Category Archives: Vegan

Something for Everyone. Its the Holidays!

My brother held Thanksgiving at his home this Year.  He cooks a mean turkey and delicious sausage stuffing.  There are usually mashed potatoes, broccoli puff, orange fluff , a salad, and other assorted side dishes.  This year I brought vegetarian/vegan items to the dinner.  I wanted to give a twist to the Thanksgiving dinner and have something for everyone.  My brother was very accommodating.  We had all the regular items, turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, etc. along with vegan items.

I slimmed down the broccoli puff with a maple glaze root vegetable.  The sweet potatoes were not as sweet this year with a recipe provided on Martha Stewart’s website.  I made a couple of changes to make it a vegan dish, yet it is a vegetarian dish as it is listed on the website.  And last was the seitan.  I have to thank Isa Chandra who posted the recipe on her blog Post Punk Kitchen.  The seitan turned out wonderful and was a delicious addition to our Thanksgiving meal.  Everyone loved it.  And they were all meat eaters.  They now have a better understanding of my mysterious vegetarian diet and do not think that I sit at home munching carrots and cellery.  I have included links to the recipes with my variations written below.

Leek and Mushroom Stuffed Seitan

http://www.theppk.com/2011/11/seitan-roast-stuffed-with-shiitakes-and-leeks/

I used 8 oz or porcini mushrooms and 8 0z of shiitake mushrooms.  I also added a 6 leaves of fresh sage chapped fine.  I skipped the lemon juice and added white wine.  To the seitan I added 2 tablespoons of fresh roasted ginger and two additional tablespoons of olive oil.  I did cook the roast for 100 minutes instead of the 60 recommended but this is covered in the blog.  This was an easy recipe and I had little trouble rolling the seitan.  Not one break in the dough!

Sweet Potato Bake

http://www.marthastewart.com/317532/sweet-potato-and-sage-butter-casserole

I used olive oil 4 tablespoons nstead of the butter and silk instead of the milk.  I have thought that a light vegetable brough would have been good also.  I topped the casserole with crushed pretzels instead of bread crumbs.  Very crunchy. Yum!

Maple Glazed Root Veggies

3 parsnips julienne
3 carrots julienne
3 blue potatoes julienne
1 red torpedo onion julienne
Some brustle sprouts quartered
4 tablespoons olive oil
nutmeg and salt and pepper
1/4 cup maple syrup

Add olive oil to pan and warm on medium heat.  Add the root vegetables and cover.  toss every couple of minutes.  After 10 minutes remove cover and add maple syrup and seasoning.  heat until the sauce thickens tossing the veggies to coat them thoroughly.

I hope that everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  And hope that you have many more.

Cheers.

My Date with a Pumpkin

Video courtesy of Blame Society Films Youtube

It is October.  Large orange pumpkins can be seen on many a dimly lit doorstep hiding from devious children whose desire is to smash them on cold hard pavement and scream with pleasure at their great success.  Grown in summer fields for our autumn delight.  Carved with ghoulish faces, baked into delectable pies, cakes, muffins and the sort.  It is October.  The season of the pumpkin is upon us.

Yesterday I happened to stop into the local coffee shop.  Coffee Bean Connection.  Friendly place.  Great coffee and food.  I was intent on satiating my pumpkin latte craving.  Yes, I am one of those people that take delight in things pumpkin.  I like pumpkin muffins and pumpkin in my stir fry.  I freeze pumpkin so I can have it early spring when the snow melts.  So pumpkin latte is not anything out of the ordinary.  As  sip on my latte and the caffeine travels through my brain waking long forgotten synapses, I decide that it is time to try my hand at baking a vegan pumpkin cheesecake.  Pumpkin cheesecake would be a good fit.  The heavy flavors of the pumpkin would enhance the taste of the vegan cream cheese and tofu.  So tonight I would bake.  I would have my date with a pumpkin.

Pumpkin Night 2

Being a pastry chef I learned long ago that the best baked goods are made from real dairy and eggs.  They do not contain artificial sugars.  Yet, my non-vegan half wanted cheesecake…my vegan half said not.  I decided on a compromise (unlike the current government).   I would use vegan cream cheese and tofu, also cornstarch instead of eggs.  A good cheesecake would be pumpkin if I was going to be successful.  The flavors of the pumpkin would have to be complimentary to the vegan cream cheese.   The cinnamon, ginger and clove should not overwhelm the pallet.  The hint of cream cheese should still come through the flavors of pumpkin and spice.  This is the vegan version that I created.

Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake

Crust:
1 cup ground roasted pecans
1 cup ginger cookies ground
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup white sugar

16 oz Tofutti Non-Hygrogenated Oil Vegan Cream Cheese
16 oz soft tofu
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup fresh pumpkin puree (dewatered), you can use canned if you prefer.
3 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp grated ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
3 tbsp cornstarch

Mix the ground pecan, gingersnap cookies, vegetable oil and 1/4 cup sugar. Pat into the bottom of a 10 inch springform pan.  Set aside.  In a Kitchenaid type mixer cream the tofu, Tofutti cream cheese, corn starch, half cup sugar, and half cup brown sugar until smooth.  Add the pumpkin and spices. mix until just incorporated. Pour on top of the crust in the springform pan.  Wrap the bottom and side of the pan with a single sheet of tin foil.   This must be waterproof as the pan will be in water and it will leak and give you a soggy crust if there are more than a single sheet of foil.  Place this into a large pan filled with one inch of water. Put into a 325 preheated oven.  Bake for one hour.  When the hour is up turn off the oven and crack the door.  Let the cheesecake cool in the oven for one hour.  Remove the cheesecake and refrigerate overnight.  I like to serve this with maple encrusted pecans.

The cheesecake was delicious.  It was just enough spice and the vegan cream cheese provided just enough richness to the dessert.  I hope that you to will find your date with a pumpkin tonight.

Cheers.

Its a Local Thing

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(Image courtesy of activerain.com Blog Cindy Jones)

As most of my friends know Tom and  I will be selling our homes in the spring.  It is time to combine households and buy a home together.  We have been spending our time getting things ready for the sale.  Repairing and painting the ceilings, remodeling bathrooms, cleaning out basements, it keeps us pretty busy.  So when the spring comes next year there will be no garden to tend.  We do not know when the houses will sell but we are expecting a quick sale.  Of course that is the expectation of every home seller.  Our fingers are crossed.

With the sale of the homes in the spring gardening is going to be held to a minimum.  If the homes sell then the gardens will be lost and we have to start anew.  To keep a supply of fresh produce in the house we will be joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).  The CSA is a local farmer that offers shares in his farm.  Once a week starting in the spring we will pick up a box of produce grown by our local  CSA.  The shares are either money paid to the farmer in advance or time spent on the farm working.  You can sign up for different distributions.  There are weekly, biweekly, or even seasonally shares.  You can buy a share that contains produce from several farms or a share that consists of produce from a particular farm.  Some shares will have options for items other than produce like eggs, cheese, honey, meat, to name a few.

Shares are seasonal produce so you may have to head to the market to supplement the produce that you receive.  Your share may be light at the beginning of the season with greens, peas and green onions but they become heavy as the season progresses with boxes of potatoes , squash, cabbage.  Most farmers supply a list of items that you will receive during the year.  Make sure to ask up front about the rules. (Box pickup, not picking up one week, swapping produce, etc).  Eating fresh seasonal vegetables directly from the farmer eliminating the middleman is what CSA shares is all about.

Before you jump into a CSA share you need to consider some aspects of the process.  Do you have time to cook the produce that you will receive and if not do you have neighbors that will accept the extra produce that you do not have time to eat.  Choose a CSA that you can benefit from and a CSA that has a good reputation.  Everyone wants a box of produce that is full and fresh so choose a CSA that has good recommendations.  Ask your friends or other CSA members about particular CSAs and shop around.  What type of CSA do you want to belong to.  Some will require work in the fields, some have boxes that are filled for you and others let you select what you would like in the box each week.  Some allow monthly payments instead of one payment at the beginning of the season.  Also, know the ins and outs of the contract.

There are several CSAs in the area as you can see by the map supplied by Fair Share CSA Coalition.

In the Baraboo where I currently live the choices are fewer.  The Orange Cat Community Farm is located in the area and has a good reputation for delivering fresh produce and has many options.

We will be moving to the Middleton/Madison area.  There are more choices.  Driftless Organics drops off veggies in the Middleton area.  They have a good reputation in the area.  Two Onion Farm an organic farm that is well organized and been selling CSA shares for over ten years.  Scotch Hill Farm an organic farm that has been offering CSA shares for 20 years and has a variety of shares to purchase.  There are farms that offer honey, cheese, eggs and meat also.  The Fair Share website has many choices and chances to meet the farmers through local events.

I am looking forward to the boxes of fresh produce that we will be receiving next year.  It is going to be a great time to be a vegetarian.

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Goodbye My Friend

The last of the tomatoes have been picked. A season of delightful friends has come to an end. Today I made my last tomato sandwich of the season. A fitting farewell to a good friend. Until next year. Good-bye.

Tomato Sandwich

Multigrain Bread (I buy mine freshly baked at Metcalf’s in Madison, WI)
Two tomatoes (I chose green zebra and pink)
Pesto Sauce
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Pepitas
Fresh greens (I chose Chard, kind of bitter but for those you like it. YUM)

Toast bread and spread pesto over one slice. It is strong so you don’t need it on both sides. Slice the tomatoes and arrange them over the pesto. Sprinkle with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and pepitas. Place your greens on the sandwich and put on the top piece of bread. Push down firmly and cut with knife.

A great sandwich for hot summer afternoons and cool fall days.

Day 8, When worlds collide

When at home the world is mine.  I have chosen each delectable treat in my cupboard.  I have filled my refrigerator with healthy choices for my diet.  I can eat in the dining room on fine china or I can eat over the sink before I dash out the door to take a long bike ride.  I can read a relaxing book or walk through the neighborhood.  I have many choices and I own them.  If I am working at the lab I am to perform is a certain way.  Reports are to be written on a timely basis.  Chemical testing is performed to meet specific methods. and there are days that we go out to lunch as a group.  We make a choice as to which restaurant we are to eat and out the door.  My question is how to make the right choices at a restaurant.  Will my diet survive when worlds collide.

Today we are heading to a restaurant chosen by one of the chemists in the lab.  Chemists are a strange creature.  They spend each day performing intricate tasks methodically over and over again.  They pour over data, manipulating it statistically to arrive at that hard fought number.  They cultivate numbers in strict methodology rows.  They water those numbers with statistics and tending to them carefully.  They harvest each crop of data with precision.  They are used to a world that is highly structured.  You would think that a lunch choice would be chosen methodically providing what their body needs.  They are like most people when it comes to lunch.  On busy days they may head to the vending machines for a Poptart and can of Pepsi that will be devoured as they pour over numbers.  On other days they ride the fast food roller coaster of burgers and fried things on a bun.  And some days they need to break away from the methodical lab environment and express their freedom.  Live their 45 minutes of freedom to the fullest.  Today was the later.  It would be bacchanalia except without the naked bodies, damn.

Today’s choice is a sports bar. This is far from the world of vegan humus and sliced zucchini.  It is a world of fried food and grilled burgers.  And did I say we are from Wisconsin so if it can be smothered in cheese it will be.

We sit down at a table.  A sea of flat panel TVs hang from every free space on the walls.  Each tuned into a different channel so that you have a cornucopia of sports.  There are laminated menus wiped clean of the greasy fingerprints and spilled coleslaw.  Perky waitresses in tight t-shirts with sport slogans splashed over brightly dyed cotton bounding from table to table.  The room is packed with hungry bodies ready to devour their grilled favorites smothered in cheese.  Its easy to become overstimulated in this atmosphere…perfect for our lunchtime orgy. 

The menu has 20 burgers topped with anything that can be nailed down to it in the kitchen.  There are a plethora of cheese covered sandwiches and a handful of fried goodies to top off your lunch.  So what do I choose.  I can opt for the ruben sandwich less the melted swiss cheese, corned beef, butter and thousand island dressing (a sauerkraut sandwich).  A plate of fried cauliflower and zucchini.  A side of french fries and coleslaw.  Or a lettuce and tomato sandwich (the burger without the ground beef patty).  So when the waitress takes our order I ask the usual questions that a vegan is familiar with.  I want the waitress to know that I need to find an item that will suit my diet.  Thank the gods that I live in Madison Wisconsin.  Home to a large population of fun loving vegetarians and vegans to which our waitress was a member.  She lists off many items that are not on the menu with a wink of her eye.  A goddess of the bacchanalia.

So, today I could keep my diet with a delicious salad of greens and tomatoes sprinkled with nuts and raisins and crusty bread on the side.  An oddity in the table filled with meaty burgers and mounds of fries.  A happy vegan has found nourishment in this restaurant of burgers and fried food when worlds collide.

Cheers.

That cheating meatball

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Walking in the supermarket, I pick up things to cook,  I pretty much stay away from the produce section.  Why buy it when I can head out to the garden and pick it.  I have a large bowl full of peppers, zucchini and tomatoes at home.  They will be my lunch this week and a good start to some wicked tomato sauce.  I do grab some mushrooms.  I love the earthy taste and wet texture they have once they have been sauteed in a little olive oil.  And with an onion pulled from the black earth cleaned and chopped; some sweet basil and garlic to spice it up…the tomato sauce is started.  I think that secret to a good tomato sauce is the extras that you put in it.  Yes the tomatoes are key but without the onions, the mushrooms, the garlic and the basil, the sauce is flat.  It needs to meld and blend with the vegetables that you add to it.  Sometimes I add zucchini and sometimes I add peppers.  Today it is mushrooms.

Now, what goes good with red sauce and mushrooms.  Why meatballs.  Little spicy treats waiting to be found under the tomato blanket and on a pasta bed.  They don’t wait long as my nose sniffs them out like a bloodhound after its game.  I find one hiding under a mushroom and spear it with my fork. I can almost hear it squeal.  Squeal with glee that is.  Because meatballs love one thing.  To be eaten.  They want to be discovered and eaten and enjoyed. Kissed and licked and nibbled upon. That is their goal as they sit under the tomato sauce scheming as to how they can climb up into my mouth.  But alas, I have given up my sweet meatballs.  No, please do not cry my little friends for you will find many more mouths to enjoy your deliciousness. So, I cannot have you hiding in my sauce. Our games on the dinner plate have ended.

With that said, what do I do?  I continue to shop.  I head over to the dairy and pick up some yogurt and Silk.  And as I turn, I see them, those scheming little meatballs peering at me from the frozen foods department.  I walk over and open the freezer door.  They are in a green box waiting for me to rip them open and kiss them and nibble at them.  They are soy meatballs.  No meat in these.  So I read the list of ingredients.  All good.  No odd chemicals and binders that are 20 syllables long.  No preservatives, no meat.  Yet, they are a processed food.  Made in some factory by machines that care little about the goodness of the meatball.  So what am I to do.  Is this cheating.  I forget about this question and add the soy meatballs to my basket.

I make my red sauce.  Damn good, as I like to brag a bit.  I add my meatballs and cook them into the sauce.  I put it all on a nice bed of pasta.  Guess what.  I can hear these very soy meatballs scheming.  Plotting to get into my mouth.  So I spear one and pop it in biting down hard and pressing it with my tongue to the roof of my mouth.  It was good.  I find another and push it around my plate so it is covered in sauce.  I press it into my mouth and this time I squeal.  So good.  So delicious.  I have another and another and soon they are gone.  The taste of spicy red sauce lingers on my tongue.

So is the soy meatball cheating?  To some it is.  To some it is not.  To me it is a little friend that blends with the tomatoes to make the sauce something that I will enjoy.  I will not feel guilt.  I will only listen to my delicious friends and seek them out when they are hiding in the pasta and sauce.  I am happy for that cheating meatball.  The soy meatball.

Day 6, VB6

I read an interesting article today.  It was published in May 2013 by Mark Bitman author of VB6 (Vegan Before 6). 

I do like the idea of a plant based diet before 6pm.  Eating heavy during the day leaves me sluggish.  And I do like that Mr Bitman wants to push for a more healthy alternative to the American diet.  Yet eating anything you want after 6 is kind of a stretch if your goal is to lose weight or maintain a healthy diet or should I say as it pertains to me.  Limits still need to be enforced if I want to be a healthy individual.  I still need to limit the amount of processed foods that I put into my mouth.  Yet I find it difficult to put limitations of a strict vegan diet on my lifestyle.  I want find myself wanting more. But I am talking in the moment.  I may feel differently in the future.  The steps I take today will lead me to unimagined destinations.

I did read the comments after the article.  Interesting.  If you are reading this article I would also take a look at some of the comments that follow.

On another note. I am enjoying the morning. A walk with my dog Stormy this morning was wonderful. The smell of autumn is in the air which is natures cue for the waiting trees to melt into vibrant shades of orange,red and gold. And yesterday I saw the first pumpkin stand in a farmers field. Pumpkins lined up like fat soldiers at attention waiting for battle. Autumn is turning the corner.

This morning the menu is pancakes with poached apples and raisins.