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December 31, 2009

Tempeh Hot Wings

Don't let the Chicago Bears hoodie that I am wearing today fool you. This sweatshirt is as far as my team spirit goes. (Dad, if you are reading this, I'm sorry!) Football season around here means gathering at the home of the person with the largest flat screen TV, getting rowdy, and eating greasy finger foods like potato chips with onion dip, cocktail wieners, and hot wings. My lack of team spirit may be due to the fact that flat screen TVs, getting rowdy, and wieners/wings don't much appeal to me (well, maybe I do like to get a little bit rowdy sometimes). On the other hand, you can give me a bag of peanuts and send me to a baseball game any day!

There is something about these vegan tempeh hot wings that has me feeling all sorts of team spirit today. These are just so incredibly delicious that it makes me want to go out and pick up a big flat screen TV so that people might consider coming to my house for the game.

Perhaps that would be going overboard.. just a tad.

Tempeh Hot Wings

Note: I used Louisiana style hot sauce in the sauce and the result was mild enough that people with lower tolerance to spice could handle it (tested and approved!).
8 oz package of tempeh
1/3 cup rice milk
1/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp thyme
1 tsp paprika
fresh ground pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2/3 c panko breadcrumbs (may substitute regular breadcrumbs)

4 tbsp margarine, melted
2 1/2 tbsp hot sauce
4 tbsp ketchup
2 tbsp agave nectar

In a small saucepan, boil about three cups of water. Cut the tempeh into four equal blocks, then cut those blocks into triangles, and carefully slice the triangles in half lengthwise. Put the tempeh in the boiling water and cover, for about fifteen mintes or until tempeh is softened. Pour the pan into a colander and rise with cold water. Allow the tempeh to cool enough that you can handle it.While the tempeh is cooling, make the sauce. In a large pot, combine all of the sauce ingredients and set aside. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Make your assembly line for the wings. Put your rice milk in the first bowl, your flour and spices in the second, and your panko in the third. (Note: I recommend separating half of the two dry ingredient bowls because as the assembly goes it starts to get clumpy and it is nice to switch over to a bowl of fresh dry ingredients.) At the end of the line, have a greased baking sheet waiting.

Take a tempeh triangle, and dip it in the milk, then coat in flour. Then another quick dip in the milk before thoroughly coating it in the bread crumbs and placing it on the baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the tempeh.

Spray the tops of the wings with cooking spray, and bake in the oven for ten minutes. Remove, flip over, and bake for ten more. Just before you take the wings out of the oven, heat the sauce over a medium heat until just warm. When you take the wings out, transfer them to the pot a few at a time and coat in the sauce, remove and set coated wings aside as you go. Serve immediately.

December 30, 2009

My Sweet Vegan Christmas Eve

'Twas the night before Christmas Eve
when all through the house
not a creature was stirring..
No wait, I was stirring.. stirring, blending, and baking like mad!

Well, I should not make it sound like such a ravenous affair. It was actually a nice, relaxing evening of baking. It was a great way to pass the time as I anxiously awaited the two days of festivities that would begin the next morning. It was also a great opportunity to try out some of the recipes from my shiny new copy of My Sweet Vegan by Hannah Kaminsky. The book boasts 184 gorgeous full color glossy pages of one tempting dairy-free dessert after another. I had far too many recipes bookmarked, but I managed to narrow it down to four very Christmas-party-appropriate desserts.

My first choice was the Pumpkin Pecan Pie. I love pumpkin pies, and I love pecan pies, and I've even tried a few pumpkin pecan pies and loved those too. There are several things that make this version special and different from any I have tried in the past. First, of course, it is dairy-free. This recipe utilizes vegan margarine and soy creamer, and you would never miss their dairy counterparts in the finished product.

Another unique and important part of this pie is the crust, which is made with whole wheat pastry flour. Here is where I should let you know that I am a crust girl, it has always been my favorite part of the pie. I just don't understand why some people eat the fillings from a slice of pie and leave the crust behind.. especially the rim, that is the perfect ending to a good slice of pie! All that being said, I believe that I am qualified to declare this pie crust delicious. I plan on borrowing this crust recipe and trying other fillings in the future.

Finally, the icing on the cake, so to speak, the pumpkin creme! This is the most visually enticing aspect of photo that appears in the book, displayed in small dollops around the edge of the pie. My creme did not firm up enough to pipe it around the edge, so I drizzled it instead. Not nearly as pretty, but just as delicious. The flavor is the finishing touch that really ties it all together.

Up next, and the favorite of the bunch, Five-Minute Coconut Fudge. It's no wonder this one was my personal favorite, it doesn't involve the oven, it has a short list of ingredients (which includes both shredded coconut and coconut milk!), and it comes together in no time. Based on it getting snatched up the quickest it was the favorite of everyone else as well. I am already working on a plan to justify making another batch. I could have a whole pan of fudge at home just for me, no?

I also made the Cherry Chocolate Truffles. You may notice a theme forming: no baking involved, short list of ingredients, and quick to make! And you thought that making four desserts in one evening was awfully ambitious, didn't you? I was able to make these truffles and the fudge in between the baking of the two main desserts. The truffles were a welcome addition to the lot. They were creamy, rich, and a little bit tart. I've never made truffles before, so this was a lot of fun!

So right about now you might have a toothache just looking at all of these sweet yummies. Enter: Apple Spice Cake. This cake has no added sugar, it is completely sweetened by the fruit within. This low-guilt dessert features all sorts of good things like apples, raisins, walnuts, oats, and whole wheat pastry flour. The cake is assembled with a generous helping of apple butter spread between the two layers in place of frosting. This dessert was well received at Christmas Eve dinner, and the leftovers were great at breakfast Christmas morning. I enjoyed it so much at breakfast that I am thinking about adapting this recipe into a muffin version.

Hannah came up with this cake for her Grandmother, who is diabetic, so that they could celebrate her birthday without sacrificing the dessert. (What a sweety!) I should mention, too, that in the book each recipe is preceded by a paragraph introducing it, and this is where you get to know Hannah better, and learn about the things that inspired each recipe. And since Hannah is so darn charming, naturally her cookbook is as well.

I would say that my first crack at My Sweet Vegan was a successful one. Did I mention that I've never done any vegan baking before? It is very encouraging to know that giving up dairy doesn't mean giving up tasty desserts!

Here are some of the other desserts from My Sweet Vegan that I bookmarked for future baking:
Graham Flour Fig Scones
Strawberry Love Muffins
Black and Whites
Black Bottom Blondies
Maple Pistachio Cremes
Peanut Butter Bombs
Bananas Foster Cake
Lemon-Lime Sunshine Bundt
Poppyseed Cupcakes with Lemon Curd Filling
Root Beer Float Cupcakes
Cashew Creme Pear Tart
Sesame Chews

Hope you and yours had as sweet of a Christmas as mine!

December 19, 2009

Bhindi Masala

So it's the last weekend before Christmas, and I am actually relaxing. I have worked hard over the last couple of weeks and I am pretty well caught up now. Well, caught up enough that I could grab my laptop, lean back on the couch with my feet propped up on the coffee table, and work on a post about another yummy Indian dish. So let's get right to it, I hope that you enjoy this one as much as I did!

Bhindi Masala
(adapted from Two Blue Lemons)

1 small yellow onion
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 cups okra, sliced, stems discarded

1 tsp cumin
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cayenne
Pinch of cinnamon
2 whole cloves
4 green cardamom pods

1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup water
1 can diced tomatoes or 2 large fresh tomatoes, chopped

Slice the onion into thin half moons and saute in olive oil until the onion are translucent. Add the ginger and garlic saute for a minute or two or until the garlic is fragrant. Add the okra.

Add the cumin, garam masala, turmeric, cayenne, cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom. Cook for a minute to toast the spices.

Stir in the coconut milk, water, and diced tomatoes. Simmer, uncovered, over low heat for about 20 minutes, or until the tomato and coconut has created a thick, dark curry.

Well, time to get back to my lounging, but before I go I wanted to tell you about something exciting that I've decided to take part in this January. For me, this holiday season has been a major overdose on sweets and other not so healthy foods. I was ready to throw in the towel a couple of days ago, but the big day isn't even here yet! Now, I'm not the new year resolution type, but it really does make sense to make diet changes after the holidays. So without calling it a new years resolution, I was planning on starting out the near year by cutting out dairy and sugar for a few weeks, as a sort of detox and to get myself going in the right direction for 2010.

Wouldn't you know that the day after I committed myself to doing this on my own I learned about the January Cleanse 2010 co-hosted by clinical nutritionist, Gena, of Choosing Raw. Hop on over to check out the program and take advantage of a discount for signing up before the end of December. There are three levels to choose from, based on where you are at with your current diet. Sample menus for all three levels of the program are now available here. The cleanse will be taking place Jan 18-27, be sure to let me know if you plan on joining me!

Just in case I don't have the chance to post again, I'd like to take the opportunity now to wish you a very Merry Christmas. Wishing you the very best, my friends!

December 15, 2009

Many updates and White Chili with Tomatillos and Roasted Mushrooms

We are officially at the halfway mark of the month of December and I find myself a few steps behind.  Each day I inch closer to catching up with all things Christmas, but today I had to admit to myself that my ambition exceeds my capabilities. This December has been so much more action packed than I am used to, but in a good way! Before I get to what I cooked up for dinner tonight I thought I'd take the opportunity to fill you in on the recent excitement around here, I do hope that you will indulge me.

First up, I won my first giveaway! In late November Alisa at One Frugal Foodie hosted a week of cookbook giveaways. I was lucky enough to win on the day that she was giving away her own cookbook, Go Dairy Free. I was giddy when the package arrived, and even more so when I opened it to find not just the book I expected, but also a copy of My Sweet Vegan by Hannah Kaminksy. Double score! I dove right into both books and started making plans on which recipes I would be trying first. I also made plans to write up both books in time for the holidays, but this is where the whole ambition exceeding capabilities comes in. If you are still looking for last minute gift ideas these are both great books, but regrettably I won't be able to share my experiences with them until after the holidays. Stay tuned!

Another reason that this December has been more awesome than the average December, I had the opportunity to host a weekend for these three lovely ladies from Tennessee. This is my cousin, Aunt, and Grandma bundled up in front of "The Bean" in Chicago's Millenium Park. I took them downtown for a day of shopping at Macy's, including a visit to the seventh floor for some fine dining at The Walnut Room. Despite not living far away, this is a Christmas tradition that I haven't experienced in many years.

Here are some Walnut Room shots of the famous tree in the dining room and my yummy butternut squash tortellini. 

What a special treat it was to spend the whole weekend with some of my favorite relatives from afar, but they did not come just to see me, they came for a much bigger occasion. After having lots of fun in the Chicago area on Friday and Saturday, we packed up the cars Sunday morning and headed to Valparaiso, Indiana to see my little brother, Tim, graduate from college! It was a wonderful time surrounded by family and celebrating his great accomplishments. Now he will be moving home for one short month and then it's off to Arizona, where he landed his first job! We are all so super proud of him, but I am going to miss him like crazy!

So I do hope that you will excuse my absence in posting so far this month, but I have not stopped cooking and baking. I have a backlog of goodies that I will share as soon as possible. For now, here is a super yum white chili that I had for dinner tonight, that is perfect for the 10°F nights such as these.

White Chili with Tomatillos and Roasted Mushrooms
(adapted from The Chubby Vegetarian)

3-15 oz cans of white beans, I used 2 cannellini + 1 great northern
1 large white onion, diced
2 shallots, diced
2 tablespoons cumin
2 "Not-chick'n" bouillon cubes
1/2 cup white wine
1 large yellow bell peppers, diced
6-8 tomatillos, peeled and washed
20 oz white button mushrooms, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, stem removed
1 serrano pepper, stem removed
2 tablespoons chickpea flour
olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss mushrooms with a tablespoon of olive oil and roast for 15 minutes. Set aside. In a large pot sauté onion and shallot with olive oil, cumin and bouillon cubes. Once the onion is translucent, add the peppers and deglaze the pan with the white wine. Cook until most of the wine has evaporated. Pulse tomatillos and hot peppers in the food processor until finely chopped. Add mixture to the pot along with the beans and mushrooms. Add enough water to cover and simmer for one hour. Whisk chickpea flour with some of the broth and add it all back to the pot. Cook for another 10 minutes. (This will thicken the chili.) Add salt and pepper to taste.

December 6, 2009

Matar Paneer and Aloo Tikki

After my first major success in cooking authentic tasting Indian food at home, I had in mind to show off my new skills to my boyfriend. Oh, how very rude of me, you haven't been introduced, have you? This is Steve, my most wonderful boyfriend. Everyone say, "Hi Steve!" He pretty much rules, and I am certain that you would love him.

Steve shares my love of Indian food so I was very excited to cook up something special for him. We both love all things paneer, so I thought it would be most fun and tasty to conquer a paneer dish. I returned to Lisa's Kitchen for inspiration since her Chana Masala was such a hit, and I was pleased to find many paneer recipes in her archives. With a big bag of frozen peas already in my freezer the Matar Paneer was the obvious choice. I put Steve to work measuring spices into small bowls so they would be ready for me when I needed them. He seemed to really enjoy the process of watching it all come together. We were super happy with the end result, and I definitely plan to make this dish again.

To make this an extra special feast I made Aloo Tikki as an appetizer, Indian spiced fried potato patties. I don't have any experience making fried things at home, because I shy away from recipes that involve submerging food in oil. We did not have the highest expectations for these, but were very pleasantly surprised in the end. I love it when that happens! I want to continue with my habit of not submerging my food in oil, but it will be hard not to indulge in this recipe from time to time. This would be great with some tamarind chutney on top, but we did not have any this time.

Matar Paneer

a few tablespoons of oil or butter, or a mixture of both
1 1/2 teaspoons of cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon of black mustard seeds
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 hot green chillies or jalapenos, finely minced
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 inch piece of ginger, grated or finely minced
1 generous teaspoon of ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne
1/2 teaspoon of paprika
1 teaspoon of turmeric
2 teaspoons of water
2 cups of tomatoes, finely chopped
1 - 2 teaspoons of sea salt
2 cups of paneer cheese, cubed
1 1/2 cups of frozen peas, defrosted
1/2 - 1 cup of yogurt
2 teaspoons of garam masala
1 1/2 teaspoons of kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves) - I could not find this, so I omitted
3 tablespoons of fresh parsley or coriander, chopped

In a mortar and pestle, make a paste of the garlic, ginger, cayenne, coriander, paprika, turmeric and water. Set aside.

In a large pot, heat the oil and butter over medium heat. When hot, add the cumin and black mustard seeds and stir and fry until the mustard seeds turn gray and begin to pop. Now add the onion and cook until it is translucent, stirring frequently. Add the chillies, stir and then add the ginger, garlic spice paste. Stir and fry for a minute.

Add the tomatoes and salt to the pot, increase the heat slightly and cook for about 5 - 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thickened. Reduce the heat, and add the peas, paneer, yogurt, garam masala, kasoori methi and parsley. Stir to combine and gently cook for another 5 minutes.

Serves 4.

Aloo Tikki
(adapted from VegNews)

2 russet potatoes, peeled, chopped, and boiled (apprx 1.5 - 2 cups)
3/4 cup cooked chickpeas
1 green chile, seeded and minced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1 tbsp ginger, grated
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp fine grain sea salt
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup canola oil, for frying

In a large bowl, mash potato and chickpeas (the chickpeas will remain a bit chunky which is fine). Add chile, cilantro, ginger, lemon juice, salt, pepper, coriander, cumin, flour, and cornstarch and mix well. Use your hands to shape the mixture into small, tight patties.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat oil. Add the patties and cook until both sides are golden brown, turning once. Serve hot.

December 2, 2009

Belated Thanksgiving Post

This exact time last week I was busy roasting and pureeing butternut squash, baking maple glazed pecans, and "carving" tofu turkeys to try to get ahead of the game on the dishes I was bringing to Thanksgiving dinner the next day.

This is my first Thanksgiving since I joined the food blogging community, and I found myself overwhelmed with inspiration. While I usually bring one dish to my family dinner, I brought three this year (four if you count the gravy). There was so much more that I wanted to make, it made me wish that I was hosting the meal myself.

My favorite (and obviously cutest!) was the Cider Marinated Tofu Turkeys and Cider Gravy, created by Hannah over at BitterSweet. I was particularly excited about bringing these alternative birds for more than just the obvious reasons. This was the first Thanksgiving as vegetarians for my aunt and her husband, and what a great way to celebrate their decision to not partake in the turkey! These were so tasty, that even my turkey-loving father was impressed. (Oh, and these turkeys are not actually carved, it's a cookie cutter).

I had my eye on this butternut squash lasagna for months now, but it isn't a practical dish to make for just a couple of people.  I knew Thanksgiving would be the perfect excuse to make this. Loads of roasted butternut squash puree smeared between layers of noodles, freshly shredded mozzarella and a creamy basil sauce. So delicious!

Lastly, I made this Brussels Sprout Slaw with Mustard Dressing and Maple Glazed Pecans. The word slaw has negative connotations to many, because it is usually associated with mayonnaise drenched cabbage. Well, there is no mayonnaise in this recipe. Who would have thought that brussels sprouts based salads would be so amazing? Well, I'm not the only one doing it, so don't just take my word for it!

Well Thanksgiving is over and hopefully you got lots of rest, because I don't need to remind you of what is right around the corner!

I got the tree up on Sunday, and the kitties took an immediate liking to it. They arranged themselves this way beneath the tree on their own and sat there for ages while I clicked away with the camera!

I am submitting this photo of Arnold and Evie under the tree to this month's No Croutons Required event, hosted by Jacqueline. This month they are taking a break from the normal soup and salad challenge and inviting bloggers to submit festive photos instead. What? An excuse to make people look at pictures of my kitties? Sign me up!