Tempeh Helper

NoBurger Helper

If you grew up on Hamburger Helper, this bowl of deliciousness is for you.

Behold: Tempeh Helper!

Tempeh Helper

Tempeh Helper

It’s a variation of Isa’s recipe from Appetite for Reduction. If you don’t have the cookbook (umm, why not??!) she’s got a similar version posted on her web site – just minus out the chili powder: Tempeh Helper. The oven mitt hand man is totally creepy.

I can’t promise that this version is as light on calories as hers, but it’s a bit more satisfying. I say this only because vegan cheeze sauces are notoriously thin and less-than-cheezy, and since the advent of Daiya vegan cheese, there’s just no reason not to indulge.

So my version used Isa’s seasoning mix and recipes for the pasta and tempeh, combined with Mama Pea’s use of silken tofu and Daiya for the cheese sauce.

It’s a perfect throwback to Hamburger Helper, and hit a huge vibe in the Comfort Food category. Definitely a winner. This recipe could easily be bulked up with some broccoli or romanesco cauliflower (my new obsession).

In fact, writing this post might induce me to make this recipe again for dinner tonight!

Vegan Potato Alfredo & Broccoli

A Vegan Alfredo Attempt

What do you think of when you think of alfredo sauce? If I had to come up with 3 descriptors, they’d probably be:

  • Creamy
  • Rich
  • Buttery

Traversing through my collection of vegan cookbooks, I’ve managed to pull together some pretty good creamy vegan sauces. But pulling off rich and buttery in a vegan dish? It’s a bit more difficult – especially if you’re trying to do it without the help of vegan margarine or Daiya miracle-cheese.

So when I came across this recipe for Potato Alfredo Pasta, I knew I had to try it. The secret ingredient: potato flakes. (Not the crap-loaded ones of my youth – I was super-excited to read the ingredient list on the Whole Foods 365 brand of instant potatoes. It reads: dehydrated potatoes. End of story. Yes!) Cannellini beans might also be considered a secret ingredient. (Did you know that they’re really just white kidney beans? I did not).

I stuck to the recipe faithfully, opting to use soy milk for the entire liquid portion (instead of half milk/half creamer). This recipe made a TON of sauce – enough for the 4 servings of pasta I made, plus about 1 cup left over.

I had trouble getting the sauce down to the consistency pictured in the original recipe. I added a good half cup extra of soy milk, but it was still very thick (and I ran out of room in my food processor to add any more).

Vegan Potato Alfredo Pasta

Vegan Potato Alfredo Pasta

The real question: did it fool my taste buds into thinking I was eating a dairy-based alfredo?

Hmm. Well, not really. Maybe I’m too close to the last time I ate alfredo (probably within a year), so I remember the flavor too well.

That’s not to say it was bad. It was tasty – definitely flavorful, approaching “rich.” Definitely creamy. Not my favorite sauce on the planet, but certainly a “keeper” in the recipe box.

As I was eating this dish, I was thinking about food expectations. Does this dish have to taste like the pasta alfredo of my youth to give me the same sense of comfort?

I decided that it does not. The key to my food memories with this dish is the ooey, gooey factor. This Potato Alfredo was ooey gooey, and had the familiar comforting factor of pasta, and tasted “Italian.” It made it to the right ballpark, and as such, hit the spot.

Vegan Potato Alfredo & Broccoli

Vegan Potato Alfredo & Broccoli

Broccoli played the supporting role to this dish, and I went a little nuts with the whole vegan cheese theme. I made up a batch of Isa’s Easy Breezy Cheezy Sauce from Appetite for Reduction. Nooch-based vegan cheeze sauces are kind of like a rite of passage. You’re just not cool until you have a favorite nooch-cheeze. (Nooch = nutritional yeast). I like this one! Again – I think it’s just the comfort of drenching veggies in an ooey, gooey sauce that brings the love.

Broccoli and Easy Breezy Cheeze Sauce

Broccoli and Easy Breezy Cheeze Sauce

Yeah, it looks like Cheez-Whiz – but that’s not entirely a bad thing. I recall many an afternoon chowing down on tortilla chips and Cheez-Whiz as a kid. Gawd, I don’t even want to imagine the ingredient list on that stuff. Still, good memories.

So, I’d give this dinner 3 1/2 out of 5 stars. Maybe a little closer to 4 stars, but not quite there. I’ll eat the leftovers, and I’ll likely make it again someday.

However, I am still in search of the perfect vegan alfredo sauce. I suspect it is just going to have to include Daiya and Earth Balance. We’ll see.

 

Apples and Miso?

Oh, tofu. I have neglected thee. It’s not you, it’s me. You’re flexible and accommodating. You’re always there when I need you – even if you require some thawing first. (Yes, I freeze some of my tofu). Really, it’s not you. You’re everything that is good and true. It’s me. I’ve been too lazy to give you the time and space you need to shine.

I haven’t had tofu in a few months. Why? Who knows. I like tofu. You can turn it into basically any flavor. I’ve just been lazy, I guess – finding it too much of a PITA to bother with the whole tofu pressing process and the marinating. So when I saw this recipe in Isa’s cookbook, I decided to buy some fresh tofu and just go for it.

Appetite for Reduction has a recipe for Apple Miso tofu that sounded like it might go well with some stir fried veggies and basmati rice.

Apples and miso? Really, Isa? Well, OK… if you say so. You’re the chef. I like apples. I like miso. Let’s rock this!

My version turned out more moist than it was supposed to – the tofu never really browned. But that didn’t stop me from loading up my plate.

Apple Miso Tofu Stir Fry

Apple Miso Tofu Stir Fry

The verdict? It was freakin’ delicious – maybe my favorite tofu dish to date.

I sauteed some stir fry veggies in tamari and threw some basmati brown rice in the rice cooker for the occasion.

Apple Miso Close-Up!

Apple Miso Close-Up!

And that’s even with me cheating and not marinating for very long. (Heh – I say “not very long” but that really means, “hardly at all.” I might have marinated the tofu for, oh, 10 minutes? Isa recommended 1-8 hours).

I’m sorry, tofu. I can still be lazy sometimes. Please forgive me!

Maybe “impatient” is a better word.

At any rate, having apples with dinner is pretty darn cool.

The Godmother & My Veggie Drawer

Please excuse me. I’m having a food-gasm over here.

It’s Day 2 with my Griddler grill/panini press, and in another attempt to use up some leftovers, I accidentally recreated my second favorite pizza joint sandwich, vegan style:

The Godmother, from Nancy’s PizzaOven Baked Breaded Chicken Tenders with Red Sauce and Melted Mozzarella Cheese, served on Homemade Garlic Bread

Oh, yes. Yes. YES!

Not coincidentally, my ultimate favorite pizza joint sandwich also comes from Nancy’s. Of course, now that I’m neither eating chicken nor cheese, I will have to find a way to recreate this one as well:

The Chicken Club – Oven Baked Breaded Chicken Tenders, Fresh Bacon, Melted Mozzarella Cheese, Lettuce, Fresh Roma Tomatoes, and Creamy Garlic Sauce served on our Homemade Garlic Bread

I bet I could make a wicked-good vegan garlic sauce! The rest is cake, since I already figured it out.

Behold:

Godmother Panini (vegan)Starring:

– Chickpea Cutlets from Veganomicon

– Mom’s Marinara from Appetite for Reduction

Daiya mozzarella (best vegan cheese evah!)

– A little bit of Earth Balance (vegan butter)

Supporting act:

Salad

Help! I'm running out of vegetables!

Mixed greens, a grated carrot, and a handful of alfalfa sprouts doused with Sanctuary Dressing (also from Appetite for Reduction). The produce drawer in my fridge is looking pretty sad at the moment. Not even a cucumber to be found.

Tangent!

My veggie drawer typically contains:

– 1 bunch of kale (for making kale chips!)
– 1 cucumber
– 1 avocado (OK fine, avo is a fruit, so what)
– 1 red pepper (I know, I know! Red pepper is technically [botanically] a fruit too. But I eat it as a vegetable!)
– 1 bunch of broccoli
– 1 onion (yellow or white)
– 1 bunch asparagus
– Leafy greens (either an organic spring greens mix, or a mixed greens with spinach type thing)
– 1 bag of carrots

Those are my weekly go-to’s, mostly for salad purposes. Other veggies find their way into my fridge, but the list above is pretty much what I buy every week. Since there’s only one of me, I have to go to the grocery store weekly because I can only eat so much before it goes bad! Luckily, being a Perimeter Shopper at the grocery store, it’s easy to get in and out quickly. Sometimes the asparagus turns into green beans. Sometimes the broccoli becomes cauliflower. There’s usually 1 dinner veggie and a ton of salad veggies.

What’s in your veggie drawer?

My Buddy Isa

Isa Chandra Moskowitz is my buddy – at least, in my imagination. I imagine that she’s a pretty cool chick. I know for a fact I can learn tons from her in the kitchen. She could probably school me at being post-punk-rock, too. Isa runs a former cooking show turned web site, The Post Punk Kitchen. She also writes the most awesome cookbooks ever.

Being spring break and all, I’ve been goofing around in the kitchen again. I recently added Isa’s “Appetite for Reduction” cookbook to my arsenal, and have been cooking my way through it this week. (Check it out – if only to see the cover of the book. Total take on the old Guns n’ Roses album of a similar title. How cool is that?!)

Tonight, I made Baked Falafel from Appetite for Reduction. I also made Sanctuary Dressing, a cow-friendly ranch-style affair. The result:

Baked Falafel, from Appetite for Reduction Oh. My. Gawd.

Wonderful! Wonderful! Wonderful!

I’m new to the world of falafel. This past December, I was in Las Vegas for a poker tournament with my poker blogger friends. (Wow – never thought my foodie world and poker world would cross!) We were at the Aria poker room, hours and hours into the tournament. I’m not sure I had really expected to last so long in the game, and I was starving famished. On a break between levels, I ran next door to the little food bar to see what I could grab within 10 minutes (as the clock was counting down). The only vegetarian thing on the menu was falafel.

“WTF is falafel?” I asked.

“It’s good – you’ll like it!” CA April told me.

(For the record – falafel is a fried ball or patty of spiced chickpeas, usually served with a tahini-based sauce, often in a pita).

I tried it (served exactly as described above), and it was ridiculous-good. YUM. Apparently, I like Egyptian food. Who knew?

I’ve been yearning for falafel ever since! I even bought a boxed falafel mix, but when I paid closer attention to the ingredient list… yuck. So I was pretty excited to see a baked falafel recipe in Isa’s new cookbook.

This falafel was awesome – and way healthier than the fried variety. Spicy and substantial and yummy. And super easy to make. The recipe claims to make 12 falafel, but it seems my idea of a golf-ball size must be off, because I only got 9 falafel out of mine (3 servings instead of 4). That’s OK – there’s only one of me, anyway. Here’s the nutrition breakdown (based on 3 servings in the entire recipe):

Falafel NutritionNot bad, eh?

I ate mine over a bed of organic spring greens, about 1/4 of a cucumber, and a handful of sundried tomatoes – smothered in Isa’s Sanctuary ranch-like dressing (which, I am happy to report, is the first homemade dressing I’ve ever made that I actually really liked! And, only 40 calories per 1/4 cup… because really, who uses only 2 tablespoons of dressing?). That’s what I like about Isa. She’s a realist.

While I’m bragging about Isa’s food-smarts, I might as well add that I finally got around to trying her Chickpea Cutlet recipe from Veganomicon. It too was a smashing success, served over some whole wheat penne with her Mom’s Marinara recipe from Appetite for Reduction. The marinara was so simple and so delicious that I can’t figure out why anybody eats the junk from the jars! OK, jarred sauces are convenient – but it took practically no time at all to make this marinara, and it was infinitely more delicious. Real food ftw, again.

My tummy is happy this week!