Friday, October 26, 2012

Vegan Salt & Pepper White Gravy

Panko Crusted Seitan with Gravy and Spinach

In my fam, I'm known for bringing the vegan brown gravy to every holiday dinner we have together. Sometimes it's shiitake flavored, sometimes its base is veggie broth, others it's almond milk. Sometimes I'll caramelize onions and blend them in, other times I just reach for onion powder. Whatever ends up in it it's always rich, dark, thick, sop up every last drop good.

Even when making gravy for breakfast with biscuits and tempeh or seitan fauxsage, I'm known for whipping up a rich brown gravy to serve as the salty, tasty component to a biscuits 'n gravy dish.

Until the recent Vegan Chopped challenge, white gravy wasn't on my radar at all. It came to me while dreaming up my entry and hasn't left my brain since. So simple, no crazy ingredients, just pantry staples thrown together quickly, with ease, and yielding a rich, perfect, salty and flavorful breakfast addition. I like to season mine with a personal favorite balance of salt and pepper. Enough salt to make it tasty, and just enough pepper to make it 'peppery' without being overpowering. Granted, I love black pepper, so ease off the listed amount and add to taste if you're worried about them being too peppery.

This morning I woke up wanting protein but not tofu, hadn't remembered to precook my beloved steel cut oats, and decided on one of my favorite things: 500 Vegan Recipes' Protein Quick! Mini Seitan Bites. I've made these so many time. They're the perfect easy, fast, protein packed savory choice for breakfast. They're not a muffin, they're not the same texture as any seitan I've ever made. They're just GOOD. As is in the book they're sublime, made with sausage-y herbs (think fennel, sage, marjoram, red pepper flakes) they're sausage in a protein-packed muffin. Made with rye seeds and bits of sauteed onion they're amazing with just a pat of Earth Balance, no gravy needed. However you choose to enjoy them, they're totally worth purchasing 500 Vegan Recipes for (tho there are plenty other great recipes in there I hope to blog about later!). They lend themselves perfectly to a light drizzle of gravy. Or a whole mess of gravy. The choice is yours.
Sausage Flavored Broccoli Bites with S&P Gravy

This morning I made my Protein Bites with fennel, sage, marjoram, garlic powder, onion powder and little bits of sauteed broccoli. I don't know about you, but throwing in a green veggie in the morning just reeeeally makes my breakfast. Wanting the white gravy my taste buds were craving, this was the perfect quick breakfast.

With this tasty dish I get all the flavor and texture satisfaction I want from a biscuits and gravy dish with more nutrients packed in and with less effort. The bites mix together so easily in one bowl and come out beautifully every time with very little effort.

Vegan Salt & Pepper White Gravy
makes about 2 cups

2 cups warmed almond milk
2 T Olive oil or Organic Smart Balance
3 T unbleached flour
1/2-1 tsp sea salt 
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder

While your bites are baking, heat almond milk in microwave for two minutes. In a med sauce pan, melt Smart Balance over med heat and whisk in flour. Whisking continuously, add about a 1/4 cup of warmed milk at a time, whisking in completely before adding your next 1/4 cup increment. When all the almond milk has been incorporated, add spices and whisk. Whisking occasionally to avoid a layer forming on the bottom of the pan, keep on med heat until bubbly and thickened. Turn heat to low.

I find that this gravy is a bit thin if you eat it piping hot, is a bit thicker if allowed to cool a bit, and is the perfect thickness if reheated from the day before. You could always mix a bit of cold almond milk with a bit of corn starch and stir that in while bubbling. that thickens it up quickly.

If you want to use this gravy over vegan biscuits, adding tempeh or seitain fauxsage, stirring it in at the end, would be a perfect choice!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Soytan 'n A Biscan't

I don't know what I'm more proud of, that this Vegan Chopped, Brunch Edition inspired me to create and make possibly the best thing to ever come out of my kitchen or that I did it on a whopping four hours of sleep after a fabulous but all-too-long night of celebrating a Gator win with some of my favorite peeps. Getting up, feeding the kids, cleaning the kitchen from said celebration and getting on brunch before the future brunchers catching those last winks of sleep even thought of cracking an eye open was a serious accomplishment, but oh, how it paid off in the end!

What I'm not proud of is that super awful play on words blog title for this entry. I can't help myself. No, really, I can't or I'd have deleted it by now. But it's at least less wordy than the formal description of my entry, 

Roasted Butternut Squash Rosemary Scones over White Sage Gravy with Popcorn Encrusted Soy-tan Cutlets and a Dijon Apricot Drizzle

the Vegan Chopped Brunch Edition ingredients?
fresh rosemary
apricot preserves
butternut squash

As is the case with me and Vegan Chopped ideas, I'm not known for really busting out of the vegan culinary box, but my brain dreams up something immediately upon seeing those four ingredients. Once that idea is born in my brain, there is no deviating.

For some reason I immediately thought of Chicken 'n A Biscuit.  before my two decades of being vegetarian then vegan, I'd never tried the combo, never knew anyone else who had, and had never seen them on an actual menu. Somehow this did not stop me from knowing that the pairing was a popular brunch item somewhere. So be it!

I have only made scones once before, but felt I needed to try my hand at them in a savory way. I adapted Vegan Brunch's Tomato Rosemary Scones as I've heard nothing but good things about them. Swapped tomato for roasted butternut squash puree that I'd made the day before and added ginger because, to me, ginger and rosemary need to be together. Okay, truth be told, ginger needs to get it on with most other flavors that show up on my plate so I may be biased in her favor. Ginger it was. Mmmmmm, ginger. I think next time I'd amp up the ginger now that i know how seductive she was in a subtle appearance in these babies.

Roasted Butternut Squash & Rosemary Scones
(adapted from Vegan Brunch)

3 cups unbleached flour
2 T baking powder
1/4 (scant) cup Florida Crystals
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
1/3 c. olive oil (I used a very light bodied variety)
1 1/2 cups roasted butternut squash puree*
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 T fresh rosemary, chopped
2-3 tsp fresh grated ginger (I use my microplaner)

400 oven
combine flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and black pepper in large bowl.
in separate bowl, whisk squash, oil, vinegar, rosemary, and ginger.
add wet ingredients to well in dry ingredients and stir gently until well incorporated.
line baking sheet with parchment paper.
my dough was sticky at this point so I lightly oiled my hands and my dough scraper.
divide dough into two and shape into two discs. divide each disc into six equal (ish ;) triangles.
bake 14-16 minutes or until firm.
mine, tested with a wooden skewer, were perfect inside after fifteen, skewer coming out clean but the scones were pillowy inside and the lightest crust on the outside (and such a pretty color!)

The gravy is a simple versatile no-nonsense gravy. I just wanted something thick and hearty to make the scone more biscuit-y and when I think rosemary, I think thyme and sage. I saved the thyme for the soytan breading.

Easy Vegan White Gravy

2 cups nondairy milk (I always use unsweetened almond), warmed
3 T unbleached flour
2 T vegan margarine (my fave is vegan Organic Smart Balance)
1 1/2 tsp dried sage
salt, pepper, garlic, and onion powder to taste

warm almond milk (I nuke mine for a few minutes). over medium heat, toast flour in a saucepan until fragrant, whisk in margarine. keep whisking until well combined (add nooch if you want here, I almost always do but just flaked this morning) then start slowly adding, whisking the whole time to avoid clumps, the warmed milk. simmer until thickened and add seasoning to taste. keep covered on low until ready to serve.

I feel in love last week with 1000 Vegan Recipe's Soytan cutlets, recipe here, (thanks again, Magic Jelly!) and love them as is in the recipe. It was no real stretch to make popcorn flour in the food processor (took about ten minutes and was beautiful, using my favorite, Black Jewel popcorn). I seasoned the already perfectly salted flour with Hungarian paprika, nutritional yeast, thyme and fresh cracked black pepper.
Edited to add that I have my computer up and running this morning so I added the pic! Off to back up this thing before I lose it all forever!
I had a beautiful picture that did a better job of explaining how much of each seasoning went into the bag of flour made from one bag of popped corn, but my computer just died after typing up this blog post and I lost anything I didn't already text to a friend this morning. I'm currently typing this from my husbands computer with limited photos to post. grrrr.

I dipped the cutlets (made a double batch) in almond milk and then dredged in the seasoned flour. Fried them in oil for a few minutes on one side, then splashed with lemon juice after flipping, browned the other side for a few minutes, then laid them to rest and cool on a paper towel lined drying rack, covered with a large pan cover til ready to eat.

The fancy sounding Dijon Apricot reduction was just a simple but great way to add a little sweet to all the savory (I should note that the scones were a tad sweet and I'd reduce the sugar a bit more for this recipe when making again, but I am so happy to eat the leftovers as is).

fancy sounding Dijon Apricot Reduction

1 5.5oz can of apricot nectar
1/2 c. apricot preserves (I did find a fancy imported french variety. ooh lala!)

2 T Dijon mustard
3 tsp apple cider vinegar
3 tsp agave nectar
salt to taste
pepper to taste
in saucepan over medium heat, bring all ingredients except salt and pepper to boiling, whisking continuously. simmer for about ten or fifteen minutes or until reduced and thickened. If it's too thick, add a few more splashes of nectar, too thin? try simmering for another 3-5 minutes.
add salt and pepper to taste.

I paired the satisfying, tasty plate with some fresh grapes and fresh peaches. and what kind of brunch would I be hosting without a fancy drink? Apricot Mimosas (I put a sprig of rosemary in mine and let it sit for a bit while plating and serving. was surprisingly so very good!).

I have to say, everyone was very happy with the results, but my most favorite reply came from my omni husband in the other room watching football, after the last bite, as the clink of his fork was heard hitting his plate, "Hey Bry? That was NUTS dude. NUTS! Wow. Thank you for that!"

I'm still smiling over that one. And plan to totally dis my daily beloved steel cut oats breakfast tomorrow for a fancy 'wish it was still Sunday' breakfast of brunch leftovers in the morning.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Overnight Steel Cut Oats

I've never been a fan of oatmeal. To me, oatmeal was always that nasty stuff that came in individual packets and always tasted like cinnamon and some dried fruit combo, was mushy and unappealing. I tried over the years to 'love' it like everyone else seemed to, but it never stuck. Whenever I got tired of tofu scrambles or smoothies for breakfast I'd try it again. No dice.

Enter Steel Cut Oats. I had them at a restaurant in town pan-seared and amazing. I copied their method and enjoyed them that way a LOT. But I had to have the forethought to make them ahead of time, stir a pot of oats for 40 minutes before bed and use a little too much Organic Smart Balance in the morning to enjoy them.

Did the crock pot thing for a while, but even that wasn't delivering the right texture. A visit from a friend last weekend changed everything. 'I do mine overnight. Nuke them at night, again in the morning. Perfect every time!'. No, it couldn't be. How had I missed this method? (Ironically, she told me this as I was stirring our breakfast oats for forty minutes that morning).

For the past week I have been blissfully enjoying the overnight method. You could do it on the stove if you prefer, but I like fact that I can make them and eat them all in one bowl and utilize the microwave while doing other things like dishes or getting a certain four year old to bed.

Basically, I take:

1/4 c. steel cut oats
3/4 c. water 

and place in a Pyrex bowl. I cover it with a small plate and microwave for two minutes. Remove from microwave, cover tightly (I use a bowl that came with a lid so that's super simple) and leave on the counter til morning.
In the morning I remove the cover, replace that small plate and microwave for another minute.
Then I stir in a big tablespoon of Justin's Chocolate Hazelnut Butter (oh my dog. how did I live without this stuff?!) and a sliced banana. 
Every time.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Take That Starbucks! Pumpkin Pie Spiced Latte

When I worked helping to manage a health club, I started a love affair with coffee. Oh, irony you are so funny. The coffee was right there at the front desk, always hot and fresh and it was either that or get through the long days using pre-outlawed ephedrine-laden energy drinks. Since I was already nursing a healthy addiction to expensive water and am a sufferer of high blood pressure, coffee seemed like the smarter vice. Not only did I fall in love with a caffeine addiction, I let myself succumb to the daily trips by an office coworker to Starbucks. It was the holidays, the flavors were too enticing to pass up! If I only ordered two pumps in my Venti Pumpkin Pie Spiced, Peppermint Mocha, or just straight up Hazelnut Soy lattes surely I wasn't being that bad, was I? 

After leaving the club, becoming vegan, and adopting a healthier lifestyle, I quit my Starbucks addiction cold turkey. I still, however, enjoyed a daily mug of coffee. Recently, I was out running errands, and after years of not frequenting the place, decided to 'treat' myself to the Pumpkin Pie Spiced Latte. I soon had the belly ache I remembered (amazing how even though they used to make me feel ill, I couldn't stop getting them). It was sickeningly sweet and crazy expensive. Lesson learned.

Thanks to a random pin on Pinterest, I realized I could have been making them at home all along, and better, even! 

Now, I'm no barista, and this is no true 'latte', but for me, it has the same flavor and hits the spot. I had to play with the maple syrup a bit to make sure I didn't over sweeten it. I tend to like a scarce hint of sweetness but no more. What's so great about this is that you can absolutely tailor it to your own liking and for pennies!

Pumpkin Spiced 'Latte'
makes 8 cups

You will need:
8 cups filtered water
Almond milk* (any non-dairy milk you prefer in your coffee should do), heated
5 heaping tablespoons of your favorite darker roast coffee
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger powder
5-8 whole cloves

I make this in my run-of-the-mill coffee maker with paper liner. I had read that this type of coffee maker is ideal. I typically would use 4 heaping T of coffee for 8 cups of water, but the idea is to make this coffee a bit stronger than you typically would. If you have an espresso machine that would be perfect (and I envy you ;).

Place water in water chamber and coffee in filter. Mix spices with coffee grounds. Brew. Place desired amount of maple syrup in bottom of mug, fill mug two thirds full with hot brewed coffee. Finish with almond milk*. That's it! I admit it took some tinkering with the syrup and milk/coffee ration to get it just right for myself, but it was worth it!

I can't believe I never thought of this before! (I say this a lot with things I find in Pinterest).

*I have skipped the almond milk and just used the typical amount of French Vanilla Silk Creamer I typically do in my coffee (1 T) and think I like that just as much. I have also tried using So Delicious's Hazelnut Coconut Milk Creamer and maybe liked that the best, but don't always want the Pumpkin Pie Spice/Hazelnut flavor. I can't believe I just typed that. I LOVE hazelnut anything, but it's true!

Happy fall!

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Favorite Vegan Tacos

Once upon a time or....last sister and I were in the kitchen talking about fish tacos. She loves them. Her husband loves them. MY husband,  her brother, loves them.  I, a veg for well over a decade, had never had them. While the idea of stuffing some protein packed fish-y veg option in a corn tortilla with cabbage and a tangy sauce was super appealing, I wasn't entirely sold on fish-y seasoning, bread-crumbing, and frying tofu as a stand-in. In my head these were fresh, whole ingredient-laden beauties. What better veg protein than the most complete one? Beans and rice!

We agreed that Jasmine rice and lightly seasoned black beans would be perfect. We topped them with fresh, shredded green cabbage and my homemade spicy sauce and served on warmed corn tortillas. She thought they could use something extra, a little sharp cheese. If you're a  fan of a particular vegan cheese feel free to add some,  but I wouldn't. I love them just as they are. Loved them all last summer. Loved them plenty of times this summer. Devoured a couple of them just now. Love.

Some people might be wondering if any old rice will do. If any old beans will suffice, if lettuce makes a fine substitute for the cabbage. My reply to those people? I have no idea. I have never tried them any other way than exactly like this, and if I don't have one of the ingredients I happily wait until I do to make them. My sister's husband is a fan. My husband is smitten. I have friends who have made them a staple in their kitchen as well. These babies are where it's at!

I cannot supply a recipe; I have never measured anything while making them or the spicy sauce that accompanies them. It's like any other taco, you have ingredients, you pile as much as you like of each into the tortillas. The sauce is something I've developed over time. It's modeled after those spicy sauces you get in sushi restaurants reserved for their star rolls. I basically just went with what I tasted and add each ingredient to taste.

Our Favorite Vegan Tacos

You will need (for tacos):

corn tortillas
jasmine rice, cooked
1 medium sweet onion
1 can low sodium black beans, rinsed and drained
1 tsp olive oil
sea salt
garlic powder (I'm lazy. You can use a couple cloves of garlic, minced)
green cabbage, cut in thin strips or shredded (or chopped, whatever you prefer!)

You will also need (for spicy sauce):

Veganaise (I use the Original, blue labeled variety but your favorite Veg Mayo stand-in will do)
Sriracha (rooster sauce!)
Toasted Sesame Oil (yes, it has to be toasted)
Agave nectar (I''m partial to the light variety, but I'm sure any will work fine, even using vegan sugar is likely a great sub if you don't have/don't like agave)

For the tacos:
Heat oil over medium heat in a sauce pan. Add onions and a couple pinches of sea salt and saute until soft and translucent. Add garlic and saute until starting to brown. Toss in the beans and season to taste with cumin and oregano (I put a few shakes of garlic, a few of cumin, and a few of oregano. I don't want those flavors to be prominent, but have found that adding them to the beans makes the beans taste amazing). Heat thru and take off heat and cover.

Spray skillet with oil on med heat. Heat small corn tortillas on each side until just starting to barely get brown spots, flip and repeat. Remove and put on plate, covered until all tortillas are ready.

Place tortilla on plate. Top with small amount of rice, then beans, then cabbage, then squirt with sauce.

For Spicy Sauce:
I make a bowl full and keep it in a squeeze bottle for future tacos, sushi, stir fries, whatever I want to put it on. This stuff is GOOD.

Place a few large tablespoons of Veganaise into a bowl. Add Sriracha  and mix until desired spiciness. I rarely taste it but have come to know the shade of orange I'm going for. I like it pretty spicy so a nice bright orange is where I'm aiming. Add a tsp or so of toasted sesame oil. I taste it here as not all toasted sesame oils are created equal and I don't want it's flavor to be overwhelming. Add a small amount of agave. Stir and taste and adjust ingredients to suit your tastes.

Sorry this is not a formal recipe. They really do come together so easily and are totally addictive! If you have any questions, please feel free to ask them in the comments. I'll answer them as best I can! Hope you and yours love them as much as we do!

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

The Perfect Vegan Burger!

For me, the perfect veggie burger holds its shape but isn't rubbery. It's full of flavor and packed with nutritious protein and not just filler. It's versatile and can be dressed however I prefer and doesn't have one overwhelming flavor that I'd get tired of. Ideally, it would hold up in a pan, in the oven, and even on the grill. while I don't recommend cooking these on a grill without first putting them on a pan, they really fit the bill on all fronts!

I was inspired by Melody of Melomeals's Three Ingredient Burger and used her Onion Soup Mix Replacer recipe to season my burgers, but there is certainly room to add herbs and spices to tailor them and create a whole list of various flavors. Instead of just using oats and beans, I used her guide of five cups of protein but decided to use quinoa (everything's better with quinoa, right?), rolled oats, tofu (because I seem to always have a partial block ready and waiting wrapped in a dish towel in the 'fridge), and beans (to help bind them). I added onions because they're my secret ingredient in a lot of things. Okay, now not so secret. I am smitten with these burgers dressed with Veganaise, Organic Ketchup, and chopped dill pickle on Sami's Bakery GF Sourdough Millet Bread (that I toast in a skillet with a light spray of olive oil).

I have made these from raw patty to pan on the grill or baked in the oven. I make them all at once and individually wrap them for future cooking (in a pan misted with oil). They freeze beautifully and are best, if frozen, when allowed to thaw first before cooking.

Out of the oven, they will appear a bit dry on the outside. If you're going to eat them right away, I place a large glass bowl over the ones I intend to serve as they cool as it helps get moisture back into them. If using for a later date, wrap cooled burgers individually and when cooked in a hot pan sprayed with oil, heat one side for a few minutes, add a T of water to the pan and cover for about thirty seconds to lock in some moisture, flip carefully, and allow to brown for a few minutes on the other side.

I have made these three times now, twice with chickpeas as my bean, once with cannellini beans. Both varieties came out perfectly, and I really couldn't tell the difference. I've really fallen in love with them and they are now my go-to burger. Every omni who has eaten them has also loved them, a testament to their yumminess and ability to deliver great texture for a veggie burger, something so many homemade recipes fail to deliver, I've found.

My Favorite Vegan Burger
makes 6-8 largish burgers

1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa (I use a blend of red and white)
1 1/2 cups extra firm tofu, excess water squeezed out
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup white beans (I used canned, rinsed)
1 sweet onion, chopped (large, small, it doesnt really matter)
1 batch Melody's Onion Soup Mix Recipe
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil (I use a Misto)

375 oven
Mist frying pan with oil and set to medium. Add onion and saute until soft and translucent. Add garlic and saute, bumping down the heat a touch, careful not to burn the garlic, until onions are browning and beginning to caramelize. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine tofu, beans and Soup Mix ingredients. Add onions and garlic when done and blend with immersion blender until it becomes smooth paste (you can do this in a food processor as well). Stir in cooked quinoa and oats and mix until everything is incorporated. Mixture should be sticky.
Line a baking sheet with parchment and spray lightly with oil. Shape handfulls of burger mixture (maybe 3/4 cup, approximately. I have small hands. I always end up with 7-8 burgers if you prefer to divide accordingly first. See why i'll never be a cookbook author? :) into balls and then into patties. Mixture should stick together well, work on binding cracks on edges with your hands. I've yet to have a problem with the mixture not coming together beautifully. Spray tops of patties lightly with oil and bake for fifteen minutes. Carefully flip* and bake for another 10-15 minutes. They will seem crisp on the outside. I always think they've dried out and will be terrible. Never have they been. Allow to cool completely, cover any you plan to use immediately so that they will steam in a bit of moisture as they cool and you prep your bread or buns and fixin's. Any you plan to use later or freeze, wrap individually and store. To heat refrigerated or thawed burgers, set heat on burner to medium and lightly spray a pan with oil. Cook patty for a couple minutes, add a T of water, cover for thirty seconds. Remove cover, flip, and brown other side for a couple minutes.

Dress as you please and enjoy! I most often have them on toasted bread with a big side of boiled kale or a salad. So satisfying!

*I use a large spatula and slide it under the pattie. I take a dough scraper (one could use another spatula, but I only own one right now) and flip it onto that one that is at an angle and ease it back onto the pan to avoid fully flipping it with one utensil. The patties at this point are very fragile, but if they do fall apart, are still sticky enough to mold back together. Just do so with caution as they are HOT. They won't be as pretty as your original shape, but they will stick back together.