My husband won something recently…

He’d entered his name in a raffle at Cornbread Cafe, to benefit SARA– Shelter Animal Resource Alliance here in Eugene. I had no idea that he’d entered the contest, until he got all excited while checking his email. When I asked what all the fuss was, he said “I won something!” It just so happened to be a catered dinner for TEN! We were blown away by his luck.
He worked out the logistics with the super-sweet owner, Sheree. He was allowed to choose from their generous menu two proteins, some sides, and two desserts!  Since HE was the winner, I let him have most of the say… though I did insist that we have their Mac unCheese, because it’s one of my favorites.
Here’s what he chose:

Green salad with vegan ranch dressing that was TO DIE FOR.

BBQ pull-aparts, drowning in sweet and sticky sauce. I had to be careful with these because they go down so easily. There were just a few left over.

Southern Fried Tofu, which was surprisingly crispy as leftovers. This was a menu item I would have insisted on had Mike not already chosen it…

Mac unCheese, Mashed Potatoes, and Gravy. That gravy was magic. And I don’t even care for gravy. Much.

Here’s Cleo’s dish. What a lucky girl! She was all over the croutons dipped in the ranch before Sheree and Kristy even had the rest of the food unveiled in our living room. She cleaned up the rest of it pretty well. Then I swooped baby off to bath and bed, so that we could continue gorging ourselves:

And here we have the the perfect end to a perfect evening: Frozen peanut butter bars. OH MY LAWD. Our guests were all set to roll out our door when I remembered dessert… They were like frozen pudding pop meets Reese’s Pieces meets ice cream on top of a crumbly chocolate cookie. And vegan to boot! We were all having multiple mouthgasms as we ate. After this, we released our friends, and were left to moan and groan as we discussed our favorites, with our guts pressing against our stretchy pants that we’d been exiled to for the rest of the evening (make that week. We had a LOT of leftovers).
There was also a sweet potato pie awaiting us, but it was impossible. We couldn’t. It was something that Mike and Cleo and I would have to take care of on another day… the next day. For breakfast. What a relief when a friend and her son came to visit us from the coast; she was able to offer her assistance.
This was such a treat, and we feel so lucky that we were given this wonderful meal, as well as the opportunity to show some of our meat-eating friends just how delicious and filling vegan comfort food can be. And the fact that it benefited a wonderful charity made it all the tastier.
Cornbread Cafe is hoping to expand the catering side of their business  (they are REALLY GOOD AT IT- especially considering we were their first job!), as well as the distribution their food at several local stores. You can find their products here in Eugene at The Kiva, Red Barn, Sundance, and New Frontier Market. Currently, they are looking for a new restaurant space, but seem to be doing pretty well with the wholesale distribution of their goods. They do have a Facebook page– Like them and stay in the know about where and when you can find some of this food. It really is something you should treat yourself to- whether you’re vegan or not. Thanks Sheree and Kristy! xo!
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from Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

1/2 c soy cream (I used Silk plain coffee creamer)
3/4 c rice or soy milk
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
3 c all-purpose flour
1/3 c sugar
2 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 c vegetable oil
3 tbsp finely grated (blood) orange zest
Orange Glaze (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 400F. Lightly grease a cookie sheet.

In a measuring cup, combine the soy cream, rice milk, and vinegar, set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the rice milk mixture, oil, and orange zest; mix until just combined; the dough should be clumpy and not sticky. Even if there is still a light dusting of flour it’s okay.

Divide the dough in two. Knead one portion a few times, then form into a 6-inch disk. Cut the disk into six slices, pizza-style, and place each slice on the prepared cookie sheet. Do the same with the remaining dough. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until slightly browned on the bottom and firm on top. Transfer to a cooling rack.

When cool (if they are still only slightly warm that is okay) transfer to parchment paper. Pour about 2 tablespoons Orange Glaze over the scones; let the tops set before eating. If you simply can’t wait, prepare to have sticky fingers. Makes 1 dozen scones.

Orange Glaze
1 c confectioner’s sugar
2 tbsp nonhydrogenated margarine, melted
2 tbsp fresh orange juice
1 tsp finely grated orange zest

Sift the confectioner’s sugar into a mixing bowl; add all the other ingredients and mix until smooth.

Biscuit, meet cake. These are SO GOOD! Instead of using regular oranges, I used blood oranges, hoping to get a bit of color. I am so pleased with the delicate pinky hue that the glaze has. This is not a dry scone. Oh, no. It’s light, with just a little bit of chew (ok, so I might have added an extra 1/2 cup flour. The dough was really sticky when I went to form those disks!), and they are sooooo good. The orange flavor isn’t over powering, and they aren’t too sweet. Perfect with a cup of coffee and a little chit chat. Even after the glaze is set, they’re still likely to give you a sticky finger. So if you can’t handle a sticky finger, let me have your scone.

from The Supermarket Vegan by Donna Klein

6 (10-inch) flour tortillas (I chose whole wheat)
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium red or yellow onion (about 6 ounces), sliced into thin half-moons
1 medium red bell pepper (about 6 ounces), cored, seeded, and cut into thin strips
8 ounces sliced cremini mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 tsp salt, or to taste
1/2 tbsp chili powder, or to taste
1 c rinsed, drained canned pinto beans
6 tbsp prepared tomatillo salsa (salsa verde)
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)
1/4 c chopped fresh cilantro (Ich don’t think so)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Wrap tortillas in foil and place in oven 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large nonstick skillet, heat 1/2 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and bell pepper and cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 7 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil, the mushrooms, garlic, and salt; cook, stirring, until mushrooms begin to release their liquids, about 4 minutes. Add the chili powder and cook, stirring, until the liquids from the mushrooms have evaporated, about 4 minutes. Add the beans, salsa, black pepper, and cayenne (if using); cook stirring, until heated through, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the cilantro, stirring well to combine. Season with additional salt and black pepper, if necessary.

To assemble, place one heated tortilla on each of 6 dinner plates. Spoon equal portions (about 1/2 cup) of the mushroom mixture down the center of each tortilla. Roll up each tortilla from the edge nearest you, tucking in the sides as you roll. Serve at once. Makes 6 servings.

Burrito night happens about once a week in this house. This was a really nice departure from our typical black beans with red salsa-laden go-to. I was intrigued by the mushrooms, as well as the green salsa. I found a locally made one, that has such a great flavor. It will definitely be making a regular appearance on burrito (as well as Daiya cheese nacho) nights to come. The mushrooms weren’t as weird as I’d expected them to be in a burrito. They went really well with the garlic, and lent themselves well to the wrappage. Red peppers were nice and mellow, and almost brought a sweetness to the burritos. I might add more garlic next time (I’ve been trying to take it easy on the garlic, especially when trying a new recipe). Of course, using cilantro is going to add another dimension of flavor to this dish, one that I need not explore. But if you’re into that sort of thing, go for it.
Oh, and about using the oven to heat those tortillas, why not save some energy and wrap them in a tea towel (or large cloth napkin like I did), set them on a plate, and zap them for 30-45 seconds? Works like a charm.

Simplicity Pattern #2572

Look how big my baby is getting! I actually made this back in September, and it’s been hanging in Cleo’s closet waiting for her to grow in to it. Fortunately, the time came during the month that mommy went back to work, and baby went to day care. And brought home a variety of germs. Which brought the entire house down for about a month. Four huge cases of tissues, several prescriptions, and a few paychecks later, here we are.
Now- let’s talk hoodie. I always have SOME sort of problem with a pattern, now don’t I? This one was actually pretty easy to work with- though I got a little carried away gathering up the ruffle edges, and had to loosen them up. I always do that. It’s a very gentle gather, not some crazy circus petticoat trim, though that’d be fun! My only complaint is that the cuff edges are unfinished- you can see that just on the inside of her sleeve. I plan to clean it up with some bias tape, with the same treatment that the edge on the bodice received:

Can you see how challenging it is to get a photo of this busy little person?
My only advice for you, should you decide to make this hoodie, is that you choose a fabric that is not quite as dense as the flannel I’ve chosen. Those layers of (although gentle) gathers, sewn onto the bodice or sleeve, covered with bias tape, make for some challenging stitchery. And it’s not always pretty. And you might also consider choosing a bias tape that matches (rather than pops against, as I’ve chosen) your hoodie fabric.
Won’t this be the perfect little hoodie for a day at the coast?

from The 4 Ingredient Vegan by Maribeth Abrams with Anne Dinshah

1 can (15.5 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/4 c vegan mayonnaise
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 1/2 tsp sweet or dill pickle relish
salt and ground black pepper

Put the chickpeas in a food processor. Pulse 6 times, or until the chickpeas are coarsely chopped. Transfer to a mixing bowl. Add the mayonnaise, celery, and relish. Stir until thoroughly combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately, or transfer to a storage container and refrigerate until ready to serve. Makes 3 servings.

You might remember the saga of the stove, and how it died. Well, for a while we were restricted to microwaved, rice-cooker-cooked, or raw foods. Or takeout. Here’s a recipe that I found for one of the NINE dinners we didn’t have a stove/oven to use…
It’s a little creepy how closely this resembles a tuna salad sandwich. Who would’ve thought? I used a potato masher to smoosh the beans up (who wants to pull out the food processor for beans? You could also use a fork…) That caused our two cats came running over, circling me just like they used to in the height of our tuna eating days. The only way this sandwich differs from the fishy original is the lack of stringiness that the tuna brought, and the need to use a TON of mayo to cover up the fishy taste and dry texture. And not only to beans have protein, they have fiber! This recipe was so amazingly tasty and easy that I am making it again this week!

 

from Vegan Brunch by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

Omelet:
2 garlic cloves
1 pound silken or soft tofu, lightly drained
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp fine black sea salt, plus extra for sprinkling
1/2 c chickpea flour
1 tbsp arrowroot or cornstarch

Filling:
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 bunch broccolini, chopped
2 tbsp capers
shredded vegan cheese (go for Daiya mozzarella style shreds!)

Chop up the garlic, if using, in a food processor. Add the tofu, nutritional yeast, olive oil, turmeric, and salt. Puree until smooth. Add the chickpea flour and arrowroot and puree again for about 10 seconds, until combined. Make sure to scrape down the sides so that everything is well incorporated.

Preheat a large, heavy-bottomed nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Well-seasoned cast iron works great, or use a regular nonstick skillet. Lightly grease the pan with either cooking spray or a very thin layer of oil. Also, make sure that you use a large skillet, as you need room to spread out the omelet and to get your spatula under there to flip. Don’t use an 8-inch omelet pan or anything like that…

In 1/2-cup increments, pour the omelet batter into the skillet. Use the back of a spoon or a rubber spatula to spread the batter out into about 6-inch circles. Be gentle- if there are any rips or holes, that is fine, just gently fill them in as you spread the batter.

Let the batter cook for about 3 to 5 minutes before flipping. The top of the omelet should dry and become a matte yellow when it’s ready to be flipped. If you try and it seems like it might fall apart, give it a little more time. When the omelet is ready to be flipped, the underside should be flecked light to dark brown. Flip the omelet and cook for about a minute on the other side. Keep warm on a plate covered with tinfoil as you make the remaining omelets.

To make the filling, preheat a large pan over medium heat. Saute the garlic in the olive oil. Add the broccolini and saute for about 7 minutes. Add the capers and saute until just heated through. Divide among the omelets, top with the “cheese,” and fold the omelet over. Sprinkle with a little extra sea salt. Makes 4 omelets.

I must say, I was a bit skeptical trying out this recipe. I’m not a HUGE fan of the tofu scramble, and have mostly limited my special brunch makings to the sweeter side of things since going vegan. But, in an effort to be adventurous (and because I have been craving brunch for dinner for months now, but am too grown up to eat a sugary dinner, wow), here we go.
First off, there were challenges. You’ll notice that my fabulous Daiya shreds are not melted. Not a fault of the “cheese,” but of my stove. I finished cooking the filling and had two of the omelets kickin’ it under their foil blanket, when ZZZZT, stove dies. Dead! We have to move this production to the electric griddle, mid-omelet. Did I mention that the oven died too? Yeah. So, while waiting for the griddle to heat up, the filling is cooling off. It’s ok though, because I found that in the future, I’d totally use the griddle anyway- though I did end up using more oil than recommended because I had trouble flipping that first omelet (making the first and third of the four NOT PRETTY AT ALL). They were still yummy though! And so was the filling. Capers? Oh my, yes. The recipe originally called for broccoli rabe, which apparently is a bit more on the bitter side. I’ve never had it, and my store didn’t have it either. The broccolini was tasty though, and offered a nice crunch.
And about the black sea salt- apparently it has a slightly sulfuric taste that reminds one of an egg yolk. Moskowitz recommends skipping it if you aren’t in to the taste of eggs. I’d try it (heck I’ll try any salt), but the reddish salt I had was tasty too. She offers all sorts of filling ideas, which I’m so excited to try, now that I’ve crossed over into the savory brunch dark side.

from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero

1 c canned pumpkin
1/2 c nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c packed brown sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/4 c oat flour
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
a handful of shelled pumpkin seeds for garnish (I opted for chunky sea salt instead)

First, reduce the pumpkin. Place it in a saucepan over medium heat for about 45 minutes. Keep the heat low enough that it doesn’t boil, but it should appear to be steaming. Stir often. After about 30 minutes, spoon the pumpkin into a liquid measuring cup to check on how much it has reduced. It should be down to around 2/3 cup at this point. Return the pumpkin to pot and cook until it has reduced to 1/2 cup. Set aside to cool completely.

Preheat oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, use a hand mixer to cream together the shortening and sugars until light and fluffy. Mix in the cooled pumpkin and vanilla.

Sift in all remaining ingredients and mix to combine. Spoon onto cookie sheets in rounded tablespoons of dough, flattening the tops with your hand. Arrange a few pumpkin seeds in the centers, if you like (or just give them a sprinkle of big salt chunks, if you prefer, like I did. NOM!).

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and let them cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes. Transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool completely. Makes 2 dozen cookies.

Pumpkin is something that my pantry is never without. So when I decided to make cookies on a whim one morning, these were an obvious choice. And the fact that I had to spend some time reducing the pumpkin meant that there would be no cookie dough for my mid-morning snack. I don’t know if I’d quite sell my soul for this cookie though. Maybe the intro for the recipe just built up my hopes so high that they were impossible to fulfill, but there just wasn’t enough pumpkin to them. I was hoping for something a bit more autumnal, really… and I think throwing some molasses in there somewhere might have given me what I was looking for. As far as cookies go, yes, they’re really good, especially with the delicate salting I gave them to bring out the sweet. They texture- firm, and not crumbly at all, is what really made this cookie win for me. I might have enjoyed just a bit more chew (hello, molasses?). But really, tasty little bites of yumminess, these were. About the reducing business- it actually took more like an hour for me to get to the desired half cup. But, perhaps I was being a bit conservative with the heat on the stove, as I didn’t want to come back from chasing my toddler around to find scorched pumpkin. The rest of the can of pumpkin made for a delish snack for the two of us, sprinkled with cinnamon. Another win for VCIYCJ!

from Nylon, May 2007

This is one of those projects where it might have been nice had I taken pictures of my process for you to see. Sorry, I was too busy watching Project Runway.
I made a hoodie like this for myself shortly after I bought the magazine. My lovely friend Sabrina fancied one for herself, and was willing to shell out the steep payment of, get this: one men’s XL pullover hoodie. Using the tutorial in the magazine, I was able to churn out this cute little number, custom fit to her cute little figure!
While trying to find info on the designers Mike & Chris, I found a site that actually has the magazine in it’s entirety available online. If you look hard enough, you can probably find it… but basically, it’s such a great idea: you chop the hoodie in half, just above the pocket (it won’t work with a zipper hoodie), and cut again just below the bust for an empire waist. Cut off the sleeves. Make a pleat on the shoulder, and fit the hoodie to the body that will be rocking it, and sew it back together. Hem the sleeves, and turn the excess fabric from the middle into a fancy little “neck belt” (that’s the genius part, really), add some buttons, and BAM. You can do that, right? C’mon, it’s SEW EASY.

from The 4 Ingredient Vegan by Maribeth Abrams with Anne Dinshah

Barbecue Tempeh
1 package (8 ounces) tempeh, cut in half
1 1/2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 red or green bell pepper, chopped
1 to 2 c barbecue sauce

Fill a medium saucepan about halfway with water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Turn the heat down slightly to maintain a simmer. Add the tempeh, cover, and cook for 10 minutes. Drain. Let cool for 15 minutes.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and bell pepper. Cook and stir for about 7 minutes, or until softened and lightly browned. Cut the tempeh into 1-inch cubes and add it to the vegetables. Cook and stir for about 7 minutes, or until the tempeh starts to brown, adding up to 1/2 tablespoon more oil if it starts to stick.

Stir in 1 cup of  the barbecue sauce and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat down to low, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes, adding more barbecue sauce, 1/4 cup at a time, if the mixture starts to stick to the bottom of the pan. Serve immediately. Makes 2 servings.

New-Fashioned Greens and Black-Eyed Peas
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 to 4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 large bunch collard greens, trimmed and coarsely chopped (about 6 cups)
2 cans (15 ounces each) black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
1/4 c vegan worcestershire sauce
salt and ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook and stir for 30 seconds. Add the collard greens and cook and stir for about 5 minutes, or until bright green and slightly tender. Add the black-eyed peas and worcestershire sauce and mix well. Bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes, or until the greens are tender to your liking. Season generously with salt and pepper before serving. Makes 3 servings.

I must admit, I kind of thought that being limited to four ingredients per recipe would make the recipes easier, and they do, just a bit, as far as prep work is concerned. I also thought that it might compromise the yumminess of the dishes. NOT SO. This was one of those meals where a sadness set in as I started to feel full. The texture of the tempeh was really good. I’ve never boiled it before! I think I might try it next time I make curry- it softened it up a lot, and seemed to make it more friendly toward the sauce. I used Annie’s BBQ sauce, and their worcestershire sauce is a staple in our fridge. Served atop a toasted mini-baguette, this was a heavenly sandwich.
Now, about those Greens and Black-Eyed Peas… they could become a regular in our house, but I’d always miss the BBQ tempeh partner in crime. I’ve never made collard greens because I was always afraid that I’d overcook them, but this recipe came out perfectly. The instructions have you seeking out a boil, and there’s not much in the way of liquid to boil, so just clear some greens and peas out of the way to see that shallow liquid in there, and you’re good.
Basically, of the two recipes I’ve tried from this book, we have two winners. So far, so good!

from La Dolce Vegan! by Sarah Kramer

1/4 c flour
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 c “milk”
faux chicken (recipe follows)
3-4 tbsp olive oil (I used canola)

In a shallow dish, stir together the flour, paprika, salt, and pepper. Set aside. In a small bowl, pour “milk” and set aside. Dip “chicken” into flour, then dip in “milk,” and then into the flour again. In a large frying pan on medium-high heat, fry “chicken” in oil until well browned on both sides. Makes 2 large or 4 small servings.

Faux Chicken
1 recipe basic instant gluten
Broth:
2 c water
1/4 c nutritional yeast
2 tbsp tamari
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp dried sage
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp celery seed

In a large saucepan, bring all of the broth ingredients to a boil. Slice gluten into 4-6 pieces. Drop carefully into broth. Reduce heat and cover with lid. Let simmer 50-60 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until broth has reduced completely.

I’ve been eyeballing this recipe ever since I made my first batch of “wheat meat.” This was the type of recipe that really got me going for chicken when I was little- it is so reminiscent of the baked chicken my mom made as an alternative to fried. But it’s fried! This is probably the second thing I’ve fried- in my 30-plus years here on this earth; the first being a batch of donuts my sister and I cooked up on the d-low while my parents were out of the house. Naughty! Fried food was saved for special occasions, so it’s generally off my radar. I don’t even know how to properly dispose of the oil! I went easy on it for this batch, so that I could just send it down the drain with suds. There was definitely a resting period on some paper towels to eliminate the excess oil between frying pan and plate. Once it got to my plate, I couldn’t photograph it fast enough. Good thing it retained its heat! As I was eating it, I made sure to slow down and really savor every bite- it was DIVINE. Crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside… it’s going to be tough to resist making this each time it’s faux meat making day.
Now- about the recipes. I like to make my faux meats in big batches. Spending a few hours in the kitchen is a big commitment, so I want to get a lot out of it. I made eight batches this time! In two pots. I had a pot of “beef” and a pot of “chicken.” I’ve also tried the “ham” from this book, and it’s really REALLY good. Smoky and authentic. The faux “turkey” was really good in a Shepherd’s Pie that I made a while back.  The “fish” I didn’t much care for, but Mike liked it. (BTW of all my cookbooks, I’d say this one gets the most use. Really, if you’re going vegan cookbook shopping, this is the one for quick and easy yummies.) It’s pretty easy to divide up the basic instant gluten recipe among a few pots of broth, and I highly recommend doing it. You save SO MUCH money over buying seitan in the store, and the taste and quality is so much better.
Once you have your “chicken” breasts all ready to go, the fried “chicken” recipe is really easy, and fast. And to think I was always afraid of frying food. Just make sure you have some greens to balance out the guilt!