Dec 25, 2009

Happy Holidays to Everyone!

I'm happy to say that it has become a family tradition to have a vegan Christmas Eve at my house every year, and another tradition- graham cracker gingerbread houses. For anyone who has kids, this is a great craft project to keep the little ones busy for a while- especially those with ADD (Always Done with Dinner) disorder. My 8 year old nephew, Jason definitely has it! And, he's always the only kid in the house, so it doesn't take long before he's bored to tears.

Jason's House (complete with bench and candy "people")

Sister-in-Law Marianne & Nephew Jason (and their doggy Benny)
Another good idea, was to hide chocolate coins around the house, and ask Jason to find them all before allowing him to open his big gift. This kept him busy for at least half an hour (plus another 15 minutes to find the last one).

"Holiday Train 2009"

I was inspired to make something different this year, so here it is... the Holiday Train- Ta Daaa!!

... and of course, Jack- the Santa Welcome Wagon!

Nov 26, 2009

No-Turkey Day '09

Here's a brief description of what I made for Thanksgiving this year. I ate too much... so tired now... no recipes until later... ZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
French Onion Stuffed Mushrooms
A play on French onion soup, I cooked onions in olive oil, nutritional yeast, soy sauce, and a Muscato wine, seasoned with dried thyme and bay leaves, and reduced until it was jam-like. This was the filling, along with a layer of cheeze spread made of cashews, tofu, lemon, garlic powder, and a touch of Vegennaise. This was placed on grilled portabello mushrooms (destemmed), and topped with bread crumbs and baked. Very meaty and satisfying- everyone loved them.

The Sidekicks:
  • Cornbread Stuffing with celery, onions, green apples, raisins, and baby dill.
  • Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Parsnips, seasoned with freshly ground coriander.
  • Mashed Potatoes with Onion Gravy
  • Sauteed Garlic Green Beans
  • Coconut Pumpkin Pie
"Where's MY plate???"

Nov 22, 2009

"F" Faux Turkey!!!

If you're like me, and weren't raised vegan, there is just no substitute for real turkey meat, ham, etc. I gave up all those years ago and never turned back. But, since then, I have been having extreme "Turkey Anxiety" every year when it comes time to figure out what to make for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I think a part of me (the competitive, WWE, open a can of Whoop-Ass part), wants to make the ultimate Vegan Roasted Something to successfully face-off with the carnivore's reigning champion- the Turkey.

Some of you might disagree, but it CAN'T be done.

In no way, am I promoting the feasting on our beloved gobbly creatures. In fact, I think it would be lovely to invite a turkey over for Thanksgiving to eat with us. But, I'm sorry... there's NO wheat gluten-tofu-tempeh-lentil-loaf-thingy that can come close to the deliciousness of dead animal flesh. Ugh, that does sound terrible- but it is the ugly truth (at least for those who used to eat it).

So... I say, "Why try?" Why am I killing myself to make some Frankensteinian experimental faux dead animal every year? As a good friend reminded me- why not enjoy the TRUE meaning of Thanksgiving and serve something I love, and would love to share. Why not be truly thankful for being vegan, and cook up some beautiful seasonal whole veggies, legumes, etc.?

Yes, I want to impress. Yes, I want to make something that'll get some "ooohs" and "awwws," but if it must be considered a "side dish" by mainstream society, then so be it!

I was considering making a vegan version of this:

Creamy Stuffed Mushroom

It makes me say "oooh," and in the end- that's all that matters, right?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Coconut Pumpkin Pie ?!!

Yes! Coconut milk gives this pumpkin pie the richness and creaminess that is so lacking in those awful store-bought frozen vegan pies. Yeah, I had to throw mine out- don't even bother! At first, I was afraid that the coconut flavor would be weird with the pumpkin, but it's rather subtle, even more subtle if you use canned pumpkin, which has a stronger flavor than fresh. The texture is creamy, flavorful, and stands up to slicing (thanks to cornstarch and agar). If you don't like coconut at all, you should be able to substitute soy creamer.

Try it out, and let me know what you think!

I roasted my own pumpkin, using a sugar pumpkin which is a smaller version of the typical jack-o-lantern pumpkins used on Halloween. I simply cut the top off, halved it, scooped out the seeds (which I saved to roast), and put it in a 400 degree oven for about 20-30 minutes or until a knife goes in easily.

Sugar Pumpkin, left over from Halloween :)

After roasting, the skin peels off easily.

2 1/2 C. fresh roasted pumpkin
2 T. cornstarch
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg (I used freshly ground)
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1 C. unrefined sugar
pinch of salt
1 can (13.5 oz) coconut milk
1/2 C. water
2 T. agar flakes

In a food processor or blender, add the pumpkin puree, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, and salt. Blend until smooth. Heat the coconut milk and water in a sauce pan until just simmering (do not allow it to boil). Dissolve agar flakes in the coconut milk, stirring often (5-10 minutes). Add the coconut mixture to the pumpkin mixture in the blender, and blend until smooth. Add to your pie shell and bake for 20-25 minutes until set in the center. Remove and let cool before cutting.

Pumpkin seeds tossed in a little olive oil and sprinkled with salt, ready to roast.

Oct 31, 2009

Chocolate Cupcakes with Carrot Vanilla Frosting

This is my ULTIMATE chocolate cake recipe, which I used for making some cute Halloween cupcakes tonight. Every year, we go all out and set up our "haunted" entryway with our special effect DJ lights, jack-o-lanterns, and this year- an old TV set playing a variety of horror clips. We also set up our huge 6' X 9' projection screen and showed movies for the neighbors. This year, we were double-booked as well, and between decorating, making food, and organizing the gigs, it was non-stop and I am SO dead right now... but hey- it's for my favorite holiday!

Our featured films this year were Coraline and Monsters Vs. Aliens. Our neighbors from across the street get out their lawn chairs every year and camp out on their driveway for the viewing. The weather was perfect this year, so we had a good crowd of neighborhood kids camp out too.

Why is it that I always wish I had more time to carve pumpkins? ...My favorite part of Halloween!

A spider cupcake (made with cookie legs)

To make orange frosting, I used carrots which worked out really well. I didn't want it to taste like carrots, but I did want it to just have enough to make it orange. I think you could add even more if you wanted.

I also used this recipe to make a decadent birthday cake for my best friend.

Chocolate Cake (makes 2- 9" rounds or about 2 dozen cupcakes)

Dry Ingredients:

3 C. all purpose flour
1 T. baking soda
3/4 C. cocoa powder
1 tsp. salt

Wet Ingredients:

2 C. soy milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2/3 C. vegetable oil
2 C. unrefined sugar
2 T. apple cider vinegar


Mix together dry ingredients and set aside. Mix wet ingredients, then blend with dry ingredients until smooth. pour batter into prepared pans of choice and bake at 350 degrees. For cake rounds bake for 20-25 minutes. For cupcakes 12-15 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool before frosting.
Carrot Vanilla Frosting


1/2 C. cooked carrots
1/2 C. Earth Balance Buttery Sticks (room temp)
2 C. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract


Cook the carrots (I microwaved mine in a covered bowl with a little water for 3 minutes on high). Drain all excess water and let cool. Put the carrots and the remaining ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth.

Oct 23, 2009

Chili Corn Bread Casserole

This thick, flavorful chili was easy to make and it was a good excuse to use another habanero pepper... too bad I could only use one. If you like 5-alarm chili, feel free to throw in another. This one caused a nice mouth fire, but didn't linger long enough to make you sweat too much (or cry).

With the sweet cornbread cooked right on top, this dish was able to feed a small happy army. If you're only feeding 4-5, you might want to halve the recipe. I personally like having leftovers!


Into the food processor (or blender)-
1 habanero pepper
2 sweet bell peppers (about 1.5 cups)
1 12-oz. can tomato paste
1/2 of a 28-oz. can fire roasted tomatoes (I used diced)
2 T. cocoa powder
1 T. smoked paprika
1/2 tsp. ground cumin

Into a large pot-
thin layer of olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 of a 28-oz. can fire roasted tomatoes (same as above)
1 15-oz. can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1/3 C. nutritional yeast
1/2 C. TVP (textured veg protein)
2-3 T. brown sugar
1/2 C. water
salt to taste


Blend top ingredients until smooth, set aside. Heat oil in the pot, and cook onions and carrots until onions are translucent and carrots are tender. Stir in garlic and cook for another minute or two. Add the blended ingredients and the other half of the canned tomatoes, as well as the rest of the ingredients. Stir until heated through- should be nice and thick. Pour into a 9 X 13" casserole dish.

Corn Bread:

This was slightly changed from the PPK recipe. It's sweeter and a little less dense, and really complements the spicy chili.

2 C. soy milk
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1/4 C. maple syrup
1/3 C. vegetable oil

2 C. cornmeal
1 C. all purpose flour
1 T. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

Mix the wet ingredients and set aside. Mix the dry, then pour the wet into the dry. Mix until just incorporated.

Pour cornbread batter over the chili, and spread until event. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.

Oct 22, 2009

Chocolate Covered Pomegranate

I'm adding pomegranate to the long list of things that are good covered in chocolate. After receiving a case full of them from Dad's tree, I decided to juice them, and save some (ok, a lot) to make chocolates. They're very easy to make. The hard part is getting the seeds out without pom juice squirting in your face. But once you got the hang of that, easier than pie!

Just place 3 or 4 cups of the seeds (called arils) on a towel to make sure they're dry on the outside. Melt chocolate in a double boiler (I used a bag of semi-sweet vegan chocolate chips), fold in the seeds and place spoonfuls onto parchment paper to cool. Put them in the fridge or freezer until hardened, and enjoy!

When you bite into them, you get a burst of the tart pomegranate juice mixed with the rich sweet dark chocolate. SO GOOD!

Oct 15, 2009

Jerk Tofu & Pineapple Fried Rice

After two weeks of the flu, I'm ready to do more in the kitchen than retrieve instant soup from the microwave. And since it's getting colder- less than 80 degrees (yeah, California's a biotch), I thought I'd make something that'll warm you up!

Our habanero peppers are in peak ripeness, and what better way to use them than in a dish that invokes thoughts of warm breezes and sand between your toes? Ok, not much of a stretch since I'm in Cali, but not everyone here lives near the beach! Really!

Anyway... the jerk tofu is rather spicy, so if you want to tone it down, use less habanero.

Jerk Tofu

14oz. block of frozen tofu, thawed (you can do 2 packages, but there won't be a lot of sauce left over)
1 C. orange juice
juice of 1 lime (about 2 tablespoons)
2 T. soy sauce
2 T. olive oil
2 T. brown sugar
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. fresh minced ginger
1/3 C. nutritional yeast
2 T. balsamic vinegar (I used a blackberry ginger flavored vinegar, which was a gift- Thanks, Annie!)
1/2 C. chopped green onions
pinch of ground black pepper
1 habanero pepper
all-purpose flour for dredging

Drain and gently squeeze out as much water from the thawed tofu. Slice into 1/2" pieces and place onto a towel to further drain. Throw all other ingredients into a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Be careful with handling the habanero- don't get any juice on your hands! Marinate the tofu for about an hour. Scrape off excess marinade and lightly coat with flour. Fry in a little oil in a skillet until both sides are golden and crispy. Save the marinade and heat until thick and bubbly. You can use this to drizzle onto your tofu as a sauce.

Pineapple Fried Rice

Olive oil (or other veg oil)
Rice (amount of choice)
Vegetable Broth (low sodium)
Chopped pineapple
Green onions, chopped
Garlic, minced
Cilantro, chopped
Soy sauce

Theres no measuring here- go on taste and instinct! Steam your rice with the vegetable broth instead of water. If you have leftover rice from take-out, you can use that, but add a veg bouillon cube to your skillet before adding the rice (low sodium or unsalted preferred). Put the pineapple in a towel and squeeze out all of the juice (you want it to be dry so the moisture doesn't turn your rice into mush). Heat the oil in your wok or large skillet until hot. There should be enough oil to coat all the herbs and to slightly coat your rice. Add the onions, garlic, cilantro, and pineapple and stir fry for a few minutes. Add your rice, add soy sauce and salt to taste, and mix well. Be careful not to burn the bottom.

Serve with fried plantains and greens.

Sep 13, 2009

Peanut Butter Chocolate Rice Crispy Treats

I got a request from my friend Roger who loves peanut butter rice crispy treats, and was determined to make a batch without the marshmallows. Since my local health food store doesn't carry the heavily sought-after substitutes, I looked for a good recipe online. I added flax seeds to this otherwise guilty pleasure, although this does not, I repeat- does not justify eating a whole dozen in one sitting! ... Or does it?


6 C. rice crispy cereal
1/4 C. ground flax seeds
1 C. semi-sweet chocolate chips (vegan)
1 C. brown rice syrup
1 C. brown sugar
1 C. peanut butter (I used natural unsweetened)


In a large bowl, mix together the cereal, flax seeds, and chocolate chips and set aside. In a deep skillet or wok, heat the brown rice syrup and brown sugar until bubbly. Turn off the heat, and stir in the peanut butter until well combined. Fold in the cereal mixture (about a third at a time) until well coated. Scrape into a prepared 9 X 13" pan and press until flat. Let cool, cut into squares and enjoy!

Makes 12-18 servings (depending on size)

Aug 24, 2009

Oatmeal Carrot Raisin Cookies

I love oatmeal raisin cookies, and have tried a lot. Some turn out too cakey, and some are too crispy, but I think this one is just right! Yes, Goldilocks would've loved these.


1/2 C. vegetable oil
1/2 C. Earth Balance Buttery Sticks
1 C. minced carrot (I used a food processor)
1 C. granulated sugar
1 C. brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 T. ground flaxseed
1/2 C. soymilk

2 C. all purpose flour
2 C. oats
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1 C. raisins

Mix wet and dry ingredients in separate bowls. Add dry to the wet and mix until combined. Add spoonfuls to a prepared cookie sheet (about 2" apart). Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes or until edges look crispy and golden. Makes about 2-3 dozen depending on size.

Aug 22, 2009

Zucchini Brownies

A clever, yet sneaky way to hide veggies! These turned out moist, chewy, and chocolatey-good.

Ingredients (wet):

1 1/2 C. pureed raw zucchini (consistency of apple sauce)
1 C. brown sugar
1 C. granulated sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 C. vegetable oil
Add 2 T. ground flaxseed to this mixture

Ingredients (dry):

2 C. all purpose flour (you should be able to use whole wheat pastry flour, but haven't tried it)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 C. cocoa powder
3/4 C. chocolate chips (optional)

Mix the wet and dry ingredients in separate bowls. Add half of the dry mix to the wet until incorporated, then the second half - don't over mix! Pour into a prepared 9x13x2" baking pan, spread out, and bake for 20-25 minutes at 350. Let cool for 10 minutes on a rack before cutting.

Note: My home-grown zucchini is very juicy and the batter is thick but easily spread. If your batter seems a bit too thick, add a couple of tablespoons of soy milk (or other milk) to thin it out.

Aug 14, 2009

Stuffed Shells with Spinach Basil Pesto

Roasted baby white eggplant and homemade seitan are stuffed into large pasta shells and topped with a spinach basil pesto.

What is it about pasta dishes? I've always craved them since I was a kid, eating instant ramen and tuna casserole (before vegan). Spaghetti and marinara was my cheap staple in college. And I could never turn down a ravioli or lasagna.

One thing that's different since I became a vegan, is the lack of cheese in these dishes. True, there are some great subs out there, but I find myself without them sometimes, because they tend to be expensive and I've been trying to cut down on processed foods.

To make up for the lack of creaminess, I used pureed roasted eggplant in the filling, and "cheesy" cashews in the pesto. It was so rich and full of flavor, I didn't miss a thing!

These beauties came from my garden. They're little white eggplant- something I've never seen in the supermarkets.

This is what they look like after roasting - too bad they don't stay white!

Spinach Basil Pesto

1/2 C. cashews
1 C. fresh basil
2 C. fresh spinach
3 cloves garlic (I used roasted, but you may want to cut back if using raw)
1/4 C. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. lemon juice
salt to taste


Process the cashews until you get a crumble. Put everything else in and puree until it becomes a smooth sauce.

Stuffed Shells


1 12-oz. package of jumbo pasta shells
2 C. roasted eggplant
3 cloves roasted garlic
1 C. chopped seitan
1/2 C. roasted onion
1 C. roasted summer squash
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. dried rosmary
salt & pepper to taste


Cook the shells as directed. Puree the eggplant, garlic, and summer squash. Add the seitan and pulse until small, but still a little chunky. Mix in the spices to taste. Drain shells, and let cool enough to handle. Use a spoon to fill with the mixture. I did have some shells left over.

I also ate mine with more cooked veggies and some good marinara sauce.

Aug 5, 2009

Stuffed Squash, and Squash Stuff

With what I like to call the "Zucchini Outbreak" that so many are currently experiencing, my garden has also been "infected." The fun part of growing your own, is to be able to make wonderful things with the blossoms, and also to grow giant radio-active, "Giligan's Island" -looking zucchini, that you would never see in the supermarket. Mine barely fit into my 18" baking pan!

It turned out delicious, stuffed with carmelized onion, eggplant (also from the garden), mushrooms, tomato, homemade seitan, and topped with bread crumbs.
Here's a round zucchini, stuffed with vegan cheese, onion, more squash, and sun dried tomatoes.

And, if you're growing- you gotta try the blossoms! We stuffed them with an eggplant mixture, dipped them in a light tempura batter and bread crumbs, then fried them quickly. Make sure you wash out all the little critters with a gentle, yet thorough rinse first!

I found a lovely straight zucchini, which I cored out, and stuffed with blanched carrots. I used an apple corer and a butter knife to help get the center out, then roasted the whole thing in the oven. Next time, I think I'll mash some of the carrots up to keep them from falling out.

The only thing I haven't posted yet are the Zucchini Brownies that I made. I think after that, I'm all zucchinied out!

Food Not Bombs!

Ok, so I've taken a WAY too long hiatus from blogging. Yes, I do feel guilty... and yes, I have thought about coming up with some good excuses, but camera failure and dog-ate-my-keyboard just sounds lame (and untrue).

To be honest, I think I just needed some time to get a little lost, and then to find myself again (if that makes sense). So what have I been up to?

I've cooked- some things good, some not so good. Eaten from my own garden for the first time- magical! Checked up on Dad every day (both of us battling insomnia at night, but getting better). Worked some gigs- some fun, some not so fun. And devoted a few hours on Sundays to Food Not Bombs.

I first learned about this organization from reading a little bit from Vegan With A Vengeance. I was curious, so I did a little research and found out that I had a chapter right here in my city! For those who've never heard of it, it's a bunch of people who take food donations from local establishments (usually food that has ripened or left-over, but still good to eat and would otherwise be thrown out) and cook it up for the homeless. And, it's totally vegan.

I've also been contributing some home made baked goods, which has added a little "zing" to the weekly menu. Last time, I made banana chocolate chip blondies (recipe from Bitter Sweet's Lunchbox Bites ebook- thanks, Hannah!), which were a very big hit.

I realized, after hanging out around some of the homeless people that a lot of them just want to feel a bit normal. To them, standing in line at a soup kitchen or to receive free shelter, may not require money, but often require a price in pride. Casually hanging out in the park with friends, sharing food and helping themselves is much more relaxed- a feeling that most of us take for granted. The motto for Food Not Bombs is "Food is a right, not a privilege." And it is a shame that the money our government spends on weapons could be used to feed all of the nation's hungry... but that is the world we live in.

This is Roger, who has been organizing FNB every Sunday for the past 13 years!

Jul 9, 2009

10-Chile Summer Corn

Sweet local corn lightly brushed in a 10-Chile Vegennaise, sprinkled with extra hotness, and home-grown cilantro. Let me just say that I've never had so many people rave about something so simple!

A while back, Justin over at Marx Foods sent me a rockin' package of dried chilies from their Chile Sampler, with chilies ranging from mild and sweet to "the hottest in the world."

But first, I had to get me one of these puppies... grind everything into a nice spicy rub. I used 10 different chilies, including the infamous "Ghost Chilies," which are considered to be the hottest. The other chilies mellowed it out, because the end result had a good kick, but wasn't too hot! Some of the chilies were still pretty pliable, so I toasted them lightly in the oven (300 degrees for a minute or two).

Added to the rub: brown sugar, salt, garlic powder, and smoked paprika. I mixed about a tablespoon of the rub with 1/2 C. of Vegennaise to brush lightly onto the corn. Sprinkle extra rub onto the corn if more heat is desired. Finish with chopped cilantro (optional).

You can use pre-made chile powder, but there's nothing like making your own!

Jul 1, 2009

A New Leaf

I've been dragging my feet on doing much of anything inspiring lately, but I realize that this is doing nothing to honor Mom's spirit- or my own. Before I begin, I'd like to first thank everyone who left kind and supportive comments for me- I certainly felt your energy, and was uplifted by it!

For Mom's memorial service, I compiled over 100 old photos and created a 5 minute slide show. In doing so, I stumbled upon so many great memories and photos I had never seen before.

Mom hosting one of her dinner parties

Making me a birthday cake

During this whole process of dealing with death, Mark (my housemate) started a new garden in our backyard- which was once thought to be an impossibility due to our digging, chewing, laying-all-over doggies. He overcame this obstacle by building a makeshift "fence," to the doggies' dismay!

Here they are on top of the spa- feeling frustrated about not being able to make the jump.

As I looked upon Mark's creation, full of vibrant green color and tender new leaves, I realized that from death springs forth new life again- a process as old as time, and a defining aspect of life itself.

In just a few short months, our garden has flourished incredibly...

... and has created some wonderful veggies!

Crooked Neck Squash
White Eggplant

Recipes to come!