Saturday, December 5, 2009


Well I suppose I may have unintentionally started a bit of a tradition. This past Wednesday was the g-ma's 94th birthday, and just like on her 93rd, I made lasagna. The difference this year is that now we have Daiya at our grubby vegan fingertips! Also, you will notice, this year's lasagna was made in the uber fabulous Baker's Edge lasagna pan. Yes, I did, and yes, I love it.

Aside from the Baker's Edge pan, I stumbled upon the other secret that's gotten my lasagna to the texture I like. When I include tofu, I typically use firm or extra firm, but I had neither on hand. What I did have was a package of Mori-Nu silken, extra firm. As it turns out, this is the perfect texture for lasagna making. Regular tofu is too dense and dries out during the baking process.

I don't recall exactly how I put it together, but to the best of my recollection it went something like this: jarred sauce, probably from TJ's; Gimme Lean sausage (in the tube), silken tofu mixed with sauteed onions and peppers, garlic powder, onion powder, basil, oregano, parsley, salt, pepper, and spinach; and of course layered with Daiya. I've made a lot of good lasagnas (seriously, one of THE easiest things to do), but this may have been my best yet in terms of the full on omni sub casserole, not the lighter veggie-heavy version. Everyone loved it, the g-ma had a huge (for her) birthday piece, and it made for a delectable lunch the next day. My omni coworker commented that it smelled delicious. Well, I suppose even omnis know a good thing when they see it.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Soy-Tan Dream Cutlets with Mushroom Sauce, Cajun Cauliflower, and Pecan and Garlic Grains with Spinach

Whew! What a title! And I know it's a lousy pic, but just hush up and listen to what I made, which was all FANTASTIC.

While the Cajun Cauliflower I've mentioned before was roasting in the oven, I put on some Near East Roasted Garlic and Pecan grains from their Whole Grains Blends line. I like keeping things like this on hand for those times when I need to get something together quickly, don't want to think about it too much, and don't want to spend too much time doing it. It doesn't hurt that the stuff is delicious. This one is a nice mix of brown rice and pearled wheat, and the garlic and pecans give it just enough flavor and slight crunch. I added some frozen spinach at the end to get something green on the plate.

The Soy-Tan Dream Cutlets are nothing short of dreamy. Both Ms. Veganorama and I have made these previously for the 1,000 Vegan Recipes blog project. You can do anything with these cutlets! They literally take minutes to put together and are perfect in hot or cold sandwiches, as an entree such as I did here, or, ahem, straight out of the fridge when you need a little something at 3am. Or so I've heard. I of course would never rummage in the fridge in the middle of the night. I had some leftover Mushroom Sauce (also mentioned in several posts on the group blog), so I reheated that and served it atop the cutlets. Everything is shown separately here, as that's how I plated the g-ma's because I wasn't sure she would like the cutlet over the rice with the gravy on top, but that's how I did the other two plates and it was phenomenal. I realize it sounds crazy, and this doesn't look anything like a spectacular meal, but sometimes you gotta trust me.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Veggie Fried Rice and Krispy Kale

This may not look like much, and it may not sound like much, but it's one of the best things I've made in a while. And definitely a quick and dirty meal.

I tossed the kale in olive oil, sea salt, and fresh ground pepper. Popped that into a 400 degree oven. Checked the fridge. A few days before, I moved some homemade seitan from the freezer to the fridge. I had originally made it for the Chile-Lime Tortilla Soup, which I blogged about for our group project, Cooking From 1,000 Vegan Recipes. I diced the seitan and put that on to saute. Next, I went to the freezer. Good ole Trader Joe's. What would we do without you? Grabbed a bag of Vegetable Fried Rice.

By the time I had browned the seitan with a bit of tamari, cooked the fried rice, added the seitan, and tossed it all in Sriracha, the kale was perfectly crispy, just the way I like it. This all came together in about 30 minutes, it was quite tasty, and the leftovers were even better for lunch.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The "Cooking From 1,000 Vegan Recipes" Project

Come on over and check out a new collaborative effort in which I'm involved--Cooking From 1,000 Vegan Recipes. Six of us are tackling Robin Robertson's latest cookbook, 1,000 Vegan Recipes. Sort of like the Julie/Julia Project, but totally not.

This new book is nothing short of amazing, and voluminous, and comprehensive. It is chock FULL of delicious recipes and ideas for making magic in your kitchen. It's perfect for new vegans, old vegans, non-vegans, new cooks, old cooks, and half-way cooks. It may quite possibly be the only cookbook you ever need! And that's saying a lot, coming from me, oh hoarder of all things vegany and cookbooky.

So come see what we're up to, what we're all making, and let us know what you think!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Chipotle Basil Corn Chowder

Thanks to last weekend's trip to the country, I had some end-of-the-summer corn. And thanks to my cookbook whoring, I also have one of the latest amid a proliferation of vegan cookbooks, Lauren Ulm's Vegan Yum Yum: Decadent (But Doable) Animal-Free Recipes for Entertaining and Everyday, which is based on her popular blog, Vegan Yum Yum. So having fresh corn on hand, some basil fading out in the planter box, and a bit of a cookbook habit, I tried her recipe for Chipotle Basil Corn Chowder.

This is a simple soup, but it took me an hour to put it together because I had to shuck the corn, rinse the corn, cut the corn, dice the onion, and dice the potatoes. Then you have to transfer some to a food processor, then back to the pot. The recipe calls for 5-6 ears of corn, but I used eight; and I used six potatoes instead of the called-for five, and adjusted the other items accordingly. The only ingredient I was missing was lime juice.

My knife skills definitely need work and I'd love to take a class AND buy some fancy high quality knives. I think that might make kitchen life easier. But really, it IS a simple soup to put together, and I imagine using frozen corn would save a chunk of time. But as the summer's vegetables fade away, I wanted to make use of some beautiful farm fresh corn and highlight it in a dish.

I found the soup to be a standard corn chowder. Very good, but I missed the chipotle. If anyone knows me, you know my distaste for bland food and my constant need to smother everything in black, red, or white pepper AND hot sauce. However the first time out I like to try a recipe as written by the author, then make my tweaks. I almost added more chipotle, but really didn't want to overpower the soup, and I wanted to check the starting point. There was a hint of smokiness in the background, which is probably fine for most people. But I'm not most people and I don't like hints. I like full on in your face flavor. But if your palate leans more toward the softer side of life, stick with the recipe as written.

Overall, very nice corn chowder and the fresh basil brings it alive. Changes for next time: frozen corn for time and more chipotle in adobo for flavor.

And yes, there's a container in my freezer with a label that reads "Chipotle Basil Corn Chowder 10/8/09." Label makers are magnificent.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Baked Cheezly Chili Mac

With fall upon us, a girl's thoughts turn to hot boots, mulled cider, and soups and stews and chilis of course!

Yesterday I had the wonderful idea of making chili. I considered breaking out the bread machine to make some nice crusty bread to go along with it, then I decided to do cornbread and a salad, but I also thought of serving it over rice. So obviously, I didn't really have a plan. I just made chili. Nothing fancy or exotic, just a basic chili with TVP, canned beans, canned tomatoes, onions, peppers, garlic, and gobs of spices.

By the time the chili was ready, I still wasn't sure what else I was going to do, so I went to stare into the pantry, as I so often do. There was a lone bag of fusilli, so I grabbed that and put a pot of water on to boil. When that was nearly done, I mixed the pasta and about two thirds of the chili, grated some nacho Cheezly on top, covered with foil, and put it in the oven on 350 for about 20 minutes. Then I brought the oven up to a low broil and let it have about five minutes sans the foil. Here is what resulted:

Added some roasted green beans--bought directly from Rock Hill Orchard this past weekend--and had a complete meal.

Was it pretty? No. Was it good and oh so easy? Yes!

The other great part of this is there was enough chili left over to use for another meal, whether served in bowls, atop nachos, or made into another casserole. It now lives in my freezer and thanks to my handy dandy label maker, there's no confusion as to what it is and when it was made.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Cajun Cauliflower

You will laugh when I tell you how I made the easiest and tastiest cauliflower I've ever had. Seriously. It's so stupid easy I'm almost embarrassed to post it. But I will.

-Chop a head of cauliflower into small florets.
-Toss with a bit of olive oil, sea salt, and cajun seasoning. I like a lot, you may only like a little.
-Cook at 425 degrees for approximately 30 minutes, or until the cauliflower has browned.

It is unbelievably delicious and a welcome change from the crudite platter where one normally finds this underrated vegetable. And no, I don't have a picture. I started noshing on the browner bits before I even plated it, and it was all gone THAT FAST. We scarfed it down. There were no leftovers. Not one piece. This is now my most favorite way to enjoy cauliflower. I will most definitely be making again.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Black Pepper TofuXpress Pizza

Yikes! A pizza post, to follow a pizza post! Didn't realize that, and I guess it looks like we eat nothing but pizza. Of course that's not true--though really, would that be a bad thing?

This post has two purposes. The first, and most important is to gush about the latest and greatest gadget--the TofuXpress. If you eat tofu, hell even if you don't (and why wouldn't you?), you need one of these! No more piling and balancing and weighing down just to press the water out of your tofu. And you can press other things to boot! Ms. Veganorama from Yummy Vegan Dinners provides us with an excellent and thorough review. At first I was a bit jealous she got to it first, but then I realized I'm lazy anyway and it's awfully handy she already used, reviewed, photo'd, and posted. :)

So what did I do with my new nifty gadget? Well, I pressed a block of extra firm and then marinated that in Trader Joe's black pepper sauce, back in the TofuXpress. Good lord that stuff is good. I didn't get to it when I'd anticipated, so let's just say it was an "extra long marinade." However, I still didn't have a plan as to what I was going to do with this black pepper tofu. Well, as things go, I poked around the fridge, threw some stuff together, and it came out a pizza!

Here you have Black Pepper TofuXpress Pizza: crust (pre-made), charred broccoli and garlic (in cast iron skillet and olive oil), zucchini, tomatoes. That's it! I didn't have high hopes for this concoction, other than it being edible, but it actually turned out quite delicious! So delicious, in fact, that I'd make it again, deliberately.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Pizza Delivery

The ultimate in quick and dirty dinners.

This is the Santa Fe from ZPizza: chipotle pesto, Daiya, veggie crumbles, red onions, corn, serrano chilies, tomatoes, and fresh cilantro.

Excellent job! Very impressed with what they've done. And even more impressed they brought it to my front door for a mere $1.50 extra.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Slapdash Drunk

I'm almost embarrassed to admit this. Almost.

Last night, at midnight, so I guess that was technically "today," I made a meal. Of sorts. I really had no business being around knives or fire, but then again I like both, so whatever.

The current food stock in my house is running low and a rummage in the freezer resulted in the following:

BBQ "pork" sauteed in BBQ sauce. Added brown rice and TJ's roasted corn. In a separate pan I steamed some broccoli and garlic powder. Two pans, approximately 10 minutes start to finish.

Am I proud? Not really. Was it a complete meal? Indeed. And not bad tasting either. Had my skills been a bit less cloudy I would have done a few things differently (such as not let the rice and corn cook with the "pork," as this made it a tad mushy), but sometimes the drunken "I need foodz naow" takes over and you do what you can. At least I got something green in there.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Coconut Tempeh Curry

Let's say you get home one evening around 7:30. You're hungry. You've had a long day. You're tired. The idea of "shopping" your pantry and fridge doesn't sound very appealing. This was my scenario one night last week, but thanks to a decently stocked fridge/freezer, even without a plan, I had a meal ready to go in about 15 minutes.

There was leftover cooked rice in the freezer, so I grabbed that and got it to defrosting in the microwave. While that was spinning away, I found some coconut curry marinated tempeh strips in the fridge, and also a container of Maiya Kaimal coconut curry sauce. I diced the strips and put those on to saute in a pan with a few spritzes of cooking spray.

While that was browning, I grabbed a bag of Trader Joe's frozen stir fry veggies from the freezer.

The tempeh only took a few minutes to get as brown as I like it (which is pretty brown!), and when it was done I transferred it from the pan to a plate. Added the frozen veggies and a couple tablespoons of the coconut curry sauce to the pan. Once they cooked down a bit, I added half the container and let them simmer on low. By now the rice was thawed and warm.

I had a delicious coconut tempeh curry ready in about 15 minutes thanks to some convenience products. Would a long-simmered sauce be better? Yes, and when I have time, I do that. There's a lot of satisfaction that comes with creating something from scratch and letting it do its magic to become delicious food. But for most of us, especially on the weekdays, we just need to get a tasty and reasonably healthy meal on the table. I tend to have things like this on hand for just such occasions. I didn't really have a plan for the tempeh or the sauce, and I bought them weeks apart. But remember that many things can be frozen! So when you find something on sale, or if it's getting a little too close to the expiration date and it doesn't look like you're going to get to it--freeze it! A quick defrost in the microwave works for a lot of things, and if you can think to transfer it from the freezer to the fridge before you leave for the day, it should be thawed by the time you return home.

Oh, and for all you curry haters out there, this was not overly "curry-ish" at all. Even The G-Ma was crazy about it, and she's not one for anything spicy or too "weird." This was very mild, but really tasty and super easy. I only used one pan, 15 minutes, and made a meal that could feed four or provide leftovers for one or two.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Welcome to the Quick and Dirty Vegan!

Hello out there in Vegan Land! Welcome to my new blog, the Quick and Dirty Vegan. This will be somewhat a carryover of my former blog Veganything, but with a renewed focus on preparing, finding, consuming, and enjoying quick and dirty meals.

All too often I hear, "Oh you're vegan? You must cook a lot." Or, "Wow, you must spend a lot of money on food." Or, "It must take a long time to cook like that." And the ever popular, "I could never eat like that. I love _____ too much and I don't have time to cook."

Well, it's time to dispel those myths and get some good food in our bellies the quick and dirty way! Will my food always be made from scratch? No. Is it always healthy? No. Will foodies be impressed? Probably not. But let's face it, most of us have a lot to do in our daily lives, from jobs to family, to finding time for friends, school, getting ourselves around town, downtime, and the all-important sleep. If you're anything like me, you admire beautiful food creations that combine skill and creativity to create artistic and delicious dishes. But if you're anything like the "get real" side of me, you have neither the time nor the inclination to devote hours to producing such decadence.

That's where the Quick and Dirty Vegan comes in. No more excuses. No more whining about time or skill in the kitchen. It has never been easier to find or prepare a vegan meal or snack, and everyone can do it. Hopefully, cooking newbs will gain confidence and the "aha moment" that they're pretty damn good at feeding themselves and others; and maybe the more advanced among you will appreciate a "day off" from your normal cooking frenzy.

So, let us commence with the tips, tricks, recipes, cookbooks, product reviews, and whatever else helps us be quick and dirty vegans. Cuz yeah, you know you like it like that.