Thai Peanut Bowl

Easy Thai Peanut Bowl

This is one of those easy throw-together lunches that might not deserve its own “recipe,” but I’m always looking for quick and easy meal ideas, so I thought I’d share!

I’m on a peanut butter kick this week, and had a brick of tofu in the Tofu XPress in the fridge just waiting to be used, so I stirred up this little Thai bowl. It came together quickly, since I used a bag of frozen stir fry veggies, and tasted fantastic! I didn’t have any peanuts on hand, and my scallions had gone bad – but if I had them, they’d be on top!

Thai Peanut Bowl

Thai Peanut Bowl

Thai Peanut Noodle Bowl

by Shelly

Cook Time: 15 mins

Ingredients

  • 4 oz rice noodles
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 block extra firm tofu
  • 1 heaping tbsp peanut butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups (1 bag) frozen stir fry vegetables
  • 1 8-oz can sliced water chestnuts
  • 1 tbsp chopped peanuts
  • 2 scallions, sliced

Instructions

Boil water and cook rice noodles per package instructions.

Drain and press tofu, then slice into cubes.

Saute oil, peanut butter, and garlic over medium-high heat for 1 minute.

Add tofu to saute mixture and stir. Cook for 3-4 minutes.

Add vegetables and water chestnuts. Season with salt/pepper to taste. Stir.

Reduce heat to medium and cook for 12 minutes.

Check for seasoning and adjust to taste.

Serve over rice noodles and top with peanuts and scallions.

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Vegan Caramelized Onion Soup

Vegan French Onion Soup

Have slow cooker, will travel… or at least eat crazy-easy delicious stuff all the time!

Today, I sliced up some onions and let them sit with a little olive oil in the slow cooker on low for 8 hours. About 10 minutes of labor later (i.e., stir in some broth and seasoning, and make homemade croutons), I had the easiest and most awesome caramelized onion soup on the planet! Vegan, even (thanks to no-beef broth and Daiya).

The recipe came from my latest obsession, the cookbook Fresh From the Vegan Slow Cooker. Luckily for you, the recipe can be found online via Google Books here: Caramelized Onion Soup.

Soup simmering in the crockpot

Soup simmering in the crockpot

Homemade Croutons

Homemade Croutons

Vegan Caramelized Onion Soup

Vegan Caramelized Onion Soup

Now, all I have to do is figure out why the cookbook author didn’t call this “French” Onion Soup….

Tofu Dippers with Avocado Ranch Sauce

Happy New Year! Have Some Tofu!

Happy New Year, everybody!

With the new year comes resolutions, and one of mine is definitely to cook more (and blog about it!) I got in some early practice today and made my favorite tofu dish to date: Tofu Dippers.

Tofu Dippers with Avocado Ranch Sauce

Tofu Dippers with Avocado Ranch Sauce

Tofu takes some practice, both in preparation and in appreciation. A bad tofu experience can make it difficult to appreciate this versatile wonder-food. Yes, I just called tofu a wonder-food. It really can be! One thing that has definitely helped me is the Tofu XPress (tofu press). It’s so much easier than the old stack-books-on-a-plate-on-top-of-towels-on-the-tofu method. Properly pressed tofu is the key to it absorbing all of the goodness of marinades, as well as to keeping it firm and not mushy.

In this case, my dear friend tofu appeals to two of my favorite food styles: finger-foods, and dip-able things. Preparation was not nearly as messy as I had anticipated, and the result was so good that… well, I ate the entire block of tofu in one sitting. Whoops. Who needs side dishes, anyway?

I served my tofu dippers with an avocado ranch sauce (from page 38 of Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day) – basically, a dipping sauce of avocado, vegan mayo, parsley, thyme, and dill. But they would be just as awesome with ketchup or regular ranch dressing.

Without further adieu, here is the recipe:

Tofu Dippers

by Shelly

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 25-30 minutes

Keywords: bake appetizer entree vegetarian tofu

Ingredients (2-4 servings)

  • 1 block of extra firm tofu, pressed
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 tablespoon garlic salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 eggs, beaten, or equivalent egg whites/egg beaters

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Mix together bread crumbs, garlic salt, and chili powder.

Prep the dipping station with 3 shallow bowls. First bowl: corn starch. Second bowl: eggs. Third bowl: bread crumb mixture.

Slice tofu into 1/4 inch thick pieces.

Dip each tofu slice into the corn starch, then the eggs, then the bread crumbs. Tip: keep your left hand as a “dry” hand to grab the tofu and dip it in the corn starch. Then use your right hand as a “wet” hand to dip the tofu into the eggs and bread crumbs.

Set each breaded slice onto a baking sheet lined with parchment or lightly oiled/sprayed.

Bake at 400F for 20 minutes, then flip tofu and bake an additional 5-10 minutes. Breading should be lightly browned.

Serve with your favorite dipping sauce.

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Looks Aren’t Everything

We’ve all heard that research shows when food looks and smells good, it is perceived to taste better. If I were trying to sell the idea of juicing on looks alone, this would not be my frontrunner candidate:

Looks aren't everything.

Looks aren't everything.

3 apples, a carrot, a bunch of kale – juiced – and 6 small frozen strawberries, blended in.

It was pretty tasty, though!

What can I say? I’ve reached the bottom of my produce stash. Gotta get to the store!

Yesterday ended up being only a half-juice day. I had forgotten about a celebratory dinner that followed my last meeting with the Arboretum Collaborative fellowship group. It was a fully vegetarian, all-local spread that was just amazing.

Local spread

Local spread

So, for dinner, I had a giant salad made with local arugula and pickled onions with an amazing local apple cider vinaigrette (which I must figure out how to replicate!), an asparagus and smoked gouda quiche made with local Piney River Farm eggs, local potato salad with roasted garlic mayo, and a vanilla bean creme caramel with local peach cider caramel.

I know, right?!

That surely makes up for the ugly (but tasty!) juice I had this morning.

Off to the market to stock up on produce!

Finals Week

Some people think teachers live the easy life – summers off, long holiday breaks, and endless bonbons. I can’t lie – it’s a pretty good gig – but the one aspect of teaching that I have yet to adapt to is the on-again/off-again pace. We go mach-2 with our hair on fire for months on end, then suddenly – nada. Complete inertia. It’s a rather jarring transition – one which I have yet to experience smoothly.

I’m currently in the tail end of a mach-2 phase. We just finished up regular classes. Next week is Finals Week. Besides the glare of the looming freight train of final grading, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Until I reach the end of said tunnel, though, dinners will be quick and easy and likely very repetitive.

Cue: scrambled eggs with Field Roast Apple Sage veggie sausage and feta, with a side of toast and cherry jam.

Dinner, sans glamour.

Dinner, sans glamour.

Here’s to breakfast for dinner!

Not Epic but Pretty Good

Don’t you hate it when a recipe sounds epic and you slave away in the kitchen to prepare it, only to find that it’s just OK?

I suppose OK is better than awful.

I was pretty excited to try out this Pesto Veggie Gratin recipe from “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian,” and was even more excited that it called for goat cheese (which I discovered via an appetizer at Mas Tapas in Charlottesville and recreated at home via this Artichoke and Goat Cheese Dip). I think goat cheese is delicious when I’m on the non-vegan bandwagon… sorry, goats. At least I don’t eat you…

The recipe called for couscous, pesto (another obsession of mine… see The Magic of Pesto for my favorite pesto recipe), asparagus, goat cheese, and another vegetable (I chose a yellow squash). Sounds epic, right?

Pesto Veggie Gratin

Pesto Veggie Gratin

Looks pretty epic, right?

I must admit one instance of user error in preparing this recipe: I mistook scallions for shallots (I always get those two mixed up). I should’ve used shallots, but instead, I used green onions. So maybe there was a flavor depth thing missing.

The dish wasn’t bad. It was just a little bland… until I dolloped on more pesto! Next time, I’ll just add more pesto to the sauce and I think it’ll cross over into greatness, if not epicness.

Pesto Veggie Gratin plate

Pesto Veggie Gratin plate

So, chins up, people! They can’t all be epic meals… but one can dream!

Butternut Squash Mac n Cheeze

Post Punk Kitchen recently posted their top 100 foodie things of 2011. This recipe from Oh She Glows made the list: Butternut Squash Mac n’ Cheeze.

I’m no stranger to vegan cheeze substitutes. Most, well, don’t taste like cheese (except for my beloved Daiya!). I happened to have a butternut squash laying around, though, so I decided to give this one a go.

Butternut Squash Mac n Cheeze

Butternut Squash Mac n Cheeze

This recipe made a nice, creamy sauce, and it was tasty – but it didn’t really taste like cheese. It was more like squash and garlic. Still, it made for a good side dish, and fit the bill for warm, winter-time comfort food. I’d probably like it better if it didn’t claim to resemble cheeze. I understand the need for a more whole-foods version of the ol’ mac and cheese recipe, though, so this works.

Note that the recipe makes a TON of sauce, so you will have extra sauce to put on veggies or other things throughout the week. You could almost fill a swimming pool with it.

Pesto Veggie Lasagna

This might be my favorite lasagna ever – and it’s vegan! I know – I’ve been making a lot of “best ever” claims lately, but I’ve really been on a roll in the kitchen. While this recipe is a little bit labor intensive, it’s easy labor – and the end result is beyond worth it.

I made this dish for my family’s Christmas get together in Chicago last week (though it was just vegetarian for them and not vegan, as I couldn’t find Daiya on short notice Christmas eve). It almost didn’t happen; do you have any idea how hard it is to find lasagna noodles at 4pm on Christmas Eve? We had to go to 2 stores, and I got the very last package on the shelf at store #2 (thank you, Target!) It was well worth the search. This lasagna got thumbs-up reviews from even the meat eaters, and I enjoyed it so much that I made it again at home for New Years.

This recipe makes a 9×13″ dish of lasagna – good for 8 serious servings (which in my case means, a freezer full of lasagna!) For the record, it does freeze and reheat very well. If you plan to go that route, let it cool down a bit then portion it out into freezer-safe containers and freeze. You can also make this a day ahead of time and refrigerate it prior to baking, then toss it in the oven when it’s time to make dinner. Just add 5-10 minutes if you’re starting with cold lasagna.

Without further ado, my favorite lasagna recipe of all times:

Pesto Veggie Lasagna

by Shelly Hokanson

Prep Time: 30

Cook Time: 35

Ingredients (8 servings)

Lasagna

  • 1 pkg lasagna noodles (12+ noodles – no-boil are fine)
  • 1 cup pesto – see recipe below
  • 5 – 6 cloves garlic, peeled & minced
  • 5 cups grilled or sautéed veggies – choose from zucchini, eggplant, red or green bell peppers, portobello mushrooms, broccoli, or your favorites. My favorite mix: 1 red pepper – diced, 1 zucchini – cut into half moons, and 1 head of broccoli florets.
  • 2 cups fresh baby spinach
  • 1 lb or 1 – 14oz package herbed tofu, firm or extra firm (Italian herbed tofu works great here), pressed and crumbled
  • 2-3 medium tomatoes, sliced (8 slices)
  • 1 package (8 oz) Daiya mozzarella or other vegan shredded cheese
  • 1 jar of your favorite marinara

Pesto

  • 1/4 cup walnut halves or pieces
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts (or, replace with additional 1/4 cup walnuts)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 cups fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • pinch of black pepper
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, scant
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Instructions

This first step is optional, but highly recommended. Preheat a large heavy-bottomed skillet (such as a cast iron skillet) over medium-low heat. Add the walnuts to the dry skillet and toast for 5 minutes, tossing often. Then add the pine nuts and toast an additional 5 minutes. (If using all walnuts, add them all at the start and toast for 10 minutes).

Set toasted nuts aside to cool.

Prep the Veggies

Preheat the oven to 350F.

In a large saute pan, heat 2 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and saute for 5 minutes.

As you chop up the rest of your veggies, add them to the pan, stirring often. If the pan dries out, add a tablespoon or two of water to deglaze the pan and keep on saute-ing.

Continue to saute the veggies while preparing the pesto.

Prep the Pesto

Add the toasted nuts to a food processor.

Add the minced garlic, basil, thyme, salt, pepper, and nutritional yeast until the basil leaves are well blended, scraping down the sides of the food processor as necessary.

Slowly stream in the olive oil and process until well combined.

Blend in the lemon juice.

Assemble the Lasagna

In a 13×19″ dish, coat the bottom of the dish with a layer of marinara.

Place one layer of lasagna noodles on the bottom of the dish.

Layer more marinara on top of the noodles.

Then, add the baby spinach over the noodles.

Crumble the tofu on top of the spinach.

Sprinkle a layer of shredded Daiya over the tofu, then add a second layer of noodles.

Coat the noodles with another marinara layer.

Add the veggies to the next layer and top with a generous layer of pesto.

Add the last layer of noodles and coat with remaining marinara.

Add the rest of the shredded cheese. Place 8 dollops of pesto across the top, and add a tomato slice onto each dollop of pesto.

Cover the dish with foil and bake for 35-40 minutes at 350F, until the lasagna is warmed through and the cheese is melted.

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Pizza Burger

Back in the day, when my friends and I would spend inordinate amounts of time hanging out at Olympic Star restaurant discussing life, love, and the pursuit of happiness (or something like that), I ate pizza burgers. Lots of pizza burgers.

Now, at Olympic Star, a pizza burger was nothing more than an overcooked hamburger slathered in their one-size-fits-all marinara (you know, the same meat sauce that went with the spaghetti and the lasagna and anything else that was served with a red meat sauce), with a slice of some sort of white cheese on a cheap burger bun.

I can’t even say it tasted all that good (it really was some un-magnificent meat), but it tasted unique, and it was messy, and it was cheap. To a teenage palate, that works.

I’m a bit more picky these days. I prefer to eat food that tastes good, and I prefer to eat food that didn’t moo before it ended up on my plate. I’m still a big fan of a big, messy burger that tastes kind of like pizza, though.

Enter: another recipe from The Best Veggie Burgers on the Planet. If you like burgers, this really is a fun cookbook. I have now made 5 or 6 burgers out of this book (and one of the bun recipes, too), and they’ve all been stellar. This time, I tried out the Pizza Burger recipe.

The premise here is that the burger is flavored to taste like pepperoni pizza. I did not have any anise seed, which might have been a critical pepperoni-flavor-component; I’m not sure. I don’t know what anise seed tastes like. I also knew from previous experience that the recipes in this book tend to pack a punch on the spicy side, so I decided to dial the spicy components way back.

The result was a veggie burger with a mild kick and enough pizza flavor to warrant the name Pizza Burger (though maybe not specifically Pepperoni Pizza Burger).

Here’s how it went:

So Delicious mint chocolate coconut milk

So Delicious mint chocolate coconut milk

Hello there, tasty holiday beverage! (Hey, we all need inspiration sometimes).

Cooking up some pizza veggie burgers

Cooking up some pizza veggie burgers

Welcome back, Favorite Cow Towel!

Pizza burgers, ready to go into the oven

Pizza burgers, ready to go into the oven

I love my little plastic burger press. These burgers are ready to bake!

Pizza burger on whole wheat kaiser roll

Pizza burger on whole wheat kaiser roll

It’s a burger, baby.

The recipe (as I made it):

Pizza (Veggie) Burger

by Shelly

Prep Time: 15

Cook Time: 30

Keywords: bake sandwich burger vegetarian vegan

Adapted from The Best Veggie Burgers on the Planet

Ingredients (4 large or 6 small burgers)

  • 1 tbsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 cup TVP
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbsp liquid smoke
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus scant 1/4 cup (divided)
  • 7 oz (half can) diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup vital wheat gluten flour
  • 1/3 cup non-dairy sour cream (such as, Tofutti)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the pepper, paprika, salt, red pepper flakes, sugar, basil, garlic powder, TVP, water, liquid smoke, and 2 tbsp olive oil.

Cover and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Then, let cool for a few minutes.

Add the tomatoes, flour, remaining olive oil, and sour cream.

Mix together for several minutes until mixture thickens and is well incorporated.

Form into 4-6 burger patties.

Place patties on a baking sheet (lined with parchment, if desired).

Bake at 350F for 30 minutes, flipping half way through.

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Veggie Burger and Cheezy Bacon Romanesco

Cheezy Bacon Romanesco

Today, I bring to you another example of just how messed up the US processed food industry is:

BacOs are vegan.

Yeah, BacOs, like, bacon bits – there’s no bacon in them.

(Note: vegan does not equal healthy. They’re made with genetically modified soy and a bunch of chemical crap… but they sure do remind me of my youth, and that tends to lead to some good tasting eats).

I picked up another alien (aka romanesco) cauliflower at the farmers market and was trying to figure out what to do with it. The onset of chilly fall weather has me clamoring for comfort food, so I decided to turn my Christmas Tree Veggie into cheezy bacon cauliflower.

I boiled the romanesco cauliflower for 5 minutes or so, then drained it and combined it with some Daiya cheddar, soymilk, and BacOs.

It was a glorious way to eat my veggies!

Veggie Burger and Cheezy Bacon Romanesco

Veggie Burger and Cheezy Bacon Romanesco

Paired with a poor-man’s veggie burger (I was out of buns!)

So good.