Posts Tagged ‘dinner’

What We Eat: Thanksgiving Menu

November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  I’ll save the sentimental gratitudes for later–right now, we’re talking food.  After all, that’s what Thanksgiving is really about, right (I kid.  But, seriously.)?  Here is our menu for today.  I included a lunch menu this year.  Why?  Well, because most of us don’t eat our holiday meal until 4pm or so.  It isn’t exactly wise to fast all day just to gorge yourself on one meal, yet, we don’t want to be slaving away all day in the kitchen to make two holiday meals either.  What I’ve done is created an easy meal that can be cooking up while you’re getting the real deal going.  I stuck my cheesecake in the oven, got the cranberry sauce going on the stove, and cooked up lunch while I was waiting.  It’s filling enough that you won’t be tempted to overeat at dinner, yet light enough that you won’t still be full when the next meal is ready.


Red Lentil Stew with peas

Oven Roasted “B” Potatoes

Apple cider


Celebration Field Roast

Cranberry Wild Rice Stuffing with Pepitas

Curried Puree of Sweet Potato

Cranberry Sauce

Vegetable Medley (peas, broccoli, carrots, corn)

Dinner Rolls

Sparkling Pear Juice

Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake


Menu: September 21-26, 2010

September 21, 2010

Taking it easy this week…dinners only, lunches are unplanned.  I’m lending a couple of cookbooks to an acquaintance who’s going vegan, and working on my own cookbook, so I’m not really in the mood to follow recipes.  Plus, I’ve quite the backstock of ingredients that I need to clean out of my refrigerator!  So here is this week’s simple menu:

Tuesday: Vegetable Korma over basmati rice, with homemade naan

Wednesday: Vegetable Pot Pies

Thursday: Veggie Quinoa Burgers, potato salad, steamed carrots

Friday: Vegetable Chow Mein with Seitan

Saturday: Paninis, Butternut Squash Soup, and roasted Beet-Carrot Salad

Sunday: Vegan Mac n Cheez, Chili

Wild Rice, Wild Mushrooms!

May 13, 2010

I was lucky enough to get my hands on some Morel mushrooms this week, and spent a great deal of time trying to figure out how to use them.  I felt as if it would be wasting my first Morel experience to just batter and deep fry them like so many people do.  I looked up some recipes, like this one, this one, and this whole page of ’em, and finally decided to just use those recipes as inspiration for my own.  Here’s what I came up with:

Wild Rice Pilaf featuring Morel Mushrooms

6-8 fresh Morel mushrooms (see prep tips below)

Earth Balance and olive oil for frying

1 yellow onion, diced

1/2 cup green peas

3 cloves garlic

2 stems fresh tarragon

1 bay leaf

1 cup wild rice (see prep tips below)

1/3 block Silken tofu (approx. 4 oz)

3 Tb plain soy creamer

1 tsp brown rice vinegar

spices to taste:  curry powder, black pepper, sea salt, sage, paprika, red pepper flakes, powdered garlic

To prepare mushrooms: Fill a bowl with warm water and stir in some table salt until it dissolves (sea salt typically doesn’t work as well as table salt).  Slice each mushroom in half lengthwise, remove any creatures you see living in the hollow inside, and place the mushrooms in the salt water.  Leave overnight or at least 1 hour.  Drain through mesh strainer and place on paper towels or lint-free kitchen towels to dry.  Slice into bite-size pieces, or leave mushrooms whole if they are small enough.

To prepare wild rice:  In a Corningware or other such oven-safe casserole dish, place 1 cup wild rice.  Cover with 2 cups water.  Add a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of Earth Balance.  Cover, place in 375 degree oven and bake 40 minutes or until all water has been absorbed and rice is fully cooked.  Fluff with fork.

To prepare pilaf: Drizzle olive oil in pan and warm.  Mince garlic and place in frying pan over medium heat.  Add onion and saute 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft and translucent.  Add 2 Tbs Earth Balance and allow to melt.  Stir in rice vinegar.  Add mushrooms and bay leaf.  Saute 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, and add peas and wild rice.  Stir in spices as desired (I used approximately 1/2 tsp curry powder, and pinches of paprika, red pepper flake, black pepper, and garlic powder).  Reduce to medium-low (for reference, I put my stove on the 4 mark, 9 is the highest) and saute 10-12 minutes until mushrooms are fragrant and soft.

To prepare sauce:

Heat soy creamer over medium heat and add tofu.  Heat 2 minutes, then use an immersion blender to puree the tofu into oblivion.  Add fresh tarragon, paprika, and black pepper.  Stir into pilaf.

To serve as pictured:

On a salad plate, place a 2″ biscuit form.  Use a teaspoon to fill the biscuit form with pilaf, and press firmly to completely fill.  Let sit 2 minutes.  Gently tug on the form, pulling straight up, to create a cylindrical form.  Arrange a stem of fresh tarragon and a Morel mushroom nearby.  Drizzle any leftover sauce on top of the pilaf stack.


Sweet and Sour Tofu

November 4, 2009

I’ve been craving some good fake Chinese food lately.  I say fake as in the kind of “Chinese” you get at mall food courts and the buffets that inexplicably also serve french fries and mini corn dogs.  Not authentic, not even really Chinese, just sort of… Asian-esque enough to pass.  Usually I prefer to find quality stuff, but sometimes some junky food is just what hits the spot.

I recently decided to take matters in to my own hands.  I’ve done chow mein and lo mein before, so this time I ventured into the world of sweet and sour “chik’n”.  It doesn’t come out tasting chicken-y (which I view as a good thing), but in terms of satisfying a craving, it does the trick.  The best part?  It’s simple!

Sweet and Sour Tofu

1 block tofu

1 cup Panko (Japanese style bread crumbs)

turmeric, cayenne, black pepper, sage, and garlic powder to taste (I used a generous dash of each)

House of Tsang Sweet and Sour Sauce (yep, I’m too lazy to make my own)

Remove the tofu from its packaging, squeeze as much water out of it as possible, and wrap it in plastic.  Be sure all areas of the tofu are well-covered.  Freeze overnight.

Place tofu in a bowl and microwave on high for 4 minutes, pausing after each minute to flip or turn the tofu.  Continue until defrosted (press on the tofu–if it’s not hard anymore, it’s thawed) but be careful not to cook it.  Squeeze all the water out of the tofu; press hard, there’ll be a lot!  Then cut the tofu into 1″ cubes.

Meanwhile, mix the bread crumbs and seasonings.

Dip the tofu in lukewarm water, shake off the excess, then roll in the bread crumb mixture.  Place on to a well-greased pan (I sprayed generously with canola oil).  When all the tofu is in the pan, spray lightly with oil.

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes, until breading begins to turn golden and tofu is firm and crispy.  Turn once or twice during baking time for best results.

Coat tofu in sweet and sour sauce and serve warm.  Enjoy!

Bonus recipe: For sesame tofu, mix sweet and sour sauce with honey (you naughty vegan!) about 3:1 (more sauce than honey), toss the baked tofu in the sauce, coat with sesame seeds, and place back in the oven for about 5 minutes or until sauce has dried a bit.

Bonus FLOP: I also tried to modify this to make coconut fried tofu (you know, like coconut shrimp).  I froze the tofu and thawed it.  Then I rolled it in a mixture of panko, unsweetened coconut, a little sugar, and ginger.  Then I fried it in Earth Balance.  It tasted pretty good but a lot of the breading came off during frying–I think it would work better with a deep fryer.  I ended up pressing a little extra breading mixture onto the tofu after I fried it.  If you have a deep fryer and try this, let me know how it goes!

Lysander’s Lentil Soup Mix

October 4, 2009
Lentil Soup Mix

Lentil Soup Mix

I was feeling a little under the weather the other day and as it turned out, it was also my day to do the grocery shopping.  I didn’t bring a list, and ended up just wandering around the grocery story tossing things in the cart.  When I got home I realized I had purchased mostly soup ingredients and things to go along with soup, and convenience foods at that (refrigerated biscuits, even!).  It’s easy to tell when I’m sick and don’t want to cook!

In any case, I picked up Lysander’s Lentil Soup Mix, which is basically a little pre-measured bag of lentils with a spice packet and directions.  You boil the lentils, drop in an onion, tomato, a bell pepper, and the spices, and cook it for half an hour.  Then you add rice and cook it another half hour.  That’s it…easier than pie (I can’t say easy as pie because my pies never seem to turn out).

I am always skeptical of dry soup mixes, but this one turned out really well.  The vegetable additions help a lot, and the result tasted pretty similar to what I would have made myself.  I did toss in some fresh chopped basil and a little turmeric, but only because I am too stubborn to let someone else do all the work–it tasted fine as-is.

At $2.89 a package the mix is overpriced–lentils are cheaper than pasta at the local bulk foods store–but it’s a nice little packet if you don’t have a lot of time or have never made lentil soup before and want to get a feel for it before making it from scratch.

Nutritionally, it’s hard to beat as far as soup mixes go, even before the addition of the vegetables.  A 52-gram serving has 13 grams of protein and 14 grams of dietary fiber (the package says it makes 6 servings, but it only made about 4 bowls for our hungry family), only 0.5 grams fat and 170 calories.  The sodium is high, but no higher than canned or packaged soups, and Lysander’s does not use preservatives or MSG.  Unfortunately I couldn’t find a website for Lysander’s, but the photo above will take you to a shopping website that might be able to help you find a way to order online.  Lysander’s is available in most mainstream grocery stores; in mine, it was in the soup aisle near the bouillon cubes and other dry mixes.

Vegan on a Budget #1: Veggie Pasta

September 29, 2009

A typical conversation ensues when someone finds out I’m vegan:  they usually respond first with shock (“I don’t know how you can do it!”, “But what do you eat?”, “So you don’t even wear leather?!”), then feel the need to tell me why they aren’t vegan themselves (despite the fact that I have never once asked anyone to explain this to me).  Can it, people, I don’t care.  It’s all excuses to me, save for the few people I know who live in remote places without access to decent grocery stores.  But whatever.  Maybe cheese fries are just that important to you.  I don’t know.

Anyway, the number 1 reason I get why people aren’t vegan is, “I just like cheese too much”.  I can’t really help you with that.  Daiya exists, but other than that we vegans do need to learn to live without our jarred nacho cheese dip and Easy-Mac (there are better things in life, I promise you, but that’s another post for another time).  The number 2 response is, “Isn’t being vegan expensive?”

It’s a common belief, and not completely untrue.  When I first went vegan I was buying meat substitutes left and right, and they can add up.  Having been trapped in a cheeseburger-or-grilled-chicken-or-tacos-or-pasta rut for eighteen years, I had a lot to learn about making entrees without meat or at least a meat analogue.  Boca Crumbles are awesome, don’t get me wrong, but they are pricey and not really that good for you either.

The other reason people think being vegan is expensive is because most people automatically assume we eat 100% organic.  I know people who do, but only a few.  I do eat as much organic produce as possible, but if it’s double the price I pass on it and get whatever’s cheap.

The point is, just like “normal” people meals, they can be as cheap or as inexpensive as you want them to be.  I actually spend less on food now than I did when I ate meat.  From time to time I’ll post a meal that’s particularly budget-friendly and let you know roughly what I spent to make it.  Hopefully it will prove that being vegan doesn’t have to mean lots of expensive or fancy ingredients.  And think of all the money you’ll save on cholesterol medications twenty years down the road 😉

Vegetable Pasta

Vegetable Saute

Vegetable Saute

In the instance of the photo above, I used a relatively simple mix of pasta toppings including an onion (50 cents), a green bell pepper (50 cents), 4 ounces of fresh Cremini mushrooms ($1), and pine nuts (35 cents, purchased in bulk).  The ingredients themselves don’t matter so much; what matters is, this is what was inexpensive and/or I already had in my fridge.  I heated the mix on medium with a little olive oil and a drizzle of white wine (both of which I already had).

In a separate pot, I cooked the noodles, using whole wheat angelhair I found on sale for 85 cents per pound.  If you want to reduce the cost of your meal even further, drop the noodles in while the water is at a rolling boil, then cover the pot (with the lid tipped a little to prevent it from boiling over) and reduce the heat to medium.  Five minutes later, turn the burner off all together.  You’ll save a little on your power bill and your noodles will still cook to perfection.



There are two ways you can make the sauce.

Store-Bought: Buy a can of whatever plain ol pasta sauce you can find.  I got a big can of chunky vegetable (store brand) for 70 cents.  Heat it up over the stove and add some oregano, a little pinch of cinnamon and/or chili powder, some cracked red and black pepper, and a little garlic (2 cents/clove at the farmer’s market) and some fresh basil if you have it (I grow my own, so it’s always free).

Homemade: Check out your grocery store, farmer’s market, or produce market to see if you can find some soft tomatoes for cheap.  The grocery stores often throw away all of the squishy, overripe produce, so if you talk to the department manager they’ll often give you a good deal on it.  Farmer’s markets are a way to try your hand at haggling.  If you’re not into that, just visit the same farmer a few weeks in a row and chat them up–they almost always slip a few extra tomatoes into your bag.  If you grow your own tomatoes, even better.  I bought 1/4 bushel of tomatoes for $6 at the farmer’s market and used less than a fourth of the tomatoes to make a sizable batch of sauce.

Chop up the tomatoes (around ten for enough sauce to feed 4-6 people) and boil them down over medium-high for 2-3 hours, then reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook them until you get sick of waiting.  Add some spices in there while you’re at it.  Leave the lid off the pot for at least an hour to reduce some of the water (I also strain mine over a mesh screen).  If you want it chunky, leave it be, otherwise toss it in the food processor or use an immersion blender to smooth it out.  If you have leftovers you can can (can-can, can you do the can-can) it or freeze it for later use.

The Finished Product!

The Finished Product!

So, in short: Buy some cheap vegetables, and find an inexpensive way to get sauce (by either buying it or making it yourself).  Scrounge around your refrigerator and use up all the produce you can.  Cook up some noodles, mix it all together, and voila–an inexpensive entree that has the added benefit of not being a greasy corpse.

Lebanese Leek Soup

September 8, 2009

I first tried leeks at the Black Cat Cafe in Ashland, Wisconsin, when I had a soup similar to this one.  Although they are used basically the same as onions, they have a milder, buttery flavor, and maintain a stronger presence after cooking.  This soup showcases fresh leeks, as well as tomatoes warm from the garden sun.  Try replacing the green pepper with shredded zucchini, it adds a great touch.  Serve with warm biscuits and honey and you’ve got yourself a filling meal.

Lebanese Leek Soup

3 leeks, sliced to the light green part, rings separated

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 green bell pepper, cut into thin strips

1 1/2 tomatoes, chopped

3 carrots, sliced into thin wheels

2 oz edamame (a handful)

4 Yukon Gold potatoes, chopped

6 oz linguine, snapped in half

6 cups vegetable stock

olive oil

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1 Tb Earth Balance

cracked black pepper, cinnamon, chili powder, cardamom, cloves, curry powder, salt, ginger

Optional: 1 Tbs sesame seeds

Heat 1 Tb olive oil and 1 Tb Earth Balance in a large stockpot over medium low.  Saute garlic 3 minutes, add leeks.  Saute 5 minutes and add pepper, carrots, and potatoes.  Add vegetable stock and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, reduce heat to medium and add tomatoes and vinegar.  Mix in spices except cardamom and ginger–these you’ll add last.  Continue to heat 10 minutes.  Bring to a boil again and add noodles.  When noodles are cooked, add cardamom and ginger.  Reduce heat to medium and cook 3 minutes, stirring and adjusting spices as necessary.  Stir in sesame seeds if using.


2 cups all purpose flour (I use half unbleached and half wheat)

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

4 Tb Earth Balance

3/4 cup + 1 Tb soy milk

optional: 1/2 tsp chives

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt (and chives, if using).  Use a pastry cutter to cut in Earth Balance.  Gradually add soy milk, mixing with hands (this gets messy, flour your hands first) until combined.  Do not over-knead.  Turn onto lightly floured surface and fold, then press to 1/2″ thick.  Cut with a biscuit cutter.  Bake 12-15 minutes at 400 degrees F.

Open biscuits (they will easily break in half, as they bake into layers) and butter with Earth Balance.  Drizzle honey (or agave nectar if you’re a good vegan) over top and place biscuits back together so everything melts together.  Serve alongside the soup.  Enjoy!

Farewell to Summer

September 6, 2009
yummy portabella burger

yummy portabella burger

I picked up some local sweet corn at the co-op a few days ago but couldn’t decide what to make with it.  Sweet corn is especially sweet in Minnesota; I haven’t had it quite as good anywhere else, so I wanted to make a meal that captured the spirit of summer in the midwest.  It needed to be simple, comforting, and traditional.

What I ended up choosing was a combination of my favorite summer foods from childhood.  Portabella burgers, fresh watermelon and corn on the cob, baked beans, and a not-too-sweet shortbread for dessert.

Of course you don’t need recipes for watermelon or corn on the cob, so here are some ideas for the rest.  Again, you know me–measurements are approximate and completely up to your creative influence.

First up: Portabella Burgers for Two

two portabella mushrooms, stems removed

1 Tb soy sauce

1 tsp barbeque sauce

sprinkles cracked pepper, oregano, sage, thyme, celery seed

1 tsp apple cider vinegar (lemon juice may be substituted)

olive oil

Combine the soy sauce, barbeque sauce, apple cider vinegar and seasonings in a cup or small bowl.  Add olive oil until the marinade reaches a thin enough consistency to pour (approx. 1 tbs).  Pour half the marinade into a shallow, wide dish (like a pie pan) and spread it around.  Place the mushrooms in the dish and wet the tops of the mushrooms, leaving them gill-side up.  Pour the remainder of the marinade over the gills of the mushrooms and let sit 5-10 minutes.

Heat olive oil in a fry pan over medium heat.  Cook one mushroom at a time, frying each mushroom 5-6 minutes per side.  The mushrooms will turn dark in color but should not burn, and they will shrink up a bit and become tender.  Press the mushrooms with a spatula before removing from the fry pan, to squeeze excess marinade from them.  Place on a firm toasted bun or bread (such as ciabatta) topped with Vegenaise, tomato slices, lettuce or chard, and a few rings of fresh onion.

Note: the bread is really important!  In the photo, I used a regular sandwich bread, which got soggy after a few minutes.  The mushrooms remain moist even after cooking, so use a thick, firm bread.

Baked Beans

This isn’t so much a recipe as a little tweak to an already-made product.

1 family-size can vegetarian baked beans

1/4 block tempeh bacon (use the pre-made tempeh bacon or make your own)

2 Tb brown sugar

1 tsp molasses

1 tsp maple syrup (no cheating! use the real stuff)

Heat the baked beans over medium heat.  When they begin to bubble, add the tempeh bacon in crumbles.  Mix in the brown sugar, molasses and syrup.  Reduce heat to low and continue to cook for 15 minutes to let the flavors soak in.

Blueberry Shortbread

1 Cup Earth Balance Buttery Sticks (two sticks), softened

3/4 cup powdered sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour (I use a 50-50 combination of wheat and unbleached)

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla

1/3 cup blueberries

1/4 cup chocolate chips (I use Guittard semi-sweet, they are among the highest quality vegan chips available)

granulated sugar

Using a pastry cutter, combine the butter and powdered sugar, adding the flour and other ingredients after the butter is in small chunks.  Use your hands to finish mixing the ingredients–it should be crumbly and a little on the dry side.  Try to get the butter into as small of pieces as possible without creaming it.  Gently mix in blueberries and chocolate chips.  Press into an 8×8 pan (glass, preferably), sprinkle granulated sugar on top, and bake at 340 until golden.  Insert a toothpick into the center to test for doneness.  Use a cookie cutter to cut into shapes, or simply cut into bars.