November 28, 2011

Late, as usual ... | Featured

It seems I'm always the last one to post about holiday events — everyone has long since moved on, and here I go sharing our Thanksgiving meal — with photos taken in a rush under the worst lighting possible. Even color correction couldn't make the tart look like a normal shade of blueberry. But without further apology, here's what we ate. Above is a glamor shot of the tofu turkey, described in more detail, here.

This is the brown basmati, wild rice, toasted walnut and mushroom stuffing that went inside the tofu turkey, and also into a casserole dish. It's pretty much the same stuffing I always make but this year I didn't include bread cubes. I also made a mushroom gravy with ingredients as varied as the liquid left from cooking the wild rice, and the remains of a bottle of leftover beer, kept in the fridge for just such a purpose — simmered with a cinnamon stick and seasoned with fresh sage. Best gravy ever! (But maybe not gluten-free because of the beer?)

Here is the scrumptious potato-buckwheat stuffing (kugel) made by our oldest son. It's from a recipe handed down from several generations of my family, and a holiday wouldn't seem complete without it. My mother used to stuff the turkey with it, but there was always a great quantity packed into casseroles as well. The original recipe used bread rather than buckwheat, but we were going for gluten-free this year. Actually, I started making the stuffing with buckwheat years ago when I was cooking macrobiotic. Potatoes are very yin, and the buckwheat helps to balance them a bit (take that as you wish). I actually prefer the buckwheat, so usually prepare the dish with buckwheat now.

As a side note, I'll mention the original recipe also contained egg, which the buckwheat nicely compensates for. I still remember the year my mother accidentally dropped an eggshell into the blender as she ground up the potatoes. It was immediately pulverized, so my mother hoped it wouldn't be detected in the cooked stuffing. It was. And it was horrible. That wouldn't have happened during all the years she grated those potatoes by hand! Or if she were vegan.

My husband was in charge of the salad and dressing.

Our daughter-in-law brought a big pan of delicious rutabaga fries. The rutabaga was from her garden, making these especially cool. I've never been a big fan of rutabaga, but these were sensational.

Our middle son prepared roasted Brussels sprouts and carrots — one of my favorite veggie treats. Roasted Brussels sprouts have become a standard at our holiday table, and these were especially delicious.

Naturally we had pleasingly tart cranberry-apple sauce. I never get tired of cranberry sauce.

For dessert we had Happy Herbivore's no-fat pumpkin pie. This year's pie came out a little too firm, and slightly weird. Maybe it was because I used spelt flour instead of wheat, but maybe it wasn't. I have to say, though, that the pie improved over time, and last night it tasted quite good, but I think I'm returning to my old p-pie recipe, if I can find it.

The blueberry-pineapple tart didn't photograph well, but it sure looked good in person. This was my first attempt at a gluten-free crust, and I thought it was a big success. It had both pleasing taste and texture, despite the fact I didn't follow an actual recipe. I have a question, though, for experienced xgfx bakers. Although the tart was great when I served it, the leftover crust got kind of mushy the next day. Is that typical or was it because of my ingredients? (brown rice flour, tapioca starch, potato starch, coconut flour, walnuts, Earth Balance, maple syrup.)

Oh yes, we also had pre-dinner tidbits, but they didn't get well-photographed, unfortunately. I made baba ghannouj, a tray of calamata olives, stuffed green olives and marinated artichoke hearts, accompanied by a bowl of Food Should Taste Good tortilla chips. The eggplant for the baba ghannouj was roasted over our gas stove burner so it would taste smoky, like the grilled eggplant traditionally used for this dish, but the eggplant was so huge, that I got discouraged about halfway though the roasting, and finished baking it in the oven. The time spent toasting on the stove-top was enough to impart a smoky flavor, so now I know I can partially roast in the oven if necessary. Or maybe I can just use liquid smoke next time. :)

The mystery cat (I call her Tinkerbelle) showed up to join the family for our Thanksgiving celebration, and made herself right at home.


This blog was featured

Lorilee Lippincott, who writes the blog Loving Simple Living ( featured this blog on her site yesterday. She has geared her blog toward embracing a simple lifestyle, and I think you might enjoy visiting her site.

November 26, 2011

Pre-Thanksgiving: tofu turkey or TG part 1

I altered our family tradition this year and made a tofu turkey instead of a stuffed seitan, and I thought I'd do a little step-by-step photo story as I made the dish. I really love when bloggers show the progress of a complex creation. Unfortunately, I'm not one of those people, though I seriously tried. The camera was in the kitchen, but my mind was preoccupied, and I only got so far. The recipe on which I based my tofu turkey is here. (I made my own version of stuffing.)

Before getting to the tofu, I started the day with a nod to the season and made a cranberry smoothie. It also had banana, frozen blueberries, frozen mango, a tablespoon of frozen OJ concentrate, lucuma powder (thanks, Ricki!) and almond milk. It was so pretty and delicious that I think frozen cranberries may become a regular smoothie ingredient. Suitably fortified, I moved on to the tofu business.

The following takes place the day before Thanksgiving.

Since pressing the tofu seemed key to getting the texture right, I first pressed my tofu for a few hours in my Japanese pickle press. The tofu was the fresh stuff from a Vietnamese tofu shop, and seemed quite firm, but I was amazed to see how much water came out of it, so I'm glad I took this extra step. Fresh tofu is much more flavorful than the supermarket variety, and I wanted my concoction to taste really good, but any extra-firm water-pack tofu would be fine.

After pressing, the tofu got puréed in a food processor. (I tried the VitaMix first, but that was too gross, and removing the tofu from the blender jar was horrible.) Next the seasonings were added. I used hickory smoked salt in the seasoning mix, not broth powder. In addition to the herbs in the recipe, I added some light yeast flavoring that I'd previously made from this recipe from Miyoko Nishimoto Schinner.* (She used to make and sell the Now and Zen Unturkey, which I've never actually tried, but the light yeast seasoning is very handy, and you might want to make some!)

The next step was to line a colander with cheesecloth, and pack the tofu into the colander, covering the top with the overhanging cheesecloth. A plate got placed on top of the cheesecloth and a weight was placed on the plate; in this case two boxes of veggie stock were placed on their sides atop the plate. This is where the communications between my brain and the camera broke down, and no further illustrative photos were taken. The tofu-packed colander was placed on a plate and went into the fridge overnight.

The following takes place on Thanksgiving day.
I made a stuffing with wild rice, brown basmati rice, toasted walnuts, onions, garlic, ginger, fresh sage and lots of baby bella mushrooms, all cooked to perfection in my trusty wok. Once the stuffing was made and cooled, the cheesecloth over the top of the tofu was pulled aside, and tofu was scooped out, leaving a rim of 1 to 2 inches. The resulting hole was filled with stuffing, and the tofu I had removed was smoothed over the top, forming a solid covering. (Still in the colander.) The next part was a little scary, but it worked perfectly.

To cook, the stuffed tofu was inverted onto a baking pan, and the cheesecloth-covered blob miraculously fell out without breaking. I carefully removed the cheesecloth and basted the mound, placed it into the oven, and removed and basted many times until it was done. In the end, I had to turn the oven up to 450˚F for about 20 minutes to crisp it up.

Voila! It emerged looking quite nice. I had planned to surround it with roasted veggies but miscalculated the amount of space it would take up on the serving platter, so settled for some parsley and a few tomatoes.

Here's a view of the inside. The recipe said it served six, but I knew that couldn't be right since five pieces of tofu were involved. In fact, we had lots of leftovers to send home with guests, and even though we ate it again last night, we STILL have leftovers. Next year: smaller tofu turkey or more guests!

In my next post, I'll show you what we actually had for our meal. Hope everyone who celebrated Thanksgiving, had a lovely time.

*Miyoko Nishimoto Schinner is the author of Japanese Cooking: Contemporary and Traditional, which I reviewed here. She is also the author of The New Now and Zen Epicure: Gourmet Vegan Recipes for the Enlightened Palate, and she writes a cooking blog called, The Vegan Manifesto.

November 20, 2011

Sour cereal: a rich, spicy soup made from millet and coconut

In my last post, about the vegan blogger potluck held at my house, I mentioned that one of the guests brought a delicious, coconut-y soup made from millet. Natalie, the person who prepared the excellent dish, agreed to let me share the recipe. She said her mother got the recipe years ago from a Siddha Yoga ashram in Hawaii, and even though I can't know for sure they would be willing to share it, I'm going to take a chance that it would be OK. I'm printing the recipe as it was given to me, but feel free to change ingredient quantities to suit your taste. I plan to make some changes next time I make this, but it's really great as written, so you might want to try it before changing it. Thank you Natalie!

Sour cereal
(2 to 4 servings)
  • 3-2/3 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste. This was too salty for me.)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • pinch fenugreek
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/4 cup shredded dried coconut
  • 1/2 tomato (I used one roma tomato)
  • 2 to 3 pitted dates, optional (I used 2)
  • 2 fresh green chilies (I used 1 jalapeno), seeded
  • 1 inch ginger root, peeled
  • 1/3 cup millet, washed
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  1. Add salt, oil, cumin, fenugreek, cayenne to the water and bring to a boil.
  2. Add millet and onion, stir, and return to a boil.
  3. Turn heat to low and cook five minutes, uncovered.
  4. Make the masala. Add coconut, tomato, dates, pepper, and ginger root to a blender jar and blend until well-combined.
  5. Add the masala to the millet mixture, cover and cook on low for 45 minutes.
  6. Add additional water as needed to maintain a soupy consistency. Taste for seasonings.

We had the soup with steamed baby bok choy and deep-fried onion tofu from the tofu shop. Completely wrong accompaniment, I know, but so good.

Slow Cooker recipe testing

We loved the stuffed collard leaves that I tested for Robin Robertson's upcoming slow cooker book. Believe it or not, I've never stuffed collards, only cabbage, and I was amazed how much easier it was to work with collards. From now on, it's collards for me!

Wisconsin has changed ...

My husband snapped this photo on his recent visit to our former home of Madison, Wis. It was tacked to the front door of the Green Owl vegetarian and vegan restaurant, because Wisconsin now has concealed carry. You can pack heat in any place that hasn't posted a warning, such as restaurants, shops — even the Capitol building. As an ironic side note, people were recently prohibited from bringing cameras into the capitol during a protest, but not concealed weapons. We've only been gone two years, but so much has changed ...

November 14, 2011

Seattle vegan blogger meetup

Yesterday I had the pleasure of hosting a Seattle vegan blogger potluck at my little house. There were five of us enjoying delicious food and good conversation. Attendees included Bethany from Spotted Devil Cat and his Vegan Asst., Rose, from Dandelion Blog, Samantha, from Novel Eats, and Natalie, who is still planning her blog. Calling in sick at the last minute were Sonnet from For the Love of Food, and Helen, from Vegtastic.

So what did five plant-based bloggers bring to the table?

Rose brought a large platter of delicious kabobs and spring rolls with two dipping sauces. (You can see the rolls at the top of the post.)

Natalie arrived with an amazing millet dish she called sour cereal. It was flavored with a masala.

Bethany shared a yummy cheesy casserole filled with veggies and topped with mochi.

I made Thai coconut corn soup, based on a recipe by Nava Atlas.

And Samantha brought not one ...

but two gorgeous platefuls of cookies — chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin.

What can I say?

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November 09, 2011

Sunbreaks, parsnips and celery root; Cookbook winner

Parsnips and celery root

There is a weather phenomenon here called a "sunbreak." Deep down in my heart, I'm pretty convinced you can't really, truly understand what a Seattle sunbreak is unless you live here. I can try to explain, but you won't really get it; I never did on the multiple times I visited. I thought I understood, but it's so peculiar that it's unlike anything one would normally think of as a sunbreak, and only after living here do I now see the light, so to speak.

For much, (most?), of the year, the weather is gloomy, drippy, damp, dark, overcast, or just plain raining. The forecast might say "cloudy with rain," or "cloudy with increasing rain," or maybe on good days "cloudy with decreasing rain." On the best days, the forecast might say "cloudy with sunbreaks." I will try to explain. Picture a gloomy, totally overcast sky. You can't see clouds, you can't see the sun, it's grey and damp and the ground is wet. It looks like it will surely rain, though I've learned that a grey sky doesn't necessarily mean rain. Sometimes there's a faint drizzle that's kind of like a mist that can't be felt but makes everything wet.


Then, suddenly, the sky clears and turns blue, The sun emerges and shines warm and bright, and though the ground may stay wet, it appears to be a perfectly beautiful, sunny day. This may last one minute, or five, or maybe even an hour. Then, as suddenly as it appeared, the lovely weather is gone, and the day returns to its previous grey and glum condition. This may happen once, or several times during the day, without warning, and if you're not quick, you may miss it. That's a sunbreak.


During the winter, I think soup is kind of like a sunbreak. It's warm and bright, and for a short period of time, it fills the air with fragrance, and makes you smile. And you can make it happen whenever you want, unlike an atmospheric sunbreak! Last year around this time, I recreated a soup I'd enjoyed at a local restaurant, and I've been meaning to embellish that soup ever since.

Now that parsnips and celeriac are in season at the farmers market, I created a little sunbreak in my kitchen with a steaming bowl of parsnip soup. This time I've added celery root for depth, and a carrot for a tint of color. Red pepper and fresh ground black pepper are the topping. Sriracha also pairs beautifully with this soup.

The soup is thick, velvety and comforting, and when made in a pressure cooker, is very quick to make. I used three or four parsnips, two carrots, a large potato and a small celery root. Celery root, or celariac, is one of the most unpretty vegetables around. It's beige, bulbous, weird and delicious, with a pronounced celery flavor. It can be eaten raw or cooked, and my favorite way to enjoy it is sliced and roasted, though it's also great in soups and stews. It's too tough to peel, so I use a sharp knife to slice off the outer part and the gnarly bottom before cutting it into the shapes I need for cooking. Celeriac is a good source of vitamin K, a very good source of fiber, a good source of Vitamin C and phosphorus, and a fair source of potassium. It is low in starch.

Here's the approximate recipe:

Mellow parsnip and celery root soup (serves four generously)
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons coarse salt (or more to taste)
  • 3 to 4 (or so) parsnips, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 medium organic potato, scrubbed and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 1 celery root about 3 to 4 inches in diameter, cubed same as potato
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 2 to 4 large cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • about 2 cups low sodium vegetable broth (more for thinner soup)
  • fresh ground pepper
  • garnish (red pepper flakes, cracked black pepper, sriracha, chopped green onion — your choice
  1. In a five quart pressure cooker, warm the oil a little and add the cumin seeds. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the seeds become fragrant and start to sizzle, about four minutes.Be careful not to burn them.
  2. Add the coriander and salt and stir.
  3. Quickly add the parsnips, potatoes, celery and garlic, and carrot, and stir to coat the vegetables.
  4. Add the water and bring to pressure. Cook five minutes at pressure. Bring the pressure down and open the pot. (In a conventional pot, cut the veggies into small pieces and cook in the water until tender.)
  5. Add the tahini. With an immersion blender, blend until completely smooth and creamy, adding vegetable broth as needed to achieve your preferred texture. The soup should be pretty thick and creamy. (To use a regular blender, blend a small amount at a time, until all the soup is blended.)
  6. Taste for seasonings.
  7. Place in bowls and add a garnish of your choice.

This recipe is entered in the Sweet or Savory Kitchen Challenge.


Rabbit Food Cookbook winner

I said I'd use the random number generator to pick a winner of the Rabbit Food Cookbook last Friday, and I did. Though it's taken me until today to announce it, I did inform the winner, Radioactive vegan, over the weekend. She's accepted the prize and the book is on it's way to her. Thanks to everyone who entered and left a comment.

November 04, 2011

Eat Vegan on $4 a Day; beans-and-greens stir-fry

How many times have you read or heard that eating a healthy, plant-based diet may be ideal, but it's too expensive and time consuming for the average person to handle, and eating a fast-food diet is the inferior but more economical choice. It's too complicated, too much trouble, too expensive to buy all those healthful fruits and vegetables. Ellen Jaffe Jones has made it her mission to teach people "how easy it is to prepare delicious, healthful, inexpensive meals at home."

With a long family history of health problems, as well as personal health issues, Jones chose a plant-based diet to improve her health, and her quest to make a plant-based diet affordable, healthy and delicious for anyone, has led to her to write Eat Vegan on $4 a Day. She says it was press references to Twinkies and boxed mac and cheese as being the only things some people could afford, that finally pushed her over the edge and made her do it; she wants to show people that they can make six servings of delicious, high quality plant-based protein for the cost of just one Twinkie. To accomplish her goal of helping people to eat better while spending less, Jones includes chapters on Financial Planning for Food Shopping, and Plant-Based Nutrition and Cooking 101. She also offers advice on stocking the pantry, and provides daily and weekly menus and costs.

I didn't actually try to replicate any of her meals to see if I could match her costs, but I did try one of the recipes to see if it tasted good — the recipes are very simple and contain common pantry ingredients. I handed the book to my husband and asked him to choose and prepare one dish, and he picked greens-and-beans stir-fry. He used kale instead of collards and broccoli because that's what we had, but otherwise he followed the recipe exactly. It was delicious — the kind of healthy, simple but satisfying food I crave for everyday meals. Not only was it great tasting, it took almost no time to prepare. If you are trying to cook more economically, or more healthfully, you may want to pick up a copy of Ellen Jaffe Jones' book for inspiration and guidance. I'm looking forward to trying more of her delicious, quick-to-prepare, recipes.

For more ideas on how to eat beautifully, healthfully and happily on a strict budget, check out Melody Polakow's blog Melomeals.

Printed with permission.

Here's a video about eating frugally based on Ellen Jaffe's book.

Full disclosure: A review copy of the book was provided to me free of charge by Book Publishing Company. I was not paid to write a review, nor was I required to do so.