Vegan, Jane Austen student, Minimalist, Reader, Librarian

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Vegan Sampler Part II

For our favorite, a homemade weekend breakfast, Jim found this oh-my-god! recipe for something called Staffordshire Oatcakes (those British have some interesting breads!). It saves time the next morning to prepare the batter the night before, then take it out first thing when you wake up so that the cold edge is taken off and they're ready to make. From The River Cottage Bread Handbook.

Makes 10-12 (so Jim halves this recipe for us)
1 3/4 C plus 2tbsp whole wheat white flour
1 3/4 C plus 2 tbsp finely ground rolled oats (use a coffee grinder or food processor)
2 C plus 2 tbsp warm water
2 C plus 2 tbsp warm soymilk (you could also use rice, hazelnut, or any other non-dairy milk)
1 1/2 tsp yeast
2 tsp sea salt

Whisk all ingredients together until smooth (it will thicken). Let sit for at least until an hour until small bubbles form on the surface. We put it in a plastic storage container with a lid and refrigerate it for the next morning. When we wake up, we remove it from the refrigerator and let it get to room temperature (about 15-30 minutes).

Lightly grease a large heavy bottom frying pan and heat on medium-high heat. Using a ladle, pour batter into the pan until it almost coats the bottom of the pan. Cook for a few minutes until top is pocked with small holes. Flip and cook for another minute or so. While preparing, wrap in a tea towel to keep warm and moist.

Serve with fresh fruit, soy buttery spread, fruit preserves, powdered sugar, maple syrup, whatever you want. These are wonderful leftover at room temperature with a little soy buttery spread or fruit preserves!

Jim's plate is usually the fancy one, whereas I'm usually too eager and just want to dive in and eat! He made a sort of vegan creme fraiche but as usual, he improvises things so I'll have to get back to you with that recipe. I know he used cashews...

Beets are yet another one of those vegetables that I hated growing up but now love. I've had them baked, shredded raw, and boiled. This recipe calls for them pickled from a jar--delicious. Who knew? From Vegan Express. Super easy, as usual!

Dilled Red Beans with Pickled Beets

1 1/2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 medium red onion, quartered then thinly sliced

1 C thinly sliced green cabbage (I used 2 small bok choy)

1 28-oz can red beans (I used 2 15-oz cans)

1 12-oz jar pickled beets, drained (if you they're whole, slice them in half or quarters)

1 tbsp agave nectar OR pure maple syrup

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

1/4 C minced fresh dill (I used 1 tsp dried dill weed)*

Sea salt & pepper to taste

Heat oil in medium skillet and saute onions until limp. Add cabbage and cook until golden. Stir in the remaining ingredients and heat about 4 minutes more. This is also excellent leftover at room temperature. You could also toss in some leftover grains (rice, quinoa, couscous, etc.).

*This is my pet peeve about buying fresh herbs from a store. You always have to get way too much than your recipe calls for. I suppose you could chop up the rest in a salad but they can sometimes be overpowering depending on the herb. Good excuse for growing your own I suppose.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Homemade Tortillas

Well, Jim did it again. In our ongoing attempt to reduce packaging in the products that we buy, Jim made us homemade tortillas!

Being Mexican, I grew up with homemade tortillas when my maternal grandparents, Natalia and Lazaro Ortiz, made them daily. My brother and I would sit at the kitchen table as they were preparing them, quickly buttering them and rolling them up as fast as they could make them. They would wrap leftovers, stacked several inches high in aluminum foil, for us to take home.

Needless to say, these are easy to make and the only time-consuming chore is the rolling of them but, with two people, it goes quickly. We plan to make these once per week to enjoy with our morning breakfast wraps.

Because they are homemade, they don't have that strong aftertaste I find in store-bought tortillas, which have to have something to preserve them. Also, store-bought white tortillas give Jim constipation (must be that white flour made with hydrogenated oils). By making these, we don't have to buy plastic-wrapped tortillas. Best of all, they also freeze very well.

This recipe is from The River Cottage Bread Handbook but there are tons of recipes on the Internet as well. Jim usually doubles this recipe.

2 C white whole wheat flour OR organic white flour (or half and half)
1 tsp sea salt
2/3 C water

Mix in a bowl until dough is formed. Knead until smooth and no longer sticky. Cover & let rest 30 minutes.

Divide into 8 pieces & shape each into a round. Lightly flour a work surface & roll out each round into a circle, about 1/16- 1/8-inch thickness. Place a large fry pan or skillet over medium heat and have ready a clean cotton tea towel to wrap them in.

When pan is hot, lay a tortilla on it & cook about 30 seconds then flip. Both sides should be flecked with dark brown spots. Wrap in tea towel to keep them soft until you're finished.

Wrap in aluminum foil for later use or double wrap and freeze.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

English Muffins

I love bread (who doesn't, right?). But, growing up, I did not like English Muffins. My mom bought them because she enjoyed them. She bought Thomas' brand and I thought that was the only kind. They tasted like cardboard to me. Then I found Bay's and, while better, they still didn't taste that great, unless they were really, really toasted & smothered with butter.

After going vegan, I discovered that Food for Life made English Muffins from sprouted grains and I was hooked! These were hearty, tasty & moist. They tasted good both toasted & buttered as well as a sandwich bread substitute.

I told you before that Jim likes to try new things in the kitchen. Well, while browsing new books at the Mount Lebanon Public Library a few weeks ago, he came across a new bread book: The River Cottage Bread Handbook by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. In a very British witty style, the author describes techniques and recipes for popular breads all over the world: tortillas, roti, crumpets, and English Muffins.

We discovered that English Muffins are made on a skillet, thus the nice brown bottoms you see on these breads in the market.

So Jim made them. And we ate them. They take a little time to make but making our own bread is one of our ways of reducing packaging, mostly the plastic bags that breads always come in.

And they are delicious!

4 C white bread flour (Jim uses 2 C white bread flour & 2 C whole wheat white flour)
1 1/2 tsp instant yeast
2 tsp sea salt
1 1/3 C warm water
Drizzle of sunflower oil
Semolina flour for coating before cooking

Mix flour, yeast, salt, & water in a large bowl to form sticky dough. Add oil, mix it in, then turn onto a work surface & knead until smooth.

Shape into a round, coat with a little extra oil, then place in a clean bowl. Cover and let rise until doubled.

Turn dough onto work surface and knead lightly. Divide into 9 pieces, shape each into a round, and flatten to 3/4 inches. Dust with semolina flour. Cover and let rise on work surface until doubled.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Lay muffins in the pan and cook for a minute or two, then turn and continue to cook for a further 10 minutes, turning occasionally. Make sure the heat isn't too high to brown them too fast; lower if it is. Cool on a wire rack.

These muffins can be frozen for later use, just make sure to double bag them.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Vegan Sampler

Today's smoothie (yes, they're back!): baby spinach, fresh pineapple, 1 black plum, 1 banana.

We've been eating some outstanding meals here, lately. If these dishes that we've been enjoying don't inspire you to go vegan, I don't know what will! I love good food! Here's a little sampler:

Scone-like pancakes with organic strawberries, Earth Balance Buttery Spread, & pure maple syrup with a side of Smoky Tempeh Patties.

Smoky Tempeh Patties (from Short-Cut Vegan by Lorna Sass)

8 oz package of tempeh, cut into 4-5 pieces (soy or 3 grain variety; Trader Joe's sells this)
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp sage
1 tsp Italian Herb Blend*
3/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp Liquid Smoke
1 large garlic clove
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil cooking spray

Pour 2 cups of water into a large saucepan with a sieve/strainer on top (or a steaming basket if you've got one). Add the tempeh, cover with a lid, and steam over medium heat for 15 minutes. Transfer tempeh to a food processor and add the rest of the ingredients. Process until well blended and the mixture begins to hold together. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary a few times.
For each "sausage," shape about 2 tbsp of the mixture into a patty about 2 inches in diameter & 1/2" thick. Set aside on a plate.
Lightly spray a nonstick skillet with oil and heat until hot. Lay the patties in one layer on the skillet & lightly spray the tops (this is so that both sides will be oiled). Cook over medium heat, covered, until brown on both sides, flipping after 3-5 minutes. Serve hot.

Simple stir-fry with celery, carrots, onion, baby spinach smothering some brown basmati rice.

Sauteed Delicata squash & wilted baby spinach with a black bean couscous salad over a bed of raw baby spinach.

Leftover stir-fry over jasmine rice, leftover lentil dish (from a local restaurant called Ali Baba in Oakland) with leftover brown rice, chopped raw onion, on a bed of chopped greens with lemon juice, sea salt & pepper, and a slice of Jim's homemade seed bread, toasted.

Leftover black bean couscous salad over a bed of raw mustard greens with local heirloom tomatoes & an ear of corn on the cob (from a local CSA called Isidore Foods).

More sampler dishes to follow! Stay tuned to this blog!

*Italian Herb Blend (from Short-Cut Vegan by Lorna Sass)

In a spice jar (or wide mouth jelly jar) combine the following herbs:
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp dried basil
2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp dried rosemary
1 1/2 tsp fennel seeds (I didn't have so I used 3/4 tsp ground fennel instead)
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Music: Sixties playlist on my iPod

Since moving to our new tiny place, we're rethinking everything, from the number of our possessions, to how we use those possessions (& if we use them at all), and even the size of them. We have a very small kitchen that was really poorly planned when it was renovated by the last owner, a single man. For one thing, all of the appliances (refrigerator, range, and dishwasher) are full-sized. In all of my previous kitchens, no matter the size, I had full-sized appliances like these. However, I now see the advantage of so-called apartment-sized (i.e. smaller or kind of miniature-looking) appliances and this kitchen definitely calls for that.

The refrigerator we inherited was huge (over 34 inches deep & 68 inches tall) with a bottom freezer and ice maker. I don't like ice makers because they always make too much ice and they always eventually break. Also, the refrigerator was actually taking up a lot of floor space in the kitchen. At first, I was skeptical that we could get by with a smaller fridge, especially when I saw it on the sales floor. It's only 9 cubic feet, but it is very sleek and contoured with built-in handles to give even more space.

I tried to sell the behemoth fridge on Craig's List; I got lots of phone calls but no one wanted to make the commitment to actually come and see it. So we let Sears take it when they delivered the new one. When the delivery guys saw it, one said to me, "you DO know that your new fridge is A LOT smaller, right?" The other guy said it would make a great basement fridge. I thought, "basement fridge? How much food do you need to store? Geez!"

But now that we've had this new tiny fridge for over a month, I love it and wonder why in the world we had a full-sized fridge all those years. For just two people, this is perfect. All the food fits closely together so it will use less energy and run more efficiently than any large fridge. Plus I get added space in the kitchen.

When we eventually reconfigure the entire kitchen, I hope to also get a tinier electric smooth top range and (maybe) a tiny dishwasher. I may not get a dishwasher at all since I don't use it but it would be good for resale I suppose. Right now, my dishwasher is where I store all my pots and pans and I need to reduce those, too.

Think about the things you own; do they really need to be that big or, more importantly, do you really need them at all?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Stewed Lentils with Soy Sausage

Music: The Weepies: Be My Thrill

I know that it's kind of hot to make a stew but I was just craving me some lentils. And this recipe is so fast, it doesn't even heat up the kitchen. This is from Nava Atlas' brilliant cookbook, Vegan Express. I LOVE this book. I have never made anything from it that I didn't love. If you are even contemplating going vegan, you must get this book.

Stewed Lentils with Soy Sausage

2 tbsp olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

2 celery stalks, diced

One 14-oz package either Tofurky sausage or Field Roast grain sausage, sliced 1/4” thick

Two 15-oz cans lentils, drained lightly but not rinsed (I cooked 1 cup dried lentils in 6 cups water for 20-30 minutes until tender)

1 C diced tomatoes

1/2 tsp dried thyme

1/4 C minced fresh parsley

Sea salt & pepper to taste

Heat oil in large skillet. Add onion and saute until translucent. Add garlic, celery, & sausage & saute until golden brown. Add lentils, tomatoes, & thyme. Bring to a simmer then cook on low heat for 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat & stir in parsley, salt & pepper. Serve with grain of your choice. I used whole wheat couscous because it's super fast.

The best thing about this dish? It makes lots so you can eat it for a few days!