Mexicali Scramble

I have fallen into a bit of a brekkie rut. I have the most fantastic waffle maker on the planet, coupled with the best recipe for waffles (modified from Vegan Brunch- it's the Buckwheat one but since I didn't have buckwheat flour, I used 1/2 wheat, 1/2 unbleached, and it makes for waffle greatness). I have my fave tofu scramble recipe from http://www.powells.com/biblio/17-9781551521879-0, there's the crepes from Vegan Brunch, but that requires thought before hand to get a couple pints of berries or bananas (worth it when I remember), but also not a brunch to have weekly. Pancakes (which, actually, my faves are from The Compassionate Cook, but I seem to have never blogged about those). And if I am low on ingredients, lazy, or in a hurry to get someplace- it's just cereal. So, next week, I pledge to delve further into vegan brunch and do the benedict or the puff pastry tempeh thing, something jazzy. For this week, I needed to work with what was in the kitchen and created this iteration of a scramble. It was good, I would like to experiment and use the extra ultra firm and kind of dry tofu- as this was a bit moist but the flavors were spot on, and it was a great way to start the day! I recommend a cast iron skillet as I do for a lot of dishes these days, since it's a short cut to amazingness. 1 package extra firm tofu 1 can black beans, drained and well rinsed 1/2 onion, finely chopped 3 cloves garlic- smooshed through a press 1 med-large tomato, finely chopped 1T tamari 1t dijon mustard 1/8 t smoked paprika (secret ingredient, don't skip it, it adds a lot of smoky goodness) 1t nutritional yeast 1T sun dried tomato-infused oil salt and pepper to taste Sautee the onion in 1/2 the oil. Combine spices, garlic, tamari, mustard and nutritional yeast and whisk around with a fork until well combined. When the onions are soft approaching translucent, crumble the tofu into the pan. Add in the spice mix, I use tofu bits to get every last bit out (saves washing a spatula). Let that cook until the color is bright yellow-gold and the tofu is drying out. Add tomatoes and well rinsed black beans. Add the sun dried oil as needed to keep the dish from sticking too much. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook until dish is dry enough and some tofu is browning. Serve with toast or corn tortillas- I wouldn't kick some potatoes out of bed with it either.

Simple Lentil Soup, by me.

Last week I came home and had nothing really planned or available for dinner. Since I have a pretty well stocked kitchen with dry legumes, canned stuff, spices, and the basics for produce (onion, garlic, carrot, celery), I decided to make a lentil salad. I found one recipe that suggested boiling the lentils in broth instead of water, which I started to do. Then I went to start chopping the carrots, onion, celery, etc., and I realized- I'm making soup. So soup, it was (100+ degree day notwithstanding), it was good too! I kept it very simple, which despite my love of complicated recipes and flavors, is sometimes not only necessary but a really welcome change. A few basic ingredients let their individual flavors stand out a bit more. Here's the recipe: 1.5 c green lentils, well rinsed 5c broth (I use Better Than Bouillon not Chicken veg broth), more if needed 1 c water (could add more liquid if you like) 4 carrots, peeled and finely chopped 3 stalks celery, finely chopped 1/2 white onion, finely chopped 4 cloves garlic, minced 2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped 1/2 t marjoram 1t ground black pepper 1t thyme 1T oil salt to taste (that recommended broth is pretty salty, you don't need to add much salt) Boil the lentils in 2-3 c broth. Chop all veg, and put carrots, celery and onion in the oil in a stockpot. Sautee until they're soft but still somewhat firm (onions will be getting translucent). Add garlic and tomatoes until tomatoes start to soften. Pour the lentils and broth in with the onions and others. Add remaining broth, water and spices. Cook for 20-30 minutes until lentils are soft (being careful not to go too long and let them get mushy). Salt to taste, serve with crackers or bread.

Dear Isa, I lurve you.

Okay, I would simply describe the recipe for the Skillet Stir Fry from Isa Does It. But, I feel that I have called out so many of her recipes, that this calls for something more... a love letter. Dear Isa, Where do I even start? Your recipes have convinced throngs of my friends and family that I'm an amazing wonder chef. You have taught me how to take a pile of mush with gluten flour and steam it to make f-ing sausages. Your Brooklyn Pad Thai is to die for. Because of Vegan Brunch, I am a master crepe chef. To say nothing of cupcakes that no one at any party believed were vegan. You gave us Appetite for Reduction- a calorie conscious book with the most amazing title ever. But then my life led me away from hour + long cooking endeavors and into 12+ hour days at work. Experimenting with recipes, weekend trips to the farmer's markets and veganism in general all fell by the wayside. I had nearly given up on cooking, my beliefs and this sad, old, neglected food blog. Until...Isa Does It came out- a massive tome dedicated to meals that could be prepared in about 30 minutes. I had become a firm believer in "good things take time" from my RFD book, but every thing I have tried from this book- the Summer Seitan Saute, Potato Leek Soup, Beefy Asparagus Stir Fry, etc- all are SO tasty and so flipping easy. I have had to revise my earlier stance on good food needing a long time to cook. And this- the wonders of the cast iron skillet and perfectly browned tofu. I mean, without you, Miss Isa, I could be out on the streets eating french fries from a fast food chain and pairing it with frozen pizza. You have elevated my cooking life. And for that, I am forever grateful and fatter. Yours truly, Nancy

Bistro Beet Burgers

Ohmehgawd! These are fantastic (apologies for the bad photo)! They are from Isa Chandra's Isa Does It book, and are the Bistro Beet Burgers (p82). They are flavorful, they do what few veg burgers do- coagulate nicely, and they aren't a boat load of work. I made "slider" size burgers to be sure that they cooked all the way through and made them on a cast iron skillet (which I am forever loyal to). These were also served up on pretzel buns (or a sliced pretzel baguette), which elevates any burger to amazing heights (ala Kumas Korner in Chicago <3 )

Beefy Asparagus Stir-Fry

Okay, if the last two posts didn't sell you on Isa Does It, this has to! This dish, like the others is nearly devoid of seasoning, but is so intensely flavorful, it tastes far more complex than it is. I used homemade seitan (RFD recipe), and followed the recipe to the letter with the exception of adding the bean sprouts that I forgot to get at the market. This has a lovely sauce with fresh mint and basil in it, there's a good amount of ginger in the stir fry along with garlic, asparagus, cashews and the seitan. All combine for a really delicious stir fry that lets a lot of the flavors come through (not overly saucy or gunky like some recipes are). My only change would be to either lessen what I call the high notes (the soy sauce, mint, ginger) and intensify some deeper ones- I think sesame seeds would work really well in here, a few tablespoons are gonna get added in next time. But on the whole, I loved it- especially how it whipped up so fast. Also, I served it over quinoa vs rice (a theme of mine lately), and loved the texture that added in. A+

Potato Leek Soup

Again with the Isa Does It! This is the Potato Leek soup from the book, and it's really good! It reminded me of broccoli cheese soup a bit, similar texture (very creamy), and almost flavor, even. I was happy to have the "Martha Stewart's Cooking School" book to refer to- it had been awhile since I cooked with leeks and I checked it about prepping them. She suggests cutting them and then rinsing them in a bowl of cold water since dirt gets trapped in between all of the layers of ... leekness in them. It's 1,000% right- my bowl had a pile of dirt at the bottom the first time they were washed. The soup was a huge hit, directions super straight forward, and like the other recipe from this book, it whipped up relatively quickly. I did wish I could think of a good complimentary food to serve with it, the flavors get a bit overwhelming/ tiring by the end of the bowl. I had a sun dried tomato olive oil dip for bread, but bread was too bland with the simple potato flavors. Dunno, but let me know if you have any ideas.

Summer Seitan Sauté (...in winter)

New year, new cookbook (yay!). This one was on my pre-order list (though I never pre-ordered it, got it for xmas this year) because it's by Isa Chandra Moskowitz who is probably my favorite cookbook author (Vegan Brunch, Vegan with a Vengeance, Appetite for Reduction, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, etc etc). Though her recipes aren't usually weeknight friendly (there's some for sure, but most are the longer labor and love over kind). Anyway, this is the inaugural run of this book, the "Summer Seitan Sauté". Selected not because of the season, but because of the ingredients in it and lack of spices since I wasn't cooking at home in the comfort of my spice cabinet. This is a really solid, good dish and whipped up in under an hour- totally doable on a weeknight. I used storebought seitan (I know, I know), and it was still really delicious. It was a weird almost stir fry but really southwest flavored meal with the jalpeño and corn and lime juice in it. The corn added sweetness and with just salt and pepper added to season, all of the ingredient's flavors really came through. I had it over quinoa with sliced avocado on top (which added a great creaminess to it), though she recommended rice and guac (maybe next time, as I'm sure I'll make this again). Stoked to try another recipe from the book soon!

I Am A Crepe Chef!

I had never tried Crepes from Vegan Brunch because there is a rather intimidating "letter to a young crepe maker" inside which very sweetly reassures Ms Chandra's readers that crepes are not to be feared but are manageably easy to make. I, however, took the need for her to write this "these are no big deal" calming letter in the cookbook as a surefire sign that these were hell on earth impossible to make. Turns out- they're either super easy- or I am a crepe chef genius that just discovered my purpose in life. They were perfect deliciousness and I will now subsist on nothing but crepes filled with anything at all because they are fantastic! One more reason Vegan Brunch rules- I can't wait for Isa Does It to come out!

Jackfruit Tacos

Vegans are so clever. Making mock meat from canned jackfruit- it's just bananas. There are a few places in town that I've had jackfruit tacos- both Golden Road and Sage have really good ones. I was looking to replicate theirs at home (as I do), and found an archived Quarrygirl blog post pointing to this recipe for Jackfruit Carnitas Tacos. You'll need a crockpot for this recipe, but it's insanely simple to put together (essentially throwing everything into the pot- the only "work" is chopping an onion and mincing the garlic). After my first try at it, I'm not 100% that it's exactly what I was going for. It's really good, but I think I'd like to alter the flavors a bit. I suspect that my 'meh' feeling has to do with the tomatillo salsa. I think it's a bit bright and I'd like a deeper flavor to these, so maybe I'll experiment with salsas first and then spices if that still wasn't it. Overall, though, it's very good, and kind of a miraculous transformation from what you take out of the can to the end product!

Stone Fruit Compote

I found this recipe online while perusing for something to make a food swap that a co-worker and I organized at work. I was telling her about the LA Food Swap at Reform School that I had gone to, and she suggested that we do one at work. Months later (I've mentioned that we're pretty busy there)- we finally did! To digress a tad, it was super fun and a total success. We had 13 rsvps and ended up with 10 participants. I have a photo of the loot here, which was all fantastic. So, back to what I made here (and for the swap)- Stone Fruit Compote. The recipe is from the trusty Martha (here.) Say what you will about her, but her peoples do the legwork and test all the recipes well. I have only made a few of hers (mostly boozy drinks), but they were all amazing. For the compote, I made a few variations, and I think that the mixed one was best. I had made; pluot only, and a mix of pluot, nectarine and the "dinosaur egg" mystery fruit that they have at the farmer's market. Todays' was recreated with the previous pluot/ nectarine mix and the addition of plums added in. These photos are both the beautiful ingredients (texted to a friend who said it looked like potpourri), and the finished compote. This photo shows it over greek yogurt (sorry, I'm back to vegetarian vs vegan again), though you could serve it on pancakes, coconut ice cream, etc. It has a slight wintery feel with the cinnamon, allspice and anise flavors, but still utilizes all the tasty stone fruits in season right now. Also, as a side note, if you look closely, you'll see a Ginger Lemon Cordial in the center of the swap photo. That was also mine, and was a HUGE hit. Partially because I brought bourbon and made a cocktail with it, but it was also great in club soda as a light summer soda. That recipe is here. It also has the side benefit of making your house smell like you live inside a lemon when you make it (win/win!)

Chickpea Salad Sammies

Hey stranger! Yeah, it's been awhile. I think I mentioned last time how all-consuming my job is. So much so that I rarely cook now and when I do, I never think of photographing or talking about it anymore. Until today :) I'm home sick, and had to get up and feed myself. I had seen Isa Chandra's post about Chickpea Salad Sammies the other day and decided to try them. It's a super simple, fast recipe (here: http://www.theppk.com/2013/07/chickpea-salad-sammiches/) that made for a darn fine lunch. I would like to experiment with other mayos (I used Veganaise) and spices/ flavors. This is pretty clean and simple- but still, tasty. Hope to see you again soon!

Seitan Curry Salad

Another Beans and Barley recipe- I was trying to nail down how to recreate the tofu curry salad at Whole Foods. This was a super awesome alternative, and, I think, maybe even better than the whole foods one. I love the texture of their tofu or whatever they use, so that's one point in their column, but this one has so many amazing flavors, that it wins. I used the "chicken-style" seitan from RFD's book, the sauce (for lack of a better word) is Veganaise based, which I truly would not have thought of on my own. Then there's; carrot, celery, scallions, garlic, parsley, ginger, curry, turmeric, salt and pepa, and the seitan. Shockingly, even Davey liked it (he hates mayo with a passion). Thanks again to that fella who sent me the Beans cookbook- it continues to be awesome!

Boston Cream Cupcakes



I'm slowly working my way through every single recipe in this book! These were fantastic and were a huge hit with some non vegan friends, which I thought was great since the cream is tofu based. I tried PPK's tip of subbing 1/4 of the flour in a recipe for coconut flour (they said that it makes everything taste like a Twinkie)- which I have to say, it kind of did! I was concerned about these in the batter stage. I used the superfine sugar that the cream calls for in the cupcake batter. I had never heard that the superfine sugar creams with margarine in 1/2 the time. So, I think it was over mixed? What happened is when the liquid was added, the fat would not mix in. It was totally seperated. I should've probably started over with wet ingredients at that point, but since I made a total of 10 recipes yesterday (Easter), I was lazy and just added in the dry ingredients.

They were minorly sunk in, but were fine otherwise, and once filled and ganached- totally fine. There were less sunk in cupcakes in the bunch, but I served the pretty ones to our friends and was left with these potholed ones for the photo.

The cream was surprisingly good, I did add some vanilla to it to counter the tofu taste though. All in all- another fantastic cupcake recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World!

Ginger limeade



I made this on Easter Sunday to have "drinks" with friends (b/c I was still suffering from cocktails with friends on Friday night). It's your basic lemonade/ limeade with a load of ginger for a kick/ healthy boost.

- 1 cup sugar
- 6 cups water
- 4-5 limes
- 2 lemons
- about 4-5" of ginger, peeled and chopped

Dissolve the sugar in 1 cup of the water over medium heat in a saucepan, set aside to cool. Juice the lemons and limes, you should have about 1 1/2 cups of juice. Blend the juice with the ginger, strain into your pitcher. Add the simple syrup (sugar water) and the other 5 cups of water. The brilliant part of this, is that all components can be adjusted to taste- add more ginger for kick, limes for tart or sugar for sweet- the stuff is goood (and won't give you a hangover- as long as you don't add booze!)

Banana Blueberry Muffins



These are "Wolfie's Banana Blueberry Muffins" from La Dolce Vegan. A book that has fallen out of fashion in the J-R household a bit since I discovered RFD and Candle 79 type books. But, La Dolce does have some great go-to rather quick recipes, and I had one lonely banana on it's way out of the world, so... I gave this a shot.

These are really very good. They have some odd ingredients in them- ground ginger and molasses- but that really compliments the banana, and even though this has one banana in it vs three in our other go-to nana muffin recipe (HERE), the banana flavor really pops. Which kind of leaves you wondering why there are blueberries involved. The berries are a kind of nice tart element, but walnuts or something would make way more sense in here. Still, it's good, so whatevs!

Roasted Tomato Jalapeño Salsa



I was going for Frontera's Roasted Tomato/ Jalapeño Salsa here. This didn't come close at all, but is still a solid salsa, so I shall share:

1 lb tomatoes (mine were on the vine)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 lg jalapeño pepper, chopped fine
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can tomato paste
1 cup broth (I used Better than Bouillon no chicken flavor)
1t salt
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 lg lime, juiced
*

Heat oven to 350, roast tomatoes for 1/2 hour turning once or twice. I broiled them for a few minutes after to blacken them. Sautée onions until tender, add garlic and jalapeño and sautée for a few more minutes. Chop roasted tomatoes and discard cores. Add tomatoes to onion mix with paste, broth and salt. Simmer at least 1/2 hour. Add cilantro and blend. Stir in lime juice and serve.

*Here's my notes for next time: Though this salsa is super good (better the next day too after flavors have had a chance to get married), It wasn't as blackened and roasted as I was hoping for. I think that next time, I shall roast the onions, Jalapeños and garlic as well and really char the bejeezus out of everything. Also, I didn't leave the jalapeño seeds in, next time they stay to spice things up, as well as probably using 2 vs 1 to up that flavor in the salsa.

Braised Cabbage and Seitan



Man, why have I waited until I was 36 to learn how to braise food?! It is my new favorite thing- the flavor that braising adds to veg is just over the moon. This was a delicious dish! I also really don't use cabbage in much of anything besides spring rolls or stir fries- but this was fantastic and made me wonder why we don't eat it more often.

I used RFD's "chicken style" seitan for this (just realized that "seitan" is an e before i word- like "weird"). Anyway, it's a really simple dish and since it was from Appetite for Reduction, was super low calorie too- which made me feel better about overeating because it tasted so great.

The seitan was cooked first to establish a crust that would keep the braising later from making it soggy. I have to say, though, I'd probably sautée the seitan next time and remove it from the pan before braising the cabbage- then add it back in at the last minute. The recipe has the seitan in the pan when the cabbage is braising, which adds a good flavor to the seitan, but does make it a bit floppy. Anyway, the whole thing was super delicious, very weeknight simple (other than making the seitan), and it also held up the next day, which I found shocking. I fully expected the cabbage to be too wilty, but it was still great. Also, the night that I made it (this is a left over pic), I baked potatoes as she recommends in the book. The braising broth poured over the potato was amazing! Also, it's great that we didn't need a load of vegan butter because of the broth as well (since the aim was a low-cal meal). Four stars- I highly recommend it.

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.

Stuffed Poblano Peppers



This is the Stuffed Poblano Peppers from Candle 79's cookbook with the Sautéed Swiss Chard and the Roasted Red Bell Pepper and Tomato Sauce.

The sauce was fantastic. I love how roasting the veg deepens the flavor so much. The dish on the whole (all 3 parts together) was really very good- which is great b/c it was another one of those huge time investments- so I'm glad that there was a payoff. There was just so much to it- roasting veg for the sauce, charring the poblanos to remove the skin, rice making, chard sauteeing...

On the whole, though, I thought that it needed a beefier element. This is weird for a vegan to say, but some dishes that are just 100% veg (curries and stir fries aside) just need more variety to me. This is why most of the world eats them as a side, I guess- but maybe even some black beans in the pepper would have done the trick. It tasted great, it just needed a protein element, I guess. It was good, though.

Silly Easy Salty Peanut Bark



This is so silly easy, it's hardly worth posting, but it's become our go-to snack dessert, so I thought I would put it up anyway. If you like the whole salt/ sweet thing- this is for you. It's kind of like a salty, upscale Mr Goodbar.

1 c roasted, salted peanuts
1.5 c vegan chocolate chips (dark or semisweet)
sea salt

Line a 9x12 pan with wax paper. Melt chips in a double broiler and whisk until smooth. Spread peanuts out over bottom of pan on wax paper. Spoon melted chocolate over the peanuts, smoothing out with a spatula and ensuring that all nuts are covered. Grind or sprinkle sea salt liberally over the smoothed out bark (depending on your taste- but it takes a nice smattering to have it come through). Freeze or refrigerate (depending on how anxious you are to eat) until the bark is completely hardened. Break up bark into bite or bar sized bits and eat that stuff up!