Archive for the 'Vegan Entrees' Category

Surviving on Soft Foods

Blueberry Banana Smoothie

I feel like such a fool. In my defense, I had no reason to suspect anything was wrong. Little did I know I was heading down the road to overexerting my jaw. It had all the makings of a perfect storm – just back from a teeth cleaning with an unfamiliar substitute dental hygienist, a tendency to chew on one side of my mouth, and munching away on chewy and hard things like tortilla wraps and nuts.

To give my jaw a break and a chance to heal, I’ve been living a soft foods diet. You would not believe how long it took me to come to this realization (hence the feeling like a fool part).

I started with the usual suspects: mashed potatoes, hummus, yogurt and any number of smoothies from Blueberry Banana to Oatmeal-Carrot Cookie.

Jook

It’s also been soups galore around here, easy to make and comforting to eat bowls of jook (Chinese rice porridge). I just make sure to cut into teeny tiny pieces whatever extras going into the jook. And the immersion blender has been my best friend for smooth blended soups like Beet Soup and Chipotle Cauliflower Corn Chowder.

Thai Lime Rice and Punjap Eggplant

It’s times like this when it’s handy to have things like Tasty Bite Punjap Eggplant sitting around the pantry. Roasted eggplant in a tomato and onion sauce that’s so soft it’s practically a sauce, served with quick cook steel cut oatmeal instead of rice. And to get some greens in, saag spinach.

Trader Joe's Thai Vegetable Gyoza

Instead of pan frying Trader Joe’s frozen Thai Vegetable Gyoza, I dropped them into boiling water for what amounts to very large wontons. Cook on medium to low heat for about 8 minutes or so, and eaten with a dipping sauce of ketchup mixed with a little soy sauce and sriracha.

Vegan Apricot Almond Scone

Luckily, I can still enjoy Sweet Aha! scones and cupcakes since they’re so fluffy and moist. Although I had to be extra careful eating the almond and apricot parts of the above scone.

My jaw is finally getting a little better, albeit at glacial speed. The hard part is not prematurely jumping back into eating everything and re-injuring myself. It’s probably going to be awhile yet before it’s totally back to normal. Any other ideas on what to eat?

Vegan “Salisbury Steak” Asian Style

Vegan "Salisbury Steak" Asian Style

A recipe transformation hit the kitchen today and made a bit of a mess. Instead of neatly dumping the ingredients for an Asian Lentil Loaf into a pan and be done with it, patties were formed to become Asian Salisbury Steak with ramen noodles no less.

I gotta say despite the extra time and cleanup, the transformation was for the better. A crisp patty instead of a limp slice of lentil loaf is a plus any day in my book. Of course since it’s baked, it’s only crisp when it’s first out of the oven. And who knew ramen is so good with gravy on it?

Vegan “Salisbury Steak” Asian Style
Makes about 10 patties

4 Chinese dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked until soft, then chopped
1 medium leek, white and some of the green part, chopped
2 cups cooked and seasoned lentils
2 handfuls panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
Sea salt and pepper to taste
A sprig of cilantro, chopped (optional garnish)

Gravy
1 cup vegetable broth
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, mash the lentils. Add in the rest of the ingredients and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.

Scoop out a 1/4 cup of the mixture and shape into a patty on a oiled baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, gently flip over and bake another 15 minutes.

While the patties are baking, make the gravy. Heat the broth with the soy sauce and sugar. Combine the cornstarch with a little bit of cold water and mix until smooth. When the broth comes to a boil, slowly add the cornstarch mixture and stir to desired thickness.

Serve the patties with ramen noodles and top with the gravy and cilantro if using.

DIY Vegan Pressed Sushi

Vegan Pressed Sushi

Tired of eating the same ol’ cucumber sushi roll? or avocado roll? or some other vegetable roll that’s equally as pedestrian? Me too.

As a remedy, I decided to make pressed sushi also known as oshizushi, where rice is pressed into a rectangular shape using a wooden mold. But I didn’t have a wooden mold. Looking around the kitchen for a diy hack, I spied the tofu press. Hey, that’s a box shape and it’ll do the pressing for me to boot.

Since it’s diy, I went with some of my all-time favorite ingredients: roasted trumpet mushrooms and carrots, shiitake mushroom namul, spicy yuba strips from Hodo (the same people that make the tofu for Chipotle’s sofritas), and massaged kale which strangely enough kinda looks like nori seaweed. You can see it there on the top.

Vegan Pressed Sushi

Pressed sushi seems much easier to make than sushi rolls. After all, it’s just packing ingredients into a box. The challenge is in the layering since you go from the top down. One layer ended up sliding around as it only had carrots and kale, nothing to really anchor it down like rice.

Lesson learned. While the layer fillings can be whatever your stomach desires, the rice is what holds it all together.

Vegan Pressed Sushi

Make a batch of sushi rice
Assemble any number of your favorite fillings, candidates include:
Roasted vegetables such as trumpet mushrooms, eggplant, carrots, squash
Raw vegetables such as cucumber, carrots
Shiitake mushroom namul
Yuba strips or baked tofu strips
Massaged kale or cooked spinach
Avocado
Nori seaweed sheets

Cut the ingredients to fit into the mold.

Line the tofu press with plastic wrap so that it hangs over the sides. Decoratively arrange alternating strips of whatever you want to be on the top at the bottom of the mold. Dip your fingers into a little bowl of water so the sushi rice doesn’t stick to you and spread a thin layer of rice over the strips. Be careful not to mess up the arrangement.

Next, lay in a piece of nori seaweed cut to size. Continue layering various ingredients in between the rice and nori layers. Pressing down gently as you go along. End with a nori sheet as that will become the bottom of the finished pressed sushi.

Put the top on the tofu press and press for about 5 minutes or so. Apparently there’s a newer version of the tofu press with a lighter tension spring. If you have one of those, you could probably press it a bit longer.

After pressing, remove from the press, use the plastic wrap to gently coax the sushi out. Slice using a sharp knife and a wet cloth. Wipe the knife with the cloth before each slice so it doesn’t stick. Arrange on a plate to serve.

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Asian Lentil Loaf

Asian Lentil Loaf

I thought I was done with messing around with the lentil loaf recipe after making the copycat Amy’s version. Apparently my taste buds were not. They wanted something new and different – an Asian flavored loaf with Chinese dried shiitake mushrooms, ginger, leeks and water chestnuts. They were right, it’s now my favorite version.

Served with miso mashed potatoes and stir-fried Chinese greens. It’s sorta like a square egg foo young, but without the egg or the tofu (the usual, default replacement for the eggs). It’s lentils but I wouldn’t say it’s beany tasting. Super easy to make, it’ll put an Asian twist to your holiday meal.

Vegan Chocolate Cupcake with Butterscotch Buttercream

And for dessert, a freshly made Sweet Aha! vegan chocolate cupcake with butterscotch buttercream from the College of San Mateo farmer’s market. Except that I ate the cupcake first because 1) it’s always best to eat dessert when it’s nice and fresh and 2) the cupcakes are so light and fluffy I couldn’t wait. This is not the first time I’ve eaten dessert before a meal, I’m sure it won’t be the last.

Asian Lentil Loaf
Makes 4-6 servings

6 Chinese dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked until soft, then chopped
1 medium leek, white and some of the green part, chopped
4 ounces water chestnuts, chopped
2 cups cooked and seasoned lentils
2 handfuls panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
Sea salt and pepper to taste
Oil to grease pan

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, mash the lentils. Add in the rest of the ingredients and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.

In a well-oiled 8.5 x 8.5 inch square baking pan, pour in the lentil mixture and pack into the pan, tightly pressing into the bottom. Bake for about 30 – 40 minutes until browned and pulling away from the edges. Allow to cool completely before removing from the pan.

Serve with miso mashed potatoes, teriyaki sauce or gravy and stir-fried Chinese greens.

Related Posts
Mini Savory Lentil Cupcakes
Sweet Aha! Vegan Cupcakes

Halloween Zombie Pizza Pockets

Halloween Zombie Pizza Pocket

I woke up this morning with a stiff neck. I must have slept on it wrong, I’m barely able to turn my head. Since I feel like I’m moving around like a zombie, I of course, made zombie food…

Halloween zombie pizza pockets.

The recipe is basically the same as my Super Easy DIY Pockets, just in a different shape. It is a little bit more work shaping them into zombies but it’s fun thing to do for Halloween.

Zombie Pizza Pocket Paper Template

For the template, I made a freehand drawing of a body shape on a sheet of paper. Folded in half and cut out to make both sides the same (like how you make a Valentine heart). If you have a gingerbread man cookie cutter of the right size, you probably could use that instead. I didn’t, so I trimmed out the shapes by hand using the paper template.

Halloween Zombie Pizza Pocket

Whenever I make hot pockets, they’re usually sadly misshapen and far from perfect looking. I like to say they’re “rustic”. For these pockets, the imperfections actually add to the zombie look.

Halloween Zombie Pizza Pockets
Makes 2 zombies

Crust
1/2 cup flour
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup water
Large pinch of bread topping (I used King Arthur Flour Everything Bread & Bagel Topping)

Filling
Your favorite pizza sauce and cheese

Sriracha or other sauce for decorating

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Combine all of the crust ingredients, except the water and bread topping, in a bowl and mix until it looks like coarse meal. Add a little bit of water at a time, mixing until the dough comes together in a ball (I added less than a 1/4 cup of water).

Sprinkle a bit of cornmeal on the work surface and rolling pin so the dough doesn’t stick. Divide the dough in half and roll it out into a thin circle. Create a paper template of a body shape or use a gingerbread man cookie cutter to cut out the top and bottom shapes.

Place the filling on the bottom side, leaving about an 1/4 inch edge, do not over stuff. Carefully place the top side on and press along the edges to seal. Repeat with the other dough half.

Place the pockets on a well-oiled baking sheet and brush the tops with olive oil. Sprinkle with the bread topping. Bake for about 20 minutes until the top and edges are lightly browned and warmed through. Using a skewer dipped in sriracha sauce, poke in the eyes and draw on a mouth and any other decorations as desired.

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Copycat Amy’s Veggie Loaf Dinner

Copycat Amy's Veggie Loaf Dinner

For the longest time, one of my favorite frozen meals was the Amy’s Veggie Loaf Whole Meal. It was my go-to meal. Always reliable, easy to find, I liked the taste and there’s no crazy ingredients.

Visiting family and they all want to eat at the local steakhouse? No problem, I just pop an Amy’s meal in the microwave, scarf it down and I’m all set if the restaurant has nothing to offer me but a pitiful dinner salad or very plain baked potato for dinner.

Happily, restaurants have caught a clue and usually offer some sort of vegan option so it’s been awhile since I had to turn to an Amy’s frozen dinner for substance. But now I’m sad to see honey in the Veggie Loaf meal, I don’t remember it being in there before. It’s a bummer but also an inspiration to make my own copycat version.

As a starting point, I used my Mini Savory Lentil Cupcakes recipe. It already has many of the same ingredients listed on the back of the box. A few tweaks here and there and voilà, a vegan copycat Amy’s Veggie Loaf Dinner.

Veggie Loaf Dinner
Makes 4-6 servings

Veggie loaf
1 small leek, white and some of the green part, chopped
4 fresh shiitake mushrooms, chopped
1 small carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1/4 cup broccoli florets, chopped
1/4 cup petite green peas
2 cups cooked and seasoned lentils
2 handfuls panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Sea salt and pepper to taste
Oil to grease pan

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, mash the lentils. Add in the rest of the ingredients and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.

In a well-oiled 8.5 x 8.5 inch square baking pan, pour in the lentil mixture and pack into the pan, tightly pressing into the bottom. Bake for about 30 – 40 minutes until browned and pulling away from the edges. Allow to cool completely before removing from the pan.

While the veggie loaf is baking, make the mashed potatoes and gravy using your favorite recipes. I added a bit of tomato paste to the gravy for the color but brown gravy works too.

Mini Savory Lentil Cupcakes

Lentil Cupcakes with Beet Frosting

With the weather bouncing back and forth between warm and cool, I’m taking advantage of the cooler days to use the oven before it really warms up around here. Not that it ever gets that hot in Northern California, I just don’t use the oven much in the summertime. Until then, I’m enjoying these mini savory lentil cupcakes (I’ve also made normal lentil loaves with a regular square pan, if you’re over the whole cupcake thing).

I’ve come a long way with lentils. In the past, I didn’t care much for the little guys, but now, I’m liking them more and more. I haven’t advanced to cooking them myself just yet, so I’ve been using the Trader Joe’s Steamed Lentils for a fairly easy recipe.

Lentil Cupcake with Beet Frosting

The hardest part is mashing the lentils as I don’t have a masher and had been using a dinner fork which wasn’t quite doing the job. Frustrated, I squeeze the bejesus out of those little lentils beans with my bare hands and that actually worked out great.

Mini Savory Lentil Cupcakes
Makes 12 cupcakes

1 small leek, white and some of the green part, chopped
4 fresh shiitake mushrooms, chopped
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 cups cooked and seasoned lentils
1/8 cup walnuts or almonds, crushed
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 small carrot, chopped
1/2 cup petite peas (fresh or frozen)
1/2 cup white corn kernels (fresh or frozen)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Heat a wok or sauté pan to hot, add the oil and swirl to coat the wok. Add the leeks and cook until translucent then add the mushrooms. Stir-fry until cooked and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, mash the lentils. Add in the nuts, breadcrumbs, tomato paste and vegetables. Mix well.

In a well-oiled muffin pan, portion out the lentil mixture and pack into the pan, tightly pressing into the bottom. Top with ketchup. Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes until browned and pulling away from the edges. Allow to cool completely before removing from the pan.

While the lentil cupcakes are baking, make the optional mashed potatoes beet frosting. Just add a small beet to your favorite mashed potato or caulipots recipe. Pipe on the mashed potatoes and sprinkle with crushed kale chips.

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Black and Orange Tofu

Black Tofu and Snow Peas in Orange-Ginger Sauce

Have you ever tried black tofu? No, not blackened tofu. Not tofu with black bean sauce. Black tofu. Made from black soybeans. Though the color of the tofu is more of a greyish hue. It’s high in fiber and protein but relativity low in carbohydrates and may help reduce the risk of diabetes.

I tried a pan-fried sample at the Asian supermarket. Yes, they have food samples just like at Costco but only on the weekends and sometimes the sample person doesn’t speak English. I bought a package of the stuff home.

Instead of pan-frying though, I roasted the tofu. But I’m not convinced that’s the best preparation for black tofu. The pan-fried version seemed creamier; the roasted seemed drier.

Roasted Black Tofu Cubes

The orange part comes from an adaptation of the Ginger Orange Stir-Fry recipe on one of my favorite blogs, Eating Appalachia. As soon as I saw Cara Cara orange in the ingredients, knew I was going to try it. It makes a beautiful vivid orange color. And it’s spicy. And it’s sweet without any additional sweetener.

I’ve made it several times now using regular white tofu and with various vegetables. I’ve even made it without vegetables, I like the sauce so much. I’ve also tried run-of-the-mill Navel oranges, it’s good but nowhere nearly as good as a sweet Cara Cara.

Below is the adapted recipe using roasted tofu. To pan-fry the tofu, click here for the original recipe.

Roasted Tofu in Orange-Ginger Sauce
Serves 2

1 14-ounce block of extra-firm tofu
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika

1 small carrot, sliced on the diagonal
2-3 cups snow peas or other vegetable such as broccoli
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
Corn starch mixed with a bit of water

Sauce
Zest of 1 Cara Cara orange
1 Cara Cara orange, juiced
3/4 inch ginger, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon tamari
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce or to taste

To roast the tofu, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. In a bowl, combine the oil, salt and paprika. Cut the tofu into cubes and gently toss to coat with the mixture. Place each tofu cube in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Roast for 15 minutes on one side, flip over and roast another 15 minutes.

Combine the sauce ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Set aside.

Heat a wok to hot, add the oil and swirl to coat the wok. Add the carrots and stir-fry a bit and then add the snow peas (if using broccoli, parboil it first). When the snow peas are crisp-tender, toss in the roasted tofu. Add the sauce and cook for about a minute. To thicken the sauce, dribble in the corn starch mixture and stir until it’s the desired thickness. Plate and serve with rice.

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