Saturday, December 12, 2009

Pasta Della California

There isn't a pasta dish I don't like (although I bet there are lots of unholy pasta dishes with cilantro in them). This one didn't change that, but it'll probably go on one of the lower rungs of the goodness scale.

It was fairly easy to make. The sauce was light and a tad refreshing, thanks to the lime zest and juice. And I even liked the avocados, despite being a little wary of them. But overall, there was no real depth of flavor or strong flavor. I love my pasta served with a sauce that has either strong flavors or richness.

So in the flavor sense, I still rate this as good, but on my health factor scale, I'll give it an excellent, thanks to the broccoli, arugula and avocados (with their good fats). Between the health factor and easy prep and cleanup, this one will probably be made again in this house.

The expense of this dish was a bit prohibitive, however, running around $14 (yikes...that's more than I realized at the time of buying the ingredients). So then again, maybe I won't make this again. I'm just so cheap cheap cheap.

The recipe is on page 192 of Veganomicon.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Spinach Linguine With Basil-Cilantro Pesto And Artichokes

I love pesto. I love spinach fettuccine. I love artichoke hearts. I liked this dish.

I figured a dish that combined so many things I loved would be something I loved, but I came away thinking of this as just a good dish.

I have my own pesto recipe, which I partially used to make the pesto for this dish. I followed their recipe, except I replaced parsley for basil and didn't use cilantro (don't make me say how much I hate cilantro again). But it was the lemon juice that I think, at least for me, took this from a great dish to a good dish. I actually sometimes use a little lemon juice in my pesto recipe, but this one has two tablespoons, which took it from a background flavor to the foreground. I like my pesto to taste garlicky, but I could barely taste the garlic here.

The red onions were a great addition, adding some nice sweetness and crunch. I may even try that in my own pesto sometime. And I will say that the next day leftovers were better. The tanginess had faded and the garlic flavor was allowed to come forth.

Oh, a couple of additions I made: the toasted almonds on top and some sauteed rainbow chard. You can't ever go wrong with toasted almonds. I also wanted an extra nutrition boost, so I added the chard, which I had never made before. That was the best surprise of the night, as it was a perfect balance between soggier spinach and tougher kale.

In the end, I won't be craving this, as the authors said, but I think it's a dish that should at least be tried once. You may have a different reaction to it than I did.

Price-wise, this was about $8. Not bad at all.

This recipe is on page 191 of Veganomicon.

Kasha Phyllo Pie

One word: boring. No, three words. Boring, boring and boringer. There is a but, however.

The but being, I actually didn't make this dish correctly. Put another way, I totally screwed up the phyllo dough. Because I had forgotten to thaw it out, I decided it would be just fine to defrost it in the microwave. Despite taking precautions to protect it from drying out, not only did it dry out parts of the dough, but it made other parts meld together into one large piece of dough.

Thus, no picture here.

Instead of throwing the filling away, I decided to make some of the biscuits from the Leek and Bean Cassoulet With Biscuits recipe and serve those under the filling, topped with the sauerkraut.

The biscuits were great. And I always love sauerkraut. But that filling was one of the most bland things I've made. It was so boring, I couldn't even eat a second serving, opting instead for a biscuit with jam. Bryan was able to shove a serving down the next two days for lunch, but I know there were not an ounce of enthusiasm about that.

And that kasha stuff...yeah, a little funky if you ask me. Not as in disgusting, more like just too earthy.

So, in all fairness, I can't say this dish wouldn't be totally wonderful if made with the phyllo dough. It's hard for anything, even this, to probably taste bad (or boring) with phyllo dough. Does that mean I'll try it again? Highly unlikely. But I will try to find a substitute filling to use with the phyllo dough sometime. I simply must make something with phyllo dough, not only to correct my wrong but also because it's so damn good.

This recipe is on page 165 of Veganomicon.

Double Pea Soup With Roasted Red Peppers

This soup falls into the category of one that we liked and will probably make again but we won't get too excited about it. It is pea soup, after all. And on top of that, it's just soup, and I'm sure I've mentioned before that I'm not a soup person.

With that said, it was good enough for me to eat it as leftovers twice after the main event, which for soup, says a lot. And it was really colorful and festive, too.

The flavor was less "pea-like" than usual, which to me is a good thing. It had a nice depth of flavor and was just the right thickness. I actually cheated a bit on that front by using an immersion blender the blend up about half the soup to make it creamier.

The herbs were probably one of the best things about the soup, besides the fact that it was really healthy. Not being good at identifying flavors from herbs, I can't put my finger on which one (or ones) really stood out. Nor am I good at describing the flavors, but it was one of those spicy spice flavors (the ones I think of as fall spices, such as cinnamon and allspice). It was probably the coriander. In any case, chalk one up for the herbs.

Price-wise, this was probably in the $8-$10 range, but it was extremely plentiful, so per serving it was probably one of the cheapest dishes of the book so far. On the plus side, it was also easy to make and clean up.

This recipe is on page 141 of Veganomicon.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Chickpea-Noodle Soup

Update: I made this soup again and this time remembered to take a picture. And as last time, it was just as good. I also put a little bit of sauteed kale to go on top of the soup. It was a great addition. We now call this Thanksgiving-Asian soup.


I was bad and forgot to take a picture of this. But I can tell you it was one of my favorite soups I've ever made. Oh, and it was so damn easy to make, too.

This simple soup of noodles, chickpeas, veggies and herbs was brought to life with the addition of the miso at the end. I have never used miso before, although I'm sure I've had it many times. But I had no idea how much flavor it was going to add to the soup. For me, it pretty much made the soup amazing.

The consistency was a little less soupy than I think it should have been. I did add 2 oz. more of the noodles than the recipe called for, but I also added another cup of water. I'd say it could probably use a bit more water, but it's not necessary. I like a thicker soup anyway. However, for leftovers, you probably want to add a bit more water to desired thickness as the noodles definitely soak up most of the broth over time.

Because this was quick, easy and so tasty, I'll definitely be making it again.

The recipe is on page 139 of Veganomicon.

Almost All-American Seitan PotPie

Bryan said this was probably one of the best potpie's he's ever had. I had to agree with him. The crust was crusty and chewy, the filling hot and savory and the seitan meaty and dense.

But if you're going to make this, either plan it out over two days or prepare to spend 3 - 3 1/2 hours making it in one day. The good news is that although it took that long to make from start to finish, nothing was that difficult and a lot of the time was waiting time.

Although we've had our own seitan recipe for a while, and it's one we actually love, the one in the book (page 131) was even a little easier and the end result we thought a little better. It was more dense and meaty than our other recipe. However, I just made this again yesterday for Thanksgiving and it was a lot more soft and wet than the first time. I probably just had too much liquid. But after squeezing some out after cooking and then sauteing it the texture was much more solid.

I loved the filling with the hint of mustard flavor and the background of the sage and thyme. It was the a great consistency, too, with the small dice to most of the veggies, to me, a better derivation of potpie.

The only thing I had trouble with was rolling out the dough. But I've done very little of that and once Bryan helped me out I saw how easy it was to get it shaped the way I wanted. I ended up using a smaller casserole dish (they say 3 quarts, but I'd recommend something smaller...maybe 2 quarts) but rolled the dough out to fit a bigger one, so I just doubled it up on top. It made a thick crust, which we both really like.

We will be making this one again, but most definitely on a quiet and chilly weekend.

This recipe is on page 159 of Veganomicon.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Broccoli Potato Soup With (No) Fresh Herbs

Simple, healthy, warm and easy. This soup (and a glass of wine, of course) was a great way to wind down on a cool fall day.

This was one of the easiest dishes I've made from the book. And easy usually pleases me. It was also very healthy, with just a few simple ingredients.

While I can't claim it was amazing, which is partly because I'm just not a "soup person," it was undoubtedly good.

I admit that I didn't use any of the fresh herbs. When I saw each would cost me $2-3, I couldn't bear to part with those dollars just for a soup garnish that would be tasted and gone in the flash of a pan. Sometimes the condiment or topping can make or break a dish, but in this case, I wasn't too worried about it.

One tip: Our immersion blender didn't do much to the broccoli other than spin it around, so I ended up putting about 1/3 - 1/2 of the broccoli, along with some broth, in the blender. This gave the soup a bit of added thickness and color, too.

This was also one of the cheaper dishes I've made in a while. It was roughly $6-7. And since it was one pot, the cleanup was also a breeze.

Because of the healthiness, simplicity and price of it, I'm sure we'll make it again on a cold winter night.

This recipe is on page 138 of Veganomicon.

Eggplant-Potato Moussaka With Pine Nut Cream

Although this dish is labeled as a Greek casserole, it could easily pass as Italian, at least in my opinion. But that's irrelevant, as all that really matters was how good it was. And healthy, too.

The biggest challenge of this meal was getting my husband to agree to eat it without appearing to be trying to hold back vomit. Not because of how it looked or ultimately tasted, but because it contained two of his least loved ingredients, eggplant and zucchini. While I'm sure the thought of this meal put a damper on his day (since he lives in the future most of the time) he graciously agreed to eat it and was pleasantly surprised. Not thrilled, not asking me to make it again, but just pleasantly surprised.

I, on the other hand, thought it was very good and I especially loved that pine nut cream. Those gals were right when they said the testers especially loved that part. I can already see using that as a "ricotta" in a lasagna.

The dish was hearty, rich and delicious. My least favorite part was probably the shallots as they seemed a little bit harder than I thought they would be. The zucchini could also have been roasted maybe a bit longer as it was still quite firm while the eggplant and potato were very tender.

Since Bryan didn't want the leftovers (no surprise there) I've been eating them for the last few days. It's just as good as leftovers as it was the first night.

The price wasn't great, but not ridiculous. I'd say it was in the range of $10-11.

This recipe is on page 164 of Veganomicon.

Leek And Bean Cassoulet With Biscuits

There's never been a pot pie, or a pot pie alternative, that I haven't liked. This was no exception.

Besides being one of my favorite types of dishes, that being a one-dish meal, it was rich, delicious and healthy. While I can't say it was any more amazing than the superb pot pie my sister and husband make, it was a very satisfying alternative and, because of the biscuits instead of crust, all that much easier to make.

The biscuits turned out well, too, having a thin crust on the outside with a moist (but not too moist) inside.

This meal will definitely go into the rotation for several reasons: the cost was reasonable (about $8-$9), it was relatively quick, and both the preparation and cleanup were easy.

This is on page 172 of Veganomicon.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Potato And Kale Enchiladas With Roasted Chile Sauce

This dish was wonderful, rich, warm and filling. It was also very authentic.

It was also a two-plus hour endeavor. But that's the point of the name of this blog. I am not going to be uninhibited with my cooking. Normally I would have seen this recipe and been like "oh, hell no!" With that said, I still plan on going back to, at least partially, being a lazy, inhibited cook once I'm done going through the book.

Anyway, back to the food. The enchiladas were certainly a labor of love, but the result was (mostly) worth it. They were hearty and full of flavor with just a little kick of zest from the lime juice. The kale gave the filling a nice chew, while the pepitas added just a little bit of crunch. The sauce was also a winner, rich and flavorful with a hint of spice.

By the way, the only substitute I used for this meal was instead of an Anaheim chile I used a poblano pepper. It was the closest I could find.

As for the Mexican Millet, it sure did take a while (45 minutes, but hey, that's what they said) but tasted so much like authentic Mexican rice. I'll definitely make that again as it was simple and healthy as well.

This may have been the most expensive dish yet from the book. It was roughly around $20 for all the ingredients. Okay, that just scared me. That's more than most meals we eat out. So, aside from the spend-the-whole-night-cooking thing, I probably won't be making this dish often because, well, I'm a tightwad. Sure, laugh at me now, but just wait 30 years.

But this dish is well worth making at least once.

This recipe is on page 162 of Veganomicon.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Tangerine Baked Tofu

This was probably one of the most interesting dishes I've made so far. And best of all, Bryan went from thinking he really wasn't going to like it to an almost incessant "ummm" fest. He immediately demanded that I make it again soon.

The tangerine tofu was chewy, moist, sweet and tangy. As far as tofu goes, it was simply amazing. I was worried that the citrus flavors would be too much, but it was just the right amount of zest and tang. And because I didn't even have any dark rum to use, I suspect it will be even better next time.

By the way, I should have mentioned this long ago, but one of the ingredients I *always* substitute in the book is any type of oil that isn't either canola or olive. I'm sure there are a couple of dishes where the oil type makes somewhat of a difference, but in my experience, oil is oil, and the cheaper the better. These meals in the book aren't exactly economical, so anywhere you can save money without sacrificing taste is a good thing.

They didn't have any tangerines at the store, so another substitute I used for this dish was using one orange and one tangelo instead. I didn't know what a tangelo was until I just now Googled it.

For the side, I made the Quinoa Salad with Black Bean and Mango (page 127). It was very colorful and a perfect complement to the tofu, as it was mild, lightly sweet and crunchy with a background of earthiness from the onion.

While I'm talking about the salad, let me also mention one ingredient I will NEVER use: cilantro! Hate it hate it hate it. It's vile, disgusting and vomit worthy. There. Glad to have that out in the open. Anyway, I digress, back to the salad.

This was my first time using Quinoa, which apparently is becoming the grain (or pseudocereal, more precisely) of the moment. Or, at least that's how it seems. I hear about it a lot more now, compared to not even knowing what it was a year ago. The great thing is that it's a complete protein. Make sure to click on the picture above to see the detail in the quinoa. Ain't it cute?

This was also my first time buying and using a mango. I've always been a little ambivalent about mangoes, if not a bit intimidated by them, but they were the best fruit for this salad. Just the right amount of sweetness and of course, very tender.

The difficulty factor on this meal was low and the time factor was not too bad, either. Price-wise, this one was pricey. That damn mango alone was $4. Overall, the cost was probably around $14-$15.

This recipe is one page 126 of Veganomicon.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Smoky Grilled Tempeh

First things first. I made this dish with the Sauteed Collards (pg 106) and the Cheater Baked Beans (page 122). And the surprising star of this dish was definitely the sauteed collards! More on that in a minute.

Overall this was a great meal. Each part was delicious. And surprisingly not too difficult to prepare and cook considering it was three different dishes. The price was maybe a tad more than I like to spend on a home-cooked meal (roughly around $10) but certaily reasonable.
This meal included two ingredients I had never cooked with before: molasses (seriously?) and liquid smoke. And let me say that after eating this dish I posted "I heart liquid smoke" on my Facebook status.
The tempeh was tender and delicious. But as I said, the star was the collards. The marinade used for the tempeh was the same one used in preparing the collards, but whoa did those collards really soak that stuff up! They absorbed every ounce of flavor from that marinade, I think. The flavor was a teriffic blend of sweet and salty with the extra boost of smokiness from the liquid smoke. Ah-ma-zing. The best part was the Bryan was looking forward to that dish the least of the three, but in the end liked it the best.
The beans were good, too. They had a bit more of a "tomatoey" flavor than I prefer, but we still liked them. We actually like our baked beans a bit more on the sweeter side, too. Sometime I'll have to post the recipe for this "Gourment Baked Beans" recipe we got from Bryan's mom. I could live off those things (okay, that and those crutons for the Caesar Salad). They're sticky, sweet, salty and have a deep flavor.

This recipe is on page 130 of Veganomicon.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Basic Broiled Tofu

This one is definitely going into our rotation. You know, that rotation that will start up way in the future once I'm done going through the entire Veganomicon book.

Anyway, this dish was easy, delicious and relatively affordable.

We (I don't know why I sometimes say "we" instead of "I"...I guess I just think of our cooking as a joint experience even though we each do all the cooking on our own) used the freeze/thaw/squeeze method on the tofu (as we almost always do). It really soaked up the braising sauce, which was light, fresh and tasty.

One recommendation on broiling the tofu. I put the tofu on the next to the bottom rack and even then it got as dark as it did by following the timing in the recipe. I was surprised they didn't mention that in the book, but perhaps we have some super broiler (I doubt that).

For serving, I went with the stuffing it into a something-made-with-flour-that-can-hold-it idea. They recommend pitas, but I used whole wheat tortillas (big ones) instead. I made the Dill-Tahini sauce (pg. 215) as well and cut up some tomato, onion and chopped lettuce and spinach to stuff in with the tofu.

For a side dish, I oven roasted some chopped carrots, green pepper and onion, which were slim pickins, but tasty, after the oven got done with them. I may not do this next time because, as you know, I'm a lazy cook.

This is on page 126 of Veganomicon.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Mole Skillet Pie With Greens

I was going to start this entry by whining about how long this meal took (2 hours from start to finish), but once I put the first bite in my mouth, all was forgiven.

This was warm, both literally and metaphorically, rich, comforting and so damn good. It was a near perfect blend of sweet, salty and spicy. The topping had just the right combination of moistness and fluffiness with just a bit of a crust on the very top. We were impressed.

I've never made mole sauce before, and admittedly, have not been a huge fan of it until today, but it was so worth the effort. Making this was actually the hardest and most time-consuming part of this dish, so if you can make it ahead of time, do so. I *strongly* encourage that. The good news is that it made twice what I needed so I froze the other half and will be making this dish again soon.

The only thing I might do differently next time, more out of just to try it than a pure preference, would be to use spinach instead of the collard greens I used. The collard greens were great and had a nice chew to them, but next time I'd like to use the more tender spinach so every bite just melts in my mouth. Then we'll see which we like better. This was also the first time I'd made anything with fresh collard greens. I had no idea they were these huge leaves and that they repelled water like leather.

I actually made this dish in a traditional casserole dish. Stupid me, I got all the way to the end and then told Bryan that I needed a skillet to cook this in. He says to me, "David, it's a skillet pie." Of course I was just thinking that was a cute name, but no, they really meant it literally. Yeah, I'm a bit dense sometimes, too. That, in addition to my laziness.

This would make the perfect meal on one of the first chilly days of fall. Since we probably have one of those coming up very soon here in Seattle, I'll be planning on that.

This is on page 156 of Veganomicon.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Greek-Style Tomato-Zucchini Fritters With Fresh Herbs

I think I probably washed my hands off a good 20 times while making this dish. And the 45 minute preparation time ended up being 1 1/2 hours for me. I'm sure part of my slowness is due to the fact that I couldn't organize a square into a square if I had to, but what I lack in organizational skills I make up for in physical speed. But I also made the suggested dip (Mediterranean-style Cashew-Cucumber Dip) which also needs to be added to the prep time, despite being able to multitask each dish separately.

One problem I had was that they ended up being a bit "wet." When I originally prepared the "batter" I thought it was too dry, probably because I squeezed almost all the water out of the tofu, so I added a little bit back in. Too much, obviously.

The outside was nice and crispy and the fritter was very flavorful. The cashew-cucumber dip was excellent...very fresh, creamy and tangy. I'd love to make that again if I can think of something else to use it with.

I probably won't make this dish again anytime soon, solely for two reasons. One, the time and mess. Two, it was expensive, at least in my book. And I even "cheated" a bit by using fresh basil on our porch rather than the fresh mint, which I don't grow (yet). But I'd be happy to eat it again if someone else wants to make it!

This recipe is on page 52 of Veganomicon.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Caesar Salad With Roasted Garlic Croutons

OMG! I says to the hubs, "I could sustain myself off of these croutons!" And after we ate, he said the same thing. Well, those and Pad Lao from Vientiane Palace in Madison, WI.

This salad was sooooo good. Do you know how awesome it is to be able to eat a Caesar salad without wondering if there are anchovies in it? Pretty freakin' awesome, folks. And not just any Caesar salad, but *this* Caesar salad.

The dressing turned out fantastically and I think you already know how I feel about the croutons. I actually didn't follow the crouton recipe precisely as I forgot to roast the garlic and didn't feel like doing it so late in the game. So I just used some powdered garlic, but no worries, those damn croutons didn't need exact precision to be one of the best things I've put in my mouth in a while. They were the perfect balance of crispy and chewy.

Give yourself a little extra time for this recipe as it didn't account for me having to wash the lettuce (I can't not wash organic buggy). And you'll need to make sure you make the dressing first so it has time to chill and unlike me, get that garlic roasting right away as well.

One tip for this: If you want a little extra protein, add some warm, fried tofu cubes. We like to freeze our tofu, thaw and then squeeze it out like a sponge. It's nice n' chewy and fries up real good like that way!

This recipe is on page 81 of Veganomicon.

Spicy Tempeh and Broccoli Rabe With Rotelle

After making this dish I realized that I have for a long time been fan of fennel. And after making this dish I also became a huge fan of broccoli rabe! I'd actually never eaten it before.

The dish was wonderful. The marinade for the tempeh was excellent. I kept smelling it as it reminded me of being in an authentic Italian restaurant. I figured out it was the fennel that I was smelling, and after eating the dish I realized that I really, really liked fennel. It had such a distinct, strong, earthy flavor. I had no idea what "that flavor" was all those years I'd been eating it.

The tempeh was moist and meaty and very flavorful, thanks to the marinade. And the broccoli rabe was mildly bitter with a nice give to it. We both liked it better than spinach, which is fine but usually a bit mushier and not as flavorful.

Although we like whole wheat pasta okay, both of us are usually bigger fans of "regular" pasta, but in this dish, the whole wheat rotelle was just perfect. It gave the dish a bit more heft and meatiness.

All in all, this one goes into our top X list and we'll definitely be making it again. To top it off, it was also an easy dish to make.

This recipe is on page 190 of Veganomicon.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Sour Cilantro Cream

I made this "sour cream" for a Spanish rice dish the hubs Bryan made the other day. It was made with a spice blend called sazon, which, although being Latino spice, makes me walk around the house saying it with a strong, thick French accent. Hilarious, I know. Anyway, the funny thing is that we actually couldn't find the spice at our local grocery stores in the part of Seattle where we live, but had no trouble finding it in Madison, WI. WTF?

Bryan accidentally bought a lemon instead of a lime, so the end result can't really be judged until I try again with a lime. Although it served it's purpose on the dish, I actually prefer Sour Supreme as this just had too much flavor for me. I like my sour cream mild. It could have just been the lemon so I'll have to report back once we try with the lime.

But it was certainly a breeze to whip up and was full of protein, which can't be said for the store bought vegan sour cream. And it was cheaper, too.

Oh, and have I already said how much I hate hate hate cilantro? I haven't, have I? Well, I really, really really despise cilantro. It's one of the very few flavors that makes me crazy. So, needless to say, I left that out and didn't put in any substitutions. I like my sour cream mild. Did you forget that already?

This is on page 209 in Veganomicon.

Broccoli-Millet Croquettes

Okay, this was easily the most time consuming recipe yet (although having only gone through 5 I can't say yet where this will stack up in the end, but I sure hope it remains one of the most time consuming).

I was supposed to prepare the broccoli/millet combo the day before, as the recipe suggests. However, I forgot. Ask my husband if that's a surprise. Anyway, he offered to do this step for me. He started at about 530. I got home from work at 545 and then took over for him, thinking dinner would be ready by 730 at the latest. Woops.

I think with the exception of about 15 - 20 minutes I was active from 545 until, yes, about 810. That's over 2 1/2 hours from start to finish. Looking back, I can't understand why it took so long, but I digress.

One tip: The cooling step really is important. I actually did follow the instructions and let it cool for 45 minutes...even stirring often, but it probably needed another 1o to 15 minutes, so about an hour would suffice. If the mix is made a day ahead of time then no worries.

The patties were a bit unruly and didn't hold together well. It wasn't a total disaster, but several of them folded or lost some pieces. I actually added about 1/3 cup of breadcrumbs to the "batter" as it seemed a bit wet still. I don't know if that made things worse or if they would have been worse had I not done it.

Anyway, the rolling of the balls and frying of 3 batches added to the time, so if you can use a bigger frying device, then you'll save some time.

As for the sauce, I made one of the recommended sauces, the white bean aioli. One word comes to mind. Garlic city. Okay, that was two words. They said to use six cloves. I used 3, although they were rather large. Let's just say our throats were irritated for a long time afterwards, and I had the same problem today eating it for lunch.

Taste-wise, the croquettes were delicious. A little crispy on the outside and creamy/grainy on the inside. They reminded me of latkes, which I used to thoroughly enjoy back when I dated a Jewish guy who had a great cook for a mom.

The aioli was basically like Hummus (really garlicky hummus, and why is there a k in garlicky?) without the tahini. It was tasty, although to be honest, I think I'd be just as happy with a nice nayonnaise with some garlic mixed in. Sure, it's probably not as "pure" and doesn't have the protein the beans do, but I'll admit it, I can be lazy at times. Haven't I already admitted that?

So while it was a dish we would be happy to eat again, I'm not sure if I'll be motivated to make it again anytime soon. Fortunately, I have a whole cookbook ahead of me so I don't have to worry about it for a while.

This is on page 51 in Veganomicon. And sorry, I forgot to take a picture this time.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Butternut Squash and Pumpkin Seed Rice Paper Rolls

A rather long name for a pretty simple dish. I had never made anything with those spring rolls skins before, so yet another road untraveled in the cooking department. I'm always excited to be doing something new with cooking.

Overall impressions
Difficulty: Pretty darn easy, but a little delicate when rolling the skins up

Price: Reasonable. There aren't many ingredients.

Taste: Good. We weren't blown away, but it was light and tasty, especially the dipping sauce.

Cleanup: Easy.

With this dish I really saved on time by buying a bag of precut, precooked butternut squash, which I steamed for about 5 minutes. The book says the prep time is about an hour and 15 minutes. It was definitely less for me mostly because of bypassing the whole squash prep steps. However, I will say that a fresh squash probably would have had much more flavor. The frozen cubes seemed pretty bland to me. We've had better ones before, so it could have just been a bad bag.

Anyway, aside from that, before assembling the rolls, all there was to do was the cook some noodles and whip up the sauce.

I couldn't actually find the rice paper rolls so I bought my only option, which were some rolls made out of tapioca flour. I followed the instructions the same way (by dipping them in warm water) and they worked out perfectly.
I'm not one who enjoys delicate operations that require patience, but there's no avoiding it with the rolling step. But it really wasn't as delicate as I thought and it wasn't messy at all. I probably could have done a better job rolling them up as a couple of them opened up at the sides when eating, but all in all it wasn't a problem. Stickly noodles don't tend to slide out of sticky rolls.

For the two of us, it was a light yet filling meal. And healthy, too. Not one you want to have on a day you're craving comfort foods, so keep that in mind.

We thought of an alternative way of stuffing these next time, with little cubes of fried tofu, the noodles, ground peanut and maybe some green onion. And we'd definitley use the same dipping sauce.

This recipe is on page 59 in Veganomicon.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Recipe 3: Spaghetti and Beanballs

I was really excited to make this recipe. I'm a total pasta lover and love trying new "faux meat" dishes.

Overall impressions:

Difficulty factor: Simple
Price factor: Relatively inexpensive
Taste factor: Yum
Cleanup factor: Easy

We enjoyed this dish. I'd say Bryan enjoyed it more than I did, but mostly because I was hoping the beanballs would have a bit more give and chew to them. Bryan ain't down with that, so he really liked the softer, less chewy texture.

The homemade pasta sauce was extremely easy and very tasty. It felt very authentic and healthy. I've made tasty homemade sauce before, but it's smooth as I usually buy whole, canned tomatoes and add them and the other ingredients in a blender. So we appreciated the little pops of flavor with the chunks of tomato in this sauce.

Since this only called for 1/4 tsp of lemon zest, what I did was zest the entire lemon and freeze the rest of the zest. Why buy a whole lemon and only use part of it. Oh, and I also squeezed the juice and stored that in a little bottle for future use.

I also used a whole pound of pasta instead of 1/2. Hey, didn't I say we like our pasta? I was worried it would come out dry, but it was just about right for us. For most recipes that call for 1/2 pound of pasta, I usually use a whole pound and it almost always works out just right for us.
Okay, so that's not a money-saving tip, but at least pasta is cheap. And it makes twice as much in the end.

For the beanballs, I used the oven method. It meant less oil splattering and thus less stovetop cleanup, although I'll probably try the pan fried method next time. We do likes us some fried foods!

This recipe is on page 189 of Veganomicon.

Recipe 2: Spicy Tempeh Nori Rolls

I'll never forget these three words when I think of this dish: "Horrible, vomitous shit." Those came out of my husband, Bryan's, mouth. But the only thing they related to was the smell of the nori seaweed.

When Bryan first came upstairs when I told him dinner was ready, he had to walk into the other room because of the smell. I got irritated at first, probably out of always wanting my work to be worth my time and to be appreciated. So I got a little cranky. But we started to eat it anyway.

It was a pretty simple dish to make, actually. I had never worked with nori before and at first I thought it was just going to break apart as I tried to roll it. But the rice that goes on the bottom 2/3 actually moistens the nori and makes it rollable. That was the point, obviously. I was pleased with how it looked - cute little rolls with regions of avocado, tempeh and green onions. Not that I haven't seen those before, but making it myself felt so rewarding.

The filling was deliciously creamy and meaty. But that nori took over everything. So I gave Bryan permission to scrape off the filling from the nori. And I must admit, I did the same, at least to the extent possible.

When all was said and done, I admitted to Bryan that I thought it smelled like "horrible, vomitous shit" as well but I had to pretend otherwise at first. Later that night I kept saying how much I wanted something else in my stomach to overwhelm that feeling of having that stuff inside me.

This dish was pretty simple and inexpensive, so I don't have any tips or workaround. If you don't mind the smell of seaweed, I highly recommend this dish. If you don't, well, just say you were warned. But, another dish idea came out of this. The tempeh filler would probably make a great "tuna salad." Add a little celery and any other favorite "tuna salad" ingredients, slice up some avocado and put on toasted bread or stuff it into a fresh tomato. I'll try trying that one at some point.

This recipe is on page 47 of Veganomicon.

Recipe 1: Baja Style Grilled Tempeh Tacos

Monday, August 17. Day 1. My first new dish that I probably would not have made were it not for the new found inspiration from seeing Julie and Julia.

This was a great example of a recipe that I would have passed over out of the extensive list of ingredients. And it also calls for beer. At the time I thought, why would I buy a 6-pack of beer just so I could make a recipe. But then I realized that we could just keep the extra beer in the back of the fridge until the next recipe that calls for it (right!). Luckily, we had a dinner party the week before and had some leftover beer some friends brought.

The recipe says 80 minutes of cooking time, lots of it inactive. Well either I'm too slow (which I know is not true as I'm quite a fast-paced cooker) or too unorganized, because I felt pretty active for most of those 80 minutes.

This was quite a messy dish to make, although I think I still need to learn better logistics in this regard. The end result, however, was very tasty.

The most exciting thing was when first started making the recipe and I threw the chopped garlic in with the beer. It started to fizzle. I thought, how exciting. I never knew garlic would make beer sizzle. Then again, why would I?

Now for the tips, adjustments, workarounds and money savers.

One, it calls for picked jalapenos. Now, I don't know about where you live, but here in Seattle, every damn thing is so expensive, including pickled jalapenos. So, I decided to use fresh, which I would have preferred anyway for the context of the dish. Also, I used canola or olive oil in place of grapeseed or avocado oil in the crema. I can't say I've actually used those oils, so I don't know how much of a difference they'd make, but I suspect little, if any, and they're a hell of a lot more expensive.

I also added in a teaspoon of sugar to the taco slaw. I just like things a little sweeter, which will become obvious in time. I have to say, the slaw was uniquely tasty. The first thing I thought when I took a bite was shrimp cocktail sauce. I don't eat shrimp, but I used to love that sauce.

When marinading the tofu, a wide dish that is deep enough is very helpful. My dish was almost wide enough, but I had to put some strips of tofu on top of the others. I also added salt to the water used for boiling the tempeh. You'll also come to find out I like my salt, too. I'm not buying all that high blood pressure crap. Just give me my salt and shut up.

As for 3/4 cup of soy yogurt, that's the size of most individual yogurt containers (6 oz), so if that's the size you buy, don't waste your time or dirty a measuring cup for this.

As for time savers, don't bother with grilling the tempeh. Just fry it. I will never use our grill pan again. I mean, sure, I like grill marks as much as the next person, but not for an extra 10 minutes of scrubbing. That tempeh gets wrapped into a corn tortilla and eaten too fast anyway.

You can also skip the step of warming your oven to keep the tempeh warm between rounds. We just popped it in the microwave for 20 seconds instead. Why waste all that energy and use yet another pan?

This one was a winner in our book.

This recipe is on page 96 of Veganomicon.

Why I Started This Blog

I'm starting this blog out of inspiration from the movie Julie and Julia. All of my cooking life, I have always always always avoided recipes that either look too hard, have too many ingredients or ingredients that I don't know or haven't used before.

But the fact the Julie went through an entire Julia Child cookbook in a year really struck a chord with me. If she could do it after working all day then so could I. I finally said to myself, enough of being a scared, lazyass; just get off your butt and stop taking the path of least resistance in life. So that night I told my husband I was going to work through the entire Veganomicon cookbook, the best cookbook I've come across.

For the last several months I've had the book, I've skimmed through, dismissing any recipe that met the aforementioned criteria. No more! This past week I prepared and ate 3 new dishes from the book. I'm sure that I may have never made at least 2 of them were it not for this new flame of inspiration.

Anyway, the first new recipe I tried I knew right away this blog would have a focus. It was not only going to be about letting go of inhibitions, but also of finding ways to make recipes less complicated and/or less expensive. Hey, it's not just about embracing my lazy and cheap side - there are almost always shortcuts, alternative ingredients and workaround that can help make cooking (and cleaning!) a lot more enjoyable, less intimidating and more affordable.

I started this blog to have a journal and repository for the experience of the project, but if this provides inspiration or ideas to anyone or becomes a portal for sharing ideas and experiences, then all the better.