Monday, November 30, 2009

Mashed Potatoes and Parsnips

If you eat seasonally, then you know potatoes can get a little boring as the fall and winter stretch on. Mashing parsnips in with the potatoes is a refreshing alternative!

Chop 2 cups of peeled parsnip and cube 2 cups of peeled baking potato; place the vegetables in a saucepan. Cover with water and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. You want the vegetables to be very tender. Counter-intuitively, it's the parsnip that's the tougher of these two veggies, so cut the parsnip pieces smaller than the potato pieces so that they cook evenly.

Drain, then return the vegetables to the pan. Add 1/2 cup vegan cream (either Silk or Wildwood plain soy creamer), 2 teaspoons vegan butter (such as Earth Balance), 1/4 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. black pepper; mash with a potato masher to the consistency you like - I like mashed potatoes really creamy, just like my dad used to make them!

1 and 1/4 cups is a side serving of 170 calories.

parsnip $0.85
baking potato $1.10
plain soy creamer $1.99

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Spices

These Brussels sprouts are prepared Indian-style, with lots of spices. They're a welcome change from more traditional Brussels sprout dishes which tend to proliferate on holiday tables this time of year. If you don't like Brussels sprouts, try making the dish with carrots, green beans or cauliflower.

If you do use Brussels sprouts (which I love and recommend!) you'll need 1 and 1/2 pounds - I recommend smaller-sized ones so they cook quickly and evenly. Trim them first by cutting off a small portion of the stem and pulling off the tougher, outer leaves. Then score a small X in the bottom of each Brussels sprout. This video shows it far better than I can explain it with words:

Cook the Brussels sprouts in boiling water for 7 minutes, then drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add 2 small dried hot red chiles and cook for 1 minute, shaking the pan frequently.

Add 1/2 tsp. mustard seeds, 1/2 tsp. cumin seeds, 1/2 tsp. fennel seeds and 1/4 tsp. nigella seeds - cook for 1 minute, partially covered, shaking the pan frequently.

Most of these whole spices should be available at regular grocery stores, but check Indian grocers too, especially for the nigella seeds. Also called black onion seeds or black caraway seeds, they add a wonderfully peppery taste. I recommend measuring them all out ahead of time so you can add them to the skillet in one go.

Next add 1 and 1/2 cups vertically sliced red onion and 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric; saute for 5 minutes.

Stir in the Brussels sprouts, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. raw sugar; cook for 3 minutes. Finally, stir in 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, 1 tablespoon grated coconut, and 2 teaspoons lemon juice.

1/2 a cup is 70 calories, and this makes enough for about 8 side servings.

Brussels sprouts $8.44
dried hot red chiles $0.10
nigella seeds $2.75
red onion $1.13

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Caramelized Cayenne Almonds

Make a batch of these almonds - or several batches! - and keep on hand for family and friends to nibble over the holidays. They're the perfect nosh with an aperatif before dinner.

In a saucepan, combine 1/2 cup raw sugar, 3 tablespoons water, 1/2 tsp. to 3/4 tsp. ground red pepper (depending how spicy you like things!), 1 teaspoon lemon juice, 1/4 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. ground cumin. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, then stir in 1 cup blanched almonds.

Continue to cook until the sugar mixture thickens and the nuts are coated, stirring occasionally. The original recipe said this would take 22 minutes, and I was perplexed as to why mine took exactly half. It may be because I halved the original recipe, but it maybe I was supposed to turn the heat down a notch; I can't be sure. So watch your pot carefully to see when things seem done.

Immediately transfer the nut mixture to a baking sheet coated with cooking spray, arranging in a single layer. Bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes.

Once out of the oven, separate the nuts using two forks - they will definitely stick together, and I chipped the nuts a bit during this process, as you can see in the photo. Let cool completely before storing in an airtight container. 2 tablespoons is 160 calories.

blanched almonds $5.99

Friday, November 27, 2009

Warm Pumpkin 'Cheese' Dip

Thanksgiving may be over, but don't stop eating pumpkin for the season! This delicious dip will work well at any holiday party.

The original recipe called for 1/3 cup evaporated milk, which of course is easily bought at the store for lacto-ovo vegetarians. As a vegan, you'll need to make your own evaporated soy milk at home. The process takes some time, but as always, I find it quite therapeutic: cook 3 cups of soy milk over medium-low heat until reduced to 1 and 1/2 cups, stirring constantly - it should take just over an hour. Grab a good paperback book that you can hold with one hand, stir with the other, and have fun with it! I recommend making the evaporated soy milk ahead of time, and then letting it cool before using in the recipe. Save the extra as creamer for your coffee! It will keep in the fridge for up to a week.

For the dip, I wasn't sure if the first step of the original recipe was strictly necessary. That was to spread 1 and 1/4 cups plain yogurt to 1/2-inch thickness on several layers of paper towels, cover with additional paper towels, and let stand for 5 minutes. The purpose of this step is to drain the yogurt, and as I said, I'm not sure if it's necessary to do so with soy yogurt. Just in case, I did do the above with 1 and 1/4 cups plain soy yogurt. When you're done, scrape the soy yogurt into a bowl with a spatula and set aside.

For brands of soy yogurt, try Wildwood or Whole Soy.

Meanwhile, melt 1/2 tsp. vegan butter (such as Earth Balance) in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 cup thinly sliced leek and saute for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme (use 1/2 tsp. dried thyme if you prefer) and 1/2 tsp. salt. Set aside.

To the bowl with the soy yogurt, add 3/4 cup crumbled vegan feta (in place of goat cheese), 1/3 cup evaporated soy milk, and 1 (15-ounce) can of pumpkin. The original recipe also called for 3 egg whites here, for which I used 2 tablespoons Ener-G egg replacer powder whisked into 4 tablespoons warm water.

The original recipe said to beat all that with a mixer until smooth, but mine was so smooth just from stirring that I left the mixer out of it!

Stir in the leek mixture, then spoon the entire mixture into a 1-quart (8x8-inch) baking dish. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes.

As the name of the recipe implies, this dip is best served warm. It goes great with breadsticks or bagel chips. For the former, try the rosemary-flavored breadsticks from Alessi - they're the long thin ones like you find in Italian restaurants - yum! Stacy's Bagel Chips make the list on PETA's "I can't believe it's vegan" website, and if something's good enough for PETA, it's good enough for me.

1/4 cup of dip is 60 calories.

plain soy yogurt $2.78
leek $1.15
vegan feta $3.69
canned pumpkin $0.99
egg replacer $5.69

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Braised Peas with Green Onions

Happy un-Turkey day to all you vegans! Here's yet another classic side dish, made vegan with just one switch or two. If you don't feel like cooking for the main event, try one of the many vegan entree options out there - from Field Roast, Tufurkey, or the latest arrival on market shelves, Gardein....

For this side dish, cut the green stems off 8 green onions; discard, or save for another use. Cut the white portion of the onions into 1/2-inch pieces. Set aside.

Melt 1 tablespoon vegan butter (such as Earth Balance) in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onion pieces and 1/4 tsp. black pepper, then cover and cook for 3 minutes.

Add 2 cups peas and 1/4 cup water; cover and cook an additional 5 minutes - you can use either fresh or frozen peas, but if you use frozen, make sure to thaw them in advance.

Uncover and cook until all the liquid is absorbed - somewhere between 2 and 5 minutes; mine took closer to 5. Remove from heat, and stir in 1 teaspoon chopped marjoram (use 1/4 tsp. dried marjoram if you prefer), and 1/8 tsp. salt. 1/2 cup is 100 calories.

Have a great cruelty-free Thanksgiving!

green onions $1.98
frozen green peas $1.29
marjoram $2.49

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Creamy Two-'Cheese' Polenta

This polenta is super comfort-food, and is super-quick to make.

Combine 2 cups plain soy milk (such as Silk), 1/2 cup water, 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/8 tsp. black pepper in a saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, gradually stir in 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons dry polenta, stirring constantly with a whisk. Cook for 2 minutes, still stirring constantly.

Remove from heat and stir in the two 'cheeses'. In place of mascarpone, I used 3 tablespoons vegan cream cheese (try Tofutti's Better Than Cream Cheese), and for the grated Parmesan, I used 3 tablespoons of the vegan Parmesan sprinkles from Galaxy Foods. Like all polenta, this is best served immediately, although if you want to make it in advance, you can keep it warm and covered over very low heat.

2/3 a cup is 210 calories. Double the recipe easily to feed a larger crowd!

plain soy milk $2.49
vegan Parmesan sprinkles $2.99

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Broccoli Rabe, Butternut Squash, and White Bean Soup

Last week I cooked with broccolini and cautioned against buying broccoli rabe by accident - here's your chance to cook with broccoli rabe! Interestingly, it is actually from the same subspecies as the turnip, rather than broccoli.

To make this soup, start by cutting 2 cups butternut squash into 3/4-inch cubes; arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Drizzle the squash with 1 and 1/2 teaspoons olive oil, and toss to coat. Bake at 450 degrees until tender - about 25 minutes (I took mine out a minute or two early); set aside.

Meanwhile, cut an 8-ounce bunch of broccoli rabe into thirds crosswise. Place the broccoli rabe in boiling water for 5 minutes, then drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat 1 and 1/2 teaspoons olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add 1/2 cup finely chopped onion and 1 minced garlic clove; cook for 5 minutes.

Add the butternut squash, 4 and 1/2 cups vegetable broth (this was leftover holiday turkey stock in the original recipe), and 1 (15-ounce) drained and rinsed can of cannellini beans; cook for 10 minutes.

Place 1 and 1/2 cups of the soup in a blender and process until smooth. Return the pureed mixture to the rest of the soup still in the pan. Stir in the broccoli rabe and 1/4 tsp. salt, and cook for 5 minutes.

You'll have 4 hearty servings of 1 and 3/4 cups and 200 calories each.

butternut squash $3.53
broccoli rabe $2.99
onion $0.88
vegetable broth $6.48
cannellini beans $0.89

Monday, November 23, 2009

Green Beans with Caramelized-Shallot 'Butter'

Here's a classic Thanksgiving side dish with a vegan tweak or two.

Melt 1 tablespoon plus 3/4 tsp. vegan butter (such as Earth Balance) in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 cup sliced shallots and saute for 4 minutes. Stir in 2 and 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar and cook for a final 1 and 1/2 minutes - I nearly forgot this step, but remembered at the last second!

Remove from heat and stir in 1 teaspoon chopped thyme, 1/2 tsp. grated lemon rind, 1/4 tsp. salt, and 1/8 tsp. black pepper. Set aside.

Meanwhile, cook 1 pound of trimmed green beans (about 5 cups) in boiling water for 3 minutes. Drain, then transfer to a large bowl. Add the shallot mixture and toss well to coat. The quantities here make enough for 5, 1 cup servings, but the recipe doubles easily for a holiday crowd. Each serving is 90 calories.

shallots $0.96
thyme $2.49
lemon $0.79
green beans $7.98

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Pumpkin-Sage Polenta

This is up there as one of the best polenta dishes I've ever had.

Bring 2 and 1/2 cups plain soy milk (such as Silk) and 2 cups water to a boil over medium heat - I confess to turning mine up a notch to medium-high towards the end because I got impatient, but do be careful you don't go any hotter than that, or the soy milk may burn to the bottom of the pan.

Once boiling, stir in 3/4 cup canned pumpkin and 1/2 tsp. salt, stirring with a whisk. Reduce the heat to low and gradually whisk in 1 and 1/4 cups dry polenta; cook for 1 minute until thick (and don't forget that polenta continues to thicken as it cools!).

Remove from heat and stir in 3/4 cup shredded vegan cheese in place of Parmesan, 2 tablespoons vegan cream cheese (such as Tofutti's Better Than Cream Cheese), and 1 tablespoon chopped sage. I confess my first choice for the 'Parmesan' would have been the vegan mozzarella from Galaxy Foods, as it is most similar in texture to a block of fresh Parmesan, but the grocery store was sold out; instead I used the vegan mozzarella from Follow Your Heart.

Stir until the 'cheeses' melt, then sprinkle the top with an additional 1/4 cup shredded vegan cheese of your choice in place of Parmesan.

This recipe makes enough for 8 servings of 3/4 cup and 200 calories each - you can easily double portions to move the polenta from the side dish to the main course. Polenta is, of course, best served immediately, but if you want to make this ahead (say, for the holidays), you can reheat it over medium-low and thin it with a little bit of water.

plain soy milk $2.49
canned pumpkin $0.99
dry polenta $5.69
vegan cheese $4.39
sage $2.49

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Parsnip Slaw with Grapes

I always want to like coleslaw, but a lot of times the dish leaves me flat, I think because cabbage is the one vegetable that I can't really get excited about. So when I saw this slaw made with parsnip instead, I was eager to try it - and not disappointed!

Peel and shred 3 and 1/2 cups of parsnip, using the large holes of a box grater as I did or -if you're lucky enough to have one! - the shredder attachment on a food processor. Choosing fat parsnips will make your life much easier.

Combine the parsnip in a large bowl with 1 cup seeded red grapes (cut in half), 1/4 cup light vegan mayonnaise (I like the light canola mayo from Spectrum foods), 1/4 cup plain soy yogurt (such as Whole Soy), 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 teaspoons raw sugar, 1/4 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. black pepper. Toss everything to combine, and serve!

2/3 a cup is 120 calories - this makes the perfect accompaniment to a sandwich for lunch, to round out the meal.

parsnip $4.16
seedless red grapes $5.55
vegan mayonnaise $3.99
plain soy yogurt $1.59
flat-leaf parsley $1.69

Friday, November 20, 2009

Sauteed Leeks and Broccolini with Balsamic Vinegar

This is the first time I've ever cooked with broccolini - a hybrid of broccoli and Chinese broccoli (kai-lan); you can identify it by its long slender stalks. Make sure you don't buy broccoli rabe, which is something else altogether! (See below for a photo of the broccolini before cooking).

Trim the ends off of one pound of broccolini, then cut the pieces in half again crosswise (I actually didn't do the latter, so if my broccolini pieces look especially long in the final dish, that's why). Cut 2 leeks in half lengthwise, and then cut diagonally into 2-inch pieces. Set aside.

Cook 4 pieces of vegan bacon (such as Lightlife) in a large skillet over medium-high heat until crisp - about 5 minutes, which is a little longer than package directions specify. Make sure to coat the skillet with cooking spray since, unlike real bacon, the vegan version won't yield its own cooking fat. Remove from the skillet, crumble, and set aside.

Add the broccolini and the leeks to the skillet; saute 4 minutes.

Add 1/4 tsp. dried oregano, 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper, and 4 thinly-sliced garlic cloves; continue to saute for 3 minutes.

Stir in 1/4 cup vegetable broth, 1 and 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar and 1/4 tsp. salt; cook just until the liquid evaporates, about 30 seconds. I was sure I had leftover broth in the house, but did not, so I used 1/4 cup water instead.

Sprinkle the mixture with the crumbled 'bacon', then divide into 8 side servings of 3/4 cup and 90 calories each. This is at its best if served immediately.

vegan bacon $3.39
broccolini $5.98
leek $1.43

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Sauteed Spinach with Chopped 'Egg'

In place of the chopped, hard-boiled egg white that is normally sprinkled on top of this traditional New Mexican dish, I chopped up about half of a lite firm tofu package - it packs a protein punch and pairs nicely with the spinach.

The original version of this recipe actually would have been made with quelites - a tiny-leafed, wild green native to Mexico - but packaged spinach makes a fine substitute! Don't be alarmed by the fact that you'll need 5 (6-ounce) packages of fresh spinach; it sounds like a lot now, but it's going to wilt way down during cooking.

To prepare the recipe, heat 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat (I used olive oil instead, which worked just fine); add 1/2 cup chopped onion and saute 5 minutes. Add 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper and saute for 30 seconds. Add half the spinach; saute until the spianch wilts (about 3 minutes). Remove the spinach mixture from the pan, then repeat the procedure: an additioanl 1/2 tsp. vegetable oil (or olive oil), an additional 1/2 cup chopped onion, an additional 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper, and the rest of the spinach.

Transfer the wilted spinach mixture to a colander and drain well. Return the pan, and stir in 1/4 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. black pepper; return the pan to a burner over medium-high heat and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Sprinkle the spinach with the chopped tofu.

1/3 a cup is 60 calories - you'll have about 8 to 10 side servings, depending how far down your spinach has wilted.

lite firm tofu $2.00
fresh spinach $12.50

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Lentil and Spinach Puffs with Plum-Date Dip

Try this yummy appetizer for a taste of India in your kitchen.

Ahead of time, place 3/4 cup dried red lentils in a bowl, and cover with water up to 2 inches above the lentils; cover, refrigerate, and let stand at least 8 hours and up to overnight. Drain, then combine with 3 tablespoons water in a food processor and process until smooth.

Combine the pureed lentils with 3 and 1/2 cups chopped spinach, 2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions, 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro, 1 tablespoon finely chopped and seeded serrano chile, 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/8 tsp. baking soda, and 1 minced garlic clove; stir well to combine.

(Note: the original recipe said to coarsely chop the spinach, which I interpreted as larger pieces; I wish in retrospect that I'd chopped it quite finely, so that is what I recommend).

Heat 1 tablespoon of peanut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1/3 of the lentil batter in ten, tablespoon-ful size portions - I definitely made my first batch too large, which meant my final batch were awfully small, so try and keep them fairly small from the get-go to avoid this problem! Cook for 2 minutes on each side.

Repeat the procedure twice - each time with 1 tablespoon peanut oil, and 10 more tablespoon-ful size lentil patties, so at the end you have 30 puffs.

Meanwhile, combine 1/2 cup water, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons raw sugar, 1/2 tsp. ground cumin, 1/2 tsp. ground ginger, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/8 tsp. ground red pepper, 4 pitted prunes and 4 pitted dates in a blender; process until smooth. Do use a blender here - I tried my food processor, but it didn't quite make the sauce smooth enough.

Serve 3 puffs with about 1 tablespoon of dip for 10 appeatizer portions of 140 calories each.

red lentils $2.99
spinach $2.50
green onions $0.99
cilantro $1.69
serrano chile $0.12
prunes $2.99
dates $4.49

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cream of Parsnip Soup

It's velvety parsnips and potatoes that make this soup 'creamy', not anything dairy-based.

Melt a teaspoon and a half of vegan butter (such as Earth Balance) in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 cup chopped onion, 1/4 cup chopped celery, and 1/2 pound peeled and sliced parsnip; saute for 10 minutes.

Stir in 2 tablespoons dry white wine (I chose an organic Sancerre), and scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen any brown bits from cooking.

Add 1 cup water, 1/4 tsp. salt, just a dash of black pepper, 14-ounces vegetable broth, 1/2 pound peeled and cubed baking potato, and 1 bay leaf; bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and cook for 20 minutes.

Discard the bay leaf, then process the rest of the mixture in a blender until smooth (work in two batches if you need to). Stir in 1 teaspoon lemon juice to the pureed soup.

Ladle 1 cup soup into each of 3 bowls. Top each serving with 1 tablespoon vegan sour cream (such as Tofutti's Better than Sour Cream), and 1/2 tsp. finely chopped fresh parsley. Each serving is 170 calories.

dry white wine $23.99
vegetable broth $2.39
baking potato $0.62

Monday, November 16, 2009

Brown Rice Pilaf with Parsnips and Celery

Using instant rice makes this pilaf a snap for a weeknight meal - or to prepare quickly among other recipes in a busy holiday kitchen!

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 and 1/2 cups chopped parsnip and 1/2 cup (1/4-inch thick) slices of celery; cook for 4 minutes.

Stir in 1 and 1/2 cups uncooked instant brown rice (such as Minute brand), 1/3 cup water, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. dried thyme, 1/8 tsp. black pepper, and 14 ounces of vegetable broth; bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes (the liquid should be absorbed).

Stir in 3 tablespoons sliced almonds and serve - 2/3 cup makes a side dish of 190 calories, but double up the portions if you want to make this the centerpiece of a meal.

instant brown rice $2.59

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Glazed Parsnips

Here's a yummy way to prepare these ubiquitous winter vegetables.

Cut 3 cups of peeled parsnip into julienne-cut strips - aim for about 2 inches long, although I confess most of mine were probably closer to 1 inch. Set aside.

Melt a tablespoon of vegan butter (such as Earth Balance) in large skillet over medium heat. Add the parsnips, along with 1/4 cup organic brown sugar, 2 tablespoons tomato juice, 1/4 tsp. salt, and 1/8 tsp. black pepper; stir well to blend.

Cover and cook for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. 1/2 a cup is a yummy side serving of 160 calories. For the tomato juice, I like the organic tomato from R.W. Knudsen:

parsnip $3.26
tomato juice $2.50

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Indian Summer

I'm always on the lookout for new cocktail recipes, the more inventive the better. (I recently read an article which said agave nectar is the point of overlap in the venn diagrams of bartenders and vegans).

This recipe originated in the New Delhi-area of India. The specialty ingredient you'll want to track down is tamarind concentrate, available in Indian grocers or the ethnic aisle of large supermarkets (Whole Foods had it). Tamarind are trees which grow in tropical climates (the root of the word is actually Arabic for "Indian date" (tamar hindi)!), and yield a fruit which is widely used in Indian cuisine, as well as traditional medicine. The concentrate is, well, very concentrated, so a little goes a long way. Try stirring leftovers into home-made vegetable curries, rice dishes, chutneys, or soups and stews.

To make the drink, combine 1/4 cup vodka (I always prefer Absolut), 1 tablespoon raw sugar, 3 tablespoons water, 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lime juice and 1 teaspoon tamarind concentrate; whisk until the sugar dissolves.

Cut 2 orange slices and 2 pineapple slices each into quarters (by slices I assumed the original recipe meant round rings). Set aside.

Place 1/3 cup crushed ice in each of two glasses. Add half of the vodka mixture to each glass, half of the orange quarters and half of the pineapple quarters - this is yummiest served immediately before the ice waters it down. Each drink is 210 calories.

vodka $38.10 (a lot more than needed for this recipe, of course...)
lime $1.00
tamarind concentrate $3.39
orange $1.11
pineapple $3.99

Friday, November 13, 2009

Barley-Mushroom Soup

The earthy smell of this soup is incredibly welcome on a drizzly cold night!

Heat a teaspoon and a half of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 1 and 1/2 cups chopped onion, 1 cup thinly sliced carrot and 1 (8-ounce) package or pre-sliced mushrooms; saute 7 minutes.

Stir in 1/2 cup uncooked pearl barley, and saute for 2 minutes - toasting the barley like this before adding any liquid results in a wonderfully nutty flavor.

Stir in 4 and 3/4 cups vegetable broth, 1/3 cup finely chopped celery, and 1/4 tsp. salt. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes.

Stir in 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme and cook an additional 5 minutes (use 1/4 tsp. dried thyme if you prefer). Ladle 1 and 1/2 cups of soup into each of 4 bowls for a filling, entree-sized portion - delicious with some crusty bread to round out the meal! Each bowl of soup is 220 calories.

onion $0.73
presliced mushrooms $2.49
vegetable broth $6.38
celery $2.50

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Caramelized Pearl Onions

Yummy little pearl onions make a good side dish to any number of vegan entrees.

My only difficulty with this recipe was the "easy" method suggested for peeling the little onions. Supposedly, I should have been able to drop them in a pot of boiling water for just under a minute, drained and rinsed with cold water, then just squeezed on the stem end and watched a pearl onion pop out of its peel. Alas, this did not work, so I peeled them individaully. Try it though! Let me know if it works for you.

However you do it, peel a 10-ounce package of pearl onions, and set them aside.

Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add 1 teaspoon of vegan butter (such as Earth Balance), and let the 'butter' melt. Add the onions and cook for 5 minutes, shaking the pan or stirring frequently.

Add 1/3 cup water and 1 teaspoon sugar; bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 8 minutes. Uncover the cook until the liquid evaporates - the original recipe said this should only take an extra 2 minutes, but mine took 8! Maybe my burner was on too low.

Add 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, 2 tablespoons dry white wine (I chose an organic petit chablis), 1/4 tsp. salt, and 1/8 tsp. black pepper. Cook for 1 additional minute.

1/4 cup of onions is 60 calories - this makes enough for 4 side servings.

pearl onions $2.99
fresh thyme $2.49
dry white wine $18.99

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Porcini Mushroom Sauce

This original recipe suggested trying this gravy-like sauce over steak, but there are numerous vegan ways to enjoy it, too! Try it drizzled over mashed potatoes, or to liven up veggies like roasted cauliflower. It's also really yummy over vegan meat slices (I like the slices from Field Roast) or even over grilled portobello mushrooms in place of steak!

Start by pouring 1/3 cup boiling water over 2 tablespoons of dried porcini mushrooms; let stand 15 minutes. I couldn't find dried porcinis in a pack by themselves at the grocery store, so bought a dried mushroom blend and simply picked out the porcinis, setting aside the other mushroom varieties for another use.

Drain the mushrooms over a bowl, reserving 1/4 cup liquid; finely chop the mushrooms and set aside.

Melt 2 teaspoons vegan butter (such as Earth Balance) in a saucepan over medium heat. Add 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots and cook for 3 minutes. Add 1/4 cup dry sherry and cook an additional minute. My favorite is the (unfiltered!) Fino en Rama from Alvear.

Add the chopped porcinis, the reserved mushroom liquid, 1 and 1/4 cups vegetable broth, 1/2 tsp. minced fresh thyme (use 1/4 tsp. dried thyme if you prefer), and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Stir in 1 tablespoon flour, stirring with a whisk; return to a boil, then cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. The original recipe actually recommended quick-mixing flour, but I decided to stick with my organic all-purpose flour instead. If you do buy quick-mixing, Wondra is the brand you'll probably find. It is fortified with vitamins, but it's probably a safe bet that the sources of those vitamins are non-animal-based.

Stir in 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/8 tsp. black pepper. Drizzle over any of the suggestions at the top of this post, or make up your own ideas! 1/4 cup of sauce is 50 calories.

dried porcini mushrooms $4.99
shallots $0.68

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cauliflower-Leek Potage

You can make this soup up to a day before serving, and simply reheat over medium-low heat. Double the recipe below if you want to feed a larger crowd!

Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil in a large saucepan, and add 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Add 3 and 1/2 cups cauliflower florets, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes, then drain. (I accidentally only used 1 quart water (4 cups), but since it just gets drained off, it seemed not to be a problem!).

Meanwhile, melt 3/4 tsp. vegan butter (such as Earth Balance) in a medium skillet over medium heat, and coat the skillet with cooking spray. Add 1 and 1/2 cups thinly sliced leek and 1/8 tsp. salt; cover and cook for 5 minutes, then uncover, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook an additional 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. I forgot the salt but added it at the end of cooking! (Can you tell I was distracted while cooking this?)

Combine the leek and the cauliflower in a blender with 1 cup vegetable broth; puree until smooth.

Melt 1 and 1/2 teaspoons vegan butter in a saucepan and let cook for 3 minutes, then add the cauliflower puree and 3/4 cup additional vegetable broth. Simmer for 5 minutes.

Stir in just a dash of white pepper and a pinch of nutmeg.

Ladle 3/4 cup of soup into each of 4 bowls; sprinkle each serving with 1/2 tsp. minced fresh chives. Each bowl of soup is 90 calories.

cauliflower florets $5.11
leek $1.10
vegetable broth $2.69
chives $2.49

Monday, November 9, 2009

Creamy Salsa Dip

This might be one of the yummiest dips I've ever had!

Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat (mine was maybe a notch closer to medium-high). Add 1/2 cup finely chopped onion, 2 minced garlic cloves, and 1 seeded and finely chopped jalapeno pepper; cover and cook for 3 minutes. Add 1 (14-ounce) can of diced tomatoes; bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Let cool completely before stirring in 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (I like the certified vegan Hot Stuff from the Wizard company), and 1 (16-ounce) carton of vegan sour cream - my new favorite is from Follow Your Heat, and is certified vegan.

Cover and chill until serving - you can actually make this dip up to 2 days ahead if you're planning it for a busy party or the holidays. Just before serving, sprinkle with an additional tablespoon of chopped cilantro.

1/4 cup is 50 calories. It's delicious with baked tortilla chips!

canned diced tomatoes $2.19
cilantro $1.69
vegan sour cream $4.19

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Falafel-Stuffed Pitas

I was so proud of the way my little falafel patties came out!

To make them, combine 1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons cumin, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. ground red pepper, 2 minced garlic cloves, the equivalent of 1 egg using egg replacer (such as Ener-G) and one drained (15-ounce) can of chickpeas, all in a food processor. Process until smooth. Divide the mixture into 16 small balls, and then shape the balls into 1/4-inch thick patties - the patties will be quite small, but this ensures that they fit into the pita!

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the patties and cook for 5 minutes on each side. Set aside.

Meanwhile, prepare the sauce: whisk together 1/2 cup plain soy yogurt (such as Whole Soy), 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons tahini, and 1 minced garlic clove.

Cut 4 (6-inch) whole wheat pitas in half and spread 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of sauce in each half. Fill each pita half with 1 leaf of curly leaf lettuce, 2 (1/4-inch thick) tomato slices, and 2 falafel patties. Two stuffed pita halves make a filling entree of 410 calories.

dry breadcrumbs $2.99
cilantro $1.69
canned chickpeas $1.79
plain soy yogurt $1.39
lemon juice $2.99
tahini $6.49
whole wheat pitas $1.99
curly leaf lettuce $2.49
tomatoes $4.78

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Cranberry-Orange Compote with Port

Although this dish works as a side anywhere you'd have cranberry sauce, small portions in pretty glass dishes or martini glasses also make for a great dessert! See my 'Melon Balls with Port' post for organic/vegan ruby port recommendations.

Combine 1 cup port and 1/2 cup agave nectar (in place of honey) in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, then add 6 cups fresh cranberries. Cook for 6 minutes until the cranberries pop, stirring occasionally; I turned the heat down to about medium-high for this step although the original recipe didn't specify to do so.

Add 1 cup raw sugar, 1 tablespoon grated orange rind, 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, 1/8 tsp. ground cloves, and 1/8 tsp. black pepper. Cook for 5 minutes; again, I took executive license to turn the heat a notch, this time to medium.

Cover and chill until serving time - 1/2 a cup of the compote is 220 calories, and you'll have about 8 servings. You can make this up to 5 days ahead and refrigerate until ready to serve.

cranberries $4.98
orange $1.07

Friday, November 6, 2009

Savory Pumpkin-Chestnut Stuffing

Who needs to eat the turkey when you can still have the stuffing? I need to come up with a new name for dishes like this, though, since obviously I never intend to stuff them into anything that was once alive. Suggestions?

Cut 4 ounces of white bread into 1 inch pieces and arrange on a baking sheet. Bake at 250 degrees for about an hour or until dry (I gave mine closer to 50 minutes), stirring occasionally. Drying the bread first means it won't fall apart once combined with the other ingredients! I used regular sliced white bread from Matthew's All Natural bread, but you could also use a heartier fresh loaf such as French bread or country white.

Meanwhile, melt 1 and 1/2 teaspoons vegan butter (such as Earth Balance) in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 cup chopped onion, 1 cup sliced cremini mushrooms and 1/2 cup chopped celery; saute for 5 minutes. Stir in 3/4 cup chopped Granny Smith apple and 1/4 cup dried cranberries; saute for 5 minutes. Add 1/2 cup chopped bottled chestnuts and cook for 1 additional minute. Remove from heat and stir in 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage, and 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons canned pumpkin, 1/4 cup vegetable broth, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. black pepper, and the equivalent of one egg using egg replacer (such as Ener-G). Canned pumpkin should be easy to spot on the grocery store shelves this time of year - just make sure to buy one that's 100% pumpkin puree, and not mixed with other ingredients for pumpkin pie filling.

Stir the mushroom mixture and the bread pieces into the pumpkin mixture, stirring gently to combine. Spoon into an 8-inch square baking dish coated with cooking spray and cover with aluminum foil. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, then uncover and bake a final 15 minutes.

You'll have 4, one-cup servings of 230 calories each.

onion $0.72
cremini mushrooms $1.05
celery $2.50
Granny Smith apple $1.30
dried cranberries $5.49
bottled chestnuts $9.99
flat-leaf parley $1.69
canned pumpkin $2.33

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Creamy Winter Squash Gratin

Have a double portion of this yummy gratin to transform it from a side dish to the main event.

The winter squash in question tonight is kabocha squash - that's the dark green one with the very hard rind. For that reason, I strongly recommend your sharpest knife. The last time I worked with kabocha (prior to this blog) was about exactly 2 years ago, and I seem to recall crying a time or two as I did my best with a dull knife. That was then; this is now, and luckily I am equipped with better knives!

Anyway, you'll need 4 cups of cubed and peeled kabocha. (If you can't find kabocha, try pumpkin or butternut squash). Arrange the squash in a single layer on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray, and bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt 1 teaspoon vegan butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1 cup thinly sliced leek and 1/4 tsp. salt; cook for 4 minutes. As always with leek, I recommend slicing first, then washing the layers in a sieve so all the dirt gets rinsed out.

Mix 1 and 3/4 cups plain soy milk (such as Silk) with 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, stirring well with a whisk. Add to the saucepan and bring to a boil (I turned the heat up just a notch to medium-high). Once boiling, stir for 1 minute, stirring constantly; the mixture should be thick.

Remove from heat and add 1/2 cup shredded vegan cheese in place of Gruyere (I used the vegan mozzarella from Galaxy Foods), 1/8 tsp. black pepper and 1/8 tsp. nutmeg. Stir until the 'cheese' melts, then gently stir in the squash.

Spoon the mixture into an 8-inch square baking dish coated with cooking spray. Set aside.

Place 1 (1-ounce) slice of white bread in a food processor and pulse ten times until you have coarse crumbs. Add 1 teaspoon chopped parsley and 1 small minced garlic clove; pulse to combine.

Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture evenly over the gratin, and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. You'll have 4, 1-cup servings of 230 calories - but this doubles easily for a large crowd!

Conveniently, this is also a snap to make in advance. Prepare the gratin up to a day ahead, and refrigerate (refrigerate the breadcrumb mixture separately, and sprinkle on the gratin just before baking). The only difference is that you'll increase the baking time to 30 minutes, still at 400 degrees, to make sure that it is heated all the way through.

kabocha squash $7.88
leek $1.47
plain soy milk $2.49
vegan cheese $3.39
parsley $1.69

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Gingered Cranberry Sauce

The health benefits of cranberries are numerous and quite well-proven in studies - so don't just eat these tart little berries one day of the year! Try this cranberry sauce any night as a side dish, or with vegan turkey slices (such as LightLife) on a sandwich.

In a saucepan, combine 1 and 1/2 cups raw sugar with 1/2 cup water, 1/3 cup chopped crystallized ginger and 1 (12-ounce) package of fresh cranberries. For the ginger, I like Whole Foods' organic brand, because the cane sugar is organic/unfined.

Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 9 minutes or until the cranberries 'pop'. I cooked mine an extra 5 minutes or so, realizing I initially turned the heat too far down.

Cool completely, and serve at room temperature. This makes enough for 12, 1/4 cup servings of 120 calories each. If you do want to prepare it for un-Turkey Day, you can make it up to a week in advance and store, covered, in the fridge.

raw sugar $3.39
crystallized ginger $4.99
cranberries $2.49

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Broccoli and Carrots with Toasted Almonds

Here's a colorful and simple side dish that feeds a crowd.

Arrange 1/3 cup sliced almonds in a shallow baking pan, and bake at 350 degrees for 7 minutes. Set aside and let cool completely. I realize I forgot the advice to 'stir occasionally', but this doesn't seem to have had any adverse effect. The mistake I did make was to use my 1/4 cup measuring cup instead of the 1/3 cup, without realizing it until after the fact. Thus when I added the slightly extra bit of almonds just before serving, I didn't bother toasting them.

Okay, meanwhile, cut 1 pound of carrots into 1-inch thick slices (about 3 cups). Place in boiling water for 3 minutes. Remove the carrots from the pot with a slotted spoon, leaving the boiling water behind, and plunge in ice water, then drain. Set aside.

Add 12 ounces of broccoli florets to the boiling water (about 6 cups). Cook for 2 minutes, then drain, plunge in ice water, and drain again.

Melt 1 tablespoon of vegan butter (such as Earth Balance), in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1/4 cup chopped shallots and saute 2 minutes. Add the carrots, the broccoli, 1/2 cup vegetable broth, 1/4 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. black pepper. Reduce the heat to medium, cover, and cook for 6 minutes.

Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with the almonds. This dish is yummiest served immediately. You'll have 12, 1/2 cup servings of 60 calories each.

sliced almonds $4.99
carrots $2.39
broccoli florets $5.38
shallot $0.60
vegetable broth $2.69

Monday, November 2, 2009

Mashed 'Honey'-Roasted Sweet Potatoes

What's November without a sweet potato recipe or two? This dish is a snap to prepare, and can be made a day ahead of time, then reheated in the oven, covered, at 350 degrees before serving.

Peel and cube 3 pounds of sweet potato into 1-inch cubes. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray, then lightly coat the tops of the sweet potatoes with cooking spray as well.

Bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Combine the sweet potatoes in a large bowl with 2 tablespoons agave nectar (in place of honey), 2 tablespoons vegan butter (such as Earth Balance), and 1/4 tsp. salt. Beat with a mixer until smooth - this was always one of my dad's tricks to his 'world famous mashed potatoes' - an electric mixer instead of a potato masher. It makes them sublimely smooth and creamy.

Transfer to a serving dish, and drizzle with 1 and 1/2 teaspoons extra agave nectar just before serving. This makes enough for 6 side servings of 1/2 a cup and 140 calories each. If you want to prepare it for a crowd for the holidays, it doubles easily.

A note on the amount of sweet potatoes: I had a hunch that 3 pounds would yield significantly more than the servings size stated, so I only bought 2 pounds-worth, and indeed I was right: 2 pounds yielded exactly 6 servings of 1/2 a cup. So if you use the original recipe's suggested 3 pounds, be prepared to have extra servings.

sweet potato $6.97
cooking spray $6.99

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Parsnip Gratin

It's November! Which means you can probably bet that any dish I give you over the course of the next month will work in one way or another for Thanksgiving - as a side dish, main dish, dessert, or any combination thereof. I firmly believe that vegans and vegetarians need to reclaim this celebration, turning it into a cruelty-free day of thanks where we don't come to the table with nothing to eat.

On that note, I also want to highlight Farm Sanctuary's adopt a turkey program - sending a donation saves a turkey, so it doesn't wind up on somebody's dinner table. Check it out at:

Now on to some November cookin'...

Peel 2 pounds of parsnips and cut into 1-inch thick slices. Place the parsnips in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer until tender. The original recipe said 20 minutes, but I gave my 25 and actually wished they were a little softer. Drain, then transfer to a large bowl and mash with a potato masher. Set aside.

Meanwhile, coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 cup chopped onion and 2 minced garlic cloves; saute 3 minutes. Add 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, stirring to coat the onions. Gradually pour in 1/2 cup plain soy milk (such as Silk), stirring constantly with a whisk until blended. Pour in an additional 1 and 1/2 cups plain soy milk, then reduce heat to medium and cook for 8 minutes, stirring constantly - the mixture should be slightly thick by the end. Remove from heat and stir in 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/8 tsp. black pepper and a dash of nutmeg.

Add the soy milk mixture to the mashed parsnips, along with 1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage. Transfer to an 8-inch square baking dish coated with cooking spray.

Place 1 (1-ounce) slice of white bread in a food processor and pulse until you have coarse crumbs (about 10 pulses). Good vegan white bread choices include the Vermont Bread Company and Matthew's All Natural bread. Whatever brand you choose, check the ingredient label for sneaky things like milk and honey. Combine the breadcrumbs with 1 tablespoon melted vegan butter (such as Earth Balance), then sprinkle the mixture evenly over the top of the parsnips.

Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes. This makes 4 side servings of about 3/4 cup and 250 calories each. Alternatively, make it the centerpiece of a vegan meal with a big salad and some crusty bread on the side.

parsnip $3.06
sage $2.49

The Vegan Pantry

  • Vegan yogurt - Whole Soy
  • Vegan milk - Silk
  • Vegan Feta - Sunergia
  • Vegan Cheese - Galaxy Foods
  • Vegan Eggs - Ener-G
  • Vegan Butter - Earth Balance