24 December 2015

Vegan Viands #18: Christmas Spritz Cookies


Shana, my culturally Jewish wife, had no idea what Christmas was like the first year she joined my family at Christmas. The second year, the words above were her refrain; she had the excitement of a 6-year old. The third year, we had to set rules about what time she was allowed to wake everyone else.

If you've been an even somewhat-regular reader of this blog, you'll already know that I love traditions. Although sometimes traditions can stifle, when there's room to take them or leave them or change them to suit your needs/life, they can be wonderful, providing things to anticipate and/or structure in a chaotic world. No matter what (if any) religious faith you follow or grew up with, religious holidays are filled with tradition. One of the Christmas traditions at my house has been spritz cookies. Spritz Christmas cookies come from a long history in Germany or Sweden. Given that Germans and Swedes are two of the major immigrant groups who settled Minnesota, it's no surprise that these cookies make an appearance at Christmas time. They are a sweet, buttery cookie that is squeezed* out of a tube through a disk with a shape cut into it.

Therein lies the difficulty, you can't make these cookies without a spritz cookie machine. Machine isn't a really accurate word for the tool, as the machine is kind of a glorified plunger. But anyway, you need the tool! Although the one I use at my family's house is ancient, one of the more highly rated ones can be found here. After you have the spritz cookie tool, you're on your way to quick, easy, and tradition-filled cookies.

12 December 2015

Killer Kale Salad

This is the weekend in between the last week of classes and finals week.  I've assigned final papers in two of my classes and an exam in one of them. If the lapse between my last post and this one is any indication, it's safe to say this has been a busy semester for me, as well as for my students. I'm a bit behind on grading, though I think that most faculty members are at this point in the semester. Although I'm behind, I am feeling remarkably okay about it. I know it will all get done, and have the perspective-taking abilities to recognize that this is where I am at the end of every semester. In contrast, for most of my students, this is the point of the semester where their "stuffing begins to show," as one of my colleagues says. I think if my students were eating this kale salad, their stuffing wouldn't be showing at all.

This is another recipe that came from our monthly vegan potlucks, which I mentioned in my last post. Shana and I have eaten it a ton and fed it to numerous friends, including one who has never found a way to eat kale that she's enjoyed. This salad has been a hit with everyone. It's so simple, yet there is something magical about it. In all seriousness, the magic is real enough that we've had this twice in the past three days. Once you eat it, you'll believe in its magic.

04 November 2015

J & L's West African Peanut Stew

There is a big vegan event occurring in our small mid-western town: I've started a monthly vegan potluck! September was our first and was a great success. Although I knew many of the people who came the first night, there were still some folks new to me, and many of the people who came didn't really know each other. Regardless, we all laughed, shared feelings about how amazing it was to be able to eat everything on the table, and joked that it was nice to be in a place where we didn't have to explain our food choices or be "jokingly" offered a bit of someone's steak/burger/bacon. Our second potluck went as well as the first and November's gathering is just around the corner! We're building a little community of vegans, which is just so awesome.

For me, one of the most fun parts of these monthly gatherings (aside from feeling less isolated) is the ability to try and share new recipes with other vegans. After every potluck, we've compiled our recipes and shared them with the others on the email list. I've eaten some amazing new things and even my food neophobic wife has tried (and enjoyed) everything. The recipe below arrived at our first vegan potluck from our new vegan friends J & L (I'm not sure if they would want me to post their names, so I'm refraining). This dish was SO good that Shana and I have made it twice since our first potluck, which is more than we've made anything - aside from soup, because soup - since then. This really is a winner of a dish - delicious, easy, and inexpensive! You may even have all of the ingredients in your pantry already, so what are you waiting for?!

20 October 2015

Maggie's Vegan Kugel

It's funny how sometimes you just don't realize how impactful some element of your life actually is. For example, my wife didn't realize how much growing up in a predominantly Jewish community affected her world view, including the foods she eats. Although I've written about making foods that honor Shana's Jewish heritage, such as frisket and matzo ball soup, there was one food we lamented that I'd never be able to make: a sweet noodle kugel.

Shana used to love her Mommom's sweet kugel, which was built around egg noodles, cottage cheese, and apricot preserves. Not a lot there that is vegan-friendly. Although I've been thinking about kugel for years, I kept getting stuck on cottage cheese, as there's no vegan equivalent. But then, when looking around the internet for recipes for a Shabbot dinner we were invited to* with some of Earlham's Jewish students, I found a recipe for kugel that looked like it might work for my purposes! Using a combination of sour cream and mashed tofu, I was hoping for a cottage cheese like texture. After a couple of attempts, where every time Shana would get excited and nostalgic all at one, I finally stumbled upon a recipe that replicates Shana's Mommom's sweet kugel.

04 October 2015

Vegan Stuffed Shells

This semester has started off at a run and I'm not sure I'm catching up. Thus, I haven't had a lot of time to make new meals. Well, that's not quite true. I've made two, both of which were delicious, I just haven't had time to post them. This particular dinner we ate weeks ago. And wow, was it good! The mellow flavor of the garlic is just wonderful and the texture of the tofu mixture is perfect. Shana also thought that flavor developed even more in leftovers.

I will say that this is not a meal you can make in a hurry. There are a lot of different parts that need to come together and you use a ton of dishes. But for a dinner party or something like that, this would a great option! It's something that non-vegans would find familiar, but not necessary miss the cheese due to the consistency of the tofu and the roundness of the flavors from garlic, miso, and nutritional yeast.

23 August 2015

Maggie's Wild Rice Salad

A new semester of classes starts next week for me. I've met my incoming first-year advisees. Shana's new job has started. We have had the windows open more regularly because the weather has been cooler and less humid. My dad was talking about the ripening acorn squash in his garden. All of this indicates that summer is winding down. However, if you're not quite ready to let go of summer, with its hot days and more relaxed schedule, have I got a recipe for you.

I've been meaning to make this wild rice salad all summer (what can I say, Minnesotans love wild rice), but never got around to it for one reason or another. But yesterday we went to a pot-luck for a colleague's birthday and I needed something I didn't have to prepare immediately ahead of time. This was just occasion for wild rice salad, as it can chill for a few hours before you serve it.

We arrived to the pot luck, salad in hand, and it was gobbled up in short order. I did get a serving of it for myself, but I also wondered why I didn't make more of it. It made me realize why my mom often doubled the recipe when she brought it places. In any event, this salad is a wonderful warm-weather food and an excellent vegan option for a pot luck!

25 July 2015

Maggie's Grilled Tofu

It's summer. I love summer for a number of reasons: Shana loves summer, the world is full of beautiful colors, and the foods planted in the spring are ripening like magic. Our CSA is in full swing, so we are reaping the bounty of summer foods. This week, we got green beans, a head of lettuce, two cucumbers, a zucchini, fingerling potatoes, onions, garlic, and two kinds of tomatoes.

Here's the problem. I hate humidity paired with any temp much above 70, which pretty much captures midwestern summers perfectly. For me, what ends up happening is that I don't want to eat or cook anything. Combining this tendency with our travels, we haven't eaten anything new or noteworthy in weeks. Feeling ready for something new, tonight's dinner on our weekly meal plan simply said "new." Such dinners work well when I plan what I'd like to cook early in the week, but I neglected to do that this week. Luckily, my lack of planning led to a thrown-together dinner highlighting summer's bounty. We had a simple green salad (CSA lettuce, carrots, celery, and cucumber, with peppers and toasted almonds) with vegan ranch dressing, CSA green beans, sweet corn from another local farm (which we grilled to perfection), and grilled tofu (which is simple enough that I feel silly calling it a recipe). Altogether, this dinner was amazing and the quintessential vegan summer meal.

30 June 2015

Maggie's Vegan Cream of Chard Soup

Oh readers, I struggle. It's been over a month since last I posted! I'd like to be able to say that I've been doing amazing things that have kept me away, but the reality is that I've just been living life and cooking the same recipes we already know and love. Even with the CSA, I just  haven't been that creative with foods - with one major exception. This soup.

We got chard in our CSA shares for a couple of weeks and I remembered a soup we'd had years ago. I tried to recreate it after asking about ingredients, but then decided I didn't like the smell of one of the ingredients. Instead, I switched things up a bit and ended up with something delicious. Seriously, this soup is amazing. The richness of it makes it ideal for any season, but using fresh spring/summer chard is a great idea.

23 May 2015

Maggie's Spring Carrot Salad

If you read my last post, you'll know that our awesome CSA has been giving us lots of carrots. The past two weeks, we've also gotten some beautiful French breakfast radishes. One of the things I was so excited about with our CSA is that it would force me to explore new (or in this case, new uses) for veggies. Enter this salad. 

Apparently, shredded carrot salads are common in other parts of the world, but Americans don't eat them that often. I don't know why that's the case, because this salad was so easy and delicious. The only thing ingredient I don't keep on hand is the green onions, which is easily remedied. This salad comes together in no time with the aid of a shredding disc for a food processor. As the weather gets warmer, I'm thinking that this will be making an appearance on our menu more frequently and might even go to some warm-weather pot lucks. 

20 May 2015

MVK Savory Roasted Carrots

Look - a real CSA post!!! We've been getting some AMAZING veggies from our wonderful CSA out of Christopher Farm. As it's very early in the growing season, we've gotten mostly greens. However, we've also gotten a ton of carrots due to the hoop houses at the farm. We eat carrots in soups and in salads, but that hasn't been enough to eat through the carrots. I was talking to my sister about this the other day and she gave me a great idea.

Recently, my sister started working at a restaurant called Mill Valley Kitchen. She is really enjoying the way the restaurant engages with and thinks about food. When I mentioned all of our carrots, she said that I could try to make something on the menu there: carrots marinated in a savory marinade and then roasted quickly in their wood fired pizza oven. I have never eaten these carrots and I certainly don't have a wood fired pizza oven, but I figured I'd give it a go. I am so glad I did, because these carrots were ridiculously delicious. Even if you don't like cooked carrots, you will like these (says Shana). Seriously, eat them now.

08 May 2015

Vegan Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread - No Knead and Low Fuss!

I know that I promised CSA posts, but right now we've been eating things from the CSA so quickly that I don't have time to photograph them (I'm only a little bit kidding). Every week I get so excited to see what we'll get. Just yesterday I submitted another manuscript to a journal, so I hope that means I'll get back to experimenting with new recipes.

For today, though, I'd like to share a recipe for a whole wheat sandwich bread. I used to think baking bread was scary and tedious and required a master's touch. To be honest, I still think that way about a lot of bread. However, this bread is SO easy because it's a very wet dough and requires no kneading. The lack of kneading means it takes a while, but get it started one weekend afternoon or right when you come home from work and then let it do it's thing. With minimal effort you will be rewarded with awesome bread!

22 April 2015

CSA Excitement!

Everybody. We have a CSA this year. An organic CSA.

Don't know what a CSA is? It's awesome! CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and it basically works by people like me & Shana paying a farmer before the growing season for a share of the crops that are grown. If you want more information, check out Local Harvest or Wiki. Today was the first day that we got our CSA share from Christopher Farm. I am SO EXCITED about it!! Here's a picture of what was in this week's share.

From bottom-left, going clockwise: box choy, kale, spinach, carrots & greens, lettuce, cilantro, garlic, shallots.
I've decided to post our weekly shares and have created a new tag for CSA-related posts. I'm very hopeful that the CSA will force us to explore new veggies. For example, this week I'm going to try a carrot-top pesto, a carrot-top soup, and roasted garlic compound butter. I've been feeling a bit in a cooking rut (as I think I do every spring), so having all of these ideas feels awesome. YAY!

The post "CSA Excitement" originally appeared on Maggie's LesVegan Kitchen.

12 April 2015

Vegan Frisket (Faux Brisket) for Non-Kosher Seder

It seems like I am starting every recent blog post with an apology. I've been gone for over a month, but again, my absence has a good reason: we bought a house! The closing happened early in Feb, then my dad came to help us do stuff in the house for about a week. Then I went to a conference, then I went to another conference, and then we officially moved when The Bests (what we call our best friends) came to help about two weeks ago. Since then, we've moved all of our stuff and unpacked enough that we can functionally live. There are still boxes and there's no art on the walls, both of which will make me crazy pretty soon. Here's a picture of our house right after the closing!

The doilies in the windows are going. 
The days we moved, I spent an entire afternoon organizing the kitchen. Since the kitchen is mostly my domain (and Shana hates the unpacking part of moving), Shana and The Bests just let me work. I'm glad they did, because I got the kitchen organized and ready for cooking. Less than a week later, Shana and I hosted 6 good friends for a nearly 100% vegan non-Kosher Passover Seder. It was so much fun! 

For the second year in a row, I cooked what we've lovingly referred to as frisket - faux brisket. Shana grew up having brisket at nearly every major family gathering, but she recently learned that many non-Jews didn't have the same experience. I can count on one hand the number of times I had brisket growing up. Although neither Shana nor I are religious at this point in our lives, Seder is a beautiful tradition (and I've written about loving traditions). Due to our lack of a specifically religious identification with the meal, we feel a bit more free to deviate from some of the required elements, such as all the food being Kosher for Passover. Thus, this delicious (but unattractive) main dish isn't religiously sanctioned, but it is an interpretation of a regularly served dish.

06 March 2015

Lazy Dinner Not-Pigs in Blankets

Even though spring is supposedly on the way, the first two and half months of the year are always tricky for Shana and I when it comes to planning dinners. Our best laid meal plans are often dramatically destroyed by Mother Nature. We'll have planned a lovely dinner just to have a major snowstorm force Shana to stay in Indianapolis. Thus, I'm more often trying to figure out random things for me to eat (e.g., the other night I had Alice Salad and mini tater tots, simply because I had all of that on hand). Luckily, I've got a number of Lazy Dinners that are easy to do.

This is another one of those dinners where I don't remember how it started. Maybe we saw someone else eating them. Or maybe I saw a non-vegan recipe and decided to veganize it. Or maybe something else happened that was equally trivial. Whatever the reason, these not-pigs in blankets are SO easy I feel badly calling them a recipe. But I guess that makes them a perfect Lazy Dinner (or game-watching food or snack).

Now, before you go all crazy and start making these all the time, I just want to say up front that these are not - I repeat, NOT - the most healthy thing for you to eat. They rely on heavily processed fake meat and high-in-fat bread-in-a-can. Obviously that means they're delicious. It also obviously means don't eat them all the time! As a occasional Lazy Dinner, they're great.

27 January 2015

Vegan Sun-dried Tomato Spread

Long ago, for much of high school and even some early college breaks, I worked at a bagel store called Bruegger's Bagels.* While working in the same place for so long, you get tired of eating the same things over and over, so I would experiment with new foods and food combinations over the years. It helped that while I was working there, Bruegger's started introducing new foods and expanding their menu. One of the new foods I tried was a sun-dried tomato spread. I had never been a big fan of sun-dried tomatoes, and I'm still not, but dang was this spread delicious. As time passed, I stopped working at Bruegger's and then went vegan. Although there's stuff for me to eat there as a vegan, the sun-dried tomato spread is not on that list; it contains cheese and gelatin.

I had essentially stopped thinking about this spread until a ridiculous craving for it hit me.  Luckily, it turns out a vegan version of this is super easy to make and just as delicious as I remember (and without the non-vegan bits). I brought this to school the other day to eat on a bagel sandwich (everything bagel + faux turkey + lettuce + spread = magic). I also shared some with some colleagues over lunch and I was rewarded with rave reviews! Many of them asked that I share the recipe. So, colleagues, here you go!

24 January 2015

Quick & Easy Vegan Buttermilk Biscuits

Despite the fact that I know we should eat something other than carbs for breakfast, that's often where we revert on weekend mornings. There are exceptions, such as tofu scramble, but carbs commonly grace our breakfast plates. Often I use Heart Smart Bisquick when I make pancakes, waffles, or biscuits, but the other week I was out and really craving biscuits. I figured it couldn't be that hard to make my own, so did some quick google searching. Turns out there are a ton of different ways to mix a few simple ingredients to make biscuits. After a bit of pondering (and a bit of guessing), I made an attempt at a recipe that turned out really well!

Even though the biscuits were delicious, I've got a rule. The rule for the blog, is that if I make up a recipe, I have to make that recipe at least twice before it gets posted. (FYI, if I make a recipe from a cookbook that's awesome, then I can post it after just one time, as it went through all sorts of testing before getting published.) Lucky for me, the second attempt at the biscuits turned out just as well as the first! Shana even said "good biscuits, love" multiple times during breakfast. We slather our biscuits with vegan butter and agave nectar, but you could easily do jam, maple syrup, gravy, or even use them to make a vegan breakfast sandwich (despite the addition of sugar, the biscuits themselves aren't sweet). Let me know what you do with your biscuits!

All slathered and with some fake bacon.

21 January 2015

Vegan Coq au Vin

This semester I hope to cook a ton of new recipes. I'm pretty sure I say that every semester, but I am on a "pre-tenure leave" this semester, which means that I'm not teaching anything! Instead, my time will be spent working on writing up all the research I've been doing over the past years. I've got big goals (four manuscripts of the six I have waiting, plus seriously revising a class I will be teaching in the fall), but I have been told that I am also to take time to relax and rejuvenate. For me, that means cooking, singing, and reading books for fun. All of that sounds amazing.

To start off the semester of fun new foods, I decided to pick a recipe from an awesome cookbook that I've barely used: World Vegan Feast. Bryanna Clark Grogan is amazing. She has a number of awesome vegan cookbooks and an extensive vegan recipe blog. She also has an interesting background with family members from various parts of the world. Aside from her amazingness (not a word) as a cook, I also wanted this cookbook as a way to stretch my taste buds and culinary repertoire. This "coq" au vin does just that. The flavors are traditionally French for a taste of international cuisine when you don't have the money and time to actually go there!

05 January 2015

Vegan Baked Oatmeal

My wife loves routine. She loves the structure it provides to life. Shana's love of structure was another reason why the implementation of our meal plan has lasted for so many years. Her food routine spreads to breakfast, too. Nearly every morning, Shana eats a bagel (usually an everything bagel, sometimes a cinnamon raisin). However, at some point this past semester, Shana said that she'd not been eating a bagel because it was "too much" in the morning. Given that she teaches small children all day, having something for breakfast is important, and I lamented the fact that she doesn't like oatmeal due to its texture. She agreed with my lament, but it got me thinking if there was another way to get her to eat oatmeal (full of fiber, protein, a minerals like manganese, but low in fat and calories!).

Enter baked oatmeal; I hoped for all of the goodness, none of the texture issues. I did a lot of googling and found a ton of recipes, but most of them contained eggs and/or milk. Adding "vegan" to my search terms led to a bunch of recipes. Somewhat at random, I picked one that had some flavors I liked and dove in and hoped for the best. I'm so glad that I did because this recipe is AMAZING! It is easy to put together, has awesome texture and flavor (it tastes like fall!), freezes like a dream, and got Shana to eat oatmeal! 

01 January 2015

Teriyaki Rice Bowls

We spent a lovely evening last night with friends ringing in the new year with games and too much food and then Shana and I slept in this morning. According to our meal plan (made upon our return from Minnesota), we'd planned a new soup we've been eating for tonight, but Shana wanted to shuffle our remaining plans. The shuffle led to a new dinner tonight, which is kind of perfect - new year, new dinner!

Coming quickly together (after the rice is cooked, anyway), this is a keeper of recipe and will be a part of our regular rotation. The homemade teriyaki sauce is full of flavor, the veggies provide a great range of textures, and the rice provides just enough chew to make you think you're eating a more carb-heavy meal. In addition, everything in this dish can be found at a well-stocked grocery store.