Category Archives: Recipes from Cookbooks

Vegan Mofo Day 5: Best Sandwich Ever

IDI beet burger

Veg*ns these days have it easy.  Case in point: I’ve actually heard complaints that the “only” vegan item on the menu is a veggie burger.  Why, in my day, we walked uphill both ways to a restaurant only to be told that our choices were iceberg lettuce salad and a dry baked potato.  Going out to a place that served frozen Gardenburger patties was a special treat.

Now, most restaurants that serve veggie burgers make their patties in house.  I’ve found everything from bean patties, to grain patties, to tempeh patties — often with interesting topping choices like flavored aiolis or roasted veggies.  While it’s true that veggie burgers have become the standard veg*n item at restaurants, even an okay veggie burger is satisfying and beats the heck out of a “steamed vegetable plate.”  And I submit that a good veggie burger perfectly fits today’s best sandwich ever MoFo theme.

The burger above is the Bistro Beet Burger from Isa Does It, which I made for the first time today in honor of MoFo.  It’s a lentil, brown rice and beet patty that’s lightly seasoned and pan-fried.  Although the texture of the burger was spot-on, I found these patties to be a little bland topped just with ketchup, mustard and pickles.  But with the right toppings, these burgers could be a thing of beauty.  I’m thinking sauteed mushrooms and pesto mayo, or perhaps avocado and veggie bacon, or maybe onion rings, ranch dressing and buffalo sauce.  The possibilities are endless.

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Vegan Mofo Day 2: Loaf Is Not an Appetizing Word

The theme for day 2 of MoFo is “recreate a meal from your childhood.”  I was fortunate to be raised in a family that ate dinner together most nights and I move mountains to do the same for my son.  The two main differences between family dinners during my childhood and now are: 1) I grew up eating meat; and 2) unlike my son, I actually ate the food that was served to me.

My Mom had a short list of meals that she rotated through from Monday through Thursday, including chicken cutlets, pot roast and vegetable soup.  Fridays and Sundays were always pasta and my Dad often cooked on Saturdays.  As a small child, my favorite of Mom’s standard meals was meatloaf.  I think this was, in part, because meatloaf employs ground meat and seasoning and thus one can avoid the bones and veins that are uncomfortable reminders of who the meal once was.  (My vegetarian tendencies definitely manifested themselves early on).  That and the fact that meatloaf is a great vehicle for ketchup.

When I first gave up meat, I stuck to cooking simple meals like tofu stir-fry and frozen veggie burgers.  But as my cooking skills improved, the idea of recreating childhood favorites without the meat ick-factor began to appeal to me.  In my search for the perfect meatless loaf, I cooked my way through at least half-a-dozen recipes, finally settling on Dreena Burton’s Lentil Sunflower Pie as the best of the bunch.  Although I could have re-blogged that trusty Lentil Sunflower Pie, MoFo calls for just a little bit more.

Instead, I present the Lentil Mushroom Loaf from But I Could Never Go Vegan.  Honestly, this loaf recipe isn’t that much different than Dreena’s.  It has the same lentil base and similar seasonings.  The main differences are the use of mushrooms instead of Sunflower Seeds and a the addition of a ketchup glaze with a little extra kick from vinegar and powdered mustard.  Overall, the loaf had a good texture and held together nicely, but it definitely needed the glaze for flavor.  That was fine by me because I always drown my loaf in ketchup.

Verdict: If, like me, you grew up with ketchup-covered meatloaf, this Lentil Mushroom Loaf just may inspire some nosh-talgia for you.

 

Never Go Vegan Loaf

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Twenty Days of Happiness – Part 16 – It’s My Party and I’ll Eat Rum-Spiked Pancakes If I Want To

There’s a scene in A Muppet Family Christmas where Ernie and Burt (from Sesame Street) have a conversation with Doc (from Fraggles) and Ernie and Burt can’t help pointing out what letter every word begins with.  “Bunk beds: B words!” they say as Ernie chortles.  When Doc looks at them askance they explain, “Where we come from, this is small talk.”  My sister once said that the scene reminded her of our family — except that complaining, not letters, are our family’s small talk.  It’s not that we are unhappy people.  We just like to air our grievances.  But sometimes it’s good to air positive feelings too and that’s just what I plan to do.  In this 20-part series, I focus on the many reasons I have to be happy.

Two Birthdays Worth Celebrating

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Between my husband’s birthday, my birthday and Mother’s Day, May is pretty much a non-stop celebration in our house and that’s definitely something to be thankful for. This year, being back in Boston after a nearly 10 year absence made our birthdays extra special.  I kicked my day off by making Tiramisu Pancakes from Chloe’s Vegan Desserts.  I’ve had my eye on this recipe since I bought the book. Pancakes packed with rum, coffee and chocolate chips are not your everyday pancakes, but they were perfect for a special birthday breakfast — especially topped with whipped cream.  (I substituted soy milk for the water, but otherwise made the recipe as written).

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We spent the day exploring the harbor area and Greenway.  When you look at the sparkling harbor and ribbons of park land, it’s amazing to think that one was formerly a Superfund site and the other a highway.  (The Big Dig was actually still going on when we moved to Los Angeles in 2005, so the way that the Greenway used to look is fresh in my mind).

We celebrated my husband’s birthday with a night out with friends and a s’mores cake.  I used the recipes for s’mores cupcakes and chocolate cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World to make a 2 layer cake filled with ricemellow cream and chocolate chips and topped with vanilla buttercream and graham cracker crumbs.

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New Year’s Brunch

For many, a new year brings with it a renewed focus on healthy eating habits.  But, New Year’s Day itself — a day of post-party hangovers — is the perfect excuse for one final celebratory meal.  After all that celebrating (and sleeping in for you lucky folks without tiny human alarm clocks), a tasty brunch is the obvious choice.  While a vegan brunch at most restaurants is an uninspired affair of fruit salads and plain oatmeal, the options for cooking at home are limitless.

Why not try a tasty stack of pancakes?  My tips for perfectly fluffy ones and a list of favorite recipes are here.  The pancakes pictured below are Coconut Pie Pancakes from La Dolce Vegan.  In my opinion, not as good as the coconut pancakes from Vegan with a Vengeance, but still a worthy holiday meal.

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If pancakes aren’t your style, maybe a thick Belgian waffle will hit the spot.  Vegan Brunch has a lot of great recipes, including the wonderful peanut butter waffles pictured below.  I usually enjoy them with maple syrup and bananas, but this time I mixed it up.  I topped the waffles with birch syrup that I picked up in Alaska.  (Who knew that they tap birch trees for syrup too?)   The honey-notes of the birch syrup were a nice complement to the peanut butter.

 

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Since it’s still the holiday season (at least for a few hours more), fragrant Gingerbread Waffles are also a good pick.  Or go for the tried-and-true Chelsea Waffles, an absolutely perfect version of traditional plain waffles.  Both recipes are in Vegan Brunch.

If a savory breakfast is what you prefer, tofu scramble always hits the spot.  Or go upscale with a Benedict.  Both Veganomicon and Vegan Diner have great Benedict variations.

If you’re not a fan of waking up to a big meal, a batch of muffins might be the perfect choice.  Bakery muffins are nearly always a disappointment — big on calories and sugar and lacking in the flavor department.  In contrast, homemade muffins are always tasty and sometimes even healthy.  These chocolate berry muffins from Vegan Brunch are low in fat (they call for applesauce in place of much of the oil, but I subbed raspberry jam) and made with whole-grain flour.  Plus, they are bursting with berries and chocolate, both of which are packed with antioxidants and deliciousness.

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Now all you need is a glass of champagne to toast 2015.  Cheers!

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God Bless Us Everyone

With an exhausted, happy little boy tucked safely in bed, a belly full of tasty food and A Muppet Christmas Carol on the TV, it’s hard to feel anything other than lucky today.  This was the first year that my son understood the concept of Santa, so it was the first year that we left out cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve.  Santa made out like a bandit with Chocolate Thumbprints from Vegan with a Vengeance, Maple cookies from Chloe’s Kitchen and Chai Snickerdoodles from Isa Does It (plus a nice glass of soy milk and some carrots for the reindeer).  The Chocolate Thumbprints were the breakout star of the cookie plate and have been fully devoured.  At 2, my son does not yet fully understand the concept of doing for others, so Santa’s cookies were gently licked before being hastily placed upon the plate after Daddy’s reminder that they were for the big man.

A word of warning:  she who tells a toddler that a chubby, bearded man will be breaking and entering assumes the risk of interrupted sleep.  My son demanded to sleep in our bed because he was concerned that, along with Santa, “skunks and birds” would be coming down the chimney.  Fortunately, my son hasn’t yet started waking at the crack of dawn on Christmas, so we received some compensation for our semi-sleepless night and got to sleep until 8.

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After presents and a nice, long walk with the dog, our day of feasting began.  Christmas is a great excuse to bake, so I didn’t stop with cookies.  For our Christmas dessert, we enjoyed pumpkin pie.  I used the crust recipe from Vegan Pie in the Sky and the filling recipe from La Dolce Vegan.  (I did not make the crumb-nut topping and the pie was delicious even without).  This pie received rave reviews.

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Whatever you celebrate, I hope your holidays were filled with family, friends, laughter and lots of cruelty-free goodies.

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20 Days of Happiness – Part 14 – Lentil Sunflower Pie

There’s a scene in A Muppet Family Christmas where Ernie and Burt (from Sesame Street) have a conversation with Doc (from Fraggles) and Ernie and Burt can’t help pointing out what letter every word begins with.  “Bunk beds: B words!” they say as Ernie chortles.  When Doc looks at them askance they explain, “Where we come from, this is small talk.”  My sister once said that the scene reminded her of our family — except that complaining, not letters, are our family’s small talk.  It’s not that we are unhappy people.  We just like to air our grievances.  But sometimes it’s good to air positive feelings too and that’s just what I plan to do.  In this 20-part series, I focus on the many reasons I have to be happy.

Reunited And It Feels So Good

My Facebook feed is full of #100happydays posts.  Since appreciating one’s good fortune is apparently super trendy right now, I thought it was the right time to finish my 20 Days of Happiness series.  I started celebrating the little things that make me happy back in October 2013, way before it was cool.  I assume it’s only a matter of time before the Today show takes notice.

Since my last 20 Days of Happiness post, so much has changed.  Although I’ve talked a little bit about those changes in previous posts, a little recap will make this post more coherent.  A year ago, I was living in Los Angeles and working for one of the largest law firms in the country.  As the firm continued to do worse and worse financially, it became less and less pleasant to work there.  The more unhappy I was at work, the more difficult it became for me to justify living thousands of miles away from my family and close friends. Eventually, I realized that I had nothing to lose by quitting (except my salary, of course) and potentially lots to gain.  I gave notice and we hastily packed up and moved across the country.

The original plan was to take some time off to travel and give thought to careers outside the law.  That plan changed when I had the opportunity to interview for a clerkship (job assisting a federal judge).  Although the judge ultimately hired someone else, she was incredibly encouraging and generously offered to help me look for other legal jobs.  With the judge’s feedback and the encouragement of the many wonderful mentors I’ve had throughout my career, I decided to give the whole lawyer gig another shot.  After a few weeks relaxation, I started looking for a legal job here in New York.

To save money during my job hunt, we are staying with my parents and most of our things are staying in a nearby storage unit.  Last week, though, I had a bit of good luck.  My husband decided he could not live any longer without our television and we made a visit to the storage unit to search for it.  We did not find the TV, but we did find most of my missing cookbook collection.  I now have all but about 20 books — and the 20 missing books are mostly vintage books that I don’t actually cook from.  With so many of our things still packed away in boxes, it’s nice to be reunited with a little piece of home.

This week, I’ve been cooking up some of our favorite recipes, like last night’s dinner of Lentil Sunflower Pie from Vive Le Vegan, Maple Mustard Potatoes and Green Beans from Vegan with a Vengeance, cranberry sauce and cabbage.  The Lentil Sunflower Pie is made from veggies, lentils, sunflower seeds and seasonings, but has an uncanny resemblance to meatloaf.  (Last night, this was confirmed by my omni parents, who said it tasted “a lot” like meatloaf.)  It’s actually my all-time favorite loaf recipe, beating out loafs made of “meatier” ingredients like seitan and tofu.  This was a meal enjoyed by the entire family, including my son.  To my surprise and delight, he ate his entire piece of loaf (which he called “burger”) and two servings of cranberry sauce.  He also chewed on the potato and cabbage, but did not feel they warranted swallowing.

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Double The Fun For the Big 0-2

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(A Dino-Mite Dessert Table)

What a difference a year makes.  Last year, we celebrated my son’s first birthday quietly at home in L.A.  — just me, my husband, my parents via Skype, and the birthday boy, of course.  This year, we not only had twice as many celebrations, but also ten times as many people celebrating.

For my son’s actual birthday, we had dinner and cake at home.  My son is in a finicky phase, so I chose a menu of things that I would enjoy and hoped he might actually take a bite.  I think that one bite is all he did take.  It’s too bad, because the Jerk Sloppy Joes with Coconut Creamed Spinach from Isa Does It were delicious.  These are a fun twist on the traditional sandwich (if my TVP and tomato sauce version can be considered traditional) fusing American comfort food with Caribbean flavors.

IDI sloppy joe

For dessert, my son requested a “chocolate cookie.”  I complied by making the Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie from Chloe’s Vegan Desserts.  This was my second time making the cookie pie and it was just as good as the first.  (It’s a giant cookie in a pie crust.  How can you go wrong?)  The only issue I had was that my parents’ refrigerator seems to be running cold and my pie dough froze solid.  I thawed it by putting it near the pre-heating oven, which made it extremely sticky and difficult to work with.  I should have learned my lesson from the experience, but more fridge issues were to follow.

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(“Happy Birthday.  Now cut cake!”)

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A week after his actual birthday, we had a party for family and friends.  My son requested a theme of “donuts, cake, chocolate and more chocolate,” but eventually agreed that Dinosaur Train was an acceptable alternate theme.  (For those without kids, Dinosaur Train is a PBS show about a family of dinosaurs that use a time traveling train to visit different eras in prehistory and learn about the species they meet).

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I chose to hold the party mid-afternoon for two reasons.  First, I hoped that my son would take a nap before guests arrived.  That turned out to be wishful thinking.  Second, I hoped that, if it wasn’t meal-time, guests wouldn’t notice the “lack” of meat and dairy on the menu.  I was much more successful here.

The menu of munchies included:

  • Pretzel Dogs of the Dead from Bake and Destroy
  • Falafels from Vegan With A Vengeance
  • Hummus
  • Spring Rolls
  • Fruit
  • Crudite
  • Chips and Dips
  • Dinosaur Sugar Cookies (Recipe from Chloe’s Vegan Desserts)
  • Banana Bread French Toast Cupcakes from Bake and Destroy
  • Cookies and Cream Cake

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(Cupcakes and Sugar Cookies)

I made all of the food in the days leading up to the party.  The morning of, all I needed to do was ice the cake and cupcakes and reheat the savory foods.  Unfortunately, the overly-enthusiastic fridge struck again.  The icing I had made the night before was frozen solid.  While I was panicking about serving our guests nude cake, my mom went into MacGyver mode, cutting the frozen icing into tiny cubes and laying them out on trays to increase the icing’s surface space.  This allowed the icing to come to room temperature more quickly without having to involve any potentially ruinous heat.  My mom’s plan worked and I was able to get the cakes frosted and decorated with time to spare.

The cake has a chocolate layer, a vanilla layer with Oreo pieces and a cookies and cream filling (vanilla frosting with Oreo pieces).  I used recipes from Chloe’s Vegan Desserts for the chocolate cake and frosting.  I used a recipe from Chloe’s Kitchen for the vanilla cake layer.  Both cake recipes are designed to yield two 9 inch round cakes, but they converted easily to one 9 x 11 sheet cake.  I did not even need to alter the baking time or temperature.

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Although the cake was enjoyed by all, the banana cupcakes were the hit of the party.  I’ve already received 3 requests for the recipe.  It’s available online if you’d like to check it out.

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