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Seitanic Piccata

7 Feb

I recently hot a wild hair and decided I had to make piccata. I’m not sure why — it may have been placed there by this comment on the Hungry Hungry Hippie’s blog. I’ve not really sure I’ve ever had proper in my life, but the combination of tart lemon, salty capers, and some kind of chewy faux meat just sounded irresistible. I attended a cooking demo at Native Foods a few weeks ago that was all about seitan, so I decided to use wheat meat as the base instead of tofu or tempeh. This recipe originally from Candle 79 is all over the web, so I used it as my basis. Here’s  the result, served atop whole wheat spaghetti:

PiccataOMG IT’S AMAZING AND WONDERFUL AND I WISH I COULD EAT IT EVERY DAY. But seriously.

So let’s break it down. First you make seitan using your preferred/pretty much any method. I used Native Foods’ recipe, which is here. My only alterations were not using kombu in the broth (since I didn’t have any) and mincing instead of microplaning the garlic (since I don’t have a microplane). I follow Chef Kendall’s note of rolling it into one log/loaf, though I wrap it in foil (agian, because I did not have cheesecloth). It’s a great recipe, and I highly recommend it! Oh, and it makes up really well in a mixer if you have one. I use the paddle for the basic mixing and then the dough hook for kneading. If it appears too wet (and mine did both times I made it), just add a little more vital wheat gluten.

Once the seitan has simmered and cooled enough to handle — and you can easily make it a day or two in advance — cut it into six cutlets. I did so by cutting the whole log in half  and then cutting each half into three pieces that were similar in size. Now follow the Candle 79 recipe. My only changes:

  • Used less oil, though it was still more than I usually would (maybe three tablespoons total)
  • Subbed an onion for the leeks and shallots
  • Omitted the parsley because I plain forgot about it
  • Used dried thyme (~1/2 teaspoon) instead of fresh
  • Omitted turmeric (I didn’t have any, and I frankly don’t like the taste of it)

I recommend a nice dry, acidic, and citrusy white wine. I used a sauvignon blanc, and while it was a little lacklustre on its own, it had the right properties. An unoaked chardonnay might work, but a very crisp pinot grigio would be my second choice after the sauv. Make sure it’s a drinkable wine because you’ll have plenty left from the bottle, and it will make a great accompaniment to the piccata. Anyway, the sauce comes together in no time and it seriously tastes like heaven in a saute pan. Plate whatever grain you choose — the noodles were great, but I imagine millet, cous cous, or rice would be awesome — then top with the seitan and then the sauce. Glamour shot:

More piccataIt is delicious fresh and hot. It is delicious refrigerated, or so Mr. X tells me. It’s delicious reheated in a pan on the stove. It’s just delicious.

And a note: for us, this was three servings, not six. If you’re eating as part of a larger meal, you might be able to stretch it to more, but it’s so tasty that you won’t want to!

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Chocolate Orange Sables

29 Jan

Ever since I abandoned my Google Reader and its hundreds of bloggy contents, there are a few of my past daily reads that have fallen by the wayside. One of them was Smitten Kitchen for some reason, even though I adore her content and writing style. This weekend, I reignited my regular reading of the site and made not just the pumpernickel bread but — gasp — cookies!

CookiesDeb posted her recipe for Intensely Chocolate Sables on Friday, and as soon as I saw the post on Saturday, I knew I had to make them. Looking through my kitchen stuff drawer, I found only two cookie cutters: the heart above (which is really large) and a plastic novelty cutter of the leg lamp from A Christmas Story. The latter did not work at all for this dough, hence you will not see any in that absurd shape. Instead, I used a tiny tea/sake cup I rarely pull out of the cupboard.

Little cookieAnyway, to make these cookies vegan, I made the following alterations:

  • Used regular cocoa instead of Dutch processed, since that’s what I had
  • Used unsweetened baking chocolate instead of bittersweet and went with the full 2/3 cup of sugar to compensate
  • Subbed Earth Balance for regular butter
  • Instead of the egg yolk and vanilla, I used 1.5 tablespoons of fresh cara cara orange juice

I followed all of the original directions and was very, very pleased with the result. The orange flavor isn’t terribly pronounced, but it adds a little subtlety. I think adding a teaspoon of zest would be good if you want to intensify it. In all, I made out 32 cookies — four large hearts and 28 little rounds — and baked each pan for 10 minutes. I also found it necessary to re-roll and re-refrigerate twice, since the presence of baking chocolate quickly softens at room temperature/exposure to your hands.

HeartThese cookies are delicate and rich at the same time. They are very easy to prepare if you have an electric mixer, and even though I typically shy away from any baked good that needs to be rolled out, the flavor and light crispness were well worth the effort.

What’s your favorite cookie flavor combination? I love chocolate and orange, but cinnamon and pumpkin is pretty great, too.

In queso emergency

23 Jan

I used to have a ridiculous T-shirt from a chain restaurant I grew up going to called El Chico that had “in queso emergency” printed on it and some kind of stick-figure-esque guy heading towards an emergency exit. It made no sense, and it still doesn’t, but it was awesome.

Anyway, it does relate to my post! This weekend, Mr. X and I were very excited to watch the playoffs to see if it was possible for me to be 100% wrong in all my predictions (spoiler: it was), so I built lunch around a football snacks theme. Here was the result:

DipsVegan queso dip, homemade tortilla chips, curry hummus, and carrots. I have been eying Alicia’s Queso Dip with Raw Cashews since, like, forever, and I finally got around to making it. Holy freaking Hades! It was incredible. Seriously. Mr. X went crazy for it. I made a few tweaks:

  • Added 3 tablespoons of nutritional yeast (per Alicia’s suggestion)
  • Omitted onion flakes and turmeric (didn’t have any on hand)
  • Used TJ’s Chipotle Garlic Salsa
  • Subbed hot sauce for the crushed hot peppers (again, didn’t have any)

We were so in love with this vegan queso that we built two more meals around it. The first was for dinner Sunday night:

Egg burritoThis picture is horrid (our lighting situation after dark is pretty pathetic), but that’s the inside of an egg-mushroom-scallion-vegan queso burrito in a flour tortilla. We had salad on the side, which went unpictured but was just TJ’s Champs Elysees mix topped with a lemon juice-Dijon dressing.

And then dinner Monday and Tuesday was this similarly unphotogenic guy:

BurritoThe filling is a combination of sauteed onion, garlic and mushrooms to which I added precooked black, pinto and garbanzo beans and finally a bunch of kale until it wilted. It was seasoned with hot sauce, chili powder and cumin. To make the burritos, I layered the queso first followed by the filling, rolled it up, and then heated for 8 minutes in 300° F oven. We topped each one with more hot sauce, scallions and cilantro. Love in a flour tortilla.

If you haven’t made Alicia’s recipe, you should do it immediately. We will have to bust it out again very soon.

Menu update from last week

21 Jan

I have something delicious to share from this weekend, but it’ll have to wait until tomorrow since I owe you some food recaps from last week. It’s amazing how being sick for barely more than a day can throw off so much!

Anyway, I followed my meal plan pretty well and, as promised, I will share my triumphs and tweaks with you.

First up is the red beans, barley and Swiss chard:

Red beansThe beans were based on this recipe from the Fat Free Vegan blog (one of my favorites). Here are my tweaks:

  • I precooked the kidney beans and then let them simmer all day in the slow cooker
  • Halved the recipe
  • Omitted the celery

The end result was almost perfect except for one thing to which, I fear, I must admit: I burned the beans. I was in a bad mood last Sunday, which is when I precooked them, and I accidentally burned them. They weren’t destroyed, just a little charred, but the end result wasn’t as delicious as it should have been. Otherwise, though, the spices were wonderful, and simmering everything in the slow cooker was easy and yielded a great consistency. Also, obviously, we served ours with barley instead of rice, since I’m currently freaked out about the whole arsenic thing.

The next meal I wanted to share was the Butternut Poblano Soup, which made a wonderful lunch:

Butternut soupI tweaked this one quite a bit:

  • Used one small butternut squash and one medium sweet potato
  • WAY reduced the fat — more like 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Omitted the celery (sensing a theme? I don’t like celery!)
  • Used about four large cloves of garlic
  • Omitted the cinnamon and parsley in favor of more cumin and chile powder
  • Added 1/2 cup dry red lentils

I really loved this soup. It was hearty, creamy, and had a great balance of flavors. I imagine it would be good with any winter squash (other than spaghetti, of course) or just straight sweet potato. You could also use two poblanos and leave some of the seeds in for more of that great spicy, smoky flavor. It was a perfect lunch.

And finally, here is another creamy, delicious soup from this week:

Creamy chickpea soupI used the Chickpea & Rice Soup with a Little Kale recipe from Post Punk Kitchen and made the follow alterations:

  • Say it with me now: I omitted the celery. Also the carrots because I was sick and could not muster the energy to chop anything else.
  • Again, swapped in barley for rice
  • Upped the veggie broth to six cups
  • Used closer to 4 cups of freshly cooked chickpeas

The soup is impossibly creamy and filling. The flavors were surprisingly mellow, though, so we topped each serving with lots of black pepper and a little hot sauce. It was very soothing on my sick day and it reheats well. I will be enjoying the last tiny bowl for lunch today. Be forewarned, though: this recipe (well, my version of it) has more calories than I was expecting. It is very filling, so it’s not too terribly surprising, but I was a little shocked when I ran the nutrition information. I just wanted to point that out so, if you decide to make the soup, you plan the rest of your menu accordingly.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful day, whether you’re at home or the office!

Butternut Squash Blondies with Caramel

22 Oct

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that yesterday included some stress baking. Some people drink heavily, others clean — I bake when I’m feeling the pressure. I’d been planning to make a squash-based treat for a couple of weeks now, and Sunday’s moments of “ahhhhhh!” prompted me to get it underway.

Look at that spicy, gooey goodness. I scoured the web for a tweakable recipe and ended up with this one from the Tasty Kitchen. Below is my vegan version.

Butternut Squash Blondies with Caramel

  • 2/3 recipe of Easy Caramel Sauce
  • 6 tablespoons of liquid coconut oil (can sub in melted Earth Balance)
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup packed brown sugar (depending on your preferred level of sweetness)
  • 1/2 cup cooked butternut squash, mashed or pureed (or sub in canned pumpkin)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (or use 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg)
  • 1 cup flour (I used white whole wheat)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch of salt

First prepare the vegan caramel sauce recipe above. I’m linking to it because I followed it to a T, loved it, and wouldn’t change a thing. Just a note — you can find cans of coconut cream at Trader Joe’s, if you’d rather use that than the full-fat coconut milk method. If you do, you can skip the first step of refrigerating it for four hours and get right to the caramel-making. Let the completed sauce cool in the fridge for about two hours.

Preheat the oven to 350° F and grease or spray an 8×8″ baking dish. In a large bowl, cream the coconut oil and sugar. I used 1/2 cup, but it’s VERY sweet, so I would probably use 1/3 cup next time. Now add the cooked butternut squash, vanilla, and spice and mix just until combined. Add the flour, baking soda, and salt and mix until combined. Spread about 2/3 of it in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Remove caramel sauce from the fridge and reheat it over a medium flame, stirring constantly, for a couple of minutes, until it’s pourable. Spread about 2/3 of it on top of the blondie batter. (Save the rest for ice cream, coffee, eating by the spoonful, whatever you prefer.)

Now top with the rest of the batter, spreading it as much as you can to cover. Mine wasn’t perfect and looked like this:

Bake for 25 minutes, or until it’s golden and a toothpick inserted comes out batter-free (though the melty caramel with leave a trace). Eat it immediately if you don’t mind the sticky mess or let it cool completely to get a more solid blondie, like in the picture above. Both options taste amazing.

This recipe is not at all healthy, but it’s delicious and vegan! You could use pumpkin, as noted, but it’s also a great use for any kind of leftover roasted winter squash — well, probably not spaghetti squash, but you get the idea.

Weeknight recipes

10 Oct

Frequent readers of this blog know I’ve been pretty hardcore about meal planning the last couple of months due to my CSA, my need to save money, and my desire to eat better. Naturally, these efforts necessitate cooking during the week, even when I’m tired and cranky (or, in the case of last night, fighting off some nasty allergies). I’m turning to meals that sound delicious but are not complicated, and so far I’ve had great success this week, so I wanted to share a couple. First off is a variation on my Basic Lentil Soup:

I adapted it for the slow cooker, though, since I still only have one working burner at home.

Slow Cooker Lentil Soup

  • 1 cup brown lentils
  • 1/3 cup barley
  • 3 small-medium carrots, chopped
  • 1/2 container of mushrooms, coarsely chopped
  • 3 scallions, sliced (white and green parts) — you could use a small onion instead
  • 2 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tofurkey Italian Sausage, chopped coarsley
  • 1/2 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper
  • Salt and pepper to taste

The soup epitomizes what I love about the slow cooker: combine everything in your cooker, add eight cups of water, and set to cook. You can put it on low and let it cook all day while you’re at work, or you can set it to high, and it will be done in three or so hours. I did the latter since I was preparing it for lunches on Sunday evening. It makes a very thick soup that is filling but not too heavy.

Serves 6ish.

I love lentil soup because, really, you can add any vegetables you want and season it however you prefer. I went Italian this time, but it could just as easily been curried or made Mexican-style.

For dinner Monday and Tuesday night, we enjoyed a variation on Oh She Glows’ Butternut Squash Mac ‘n Cheeze.

I made the following modifications:

  • Used olive oil instead of Earth Balance.
  • Added two garlic cloves (instead of the powder), two scallions (though I would actually saute regular white onion next time for even more flavor), and a lot of crushed red pepper.
  • Mashed the roasted butternut squash with a fork and didn’t bother with a blender.

Our bowls contained the sauce, whole wheat spaghetti, shiitake mushrooms, the rest (FINALLY!) of the white beans, and kale. I would guess the ratios were:

  • 1 recipe of the sauce
  • 1 bag of spaghetti minus one serving (though I did boil the spaghetti fresh each night since I really hate the texture of leftover whole wheat pasta)
  • Half a container of shiitake mushrooms (button or cremini would work great, too)
  • 1.5 cups cooked cannelini beans
  • 1 bunch of kale, torn into pieces

Made 4 hearty servings.

Since I had roasted the squash on Friday night, the meal came together really fast, especially last night, since all we — Mr. X, rather, since I was feeling sick and, therefore, had regressed to a whiny baby — had to do was boil some pasta and reheat the sauce. I won’t say it truly tasted like a cheese sauce, but the flavor was delicious and very interesting. It also had a great consistency even without blending it.

Tonight we’re having variation #10 billion on X’s Spicy Portobello Chili, and he has demanded I update the recipe with our current favorite combination, so expect that post soon.

Foodie Penpals

1 Oct
The Lean Green Bean

In September, I took part in two fun swaps, and today is the reveal for the first one. I was very excited to be paired with Courtney for The Lean Green Bean’s Foodie Penpals exchange. Here is the wonderful package she sent me:

Clockwise from top left:

  • Seapoint Farms Dry Roasted Edamame
  • Alter Eco Organic Royal Red Quinoa
  • Rhythm Superfoods Kale Chips in Bombay Curry
  • Two NuGo Organic bars: Mocha Chocolate and Dark Chocolate Almond
  • Stash Chocolate Mint Oolong Tea

What a thoughtful, tasty, and totally vegan package! My favorite was hands down the roasted soy beans. They were insanely delicious! I inhaled them pretty quickly, in fact. A close second is the Chocolate Mint tea. I have it stashed (bad pun) at work for an afternoon treat, and it’s such a nice pick-me-up that isn’t loaded with caffeine (or fat or calories). I love how potent each bag is, too, so I can re-steep. You saw the red quinoa at work in this post, and I’m pretty sad that the bag is empty. The other snacks were a fun change of pace for me. I rarely buy bars of any kind, and I’ve actually never had kale chips that I didn’t make myself. Mr. X pretty much inhaled the kale.

Thank you again, Courtney! It was such fun to receive your package, and it’s even more exciting to meet another health-conscious Angelena!