Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Sloppy Joe Dip and Favorite Songs of 2008

With all the parties going on this time of year, here's another appetizer recipe to consider. Going to a party where someone is sure to have one of those hell-veeta cheese product dips? Take this Sloppy Joe Dip along as a delicious and less scary alternative. Scroll down for recipe.

Not only is this the time of year for party food, but plenty of people are reflecting on 2008 and making various "Best of" lists. We like to spend New Year's Eve with friends sharing our favorite songs of the year. Below is my list, with commentary, in no particular order.

1. Sour Cherry by The Kills - Best running song I found this year.

2. I See You Baby (Fatboy Slim Remix) by Groove Armada - Yes I'm a feminist. Yes this video is objectifying. I can only say this song is my guilty pleasure this year.

3. Worrisome Heart by Melody Gardot- cool and hot all at once.

4. Top Yourself by The Raconteurs - If I could listen to only one cd from this year, this would be the one, over and over.

5. She's Gone by Langhorne Slim - NPR says folk singer with a punk rock sensibility. I have fond memories of this rockin' concert accompanied by the Dyno Family.

6. Overdue by Bitter:Sweet - this entire cd will get you through happy hour quite happily.

7. Honey Bee by Lucinda Williams - I've been waiting for this song since seeing her on Austin City Limits. Lucinda just keeps on rockin'.

8. Creepy Crawl by Be Your Own Pet- another favorite running song.

9. Something is Not Right with Me by Cold War Kids - reminds me of Talking Heads. Caught this song at the end of True Blood I think. HBO has good soundtracks, if not shows.

10. Let It Rock by Chatham County Line - we've seen these guys at Pickathon and Wood House Concerts. They bring down the house. Why aren't they famous yet?

Hope you all bring in the New Year with some good tunes and vegan food. See you in 2009!

Sloppy Joe Dip
Adapted from Food and Wine

1 1/2 Tablespoons canola oil
1 pound vegan burger crumbles
1 small red onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 roasted, peeled and diced poblano pepper
1 can diced tomatoes with juice
1/4 cup ketchup
1 Tablespoon vegan Worcestershire sauce
1 Tablespoon wet yellow mustard
1 Tablespoon chili powder
salt and pepper to taste
Tofutti vegan sour cream

Heat oil over medium heat in large skillet. Saute crumbles until they begin to brown. Add onion, garlic, and poblano and saute until they soften. Add remaining ingredients except sour cream and cover with a lid. Cook over low heat about 15 minutes. Serve with chips or fritos and a dollop of vegan sour cream.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Pumpkin Sage Balls

Looking for an appetizer for New Year's Eve? Check out this Vegetarian Times recipe for Pumpkin Sage Balls. The flavors are seasonal and the crispy fried sage leaves add a special touch. The balls are meant to be dipped in a little hot sauce. They remained quite soft after baking, but were so tasty we gobbled them right up anyway. Next time I'll reduce the oil, which might help them firm up a bit. It might also help to turn the balls during baking and increase the time in the oven. Regardless, they are a pretty color and delicious too.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Eve Dinner

Christmas Eve dinner found us with old friends and a few new recipes. Our friends A & J brought a stunning cheeze ball appetizer.

We also started with a salad of blood oranges and scallions.

To complement our Mexican menu, the cocktail of the night was a margarita with a splash of pomegranate juice for a red hue.

The meal included arroz verde, refried black beans, and the roasted root vegetable enchiladas with chipotle cashew cream from VegNews magazine, December 2008. I've had my eye on this enchilada recipe since Thanksgiving, and it did not disappoint. Our version featured Yukon Gold and sweet potatoes with locally made blue corn tortillas. After a little wine, J's home brewed beer, and time for dinner to settle, we finished with an assortment of ice "cream" flavors topped with crumbled peanut butter Newman-O's and kahlua.

What a pleasure to celebrate with a mellow evening at home. I hope you all are enjoying the holiday season as well!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Spicy Tomatoes, White Beans and Spinach on Garlic Bread

This meal might be my new favorite super quick recipe that tastes like you spent all day in the kitchen. It's a spicy stew served over garlicky toast, with sage, white beans, fire roasted tomatoes, and wilted spinach. We could even call it a Christmas recipe with the pretty red and green colors. With merely a brief break on Christmas Day from perusing your new vegan cookbooks and trying on your new sassy vegan t-shirts, you can whip up a filling lunch or supper that should be a crowd pleaser. (You might double the recipe if you do actually have a crowd.)

However you spend the holidays, I hope you find them relaxing and full of good food. Happy Holidays and I'll see you back here, and on your blogs, after Christmas!

Spicy Tomatoes, White Beans and Spinach on Garlic Bread
Adapted from Epicurious
Serves about 4

4 slices rustic bread
extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1 garlic clove, peeled and left whole
fresh sage leaves, about 1 packed Tablespoon
3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 14 1/2 ounce cans diced tomatoes (fire roasted if possible)
1 15 ounce can white beans, rinsed and drained
2 handfuls baby spinach
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper

Brush bread slices with a little olive oil. Set aside on a baking sheet to toast later.

Heat 2 Tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the 2 sliced garlic cloves, sage, and crushed red pepper. Cook for about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, beans, spinach, salt, and pepper. Increase heat and cover skillet to wilt the spinach. Remove cover after a few minutes and continue cooking for a few more minutes to thicken sauce to desired consistency.

While the sauce thickens, toast the bread under the broiler. When done, rub whole garlic clove across the bread slices. (Skip this step if you don't like a very garlicky flavor.)

Place each bread slice in a bowl and top with stew.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Split Pea Soup

A cold weekend like ours definitely called for soup. My choice of recipes was easy since we had ingredients on hand for split pea soup. This is a standard version using Liquid Smoke for the smoky flavor (tempeh bacon would do as well) and garnished with Sriracha for a little heat. There are so many possible variations with flavors such as curry powder or coconut milk that I can see returning to this soup again and again over the winter.

Split Pea Soup
Adapted from Oxmoor House
Makes about 8 servings

1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 large red onion, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
2 carrots, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups vegetable broth
16 ounces dried green split peas, checked for debris, rinsed and drained
1 Tablespoon Liquid Smoke
1 teaspoon dried basil
salt and pepper, to taste
2 bay leaves
Sriracha or other hot sauce

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Saute onion, pepper, and carrots for about 5 minutes. Add garlic and saute about 30 seconds. Add broth, peas, Liquid Smoke, basil, salt and pepper, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for about 1 hour or until peas are done. Remove bay leaves and puree with an immersion blender to desired consistency. Add hot sauce to individual servings if desired.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Soft Tacos with Mushrooms, Spinach, and Soyrizo

These soft tacos are quick to make for those weeknights when you want a good dinner without much fuss. You can add your favorite vegetables to individualize the filling. This version has baby portobellas, spinach, corn, and soyrizo, and is topped with avocado dressing to add a creamy touch. I think making a big batch of soup will be on the agenda for this weekend. The forecast for Sunday is a high of 15 degrees and windchill of zero! Brrr. Stay warm everybody and have a great weekend.

Soft Tacos with Mushrooms, Spinach, and Soyrizo
Makes about 3-4 tacos

1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 large red onion, sliced
5 ounces soyrizo
10 ounces baby portobellas, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup frozen corn kernels
approximately 2 ounces baby spinach
freshly ground pepper
whole wheat tortillas

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Saute onion, soyrizo, and mushrooms for about 10 minutes. Add garlic and saute about 30 seconds. Add corn and spinach and cook until the spinach is wilted and everything is heated through. Season with salt and pepper. Heat the tortillas in another skillet. Make tacos and top with avocado dressing or salsa.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Chewy Chocolate Raspberry Cookies

This time of year, there's usually at least one event where you'd like to take a dish. For vegans, this also means you have the opportunity to showcase tasty vegan food to a non-vegan audience. While I enjoy exploring unfamiliar ingredients and techniques, my philosophy is not to get too adventurous with non-vegans, but keep it mainstream. You know those stereotypes about vegan food being weird, inferior, and perplexing. Let your food make the counter-arguments for you.

Which brings us to these Chewy Chocolate Raspberry Cookies from Veganomicon. Thank you Isa and Terry! These cookies taste great and are so easy to make even I cooked up a batch with success and minimal cursing. (What is it about baking ingredients and me? I must have Baking Clutz Syndrome, as all those flours, powders, and sugars end up covering me and my kitchen.)

This recipe is such a nice introduction to vegan baking. Someone asks for the recipe? Cool. All the ingredients are familiar ones- raspberry preserves, cocoa powder, canola oil, etc. Nothing scary or bland around here.

Any favorite vegan desserts you like to wow them with? Share your secret weapons in a comment if you like.

Thanks to my co-worker, L., for bringing me a batch of these cookies a while back. Her vegan niece baked them and sent them to work for me!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Roasted Garbanzos and Spanky is Home for the Howlidays

I thought this recipe for roasted garbanzos sounded interesting so I gave it a try using savory seasonings rather than sweet. Frankly, it turned out fine, but it's not at the top of my list to make again. I think if you want a snack for munching and are avoiding nuts, this is a reasonable substitute. Not bad at all, just not a "wow" recipe for me. Skip to the recipe below if you're here for the food, and let me know if you come up with a variation that you really like! And how about that crazy tiki shot glass my friends A & J brought back from Hawaii? I love it.

Now for the Home for the Howlidays Adopt-a-thon update. Saturday was a wonderful day. We placed 25 pets from the Macklind Humane Society location, with a total of 52 animals from all HSMO locations! I was so happy to meet Spanky's new family. Spanky is a pitbull mix who'd been at the shelter for a while. He was one of my favorites to walk. So well-mannered and full of love. A little on the skinny side, the shelter was working on fattening him up. Not everyone was taken with Spanky. In fact, some potential adopters found him homely. But there's a family for every dog! This nice couple approached me at the Adopt-a-thon and with certainty said, "we're interested in adopting Spanky. We saw him on the internet." After I briefly gushed about how wonderful Spanky is, and refrained from hugging them, I set them up with our Adoption Counselors to get things moving. While they were waiting for an available counselor, they went back to Spanky's kennel to visit. Sweet talk and all. And Spanky? He turned on the charm. Curled on his bed, chewing his toy with gusto, looking cute as all get out. That's my boy! Spanky found his family on Saturday. Later that night as memories of the day fluttered in my mind, I realized my heart was full. Thanks everyone for your interest in the great pets at the Humane Society!

Roasted Garbanzos
Adapted from Epicurious

1 cup dried garbanzo beans
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
salt, freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Place the beans in a container and cover with cool water. Cover container with a lid and place in refrigerator overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Drain beans and pat dry on a towel. In a bowl, combine beans with olive oil, garam masala, pepper, and 1 teaspoon salt. Place in one layer on a cookie sheet and roast in oven for about 45 minutes, stirring several times. Add cinnamon and extra salt if needed after baking.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Jessy's Tofu 'n Broccoli with Spicy Peanut Sauce and Adopt-a-thon

When I saw Jessy's recipe for Tofu 'n Broccoli with Spicy Peanut Sauce, I knew I had to give it a try. All the recipes on her blog happyveganface look so good, but this one with tofu particularly caught my eye because I'm still learning various ways to cook it. This time she coated tofu cubes in a little cornstarch and pan fried them in peanut oil. I made a few changes to incorporate some ingredients I needed to use up, such as some added mushrooms and light coconut milk. We loved Jessy's recipe! It was gone in no time and totally dee-licious.

If you're local to St. Louis, spread the word that the Humane Society of Missouri is having an Adopt-a-thon this Saturday, 12/13/08. I'll be there bright and early to walk the dogs so they're ready to meet their potential new families! If you've been thinking of adding a dog or cat to your family, and who hasn't, stop by one of the adoption locations and I'm sure you'll find a new companion full of personality and affection. You can even get a preview by exploring photos of adoptable pets here. Whatever your weekend holds in store, have a great one and I'll see you back here Monday!

Home for the Howlidays image from Humane Society of Missouri

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Brazilian Stew, this Bud's for you

I've been discussing this stew with MD for two days. (He's quite tolerant of me, obviously.) How to describe the flavors that make it so tasty? It reminds me of a pasta sauce I made as a vegetarian that included tomatoes, heavy cream, and white wine. Obviously I haven't made that recipe for a while, so I was so surprised to detect the familiar flavor and aroma in this dish!! I suppose it must be the stew's combination of tomatoes, coconut milk, and Budweiser. We're still stumped to put the flavor into words, but I can say it is fragrant, creamy, and we loved it over rice to soak up every juicy drop.

Brazilian Stew
Adapted from Cooking Light
6-8 Servings

1 teaspoon peanut oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1/2 habanero pepper, minced
1 cup water
2 14.5 ounce cans organic diced tomatoes, with liquid
1 12 ounce can Budweiser
1/4 cup natural peanut butter
2 cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup light coconut milk
1/2 cup tightly packed cilantro, chopped
juice from 1/2 lime
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper

Heat oil in large pot over medium heat. Saute onion and garlic about 2 minutes. Add ginger and habanero and saute about 30 seconds. Add water, tomatoes with liquid, and beer. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add peanut butter, chickpeas, and coconut milk. Increase heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Add cilantro, lime juice, salt, and pepper. Check for seasonings.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Sunny Rice Salad with Black Beans

The teeth rattling, bone chilling St. Louis temperature last weekend had me thinking of Mexico. Weighing obligations, counting accrued vacation hours, and dreaming of lunch under a palapa. I think I can see a peek of ocean through the fuschia bougainvillea.

Am I still in St. Louis? Sigh. Well, I don't have to eat like it's below freezing out. How about a vibrant salad? The colors of this salad are a delight. Tasty as is, it would also make a delicious wrap filling. Slather a warmed whole wheat tortilla with some bean dip or vegan cream cheese sprinkled with chili powder, add some salad, wrap, and eat. I'd rather eat it under a palapa, but for now this will have to do.

Sunny Rice Salad with Black Beans
Adapted from Food and Wine

2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups jasmine rice
2 3/4 cups water
1 bay leaf
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 orange bell pepper, chopped
1 carrot, sliced
about 28 grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup baby spinach, chopped
1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 handfuls cilantro, chopped
sliced scallions and lime wedges as condiments

In a medium saucepan, heat oil over low heat. Add the onion and cook about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, turmeric, cumin, 1 teaspoon of salt, pepper, and rice. Cook for two minutes, stirring occasionally. Add water and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 18 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove bay leaf.

Combine rice with remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Garnish each serving with scallions and a lime wedge for spritzing some fresh juice.

Friday, December 5, 2008

St. Louis Vegan Birthday!

What does a vegan in St. Louis do for her birthday? Well, she might eat lunch at Local Harvest Cafe, where she can order the vegan soup of the day (Creamy Roasted Vegetable) and the special sandwich which happens to be a vegan wrap.

Then she might be greeted after work with a vegan chocolate birthday cake from SweetArt!

But wait, there's more. (I do know how to get mileage out of a birthday.)

With my birthday falling on a Thursday, we planned to celebrate Friday night by going out, which also allowed MD to make his Thursday night mandolin class. But of course we were able to squeeze in a quick dinner Thursday at Atomic Cowboy, including margaritas and fries.

It's not officially my birthday until fries are involved.

Tonight for the continuing celebration, we'll hit Terrene for cocktails and Shangri-La for dinner, two of the vegan friendliest spots in town.

A very wonderful first vegan birthday indeed, thanks to my sweetie and birthday wishes from friends and family! I'll be back to recipes on Monday. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Hearty Vegetable Soup

If you're a vegetable soup lover, you probably have a "necessary ingredient" that has got to be included. For us, it's potatoes. And tomatoes. Cabbage used to be on the list too, but more recently has been replaced by kale. This version is so hearty it's really a meal in a bowl. Outside right now, there's a dusting of snow on the car and the wind chill makes it "feel like" 19 degrees. I'm looking forward to soup leftovers for tomorrow!

Hearty Vegetable Soup
Adapted from Cooking Light

1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
6 cups vegetable broth
1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
2 carrots, thinly sliced
4 cups roughly chopped (and peeled) Yukon Gold potatoes
salt and pepper
1 bunch kale, stems removed and chopped
1 cup orzo (I'd reduce to 1/2 cup next time for a "soupier" version)
1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Saute onion for a couple of minutes. Add garlic and saute about a minute. Add cumin and saute 30 seconds longer. Add broth through salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add kale, orzo, and beans. Simmer about 8 more minutes, or until orzo and vegetables are done. Check for seasoning.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Sweet Tahini Miso Dip with Steamed Broccoli

I hope everyone had a restful holiday. We are settling back in after our visit to family in SC. While many people hit the malls on Friday, I convinced my family to go to Earth Fare instead! I don't think we have any Earth Fare stores in the St. Louis area, but this one seemed very similar to Whole Foods. It had all the vegan essentials- tempeh, seitan, Vegenaise, Silk, Earth Balance, and even a few deli and bakery vegan selections! This totally blew me away for a small town. It will be one of my first stops next time I visit!

Okay, has anyone else had enough sweet potatoes and green beans for now? This dip is a change of pace from the typical Thanksgiving flavors. The recipe is adapted from one on the Westbrae Organic Mellow Brown Rice Miso container. I haven't used miso much before. This paste contains brown rice, soybeans, water and salt. It can be used the way you would use soy sauce or vegetable broth, for a subtle, complex flavor. The dip is both sweet and tangy, and downright addictive. It would make a good spread for toast, but we enjoyed it with crackers and steamed broccoli. It went quickly, so I'll probably double the portion next time.

Sweet Tahini Miso Dip
makes between 1/4-1/2 cup

1/4 cup tahini (stir before measuring)
2 Tablespoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons miso

Combine with a spoon. Refrigerate unused portion.

Super Easy Steamed Broccoli

Wash broccoli and chop into bite-sized spears. Place in a casserole dish and fill with a little water (1/4 to 1/2 inch). Cover casserole with a lid. Microwave 4-5 minutes. Pour broccoli into a strainer to drain water. Careful! The water will be very hot.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Chipotle Bourbon Sweet Potato Quesadillas and Thanksgiving Tips for Vegans

As promised, Thanksgiving quesadillas! While sweet potato casserole is nice, making spicy quesadillas out of it is even better.

What are your plans for Thanksgiving? We're getting ready for our cross country trip to visit family, and I can't help but recall my trip home from college for Thanksgiving, ahem, a while back, when I first became vegetarian. (Which is probably why I had Fettucine Alfredo on the brain earlier, reflecting on our college days! So weird how the brain works.) I became vegetarian about a week before Thanksgiving that year, and read excerpts from Animal Liberation to MD during the drive home for the holiday. Once again, I'm faced with a significant first at Thanksgiving, this year being my first vegan Thanksgiving. Luckily, my family is supportive and doesn't make my diet a source of debate.

However, holidays can be stressful for vegans for a variety of reasons. The links below offer recipes, support, and advice for a happy vegan Thanksgiving or eating with non-vegans. Thanks to The Vegan Treehouse for a couple of these links, a blog I visit regularly for vegan news, humor, and Austin dining info. (You gotta check out Stella's post with the Erykah Badu video!)

A Recipe for a Family Fight

A Vegetarian Thanksgiving

10 Survival Tips and Tactics for Eating Veg in a Non-Veg World

Guide to a Vegan Vanguard Thanksgiving, Part 1

Chipotle Bourbon Sweet Potato Quesadillas

1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup corn kernels
2 teaspoons chipotle chile powder (or 1 tsp if you prefer milder)
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups sweet potatoes with Wild Turkey
1/4 teaspoon salt
whole wheat tortillas
olive oil in a mister or cooking spray

Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Saute onion for about 4 minutes. Add garlic, corn, and chipotle powder. Saute about 1 minute. Add beans, broth, sweet potato mixture, and salt. Combine, mashing the beans a little to mix well. Cook until heated through.

Take a tortilla and spritz both sides with olive oil or cooking spray. Spread enough sweet potato mixture to your liking on half of the tortilla and place in skillet over medium heat. Warm until tortilla is soft enough to fold over in half. Continue cooking, flipping periodically, until heated through and browned on both sides.

Now that's how to enjoy Wild Turkey at Thanksgiving! If you celebrate the holiday, hope you have a great one. Spend some time with positive people and your dogs and cats. See you back here after December 1st.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Sweet Potatoes and (Wild) Turkey

I challenged myself to try a typical Thanksgiving recipe. For some reason, I'm usually out of sync with holiday foods. I find myself blogging about Jamaican food on July 4th. Cinco de Mayo burgers in June. So I decided to try to cook something in tune with this holiday. I like sweet potatoes, don't I? But, um, how about with Wild Turkey. This dish will not satisfy the person looking for the more dessert-like casserole. But if you like sweet potatoes and whiskey, I don't think you'll have any complaints. Especially if you eat these the next day, after the flavors really have a chance to get friendly.

I couldn't stop there, of course, and liked this dish even more in quesadillas. Okay, maybe not so "typical," but who can argue with Wild Turkey and chipotle quesadillas? I'll be back tomorrow with the quesadilla recipe, and some tips for having a happy vegan Thanksgiving.

Sweet Potatoes and (Wild) Turkey
adapted from Sunset

2 shots (3 ounces) Wild Turkey bourbon, divided
1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped
2 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes
1 Tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 Tablespoons softened Earth Balance buttery sticks, divided, plus extra to coat casserole dish
pinch of salt
chopped pecans to garnish

Pour 1 shot of bourbon over chopped apricots in a bowl and allow to soak about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Microwave sweet potatoes for about 15 minutes according to A Veggie Venture's instructions. Peel when cool enough to handle. Place in a bowl and add maple syrup, cloves, remaining shot of Wild Turkey, 1 Tablespoon of Earth Balance, and salt. Mash with potato masher. Stir in apricots with Wild Turkey. Lightly coat a casserole dish with Earth Balance. Spread sweet potato mixture in dish, top with pecans, and dot with remaining tablespoon of Earth Balance. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until heated through.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Hummingbird Cake from SweetArt

This vegan Hummingbird Cake from SweetArt was the star of our Thai One On Supper Club Saturday night! When I host non-vegans, not only do I want everyone to have a good time, but I want the vegan food to be accessible (meaning not too "weird") and delicious. Thanks to this cake, vegan cooking scored a lot of points with our guests! The beautifully decorated cream cheese frosting covered five layers of moist, flavorful cake with banana, nuts, and pineapple. Our guests couldn't believe it was vegan, and some even went back for seconds.

SweetArt will open very soon in the Shaw neighborhood. The website indicates that many items can be ordered vegan, and based on the Hummingbird Cake, Reine really knows what she's doing in the vegan baking department. For those of us who don't, there's no need to skip dessert any longer.

By the way, thanks to everyone for your comments on my earlier post about our Thai meal. I did end up adding red bell peppers to the curry for color and cilantro throughout. The meal was exotic, flavorful, and genuinely seemed to be a hit. As I mentioned previously, our guests contributed many of the dishes, and most of them chose to make vegan versions of Thai dishes! Here's how the menu turned out.

Thai Mango Passion Cocktail
Spicy Thai Pineapple Lettuce Wraps
Veggie Potstickers
Thai Green Salad
Spinach and Mushrooms with Coconut Milk
Evil Jungle Prince
Noodle Salad with Spicy Peanut Sauce
Red Curry with Winter Vegetables and Cashews
Jasmine Rice
Hummingbird Cake

Here's a final shot of the cake, for breakfast with coffee. Mmm.

Photo at the top of the post taken by MD.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Vegan Linguine Alfredo with Broccoli

Pasta with Alfredo Sauce brings back memories of college and a restaurant in Clemson, SC, where we celebrated special occasions with this dish. It was one of the only vegetarian options on the menu. I even made it a few times in my little apartment for MD's birthday (we were vegetarians then). By the time I hit grad school, I was more of a spicy red sauce kind of pasta eater, so I'm not sure why this recipe caught my eye last week. Maybe I was out of sorts from being confronted with cold and dark at 5pm (5pm???). Maybe I wondered, does it really taste like Alfredo sauce? The recipe is from Vegetarian Times, except I didn't have portabellos so I added steamed broccoli. This was very good. Creamy, garlicky, and comforting. It doesn't taste like Alfredo to me, so if you give it a try, be ready to enjoy it for its own thing. The World's Best Tomato Pesto is still my favorite pasta sauce, but this was a fun and tasty change of pace!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Mexican Soup with Vegan Meatballs

MD: When are you blogging that soup?

Me: That soup is un-photographable. I can't blog it. I did the curry instead.

MD: But it tastes so good! You have to blog it. (Proceeds to make several photography suggestions I've tried already.)

Me: The only way that soup can be photographed is if I put a paper bag over it.

And so I did.

Mexican Soup with Vegan Meatballs
Adapted from Food and Wine

1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 chipotle chile in adobo, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 bunch kale, stems discarded, leaves chopped
4 cups vegetable broth
3 cups water
1 14.5 ounce can fire roasted tomatoes
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
pepper to taste
about 24 vegan meatballs (such as Whole Foods brand)
1 cup frozen corn kernels
1/3 cup salsa
hot sauce to taste

Heat oil over medium heat in a large pot. Saute onion, bell pepper, and chipotle for about 4 minutes. Add garlic, cumin, and coriander and saute about 1 minute. Add kale, broth, water, tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes.

Add vegan meatballs, corn, and salsa. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Serve with hot sauce to taste.

Monday, November 17, 2008

7 Random Things

River of Wing-It Vegan tagged me to list 7 random things about myself. Have you checked out her 7 yet? What an impressive pie she made back when she first became vegan! Here we go with mine:

1. My first vegetarian cookbook, Vegetariana, was a gift during college from a wonderful friend since grade school. It became pretty tattered after getting me through holiday family dinners, potlucks, and just weeknights at home.

2. My most recent cookbook purchase was Vegetable Love, found on sale. Basic info about tons of vegetables. Looks like a great reference book.

3. I tend to get obsessed with a hobby for a while, then move on to something new. I've been through motorcycling, music collecting/playlist making, embroidery, glass etching, and jewelry making. Here's some stuff I made before vegan cooking took over.

4. I kept my name when I got married. An unintended benefit is that I immediately detect telemarketers who address me as "Mrs. (insert husband's surname)".

5. I get extremely anxious about blood, wounds, etc. Just the thought of IV therapy and I'm nearly sent into fainting goat mode.

6. I've been listening to Lucinda Williams' "Honey Bee" every time I turn my iPod on.

7. We decorate more for Halloween than any other holiday.

Hope everyone had a relaxing weekend. I did some cooking, dog walking, dog bathing, and eating great food at Everest. I'll be back Wednesday with the Mexican Meatball Soup that almost wasn't. And if you want to play along with this meme, consider yourself tagged!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Thai One On Supper Club

We're hosting our neighborhood Supper Club next week, and the theme is Thai One On. We're expecting about 12 for dinner. Sometimes our group is as large as 16. We get together about once a month, and the couple who hosts chooses a theme. Everyone brings a dish. Oh, and there's always plenty of wine and cocktails. Past themes have included French, Italian, Wrong Side of the Tracks, 70's (in honor of someone's birthday- no she didn't turn 70, she was born in the 70's!), Latin, Hawaiian, and Breakfast for Dinner (everyone wore pajamas for this one). I'm the only vegan in the group, so I always bring a substantial dish to share rather than something like dessert. Several of our friends have talked to me about what vegan means and are very considerate about bringing vegan dishes. In fact, last time my plate was full of tasty food.

For Thai One On, we plan to make this Red Curry with Winter Vegetables and Cashews from Real Vegetarian Thai. I'm still trying to figure out how to make and serve jasmine rice for 12. A friend at work says he'll loan me his rice maker, so that might be the easiest strategy. Anyway, this curry tastes great, but my choice of vegetables (sweet potatoes and carrots) resulted in a monochromatic orange. I think I'll change the vegetables for Supper Club to include red and green bell peppers for contrast. Any other suggestions? The curry also includes seitan, which I think is a good choice for non-vegans, who might be less open to tofu or tempeh.

The other dish we'll make is Vegan Planet's Noodle Salad with Spicy Peanut Sauce. Guests are rounding out the menu with a Thai Green Salad with Ginger Dressing, Spring Rolls, and an appetizer to be determined. We're covering dessert, which will be a vegan cake with bananas and pineapple from SweetArt! I am so excited for their shop to open, and you can also place orders beforehand over the internet.

I'm eyeing this Thai Mango Passion Cocktail for the occasion. What do you think? The sparkling white wine should provide a festive touch.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Garam Masala Spiced Tomatoes, Green Peas, and Tofu

Does anything smell better than cooking with garam masala? I can't imagine what it might be. Nupur, of One Hot Stove, was so kind to give me some garam masala a while back when we got together, and it is wonderfully aromatic. (Check out her blog for beautifully photographed Indian vegetarian/vegan dishes and even some foodie knitting.)

This dish also features chewy tofu, tomatoes, carrots, green peas, and some habanero for a kick. Omit the habanero if you prefer a milder version. We ate this with whole wheat couscous for a quick meal, but rice would be good with it as well. Tasty, spicy, and smells so good too!

Garam Masala Spiced Tomatoes, Green Peas, and Tofu
Adapted from Whole Foods

14 ounces organic extra firm tofu, pressed for about 25 minutes, then cut into small cubes
canola oil for pan frying
3 Tablespoons corn starch
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup carrots, sliced thinly into coins
1/2 habanero pepper, minced
1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1 Tablespoon garam masala
14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
10 ounce can Rotel diced tomatoes with green chiles
1/4 cup water
10 ounces frozen green peas, defrosted
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup whole wheat couscous

After pressing, toss tofu cubes with corn starch in a medium bowl.
In a large skillet, heat about 1/4-inch canola oil until a little corn starch dropped into it sizzles. Add the tofu cubes in a single layer. Fry until one side becomes golden brown, then turn with tongs to fry the other side. Remove tofu from skillet to drain on a clean kitchen towel. Pour off oil (into heat proof container, or let it cool first) so that you have 1/4 cup oil remaining in the skillet.
Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Saute onions and carrots for 5 minutes. Add habanero and ginger to saute about 1 minute. Add garam masala and tomatoes. Simmer about 5 minutes. Add peas, water, tofu, and cover. Simmer on low heat for 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve over couscous.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Kale with Soyrizo and Great Northern Beans

It got to be Sunday afternoon (where does the weekend go?) and I realized I hadn't had my soyrizo fix for the weekend. Hence, this delicious kale, soyrizo, and white bean dish. The kale is simmered in a garlicky vegetable broth, and the slightly sweet, fresh grape tomatoes add a colorful note. You can sprinkle on some lemon juice or vinegar to finish if you like.

Kale with Soyrizo and Great Northern Beans

Adapted from Epicurious

4 ounces soyrizo
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
3 cloved garlic, chopped
1 bunch kale, washed, stems discarded, and cut into strips
1 cup vegetable broth
1 can Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
grape tomatoes, halved
salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet, brown soyrizo over medium heat. Add olive oil to skillet, and when warmed, add onion and garlic. Saute about 1 minute. Add kale and use tongs to combine with olive oil. You can add a little at a time until wilted enough to fit it all in the skillet. Add vegetable broth, cover, and simmer for about 8 minutes, or until kale is tender. Add beans and simmer uncovered until warmed, a couple of minutes. Top each serving with halved grape tomatoes. Add salt and pepper if desired.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Sun-dried Tomato Tapenade with Kalamata and Green Olives

This tapenade makes a flavorful, light spread for crostini or crackers. It's a nice option when you want an appetizer that isn't based on beans for variety's sake. We also combined this with bowtie pasta, steamed broccoli, additional olive oil, and vegan parm for a simple dinner.

Sun-dried Tomato Tapenade with Kalamata and Green Olives
Adapted from Cooking Light

2 cups boiling water
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes (not packed in oil)
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted
several shakes crushed red pepper
2 Tablespoons dried basil
juice from 1/2 lemon (add a little at a time until desired tartness)
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
toasted pinenuts and sliced green olives to garnish

Pour boiling water over tomatoes and cover for about 15 minutes, until soft. Drain, reserving 3/4 cup of the tomato water. Combine tomatoes, water, kalamata olives, crushed red pepper, basil, lemon juice, and garlic in food processor until coarsely chopped. Stir in oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper, if necessary. Sprinkle with toasted pinenuts and green olives. Spread on crostini.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Tortilla Soup with Seitan and Fire Roasted Tomatoes

So much excitement with Election Day in the US! We've all been abuzz about voting and our future. How in the world to segue to food on this historic day? How about this quote from Orson Welles: "Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what's for lunch." Today we have soup!

This soup's appearance is a little deceptive. Simmering in the pot, it doesn't look remarkable. A mostly red shade, with black flecks from the fire roasted tomatoes and some browned seitan chunks. But after taking a bite, we were hooked. Garlic, habanero, cumin, and cilantro combine for amazing flavor. I added seitan because I had some on hand, but it's optional. And a few cubes of diced avocado on top wouldn't hurt if you have one on the counter.

Tortilla Soup with Seitan and Fire Roasted Tomatoes
Adapted from Whole Foods
about 4 servings

1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
8 ounce package seitan, sliced into bite-sized pieces
1/2 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 habanero pepper, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
2 14.5 ounce cans organic fire roasted diced tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups water
juice from 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
tortilla chips to crumble on top of each serving

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Saute onion and seitan for about 5 minutes, until seitan browns a little. Add garlic, habanero, and cumin, and cook about 1 minute. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper, and water. Cover the pot and simmer for about 15 minutes. Add lemon juice and cilantro. Top each serving with tortilla chips.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Curried Chickpea Salad

VeganMoFo is no mo' for this year. Ah well, it was great while it lasted. As my fellow bloggers have noted, it was fun to find new blogs and delicious vegan recipes. And the sense of camaraderie really blossomed amidst the frenetic pace of blogging and visiting other blogs. Congrats to everyone who participated!

With temperatures in the 70's all week, I made this curried chickpea salad for lunches. It can be stuffed in a sandwich, served atop salad greens, or eaten on its own. The taste is savory and sweet, and the toasted cumin seeds and almonds add a little crunch. This dish is easy to prepare, with just some chopping and a little toasting of the cumin seeds and almonds.

Curried Chickpea Salad
Adapted from Whole Foods

2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1/4 cup (heaping) almonds
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
juice from 1 lime
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons curry powder
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup seedless raisins
2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 orange bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup chopped carrots
4 scallions, chopped
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

Toast the cumin seeds and almonds in a small skillet over medium-low heat for a few minutes, until fragrant.

In a medium bowl, whisk vinegar, lime juice, olive oil, curry powder, maple syrup, and salt. Add raisins, almonds, and cumin seeds and stir. Add remaining ingredients and combine.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

VeganMoFo: Potatoes and Seitan with Couscous

This dish made me realize I should make couscous way more often. Super quick and easy! However, couscous is not the star here; I loved the potatoes. They are quickly boiled using a technique from The Grit cookbook, then sauteed with seitan, broccoli, mushrooms, garlic, and chili powder. Top it off with a spoon of salsa, and you are ready for supper.

Potatoes and Seitan with Couscous
1 pound potatoes, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 small bunch broccoli, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 handful sliced mushrooms
1 8 ounce package seitan, chopped
3 to 4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 Tablespoon chili powder
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup whole wheat couscous
salsa, optional condiment

Place potatoes in a saucepan and add cold water until covered by an inch. Add about 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, and cook for about 6 minutes, or until tender when tested with a knife. Drain.

Heat olive oil over medium heat in large skillet. Saute potatoes, onion, broccoli, mushrooms, and seitan for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In the meantime, cook couscous according to package directions.

Add garlic, chili powder, and salt and pepper to taste to potato mixture. Saute about 1 minute more. Test vegetables to make sure they are done to your liking.

Serve potato mixture atop couscous. Top with salsa, optional.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

VeganMoFo: Spicy Butternut Squash and Peanut Soup

This soup is stick-to-your-ribs satisfying. Butternut squash and peanut butter are the main ingredients, with an habanero pepper for heat and orange bell pepper just in case there aren't enough orange ingredients already. I used frozen butternut squash cubes, and a rather thick, local natural peanut butter. We thought it was just right, but you might cut the habanero by half if you prefer a milder version.

Spicy Butternut Squash and Peanut Soup
Adapted from Cooking Light

1 Tablespoon peanut oil
2 10 ounce packages frozen butternut squash cubes, slightly defrosted
1 large onion, chopped
1 orange bell pepper, sliced into bite-sized pieces
1 habanero pepper, minced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
3/4 cup natural peanut butter
4 cups vegetable broth
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 to 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

Heat oil over medium heat in a large pot. Saute squash, onion, and bell pepper for about 5 minutes. Add habanero, garlic, salt, cumin, and coriander and saute about 1 minute. Add peanut butter, broth, and tomato paste, increase heat, and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add fresh cilantro. Add salt to taste.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

VeganMoFo:Tofu in Spicy Red Curry Coconut Sauce

My honey recently hinted around that there's been a dearth of Thai-inspired dishes on our table of late. I believe he shook the Sriracha bottle while looking both endearing and hopeful. In the aftermath of Halloween party preparation, we finally got around to having something for dinner beyond carry out or Boca chik'n patties. This dish said to us, welcome back to a home cooked meal! It's simple to put together, just needing some chopping and a little time for the rice to cook. The jasmine rice soaked up the crimson coconut sauce for a consistency similar to risotto. Yeah, baby. The baby 'bellas and red pepper strips lent some substance, and the cilantro added fragrance and a beautiful green accent. This dish sent me into repetitive mode. Do you ever get this way? Me: "This is soooo good." A little later, me again: "That was really good." And later still, "Man, that was good." Obviously, a keeper recipe.

Tofu in Spicy Red Curry Coconut Sauce
Adapted from Cooking Light

1 package extra firm tofu
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 red bell pepper, sliced into bite-sized pieces
2 cups sliced baby 'bella mushrooms
1 cup sliced scallions
1 heaping Tablespoon minced fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons Bragg Liquid Aminos or soy sauce
1 Tablespoon vegan red curry paste
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 14 ounce can light coconut milk
1 large handful cilantro, chopped
1 cup jasmine rice, cooked according to package
Sriracha and salt, to taste

Press the tofu for about 20 minutes, then cut into small cubes.

Cook the jasmine rice according to package.

Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Saute mushrooms and bell pepper until they become tender, 8 minutes or so. Add scallions, ginger, and garlic and cook for about 1 minute. Add Bragg's, red curry paste, coconut milk, and salt. Bring to a simmer, then cook on medium heat for about 2 minutes. Add cilantro. Serve over jasmine rice with Sriracha and salt to taste.

Monday, October 27, 2008

VeganMoFo: Kale

A simple note today on a simple dish- kale. The recipe in Vegan with a Vengeance calls for a quick saute in olive oil with garlic slices. This has become one of my favorite vegetables, and I'd never cooked it before becoming vegan. I love the dark color and texture it retains after cooking. If you have a little extra time, you can stir in some tahini dressing (also in Vegan with a Vengeance) but it is delicious without as well.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

VeganMoFo: More Vegan Food in St. Louis

These pretty carrot cake cupcakes are from Local Harvest Grocery on Morganford near Arsenal in St. Louis City. I had popped in to pick up some coffee, mainly, and Maddie mentioned that the cupcakes in the baked goods display were vegan! Well all righty then. These were moist and delicious, full of carrot flecks and an occasional dark chocolate chip. The frosting had the tangy taste that typical cream cheese frosting has. If you're vegan, let Maddie know the next time you shop there, and she'll keep you posted about the vegan options when you stop by. She can place special orders even for products they don't stock such as tempeh bacon. The store carries vegan products such as Desert Essence face wash as well. Truly, the store is an asset to the City.

But the St. Louis surprises don't end there. I recently noted that I knew of only two local restaurants that use the word "vegan" on their menus. I'll gladly eat my words now, with a side of marinated tofu please. Thanks to Ruby Red Vegan, I found OR Juice and Smoothie. This non-vegan establishment uses the word vegan 16 times on the menu. Not to mention that they have a sign beside the cash register that encourages, "If you are vegan, tell us before you order." How accommodating is that?

OR Juice and Smoothie is located in Richmond Heights in the mall with the Schnucks grocery store, right beside a Pub and Grill. The furnishings are pretty basic, so to me this is a place for carry out. In fact, they encourage calling your order in ahead, so you can pick it up quickly and conveniently. And the vegan options are plentiful! I can't recall seeing tempeh on a menu since The Sunshine Inn was in business! Okay, I'm rambling a little from excitement. Let me try to pull myself together. In the vegan wrap category, options are the tofu, portobello, or tempeh wrap. As for rolls, you may choose from vegan spring rolls, nori rolls, and sushi. There are three vegan salad options and three vegan sandwich options. Wait, there's more. There's a vegan rice bowl and vegan pizza. Vegan soups, count them, three.

I ordered the marinated tofu wrap and lentil and squash soup to go. Ruby Red Vegan had raved about the vegan burger. That sounded really good, but I'd had several recently, plus I had a little drive to get home and thought that a tofu wrap might keep better. So while I'm waiting for my order, what does a friendly customer advise me to try next time? The vegan burger. And she's not even vegan. So next time, this is a must.

My wrap was delicious. The tofu was crispy on the outside as if it had been fried as well as marinated, but what do I know. The wrap was stuffed with a reddish brown rice, tomato, lettuce, onion, hummus, and, I think, vinaigrette. I considered saving half for later, but quickly decided that was foolishness and finished it off. Excellent!

The pureed soup was a little sweet and savory too with minced fresh ginger. It had that pretty golden color that's so perfect for soup in October. This has been a great week for vegan discoveries in St. Louis. I'm taking tomorrow off to prep for our Halloween party, so I'll be back on Monday for more VeganMoFo!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

VeganMoFo: Refried Black Beans

I call these slacker refried beans, due to how quick and easy they are to make. But slack in the flavor department they do not. They are soo smoky, spicy, and good! I make them exactly according to the Vegetarian Times recipe. The chipotle chile powder is a must, and the broth lends depth and a creamy texture. Wrap these up in a whole wheat tortilla with rice and guacamole for a restaurant-quality burrito. Or eat them as is with any Mexican meal, since they taste so good they can stand alone.

You might wonder what the beans are sitting on. We've collected various cheesy costume prizes for our Halloween party, including skull-emblazoned whoopee cushions. Considering the "musical fruit" reputation of beans, I couldn't resist.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

VeganMoFo: Soyrizo and Zucchini Tacos, Bayless Style

We would like to have dinner with the Obamas. I can see us now, chatting about what to name their future adopted shelter dog, social issues, and Rick Bayless's delicious food. Yep, NPR says they enjoy dining at one of Rick Bayless's restaurants in Chicago. While we haven't dined there, we do love the recipes in Mexican Everyday, and the NPR feature caused me to fix these quick and flavorful tacos from that cookbook. The book isn't vegan, but Bayless includes many vegetarian/veganizable variations, and even a new vegan cook like me finds the recipes easily adaptable. And the photos are gorgeous. This recipe is one of our favorites, involving soyrizo instead of chorizo, and mushrooms and zucchini in a chipotle-spiked crushed tomato sauce. Ever get stuck on a single recipe in a cookbook? Seems like I almost always make this one from Mexican Everyday. But I haven't regretted branching out, since the Creamy Avocado Dressing is amazing too.

Monday, October 20, 2008

VeganMoFo: Garlicky Penne with Baby Spinach (and Garlic)

Not a typo in the name of this dish, more like a heads up. This is some more garlicky penne. Just what I wanted for watching all my favorite vampire movies. 30 Days of Night, anyone? I love the line, "Mr. and Mrs. Sheriff. So sweet. So helpless against what is coming." Ultra creepy.

This pasta would make Van Helsing, Buffy, or any other vampire slayer proud. Garlic has got your back three different ways. With garlic simmered in vegetable broth, sauteed with crushed red pepper flakes, and minced raw with fresh rosemary, vampires don't stand a chance. Just make sure your sweetie eats a big bowl of this penne too, lest he or she feel somewhat overwhelmed by your garlicky aroma.

Garlicky Penne with Baby Spinach (and Garlic)
Adapted from Epicurious

1 1/2 medium heads of garlic, cloves peeled
2 cups vegetable broth
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup roasted bell peppers, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped
10 ounces baby spinach
8-9 ounces whole wheat penne (depending on the vegetable to pasta ratio you prefer)
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes ( or less if you prefer it milder)
15 ounce can garbanzos, rinsed and drained
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
toasted pinenuts to garnish, optional

Put aside 6 cloves of garlic. Put remaining cloves and the vegetable broth in a covered pot and simmer for about 30 minutes. Drain garlic in a sieve, saving the broth. Reserve 1/2 cup of the garlic broth for this recipe, and store the rest of the broth in the refrigerator for another use.

Blend cooked garlic cloves, 1/2 cup of reserved broth, and 1 teaspoon salt in a blender.

Mince the rosemary with 2 cloves of the garlic. Combine with 1 teaspoon of salt. Put in a large bowl with the spinach.

Cook the whole wheat penne according to the package. Drain.

To make the sauce, mince the remaining 4 cloves garlic. Heat olive oil in a skillet on medium heat and saute garlic with the crushed red pepper flakes for a minute. Add the roasted red pepper and saute for about 3 more minutes. Add garbanzos and garlic puree from the blender. Bring to a simmer. Season with freshly ground black pepper.

Add penne, sauce, and balsamic vinegar to large bowl with spinach and rosemary-garlic mixture. Stir to combine. The hot, slightly wet penne will wilt the baby spinach just a little, but leave it still somewhat fresh.

Friday, October 17, 2008

VeganMoFo: Mokabe's Vegan Burger

To find a restaurant menu in St. Louis that states the word "vegan" is rare. By rare, I mean two (that I know of). At this point, any LA, Portland, and Manhattan vegan readers are shaking their heads in pity and amazement, I know.

One such cutting-edge establishment is Mokabe's, in nearby South City on Grand and Arsenal. Mokabe's has a delicious vegan burger, frequently a vegan soup of the day, and various veganizable sandwiches. They also offer a Sunday brunch with vegan options. I'm an eat-weekend-breakfast-at-home kind of woman, so most often I find myself at Mokabe's for lunch. It's close to work for MD and me, so we meet there every week or two.

This week we ordered the vegan burger with oven baked "fries." The burger is surprisingly delicious considering its simplicity. There aren't a lot of fancy toppings, just red onion slices, dill chips, and the usual condiments on the side. But the burger itself is crispy and smoky, with none of the mushiness that you sometimes find in a veggie burger. It also won the Best Burger (Non-Beef Division) in the Riverfront Times 2008 Best Of Edition. And the fries are the best baked ones I've had. I truly don't miss the deep frying, which is high praise since french fries are my favorite food.

The other progressive restaurant that dares to use the "v" word on the menu is Shangri-La Diner. Both restaurants have a funky, laid back atmosphere. Whenever we join friends at Shangri-La, we all leave happier than we came, and not just because our bellies are full of good food. The place has good vibes, "upbeat" as the site says, largely due to Patrice, the enthusiastic and gregarious owner. I recently had her new Fall special, the seitan gyro, and loved it. I hope to go back during lunch so I can get a picture to post and will talk a little more about the awesome Shangri-La.

Otherwise, I hear from Alanna of A Veggie Venture that we'll have a new vegan cafe, Vegadeli, in St. Louis very soon! The website looks great. Location, not so great for me, but I'll be there to support another St. Louis business that is spunky, bold, and smart enough to offer vegan food.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

VeganMoFo: Lentil and Vegetable Soup

Cooler temperatures are on the way for St. Louis, so it's the time of year when I like to make a batch of soup or chili every week. I came home from the Humane Society happy and tired last Sunday after a morning of walking the dogs, and this soup really hit the spot. The recipe has a delicious tomato broth base, very hydrating and flavorful. The lentils and chickpeas add substance, with an unexpected twist from the cinnamon and ginger. The yellow bell pepper chunks provide little bursts of color. This soup was so tasty, but next time I'll increase the spices for even more flavor.

We are halfway through the Vegan Month of Food! If you are coming a little late to the party and wonder what in the world VeganMoFo is, bloggers are writing about vegan food every weekday for the month of October. Here's my intro post for VeganMoFo which links to the PPK's listing of participants. Check them out for plenty of great vegan food inspiration.

Lentil and Vegetable Soup
Adapted from Food and Wine

2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 small onions, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1 3/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup lentils
6 1/2 cups water
15 ounce can crushed tomatoes
15 ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped

In a large pot, saute onions, bell pepper, and celery in olive oil over medium heat for about 8 minutes. Reduce heat if necessary to prevent them from browning too much. Add the garlic and saute for a minute or so. Add ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, salt, pepper, and lentils. Stir to mix. Add water and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Partially cover the pot, reduce heat, and simmer for about 30 minutes until lentils are tender. Add chickpeas and cook for about 5 minutes. Add cilantro and serve.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

VeganMoFo: An Interlude for a Meme

A little break from cooking for a meme! Lindsay of Cooking for a Vegan Lover tagged me for the "What's in your vegan freezer?" meme. This involves posting a photo of your freezer contents, listing them, and tagging more vegan bloggers.

Before revealing the inside of my freezer, I want to share the newspaper clipping I keep on the outside.

Yes, it says "Advice for a Happy Marriage: Listen to your wife, do as she says." I didn't make this up. It's hard science.

Now for the inside.

We have: seitan, tempeh, tempeh bacon, soyrizo, vegan ravioli, vegan meatballs, Boca vegan burgers and crumbles, pie crust, puff pastry, butternut squash, chili mole, bread crumbs, dog treats, corn, peas, and habaneros. You caught me right after I stocked up on meatballs for our upcoming Halloween party! Those were SO popular last year that I've increased the amount for this year.

So that's the story of my freezer. If you would like to play along as well, consider yourself tagged. And the photo at the top is from my visit to the very cool Niki exhibit this summer at the Missouri Botanical Garden. I had to put something pretty at the top, certainly not my freezer!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

VeganMoFo: Rosemary Nuts

The bar at King Louie's used to be one of our favorite haunts for cocktails. So cozy with exposed brick walls, amber lighting, and an ornate wooden bar. The bartender was a friendly guy who reminded us a little of Elvis Costello. The cocktails were gigantic, but, most importantly, dry and not diluted with floating ice crystals. The bar also served salty, sweet nuts seasoned with fresh rosemary, which led me to try this recipe when I spotted it in The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook.

I recently re-visited the recipe as a vegan, and substituting Earth Balance Buttery Sticks rather than butter worked just fine. The fragrant rosemary is combined with brown sugar, salt, and melted "buttery" Earth Balance, then stirred with four types of toasted nuts. The pecans and pinenuts are a must! These nuts add a little something special to happy hour, and make a wonderful gift at the holidays or for any occasion.

By the way, repairs are in process for our ceiling. Thanks everyone for the good thoughts!


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