas, rice, and bacon (or another form of pork).  The earliest written record of the dish comes from an 1847 cookbook entitled The Carolina Housewife, but the dish is said to date back to the slave trade.  Today, the consumption of Hoppin' John on New Year's is said to bring good luck for the coming year.  Although the addition of extra pork is thought to bring more good luck, I like to think that this vegan version of the dish is lucky enough. 

A plate of steaming Hoppin' John and Collard Greens (pre-hot sauce).

Even though it's long past the New Year, here's a recipe for Hoppin' John and Collard Greens. 

Hoppin' John and Collard Greens
  • 1 large bunch collard greens, chopped (including the stems)
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, divided
  • 1/4 cup agave nectar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder, divided
  • 2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 6 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 cups cooked rice
  • 2 - 15.5 ounce cans black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed

(NOTE: The list of ingredients includes cooked rice.  Be sure to cook the rice ahead of time, or start cooking the rice before beginning the rest of the dish.)

Bring water to boil in a large soup pot.  Add the collard greens and cook for 15 minutes.  Then, reserve 1 cup liquid before draining.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup vinegar, agave nectar, 2 teaspoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon chili powder, and 1 teaspoon salt.  Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the remaining 4 teaspoons olive oil and garlic over medium heat.  Add the onion, celery, and remaining 1 teaspoon chili powder, and cook for about 8 minutes, or until they begin to turn soft.  Then, add the drained collard greens, vinegar mixture, 1/2 cup reserved cooking liquid, 1/4 cup vinegar, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt to the skillet.  Cook, covered, for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the rice, beans, and remaining 1/2 cup cooking liquid in a skillet until heated through.

Serve the rice, beans, and greens together. Yields 6 servings.

The flavors in this dish are quite simple, and I enjoyed the fact that the collard greens and black-eyed peas truly stand out as the stars of the dish (rather than a sauce or spice).  The dish is neither sweet nor spicy, as the incorporation of both agave nectar and chili powder seems to achieve a good balance.  To add a bit of tang, and in true Southern fashion, we added some Louisiana-style hot sauce on top.
We had no trouble finding the ingredients in this dish.  The grocery store always seems to have collard greens, while kale and other dark, leafy greens are much more difficult to come by.  Tip: you can probably find agave nectar in the same grocery aisle as the honey.   
 Ease of Preparation:        
There are several components to this dish happening at once.  However, as always, chopping ingredients in advance will minimize confusion. 
Non-vegan friendliness:             
Someone who is familiar with bacon-laden Hoppin' John would probably miss the meaty flavor in this simple dish (and if that's the case, you could always add chopped imitation bacon to the mix).  Still, it's hard to find a healthier, more filling combination than black-eyed peas, rice, and greens.  I'd be very willing to serve this dish sans bacon to any non-vegan.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Penne with Vodka Sauce and Peas

Thanks to Simon's dad, we have a jar of Coconut Manna that we've been meaning to try out for some time. Coconut Manna is just a form of coconut flesh, similar to coconut butter.  According to the jar's label, it's good to use in rice, oatmeal, smoothies, and sauces in place of milk, cream, yogurt, or butter.

Post image for Some Nutiva Coconut Manna™ FAQs Answered

Enter vodka sauce, everyone's favorite creamy and tomato-y pasta sauce.  Heavy cream is usually responsible for vodka sauce's pink (rather than red) color, so in this case, Coconut Manna stands in for Cow Manna. 

Pasta and Peas, Smothered in Sauce

Here's the recipe for vodka sauce.  All you need to do is make the sauce and serve over penne and peas (or any other veggies). 

Vodka Sauce
  • 1/4 cup Coconut Manna
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 1 - 28 ounce cans petite diced tomatoes
  • 7 ounces canned coconut milk
  • salt and pepper, to taste

First, submerge the tightly sealed jar of Coconut Manna in very hot tap water to melt the Manna.  It should soften up enough to stir and measure after 5-10 minutes. 

Add the Coconut Manna, oil, and onion to a medium saucepan, and sauté over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the onions and manna begin to brown.  Then lower the heat to low, add the vodka, and stir.  Cook, stirring frequently, for eight minutes.  Next, bring the heat back up to medium, mix in the diced tomatoes, and simmer, uncovered, for 20 more minutes.  Add the coconut milk and cook until heated through, about 5 minutes.

Finally, transfer most of the sauce to a food processor and blend until smooth.  Recombine the processed sauce with the chunky sauce, and add salt and pepper to taste.

Yields sauce for about 1 pound of pasta.


This sauce is rich and creamy--and it had better be, with all of that coconut in it!  The coconut flavor is subtle but definitely present, and the sauce has a mild flavor overall.  (I might add a bit of crushed red pepper flakes to my leftovers in order to spice it up a little.)  The pairing of the sauce and peas on top of the pasta is a good one, as the peas add a little color and a little texture.  
Coconut Manna must truly be the food of the gods: a jar of Coconut Manna apparently costs about $10.  Although it was fun to try, it probably won't be a regular purchase of mine in the future. 
 Ease of Preparation:        
This sauce takes a bit of time to make, but it's pretty simple to prepare. 
Non-vegan friendliness:             
Unfortunately, given that I've only had vodka sauce once or twice in my life, I'm not sure whether this actually tastes like traditional vodka sauce.  Given it's noticeable coconut flavor, I'd say it would be better served as a creamy pasta sauce rather than a traditional vodka sauce.