Thursday, January 27, 2011

Breakfast for Dinner

Growing up we had breakfast for dinner alot. In fact breakfast is
my favorite meal. I like it even more than dessert, believe it or not!

As a kid it was eggs, potatoes, and toast or pancakes.
Later it became tofu, potatoes and a green veg or fruit.
But sometimes toast with marmite! Hee hee As long as it is not heavy in
faux meat or sugary pankcakes, I am a firm believer in breakfast at any hour.

As much as Monkey-man loves his sweets, he goes ape-shit for
anything salty and savory. I think it is a male thing to be honest.
I know I've read something about women being more biologically wired
to like sweet stuff like chocolate. Now this isn't a 100% of the
population or anything, just tendencies. I believe it was a podcast from
Stuff You Should Know or Stuff Mom Never Told You.

Anyway, I was thinking a quick fix of french toast for dinner,
but there was no way I was gonna get Monkey-man happy with that.
And it dawned on me-- savory french toast. Who says this stuff
has to be sweet.

It worried me a little though because I once tried to make savory
waffles and it is one of the most embarrassing foods I have ever made
to date. So disgusting. Remembering that I tread carefully.

Now you don't need eggs to make french toast, just your favorite
unsweetened or original flavored non-dairy milk.

I pair this up with some roasted potatoes and a tofu scramble with
peppers and tomatoes.

Breakfast for Dinner Savory French Toast


4 slices of day old or stale-ish bread
(I prefer a whole wheat because of the density)
1 1/4 cups unsweetened or original flavoured non-dairy milk
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp soysauce (opt)
1/2 tsp white pepper
1-2 tsp black pepper
2 tablespoons of flour or 1 tablespoon starch
1 tsp italian seasoning
2 tsp very very finely diced green onions (opt)
Salt to taste

Mix all the ingredients except the bread in a wide bowl.
Heat your frying pan and a little bit of olive oil over
medium-high heat.

Dip the bread, coating each side and lay it down on the frying pan.
Cook on each side until a dark golden-brown.

While the toast is grilling mix up a sauce of:

3 parts ketchup
1 part mustard
1 part chili sauce
1 part apple cider

Top with sauce and sauteed veggies if you like!
Serve while still piping hot and make sure your coffee is decaf
at this hour!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Beet Bejeweled Risotto

Since we had recently gone a little over the top with bread, we hit up
some standard burritos and tacos, and then I had to move on
to a different starch for my meals.

I’ve recently developed a love affair with risotto. There are so many
myths surrounding risotto, telling people it is too hard to make
unless you’ve got Gordon Ramsey screaming over your shoulder,
telling you what to do. I’m here to tell you that risotto is super easy.
If you can pour broth into a pan and stir rice around for a half
hour, you can make risotto.

Of course I like twisting the flavours around. You’ll usually see
some tomato and basil risottos-- anything you might find replicated
from a pasta recipe. Most of all I wanted to change the colour of
the actual dish, so what better than beets? The beets are steamed,
peeled, and chopped before hand so that they are ready to go when
you’re making the risotto.

Its perfect because I wanted to start up some themed dishes to get
you all ready and in the mood for St. Valentine’s Day.

Yes, I know a lot of people really hate St. Valentine’s Day.
Especially, if you’re single or sometimes with a really annoying person.
Well if St.Valentine’s Day is about love, what about loving yourself
a little? Love yourself with a special meal, some dark chocolate,
a glass of wine, and your favorite movie.

Or throw a little dinner party and then you won’t be alone. Maybe
invite all your single friends so no one feels alone out there in
the world of candle light couple events... I honest have never seen
St. Valentine’s as something corporate or designed to make you feel
bad for not having a significant other. I always used it as a day to
remember all the people I love. I’d make cards, cookies, or candy for
all my friends and family. Later on in life, I got little things here
and there from boys and that was nice too. But I wasn’t expecting it,
so it was even better.

Getting back to cooking.... If you are trying to multi-task while
making risotto, good luck. I mean forget it. You’ll probably end up
with some hard, sticky rice. You can hardy leave the pan alone for a
minute without it drying out.

So make sure everything else is set and ready to go. Feed the cats,
take out the dog, avoid interruptions. And enjoy~

Bejeweled Risotto

3 medium beets, cooked, peeled and chopped
1/2 large onion, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp earth balance or olive oil
1 cup vodka
6-8 cups of vegetable broth
or water with a few bouillon cubes dissolved
2 cups arborio rice
1/4 cup daiya moz cheese
black and white pepper
sea salt
sage, thyme, lemon zest

First heat the oil in a large frying pan or saute pan.
Add the onions and garlic and cooking in the oil for a few minutes
at a medium to low high heat.

Add the rice, coating well with oil. Cook for about two minutes,
stirring. Add the vodka, making sure that it is warm or room temp
to not shock the rice leaving it unable to cook properly.

Once the vodka is almost absorbed and the liquid looks sparse,
add a 1/2 cup of warm or room temp broth. You will continue to do
this. Add broth, stir, cooking it just at a light simmer until the
liquid is not quite gone, add more broth. Don’t let it get too dry.

Once it starts to look puffy and sticky, start testing it to see if
the center is cooked. Once it is near al dente, add the seasonings
and chopped beets. Continue to cook until the beets are hot and the
colour has distributed nicely. Add more broth still as needed.
Finally, add the daiya and stir until completely melted. Serves 4-6

I had mine with some garlic-chili grilled tofu! Yum!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

International Vegan Pizza Day

I new celebration on the rise is coming up the 29th of this month:
International Vegan Pizza Day, which sounds like a blast.
Or at least a perfect excuse to throw a party.

So for all you vegan pizza lovers out there, get busy and
make your plans. Check out what places around you serve
the best vegan pizza and help spread the word.

Or if you're like me and would rather stay in and do it all
yourself... Check out some of my awesome pizza recipes...

The TMNT Cowabunga Pizza
The BBQ Pizza
The Double-Decker Pizza
The Nutty Chipmunk Pizza
The Rastafarian Pizza
Strawberry Fields Pizza
Tostada Pizza (vegan CPK copycat)
El Diablo Pizza
And an apricot pizza

A great way to throw a pizza party is to have all the attendees
all bring a few of their favorite toppings, not a lot though.
Then everyone can help and design their own pizza or slices.

An easy basic crust goes like this...

1 1/2 tsp yeast
1 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp sweetener
2 tbsp oil
1 cup warm water
2 1/2-3 cups flour

Mix all but flour together and let it set for about five minutes.
Slowly add the flour, a half cup at a time. Once it begins to pull
away from the sides, tip onto a floured counter top and knead.
Add more flour as you knead-- if you NEED! ha ha

Once the dough is elastic and appears smooth, place into a bowl
with a tablespoon of oil and flip dough over, so it is greased.
Cover with a towel and let rise until doubled.

At this time you can store it away in the fridge or freezer until
you want to use it later or you can roll it out and use right away!

Other tips for your own vegan pizza party:

* Make sure to have enough and a variety of sauces.
red sauce is great, but what about a white sauce or a pesto?
* Add extra flavors to your dough(s)
what about sun dried tomatoes, black olives, a variety of herbs!
* What are you cooking your pizzas on?
A stone is ideal, but cookie sheets work well. If using a stone
remember to preheat it beforehand for 500 degrees then turn down
to 450 when you put the pizza in.
* Whats for dessert?
A sweet pizza is always fun with jam for sauce, topped with sliced
fruits, chocolate shavings or even drizzled with frosting.
* Have a few pizzas ready to go and planned in case you don't end up
with enough toppings or not enough variety. I usually have two
pizzas ready to go on stand-by just in case!
* Take lots of pictures and have fun!

Let me know what you're doing to spread the word or celebrate for
International Vegan Pizza Day!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Plethora of Panini: Polish Panini

The original idea that we started out with was to do a 'meat'ball
sub. I wanted to make some seitan balls and it sounded good, but
then I realized we had nothing to make a red sauce.

I still made some seitan, but more in the shape of large patties.
I wanted to see if by adding beets you could get a different color
than the usual broth color of seitan.

I blended about a 1/2 cup of cooked beets, a can of soybeans, some
polish herbs/seasonings (or even just some sausag'y seasonings like
sage or rosemary), some vegetable bouillon, a few tablespoons of oil,
diced raw carrots, a few cloves of garlic (minced), sea salt and
lots of black pepper.

Then I added the wheat gluten, just enough to form a firm ball,
which I split up and steamed for over an hour. We sliced the patties
in to thirds and grilled to finish the cooking process. No, the color
didn't hold. It still ended up the usual light brown color.

To round out the paninis we added some dill pickles and sauteed
shredded cabbage and onion cooked with cumin seeds. But you can use
sauerkraut. I had to add veganaise for good measure and we were
happy campers.

Paninis are pretty easy goes or anything goes, really. It mainly
just knowing what theme you want to go with, pair spices and herbs,
having a good sauce/dressing, cooking the wetter vegetables before-
hand, and getting the hang of your own grilling technique.

I'm done with paninis for now, hankering for a burrito or some tacos.
I always said I could live on bread, but now I'm second guessing that.
Hope you enjoyed the ride!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Plethora of Panini: pairing and pearing

I know when I've hit the tail end of a series. It is usually when I
really can't imagine eating that dish once more in a very long time.
I still have the last few paninis on the docket, but I am growing
very near to not being able to eat another for a while.

In fact I'm starting to crave chimichanga... If I can't grill
sandwiches, I'm gonna find something else to grill.

Since this Panini was so extraordinarily simple and not very
high in vegetable content, I had to pair it with another more
nutritious dish. Monkey-man has been complaining about wanting
soup because he doesn't want to get sick. So instead of arguing
that it isn't soup that will keep him from getting sick it is
a good load of vitamin heavy veggies, sleep and exercise--
I quietly made him some sweet potato stew and he was content.

The stew had sweet potatoes, russet potato, bell pepper, turnips,
onions, garlic, cabbage, and carrots. It was a simple base of broth,
soy milk, whole wheat flour, sage, paprika, bay, oregano, sea salt,
black and white peppers, and peanut butter. I don't usually pair stews
and sandwiches, I usually go with a bisque or blended soup.
But as long as you are sure to moderate with a smaller sandwich,
it is perfect.

The panini was stuffed with vegan rice pepper jack cheese, sliced
apples and pears, a sprinkling of garlic powder, and if you're
adventurous, some jalapenos! The sweetness of the fruit is perfectly
balanced with the spiciness of the 'cheese' and peppers.
I've also heard of pair peaches or apricots with brie, but
I'm not sure what vegan cheese I'd use for that. The vegan brie
we did make from The Uncheese Cookbook had much too much onion
powder in it and I cannot imagine that going with peaches...
I'll keep experimenting and get back to you on that one.

Get your fix with sweet, spicy, and savory all at once.
That's an order!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Plethora of Panini: Delhi or Deli?

Although I find middle eastern and Indian food pretty delicious, I
do have to admit one qualm I have with it. Most of what I have tried
is-- overcooked-- for lack of a better word. I'm sure this is because I
haven't gotten to experience traveling in that region and haven't had
the advantage of befriending an outstanding traditional Indian chef.
Even with books, recipes, and restaurants most of what I've tried/seen
has been really heavily cooked dishes of (mainly) grains and legumes.
Not bad, but I always like to have something very raw and fresh with
my meals.

I know there are a lot of salads or cucumber dishes, but too often they
are submerged in dairy.

Another thing that I've found when using Indian recipes is needing to
really know the spices. That is usually the main draw of this region's
dishes-- the spices! So exotic and exciting, but if over done it gets
a heavy dusty taste. That is really the only way I can describe it.

If you don't agree with any of this, please feel free to call me on it.
I'm just describing my own experiences. When making an Indian
spiced Panini, I wanted the flavors you know and love with an added
freshness. This is into way traditional, just a delicious experiment.

When making Paninis I always try to consider what the sauce is going
to be. Sometimes it is a spread, a cheese (vegan please), or dressing.
It should be something that is still tasty when hot or melted, as you
will be grilling it. All that the sauce does is keeps the entire
sandwich from being super dry and crunchy. You want a hot, flavorful,
moist interior, with a crisp, crunchy crust.

You can do more than one. I used veganaise and mustard with the
balsamic vinegar panini for example. Sometimes the vegetables add
enough moisture on their own, but not always.

For this panini I did two. I had a hummus spread on one side and
vegan yogurt on the other. I added a little salt to the yogurt as
the Whole Soy brand, my brand of choice, is a little sweet sometimes.

For the vegetables I separated them and seasoned them differently, to
add variation and to avoid the over spiced taste that I spoke of earlier.

To the onions, garlic, peppers, and chilis I added some red chili
powder, cayenne, and black and white pepper. I sauteed them until the
onion was soft and tender. I just used water instead of oil whenever
they started to look dry. I added no more than 1/4-1 tsp of each spice.

It depends on how much you are making and how strong you want it.
I made enough for two sandwiches: 1/2 onion, 1/2 pepper, 3 cloves
garlic, 1 hot pepper with 1 tsp chili powder, 1/4 tsp cayenne, and
1/2 tsp of everything else.

Remove your veggies from the pan and get ready to cook the eggplant.
In a tablespoon of oil, quickly roast a tsp or so of cumin seeds. Add 1
tsp turmeric, 1/2 tsp coriander, and 1/4 tsp ginger (opt). Cook briefly
and add about half an eggplant cut into 1/4 inch slices. These were
salted and rinsed beforehand to extract the bitterness. Cook each side
in the spices until the edges of the eggplant appear dark and soft.

Assemble the bread with all the ingredients so far... add some fresh
sliced tomatoes and some cilantro and grill! It may seem spicey, but
the coolness of the soygurt and fresh tomatoes balance it all out for
a perfect panini!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Plethora of Panini: Vinegar on the High Street

Last night the paninis took an Italian twist. Usually adding
balsamic vinegar as the main flavor punch has me a bit worried
because it tends to make paninis very soggy. But I found a way to
keep the splashing to a minimum.

First saute the your desired veggies-- I did some peppers, onions,
garlic cloves in some Italian seasonings and light olive oil.
Then separately grilled slices of eggplant that I had salted and
rinsed to remove the bitterness. This is where you add the vinegar.
Dry grilling the eggplant burns up the moisture. Eaten straight
after would be dry and probably a little flavorless.

I put them in the pan with the other veggies and added some salt
and a few tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, which was quickly
absorbed by the thirsty eggplant.

On the bread I spread some veganaise, spicy mustard, a dash of
garlic salt and fresh shredded basil. I would have loved some pesto
though... Then I added some sliced field roast, fresh tomatoes, and
fresh spinach.

I layered it all together and added another little spoonful of
vinegar on to the field roast, which is absorbent as well.
Then we grilled it with a little bit of olive oil and opened
a bottle of Bordeaux. I know it's french, but who is telling?

Writing this I just realized I forgot to add the black olives...
Oh well, don't tell Monkey-man!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Plethora of Panini: Fajita Panini

I'd like to say that the majority of our meals are planned, but that
would simply not be true. It is part of what I want to focus more of
my energy on this year-- planning ahead. But then life happens.

I was planning on doing a Middle Eastern Panini last night, but
Monkey-man ended up doing a quick fix of a Mexican seasoned panini
instead. Our plans were changed because on the way to the grocer,
we passed a small dog that had been hit and left.

At first I though he was dead because his legs were in the air as
if he was going through rigor mortis, but when we swung around I saw
him shaking. By the time I had him in the car and we had decided to
take him to our vet to see how bad it was he had relaxed and was much
more awake. Not sure if they clipped him or actually ran him over
because there were tire marks across his abdomen.

But now he's upstairs in our bathroom, healing his broken pelvis.
Pretty sweet guy. So if anyone wants a dog! Ha ha, just let me know.
He is not micro-chipped and not fixed (for long...)

Needless to say our dinner was little late, but this is what Monkey-man
magically mixed up for us.

Fajita Panini!

Saute a bell pepper, onion, a bit of jalapenos and a few cloves of
sliced garlic with chili powder, salt, pepper, a little bit of lemon
juice and cumin. Add water as it drys out and then add some olive oil
and half a pack of sliced tofu. Flip to grill both sides.

While that is being cooked, heat up your grill.
On your chosen bread add vegan pepper jack (galaxy rice cheese),
avocados and fresh tomatoes. Add some hot sauce, salsa or bean spread
to make it a little more exciting-- Grill and enjoy!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Plethora of Panini: Beet on the Brat

One of Monkey-man's Christmas presents was a cast-iron panini press
that I seriously had to hunt down. He's been ogling cast-iron pans
for awhile and next to pizza I am pretty sure sandwiches are his
favorite. Finding it was a hassle. I knew Macy's carried them and after
dealing with countless, stupid employees-- I found one at the Macy's
on Lake. Thank goodness my Monkey-man enjoys the more practical
gifts because this has certainly opened us up to a new series as we're
breaking in the ol' cast-iron.

Cast-Iron takes pampering. You should never wash it with soap, leave it
wet or use metal utensils on it. If you cook things on it that require
cleaning after-- something that sticks-- than clean it with very hot
water and a scrubber. Dry immediately afterward and oil to prevent
rusting. It may seem scary, but if you're cooking something like plain
toast, etc. you just brush it off, re-grease it and leave it. This
will age and season your pan.

I've seen people that cook meat just leave their pans with the fat, crap
and everything. Yeah, gross. Many argue that you should NEVER clean
your cast iron, but I do not agree. I say that you should try to never
use soap on it-- or at least don't use a lot and only when you really
need to. I believe in caring for your dishes properly, but I also
believe in not getting sick from bacteria festering on a pan.

Having said that, cast-iron is great because you can cook on the stove
and then stick it straight into the oven or actually use it as a baking
dish for things like corn bread or roasted vegetables. Our has ridges,
so it wouldn't be entirely ideal for that, but it is a possibility.

On to the food!
Panini, or Panino, is basically an Italian Sandwich. More accurately it
is a bread roll. A stuffed Panino is a roll stuffed with sandwich fixings.
This is derivative of the Italian word for bread: Pane. Often they are
served hot or grilled on ciabatta or focaccia. Americans refer to any
grilled sandwich as a panini, as being grilled is the deciding
characteristic. Whereas any sandwich is called a panini in Italy.

If you don't have a stove press you can use an electric one. Some
waffle makers double as panini presses. You can use a heavy pan and
a brick wrapped in foil. Just allow the brick to heat with the pan
before adding your prepped sandwich. Or you can just set a heavy pan
on top of your sandwich and plan on flipping it.

Part One: Beet on the Brat Panini


Beets or beet pulp (See Below)
2 cloves garlic, minced
vegan cream cheese
1/2 Red Onion
Vegan deli slices: ideally field roast, sliced seitain, or something
similar to yves roast slices. I'm sure Tofurky would be good too...
But stay away from the bologna style stuff.
Olive Oil or Earth Balance

When I make Borsht I blend the whole pot and push it through a mesh.
I usually end up with about two cups of beet pulp that I use to fill
dumplings, spread on sandwiches or mix into something else.

I had some left over beet-pulp from our postponed Christmas Dinner
that I still needed to use. You can steam beets and blend them with
a little broth, garlic powder, and salt and pepper. Or you can just
steam a beet and slice it very very thin.

Heat your pan and saute the sliced onion until soft and caramelized.

I made two sandwiches here... spreading vegan cream cheese, mustard,
and light miso on one side of the bread and then sprinkled it with
diced, raw garlic.

Oil or grease the other side of the bread.
Arrange the deli slices on the side with the cream cheese.
Spread or arrange the beets on the other side of the sandwich and
top with the cooked onion. Squish the sandwich together and grill
according to the type of pan you are using.

Cut in half and serve!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy 2011

Now that all the cookies are eaten and a New Year has arrived, I
suppose I should be making a resolution to burn all that off. But
I am no good at sticking to plans like that. If I get into the
habit of things, I'm fine. But nothing makes you feel worse than
failed promises to yourself.

I know a lot of people complain about New Years resolutions
because we shouldn't be only trying to make a change at the beginning
of the year or once a year. The same as how people are only nice
and giving at Christmas instead of all year 'round.

I see it more as a chance to remember what is important in our
behavior and actions. These times are an opportunity to try again
and keep track of our habits. No, this shouldn't be restricted to
one time of year, but it does serve as a good yearly reminder of
what we've done or not done. In fact, my going vegan started as a
New Years Resolution long ago.

Than yes, I'm going to try to get into a better exercise routine, I'm
gonna try to not eat so many goodies, and try to drink more green
smoothies-- or something like that.

Instead my resolutions are a little more general. I'm not worried about
strict pounds, inches or even dress sizes. My New Years Resolution
falls into the range of 'tivities' By that I mean productivity and
creativity. This year I will strive to allot more time to enhance my
productivity and creativity. Planning ahead and indulging in artistic
pastimes is my idea for 2011.

Last year I was resolved to become more sustainable and I did pretty
well. I've restricted my purchasing to products that have less
packaging, I eat out anymore, and produce only 1 gallon of trash every
six months. I've got my cats on a biodegradable litter. I shop at the
farmers market, locally owned shops, and go for organic whenever possible.

I'm starting to sew again and rarely buy anything new. To continue
building on my resolution for last year we are going to build a
container garden in the spring and I'll start doing tons of preserving
and canning.

The Holidays went by much quicker for me than ever before.
Our Christmas got postponed, so I've been playing mental catch-up
for over a week now. I'm back to school on Monday, which means lots
of last minute shopping, ordering of books, and back to riding my
bike late at night in the cold.

On a more positive note... Here is my second and more successful
attempt at the Stained Glass Window Cookies. I did the things I
noted for improvement and came out with a much better product!

The last batch of cookies I made were some fancy Thin Mint
Christmas trees. Very very tasty and cute to boot!

For Christmas I got Monkey-man a cast-iron Panini Press that
he has been coveting. To break it in, we are doing a Panini
series! So stay in touch for some lip-smackin grilled sandwichies!