Lentil Shepard's Pie

I can't believe that it took me this long to write about this one. It's been a staple for us for years- particularly at holidays. It's a very carnivore-friendly recipe. It's hearty and comfort-y (mashed potatoes!) I also add corn to the mix, which isn't in the recipe. It's from the Compassionate Cook (p.160). Seasoned brown lentils, mashed potatoes (with skins) and corn... you kinda can't go wrong.

Tofurkey Cookbook Mash-Up Pot Pie

Our California Christmas dinners are becoming traditional (i.e. I did this year sort of what I did last year- but with some very important updates). For Christmas Eve, I make a Tofurkey (store bought). As good as the Tempeh Meat Loaf, Salsbury Seitan and other recent homemade discoveries are- we are conditioned as a family from years and years Tofurkeys- to want that for the holidays. So, the 24th was that.

Then the 25th, I make a pot pie with the left overs. Also, this year, on the 24th, I made "Golden Gravy" from pg 69 of the RFD book (I was never a gravy person- but this stuff is AMAZING!). So for the Christmas Day pot pie, we had the following mash-up of recipes and ingredients:

Crust: "Sister's Pie Crust" from the Compassionate Cook

Gravy: RFD's "Golden Gravy" (in lieu of the gravy in the Ellen pot pie recipe (HERE) They're pretty different. The Ellen gravy is just flour, broth, onions, garlic, salt and pepper. The Golden Gravy has all that except the broth and plus spices, tamari and nutritional yeast. So the RFD stuff has a bit more zing.

Protein: Instead of the Gardein that the recipe calls for, I used left over Tofurkey (cubed) and at Davey's suggestion, shoved the stuffing in too

So... in spite of being terribly nervous that I'd ruin Christmas, this was AMAZING! It has so much more flavor than the standard way of making it, which has always been really good- but a hint bland. In fact, the gravy got to be a tad too intense at times, but on the whole, it was really excellent. It was a jazzed up version of the normal pot pie which is really fitting for a holiday meal! Especially when followed by a SUGAR COOKIE or two!

Holiday Cookies!

Whew! Davey and I had a bake-a-thon that went from Friday night through Saturday night. We were going to a Christmas party,and I wanted to bring some cookies. We also, being away from family this year, were looking for the traditional messy kitchen cookie decorating bonanza to get us into the holiday spirit. Because I tend to overdo things a tad... I picked out three recipes. I wanted to do more than one, and two varieties seems silly, so three seems to make sense. It was fun, but I was SO ready to get out of the kitchen by Saturday night. Also, in addition to all of the baking, I made tacos for lunch, Creamed Lentils for dinner and Tempeh Bacon Guac for the party. It was a ton of work, but I can't help but realize how amazingly lucky we are to have all of this delicious food around.

As for the cookies, two of the recipes are online and one is from Vegan With a Vengenance. That one is "Sparkled Ginger Cookies" (the brown ones w/ the colored sugar), p 192. These are delicious and perfect for this time of year. They're sweet and spicy, mildly crunchy but also chewy. They're spiced with ground clove, ground ginger and cinnamon- and coupled with the molasses, it makes for a hearty, spicy, comfort cookie that's great with a hot tea. The recipe calls for Turbinado sugar for the top, but we used colored because... then it's a party. Talking of party- these were very popular with many non-vegans (the true test of a good vegan cookie).

The sugar cookies were the most amazingly pleasant surprise. I just googled "vegan sugar cookies" and trolled around until I found something that looked appealing. These are SO good! They are exactly like the big, crazy neon colored varieties that you get at coffee shops and bakeries. The cookies alone sort of hold back some sweet to allow for the redonkulously sweet icing. As a combo, it's sugar for sure, but not too overpoweringly or sickeningly sweet as some of the iced cookies can be. We got our cookie cutters from Sur La Table and threw in a Triceratops for a new holiday tradition. These are also a huge hit with friends of all dietary persuasions. You can find the recipe HERE.

To save the most decadent for last- I present the vegan magic bar! These are insane. They taste exactly like my mom's dairy version, in fact, I think that they're far gooier. There was a guy at the party who came up to Davey, grasped his shoulder with a fiercely intense death grip and said, "These. Are. The. Best. Thing. EVER!" Of course, after being told that they were vegan and being shocked, he vowed to eat a few pieces of bacon to compensate, but still- it was a nice compliment. They would be easy to prepare too- if not for the vegan condesed milk that you have to make. It needs to reduce for about 30 minutes (my heat was too low in fear of burning it, so mine took about 45 minutes). Also, I think the graham/ margarine combo was too wet, I would increase grahams or decrease the margarine. It may have been that my milk was too hot and saturated the crust too much- but they ended up extremely moist and almost greasy on the bottom. I compensated by putting them on a bed of dry graham crumbs when it was all done, but I would tweak that in the future. But, on the whole, if you're looking for something that will make everyone's eyes roll into the back of their head- this is it. And, it's another awesome recipe from Ellen's chef Roberto that's on their site (love that- this is the man who gave us the Pot Pie and Tamale recipes!) The recipe is HERE.

Happy holidays!

RFD Tempeh meat loaf (and golden gravy)

Ah, comfort food. It's just so... well, comforting. Last week, before the current summer renaissance that's going on in L.A., temps had dipped to about 70 or so (I'm adapting to west coast weather- that signalled fall) and I decided to make some cozy food. This is from the amazing, fantastic, wonderful Real Food Daily cookbook- the loaf is p 177, the Golden Gravy is p 68.

This recipe is amazing. Like all RFD recipes, it took a good 2 hours to make, but it's so worth it. I highly recommend making the gravy with it as well, that recipe makes enough that you'd have some left for the salsbury seitan too. Potatoes are also a must as it's a good balance to the other flavors.

This is hearty, and has a rather complex- but really good flavor. It turns out that we also went to the RFD West Hollywood restaurant a week after I made this and Davey ordered their version. He preferred mine ;) Also, on the gravy, I used about 1/2 to 2/3 the amount of nutritional yeast, because I feel that that flavor is just too overpowering in most recipes. In the restaurant, where they use the recommended amount (I assume), you can really taste it far more than in mine. So, adjust to your preference, but to me- that ingredient is like cilantro- too much of a good thing wrecks the whole dish.

Vegan Pot Pie!

What's awesome about this is that it not only tastes amazing, but I can divulge the recipe! This one is from Ellen's tv show, so it's right on her site! Not only is she a dancing doll face, but she's vegan, and occasionally has guest chefs as well as her personal chef on with recipes (I'm still looking for an army to make the tamale recipe for).

I first made this for the holidays in fall, and it has become a J-R house staple. It is so tasty and such great comfort food! I have a few switch outs and recommendations:

- Instead of multiple veg bags, I get the 4 veg variety bag from Trader Joe's (with green beans, peas, carrots and corn, I think). It's the perfect amount- and the different veg are excellent in it.

- I can't find the Gardein scallopini to save my life (even though I'm in the same city as Ellen's chef!)- I use the Gardein faux chicken cutlets, cubed.

- Also, I can't find vegan Pillsbury crust, I looked at multiple packages in different stores and they all have lard and spooky things in them. Which is good for me, b/c I use the "Sister's Pie Crust" recipe from The Compassionate Cook (p188) instead which is quite frankly kind of a pain, but is bar none the best crust possible.

- I also make mine in a 8 x 8 pyrex pan vs ramekins only b/c we're in a 2 bedroom apt with a galley kitchen that really doesn't have ramekin storage.

You gotta try it: The Ellen show's Vegan Pot Pie