13 November 2016

Vegan Viands #19: Maggie's Vegan Ranch Chex Mix

Every late fall/early winter growing up, my mom would make chex mix. It was a frequent snack and even more frequent gift - going to teachers, neighbors, and friends. The smell and taste of that chex mix is unmistakable. It is one of those recipes that is so easy and delicious, taking just a bit of patience for a long, slow bake and seemingly longer cool. Although her recipe wasn't vegan, it was easily veganizable, meaning that I make my own every year.

Because of the ubiquity of my mom's chex mix, I thought that was the only way to take the on-their-own unremarkable cereals and make them into something magical.

As it turns out, I thought wrong.

Growing up, Shana often had a ranch-flavored chex mix. While similar in idea, the chex mix in Shana's recollection involved a ranch seasoning packet and oil, no bake time, and thus, no cooling time. This fall, when I expressed an interest in making my version, Shana requested that I attempt to make hers. After some googling, including to assess the ingredients of a ranch packet (so not vegan), I made an attempt. It was...not right. Fine, but not right. After some discussion, I made another version and brought it with us on a trip to see all our best friends. That version was delicious - not to mention gone in no time once we arrived.

So, if you're a vegan adult with memories of a ranch-style chex mix, look no further. This takes less than 5 minutes to prepare and will last a bit longer than that if you make sure to hide some from the masses.

05 October 2016

Vegan Peruvian Lomo Saltado

More than three years ago, I mentioned that there were some Peruvian recipes in Bryanna Clark Grogan's World Vegan Feast that I wanted to try. Let's just say that life got a little bit hectic between then and now.

In any event, we have some Peruvian friends who work with me at Earlham and we have a night of dinner and games with them. Last month, I told them that I wanted to try cooking a vegan version of a popular dish in Peru called lomo saltado. According to Robertson, this dish is an example of a fusion between Chinese and Peruvian cuisine and has become an incredibly popular dish all over the country. Our friends agreed.

When we first decided to make lomo saltado, I was a bit perplexed by the variety of flavors that I saw in the dish. Traditional to Peruvian cuisine, potatoes play a role, as does steak (for which strips of seitan substitute wonderfully), vinegar, lime juice, oregano, and cumin. Traditional to Chinese cuisine, we have the stir-fry technique, along with soy sauce and rice. I was skeptical until I took my first bite, wherein I discovered what a wonderful and flavorful fusion these two traditions created! Our Peruvian friends thought it was delicious, too! Shana and I decided to have it again this week, which is why I'm sharing it with you.

24 September 2016

Maggie's Stir Fry Sauce

The first day of fall has come and gone, but it sure doesn't feel like it's fall in Indiana. We've had temperatures in the mid to upper 80s all this past week. So while I've been staring longingly at all of the soups and stews I cook in the fall, it's just not happening for a while. Instead, we have been cooking like it's summer, using all sorts of fresh veggies and flavors.

Since I've been so ready for fall, I couldn't keep making the same summer dishes. Instead, building on Shana's love of Asian flavors, we had an excellent stir fry tonight! With a ton of veggies and light and flavorful sauce, we enjoyed it immensely tonight. This is something we'll be sure to eat again, plus the recipe is a great base for all sorts of experimentation.

21 August 2016

Thomas Family "Special Syrup"

Every once in a while, you want a special treat for breakfast, like cinnamon rolls or candy coated clouds. But sometimes, with a busy week behind you, a full day ahead, and the semester looming, you just want something to make a more typical weekend breakfast a bit special. You want "special" without the effort "special" often requires. I have just the thing for you.

When I was growing up, we would have waffles or pancakes for weekend breakfasts with regularity. Nearly all of the time, those treats would be covered with maple syrup. But every so often, my dad would say that he was going to make "special syrup" for us to pour over our waffles. This pronouncement was met with glee! I assumed that special syrup was an occasional treat because it was labor intensive - I couldn't have been more wrong! This syrup recipe is all of the "special" with next to no effort. Instead, with three simple ingredients and about six minutes of your time, you'll be able to drench waffles in a delicious syrup with at least a three generation family history* (granted, I made mine vegan).

Served this morning with hash browns and Amy's brand vegan breakfast sausages (because Shana is obsessed with them).

This was just what I needed the weekend before my semester starts in earnest.

09 July 2016

Summer Tortilla Pinwheels

A few months ago, some friends moved from our town and threw a big going away party. They are always very conscious of the myriad eating habits of all of their friends, so they made sure that some vegan-friendly food was available. One of those dishes were tortilla pinwheels that some vegan potluck friends brought and I've been dreaming about since. They were so simple, but so delicious!

I finally decided I needed to stop dreaming, so I contacted the friend who made them for the recipe. Her response sounded pretty much like what I say when Shana asks how I made something new and delicious: "Well, I added some of this, some of that, a little bit of that, and some of something else." To Shana, that response is infuriating, but to me, it leaves the door open to experimentation. My friend said she used my sun-dried tomato spread recipe, a "hummus" made with cannellini beans and cashews, and arugula, but wasn't sure exactly what proportions she used or what other ingredients were in the hummus. That was enough of a start for me, so I set to work to figure out my own version.

My own version in hand, Shana and I made our way to a Fourth of July party. I cut into the rolls, hoping they'd stay together (they did) and made sure to express to our hosts and other friends that the recipe was new and that I'd love feedback and wouldn't be offended if people didn't like them. As the wraps disappeared, the only feedback I heard was "mmmmmmmmmmm" and "these are delicious, Maggie!" We took just a few of them home with us, but Shana ate them the next day and has been asking for them since. Recipe success!

23 June 2016

Roasted Veggie Sandwich with Balsamic Reduction

We had a leftover eggplant from making Eggplant Asian Stir Fry and Shana was insistent that we figure out a way to use it. As we made our meal plan for this week, we were looking through cookbooks of all sorts when the following exchange took place:

Shana: Oooo - this looks good! I want this!
Me: Okay, what is it? Read me the recipe?
Shana: Well, it's a roasted veggie sandwich, but I want to add things and take some of this away and maybe we could do something like a balsamic reduction.
Me: [dumbfounded] ...
Shana: I don't know who I am right now.

Shana is not a cook. However, it's very clear that she's becoming more comfortable (but never excited about) thinking about how flavors and textures work together. After I made peace with this new world, we brainstormed together. The result was this amazing - and deliciously messy to eat - sandwich of roasted veggies, hummus, and a balsamic reduction, all on crusty bread.

Roasted veggie sandwiches are also infinitely customize-able! For example, the recipe that inspired this has only one thing in common with what we ended up with - the roasted eggplant. To make this sandwich your own, add or subtract cooked veggies (how about a couple of caramelized onions or strips of portobello mushrooms), slather on some pesto in place of (or in addition to!) the balsamic reduction, add some greens (oooo, arugula), change up your protein source by adding some strips of grilled tofu, or put it on slices of an Italian loaf or focaccia or in a wrap. Served hot or cold,* you'll be satisfied.

14 June 2016

Eggplant Asian Stir Fry

School has been out for both of us for a few weeks. Most people assume that for teachers like us, summer time means days filled with lounging around and cocktails. That's hardly the case. Shana's picked up two summer-only part time jobs, I've been doing committee work and catching up, and we've both been busy with projects at our house. For example, I've been gardening, Shana's been clearing our old patio, and we've been discussing which projects come next. Shana's also been coaching a 3rd & 4th grade softball team, which has meant about 3 evening games per week.

All this activity has meant that we haven't actually seen each other as much as we would like. To remedy that, we decided to have a date day in Indianapolis. We had a great time! We met a friend for drinks, had a great dinner, and went to a game. We also did errands. I know what you're thinking: "Errands?! On a date??!!" Yes. Errands. But the errands totally worked out in Shana's favor, as I purchased an awesome magazine full of recipes. We've tried two recipes to great success already.

This particular recipe has Shana's name written all over it. It's full of Asian flavors and contains eggplant. Shana loves eggplant. I'm only...meh... about eggplant. Luckily, this recipe also includes green beans, which are my absolute favorite vegetable. Because both Shana and I were predisposed to like this recipe, I'm happy to say that we also had friends over who enjoyed it. This is a winner of a recipe all around!

02 June 2016

Dilly-Ranch Pasta Salad

The summer temperatures have arrived in Indiana! As I said last summer, summer temps and humidity make me not want to eat anything. Since not eating for an entire season is not a healthy option, it helps to have a collection of cold foods to eat that won't heat up the house. This is especially important when hosting a large gathering of people, as all those extra bodies create enough excess heat.

This semester's minions
I had just this situation occur a few weeks ago. I hosted my semi-annual Minion Dinner, but had an especially large group with 11 minions this semester. I was worried about unpredictable May weather and how to feed 13 people delicious vegan food with one gluten-free minion and one who doesn't like onions. The final decision was a soup/salad/bread buffet (with cake & cookies for dessert). I had all sorts of ideas for soups (I mean, have you seen this blog?!), but while I had a few good ideas for salads, I wanted something new. I mean, what's not to like about making a brand new recipe with 12 taste-testers ready and willing to offer commentary? 

To complement the other dishes already on the menu, I opted for a pasta salad. Pasta salads are great for parties because they are best when made ahead of time, as the resting gives the flavors a change to meld together. This particular pasta salad is also great because it has the creaminess of heavier mayo-based versions but uses silken tofu for a protein-packed punch. Above all, my minions were complimentary of it and I've been dreaming about it since. 

12 May 2016

Smoky Rotini Dinner

The semester is over, my grades are entered, and I'm looking at all the things I neglected over the past few months. Although this blog is one of those neglected items, it hasn't been far from my mind. I have loads of new recipes lined up to post.

Although the weather the past couple of days was quite warm, the week before had been rainy and cool and reminiscent of fall, which led to Shana and I seeking warmth and comfort. Given that it was also finals week for me, we also needed speed and ease. Luckily, we've been enjoying just the thing over the past couple of months: this smokey, savory, and speedy dinner that we adapted from Robin Robertson's More Quick-Fix Vegan cookbook. I've had this cookbook for a while, but we hadn't given it much of a chance. If this recipe is anything like the others in this cookbook, I have a feeling we'll be coming back to it over and over.

But back to the food! This dish has so many amazing flavors and textures in it! Even though the ingredients list looks long, you can find what you need in nearly any grocery store and you really only need to be able to boil water to make it. With all that going for it, the complexity of the flavors makes this meal something you can serve at a dinner party. Just make sure to double what I've listed below, as you and your guests will go back for more.

You can't see them, but there are chickpeas hiding in there, too!

18 March 2016

Veganomicon's Chickpeas Romesco

Every so often I just get sick of everything we eat. It usually happens once or twice a year, such that when Shana and I plan our meals absolutely nothing sounds delicious. It was in a bout of hating everything that I turned to my cookbooks to find inspiration. Upon paging through my trusty copy of Veganomicon, I came across something that tickled my taste buds, simply upon reading the recipe. The recipe in question was one for Chickpeas Romesco.

Romesco sauce is of Spanish origin (northeastern Spain, arguably Tarragona according to this NYTimes article), although similar types of sauces exist in other places. Generally, romesco is a pepper, tomato, and nut-based mixture, ranging from thin-ish to spreadably thick. This recipe takes a bit of prep-work, only because you need to toast almonds and roast peppers before you can actually make the sauce. But! The extra steps of preparation really ARE worth it, as they add such wonderful depth to the flavor. If that still seems out of reach for you, many grocery stores carry toasted almonds and roasted red peppers, but make sure they are not packed in brine.*

This dish is worthy of your next dinner party, especially if you serve it over saffron-garlic rice! We brought it to our monthly vegan potluck in February and it got rave reviews. We always share recipes, but forgot after February's dinner. This month, people pointedly asked for this recipe, which I'll take as a good sign that it was well-received.
You can see the chickpeas romesco over the saffron-garlic rice we like,
as well as another dish from February's vegan potluck. 

21 February 2016

TJ's Hearty Grains Dinner

It's been far too long since my last post! I've made a number of delicious things in my absence from the blog, so there should be some good new posts coming. I've got one tonight, I'm hopeful to have one later this week (I'm making something delicious for our monthly vegan potluck), and have some fun new recipes coming in the next few ways.

Anyway, this recipe is something that our awesome friends Max and Sara made for us ages ago. The four of us eat together at least three times a month, generally alternating who does the cooking. When they cook, they sometimes choose to cook something from my blog, but other times they feed us delicious new foods that fit our veganness and Shana's food idiosyncrasies. This dish was one of those delicious options. Max and Sara lived close to a Trader Joe's, so they have been able to use some great foods we haven't been able to access (although there are Trader Joe's in many places we used to live, they weren't there when we were living there). If you don't have a Trader Joe's near you, don't worry, you can order a number of Trader Joe's products online. Anyway, without access to a TJs, I didn't know this awesome grain blend existed. With a few added ingredients, it makes an amazing dinner.

02 January 2016

Sports Day Nachos

Sometimes you just need a meal you can put together in almost no time at all. Something that will work when you're focused on something other than the food, but still need something that will fill your tummy and taste great. I think Sports Day Nachos are just the meal for times like that.

This particular iteration of Sports Day Nachos was enjoyed with The Bests (what Shana and I call our best friends), who are visiting over the New Year holiday from Pennsylvania. Since Shana and The Bests went to Penn State for their undergrad degrees and that's where my PhD is from, we're spending the afternoon watching Penn State in their football bowl game (well, they are watching and I'm posting here, but I am on the couch in the same room). We decided that Sports Day Nachos would be a perfect meal for us to eat while we watch.

In addition to the speed of this meal, the other nice thing about Sports Day Nachos is that you can add whatever you'd like to make them your own. Whatever you choose to add, everything comes together in no time and you've got a great meal.