17 December 2012

Maggie's Indian-Inspired Curry

I mentioned a bit ago that veg*n eating pushes your food boundaries beyond your own culture and encourages you to try new things. This dish is no exception. I'm not sure I ever ate a curry prior to going vegan (a few dishes called for a bit of curry, but that was about it). However, the smell of curries always pleasantly tickled my nose, which led to trying them, and liking them, and craving them.

At some point, Shana and I were meal planning and I decided I wanted curry sometime that week. Shana was skeptical.* However, we agreed that she could eat something else if she didn't like what I made, so curry was on the menu. The problem was that I had never made a curry, watched someone make a curry, nor looked at a recipe for curry. I knew I wanted it to have a few specific foods in it (though why those foods...?), but my Google searching didn't turn up anything quite like what I wanted. Or, it did, but it included ingredients I couldn't easily obtain. So I just sort of threw things into a large pot, crossed my fingers, and sampled the end result. It was delicious!

The recipe below has the ingredients of both a liquid curry and a drier aloo gobi dish. As such, it isn't authentic to either style, but the taste is worth it. The overall recipe is not hot-spicy, but it is warming in your tummy due to the included spices.

13 December 2012

Almost Thai (Peanut Butter) Pasta

One of the best things about being veg*n is that I've become way more open to eating new types of food or food combinations, in addition to getting more adventurous with food overall. I don't want to lead you toward thinking that I'm up for anything (as I'm certainly NOT), but I do eat a larger variety of foods than I ever did pre-veg*n.

A type food that I started eating post going veg*n is Thai food. I love it! I love curries and spices with lime and peanuts everywhere! Unfortunately, for most of the past few years, we haven't had good Thai food near us (there's an AMAZING Thai restaurant in Dayton, but it's pricey and about a 45 minute drive). More recently, a Thai restaurant opened here in Richmond. It's good food, but we haven't been that often.

Instead, we sometimes eat a meal that is Thai-inspired at home, despite its lack of authenticity. The beauty of this meal is three-fold: it is easy, fast, and cheap! Based heavily on a recipe from The Garden of Vegan, this recipe uses foods that are already in a well-stocked veg*n kitchen. Plus, it's super omnivore-friendly!
We didn't have any peanuts tonight, so this picture is missing them. Bummer. 

08 December 2012

Vegan Viands #3: Apple Crisp

I have an apple problem. Well, it's not a problem in the "uh oh how do we fix this?" sense of the word, it's more like how we use the word to euphemistically explain someone else's addiction. I'm not really even addicted to apples, but I am a bit of an apple snob. I even have a 100% accurate way of picking the most crisp apples in the grocery store.

Honestly, apples are amazing! They are good for you (high in fiber and Vitamin C), delicious, and can be eaten in a variety of ways (from sweet to savory or on their own). Did you know there are over 2000 varieties of apple?! If you want an amazing website about apples, check out OrangePippin, which is named for one of the favorite varieties of apples in the UK, even though the site is world wide. Almost every year we go apple picking at Way Fruit Farm in PA. (They make the most amazing apple cider, too.) If you'd like to go apple picking, here's a good website to check: http://www.pickyourown.org/.

Although most of them are a bit out of season, you can still find some great apples. For example, check out this chart of apples available at a farm about 30 minutes from me. Because I love apples, I decided to make an apple crisp for my minions when they came over earlier this week. Apple crisp is such an easy dessert to make and it's practically vegan from the get-go! Add in some vegan ice cream and you're all set.

06 December 2012

Veganomicon's Penne Vodka for my Minions

On Monday night, Shana and I hosted our semi-annual "Minion Dinner " (that's Shana's term for the students that help me out in various ways throughout the semester, not mine!). Minion Dinner is a night at the end of the semester when I cook for the students who have helped me out during the semester as either Research Assistants (RAs) or Teaching Assistants (TAs). This tradition is one I started just before I finished grad school. To thank them for all of their work (on my dissertation, no less!), I had the undergrad RAs and my lab-mates over to our house for a games/dessert party. That 2008 group was so much fun (see below)!

Since then, I've done something fun for my RAs, and also my TAs now,  every semester, and this one was no exception. This semester, I had 5 students over for Minion Dinner. They are such a great group of students; I'm lucky to have had them working with me. They certainly made my life significantly easier this semester than it would have been otherwise. We played games, laughed a lot, and they ate and enjoyed an entirely vegan dinner and a mostly vegan dessert! I think they were a bit hesitant, but they all left full and satisfied. 

Feeding a crowd (is 7 a crowd?) is always a challenge, but the added issue of feeding a crowd of non-veg*ns with vegan food they will like takes the challenge up a notch. Luckily, I have some go-to recipes for times just like this. One these go-to recipes comes from the cookbook Veganomicon, which is a bit like a vegan The Joy of Cooking. The recipe included for Penne Vodka is so good that one of my best friends calls it "Love Sauce." Judging from the speed with which this gets devoured every time we make it for anyone (omnivores and veg*ns alike), I think many people would agree with that assessment. Plus, it's a pretty quick dinner - under 30 minutes!

02 December 2012

BBQ Tofu and meal planning

A blog post about BBQ tofu feels like a cheat of a blog post. By cheat, I mean that this is almost too simple to call a recipe. However, it's delicious and we hadn't had it in a while, even though it's been on the meal plan for the past three weeks. One thing or another came up and we just didn't eat it.

Speaking of the meal plan, I've mentioned it in an off-hand way before, but maybe it's time to make things more explicit. When I was in grad school and Shana was working three jobs, we dealt with food in the following way.
1. Go to the store. "Oh, let's have broccoli* this week." "Good idea!" Purchase broccoli.
2. Come home from school/work. "I'm tired. What do you want for dinner tonight?" "I don't know, what do you want for dinner tonight. I'm tired too."
3. Go out to eat or order food from somewhere.
4. (Eventually) Throw away bad broccoli.
* or any other random perishable food

I mean, we ate at home sometimes, but our meals were not well-planned and were certainly not as well-balanced as they should have been. We finally realized the errors of our ways and instituted a weekly meal plan. A meal plan is a great way to make sure that you aren't feeling overwhelmed by vegan cooking, too!

Here's how we do it. Every Sunday, we sit down with our list of dinners we like (and occasional new recipes when I'm getting antsy for something new), discuss plans that may impact dinners (like meetings or practices or concerts or ...), check the weather, and plan! The plan gets written on a white board that lives on the fridge, we make a list of things we'll need from the store, and then we look forward to dinners every night. Plus, we don't waste mental energy, time, money, or food. It's a delicious win-win-win-win.

Why was I talking about this? Oh yeah! Because BBQ tofu had been on the meal plan for a few weeks, I think that made it especially delicious tonight.

28 November 2012

Maggie's Soyburger Helper

Sometimes you just want to fit in. While that's a pretty broad statement (and well-supported by psychological literature, says day-job Maggie), right now I'm referencing food. It can get tiring eating things that other people find unpalatable, unusual, or just plain unknown. Perhaps the search for a feeling of "food normalcy" is what has driven the incredible surge of vegan faux-whatever products - hot dogs, deli slices, cheese, ice cream, even egg yolk - that are available on the market today.

At some point a few years ago, I was having a strong desire to be "food normal" (not enough to stop being vegan!). That night, I decided I wanted to eat something that was "normal" as far as the S.A.D. (Standard American Diet, love the acronym) was concerned, so I decided to try to make a vegan "hamburger" helper. I don't recall why I chose this food in particular, especially considering that I never really ate this as a kid (like some other meals), but I was on a mission. The first time I attempted soyburger helper, it was barely edible. However, I decided not to give up, and have since developed a recipe that is delicious and that makes me feel more "food normal." Plus, it's fast and easy, but Shana wants me to warn you that it kind of looks like dog food. Sounds like hamburger helper to me!

26 November 2012

Vegan "Sauces"

We're back (and a bit more tan)! Our week away was wonderful - full of family time, new sights, and new experiences! I managed to get most of my necessary work done while I was gone, which really just means that I'm prepared for tomorrow. Hmm, and when I say "prepared," I mean that only as far as definition 1a of the link (making things ready), but not so much as far as definition 1b (a proper state of mind). I think the real world is going to hit with a vengeance.

Staying with the idea of preparations, however, I thought I'd ease back into blogging by posting about a variety of "sauces" that I make. There are a variety of sauces I make for specific dishes (you'll see a new one later this week), some of which I've posted about already. These sauces can certainly be used for other applications (e.g., the sauce from garlic wine pasta might be decadent over some faux chicken), but this post is dedicated to sauces that aren't for anything specific. You  know, the ones that you might use in other recipes, or for a variety of different applications. Admittedly, this list is based on my own food preferences and experimentations, so I might be missing something you'd assume was here. If that's the case, leave me a comment because I'm 99% positive I've got a recipe for every sauce you can think of in one of the cookbooks I've got or links I've saved. Happy saucing!

17 November 2012

Vegan Thanksgiving at Sea

In any other year, tonight would be a night where I would start looking forward to vegan goodies during Thanksgiving (and one where I'd likely be packing or en route to a Thanksgiving destination of Minnesota or Philly). However, this year, Shana, me, my parents, and my sister are going on a cruise - a first for us all. So, instead of writing a post about making a faux turkey, roasted veggies, wild rice stuffing, mashed potatoes, and vegan pumpkin pie (plus all the nostalgia that begins to hit me just about now every year), we spent tonight packing swim suits and flip flops, finding the sunscreen, cleaning out the fridge, and being both excited and nervous about our trip.

When I come back, I'll get back into the swing of things. I've been debating which post(s) to do next. I've got some delicious dinners in the back of my mind, or maybe a new Vegan Viands post, or maybe even diving in and introducing you all to the wonder that is seitan. Who knows, maybe I'll find something delicious on our cruise and figure out a way to recreate it! Regardless, I'll have some fun recipes for you. In the meantime, I wish you all a happy, safe, and plentiful Thanksgiving.

The post "Vegan Thanksgiving at Sea" originally appeared on Maggie's LesVegan Kitchen.

14 November 2012

Roasting Veggies

Hello lovely readers. My apologies for neglecting you; I've just been swamped. Even now, I should either be grading something, reading something, or prepping something for one (all) of my classes (or doing the dishes or cleaning my side of the bedroom or...), but I just don't have the brain capacity right now. All this is a really long way for me to apologize if this blog post doesn't make any sense. :)

I've created a list of blog posts that I'll eventually get to, but this one about roasted veggies seemed like a perfect post for the changing of the weather (it was 70 two days ago and only got to about 40 today). You might be asking yourself why roasted veggies deserve their own blog post. If so, that's okay. It's just likely that you've not experienced the amazing transformation veggies make in the dry heat of the oven! Plus, if you're new to vegan cooking or eating, roasting veggies makes leads to a different taste compared to any other cooking method. Thus, this is a great way to make it easy to eat any veggie multiple times without it getting old. As far as I'm aware, almost all veggies can be roasted to amazing results. I say "almost" since I've not tried them all, but every one I've tried is amazing. Pair them with a whole grain or some lovely lentil dish, and you've got a complete and satisfying meal.

What I've got in the rest of this post is a basic roasting method, a couple specific combinations we love, and then suggestions for your own future experimentation (plus a beautiful picture my sister took of roasted veggies). So dig in!

04 November 2012

Maggie's Mujaddara

One of the most wonderful thing about veg*n food is that it forces you to go beyond your own culture's ideas about how food is prepared, spices/foods that should and should not be combined, what makes a meal, and many other food-related boundary expansions. Consequently, most veg*ns eat a diet influenced by all areas of the globe. This week alone, Shana and I have food with influences from the Middle East, Italy, Mexico, Asia, and America. Not bad for one week (especially considering we have two meals as of yet unplanned)!

Mujaddara, the dish we had for dinner tonight, is a combination of lentils, rice, and onions (well, and spices). The combination of lentils and rice is a staple dish in many parts of the Middle East, although the flavor profiles are variable. Aside from being delicious, this dish is cheap, easy, and filling. Oh, and it freezes well! This version also makes a ton (we had it for dinner, then made four servings of leftovers).

Before I dive into the recipe, I have three warnings. First, this dish is not a visually appealing dish (it's not bad, just not beautiful), but the taste makes up for it! Second, my technique for cooking this is not traditional (but it's easy!). Third, in this dish, I generally eye-ball the amounts for spices. I tried to guesstimate while making it tonight, but who knows...

01 November 2012

Vegan Viands #2: Wacky Cake

I should be grading. Instead, I've done a small bit of grading, some bill-paying (it's the beginning of the month), helped a panicked student with a grant proposal, and am now writing a blog post. However, this post will be short and I promised myself I would go back to grading when I'm done.

Tomorrow night Shana and I are going over to the house of some friends for dinner. We have so much fun with them! We'll play games and laugh and talk (about work, as they both work at my school, Shana's kids/job, and life). We're also making pizza with them, so there will be eating. But what's more fun is that one of them has a birthday on Sunday! However, apparently she doesn't like a big deal made of her birthday, but her husband told me that it would be fun to celebrate with just the four of us, but it's a mini-surprise for her. There won't be presents, but there will be cake! I offered to make one to bring over, and since she's lactose intolerant, a vegan cake fit the bill.

I was told that she liked chocolate cake and since one of my psych colleagues reminded me about the deliciousness of wacky cakes, that's the direction I went. Wacky cakes are rumored to have started either during WWII rationing or during the depression (as they are egg, milk, and butter free, which were rationed and/or expensive). I thought sugar was rationed during WWII as well, but I wasn't alive, so I don't know and I didn't take the time to look it up on teh interwebs. Regardless of where it came from, it's a delicious, moist, and easy cake, made with ingredients you likely already have in your pantry.

This is the cake before frosting. 
With a delicious (and easy!) peanut butter frosting. 

31 October 2012

Broccoli Rice Bake

It's cold here. Although we didn't get much of the outskirts of Hurricane Sandy, we have been treated to a string of drizzly days with highs in the upper 30s. I think the weather kept many of the trick-or-treaters at home. Also because of the weather, everything on the meal plan for this week is something that warms us, warms the kitchen, or both. Our meal plan looks like this:
Sunday = Vegan Chinese Garlic Sauce
Monday = Lentil Soup
Tuesday = Almost Irish Stew
Wednesday = Broccoli Rice Bake
Thursday = Chili and cornbread muffins
Friday = Pizza
Saturday = foraging for vegan-friendly food in another corner of Indiana

Broccoli rice bake is slightly mis-named, as there is more than just broccoli and rice in the dish. In reality, this is a casserole with broccoli, cauliflower, rice, and creamy goodness. As a good Minnesotan, casseroles hold a special place in my heart. I honestly don't recall my family eating them that frequently (am I crazy, Mom and Dad? Did we eat them all the time?), but casseroles/hotdishes (and "bars" and "salads" made out of jello) are part of Minnesotan cuisine and culture. Lest you think I kid, Senator Al Franken has held "Hot Dish Offs," there's a major political blog called Hot Dish Politics related to Minnesota's biggest newspaper, there's even a Hot Dish Cookbook! There are three beautiful things about a casserole. First, it can include anything you like. Second, it has that creamy mouth-feel of something decadent, even though it doesn't have to be decadent. Third, it warms your kitchen (and soul). Convinced yet?

27 October 2012

Best Banana Muffins

Every week we buy bananas for Shana to eat at school, on the way to school, or in the middle of the night if she gets super hungry. Most weeks, all the bananas are eaten. However, occasionally we have a banana left over at the end of the week. You know that banana. The browning, squishy, BANANA-smelling, one. I'm not sure I'd eat that banana if my life depended on it (when I eat bananas, they have to be yellow-green and firm). Thus, those bananas get tossed in to the freezer, waiting for a time when I decide to turn them magically into something delicious.

This morning's confluence of factors (the cold outside, our lack of plan for breakfast, a sleeping Shana, a hungry Maggie, and much of the rest of the day to work) turned my groggy morning thoughts to baking, thinking both to warm the kitchen and have freezer-goodies for later breakfasts. It was then that I remembered the seven bananas in the freezer, just waiting. Yes, I said seven. In short order, four of the frozen bananas were out, thawing on the counter.

The recipe below is one of the first breakfast recipes I tried on my own after going vegan (well, that wasn't pancakes) and it is great! It is actually one of those recipes I frequently find that are essentially vegan, meaning all I have to do is replace a very common ingredient (e.g., cow butter for vegan butter). There's no replacing of eggs and no "weird vegan ingredients" (most people think of things like flax seed and wheat germ as "weird vegan ingredients"); there are just pantry staples that are combined into the best banana muffin I've ever had.

20 October 2012

Vegan Viands #1: Grape Nut Bars & Chex Mix

It's starting to be "that time of the year." You know the time, when the days are getting noticeably shorter, you start to think earnestly about holiday parties and schedules, and you start to crave baked goods and rich foods as if you were going in to hibernation (okay, maybe that last part is just me). Invariably, as soon as mid-October rolls around, I start to think about all the ridiculous holiday cookies I plan to make (I have some October favorites, so stay tuned!).

With that said, it's a little early for holiday cookies, but it's never too early for vegan treats!! Thus, I've decided to roll out a new and regular feature to my blog, which I'm going to call Vegan Viands. The Vegan Viands posts will all be about fun vegan treats or snacks, things we don't eat regularly but are still important components of vegan cooking. I mean, after a delicious vegan meal, a luscious vegan dessert is in order. Or, let's say you've been invited to a football party and want to make sure you have something vegan to eat, you need a go to vegan snack that's easy to transport, share-able, and delicious.

But why Vegan Viands? Well, hmm. First, I am my father's daughter and alliteration is awesome. Second, I vetoed other words for various reasons: "sweets" - not everything I want to put in this feature is sweet; "treats" - there's already an AWESOME vegan bakery with that name; "vittles" - based on victuals and just didn't have the right connotation (has a boring/last resort implication to me); etc. Third, I love words! Why not use this as a way to use an uncommon word! The word viand has just the right connotation to me. So, without further ado, here are TWO (yes, two!) recipes for the first Vegan Viands feature, both of which are coming to a football watching party tonight.

08 October 2012

Potato Soup

There was frost on my car when I went outside this morning. I suspected as much since I could see frost on the neighbor's roof. We're due for another night of freezing temps tonight, too. In all honestly, the cold doesn't bother me too much. It means sweaters and cold noses, crisp-smelling air, beautiful fall colors (hopefully they stay for our drive to State College), and as many soups and stews as I can eat in a week! I wasn't kidding when I said we eat soups and stews frequently in the fall and winter.

Tonight Shana and I had two friends over for dinner. One is a friend from my job and the other is her foster daughter (a first-year student at the University of Evansville who was back on her fall break). When our friends arrived tonight, we got right down to making dinner. This soup doesn't take an incredibly long time, but we were all hungry. For all its simple ingredients, this soup is a winner in my book (it's the one we call "fatty fatty potato soup"). It's a great cold-night, warm-tummy soup, and Shana and I think it tastes a little bit like the breading on Kentucky Fried Chicken due to the dark roux and pepper. Neither one of us is huge pepper fans, but in this soup it's worth it! We also made roasted broccoli, but I think a post on oven-roasted veggies is in order some time soon. Anyway, on to the recipe!

You can see I used white potatoes here.

03 October 2012

Maggie's Tofu Pot Pie

Long ago, shortly after I went vegan (so, really only 10-ish years ago), my aunt found a cookbook published in 1978 from The Farm, a purposeful vegetarian commune established in 1971. This cookbook is SO quintessentially 70s! There are drawings and pictures and all of them scream 1970. Even the language used in the book is decade-specific. Although the cultural snapshot is great, the recipes are also pretty good, too, especially given that the members of The Farm were vegetarian before many other people were vegetarian. The cookbook has all sorts of recipes that are generally obsolete today (for all but the more hardcore DIYers, anyway), such as making your own wheat gluten (used in seitan, a meaty protein) by washing flour or fermenting your own tempeh (pressed soybeans). We can buy all of this at the store today.

This cookbook is a great reminder that we don't need fancy ingredients to make delicious and wholesome vegan food. In fact, one might argue that the recipes in this cookbook make even more wholesome food because they do NOT rely on fancy ingredients. (This is a conversation for another day.) In the cookbook is a recipe for a tofu pot pie. Although I don't really follow any of their directions (or even use most of the same ingredients), it prompted me to attempt to make a tofu pot pie. In my pot pie, I do use the gravy recipe from this cookbook, which is absolutely delicious and totally makes the pie! 

A word of warning: this is NOT a fast recipe. It's easy, yes, but it takes a while and uses a number of pots and pans. However, it's very much worth it, and feeds Shana and I for three meals.

30 September 2012

Mostly Moosewood's Navajo Stew

Today we drove to Muncie for September's Super Secret Saturday Surprise (even though it is Sunday). Our plan was to go to a family fun park for go karts and bumper boats and such, but they weren't open when we got there. Instead, we had a picnic and did a little shopping (Target for things like dishwasher soap and Kohl's for some new fall sweaters).

Although it was warmer than we expected it to be during the day, it was still a beautiful fall day. In addition, the drive to and from Muncie was beautiful. It seems that just in the past two days more leaves have started to change color, which made it really feel like fall. Well, that and the fact that it's dropping down into the 40s for low overnight temps.

Luckily, our dinner (currently cooking - the house smells amazing!) is perfect for a fall night. This dinner totally takes advantage of savory, hearty flavors. I can't take credit for it, nor can I even take credit for finding it. The recipe (mostly) comes from Moosewood Restaurant's cookbook Simple Suppers (I did edit it a bit). Shana and I had it for the first time at the house of some friends of ours when we were still living in western New York. Every time we make it, I think about them (and their super cute daughter!). I'm not sure why Moosewood named this recipe as they did, because I don't think it is really traditional. Regardless, it's delicious!

25 September 2012

Maggie's "Quick" Barley Soup

I noticed tonight while I was looking at past blog posts that we eat a lot of soup. This is my 16th post and the 4th about soup. To be perfectly honest, that's an almost accurate representation of our autumn/winter eating. It's incredibly common for us to eat two soups per week during the colder months. Part of that has to come from my deep love for all things soup. When Shana and I were first dating, we somehow got to talking with friends about what we would eat if we could only eat one thing for the rest of our lives (aka our favorite foods). I replied "soup" and Shana called me a cheater. Maybe it is cheating a little bit, but soups are awesome! You can throw stuff in a pot and out comes (9.8 times out of 10) something delicious! I know I'll be posting more soups here, including one we affectionately call "fatty fatty potato soup" (which is a bit fattier than other soups we make, but isn't too bad...).

Okay, enough babble and on to the recipe. On our meal plan for the week, we'd planned for a barley soup last night. I wasn't feeling a regular "veggie" soup with the simple inclusion of barley, so I got creative. Luckily, what I came up with was good! Plus, this soup is full of umami flavors, which is one of the major complaints people have about vegan food (even though they often don't phrase it quite like that). Although I've labeled this recipe "quick" barley soup, it's not a super fast soup because barley takes a bit of time to cook. This one saves time by using "quick" barley (think "quick" oats), but still has about 20 minutes of simmering time before the barley is ready. It's worth it though!

18 September 2012

Crockpot Minestrone Soup

Today was the perfect beginning-of-fall day. It didn't get above 70, there were blue skies with white puffy clouds, a nice breeze, and fall smells lingering in the air. This time of year is, hands down, my all time favorite. If nothing else, I get to wear sweaters, and who doesn't love sweaters?!

Normally (at least, as of this semester), Shana stays in Indy on Tuesday nights as a way to break up her weeks and avoid at least one morning of super early rising. However, tomorrow night is parent-teacher conference night, so she's staying tomorrow instead. That meant dinner had to planned for tonight. However, on Tuesday nights I'm on campus until 8:30 because I'm singing in a Gregorian Chant ensemble this semester (I'm learning SO many new things!). Thus, we planned a crockpot dinner.

I made this soup one night a few weeks ago and enjoyed it, but since Shana hadn't tried it yet I was hesitant to post it here. Just because I like it doesn't mean it's good. :) When I walked in the door tonight, Shana basically said "Hi! The soup was AWESOME!" Confirmation of deliciousness = new blog post for you all.

14 September 2012

Maggie's Garlic Wine Pasta

Two posts in two days? Believe it!

Here's the story behind this dinner. A while ago (6 months? a year?) I was craving something creamy and garlicky but nothing I found was sounding quite right. I asked Shana if she minded an experimental dinner and (after a bit of explanation) she agreed.

The first concoction was WAY to thick. Tasty, but thick. The second time I made (seriously, it was good), I adjusted too far the other way and it was way too thin.  The third time it was finally what I wanted it to be: a garlicky, creamy, wine-y, sauce over pasta and veggies. Plus, it's pretty quick and super easy. All in all, a huge winner!
so much creamygarlickywiney goodness

13 September 2012

Maggie's Green Bean Casserole

Yeah, yeah, it was 82 degrees outside today. That doesn't mean that we can't still have delicious fall-style casseroles. But just imagine a crisp fall day, leaves crackling underfoot, cold noses, warm sweaters, and the rich smells of something baking coming from the oven. It sounds almost perfect, if you ask me. Maybe we should have waited until tomorrow (high of 69), but dinner sure was delicious!

Most non-vegan green bean casseroles use condensed cream of mushroom soup, which isn't vegan. Most of the vegan recipes out there call for soy milk or soy creamer and lots of herbs. The soy milk would be fine, but when I started making this I wanted something with a simple taste profile. Also, many of them use canned green beans, which I just will not do (unless they are from my dad's garden and he canned them).

The other major issue (at least for us) with most of the other vegan green bean casserole recipes you can find is that they call for chunks of mushrooms. Neither Shana nor I are up for chunks of mushrooms (although I'll get to a recipe that has chunks sooner or later). This recipe skips the chunks but has lots of mushroom flavor. Not to worry, though, because you can always add the fungus chunks back. This could also easily be gluten free if you used a different thickener than regular wheat flour.

05 September 2012

Maggie's Savory Butternut Squash Soup

Well, the semester is in full gear. And by "full gear" what I really mean is "hold on tight or you're bound to fall off and we won't wait for you so suck it up." Same thing, right? It toooooootally feels the same. In all honesty, this semester is going to run me ragged, even though I am really excited about everything I'm doing. My classes are going well (and the students seem to think so, too), the multiple research projects I'm overseeing (19, which doesn't count my own research) are looking like they will be really interesting, my "campus leadership" seems to be manageable, and I'm even learning new things (basic html and Gregorian Chant music/notation).

It should come as no surprise that with all of this going on, I'm sometimes overwhelmed to think about adding "make dinner" to my never-ending to do list. Luckily, on Monday I didn't have to make dinner! Shana was off from school for Labor Day and she agreed to make dinner for us. We picked a meal that I knew she could make and that she felt comfortable with, as she doesn't cook nearly as often as I cook. Plus, Labor Day means September, which means squash and sweaters and apples and crunchy leaves and cold noses and pumpkins and and and... Even though most of those things aren't happening quite yet, the tables were turned when I was able to come home from work to smell of a lovely autumnal soup, which we paired with crusty bread dipped in olive oil.

The napkin in this picture was woven by a student at my school!
This soup is very straightforward to prepare, even more so if you can find pre-cut butternut squash. Plus, it's an interesting twist on a soup with butternut squash, as I find those tend to be a bit on the sweet side. This one has sweet undertones, but the other ingredients and spices included really kick this soup up a notch! I even have an alternate version in the Helpful Hints that increases the protein content while maintaining deliciousness.

23 August 2012

Asian Greens Stir Fry

Today was my first day of classes for the semester (classes officially started yesterday, but none of my met until today). In addition, Shana has some Unit Plans due tomorrow, so she stayed a bit late at work and then had more work to do when she got home. We had planned to have a different dinner tonight, but I just wasn't able to get around to making some of the ingredients, so we switched up the dinner plan.

Tonight's dinner was Asian Greens Stir Fry. I used to make a mixed veggie stir fry regularly, but somewhere along the way I got tired of that meal even though I still wanted stir fry. That was when Asian Greens Stir Fry was born. Let me say that this is in no way authentic Asian cuisine so much as a stereotypically Asian cooking method (high heat, a wok, and frequent stirring) and some Asian-inspired flavors. However, it's easy, delicious, and good for you.

20 August 2012

Veggie-full Vegan Red Sauce

Tonight was "advisee dinner" night here at school. All new students (first-years and transfers) were supposed to go to dinner with their faculty advisors. Advisors can choose to take their students out to dinner, bring in a catered meal (think Stouffer's Lasagna), or cook. In addition, advisors are encouraged to team up with other faculty members and their new students. I decided to team up with two of my colleagues in the psych department and we brought all of our first-year students over to Shana's and my house for dinner, socializing, and games.

In trying to decide what to feed such a large crowd (not to mention a crowd we'd not ever met when we were doing the planning), we decided pasta and red sauce, salad, and garlic bread were the way to go. I think of this meal as one of those American stand-by dinners when you're just not sure what anyone will enjoy. Thus, I think it's also a meal that can be uninspiring and over-used.

When most people think pasta with a red sauce, they usually envision something that has meat in it. Or, the few times they've had pasta with marinara sauce, it's almost flavorless. Luckily, that doesn't have to be the case at all! Vegan red sauces can be filled with all sorts of flavorful ingredients! The recipe below is one I made up when I made dinner for my in-laws one night and I tried to sneak some extra veggies past the kids. They ate this up, so apparently it worked. Tonight, the kids ate this up as well (plus some meat sauce, salad, bread, cupcakes, and cookies); so much so that there was barely enough for Shana's lunch tomorrow.

See that bread? My friends made that!

Veggie-full Vegan Red Sauce
1, 29 oz. can of tomato sauce (pick a general one, no added spices needed)
1, 15 oz. can of tomato puree
2 T. tomato paste
3 small onions, diced finely
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 green pepper, diced finely
2 small carrots, diced finely
2 1/2 T. Italian seasoning
1 T. basil
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. white sugar, optional

1. In a bit of olive oil, saute the onions until they start to get soft.
2. Add the garlic, carrot, and pepper, saute another 3-5 minutes.
3. Add all other ingredients, stir to combine.
4. Simmer over low or med-low heat (depending on your cook top) for at least 20 minutes, but see Helpful Hints.

5. Remove bay leaf and serve.

Helpful Hints
  • As with all red sauces, this one tastes better the longer you let it cook. The longer you give it, the more time the flavors have to meld together. I actually made this the day before our dinner, then put it in my crockpot insert in the fridge. A couple of hours on high before the party and it's at the perfect temperature and the flavors have melded wonderfully. I have also sauteed the veggies and then dumped everything into a crockpot, cooking for 8 hours on low. 
  • Because of the chunks of veggies, I prefer to use a pasta other than spaghetti, like a rotini. 
  • Tomato sauce and puree can both be used in the recipe. Canned tomato sauce (with the diced tomatoes and such) often has added salt, so use all puree if salt is an issue for you.
  • This is a soy-free dish and can be gluten-free if you use gluten-free pasta.
  • You can certainly use three 15 ounce cans of tomato sauce/puree for this recipe and it will still work out fine. 
  • After you make it, you can freeze smaller batches of this sauce to reheat later. 
  • This sauce is pretty mild (as I made it first with kids in mind). Thus, the sweetness of the tomatoes and carrots really shine through on the palate. If you like spicier things, up the red pepper flakes, add some diced hot peppers, or any other thing you'd like!
  • Another fun thing to do is keep the bay leaf in the sauce. Then, whoever gets it (no fair fishing for it!) is king/queen for a day! 
The post "Veggie-full Vegan Red Sauce" originally appeared on Maggie's LesVegan Kitchen.

17 August 2012

Throw-together Vegan Meals

Although I'm sure most of you have thought about this, but just in case you haven't, vegan dinners do not need to rely on vegan recipes. Instead, they can come together really easily. Shana and I call these dinners "throw-together meals" because, well, we throw things together on a plate and call it dinner. I think vegan throw-together meals are as easy, if not easier than, non-vegan throw-together meals. Plus, throw-together meals are quick and can rely on pantry staples.

The trick to a throw-together meal is having a decently (not even amazingly) stocked kitchen. If you have a few quickly-prepared items at home, then you are protected against going out to eat if you have a kitchen failure (which happens!), if someone gets sick and your planned-for dinner doesn't sound appealing, when you just don't feel like cooking but still have to eat, or when you have to cancel plans that included dinner.

15 August 2012

Maggie's Vegan Spaghettios

I'll be honest. I never really ate Spaghettios much as a kid. I remember having a love-affair with Chicken and Rice soup, or maybe it was Chicken and Stars, but Spaghettios (meatballed or not) just weren't my thing. I think I ate them occasionally, but they weren't a staple.

However, when I started cooking for Shana as well as me, I had to contend with an additional set of favored-flavors, food idiosyncrasies, and some definite food neophobia. As I started looking around for foods that would be amenable to both of us, I decided one day that spaghettios would do the trick. I don't know why I decided that, but the idea stuck and started looking for recipes. Most of what I found was really really simple, along the lines of "boil pasta, add condensed soup/water, and stir." Easy? Absolutely! Delicious? Meh. Clearly I needed to do my own thing.

The other element that I wanted to add to my vegan spaghettios was some kind of "meatball." I've never been a fan of hot dogs in things, so those were out, and I tried a couple of other things that didn't work very well (I should have figured that breakfast sausages wouldn't work...). However, a couple of years ago I saw a new variety of frozen vegan meatballs in the freezer case at Wegmans, took them home to try, and was a convert. Nate's vegan meatballs are amazing! We use the "Zesty Italian" flavor, but they are all good.

Now, an aside (then for the recipe). As a general rule, I do not use a ton of faux meat products in my cooking because I do not like that they are so processed. But, I use these meatballs in this recipe, fake burger crumbles when we make tacos or sloppy joes, and faux deli meats when Shana is craving a "turkey" club sandwich. It is unusual for faux meats to appear more than once a week; 2-3 times a month is more common. HOWEVER, these products have come a loooooooooooong way since I went vegan more than a decade ago and if they help you make meatless meals that you enjoy, run with that. Alright, without more blabbering on my part, on to the recipe.

13 August 2012

Hearty Wild Rice Soup

It's been cooler in Indiana the past few days (Saturday it only got to about 74 degrees - I love it!) and we are supposed to have high temperatures of around 80 for most of the rest of the week. Plus, today is grey and overcast. For Shana and me, that means soup. Soup is infinitely versatile and warms you from the inside out; it is absolutely one of my favorite foods. During fall and winter months, we eat soup at least two nights a week and commented during our meal planning this week that we can't wait to eat soup all the time again.

Tonight I'm making a vegan version of one of the first recipes I ever created. As a pre-teen and teenager (and good Minnesotan!), I LOVED wild rice soup. When I would meet my mom downtown for lunch, we would walk through the skyways to a soup/salad/bread place and I would always get the wild rice soup with bread. I can still remember what it tastes like. In addition, Byerly's (a grocery store) sells delicious pre-made wild rice soup, so I could easily purchase and eat that any time. Thus, when I started getting in to cooking, I decided I wanted to make wild rice soup on my own. My dad pulled down a recipe that his mom used and suggested that I start with her recipe. However, since I was new to cooking, I made a big mistake. The recipe called for 1.5-2 cups of wild rice, but it meant already cooked rice. I put in 1.5-2 cups of uncooked rice and ended up with a thick, but delicious, stew. I loved that recipe and named my creation "Wild Maggie's Rice Soup." After going vegan, I wanted to see if I could make something as delicious, but without the chicken stock, ham, bacon, and velveeta cheese from the original recipe.

This version of Wild Maggie's Rice Soup (which I now call "Hearty Wild Rice Soup") is healthier than the original, but makes a TON of thick, creamy soup.  So, you might want to have people over for dinner, plan to eat this a few days in a row, or cut the recipe in half. I also think this soup pairs nicely with a simple, crisp salad. Oh, and if you're outside Minnesota, wild rice is expensive! It's worth it in this dish, as the mildly nutty flavor and chewy texture of the wild rice are the star of the soup.

08 August 2012

Vegan Risotto

We're back from Philly, Shana's school has started, and mine is getting so much closer (with the appropriate "Itotallydidn'tgetenoughdonethissummerohdearthesemesteriscoming!" feelings of panic and anticipation). However, since school hasn't officially started for me and Shana's in her first week of craziness and commuting, I took the opportunity to make vegan risotto.

Risotto is an awesome hearty comfort food that is infinitely customize-able. It's easy, delicious, impressive, and fairly cheap, it just takes a long time and a lot of stirring. Thus, this might be a great meal to serve to dinner guests (every omnivore I've fed it to has loved it!). Most people are impressed by homemade risotto because they don't know how easy it is to make. Honestly, I think the only reason people don't make it often is because it takes a while (about 45 minutes) and most of that is spent stirring.

Finally, if you're at all into the science on why risotto works the way it does, Alton Brown devoted an episode of Good Eats to rice, much of which was about risotto. All you really need to watch is from 1:20 through 5:06, when he explains about different lengths of rice grains. The whole episode is interesting, if you've got 20 minutes. 

02 August 2012

Grilled Foil Packets

Tomorrow morning I'm leaving to drive to Philly for a long weekend because one of Shana's best friends is getting married on Sunday. Because Shana's working tomorrow and her first day with students is on Monday, she's flying from Indy to Philly and back. Since I'm going to be in the car for 10 hours tomorrow, then busy with family and wedding stuff, then driving 10 hours on Monday, I won't have much time to post. Besides, if I post something every day, I'm going to run out of recipes! However, I don't want to leave my (approximately 10?) loyal readers without a new idea to try over the weekend, so below is one of our all-time favorites: grilled foil packets of veggies (which we insensitively call "Hobo Packets" due to their resemblance (when wrapped) to the cloth packages hanging off sticks in historical cartoon versions of those who were homeless and/or setting out to claim their fortune).

If you've ever been camping, you've likely had these before, but you can make foil packets really easily using your grill at home. In addition, foil packets are infinitely customize-able, which makes them fun for groups of people with varied tastes or kids (mini-munchers) who like to choose their own foods. What's more, foil packets have won over every vegetable-hater we've met. Our nephew even gave an impromptu speech about the virtues of these after eating his first one. Then he eyed Shana's broccoli, since he'd been certain he wouldn't like it and didn't put enough in his own packet. Shana shared. Finally, foil packets are a great way to get a ton of veggies into your diet, and we're supposed to eat a lot of them!

30 July 2012

Vegan Chinese Garlic Sauce

Today is Shana's 30th birthday! Although we didn't intend to do so, I made one of Shana's favorite meals for dinner tonight - the garlic sauce you can get at most Chinese restaurants.

Here's the back story. Shana used to always order broccoli in garlic sauce any time we went to a Chinese restaurant. Then, one day she found out that the garlic sauce often has oyster sauce in it, making it not veg*n. Needless to say, Shana was devastated. So I decided to see if I could replicate a good version of it at home.  There are a ton of recipes for it online and they are quite varied! Some of them I discarded almost immediately after looking at the recipes (e.g., some call for minced onion, but the stuff Shana ordered never had onion chunks in it and I was going for authentic "Americanized Chinese restaurant"). Finally I found one that looked about right and have since tweaked it into something we both really like.

Now, don't panic, but this recipe involves tofu. Maybe you've had bad experiences with tofu.
  1. Maybe you think tofu is tasteless. You're mostly right! Tofu takes on the flavors of whatever else you've got going on in the pan. If that's your issue, the sauce is flavorful enough that you don't need to worry about no flavor. 
  2. Maybe you think tofu has an awful texture. Some people can't deal with the "scrambled egg-ness" of tofu. However, the key to this recipe is that you freeze the tofu. Freezing the tofu changes its texture dramatically. You'll honestly be surprised.

29 July 2012

Maggie's Enchiladas

Even though in my introduction I told you most of the recipes I'll post aren't mine, I'm starting off with one that is actually a recipe I created. Tonight, Shana and I are having two friends over for dinner and games since one of the friends took a tenure-track job at a school in Florida and moves in just a few short days. In planning for tonight's dinner, we wanted to do something easy (and delicious, of course!) and something that would go with a salad one of our guests is bringing. Thus, we decided to have enchiladas. 

This recipe has some pros and cons. First, the pros. 
  1. Enchiladas are a great food to introduce you to veg*n cooking. You can change up the ingredients to anything you like and you won't miss the meat - I promise. 
  2. This recipe only uses common grocery store "convenience" ingredients (but see Helpful Hints below).
  3. Leftover enchiladas can be frozen and re-heated, but they won't be for everyone. Shana likes these frozen and re-heated, but I do not.
Now the cons.
  1. You are going to use a lot of pots and pans and bowls. I use one skillet, one large bowl, one medium bowl, one pie plate, one 9x13 baking dish, one 5x8 baking dish, and one small-ish pot, plus a cutting board, a knife, and a big spoon.
  2. You have to fill and roll the enchiladas, which is best done as a two-person activity. You can do it alone, it's just easier with a kitchen helper (this would be great for small hands!).