Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Coming from a divorced family, my Thanksgivings were always split between a tofu-turkey-eating vegan dinner with my mom and stepdad, and a traditional dinner with my dad and stepmom. This year was the first that I didn't go home for Thanksgiving, so I wanted to recreate recipes that both sides of my family regularly made. I went to a T-day potluck at my friend Leigh's, and most of the more traditional foods were claimed by other people: mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, pecan pie, cranberry sauce. The three other dishes that I have to have to may my Thanksgiving complete are my mom's tofurkey, Dad's cranberry salad, and Barb's dinner rolls. Unfortunately the dinner rolls did not turn out awesome enough to make it on my blog (but that's what I get for trying to veganize a classic Betty Crocker recipe). The tofurkey and cranberry salad turned out just as well as I hoped. I also made a kabocha squash pound cake for dessert to contribute a unique seasonal dessert. Even though most people at the potluck were meat-eaters, everyone enjoyed the food I brought.


I am not sure where this recipe originates. Year after year, my mom pulls out an old Xeroxed copy. At the top it says "Holiday Cooking Class Series: Macrobiotic Thanksgiving Dinner," so my guess is she picked it up at a Macro cooking class. The only macrobiotic aspect to this recipe is its simplicity in ingredients; it is incredibly rich in flavor. I recommend using very extra firm tofu for this recipe since you need it to hold its shape. I used Whole Foods brand and found that it was too mushy. Westbrae and Nasoya are better I think. If your tofu is very wet and mushy, try pressing it longer than the hour that is recommended. I bet mine would have turned out better if I pressed it overnight. Also, allow yourself 3 1/2 hours, including pressing and cooking time.

5 lbs extra-firm tofu
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4-1/2 cup sesame oil
cheese cloth
colander (about 11 3/4" wide)
baking sheet that is wider than colander
basting brush

1. Drain and mash tofu well. Line colander with a single layer of cheese cloth.
2. Press tofu into cheese cloth-lined colander, and place a heavy object on top to press liquid out of tofu for 1 hour. (I set a plate on top of the tofu and used a gallon of water to press it)
3. Prepare stuffing (recipe follows)
4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
5. Hollow out tofu in the colander so that the tofu lining is 1-inch thick. Save remaining tofu.
6. Fill colander with prepared stuffing, stopping 1 inch from the top, and cover with remaining tofu.
7. Oil a baking sheet, place it on top of the colander, and carefully flip the filled tofu onto the baking sheet. Remove cheesecloth.
8. Make basting liquid with soy sauce and sesame oil; brush tofu with it.
9. Cover tofu with parchment paper, and bake tofu for 1 hour.
10. Uncover, baste, and return to oven uncovered until "skin" becomes golden brown, about one more hour. Baste again halfway through.
11. Using two spatulas, transfer tofurkey to serving platter.

Note: In the past, my mom has cut drumstick shapes out of tempeh, then steamed, basted, and baked them so that the tofu mound looks more like a turkey.


2 Tbs olive oil
1 cup onion, diced
1 cup celery, diced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbs fresh sage or 1 tsp dried, minced
1 Tbs fresh thyme, minced
1 tsp dried marjoram
1/4 cup raisins
1/3 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
1-2 cups boiling water
1/4 cup soy sauce
4 cups bread, in 1/2 inch cubes

Heat oil and sautee onions, garlic, and celery until transparent, about 1 minute. Mix herb seasoning together and combine with remaining ingredients. Season to taste.

Use any kind of vegan gravy. I used the mushroom gravy from this deconstructed green bean casserole recipe from Vegan Yum Yum. The whole dish is an awesome vegan side dish that also has a lot more class than the traditional version.

Monday, November 22, 2010


I hated Brussels sprouts for so long until I tried them roasted. Roasting them brings out a nutty flavor that cuts some of their bitterness. I found this recipe in my Clean Foods cookbook. It was very easy to throw together, so I was able to make a lot of it for a potluck. My one warning is to watch them carefully in the oven. I threw them in then ran to take a quick shower and they were already burning 10-15 minutes later (though the recipe says 25). They may need more frequent stirring than the recipe suggests. Also I recommend using the suggested 9x12 in. baking dish. I had apple crisp in both of mine, so I used a metal baking sheet, which I think contributed to the burning. Also, I didn't follow the directions and sliced the mushroom caps and crushed the garlic and shallots. I recommend leaving everything whole. Despite a little overcooking, the Brussels sprouts were delicious and a huge hit. Try these for real! Serves 6.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Fennel and Shiitake Mushrooms

1 1/2 lbs Brussels sprouts
4 shallots
10 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 lb shiitake mushroom caps
1 large fennel bulb
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh tarragon or rosemary
sea salt/pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Prepare brussels sprouts by cutting away tough root ends and removing blemished outer leaves. Slice in half lengthwise and place in a large bowl. Add shallots, garlic, and mushroom caps.

3. Prepare fennel by trimming off dried root end and slicing bulb thinly widthwise. Add to vegetables and toss with olive oil, vinegar, tarragon/rosemary, salt, and pepper.

4. Place in a 9x12 glass or ceramic baking dish and roast uncovered for 25 minutes. Stir and roast for 25 minutes more. Remove and serve.

Side note: I just looked on Wikipedia to see whether or not Brussels sprouts had to be capitalzed (it doesn't), and learned that overcooking Brussels sprouts releases glucosinolate sinigrin, which has a sulfurous taste and odor. So many people may dislike Brussels sprouts because they have only had them overcooked. If steaming or boiling them, they only need 6-7 minutes. So don't overcook your sprouts!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


My friend Molly is one of the artistic directors for High Concept Laboratories, which is an organization that provides cheap studio, rehearsal, and performance space to up and coming artists, musicians, theater companies, etc. On Friday they had an open house and she asked me to help cater the event. I came across these miniature napoleons on the veganyumyum blog and couldn't resist, even though I knew making enough for 200 people would be a bitch. They were indeed time consuming, but well worth it in the end. The eggplant cream was fantastic, and in the future I may use this recipe to stuff pasta or layer in lasagna. I even ate it smeared on bread. The recipe recommends microwaving the eggplants to remove excess liquid before cooking and keep them from soaking up so much oil, but I don't have a microwave. I used the salting and pressing method, which works just as well and doesn't nuke your food. It does require a bit more time, though.

A bit of advice: pick mushrooms, zucchinis, and tomatoes that are similar widths. Our zucchinis were far slimmer than the tomatoes and mushrooms giving them too much of an hourglass shape. Also, I recommend roasting the veggies (especially the tomatoes) on parchment paper so that the juices don't cook them to the baking sheets. Many of the tomato slices ended up being unusable because they burned to the sheet, even though it had been well oiled.

The recipe is somewhat long and complicated, and I want you all to see her pictures (which are much nicer than mine) so you can find the recipe here : Miniature Napoleons with Eggplant Cream.


Friday, October 8, 2010


My friend Hesper is working on a farm this summer and sells their produce at farmer's markets in Chicago. She gave me a bunch of garlic scapes which were leftover after one of the markets. Garlic scapes are not something I would think to buy at a farmer's market since I wouldn't really know what to do with them. Since they fell into my lap I got really excited about getting to know them. I wish I had taken a picture of them before I cut them up. They are the stalks that grow out of garlic bulbs, and they look kind of like curly scallions. They taste like scallions, too, but with a mild garlic flavor. They sweeten up a bit like onions do when they're cooked. They'd be perfect for someone who likes the flavor of garlic but doesn't like it to overpower a dish. They're probaby best prepared similarly to scallions: lightly pan-fried in stirfries or scrambles.

I found a recipe on the VeganYumYum blog, which is one of my favorites as of late, for a garlic scape pesto. Also, the Iphone has a VeganYumYum app, so I can look at her recipes WHEREVER AND WHENEVER I WANT TO! That's what I do instead of playing games or checking facebook when I'm on the train. Anyway, back to the pesto. I probably didn't have a full 1/2 lb of scapes, so my pesto wasn't very green, but it was still delicious. I didn't have pine nuts (I'm not the biggest fan), so I used walnuts. This recipe serves two.

Garlic Scape Pesto

1/2 lb Fresh Garlic Scapes
2 Tbs Olive Oil
1 Large Pinch Salt
Black Pepper
1/3 Cup Pine Nuts (or other nut)
2 Tbs Oil
Lemon Juice, to taste

Chop the scapes into 1 inch long pieces. Add 2 tbs oil to a heated pan and add the scapes. Add salt, pepper, and pine nuts and saute for a few minutes over medium high heat until the scapes begin to soften and the nuts turn golden brown. Add immediately to the work bowl of a food processor and add remaining oil. Blend well until a smooth paste forms. Taste and add more salt or some lemon juice to brighten. This will coat 1/2 lb. of pasta.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


July 8th was John's birthday and I wanted to surprise him with a spectacular brunch spread. I knew he'd love bagels, cream cheese, and fixings, but I struggled for days deciding whether or not to make the bagels from scratch or buy them. They seemed so complicated! But the night before I just decided to go for it. Worst case scenario I'd run out the next morning and buy a few. As it turns out, bagels are a bit time consuming but not difficult. You have to allow about three hours of prep time the night before (including rising time), but once they're prepped, the boiling and baking part doesn't take long.

The first time I made them I used regular spelt flour instead of bread flour and they turned out fine. Bread flour has a higher gluten content than all-purpose flour, but I've never seen spelt bread flour. The second time I made them, I added some powdered wheat gluten to my flour. Wheat gluten can be found in most baking/spice isles of grocery stores, and the ratio is 1 tablespoon gluten to one cup flour to make a substitute for bread flour. I was reluctant at first since the bagels turned out well the first time, but the bagels were much better with the gluten added, more bagel-like. I made one dozen with spelt and one dozen with wheat four. I made these bagels for our housewarming brunch and I'm still the talk of the town because everyone was so impressed. I didn't get any pictures of them the second time around because they disappeared while I was in the kitchen boiling and baking the last few.

The one weird ingredient is malt powder. The first time I made them I went to Whole Foods to inquire about it. A helpful employee said they were out but he stole me a ramekin full from their bakery. The second time I made them I went back to Whole Foods hoping the same scenario would play out. No luck, but an equally helpful employee said that barley malt works just as well.

I got this recipe from The Fresh Loaf, and I chose it because someone commented that they made them successfully with spelt flour. The recipe yields one dozen bagels, but if you're baking for a crowd, plan on every other person having 2. I made about equal numbers of sesame, poppy seed, onion, salt and pepper, and cinnamon and maple sugar. From my experience, onion was the most popular followed by sesame. Next time I'll experiment folding stuff into the dough like blueberries or herbs or olives.


1 teaspoon instant yeast
4 cups bread flour
2 1/2 cups water

1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
3 3/4 cups bread flour
2 3/4 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons malt powder
1 tablespoon malt syrup, honey, or brown sugar

Finishing touches:
1 tablespoon malt powder/syrup for the water
Cornmeal for dusting the pan
Toppings for the bagels such as seeds, salt, onion, or garlic

The Night Before

1. Stir the yeast into the flour in a large mixing bowl. Add the water and stir until all ingredients are blended. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for two hours.

2. Remove the plastic wrap and stir the additional yeast into the sponge. Add 3 cups of the flour, the malt powder and the salt into the bowl and mix until all of the ingredients form a ball. You need to work in the additional 3/4 cups of flour to stiffen the dough, either while still mixing in the bowl or while kneading. The dough should be stiffer and drier than normal bread dough, but moist enough that all of the ingredients are well blended.

3. Pour the dough out of the bowl onto a clean surface and knead for 10 minutes.

4. Immediately after kneading, split the dough into a dozen small pieces around 4 1/2 ounces each. Roll each piece into a ball and set it aside. When you have all 12 pieces made, cover them with a damp towel and let them rest for 20 minutes.

5. Shaping the bagel is a snap: punch your thumb through the center of each roll and then rotate the dough, working it so that the bagel is as even in width as possible.

6. Place the shaped bagels on an oiled sheet pan, with an inch or so of space between one another (use two pans, if you need to). If you have parchment paper, line the sheet pan with parchment and spray it lightly with oil before placing the bagels on the pan. Cover the pan with plastic (I put mine into a small plastic garbage bag) and allow the dough to rise for about 20 minutes. Place the pans into the refrigerator for the night.

Baking Day

1. Preheat the oven to 500. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, adding one tablespoon of malt powder. It is key to have a large pot and lot of water because adding the bagels lowers the water temperature and you want to try to maintain a boil.

2. When the pot is boiling, drop a few of the bagels into the pot one at a time and let them boil for a minute. Use a large, slotted spoon or spatula to gently flip them over and boil them on the other side.

3. Before removing them from the pot, sprinkle corn meal onto the sheet pan. Remove them one at a time, set them back onto the sheet pan, and top them right away, while they are still slightly moist. You may need to very lightly press some of the toppings into the bagel so they stick. Repeat this process until all of the bagels have been boiled and topped.

4. Once they have, place the sheet pan into the preheated oven and bake for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to 450 degrees, rotate the pan, and bake for another 5 minutes until the bagels begin to brown. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool. Top with vegan cream cheese, tomato, red onion, lettuce, roasted red pepper, or whatever your heart desires.