Sunday, November 29, 2009

Smoky Tofu, Wilted Chard, and Chai Quinoa

A lot of my meals follow the basic pattern of greens, grain, and protein, but this was my first time cooking with chard. It definitely won't be the last time, because this meal was easy and delicious! This recipe may look like a lot of work, but very little active time is required.

I used ground cloves to flavor the tofu because I wanted it to taste smoky, but changing the spices on the tofu could take this dish in a different direction. Bryant Terry's Rosemary-Roasted Tofu Cubes from Vegan Soul Kitchen would work great.

Smoky Tofu, Wilted Chard, and Chai Quinoa
Makes 2 servings

• One 8-ounce package of extra-firm tofu
• 1 tbsp olive oil
• 1 tsp ground cloves
• 1/2 cup quinoa
• 1 cup brewed chai
• 1 bunch chard (I used red)
• 1 tbsp Earth Balance margarine

1. Preheat the oven to 375°.

2. Cut the tofu into 8 slabs and pat the slabs dry with a paper towel.

3. Mix the olive oil and ground cloves together in a small bowl. Dip each slab of tofu in the mixture, making sure to coat each side.

4. Bake the tofu for 30 minutes, turning halfway through the cooking time.

5. While the tofu is baking, rinse the quinoa then put it in a pot with the chai. Bring the chai to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat. Simmer until the quinoa is cooked.

6. Wash the chard, then separate the stems from the chard leaves and chop the stems. Begin sauteeing the stems in the Earth Balance while you chop the chard leaves. Add the chard leaves and sautee until they are wilted.

7. Plate the quinoa, chard, and tofu, and serve.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Chocolate Guinness Cake

I asked Boyfriend if I should make a dessert for our 2-person Thanksgiving dinner. He said, "Yeah! Chocolate Guinness Cake!" I said, "Or do you want me to make something more Thanksgiving-y. Like Pumpkin Cheesecake!" He said, "No! Chocolate Guinness Cake!" I agreed, and he said, "And can you make that icing too?!" Chocolate Guinness Cake it is, with the almost pure sugar icing. This cake is great at room temperature or after coming out of the fridge, but Boyfriend and I like to heat it up for a bit in the microwave and let the icing get warm and gooey!

This recipe first came to my attention when I was a grocery store in undergrad and saw a copy of Imbibe magazine on display. It advertised a recipe for Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes. I bought the magazine and gave them a try- they were delicious!

I find cupcakes a big pain to make, so the next time I made this recipe I made it as a cake. My torts professor had a Torts and Tortes party for my 1L section (the group of students I had all of my classes with during my first year of law school). He encouraged us to bring desserts, and we had a bake off among 5 of us who had brought desserts. My Chocolate Guinness Cake won, and I received a copy of "Freakonomics" as a prize. I still haven't read it, but I keep it on my bookshelf as a subtle trophy.

This recipe is altered very little from its original form. The ingredients are the same, only the directions are different. To make this cake as cupcakes, pour the batter into 24 muffin tins and bake for 25 minutes.

Chocolate Guinness Cake
Makes 1 cake

• One 12-ounce bottle Guinness stout
• 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
• 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
• 3 large eggs
• 3/4 cup sour cream
• 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa, plus more for garnish
• 2 1/2 cups sugar
• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
• One 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
• 1 cup heavy cream
• 1 1/2 pounds Confectioners' sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the Guinness, melted butter and vanilla. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Mix in the sour cream.

3. In another large bowl, whisk together the cocoa, sugar, flour, and baking soda. Gradually mix the dry ingredients into the wet Guinness mixture.

4. Pour the batter in a nonstick 9 x 13 baking pan and bake for 35 minutes.

5. To make the frosting, beat the cream cheese in a bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the heavy cream. Slowly mix in the confectioners' sugar. Once the cake has cooled, top it with the icing and and dust with cocoa.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Adopt a Turkey!

Farm Sanctuary has a fantastic Adopt-A-Turkey Project for Thanksgiving. According to the website, the sanctuary "seeks to end the misery of commercially-raised turkeys by offering a compassionate alternative for Thanksgiving. Since 1986, Farm Sanctuary has rescued more than 1,000 turkeys, placed hundreds into loving homes through our annual Turkey Express adoption event, educated millions of people about their plight, and provided resources for a cruelty-free holiday."

Instead of eating turkey on Thanksgiving, why not adopt a turkey? I adopted Olive (pictured above). I hope you swing by the Adopt-A-Turkey Project website also and help the organization out!

Noochy Vegan Polenta with Mustard Greens Mix

I'm in Houston right now visiting my boyfriend. Houston has this WONDERFUL grocery store called Central Market. It's similar to Whole Foods, except that the produce and bulk grains and spices section is on steroids. The produce section has ingredients I can never find anywhere else- like black truffles, for example. The spice section is my favorite section, though, because it saves me so much money. I'll get a little baggie of a spice for 50 cents instead of paying $5 for a bottle! Whenever I'm in town, I stock up on the spices I need (and some I don't need) back in Boston. This trip I got marjoram, turmeric, sumac (which I've never used before), ground and whole cloves, allspice, star anise, and onion powder- all for a couple of dollars.

But enough about my love for Central Market. On to the food! Even though CM usually has EVERYTHING in the produce section, it was out of kale. I decided to buy curly mustard greens instead. I'd never used them before, but they looked like kale, so why not? I decided to pair them with red pepper, onions, and sweet yellow corn, served with polenta. Although I'm not vegan, I've been trying to cook vegan at home. Normally I add tons of Parmesan to my polenta, but since I'm avoiding cheese, I tried something a little different, and I think it worked out great! So, here are my two newest recipes- enjoy!

Noochy Vegan Polenta
Makes 1 serving

• 1 cup water
• 1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
• 2 tbsp Earth Balance margarine
• 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
• salt and pepper to taste

Bring 1 cup of water to a boil in a small pot and slowly add in the cornmeal, mixing it to avoid clumps. Once the cornmeal has absorbed the water, turn off the heat and mix in the margarine and nutritional yeast. Add salt and pepper to taste. Once the polenta cools, it will harden a bit and keep its shape. But, if you're like me, you can eat it while it's hot and enjoy the soft gooeyness!

Mustard Greens Mix
Makes 4 servings

• 1 tbsp olive oil
• 1 red bell pepper, cut into inch-long strips
• 1/2 onion, diced
• 1 can whole kernel corn, drained
• 1 large bunch mustard greens, stems removed and leaves chopped
• 1/2 tbsp cayenne pepper
• 1/2 tbsp cumin
• salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium high heat and add the pepper, onion, corn, cayenne, and cumin (you could definitely up the spices for more of a kick, but I like the lightly spiced flavor). Cover the pan until the peppers are cooked. Add the mustard greens a handful or two at a time and mix them into the peppers, onions, and corn, allowing them to wilt. Salt and pepper to taste, if desired.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

ALWAYS get a receipt!

Today I checked my credit card balance online and saw that I was charged $76.50 for a purchase I made at Whole Foods on Sunday. I left for Houston on Tuesday, so I bought very few items at Whole Foods that day: 2 bottles of $10 wine, 2 bottles of marinara sauce, and a package of tofu. I was obviously overcharged.

When I had checked out, I was told that I didn't need to sign anything- which is the case when your purchase is under $25. When I walked over to the bagger, she was putting items into my bag that weren't mine, and had started filling another bag. I told her those weren't my items, we removed them from my bag, and checked with the cashier to make sure everything was okay. He said everything was fine, and I left. I never received a receipt, and for some reason assumed that the bagger had put the receipt in the bag then absent-mindedly kept bagging. But hey, the whole purchase was less than $25, right?

I called Whole Foods today and explained the problem. Once the WF employee found the receipt, he went through it with me and marked off the items that I didn't buy- I was charged for the next customer's items. My card will be credited as soon as the man in charge of these things is in tomorrow and can sign off on the refund. I'm not foreseeing any problems there, knock on wood.

Although this was kind of a pain in the butt to deal with today, I still love Whole Foods. The employee was very nice and helpful and took care of everything quickly.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Vegan Wines

I was surprised to learn this summer that many wines are not vegan. Many winemakers use animal products to filter their wines. is a great database that lists many popular brands of beer, wine, and liquor and let's you know whether or not they're vegan, but the site doesn't seem to have been updated in at least a month.

I recently emailed several of my favorite winemakers (or their importers) to ask whether their wines were vegan friendly. Several didn't ever respond, but those who did said that they did not use any animal products in making the wine. I've forwarded these emails to the people at, but since they haven't been posted yet, here is my list of a few wines that are vegan according to the makers or importers. I'll try to update this list whenever I get information on a new label.

These wines are VEGAN:
Rabbit Ridge
Cycles Gladiator (this wine is banned in Alabama because the label is considered pornographic)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Seitan Tikka Masala

"India's 500 Best Recipes" by Shehzad Husain, Rafi Fernandez, Mridula Baljekar, and Manisha Kanani is one of my favorite cookbooks. The cookbook has a section devoted to vegetarian main dishes, but my favorite way to use the cookbook is to vegetarianize the meat dishes. It's incredibly easy and usually just requires that I substitute seitan for chicken. I've had plenty of vegetarian Indian food in restaurants, but have never found a restaurant with vegetarianized versions of Indian meat dishes. Now I don't have to miss out on "chicken" tikka masala.

Seitan Tikka Masala
Makes 4 servings

• 1 tbsp olive oil
• 1 onion, diced
• 1 tbsp minced garlic
• 1 tbsp minced ginger
• 1 green chili, seeded and diced
• 1 tbsp tomato paste
• 6 tbsp tikka paste
• 1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt
• 1 tbsp lemon juice
• Three 8-ounce packages seitan
• fresh cilantro to garnish


1. Cook the onion, garlic, ginger, and chili in the olive oil in a large pan for 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste, tikka paste, and water to the pan and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.

2. Remove from heat and blend the mixture in a blender or food processor until it's smooth. Return the sauce to the pan and mix in the lemon juice, yogurt, and seitan.

3. Let the seitan simmer in the sauce for 10 minutes, then serve over rice or with naan. Add cilantro as garnish.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

1,000 Vegan Recipes: Simple Simmered Seitan

I had some plain yogurt leftover from a couple of weeks ago and wanted to use it up, so I decided to vegetarianize the Chicken Korma recipe from "India's 500 Best Recipes" by Shehzad Husain, Rafi Fernandez, Mridula Baljekar, and Manisha Kanani. Lately I have been baking my seitan, but I decided to try the Simple Simmered Seitan recipe from "1,000 Vegan Recipes" by Robin Roberts. The ingredients might already be in your kitchen- olive oil, soy sauce, garlic, and vital wheat gluten flower. I had everything I needed on hand except onion powder, so I substituted asafoetida. If you've never smelled asafoetida, it's quite an interesting spice. I usually hear that it smells like a stinky foot, but I think it smells like cat urine. Don't worry though, the smell goes away when cooked, and it has an onion-garlic flavor rather than a foot-urine flavor!

Robin Roberts says in the cookbook that she usually makes a double batch and freezes some of it. Sounded like a perfect idea to me, so I did the same. After mixing the dough, I had a little bit too much liquid, so I poured some of it out and added a bit of vital wheat gluten. That solved the problem, and left me with a big hunk of baby seitan.

I cut the dough into eight roughly equal pieces and put them in the simmering liquid in a giant pot. At first the dough sunk to the bottom of the bowl, but after some time it began to rise to the top.

After about 45 minutes of simmering, I realized I should have used two large pots. The seitan had doubled in size and it looked like the pot would overflow with seitan cutlets!

Once an hour of simmering had passed, I turned off the heat and let the seitan cool down a bit while I prepped the ingredients for the Chicken Korma. I also tore off a few pieces of seitan to munch on. The seitan was very lightly spiced and would work well in a variety of recipes. If you made the seitan with a specific recipe in mind, you could easily add spices to the dough with your meal in mind. I think boiled seitan works much better than baked seitan in the stir-frys and Indian meals I make. Baked seitan is much more dense, and it is better to use as sausage, pepperoni, or ground meat.

I have about 3 pounds of seitan left in my fridge, so I shouldn't need more seitan for a while. But when I do run out, I'm looking forward to experimenting with difference spices in this basic seitan recipe.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Walnut Disaster

During my first year of law school, my contracts professor gave us his famous hypothetical. We were to imagine that a man invited a potential client to dinner, and made a luxurious souffle with walnuts and truffles. Unfortunately, the walnuts were rancid. How much could the man recover from the shop that sold him the rancid walnuts that ruined his super expensive souffle and made his business deal go sour?

Well, I still don't know the answer to that, but I was reminded of this hypo after trying out the Eggplant with Pomegranate Walnut Sauce from 1,000 Vegan Recipes tonight. A friend had commented in class that any good cook would have tasted the walnuts while making the souffle. I'm ashamed to admit that I tried the walnuts I was using in this dish- and realized I didn't remember what raw walnuts are supposed to taste like. I can't remember the last time I had a walnut- much less a raw one rather than a toasted one. I also can't remember when I bought the bag of walnuts sitting in my pantry that I decided to open up for this dish. Bad call.

I thought the walnuts had a slightly funny aftertaste, but thought the taste would go away when the walnuts were cooked. It didn't. The result was edible, but well, yeah, it was just edible. So, while I would love to review my first recipe from 1,000 Vegan Recipes, I really can't. Some day I'll try the recipe again, or wait for one of the ladies at "Cooking from 1,000 Vegan Recipes" to do it, but for tomorrow I'll turn these fried eggplant slices into Eggplant Parmesan.

As it turns out, the package of walnuts said "Best by Nov 13 2009", which just so happens to be the very day I made the dish. They probably would have kept better if I had put them in the fridge. Oh well, happy Friday the 13th!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Cookbook Review: How it all Vegan!

I bought "How it all Vegan!" a while ago, but didn't really appreciate it until I decided to go vegan. This is not a coffee table cookbook nor a cookbook you flip through for inspiration, and there's no food porn. But this book is more than your typical cookbook- it's a guide to living a vegan lifestyle. My favorite part of this book is the list of ingredients to watch out for and an explanation of why each one is not vegan friendly. If I had kids, I'm sure I'd make use of the "Vegan Kids Stuff" section, which has recipes targeted at kids and fun things for kids to do in the kitchen, among other things.

The book has vegan versions of a lot of the dairy foods I'll miss: sour cream, grated Parmesan, and cream cheese. So far, I've only tried the garlic dill cream cheese on p. 86- pictured above with the book. I can't really say that it tasted like cream cheese, but it was yummy. And it made a nice addition to a tofu sandwich I made- and devoured!