Meatless Monday: Vegan (Pumpkin!) Cornbread

Oh, that sneaky pumpkin.

Looks like it found its way into a plain, ol’, boring cornbread recipe and it brought its friends Cinnamon, Nutmeg and Molasses!  How kind!

We’re getting two days of rain here in usually-sunny Southern California.  Perhaps the rest of the country would scoff, but for us this is an event!  Something to plan for!  And plan we did at work.  Monique is bringing vegetarian chili for our lunch on Tuesday, so I volunteered to bring the cornbread.  I didn’t have a favorite cornbread recipe on hand, so I went to Foodgawker and looked around for nearly 30 seconds before I found Pumpkin Cornbread at Sweet Pea’s Kitchen.  Huzzah!  The recipe wasn’t vegan, but I only had to switch out the egg to make it friendly.  Definitely not gluten-free either and I didn’t make any adjustments for that.  Maybe next time!

Crisp on the outside and warm and gooey on the inside. Perfect!

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Meatless Monday: Cheese Potato Casserole

Every holiday my mother is forced to make her cheese potato casserole.  Over the years she has attempted to make a different type of potato dish, but this starts dinner-time family riots and, a month before the next holiday, we all begin dropping hints in the form of protest signs and unorganized sit-ins that she make our beloved cheese potatoes.  So this year, when I saw them parked on the dinner table next to the stuffing and the turkey, I thought I’d have pangs of remorse over not being able to eat anything with the word “cheese” in the title anymore.  Instead, I planned ahead.  I had a special version of my mother’s beloved potatoes waiting for me!

Now, to vegan-ize her recipe, it isn’t just replacing the cheese, there’s also sour cream and cream of mushroom soup.  The cheese replacement was easy for me: I just grabbed a bag of Daiya cheddar, but I imagine any of your favorite cheese substitutes would work just fine if you can’t get your hands on Daiya.  Tofutti makes a sour cream that I easily substituted for the real stuff.  But the soup.. I had never seen a vegan cream of mushroom soup before!  So, I decided to make my own soup.. with my own mushrooms.

But only because I had some growing, because I would never, ever start a recipe with:  “First, grow your own mushrooms.”  It’s already time consuming enough making my own soup to go into the potatoes!  So worthwhile, though.  The soup was so creamy and so mushroom-y.  Delicious!

Here they are, on day 10! I didn't really know when it was harvest time, but I decided since the heads were starting to crack around the edges that either meant I didn't water them enough or that they were ready.

Really lovely.

This is what the harvest looks like. Just.. pull! I cut off the thick stems before I put them into the soup.

Recipe: Vegan Cream of Mushroom Soup

Ingredients

  • 3/4 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced (I have no idea the weight of the mushrooms I put into mine, I just harvested, sliced and tossed them in. It worked out fine.)
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp vegan margarine
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 tbsp flour (I used white rice flour to make it gluten free!)
  • 1 cup vegan non-dairy sour cream substitute (Tofutti is good!)
  • 1 cup soy milk
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. In a large soup pot, sautee the mushrooms, onion and garlic in vegan margarine for 3 – 5 minutes, until onions are soft.
  2. Reduce heat to medium low and add the vegetable broth. Cover and allow to simmer for at least 45 minutes. Be careful here. I think I let mine simmer too high and it was getting kind of low!
  3. Add the flour, non-dairy sour cream and soy milk, stirring well to combine. Allow to simmer another 20 minutes, or until soup has thickened. Season generously with salt and pepper before serving.

This smelled so good while it was cooking!

I made my soup the night before I made the cheese potatoes, but only because it was late when the soup finished.  Just make sure it’s cooled off before you start adding it to the rest of the potato ingredients.

Recipe: Vegan Cheese Potato Casserole

Ingredients

  • 27 ounces of shredded potatoes (hash brown style) – You can get these any way you like, frozen and boxed or go outside, harvest your potatoes, etc. I did it the way my mother’s done for years: 1 box of Ore Ida potatoes. 9 patties to a box.
  • 1 1/4 cup of cream of mushroom soup (If you’re not vegan-izing this, that’s one can of Campbell’s)
  • 8 oz. shredded cheddar cheese (one pouch of Daiya)
  • 8 oz. vegan sour cream (again, Tofutti!)
  • green onion tops (if your family can tolerate onions. Traditionally mine did not, so I left them out of this part of the recipe.  The ones in the mushroom soup are nearly invisible and therefore undercover.)
  • Lay’s potato chips (these go on top to give the casserole a crunch!)

Step 1 is basically: Mix everything together. This is a really easy dish.

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees while you mix the ingredients together (except the potato chips).  If your potatoes were straight from the freezer section you can defrost them on the sink or in the microwave before you get started.

Put mixture into a casserole dish and cover with smashed potato chips. This is the healthiest meal ever.

Bake for 30 to 45 minutes.  At least, that’s what my mother’s recipe says for the real version.  Basically, peek in it every once in a while and make sure things are browning and heating nicely.  It’s always interesting to me how, in vegan cooking, nothing is ever actually raw and dangerous if under cooked.  But you’ll still want it to bubble a little and get brown around the edges.  Like so:

It's so good. IT'S SO GOOD.

The other thing about vegan cooking is: Just because it’s animal product free does not mean it will make you skinny.  I’m learning this, after working on this casserole’s leftovers for the last several days.  Turns out, this isn’t diet food.  But who wants diet food at the holidays, anyway?

People who hate Santa Claus and Jingle Bells, that’s who.

Meatless Monday: Sour Cream-Swirled Pumpkin Pie

I promise: we’re almost clear of the Great Pumpkin Obsession of 2011.  But, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I thought I’d bookend last week’s Homemade Tofurkey post with dessert!  Here it is, in the form of an absolutely fabulous gluten-free and vegan pumpkin pie.

Let me tell you what I love about this:  It doesn’t have to be soy based.  If you don’t want the sour cream part of this pie, you can completely leave it out and be soy free for dessert.  But, for those of you wanting a bit of a sour cream swirl, press on with the soy.

I got the recipe from Healthy Happy Life and, if this recipe is any indication, I’ll be going here often!

Recipe: Sour Cream-Swirled Pumpkin Pie

Ingredients

  • For Crust:
  • 1 bag of Fresh and Easy granola (I happened to see Pumpkin Spice because it’s the season, but any granola will do!)
  • This is horrible, but: Enough Earth Balance to make it wet enough to press into the tin. I honestly didn’t measure here because I was winging it. If you don’t want to make your own crust, just buy a vegan pie shell and move on.
  • For Pie:
  • 1 1/4 cups raw soaked cashews
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 1 can organic pumpkin puree (16 ounces. You can use fresh, too!)
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • For Sour Cream Swirl:
  • 1 1/4 cups vegan sour cream (I used Tofutti brand)
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/8 tsp salt (to taste)

Step 1:  Soak your cashews.  Take the raw cashews, 2 1/2 cups of water and about a teaspoon of salt and put them into a bowl.  This is something that should be the night before you need the pie, as it needs to soak in the ‘fridge for at least eight hours, but more is better.  I soaked mine about 15 hours.  Don’t do it much over 18, though, because it can get sort of gross.

Step 2:  Assuming it’s the next day and you’ve had your coffee.. turn the oven on to 400 degrees.  While that’s heating you can easily prepare the pie.  First off, the crust!

Here's the Fresh and Easy brand Pumpkin Spice granola thrown in the food processor with some melted Earth Balance until it's wet. Just wet enough to press onto the sides of the pie plate. If you have a giant pie plate, then you'll need most of the bag. If you have a standard, this might be enough for two crusts.

See? All pressed. I like the cranberries in the crust.

Here I made the mistake of cooking it for ten minutes first, like you might if you weren’t going to bake the rest of the pie later.  So, please learn from me and wait for the rest of your pie to be finished before you pop it in the oven.

Step 3:  Make the sour cream swirl.  Get a high speed blender and pour the vegan sour cream and maple syrup into it.  Blend until smooth.  Pour out and set aside.  And, as Healthy Happy Life informed me, there’s no need to clean the blender out for the next part.  It’s all going to go together eventually.

Step 4:  Drain the water from the cashews.  They should be soft to bite.  Add the cashews to the blender, along with the pumpkin, maple syrup and pumpkin pie spice.  Blend on high for 3-5 minutes.  I had to turn mine off and stir a few times to make sure I got every little bit.  You don’t want to be biting into cashew chunks while you’re eating pumpkin pie!  If it’s too thick, feel free to add a little water to it.  Also, here’s where you’d taste it to see if it needs salt.

I like the way the Vitamix starts to warm things up. I tasted this many, many times because it was just like warm pumpkin pudding.

Step 5:  Pour mix into the crust.  Spoon the sour cream mixture over the top and swirl.  You’ll notice in the picture I wasn’t very good at swirling.  I think I was afraid I’d have big hunks of sour cream and not enough pumpkin in places.  Still, I liked the evenly distributed flavor even if it wasn’t the prettiest pie.

Step 6:  Bake pie at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.  Then reduce to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 30-40 minutes.  Remove pie from oven.  Cool on counter for 30 minutes and then place in ‘fridge until ready to serve.  We went away for the day and didn’t get to taste it until the next day, but about two hours should suffice for cooling.

And if you need a cool, creamy topping, I hear this Whipped Coconut Cream topping is perfect.

As for me, I'll just eat mine without topping. And without fork or knife. In fact, I might just plant my face in it and eat from the middle.

Happiest of Thanksgivings to you and yours!  May your tables be loaded with delicious food for all appetites and your hearts warm with family and friendships.

And may your coffee be strong, because Black Friday morning is going to be rough.

Meatless Monday: Miss Turkey? You don’t have to!

Personally, I’ve never had a problem eating too much meat on holidays.  I’m much, much more of a carbohydrate person.  Pass the potatoes, pass the rolls.  And yes, please, more cheese!  But it wasn’t until I started on this two-day adventure that I realized how much I missed the taste of the spices that go into a traditional Thanksgiving turkey.  Last year I roasted my very own Thanksgiving bird for the first time.  And this year, now that I’m meat-free?  Well..

Are you recoiling in horror? Last Year's Katie would be, for sure.

I’ll be the first to admit this started off as a big joke.  My coworkers were sitting around one Friday afternoon, making light of my food choices and teasing me about the upcoming holiday “treats” I’d have available.  After a lot of laughter, a quick Google search led me to this:

Hilarious. Hilaaaaaaaaaarious.

It was then, at the prospect of cramming a meat substitute into a Jell-o mold, that I knew I had to do this.  I had to make my very own Tofurkey.  Now, I’m the only one in my entire family that will eat this, so it’s probably best that the Jell-o mold is only about the size of  cornish game hen.  If I remember correctly, it cost about $12 and I think shipping was free, so if you’re up for a Turkey-Day Giggle, this is a good buy.  And besides, just think of all the off-season uses one can get with this mold..

…yep.  I didn’t come up with any, either.  But I will make it my personal mission to use it each November.

Anyway.  I noticed in the brand-name Tofurkey they have stuffing.  I saw all types of stuffing mix I could have used in my cooking adventure, but in an attempt to stay true to my gluten-free lifestyle, I decided it was safer to just make it myself.  Gluten Free Girl has a fabulous and easy stuffing recipe!   So, even though I didn’t focus on one item at a time, we’re going to pretend I did for the purpose of this story.  Also, keep in mind that this was a two day process for me (an hour or so the first day and then another the next, plus baking time).

Recipe: Homemade Tofurkey

Ingredients

  • 32 ounces No-Chicken broth (or, really, any vegetable broth you’d like)
  • 2 packages extra firm tofu (I think they were about 15 ounces each)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Number of servings (yield): 4

It starts here. This is a tip I saw posted on a recipe blog and I figured, why not? My biggest pet peeve about tofu is that it's difficult to flavor the inside.

A word about the above picture.  I love No-Chicken broth.  I didn’t even know it was a thing until I was at Henry’s searching desperately for a gluten-free stuffing mix (turns out, I had to make my own).  It tastes remarkably like the real deal with none of the vegan-guilt I’ve been harboring since February.  Also, it’s a refreshing alternative to vegetable broth.

 Step One:  Bring your broth to a boil — I used two containers of broth.  And only one of them was No-Chicken because, in my head, one container of broth would be enough.  I was wrong.  So wrong, in fact, that I later had to make my own broth just to make the stuffing (because it was Sunday morning and I’d rather wait the twenty minutes for homemade vegetable broth than shower and go anywhere.  Unless it’s Starbucks for a peppermint latte, but that trip doesn’t really require a shower, since they have a drive-thru…).  So, while you have 32 ounces of broth starting to boil, take your non-GMO tofu out of the packages and cut it up into large squares.  Maybe smaller squares are better, but I didn’t think about that until I’d already let them set sail.  Boil for twenty minutes.  Or thirty.  Thirty is okay, too.  (I’m not what you’d call a precise cook.)

Yep. There they are. It's like miso soup for giants.

Step Two:  Drain the tofu.  NOW!  This is what I’d wished I’d done:  Don’t throw the broth away.  You can use it in your stuffing, since there’s no crazy cross-meat contamination or anything.  But, I was a goofball and poured it all down the sink only to find out I needed broth for the stuffing.  If you have a third container of broth, you’re welcome to it, but why not recycle?

See how it's more of a color now? I think the broth worked.

Step Three:  Here comes the first fun part.  Throw it all into a food processor until it’s super smooth.  Toss in the salt, marjoram, poultry seasoning and pepper.  If I were you, I’d be careful with the salt and pepper.  Add to your taste, because there’s no adding more tofu to balance it out, unless you just happen to have this stuff stock piled somewhere.

My mother calls this "Gerber." Don't listen to her.

Step Four:  Now comes the waiting.  You need to take the tofu mixture out of your food processor and put it into a paper towel-lined sieve for a few hours.  I’m pretty sure you could let it sit for just two hours and let it drain out of the sieve and into a bowl underneath, but I let it rest in the ‘fridge over night.

It kind of looks like turkey-flavored hummus. It's also pretty wet at this point. No way it would make it in the oven. You really need to let it drain.

Here we are, ready to drain! Not shown is the giant measuring bowl I have the sieve resting in. I put a paper towel on top, as well, to soak moisture from all sides while it rests.

Step Five:  Now the really fun part!  It’ll bring you back to playing with play-dough, I promise.  Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees and fetch your tofu from the ‘fridge.

That's right, we're going to shove the tofu into this sucker.

Now, it took me three times before I got this right.  The first time I pushed the tofu into the mold without any concern, whatsoever, as to how I was going to get it out.  When it came time to flip it onto the baking pan, it just sat there in the mold.  The second time I sprayed non-stick olive oil spray in and re-loaded it with tofu.  Nothing.  So!  The third time I remembered how easy it was to transfer the tofu from the sieve with the paper towels, so I just put one sheet of paper towel into the mold and pressed the tofu in on top of it.  My mother has since pointed out that plastic wrap would have worked better and she’s absolutely right.  You may go back to listening to her now.

We'll assume you've prepared the stuffing by this point, and you can spoon some into the center of your tofurkey. Honestly, there isn't a lot of room because this mold is so tiny, but it's cute for presentation.

Step Six:  Turn your mold upside down onto your baking sheet and get ready to bake it.  I didn’t wrap mine with tinfoil while it was baking, because there isn’t a whole lot of moisture to be lost, I didn’t think.  But that could be a personal preference.  While it bakes for the first 3o minutes, begin preparing the glaze.  Oh yes, there is a glaze.

Get out of there!

Recipe: Tofurkey Glaze

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon BBQ sauce (I used Fresh and Easy’s Honey BBQ)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon orange marmalade
  • 1 teaspoon orange juice

Yes, it cracked. My tofu walls may have been on the thin side or maybe tinfoil for the first 30 minutes really is the way to go. I didn't mind, though. On goes the delicious orange glaze!

Return the glazed bird to the oven for another twenty minutes.  When you take it out, it should look something like this:

The best part about that glaze? It makes a crispy skin on your tofurkey!

And now, dive in!

I had so much stuffing and a little of the tofurkey left over, so I made myself a casserole.

Honestly? I really like it. It has none of the consistency of meat but a lot of the flavor. My husband was a good sport and tasted it, but I'm pretty sure this is all for me.

I failed to mention the delicious cashew-based pumpkin pie I whipped up in the middle of all of this, but we’ll talk about that next week!  See you then!

Meatless Mondays: Chocolate Quinoa Cake

When my husband and I went to Canada, my mother-in-law gave us a few gifts.  I received two books.  One of them talks about how to live off the land: farming, sewing, and tapping your own maple tree for syrup, for example.  The other is a book called Quinoa: The Everyday Superfood 365 by Patricia Green and Carolyn Hemming.  Until flipping through this cookbook, I was only acquainted with quinoa salad and knew that (somehow) quinoa could be used in pasta as a gluten-free substitute.  But now I have 170 recipes featuring this strange little grain.

My mother-in-law and husband, all smiles on Canadian Thanksgiving Day. This is the same woman who also gifted me a complete wool fleece to spin. I absolutely adore her!

Much to my surprise, you can even bake with it.  Most of the recipes call for quinoa flour, which is accessible at our local health food store, but for $10 a bag I was sort of wary.  I don’t know what would make quinoa flour better than any other gluten-free flour.  I’m still learning on that front.

Lucky for me, the first recipe in the dessert section is for Moist Chocolate Cake.  No flour necessary.  Instead, 2 cups of cooked quinoa.  Weird, right?

I wonder how anyone ever looked at this and thought, you know what would be awesome? Chocolate cake and quinoa. Well. They're right. It IS awesome.

Recipe: Chocolate Quinoa Cake

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup white or golden quinoa
  • 1 1/3 cups water
  • 1/3 cup milk (I used soy.)
  • 4 large eggs (I used Ener-G Egg Replacer)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup butter, melted and cooled (I used Earth Balance)
  • 1 1/2 cups white or cane sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Instructions

  1. Cook the quinoa: Bring the quinoa and water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Cover and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes. At least, this is what the recipe says to do. I cooked about 4 cups of quinoa so I’d have more to eat this week and then just rationed out 2 cups for the cake. You can basically cook quinoa according to the instructions on your box/bag.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F). Lightly grease two 8-inch round or square cake pans. Line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper. (I’ll be honest, I did no lining. Nor did I use two cake pans. However, this is a cake that’s rather heavy with moisture, and it takes a long time to bake it in anything with any thickness, so I suggest doing it the book’s way. Instead of getting all crazy like I do and changing things.)
  3. Combine milk, eggs and vanilla in a blender or food processor. Add 2 cups of cooked quinoa and butter and blend until smooth.
  4. Whisk together the sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  5. Add the blender/food processor contents and mix well.
  6. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and bake on the center oven rack for 40 to 45 minutes.
  7. Cool cake complete in the pan before serving. Frost if desired (I just used powdered sugar!).