Stuffed Acorn Squash

This is a catch-up post, I made this in fall and never talked about it. It really is more of a fall dish. It would be great as a starter or side at a huge Thanksgiving or holiday meal, especially if you could find small little acorn squashes. I made it as an entrée, and although it's incredibly flavorful and delicious (not to mention super healthy with all that veg inside it), it was just too much veg and needed something else with it to balance it out (Tofurkey, perhaps!)

It's from the RFD original book, and was a bit of a time investment, but not quite as bad as most recipes in that book, but just as amazing and delicious. If you're in to vegetables for dinner, try it- otherwise, I'd say to save it for an impressive side dish at a huge meal.

Grilled Polenta and Vegetable Stacks

For a pile of vegetables- this is amazing. I know that it's weird for a vegan (and also rather inconvenient), but I'm not a fan of grilled vegetables. This is primarily because it's the hot equivalent of a salad at restaurants that don't offer any vegan options. I used to get so annoyed as a teenager when I stopped eating meat and we'd go to a steakhouse for a family dinner and an aunt or someone would say, "oh look, you can eat- they have salad!" Of course, those were back in the days when salads were vegetarian- before the mounds of grilled chicken, beef, bacon or ham were involved.

I digress. This is about the Grilled Polenta and Vegetable Stacks from the (what else) Real Food Daily cookbook. It involves making your own polenta (shockingly easy and FAR tastier than store bought), marinading the mushrooms in handmade vinegrette, making tofu ricotta and a tomato-saffron Coulis. In other words, this is a typical hours long RFD recipe that is delicious and awesome and worth the work.

If you use a biscuit cutter for the polenta (recommended), you'll have loads of left over odd shaped pieces left, which are super perfect for making the BBQ Tempeh with Polenta Stuffing from Appetite for Reduction the next night.

For the Coulis, which is amazingly delicious, I went to a specialty spice shop to get saffron. I know that it's a super expensive spice, but it was $35 for a gram there. I vented on Facebook about that and got the super helpful suggestion that I should go to Trader Joes (where I found a $6 jar). Granted, the more expensive stuff is probably better, but... I shall never know since I used the TJ's one.

Anyway, all of the flavors of this work together brilliantly and in a way that I wonder how a person (Ann Gentry) envisions before making up a recipe like this. There's the deep, rich, almost meaty flavor of the grilled mushroom and eggplant, the creamy tofu ricotta, the hearty polenta and the light, tomato based sauce all melding and having a grand party in your mouth as you eat (what, I'm not a writer- I'm a foodie).

Also, another great thing about making this was that it was the first time that I used a fresh fennel for anything (the sauce), and nature is so crazy. To make a thing that looks like celery but smells like anise when you cut it is just kooky. But the recipe is great, we loved it and super loved using the grill to make booshie food!

Quinoa Vegetable Soup

This is the Quinoa Vegetable Soup from RFD's book. I know that I swore off that book this week, but this was from last week, so other than the chicken style seitan, I haven't cheated.

I was coming down with a bit of a cold, so I made this to infuse some nutrients into my immune system. It has onions, carrots, celery, zucchini, corn, red bell, garlic and tomatoes in it, so I figured it would do the trick (I didn't get sick, but still feel it lurking- so maybe the soup kept it at bay).

It's a really good vegetable soup, extremely chunky and pretty filling. It is a very strong veg soup flavor, though, with little to break it up. It's good with crackers or crusty bread, but best with a sandwich to balance flavors so you don't feel like you're eating veg stock alone. Still, very good. It's no Turkish Lentil, but it's good.

Fajitas starring "chicken style seitan"

These are the Fajitas from the Real Food Daily Cookbook (I gotta branch out, but... why?) These are amazing! The "chicken style" seitan has different ingredients than the standard stuff (this one has onion, garlic, cannellini beans and garbanzo flour). It changes it up a bit, although it's hard to tell the taste difference b/c this fajita recipe adds a bunch on top of it.

There's a "marinade"- the driest marinade known to man, only 4T of liquid to, oh, about 20 T of spices. I marinaded it overnight. After that, it's easy peasy to make- just chop the peppers, onions and tomatoes, pan sear it all and voila! It's a delicious dish, and I appreciate the recipe a lot because I would never, ever have used those herbs (oregano, thyme, basil + others) for a mexican dish.

I have one pound of the seitan left, which will go in some mole enchiladas, so again, it'll be doused in something disguising the flavor, but there is a clear difference, and I can see why you'd want to use the "chicken style" versus plain for different applications. It's also nice to expand our non-soy protein base with a different flavor.

Turkish Lentil Stew

Ooooh, this is a good one! This is the "Turkish Lentil Stew" from Real Food Daily's book (there's actually still recipes in there that I haven't tried yet). Also, as an aside, Ann Gentry is coming out with a new book in June which makes me extremely happy. If it's 1/2 as good as the first, I won't look good in a bikini this summer.

Anyway, this is a great, hearty, flavorful soup. It uses fresh rosemary which is just unbelievable to smell and chop and work with. It's like ginger in that the smell just makes you feel lucky and happy to be around it. Also, for an RFD recipe, it's relatively quick (45 min or so total). And, you can't help but be convinced that you're getting healthier by eating it; lentils, tomato, garlic, spinach... all good stuff. I generally am not the biggest soup-as-a-meal fan. I like a good soup and sammie combo or something. This, however, falls into the chili/ black bean soup category- it's definitely filling enough as a meal. I did half the ingredients, though (like most RFD recipes)- and it still made enough for at least four nice sized bowls.

Four stars and a bonus point- it's a great recipe.

Indian Quinoa Salad

This. Is Good. This is the Indian Quinoa Salad from RFD's book. I had never made Quinoa, or, I think even had it before. It's a nutty but light little grain that tends to get everywhere when you cook from onto your clean dishes to the bottom of your feet.

This dish is delicious! It's very light, and would be a great side. I tended to just devour it by the bowl, though. It doesn't have a really distinct Indian flavor, though- the only real spice is garam masala. S'good- it'd be great at picnics, and I'll for sure keep it in my pocket to use for such occasions.

Chorizo Tempeh Samosas

This... is not the samosa that you're thinking of. The amazingly good fried one in dough that you get at Indian buffets with potatoes and cumin seeds and peas inside. This is RFD's Chorizo Tempeh Samosas. Until I went to write this, I forgot that it had that title, and am now wondering why "chorizo" is in it. There's no chorizo in the samosas (maybe b/c of the spices?) Anyway, they're real time consuming and are pretty difficult to form. You have to make the outer potato dough, refridge it, broil the tempeh, make the filling that the tempeh goes with, refridge that, and make the Spicy Tomato Sauce for the top.

They had a good flavor, and are probably a lot healthier than their fried restaurant counterparts, but I wasn't thrilled with them for the amount of work involved. Also, I'm really disappointed to say that the sauce was pretty darn bland.

I also made my version of the naan pizzas from the L.A. restaurant Cowboys and Turbans (which either recently changed their name or closed). It's an Indian/ Mexican fusion place on Sunset on the Silverlake/ Echo Park border (across from the Epitaph offices). It's a great place.

Anyway, their naan pizza is wilted spinach in a masala sauce with peas and tofu cubes (and mozzerella, for non-vegans). My tofu was expired and mine was cheeseless. So, I made naan and topped it with Trader Joes Simmer Masala sauce with peas and a bag of wilted spinach. And, (this is sad)- that sauce was WAY better than the RFD Spicy Tomato Sauce that I had made from scratch and slaved over.

So, it turned out that the magic combo was topping the samosa with a tad of the Spicy Tomato Sauce, and then dousing it with the Masala/ Spinach concoction. Which was good, and Davey loved it, but I doubt that I'll make these again.

Seitan from Scratch + Salsbury Seitan- Take Two

Okay, I've gone off the vegan deep end. I made seitan from scratch today! It's in a few of my cookbooks, but it always seemed overboard to make not only a recipe for the dish (plus the sauce, plus the side dish, plus whatever else), so I've bought a delicious one by Westsoy. Some of my favorite recipes use seitan now (Ethiopian Seitan and Peppers, East Side Tacos, etc), and the stuff is rather expensive ($10 a meal). More importantly, when we went to Real Food Daily and ate their homemade seitan, it was noticeably faaaaar better.

The process of making it made me feel like a real cook. Combine wet into dry, blah blah, but then... you put parchment paper in an 8x8 pan, you lightly oil the paper, put the seitan dough in it, cover that with tin foil, and THEN put that in a 9x12 pan that's filled 1/2 way with water, and bake the whole shebang for two hours! Then, you take it out, and that gooey dough turned in to something that very strongly resembled seitan brownies! Once cooled, it can be cut however you please.

But here's the magic part. I made the Salsbury Seitan, which I made before and wasn't too fond of.The marinade never soaked in with storebought seitan, it just sat on top in a paste (see my comments HERE), so I almost wrote it off as a bunk recipe. After eating it at RFD, though, I knew it wasn't them, it was me. So, I tried it again with the homemade seitan and voila! Super magic! The marinade was entirely absorbed, it was beyond delicious, it was moist, flavorful, non-gritty, and awesome. In fact, we ate hours ago, and the only thing keeping me from going in for more is that I'm in bed and I've flossed already. Also, the golden gravy from the RFD book is an absolute must with this. I could do shots of that stuff.

And, just because I was getting over a cold and had nothing better to do all day, I made baked potatoes too. The only way that I've ever known how to make these is to wrap them in tin foil and bake them (or the micro way which seriously creeps me out now). I looked up how long to leave my tin foil pressies in the oven, and found that other people oil the skin of the potato and salt it and then bake them. There was even a tirade about my treasured tin foil method online! So, I tried the oil/ salt method, and holy Pete! What a different beast! I still think that the tin foil method is great too, but this is good in its own right. They get amazingly fluffy inside, and the skin is crispy and salty goodness. So, I'm sure most of you know this, but this was what I did:

• Scrub baking potatoes
• Puncture them with a fork a few times
• Coat in oil lightly with a brush or your fingers
• Put in a metal baking pan, sprinkle with salt
• Bake for 30 minutes, turn
• Bake for 30 more, enjoy perfection

Anyway, five recipes later, we had a phenomenal dinner, and I cannot recommend the Real Food Daily cookbook more, particularly now that I've made this seitan! And now, I feel like I have to re-make all the seitan dishes that I heretofore thought were awesome just to have my mind blown out of my head from deliciousness overload.

RFD Veggie burgers

Whew! So, these are the Veggie Burgers from the Real Food Daily book. I've never had the ones at the restaurant- but you sure must know how much I love mostly everything from there by now! I made beet burgers from scratch before that were so-so, and the Vegan with a Vengeance ones, which were good- but I was still on the hunt for the perfect recipe.

After making these, I kind of still am. It may just be the nature of the beast, but all of the ones that I've made had coagulation issues. I have to say, it was less of a problem with these, I think in most part because they have gluten flour in them- which does not have the word "glue" in it for nothing (okay, it doesn't, but it should be spelled that way). That stuff is crazy! Just 3/4 cup, and there was a stringyness to it that was unbelievable.

The great thing about these is that they have so many good ingredients in them; beets, tempeh, carrots, miso, mushroom, corn, peppers, etc. Which kind of makes them take a long, long time (as is standard with RFD recipes, but still) they seem to be a bit of a pain because of all of the steps. It is funny how much the pre-cooked finished recipe looks like ground beef to me!

The recipe said that it made 6 patties, I formed 12. They weren't the biggest, but since they're smaller, I think that they stay together a bit better. We froze 6 of them, so I'll report back to let you know if they re-cook well after having been frozen. All in all, they're about a 7 or 8 out of 10, but I think that the quest may still continue.

Seitan Tacos

So, these are familiar, they're from RFD's book (p.155), but are very similar to the East Sider Tacos that I've talked about from Flore. However, as much as I love Flore's East Sider's (and my knock offs), the Seitan Tacos at the RFD restaurant are probably the best tacos that I have ever had ever ever ever... ever. If you are in Los Angeles, you must go eat them now. If you aren't in Los Angeles, this and the ocean are why you need to come visit.

So, despite having perfected my version of the Flore tacos, I had to try making RFD's at home. I should start this with stating the fact that mine aren't the same, and i will never do this again. But, they were good. I did two alterations to their recipe, I used taco sauce in lieu of Ranchero and made Meet Market knock off Cashew Cheese instead of the Tofu Cheddar. I will post that Cashew Cheese recipe when I iron it out, it's still not perfect. But, this was all very tasty.

The issue was that it's fried. Which is messy. And greasy. The restaurant has a fryer and can flash fry it. They get to the perfect level of crispy awesomeness without being greasy. In a pan, it takes a good minute per side to turn a corn tortilla into a hard shell taco. Thats a ton of time for the oil to seep all in to the seitan (you have to put the filling in before frying to keep the shape). So, they get pretty greasy, but I really wanted to try making hard shells, and it worked. But, we've been going to they gym, and that kind of thing makes you think twice about eating this kind of thing. At least at the restaurant, with the grease being absent, I can delude myself into thinking that they're healthy!

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!

RFD Nachos

Oh. My. Gosh. Okay- if you're in Los Angeles, just go to Real Food Daily and order the nachos. They are beyond. The best mix of flavors that ever I have had in a nacho- and I consider myself a connoisseur. To make these at home is quite a lot of effort, but like all recipes from RFD's cookbook- it's well worth it.

There are five recipes within this recipe; The Cashew Cheese, the Black Beans, the Pico, the Guac and the Sour Cream. I mod'ed these out b/c I had made their burritos or something which required making the ranchero sauce and the spanish rice. So- these particular nachos have; The Spanish Rice, The Guac, plain Black Beans, Cashew Cheese and the Ranchero Sauce. Amazing!

I have to talk about this cheese too. I was addicted to Meet Market's cashew cheese, but the damn restaurant closed. Also, theirs is more of a spread that's the consistency of hummus or something. It was delicious and I'll still try to replicate it, but RFD's is in a universe of its own. For one, it melts. When you first make it, it's a sauce (see the pic). It has phenomenal flavor as well. But then the magic part happens after its cooked. Any cheese sauce that's left over can be poured into a tupperware and refrigerated. Hours later- you have a block of f-ing cheese that you can grate to put on top of tacos, burritos, etc. Can you even believe that? It's like some magic substance (real cheese). It blows soy and a certain name brand oil based faux cheese out of the water. It's the absolute best, and I shall never go back to any other cheese substitute. I cannot sing it's praises any more, it's the best!

Salsbury Seitan

Ah, a healthy vegan version of the classic Swanson tv dinner! This is from p188 of RFD's cookbook (aka my bible). The marinade/ sauce is good, although there's kind of an overpowering mustard flavor to it (I think I'll 1/2 it next time- that or maybe the tahini is giving it a bit of an almost pasty flavor. But, with a ton of the golden gravy (p68), some smashed taters and corn, it still is a delicious comfort food meal.

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.

Spring Rolls!

These are the spring rolls from RFD's cookbook. First thing's first- make these when you're having company over, not when you're solo for dinner like I was tonight. It's way too much prep and chopping and according to the book, they won't keep if you pre-make them (longer than 8 hours).

This was my first foray into spring rolls and I now wonder why I've ever paid for such a thing. They are ridiculously easy (aside from all of the time spent chopping). I used to get some in Chicago that had bits of tofu in them, I'd like to replicate that (these are veg-only), but these were pretty good. I wonder if bean sprouts wouldn't hurt either, I seem to remember those being in my favorite spring rolls.

But whatevs, I'll totally make these the next time that we entertain. I could see them being impressive despite the lack of hard work involved :)

Sweet and Sour Tempeh

This is from the RFD book. The tempeh treatment is amazing. I halved the marinade time after the yin yang tofu incident last week- that worked amazing! then it's broiled- I could've just ate the broiled tempeh plain for dinner, it was that good.

I was excited to make this because of the variety of veg in it; bell peps, cabbage, carrots, corn, onion, etc. All of which are great together and the directions on cooking create a well blended mix of flavors that's not too mushy.

The bulk of the cooking time was spent marinading and chopping, so it wasn't too horribly labor intensive. I halved it and still had enough for at least 4 meals- none of which are for the faint of heart. There's crushed red pepper sauteed into it- and holy-burn-your-soul- it is HOT! Almost to my limit of edible-ility. We'll see if I can handle it tomorrow.

So, in the future, I'd half (or quarter) the crushed red pepper and proceed with the halved recipe. It's really very delicious.

Black Bean Tostadas

This is from Real Food Daily p. 165 + 135 (and could be potentially from p 70 and 64... geez!) Only this book could turn tostadas into a 4 recipe affair. Again- it's time consuming b/c it's good, but even I don't have that much time on my hands.

The Spanish rice for this is really good, but again- makes a vat for an army. Next time, even though it would involve halving a carrot and a few bell peppers, I'm halving it. If I even make it again, it was good, but not amazing good. I think that the other flavors in the tostada just don't balance it enough. It's really pretty sweet from all of the tomatoes, so I feel like it needs some spicy seitan or something instead of black beans.

Also, I didn't make the tofu sour cream (I had tofutti in the fridge, but forgot to add it), or the Pico de Gallo because I had already been cooking for hours and was tired of chopping. Also, the rice has enough tomato flavor, the dish didn't really need more.

It was cool to make my own tostada shell by baking a corn tortilla though. I'm sure it's Mexican cooking 101, but I've always bought the crispy shells vs making them (duy).

I am happy, with how high this was piled, that Davey worked late tonight since I ended the meal with as much tostada fixings or more on the plate and my lap as were on the damn thing when I started.

All in all- it's so-so. That seems to be my pattern with this book so far. Over the top amazing or ... eh, s'alright. Maybe the over the top ones just set the bar too high (?)

Tortilla Soup

This is from Real Food Daily's cookbook p 90/ 106 (what can I say, I'm excited at the new prospects in this book!). I should preface my opinion of this with a disclaimer. I have never tried tortilla soup before today.

The story in the book on this one is that there was some trash talking in the kitchens at RFD about whose family makes the best tortilla soup. They decided to have a smack down, and the published recipe is the winner.

Holy tortilla- it's f-ing amazing! It took quite awhile to make even though the book puts it at about 45 min, I spent about double that. But, I was on the phone, so I was probably being kinda pokey. It is an amazing array of flavors, and I think because I mistakenly bought a serrano vs a jalapeno- it is really crazy hot. But it's hot in an "I want to conquer this" way, instead of a "f-that, my teeth are burning" way.

I did half the recipe because this book seems to be under the impression that I'm cooking for 10 instead of 2. Halving it still would make about 4 decent sized bowls, which is all we need.

Also, the garnish is (another recipe) is AMAZING! All it is is sliced corn tortillas coated in oil with chili powder, sweetener and salt on it baked to crispiness, but my gosh, it's good. I had to make a second batch because I snacked my first garnish batch away while cooking (hey, I skipped lunch).

A+ #1 Awesome soup- this is worth getting the book for alone.

Ying (sic) Yang Salad with Peanut Sesame Dressing

This is the Ying (sic) Yang Salad and Peanut-Sesame dressing from Real Food Daily's cookbook (see Enchiladas). This is where I found out how vast the difference between a food processor and a blender really is. I have a blender. I needed a food processor. A peanut butter based dressing in a relatively cheap blender is not a good combo at all. Still, it was fine. Probably not at all what it should've been, but fine.

This is typical of the recipes in the book where when you set out to make one thing, you need to actually make 3 things (for this one it was; the dressing, marinated ginger tofu, and the salad itself. The salad has amazing fresh ingredients that are primarily things that we don't eat regularly (daikon radish, red cabbage, etc). The tofu was way too salty for my taste. The peanut dressing balanced it a tad, but not enough to make a day long tofu-making process worth it (there's a 2 hour long draining of the tofu, plus a 4 hour marinade).

I would try it again, but would skip the uber tofu and just add some tj's stuff or something marinaded for less time (?). Also, I'm going to be needing a food processor before attempting the dressing again since a moratorium has been effected which prevents me from putting peanut butter in the blender ever again (Davey got stuck with the dishes and said that was a huge pain). Sorry, honey!

Enchiladas Verde (that's Spanish for "awesome")

Hey, guess what? I got a new cookbook! It is: The Real Food Daily Cookbook by Ann Gentry. Real Food Daily is an L.A. restaurant chain that is vegetarian and organic. Disclaimer- I've never been there (to any of the locations). I've read good and bad reviews and live no where near any of them, so I just have never bothered. But the cookbook is beautifully designed, full color (unlike most of my books- not that I have anything against low and minimal budget printing, it's the content that counts). But this one is damn pretty. What really caught my eye with it though was the seasonal sections in the back. The chef lists recipes by seasonal ingredients after the usual sections (soups, salads, entrees, etc).

One thing that I noticed when I got it home and really delved into it, was that the recipes that are most interesting to me are rather complex. there's a lot of listing of ingredients and then buried in the list will be "x sauce (see page blah blah)". Meaning that you have to make things to have the ingredients to make things. Which undoubtedly makes them better, but also takes up some serious time.

But anything worth doing is worth doing well, right? So this is the Enchiladas Verde (more or less) from page 152. I say more or less b/c I cheaped out on making my own Seitan and just bought some. I'm ambitious, but I have limits.

I did make the Salsa verde, which was my first foray into tomatillos. They're kinda creepy as I found a large dried up spider in one (in between the husk and the fruit). Anway, the salsa is an excellent recipe in itself. I did hit on a happy accident with this too. I made the salsa and had a minor catastrophe last night (almost lost my engagement ring while making it- we found it after 2 hours of looking. It was in the onion drawer). Anyway, I didn't feel like finishing up enchiladas, so I stuck the salsa in the fridge. It turns out that having it steep overnight is really good for the flavor.

Today, I made the enchilada part with store bought seitan (oh, whatever, it's good). The recipe is delicious! Davey thinks it's the best green salsa that he's ever had. It has great flavor, and after the addition of the second chili in the enchilada sauce, a nice simmery spice to it. the seitan takes on a very faux chicken feel, and the whole combo of flavors is really over the moon.

I also got ingredients for a nice peanut noodle salad that I'll be trying. I'm hoping that all of the recipes from the book are as out of the park as this one. And, I have to get around to trying out the restaurant as well!