Friday, April 18, 2014

Vegan Lemon Coconut Donuts

When I was a little kid, my mom had this cake she made every year for Easter. It was made to look like the Easter Bunny's face and covered in coconut, to mimic the Easter Bunny's fluffy white coat. Little pieces of candy decorated this coconut covered bunny face to illustrate bunny eyes, nose and mouth. The coconut covered frosting was always my favorite part though. I guess that's why when I started brainstorming for springtime Easter recipes, coconut was the ingredient that repeatedly came to mind.

Part of me felt like I had to come up with something cutesy and shaped like bunnies or Easter eggs, but alas, I just wasn't being hit with any cutesy Easter critter inspiration. So, I tried for a more practical approach. What would I bring to Easter brunch?

I've had this donut pan sitting at the back of my pantry for quite some time now. This happens a lot. I learn about something I haven't cooked yet, in this case baked donuts, get all excited and buy the necessary ingredients or equipment, and then forget about this new awesome food that I wanted to make until one day it falls from the pantry shelf and hits me in the head. In this instance the timing couldn't have been better. Everything soon came together in the form of lemon coconut donuts.

I found eating baked donuts from my donut pan to be oddly satisfying. Yeah, I recognize that the point is to feel like you're eating something fried and thus way badder than you really are, and I usually don't buy into that kind of thing, but I really think it works here! I should also mention that you can achieve this without a donut pan (even thought the donut pan rocks), by just rolling your dough into donut holes. Donut holes are really satisfying too. You just gotta eat a few more of them ;)

Vegan Lemon Coconut Donuts

Adapted from here

Printable Version

Makes about 8 donuts (or 24 donut holes)

3 tbsp. water
1 tbsp. ground flax seeds
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (could sub all purpose)
1 1/2 tbsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. lemon zest
1/4 cup vegan margarine, at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup unflavored, unsweetened non-dairy milk
1 tsp. lemon extract
1 cup shredded coconut, divided


juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 to 3/4 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 and spray donut pans or baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.

Whisk together flax seeds and water. Set aside and allow to sit for at least 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, stir together flour, baking powder, salt and lemon zest in small bowl. In a separate bowl, cream together margarine and sugar. Add flax mixture then milk, maybe just a bit at a time to avoid splashing, and lemon extract. Add in dry ingredients and blend until a uniform dough is formed. Fold in 1/2 cup coconut.

If you're making the "full" donut form of this recipe, distribute dough among donut forms. I found the best way to do this was by spreading it around with my hands. Otherwise, just roll dough into 24 balls and place on baking sheet. Bake for 12 minutes. Remove from oven, allow to cool and remove from pan before glazing.

While baking, whisk glaze ingredients together, using as much powdered sugar as needed to get the right consistency. Drizzle glaze over donuts and top with remaining 1/2 cup of coconut.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Crispy Orange Ginger Tofu with Broccoli

Often I find the best source of vegetarian cooking inspiration stuffed into my kitchen junk drawer. That would be a Chinese take-out-menu, or rather, one of a half dozen Chinese takeout menus that I've acquired in the nearly four years since moving into my current home. See, while living at my last home, in Philadelphia, I fell in love with the phenomenon known as the Chinese vegetarian restaurant. We had a bunch of these in Philly, and at most of them you could walk in, sit down and be handed what looked like a normal Chinese restaurant menu. It wasn't though: everything was vegetarian. So if the menu listed, say, Peking duck, what you'd actually get was some vegetarian version of Peking duck, which could be made from soy, seitan, veggies, beans, or some combination of the foregoing. I was a little freaked out the first time I tried one of these places, repeatedly confirming with the server that "I would not be served, there was absolutely no meat in the place...not to worry, this is not meat that I'm eating, despite what my eyes and taste buds might be telling me..."

Eventually I got used to the idea, and eventually I became a regular at my favorite of the Chinese vegetarian places, to the point where they knew to bring the hot sauce to my table right away and not bother asking if I wanted white or brown rice.

I learned a bit from that experience. If they could veganize an entire Chinese menu, I could certainly handle a dish at a time when I was looking for something new to try in the kitchen. There are lots of ways of going about this, but you can generally get away with subbing tofu or seitan in most beef, pork or chicken based dishes. Crispy tofu is probably my favorite approach.

This particular dish is one that I tried out way back when I first started this blog, but initially I wasn't happy with the sauce. With the beautiful arrays of citrus I've been seeing in the markets lately I decided to give it a go again. This time it was awesome.

Crispy Orange Ginger Tofu with Broccoli

Printable Version

Serves 4

1 lb. extra firm tofu
1 cup orange juice
1/4-1/3 cup cornstarch, divided
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. fresh grated ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. orange zest
vegetable oil
2 broccoli crowns, chopped
2 scallions
sesame seeds
red pepper flakes (optional)

Press tofu for 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in small bowl or cup, dissolve 1 1/2 tbsp. cornstarch in a few tablespoons of your orange juice. Set aside. Place remaining orange juice in a small saucepan, along with brown sugar, soy sauce, ginger, garlic and orange zest. Bring to a simmer and allow to cook for about 15 minutes. Stir in cornstarch mixture until completely blended. Remove from heat and set aside.

Cut tofu into cubes and roll in remaining cornstarch to coat. Coat the bottom of a large skillet with vegetable oil and place over medium-high heat. Add tofu cubes and cook a few minutes on each side, until browned and crispy. Transfer to paper towel to drain.

Steam or boil broccoli florets to desired tenderness. Return tofu to skillet, along with broccoli and sauce. Toss everything to coat. Serve over rice, topped with scallions, sesame seeds, and red pepper flakes.

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Garlic and Dill Cauliflower Steaks

Okay, I don't know how you guys are going to react to this post, but I'll say this: had I seen this post on another blog say, just a month or so ago, I'd probably had given it a quick glance and clicked away to something else. Yes, I've been quite the cauliflower skeptic. Cauliflower was on my list of foods to get to know for a while, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I'd see blog posts being pinned away, commenters going on about drooling over the stuff, all kinds of unhealthier ingredients being substituted by incognito cauliflower, and despite logic telling me that there must be something to it, every time I passed the cauliflower in the produce aisle all I could think of was the soggy, drippy, boiled and flavorless little flowers that lived in broccoli's shadow.

This recipe changes everything.

I don't know what possessed me to grab for a big old crown of cauliflower while food shopping last week, but it happened. Even after that it took me a few days to get around to cooking it. I just didn't have the itch like I might get if I were to buy a few ripe mangoes or a pretty, purple eggplant, or something, anything sexier than cauliflower.

Eventually I decided it was time. I opted to go with the "cauliflower steak" method of preparation, having seen all kinds of variations all over the blogosphere. I figured garlic and dill would be a good flavoring, having the ability to de-blandify most foods. I got everything together, and one day last week begrudgingly stepped up to the stove.

The result...oh my god. You guys need to make cauliflower. I never in a million years expected this. In fact, I tasted a loose little cauliflower bit as soon as I removed my skillet from the oven, saying out loud "Oh my god." I could have easily eaten all four steaks, which would be an entire crown of cauliflower. They were that addictive. I could also see immediately on tasting why these are named "steaks," I mean aside from the fact of being prepared in big slabs. They are quite steak like...hearty and satisfying from roasting, with just the right touch of crisp from pan searing. 

If you're a cauliflower skeptic like I was, please make these for dinner tonight. Join me. I want to convert you from skeptic to addict :)

Garlic and Dill Cauliflower Steaks

Printable Version

Makes 4-6 steaks

1 cauliflower crown, leaves and stems removed
2 tbsp. olive oil, divided
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tbsp. chopped fresh dill
3 garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400.

Place cauliflower crown on a cutting board, stem side down, flower side up. Next, slice cauliflower into 4-6 steaks, each being about an inch think. Start by taking a big, sharp knife and cutting straight down, through the middle of the crown, so you've got two identical halves. Now make cuts into each of those halve, parallel to the original cuts and offset by about an inch. Repeat if you've got enough room for another slice, otherwise just stick with four slices. I ended up with four steaks and a few random florets, which I cooked along with the steaks for picking at.

Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Arrange cauliflower slices in skillet and cook about two minutes on each side, until you've got some dark spots.

Transfer cauliflower to a baking sheet. Brush with remaining 1 tbsp. olive oil, and sprinkle with lemon juice, dill, garlic, salt and pepper to taste. Roast for 15 minutes - just until tender.

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Friday, April 11, 2014

Smokey Sweet Potato Tempeh Scramble

In case I haven't mentioned it before, I'm terrible when it comes to social media. Like really terrible. I owe what little skill I have to this blog. It was just about a year ago that I finally gave in, sat my boyfriend down in front of the laptop and asked him to show me how to post to Facebook. He, despite having a Facebook account, wasn't much more skilled than I. Neither of us is a technological wizard. (When we met in 2011 I told my friends that his cell phone was from 2004. They knew right away that we'd be a great match.)

Anyhow, I'm happy to say that I've come quite a long way this past year. Just this week I joined Twitter. I have no idea what to do with Twitter yet, but I'll figure it out. I've even got a fancy button over in the sidebar, which I added to my page all by myself, really making me feel like a tech superstar. Click on over if you'd like to connect, and I promise I'll eventually figure out what to do and share something good.

Okay, so this breakfast has nothing to do with social media. It's delicious though. I've always thought of myself as a sweet breakfast type, but the more savory breakfast recipes I develop, the more my taste buds seems to sway towards that direction. I blame my confusion on eggs. After years of disliking eggs and I suppose as a result thinking savory breakfasts weren't my thing, I finally realized that when eggs are out of the equation, a hearty breakfast wrap or scramble (or in this case both) is delightful.

I had some version of this particular savory breakfast in mind for quite a while. Originally I thought it would be a tofu scramble though, probably some variation of this recipe, but with sweet potatoes and smoky seasonings. At some point I realized how much I love smoky flavorings along with tempeh, and this recipe resulted. I'm very happy with the resultant combination of flavors and textures.

We ate this scramble wrapped up in tortillas with avocado and hot sauce. If you do go with the wrap, please do include at least one of these toppings, otherwise I think it would be a bit dry. You could also eat it right out of a bowl.

Smokey Sweet Potato Tempeh Scramble

Printable Version

Serves 4

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 small or 1/2 large sweet potato, finely diced
1 small onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 oz. package of tempeh, crumbled
1 small red bell pepper, diced
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. ground cumin
1 tbsp. smoked paprika
1 tbsp. maple syrup
juice of 1/2 lemon

For Serving (optional):

1 avocado, sliced
2 scallions, chopped
4 tortillas
hot sauce

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add sweet potato and sautee until lightly browned, about five minutes. Add onion and continue to sautee until softened, about five minutes. Add garlic and sautee another minute. Add tempeh and sautee until browned, about five minutes. You may need to break up some bits of tempeh with a spatula. Add pepper, soy sauce, cumin, paprika, maple and lemon juice. Sautee about two more minutes. Serve in tortillas or in bowls. Top with avocado, scallions and hot sauce.

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Vegan Cream Cheese and Veggie Sushi

Last summer I posted this recipe for cashew cream cheese. While the stuff was awesome, I never expected the post to be as popular as it was...or still is. The greater part of a year has passed and it still reigns as my top post of all time. I'm guessing more than a few of you shared my hankering for a creamy-goodness slathered everything bagel.

I didn't get around to experimenting with a healthy substitute for the bagel itself, though that task has been stuck on my to-do list ever since the cream cheese recipe was posted. Flatbreads, crackers, tinkering with dehydrators...these are all possibilities I've contemplated. What I did not expect was to find my bagel in the form of sushi. No, seriously, this sushi tastes like an everything bagel. I defy you to try it and contradict me.

My original motivation for this sushi was simple. One evening while picking up takeout at our local sushi place, the hostess suggested the addition of some cream cheese to our regular mixed veggie roll. Tempting, but we already had several rolls stuffed with tempura-fried delights. Cream cheese would tip the balance just to that unhealthy place we started sushi night in the hopes of avoiding, you know, by opting for sushi in place of say, a big greasy pizza? Tempura or not, sushi generally falls on the light side of takeout in my book.

When I recently decided to have a home-made sushi night one evening, having a batch of freshly made cashew cream cheese on hand, I decided to experiment by adding it to my sushi. The result was an amazing surprise that I'm actually amazed that I didn't see coming. The cream cheese, scallions, rice and sesame seeds mingled in my mouth to recreate just the right hint of that sloppy, cheesy bagel I was once so fond of, but like, in a way lighter and healthier way. Oh, and with wasabi, so way better :)

Once again, I'd like to mention that my instruction below on rolling sushi can't compete with youtube, so if you need some extra guidance check out this video or this one for inside out rolls - I opted for inside out when making this recipe, but that's your call.

Vegan Cream Cheese and Veggie Sushi

Makes 2 rolls (8 pieces each)

For the Rice

2/3 cup sushi rice
3/4 cup + 2 tbsp. water
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. rice vinegar

For the Filling

4 asparagus spears, trimmed
1/2 cucumber, seeded and sliced into matchstick strips
2 scallions

2 sheets of nori
sesame seeds
wasabi, soy sauce and pickled ginger for serving

Rinse rice under cold running water for 1-2 minutes. Place in a small saucepan with other rice ingredients and heat to a simmer. Cover and allow to simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and allow to sit for another 10 minutes, covered.

While your rice cooks and sits, get your filling ingredients ready. Boil some water in large saucepan. Remove from heat and blanch asparagus spears for about two minutes, or until bright green. Transfer to an ice water bath.

Wrap a bamboo mat in plastic wrap and place nori over top. Keep a small bowl of water nearby and wet your fingertips. Distribute half of your rice in an even layer over nori. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Carefully invert your rice covered nori, so that the rice layer sits on the plastic wrap and nori is face up. Arrange half of your veggies in a single strip across the width of your nori, about an inch away from you. 

Using a spoon, pastry bag or even your fingers, distribute a single line of cream cheese right on top of your veggie strip. Now carefully roll the end of the nori closest to you over your veggie strip, tucking and squeezing to get it nice and tight. Continue rolling until you reach the end. 

Take your roll and place it seam side down on a cutting board. Using a big, sharp knife, cut into eight pieces. 

Repeat using remaining ingredients. Serve with wasabi, soy sauce and pickled ginger.

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Monday, April 7, 2014

Cuban Black Beans and Rice with Collard Greens and Fried Plantains

I'm a bit jealous of the newest generation of vegetarians. I think it's great and all to see more and more people adopting a plant-based lifestyle, but having given up meat myself around 1993, I see how easy the newly veganized have it, and yeah, there's a touch of envy.

Back when I went veg Whole Foods was nearly unheard of, I didn't know of any vegetarian restaurants, and if I wanted some tofu or other exotic ingredient I'd have to get mom to take me on one heck of a road trip. Then there was school. I wasn't aware of any other vegetarians in my class and there was a bit of teasing and kids waving baloney in my face in the lunchroom while singing New Age Girl.

It was tough being a veggie kid in the nineties.

Even in my teens I loved to cook, so of course I signed up for all the cooking classes. During a regional foods lesson one day another student was covering the American south and brought in a bunch of collard greens. That got me excited. My excitement grew throughout the preparation of the greens, up until that sad, sad point (to me) when the student doused them in bacon grease.

I didn't bother with collard greens after that, thinking bacon grease had some kind of exclusive license to them...until well into the 2010's when my boyfriend told me about an amazing dish a friend made for him a while back involving collard greens with rice, beans and plantain chips. "No bacon grease required." He informed.

I've recreated that dish for this post. I'm relieved to say that it turned out to be bowl-licking scrumptious, adding a new and delicious meal to my recipe collection and giving me what I'd like to consider something of a happy ending to my high school woes.

The fried plantains add some amazing sweetness and texture to this dish, but if you're looking for a quick weeknight dinner, you could skip them and the meal will still be delicious.

Cuban Black Beans and Rice with Collard Greens and Fried Plantains

Printable Version

Serves 4

1 cup long grain rice
2 ripe plantains, thinly sliced
1/4 cup olive or vegetable oil, divided
1 red onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 can or 1 3/4 cups cooked black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup vegetable broth
juice of 1/2 lime
1 1/2 tbsp. ground cumin
1/2 tbsp. ground coriander
1 medium bunch of collard greens (about 6 leaves) slices into strips
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Cook rice according to package directions.

In large skillet, heat 2 tbsp. oil over medium heat. Arrange plantain slices in a single layer and cook about 5 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. The plantain slices had a tendency to stick for me, so I found it helpful to gently de-stick them using a spatula after the first minute or so of cooking. After that the sticking didn't seem to be an issue. Transfer cooked plantain slices to a dish covered with a paper towel, to drain any excess oil.

Heat remaining 2 tbsp. oil in another (or the same) skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sautee until soft, about five minutes. Add garlic and cook for another minute. Add beans, broth, lime juice, cumin and coriander. Simmer until most of the liquid is dissolved, which should take 5-10 minutes. Add collard greens and simmer just until wilted, about another 3 minutes, adding a few tablespoons of water if the mixture gets too thick.

Divide rice onto dishes, top with bean mixture, then with cilantro and plantains.

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Friday, April 4, 2014

Pineapple Teriyaki Tofu Sandwiches

Some of my best recipes are born as a result of me being stuck with an ingredient that I don't know what to do with. Maybe that sounds bad. Pineapple is awesome and not exactly an ingredient I'd ever view myself as being "stuck" with, but it's not something I've done a whole lot of cooking with.

What often happens is this: I come across a recipe that calls for a little bit of this or that ingredient that I rarely use and cannot buy in quantities of just a little bit. Or maybe I'm just strolling through the produce section when something really cool catches my eye, like a big, fat ripe pineapple, which is way more fun than those little single serving size cups of pineapple chunks, so I buy the big fat pineapple. I end up with more food than I'll be able to eat before it spoils, which leads to the thought that I should cook up something new with whatever the ingredient we're talking about is, forcing me to step out of my food comfort zone a bit and discover something new and wonderful. That's what happened here.

In this case I went to the store intending to buy pineapple for a recipe, but just a little bit of pineapple. I'd buy one of those little cups of precut pineapple. When I got to the store I saw the big, beautiful, whole pineapples and my plans changed. I used a little bit for the recipe it was intended for, and spent some time thinking about what to do with the rest.

I have to say, the decision to put pineapple on a sandwich was a damn good one. The decision to put it atop teriyaki tofu was an even better one. I might just be buying pineapples all the time from now on.

For the teriyaki part of this recipe, I just went with the marinade from this recipe. It's proven to be an awesome and versatile sauce and I'm sure this won't be the last new use I find for it. I'm also sure that the tofu and pineapple would be delicious outside of a sandwich, maybe atop some rice with stir fried veggies, but I do highly recommend you give it a try in sandwich form. With a nice crusty roll and some Vegenaise this felt like a sweeter, exotic cousin of tofu Bahi Mi Chay.

Pineapple Teriyaki Tofu Sandwiches

Printable Version

Serves 4

1 lb. extra firm tofu
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp. fresh grated ginger
1/2 tbsp. vegan margarine
dash of black pepper
cooking spray or a bit of oil
8 pineapple slices (about 1/4 inch each), cut into half circles
4 sandwich rolls
2 cups baby spinach

Drain and press tofu.

Prepare sauce while your tofu presses. Combine soy sauce, lemon juice, garlic, ginger, margarine and black pepper in small saucepan or microwave safe bowl. Heat on stove top or in microwave until margarine and brown sugar are melted. Stir everything to blend.

Cut tofu into 1/4 inch slabs. Oil or spray large skillet and place over medium heat. Cook tofu slabs for about five minutes on each side - until lightly browned. Pour sauce over tofu and cook another 1-2 minutes on each side. Both sides should be coated and sauce should become thick and sticky. Remove tofu from skillet and set aside.

Add pineapple slices to the skillet that you just took your tofu out of. Cook about 3 minutes on each side, or until slices are tender and coated with the leftover sauce. Remove from heat carefully, as they will have a tendency to fall apart at this stage.

Slather sandwich rolls with Veganaise and stuff with tofu, pineapple and baby spinach. A little hot sauce is nice as well.

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