Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Happy Holidays 2013

Around here lately there's been Fronch Toast, of the PB & Banana variety... 

and sometimes kale quiches with sweet potato crust,

and Thanksgiving I stumbled upon the most amazing Stuffed Seitan Roast.
 (For, in this house, seitan on Thanksgiving's a must!).

 A bounty of summer squash and zucchini became the best bread for gifting,
But if you wonder why I've not posted, it's because of a certain elf's holiday spirit lifting!

Click HERE to see the (mis)adventures of our Elf on the Shelf, Elfie!

Whew. I'm tired, and done with rhyming! but head on over to my blog about our elf on the shelf if you want to see what has kept me up at night and away from the computer blogging. Will the new year bring back posts of vegan deliciousness? Only time will tell! But until then Happy Holidays, I wish you all well!

Oh boy, it's a problem. :)

The French toast is just VWaV's Fronch Toast smothered in peanut butter and topped with banana and maple syrup.

The Quiche is Vegan Brunch's Broccoli Quiche but with 3 cups cooked Kale and onions in place of the broccoli. I then poured into a pan that was lined with thinly sliced sweet potatoes, prebaked for about 25 minutes before adding quiche filling.

The seitan roast was a mixture of a few different seitan roast recipes I put together on the fly Thanksgiving Day. Turned out to be the best seitan roast I'd ever made! The filling was also amazing. When I have time remember what I did with the roast I'll be sure to post it. Hell, I'll probably make it again and then post it. SO good! (the stuffing filling is Vedged Out's recipe and is 'Easily the BEST stuffing I have EVER had. EVER' said the Cap'n. I tend to agree).

The Zucchini Bread is my new go to for holiday gifting or for just using up zucchini so that I may stuff as much deliciousness in my mouth as possible. The recips is this one from Isa on theppk.com. The only changes I made were to replace the oil with some more applesauce and just a little bit of coconut oil, then nix nuts or raisins and add 1/3 cup cherry infused dried cranberries and 1/3 cup chocolate chips. I think next time I make it I'll go with dried cherries though. Mmmmmm, cherry and chocolate. yes, please! This stuff is perfection.

May the New Year bring you laughter, love, and the pursuit of seriously delicious vegan food!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Vegan Fondue

First, I should say that this is not my creation.

I should also mention that I've even blogged about this before.

But since this is the Vegan Month of Food and because I told myself I really need to post thirty posts in thirty days, aaaaand because I will be out of town this weekend and will likely not post until Monday, I am going to repeat myself.

I can't believe this recipe is not 'a thing', plastered on veg blogs across the land. It's so easy to make, really really, really tasty, and impressive without any faux or processed foods.

Vegan Fondue! Need I really say more?
(from About.com)


  • 3 tbsp margarine + 2 tbsp
  • 1/2 onion, minced
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • vegetarian bouillon cube or 1 tbsp dry veggie broth mix
  • 2 cups mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 cups soy milk
  • 1/2 tsp miso
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp celery salt
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)


Sautee garlic, onions and mushrooms in 3 tbsp margarine until soft. In separate saucepan, combine remaining ingredients and simmer until mixture thickens. If your mixture does not thicken, add more flour and mix well. Allow to cool.
Add mushrooms, garlic and onion mix to the soy milk mix and process in a blender or food processor until smooth.
Reheat the blended mix, stirring occasionally, and allow to cool slightly before transferring to fondue pot, or just serve piping hot with a spoon from a bowl to drizzle over
Fresh French Bread,
A Plate of Seitanroni, Roasted Brussel Sprouts, and Veggie Bean Loaf
under Tofu Patties w/ Sauteed 'Shrooms and Fresh Clover Sprouts
mix with your favorite red sauce to top Gnocchi,
or, you know, eat that stuff with a spoon! It's that good!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Vegan Back Bean Taco Soup (Taco Soup for Taco Thursday!)

So, it's not Tuesday, and this blog post is not about tacos. Using that criteria, my 'Taco Tuesday' theme for this Vegan Month of Food is a fail...but stay with me.

Maybe I watch too much Top Chef. Maybe I just want to use my shiny, new Vitamix for every possible meal to justify it's very existence in my tiny kitchen. Maybe, because we'll be out of town this weekend I want to use what I have left in the refrigerator in a way that will freeze well and make for an easy start to the week once we return. Maybe all of the above. Yeah, definitely all of the above.

I totally went to bed last night, planning today's post, smiling to myself at how fun it would be, how clever to do 'Deconstructed Black Bean Tacos' for Taco Thursday. Maybe that's not clever at all and I'm just lazy.

Black Bean Taco Soup!
  Either way, I give you Deconstructed Black Bean Tacos. All of the elements, textures and flavors you want on taco night without having to pick all of the various parts that have fallen out up off your plate. Just think of them as tacos you can eat....with a spoon!

Or just call them...

Vegan Black Bean (Taco!) Soup
makes 4 large or 6 small bowls of soup
adapted from the Vitamix website recipe

for garnish:
1 c. green cabbage, sliced very thin
1/4 c. green onions, sliced very thin
2 T fresh cilantro, chopped
1-2 tsp lime juice

for soup:
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed, half reserved
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (I remove and discard skins), half reserved
3 c. vegetable stock (I dissolve 1 1/2 veggie bullion in 3 c water)
1/2 c. onion, chopped and sauteed
3 garlic cloves, chopped and sauteed
2 T lime juice*
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
1/2 T tomato paste
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp vegan Worcestershire
1/2 - 1 tsp chili powder (I used Tony Chachere's Creole Original Seasoning)
1/4 c. red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1/4 c. yellow bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1/4 c green onion, chopped
salt, to taste
vegan bacon, crumbled (optional)

Prep garnish:
In a medium bowl, toss sliced cabbage (the thinner, the better) and green onion with lime juice and cilantro. Set aside.

Saute onions and garlic:
Heat skillet on medium heat. Add onions and garlic, pinch of salt, and enough water to allow them to simmer and become translucent but not burn (about 3-5 minutes). Remove from heat.

Make soup in blender:
Place veggie stock, black beans, chickpeas, onion and garlic, lime juice (if using, see *note), jalapeno,  tomato paste, oregano, Worcestershire, and chili powder in blender. Blend until smooth. If using a Vitamix, turn Variable Speed Dial to 1. Turn on blender and slowly increase variable speed to 10 then switch to High. Allow to blend on high for 6-7 minutes or until heavy steam escapes from vented lid. Turn variable speed dial to 4 and remove plug from lid. Add bell peppers and reserved black beans and chickpeas and blend for 10 more seconds. Taste for salt. Add as needed and blend on low for 2 seconds to season, if needed. Serve immediately in bowls and stir in crumbled vegan bacon, if using. Top with cabbage slaw and corn chips (I used crumbled leftover taco shells, heated in the toaster oven).

Crunchy, smoky, full of beans and flavor and topped with slaw, this soup hits all the notes I want in my tacos. Any toppings that you just have to have in your tacos would be great additions, chopped tomato or avocado, handful of corn kernels or a drizzle of cashew or tofu sour cream would all be wonderful things to throw in or on this soup. It can be frozen for a few months then thawed and topped with fresh slaw for a healthy, quick meal on any given Taco Tuesd....er....Thursday!
Black Bean Taco Soup!

*Personally, I'm all about the citrus. The Cap'n loved this soup but not the lime. While he was on board with the lime in the slaw providing a little lime kick, he'd prefer that it were not also in the soup. If you worry the lime will be too much in both parts, leave it out of the blender and add only if, upon tasting the finished soup, you think you want that extra lime goodness.  

Grilled Tofu Marinade

I wish I had a picture of this tofu. I don't.

Full Disclosure: I am entering a giveaway over at Veganmofo.com and want to link to an actual recipe. Not just any recipe, but a recipe that never fails and always wins people over. For a lot of people and tofu, that's a tall order.

Every time I make tofu with this marinade, it gets gobbled up lickity-split by veg's and omni's alike. It's super tasty and causes the tofu to char beautifully. The key is to get the firmest tofu you can and let it press for as long as you can so that it's pretty dry and soaks up the flavor and holds it's shape when grilling. It can stick to the grill pretty badly (been there, done that), so also make sure to start with a clean, non-stick grill surface. Turning often is also important to let it char evenly.

Made of simple ingredients, this one is my go-to, gifted to me by sister-in-law's mother-in-law, Paula. She is a whiz in the kitchen, a skilled artist behind the sewing machine*, and basically just a beautiful and amazing spirit all around. She made us each a cookbook, full of hand-written and delicious family favorites, complete with inspirational words and cute illustrations. It is one of my most beloved and most used cookbooks, and this recipe is one of my most favorite ways to prepare and to share tofu.

While you're enjoying the last of summer's BBQ's, or maybe you're firing up the grill to welcome fall, press some extra firm tofu and throw it in this marinade for a few hours, then delight the tastebuds of your grilling companions and let them see how, with the right ingredients, tofu is something everyone can enjoy! Don't be afraid to make so much, it's wonderful left over on sandwiches, just pile a few chunks on your favorite bread and with your favorite sammy toppings. I like mine cold the next day with butter lettuce, Vegenaise, red onion, and tomato.

Grilled Tofu Marinade
makes a ton, enough for 2 blocks of tofu, easily
half the recipe if you're only using one block of tofu, but if you're bringing to a BBQ, you'll want enough for yourself and everyone to try!

2 blocks extra firm tofu, pressed very well, cut into large blocks or triangles
1 cup maple syrup
1 cup tamari
1 cup olive oil
3 T nutritional yeast
2 T apple cider vinegar
2 T dried oregano
2 T onion powder
1 tsp salt

(For two blocks of tofu, you will need to mix marinade and separate into two baking pans). Combine all ingredients but tofu in a 9x11 baking dish. mix well. add tofu pieces to marinade. Allow to marinade for at least two hours. Remove from marinade and grill until charred to your liking, turning and basting with marinade often. I typically let it sit for about five minutes and then turn, am usually done at about the 20-25 minute mark using pretty hot grill. Tastes best when allowed to sit for a few minutes after grilling.

* Paula designs and creates the most beautiful quilts and quilted wall hangings. Her work is equisite. Check out her site, Paula's Originals, to see some truly gorgeous things she's created from cozy quilts and handy pot holders to intricate wall-hangings an unique calendar boards. Then maybe gift someone you love with a one-of-a-kind piece of her mastery!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Dreamy Cream of Potato Soup

In lieu of the Taco Tuesday I missed yesterday, I offer you the conversation that occurred last night over here at Mamachandra's.

Mamachandra: Dude. It's Tuesday night.

the Cap'n: It is.

Mamachandra: Damn.

the Cap'n: No. It's cool, I got all the trash out, even the recycling! All good.

Mamachandra (laughing): No, thank you, but no, it's Tuesday. Taco Tuesday. Taco Cleanse Taco Tuesday. for the blog.

the Cap'n: What'd you blog about today?

Mamachandra: Bacon. Tofu bacon.

the Cap'n: ooooooh, bacon! in tacos?

Mamachandra: nope. in soup. well, I put it in soup that I plan to blog about tomorrow, Wednesday.


the Cap'n:  soooo.................................Taco Thursday?

See why I love this man?

I had something else planned for tomorrow. We'll see if I can't make it fit into a Taco Thursday theme. Until then......

Let's talk soup! Dreamy, creamy cream of potato soup.

Betty, my retro brown reconditioned Vitamix, has conquered smoothies, crushed juices, and beat down cashews to a smooth consistency. Now I'm hoping for her to wow us with some of the soup recipes that Vitamix has up on their site. Veganizing them looks super simple. I am really in love with the idea of a little chopping, a slight bit of cooking, then the flip of a switch and the turn of a dial to create some tasty dinners and lunches for the days ahead. T and I are headed out of town for a family birthday party and anything I cook I want to be able to freeze well so it doesn't sit in the refrigerator all weekend. With soups, I can easily pack up and take some with us, too!
Dreamy Cream of Potato Soup w/ Tofu Bacon
The first Vitamix soup recipe I stumbled on managed to contain ingredients I need to get rid of for my 'clean out the 'fridge' meal plan I have on the menu tonight. Red potatoes, onion, carrot, cauliflower, garlic. All of these I had on hand. No celery? No problem, I like using a tiny bit of celery seed in it's place as I rarely buy celery.

They call it simply Cream of Potato Soup. A little doctoring up and then time in the Vitamix though and this soup is so creamy it really is deserving of the 'Dreamy' title I gave it. It's so smooth with a few tender bites of veggies. The recipe is very basic. I smash-roasted my potatoes, upped the salt, swapped a tiny bit of celery seed for the celery stalk it called for, added a little thyme and garnished with some tofu bacon.

The dreamily smooth texture, studded with soft, tender veggies and spiked with salty bits of the tofu bacon was perfect. The roasted, smashed potatoes amped up the flavor and made it a bit richer. This means that my version is not oil-free like the original recipe, but I love it as is and am looking forward to finishing it up before moving onto my next Vitamix soup. Because I have a feeling from my new bookmarks there will be plenty more!

Dreamy Cream of Potato Soup w/ Tofu Bacon
Dreamy Cream of Potato Soup
adapted from Vitamix website Recipes
serves 4

1 1/2 c. almond milk
water for boiling veggies, reserving 1/3 cup of cooking water for soup
2-3 small red potatoes, cooked (I boiled to tender and salted, smashed, and roasted until golden brown)
1 carrot, peeled and chopped coarsely
2 c. cauliflower, chopped coarsely
3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 tsp veg. bouillion
1/2 tsp thyme
1/8 tsp celery seed
sea salt and pepper to taste

Place onion, carrot, cauliflower, garlic, celery seed and some sea salt in medium sauce pan. Add enough water to just cover veggies, bring to a boil, cover, and simmer until just tender. Remove from heat, drain, but reserve 1/3 c. of cooking water. Also set aside a heaping cup of the cooked vegetables. Place almond milk, bullion, potatoes, thyme, reserved cooking liquid, and all but that reserved 1 cup cooked veggies. Blend until smooth. If using a Vitamix, set on variable speed one. Slowly increase variable speed to ten, switch to high, and blend for 3 minutes, tampering contents down sides as needed. Switch off of high and dial speed back down to variable 2. Remove plug from blender top and add reserved veggies, blending for only five seconds. Turn off blender. Taste for salt and adjust to your liking.  Pour soup into individual bowls. Top with favorite vegan bacon (I used tofu bacon) and fresh, cracked black pepper. Serve immediately. Unless it's Tuesday....or Thursday. Then file this delicious recipe away and just make yourself some tacos. :)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Tofu Bacon

I have made my weight in tempeh bacon ten times over, I'm sure, thanks to Vegan With A Vengeance's fool-proof recipe. I have made twice that with soy curls thanks to the amazing Smoky Soy Curls recipe in Vegan Diner. I have yet to try coconut or eggplant bacon, but they're on the list, to be sure.

Bacon flavor is one I am happy to replicate. It lends itself to BLT's, brunch sides, and soup and salad toppings perfectly with it's salty, crunchy, slightly sweet, smoky flavor. What's not to love about that?

Fueled by Clean Out The Fridge Night Dinner, I figured I'd take the fail-safe method utilizes the fewest ingredients from Vegan Diner and apply it to some tofu that had been wrapped in a tea towel in the 'fridge for a couple days.

well-pressed, extra firm sprouted tofu, sliced thin, ready for marinade
It turned out just as delicious as I'd hoped but not crispy in anyway. Still great for slapping on sandwiches or chopping and adding to a creamy soup, I'm happy I chose this way to use up some of the tofu I had in the 'fridge.

Basically I had very well-pressed tofu that I sliced very thin, then marinated the slices for a couple hours in a mix of tamari and liquid smoke.

tofu marinading in tamari & liquid smoke
Brushed and ready for baking
Blotted dry again, I brushed it with a mix of tamari, liquid smoke, and maple syrup in a 1:1:1 ratio then into a 450 degree oven it went (on a nonstick baking sheet) for about 10 minutes. I flipped it, brushed that side with tarmari/liquid smoke/syrup, and baked for another fifteen minutes.

Hot, out of the oven, allowed to firm a bit on the pan.
It did firm up a bit after baking, but never really crisped. I think if I'd cooked it any longer it would have crisped up but also would have burned quite a bit as both the tamari and the syrup char very easily. I don't know that I'll fool with this method again, but I did really enjoy it as is, chopped up in some dreamy, creamy potato soup.

The final product, chewy tofu bacon

Monday, September 23, 2013

Juicing with a Vitamix

Leftovers and cookies. That's about all that's been going on in my kitchen. Today we woke up to a dreary, humid, cloudy Monday.

I have a few things bookmarked to make and blog about, but need to go to the store before any of that can happen. Tonight I'll surely be cleaning out the 'fridge and can't promise that will be blog worthy.

But wanting something bright and refreshing this morning along with my toast topped with chocolate hazelnut butter (breakfast of champions, I say!), I decided it was time to test the Vitamix's juicing capabilites.

Go Betty, go! Am I the only on who stands there a bit freaked out by this thing's power?
This is the Vitamix that I now call my own. She's of the reconditioned variety, and they were offering free shipping.  I got her in 'espresso' because I'm retro brown like that. And because my favorite color is orange; the brown goes nicely with what I already have all over my little orange kitchen.  I have made many a peach, blueberry banana or green smoothie so far and have zapped  a bit of cashews in her (her name is Betty ) with fabulous success,  but have yet to try juicing. I've never owned a juicer, but I really like the idea of drinking my fruits and veggies, fiber included, on those days when I feel I may not get them all in otherwise.

Today, a quick survey of the refrigerator's contents revealed that carrot juice should be my first attempt. We always have carrots. Always. Is that odd?  I've never been a huge fan of carrot juice, but love carrots. I think commercial bought carrot juices are too sweet. Vitamix has a recipe for carrot juice that uses water and a bit of lemon juice. I grabbed half a cucumber to make it even more refreshing. 

Refreshing Vitamix'd Carrot Juice

 The verdict? Success! Sure, if you don't want any fibrous bits in your juice, this is not for you unless you plan to pass it through some cheesecloth, but I like it just like it is. I taste each ingredient, and it's filling, but to me the bits are not distracting. The Vitamix definitely does a great job of getting the fibrous content down to a teeny tiny size that is super easy to drink.

I love that it tastes and fresh and vibrant as it looks. And it's full of fiber!

The Cap'n said it was really good (he LOVES commercially made carrot juice) as long as one knows what to expect, that it would not be smooth, but it's definitely refreshing and delicious. Unlike me, he wouldn't drink something that he didn't like just because it's good for you, so it always helps me to test things out on his palette.

I love how vibrant and fresh this is. The cucumber is definitely noticeable and the lemon cuts the sweetness of carrot. If your carrots aren't too sweet or you need some sweetness, I'd add a shot of apple or orange juice to this and/or leave the lemon out.

Personally, I enjoyed this as is, and am so looking forward to other combinations in the future and making juicing in the Vitamix a part of my weekly routine. I think the next one I'd like to try is carrot/cucumber/apple/ginger. What are some of your favorite juicing, fruit/veggie combinations?

Refreshing Vitmamix'd Carrot Juice
makes two servings

1 cup filtered water
2 med-large organic carrots*, peeled and chopped (I actually used my peeler for most of the carrot and chopped that, then finely chopped the rest)
1/2 cucumber, seeded, coarsely choppped
2 tsp fresh lemon juice (or 1 tsp lemon concentrate)
1 cup ice

Add ingredients (except the ice) in the Vitamix in the order listed. I put the carrots in water before I chopped the cucumber or squeezed the lemon just to give them a few extra minutes to soak. Set Vitamix to Variable, 1 and turn on. Slowly increase speed. Once you have reached ten, turn Vitamix to High speed for one minute, pour and enjoy. If adding apple or orange juice, add some once poured into glasses.

*While I buy organic as much as possible because I want as few chemicals on my food as I can control, carrots are one of those veggies that actually taste night and day better to me than their non-organic counterpart. I find them to be sweeter and more flavorful in general. Thankfully, the grocer I use is never out of organic carrots or I'd likely just never buy them! They taste that different to me.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Favorite Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

Thanks to Dreena Burton's perfect recipe from one of my first and favorite vegan cookbooks, Vive le Vegan!, I have been enjoying this cookie for years.

Dreena Burton's Homestyle Chocolate Chip Cookies

 When I first went vegan I relied on what I called the 'Wholly Vegan Trifecta' for anything I needed to cook/bake. Everything I cook today is based, mostly, on things I learned from these books: Vegan With a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, Dreena Burton's Vive le Vegan!, and Becoming Vegan by Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina. You can tell by the condition of each splattered, warped page which recipes and information I have relied on most from each book.  

The beginnings of my vegan journey, Becoming Vegan, VWAV, and VLV!
Since I have a weakness for chocolate chip cookies. I knew when I went vegan I would need a solid recipe. The one in VWAV is certainly solid, and delicious, but the recipe yields a few dozen and did I mention I have a weakness and that it's name is COOKIE?!

Mmmmmmm, cookies. (Extra points if you spot the obligatory cat hair! ;)

Imagine my delight when I discovered Dreena's recipe for Homestyle Chocolate Chip Cookies that yields only 10-12 cookies per batch without doing any math or thinking. I can pretty much make these cookies blindfolded and with my hands tied behind my back. Impressed? Don't be. It's only because I know the recipe by heart and my daughter is now old enough to follow directions and loves to help in the kitchen. Especially when the result is perfect vegan chocolate chip cookies.  :)

She measures. She jokes. She even does the dishes.

Since she's shared it here, I figure I can post the recipe. The only changes I make are that I use the 1 tsp option of vanilla extract and add a scant 1/2 tsp of almond extract. For me, almond extract is the secret weapon of deliciousness in chocolate chip cookies. It brings out the touch of salt and marries it perfectly to the sweetness.

I also use only a scant 1/4 cup of oil and allow them to chill, covered, in the refrigerator while I clean up. Since I live in Florida, this step helps them from spreading too much, which they will do if you live in a very warm, humid place like I do. 

I love that this recipe also relies on a tiny bit of molasses to add a hint of richness and the sugar (I use Organic Florida Crystals exclusively) is reduced a bit but replaced by some maple syrup. 

We use Ghiardelli semi-sweet chips as they are incidentally dairy-free and often on sale at my local grocer. 

Best part of vegan baking? Lickin' the sp....er....whisk!
For all the years I have made them, not one time have I taken them out of the oven and thought 'are they really done? They seem too soft'. Seems I've never quite gotten used to the texture of vegan cookies right out of the oven. If they seem too soft, they're not. Baked for 11 minutes and left on the pan for one more full minute and then carefully moved to a cooling rack, you have to let them cool completely. Tempting as biting into a just out of the oven cookie to enjoy it's warm gooeyness may be, it will leave you thinking they need to go back into the oven. They don't. When they are truly cooled to room temperature, they are perfection. Cooked all the way through but not super crunchy, they land on the softer side of cookie, producing a delicate crunch on the outside and an almost chewy, perfectly sweet chocolate chip cookie inside. 

I have doubled and even tripled the recipe for fundraisers and family gatherings and they have always disappeared in record time. Making them together is a special treat for my daughter and I, especially now that I just supervise while she enjoys being a big kid and a capable baker. I'm a proud mama.

Dreena Burton's Homestyle Chocolate Chip Cookies
makes 8-12 depending on how big your spoonfuls
Recipe from Vive le Vegan!, p.131

1 c. flour (I use wheat, for GF use spelt but adjust to 1 1/4 c. spelt flour, total)

1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 c. unrefined sugar (we like Florida Crystals)
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/3 c. pure maple syrup
1/4 tsp blackstrap molasses
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 scant tsp pure almond extract
1/4 scant c. canola oil
1/3 c. non-dairy chocolate chips
1/3 c. nuts, optional (when making for adults, I like to add walnuts)

preheat oven to 350. In large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Use a whisk to mix and get rid of lumps (who needs sifting? not me!). In a medium bowl combine sugar, maple syrup, molasses, vanilla, almond, and canola oil. Whisk until well blended. Add wet to dry ingredients and gently mix until all flour is absorbed. Gently fold in chocolate chips and optional nuts. (I chill at this point for 10-15 minutes just to ensure the cookies are less likely to spread in my hot, humid kitchen). Spoon batter onto parchment paper or nonstick mat lined baking sheet. I typically get 9 large cookies or 12 small/med ones. You can shape a bit but don't flatten as they do spread some.

My little baker did a great job of spooning a perfect dozen.
Bake for 11 minutes. Remove from oven but allow to cool on baking sheet for another full minute. Any more than that and you risk them being overcooked or drying out.  Carefully (I find a wide spatula and a quick movement to slide under the cookie avoids the super soft cookies at this point from crumpling), move cookies to cooling rack and allow to cool completely. Very important so that they can continue to cook and firm up to that perfect moist cookie perfection! Store in air tight container.

Ta Da! Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie deliciousness!
The only bad thing about this recipe is exactly what I like about it. It only yields a dozen at most and they taste perfection. How is that bad? Well, this morning we each wanted one before breakfast and realized our newly baked treat is already dwindling! Good thing we saved two (she hand-selected which) for the Cap'n's homecoming this evening! 

*I have not made these with the GF option that the book notes, but I have made Dreena's amaranth flour chocolate chip cookies from Eat, Drink, & Be Vegan and can totally attest to their amazingness so it stands to reason this adjusted recipe is equally wonderful.

Best. Cookiemaker. Ever.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Vietnamese Tofu Cabbage Salad

When we left Gainesville for South Florida, I knew there were a few dishes from my favorite restaurants I was going to need to learn to replicate. The local Vietnamese restaurant, Saigon Legend's Tofu Vietnamese Salad was one of them.

Saigon Legend Takeout
I used to watch my sweet nephews a couple times a week, and after would often enjoy dinner with my sister and her fam. I'd say once a week we'd order in Saigon Legend. The prices were right, the food simple, fresh, and delicous. For a few bucks I'd have a salad and a couple veggie sushi rolls. The first time I had the salad, I was beside myself. How could anything this simple taste this complex and perfect and WOW?! Their menu describes this meal 'appetizer/side' as

Tofu on a bed of shredded cabbage, onions, carrots, and cilantro tossed in a light Vietnamese dressing and garnished with chopped peanuts.

It was fresh and crunchy and sweet and tangy. Veggies were crisp and bright, dressing was really tart with a slight sweetness. Hints of cilantro and peanut in each bite combined so well with the other ingredients.  Perfection. Finely shredding the cabbage, onions, and carrots wasn't going to be difficult. Garnishing with cilantro and chopped cilantro, not a problem. That 'light Vietnamese dressing' tho? I wasn't sure where to start. My first attempt (and to be honest my second, third, fourth, and fifth because it was good enough for this vinegar-lovin' vegan) I just dressed the salad with some seasoned rice wine vinegar. It was way more tart than the original, but I love vinegar-y things, so I was happy to not mess with what I felt was success.

Now that it's been a while since I've had it, and I've been more than a little homesick of late, I have decided to try my hand at doing a better job of recreating the salad that I fell in love with.

Vietnamese Tofu Cabbage Salad, Take Two

I did a quick search for ideas on what a 'Vietnamese dressing' might be and decided that what was important here was to find a way to dilute the vinegar but not lose flavor and give the dressing a more umami flavor, round it out a bit. Fish sauce is seen in most every Vietnamese recipe for a salad dressing (tho Saigon Legend told me, when I asked, that their dressing is completely vegetarian, no fish sauce. Also, their dressing was really clear). 

Not knowing what kind of Vietnamese kitchen magic they were using I searched 'vegan fish sauce' recipe's anyway (Vegan Fish Sauce recipe at the end of the post, adapted from this one). Maybe not exactly like what I tasted from SL, I think I came up with something that should make my plain seasoned rice vinegar more subtle, slightly more sweet, and mellow so that the rest of the ingredients aren't overwhelmed by the dressing but stand out, rather, for being dressed with it.

So here is my take on Saigon Legend's glorious Tofu Vietnamese Salad, as they call it. It tastes like home to me.

My Ode to Saigon Legend Salad

Vietnamese Tofu Cabbage Salad
makes one serving

1/3 block Firm or Extra Firm tofu, drained well, cut into triangles
1/2 - 3/4 c. green cabbage, sliced fine
1/2 c. carrot, slivered
1/8 c. onion, slivered
4 T Vietnamese dressing = 2 parts Seasoned Rice Wine Vinegar + 1 part Vegan Fish Sauce + 1 part pineapple juice (I think pinepple would be perfect, but I only had apple so that's what I used. It was good, but I think the specific sweetness and flavor of pineapple is what's missing from mine)
1 T crushed peanuts

Heat non-stick skillet to med-hi. Place tofu triangles in dry pan (no oil required!) and brown for 3-5 minutes per side. Remove from heat to cool completely. You can bake on parchment or a nonstick mat on 425 15-20 min as well.

Place cabbage, carrot, onion, cilantro, and cooled tofu in a bowl.  Toss to combine. Drizzle dressing over top. It will pool on the bottom. You don't want to toss to coat. It's pretty potent stuff and just tasting it will make you want to dip bites into it but you want to keep the fresh, crisp texture of the veggies. Top with peanuts and more cilantro.

Super simple, healthy, and delicious!

Vegan Fish Sauce
makes just under 2 cups . Lasts up to two months in refrigerator***.

1 cup nori sheets, shredded*
2 cups water
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 T black peppercorns
1/4 cup shoyu (or soy sauce or tamari)
1 tsp lime juice
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp seasoned rice wine vinegar**
1/2 tsp ginger, minced
1/8 ts chili sauce (I used Sriracha)

Place seaweed and water in saucepan and heat to boiling. Reduce heat to simmer, cover, and cook for 15 minutes. Add remaining ingredients, bring to a boil again, reduce to a low simmer, cover, and cook for an additional 15 minutes. Pass mixture through fine mesh sieve, collecting liquid in refrigeratable container. Taste and adjust for salt/sugar/water. While surely there was fish sauce in things in my pre-veg days, that was nearly two decades ago and I'm certain I never tasted it on its own so I cannot attest to how close to the real thing this sauce will taste. I do think that it successfully adds the umami flavor to things that fish sauce is used for though so I am happy with how this turned out.

Up-cycled Shoyu Bottle to hold the Fish Sauce.
Lucky for me, I ran out of Shoyu after that 1/4 cup used. The rinsed and de-labled bottle made an excellent new container for vegan condiments such as this one!

These sheets are great for snacking or in a pinch when a recipe calls for Nori but will add oil to your sauce.

*I did not have any regular nori sheets on-hand, but had picked up some Annie Chung's sesame snack nori 'chips' at Target. The ingredients being seaweed, sesame oil, and canola oil, my fish sauce strained well but had a layer of oil on the top. Once I shake it, it mixes back in, but if a completely oil-free dressing is what you're after, use nori that does not have any oil as an ingredient or just skim oil as best you can off the top.

**If you don't have seasoned rice vinegar, regular rice vinegar will also do, just add 1 tsp sugar to your pot before the second boil/simmer.

***Making this sauce for one tablespoon at a time, when it may not last but a few months in the refrigerator (tho it may last longer, I'm just playing it safe based on other recipes I've found) may seem excessive. Nearing the two month time frame, should you have excess fish sauce, simply pour one tablespoon servings into an ice cube
tray, freeze, and place cubes in a freezer bag for future use.