This time of year, I often start craving green pork chile. This year, that craving started about a month ago, leading in to the Camden Chili cookoff; thankfully, Tammy showed up with some green pork chile, and it was lovely (I snagged two samples). But, given all of the eating we do this time of year, I was hesitant to buy a great big chunk of pork, so I set out to make a vegan version that would be every bit as good.
And I have to say, I did just that last night.
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The author contacted me right before launch and asked if I would be willing to test drive and do a review of his new book. I had a busy week or so ahead of me, as final projects were coming in for my last (and I do mean LAST) round of classes. A few days of Instant Pot meals was a great way to make sure our eating stayed on track and that I didn't really have an excuse for not getting something hearty and healthy on the table.
So, I finally achieved a soy yogurt at home. I started with this recipe and adapted it to using powdered soy milk. The result? A slightly tangy creamy (but noticeably low fat) vegan yogurt.
1 quart of soy milk, made with NOW foods soy milk powder
1 teaspoon of agar powder
1 package of Bella + Bella non dairy yogurt starter
Procedure: I have a pyrex mixing cup that holds a quart. I started by weighing out 20 ounces of water and 12 TB of milk powder. Once that was stirred in, I added another tablespoon (for a total of 13) and brought the water up to the four cup mark. I took the temperature and then microwaved it to get it all the way up to 180 degrees (per the starter instructions). There's something about that temperature that denatures the milk proteins and allows them to bind together.
I carefully stirred in the agar and left the thermometer in the measuring cup until it got to 108 degrees. I then mixed in the starter, making sure to whisk it well.
This got poured into my jars (which were sterilized) and set to culture. I started at about 10:30 am and let the culturing go until about 5:00 am the following morning. I use this EuroCuisine Yogurt Maker.
I was on my own this weekend, as D. was off to a conference in Chicago. Saturday night, it was clear that she was having a good time and would probably benefit from something light and comforting on Sunday for dinner. I'd whipped up my favorite yeast rolls and topped them with sesame seeds and then whipped up this comforting vegan chick'n noodle soup. Here it is for lunch today. Sorry the picture isn't as beautiful as it might be, but I was hungry and ready to eat.
This soup could be made with chickpeas or navy beans or white kidney beans in place of the soy curls, I'm sure. If you're going for a texture like chicken, though, soy curls can't be beat. You can also make this gluten free by simply swapping out the noodles I used here with a rice noodle.
Veganish Chick'n Noodle Soup
4 ounces of Butler Soy Curls, rehydrated (1/2 package)
1 cup of diced celery
1 cup of diced carrot
3 cloves minced garlic
1 diced onion
8 cups of water or vegetable stock
chicken style broth powder to taste
8 ounces of noodles of choice. I used no yolk egg noodles from Aldi, which makes this "veganish"
minced fresh parsley
a handful (because that was what was left in the bag) of green peas
Salt and pepper
Once the soy curls are rehydrated, drain them and break any longer pieces into smaller bite sized pieces. Or don't. Maybe you want big chunks.
Sauté the celery, onion, and carrot until fragrant. Throw in the garlic and cook for a minute. Add soy curls to the pan and stir together, Finally, add the stock/water/broth. I had mostly water with a cup or so of veggie stock I found in the freezer. I used three tablespoons of my no chicken broth powder and kept tasting until it seemed about right. I also used the water drained off of the soy curls as it does have some flavor. Again, if you don't care for the taste of the soaking liquid, do it your way.
Bring to a boil and add noodles, cooking for the recommended time on the package. Stir in peas and parsley right before serving and taste for seasoning.
I brought the mixture to a boil before stirring in the noodles. I then slapped a lid on the pot, turned off the burner, and went to pick her up. I was gone maybe half an hour and the noodles were perfect and the soup at serving temperature when we got home.
1 batch of Seitan, cooled and cut into cubes
Flour for dusting
1 pound of mushrooms (I used cremini)
1 pound of frozen pearl onions
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup of good red wine (tonight's selection was Laya old vines)
2 cups hot water + 1 Tablespoon of Better than Bouillon vegetarian beef broth concentrate
1 Tablespoon of cornstarch + 1 Tablespoon of water
Put the flour in a bowl and add Seitan cubes to coat. In a non-stick skillet, brown the cubes of Seitan. Once they have fairly good color, add the mushrooms and pearl onions. Salute for five minutes or so and then add the wine and the water/no-beef broth mixture. Stir, add garlic, and put a lid on the pan and simmer for 20 minutes. Make sure the liquid is boiling and add the cornstarch slurry, stirring well to thicken the sauce.
I roasted red potato chunks at 425 until they were golden brown to add some texture under the base. Spoon the Seitan over the potatoes.
Other great options if you're not into potatoes include noodles or polenta.
Yesterday we ran some errands and were out in the cold enough that when we started thinking about dinner, we wanted something warm and hearty. I love posole and had a couple of cans of hominy calling to me, as well as several cans of Rotel after a trip to Costco recently, as well as cooked Vaquero beans and some vegetable stock and chiles. I don't always cook with this much canned and frozen stuff, but it can help dinner come together in a flash.
I've wanted to do a cleanse for awhile, mainly just to experience it. I toyed with Kaeng Raeng, but I just think that I would miss chewing. In fact, I know I would miss it--having gone for a good long time last fall without being able to eat solid food, I have no doubt that I would crash and burn on a smoothie or juice cleanse.
So, a couple of years ago, I saw that Chef Amber Shea Crawley had a cleanse that allows folks to actually eat real food. So, I bought the booklet. I was already familiar with banana "nice cream" so that wasn't a revelation. Coconut butter filled dates? That one got whipped up almost immediately. I didn't get to the whole cleanse until this week, though, as I knew Dani was going to be out of town and I would be busy. Having my meals plotted out for me with very little cooking sounded perfect.
The recipes in the cleanse are tasty. However, I do want to warn you that if you hate nutritional yeast you probably won't like the cleanse. Over the course of three days, you're eating a good 1/4 cup or better a day, and Nooch is a key component in the dressings and sauces at lunch and dinner each day. As she noted in the Facebook support group (which you can join after buying the booklet), there's really not a good sub for nutritional yeast in terms of the flavor and the nutritional profile. So, just a caution.
I'm a fiend for Nooch, so no problems there for me.
I did make a couple of adjustments. I'm not a fan of tahini, so I subbed almond butter and it worked fine (there is a hummus recipe in there that I swapped sesame seeds for the tahini, measure for measure--after all that's all tahini is).
I've had chia in the house ever since reading Born to Run, but I tend to like to use it baked in things, not straight up as pudding. So, I swapped the chia pudding (Day 3 breakfast) for Day 1's fruit salad. If you like rice pudding or tapioca and can handle those textures, I'm sure you'd like chia pudding.
I don't drink a lot of coffee these days--usually one good stout cup in the morning. And I drink it black. So, I kept my caffeine sources--coffee and tea. I did switch to Tulsi Rose tea in the evenings. And I wasn't worried about a little stevia. I also allowed myself to add an extra piece of fruit each day.
Would I do it again? Yes. With the adjustments this is actually a good, varied three days of vegan, somewhat raw, gluten-free eating that I don't have to think about. The portion sizes kept me full. The only time I really felt like I was pushing it was Day 2. I walked five miles (dog walks + orthodontist visit) and felt so good I decided to go ahead and do a 42 minute step routine. I was out of juice 30 minutes in, so I took a water break and finished up. Had I had a banana before hand, I think I would have been fine--it had been about four hours since lunch. Chef Amber does give you some "bulk up" options if you're especially active, so it wouldn't have been cheating. I can see myself doing this again after all of the holiday excess I know I'm about to engage in.
If you're interested in trying the cleanse, I recommend buying directly from Chef Amber's site (click on the cover above) as it's about $5 less than what Amazon charges.
When we were kids, my mom used to make pork chops and serve them with fried apples. This is my homage to that dish. I started getting apples often in my organics box and decided to do a savory preparation with them and this recipe was born.
Seitan does great here in place of a pork chop. To see how I make cutlets, check out this old post from way back Titled "Seitan for beginners." While I did the "chops" in the oven instead of the slow cooker (cover the pan with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes on each side), you could totally do the cutlets in your crockpot while you were at work and come home and finish the dish.
Play around with coatings, too--tonight, I threw a cup of walnuts in the vitamin with a teaspoon of seasoned salt and a teaspoon of rosemary and used that mixed with a 1/4 cup of store bought bread crumbs (the dried kind that come in a cardboard tube container) and they were great. Pecan crusted would be good, too.
Seitan Chops with Drunken Apples
1 recipe of basic seitan cutlets, cooked and cooled, liquid reserved
1 T flax meal
Coating: Try fresh bread crumbs, finely minced nuts, panko, whatever floats your boat (seasoned with salt, pepper, and rosemary if you like).
Coconut oil for browning
3 apples, quartered, cored, sliced
1 onion, quartered and sliced
1 Shot bourbon (give or take)
pinch of cinnamon
salt and pepper
In a large non-stick pan, heat some coconut oil (or whatever oil you like best. The coconut is nice with the apples, which you are also going to cook in the pan). Mix the flax meal with the reserved broth from cooking the seitan. Whisk and let sit until the mixture thickens, adding a little more flax meal if necessary (I'm sure you could use chia or egg wash, but I'm keeping it vegan here, and flax eggs are my go to for this). Dip the cutlets in the wet mixture and then dredge in your coating mix.
Brown in the skillet on both sides. The seitan is already cooked--you're going for color and crispness here. Remove the browned cutlets to a baking sheet (I set my oven to 200 and put the cutlets in there to stay warm while I make the apples).
In the same pan (add a little more coconut oil if it seems too dry) thrown in the onion and apples. Sauté until the apples have cooked down and everything is tender. Turn off the heat (unless you want a flare up) and pour in the bourbon. Add the pinch of cinnamon and salt and pepper to taste. Turn heat back on and let the alcohol cook off and deglaze the pan.
Serve the warm apples on top of the chops.
The earliest dish I remember mastering is fried rice. I may have learned to make something else before this (maybe egg salad or a grilled cheese), and I had already made cookies, I'm sure. But in my memory, this is the first true dish I learned to make.
What I remember my mother telling me at the time is very much true of most of the cooking I do today. When I asked for her recipe, she said something like "Well, there's not really a recipe. It's more like a technique." She then tutored me on the steps she generally uses and I was off and running.
Today, I needed lunch and Dani was asleep after a 24 hour shift. So, as I finished up work at the day job, I tried to figure out what I'd make. So, here's the version I made today. Feel free to do your own thing. Play with the rice types or use quinoa. Mix up the vegetable choices. Add eggs to it if you must. Just have fun.
Basil Scented Fried Rice
Serves 4 (unless you can't stop eating it)
1 cup brown basmati + 2 cups of water went in the rice cooker about an hour before lunch time. Ideally, I'd have rice in the fridge ready to go, but fresh is fine too.
Once that was cooked, I started the vegetables:
2 Japanese Eggplant, quartered and chopped
1/2 onion, diced
3 small carrots, peeled and sliced
1 rib celery, chopped
3 cloves of garlic (two were quite small)
2 Anaheim chiles (seeded and chopped)
1 good handful of basil
lemongrass and ginger pastes
No chicken broth powder
I sautéed the vegetables until just tender and then added the snow peas and ginger and lemongrass pastes for a minute before I added the rice to the pan. I also did a sprinkling of no-chicken broth powder and gave it stir, added the rice and chopped basil leaves, some soy sauce, and let everything hang out for a couple of minutes. Don't scorch the rice, but you want things a bit dry (you don't want soupy rice here).
I garnished my bowl with some raw cashews, chili paste, pineapple chunks, and lime juice.
What was your first cooking adventure? What do you like in your rice bowl?
That beautiful blue bowl in the picture above was a gift from Kelly Duke. I swear the right dish makes everything taste extra good!
You might not be vegan, but it's hard to look at that plate of food and not be at least a little tempted, right?
Not only is that dish vegan, but most of the ingredients came from Aldi, which has been getting a lot of press lately. It occurred to me as I was making dinner for Taco Tuesday that very little of what went on the plate didn't come from there. Here's what came from Aldi:
I put in the tortilla picture at the end to even it out, but even the plastic wrap came from Aldi. Essentially, the only ingredients that weren't from Aldi were spices. The recipe from Vegan Richa requires some chipotle chili powder (or a canned chipotle in adobo) and some smoked paprika. I had those in my cupboard, along with cumin. If you were Aldi restricted, though, they do carry regular paprika, regular chili powder, and cumin in their spice section. The only spice you won't likely find there in any way is coriander seed, and you could sub fresh cilantro or just leave it out. I used yellow onion because that's what I bought but they do carry red.
My point here? Aldi has some great buys, and some of it is organic (the lettuce mix, salsa, and tomato paste here are all organic). So, if you have an Aldi near you, why not give it a try? There are lots of good items once you get past the initial chips and candy section when you walk in the door.
Angel lives in Camden, Arkansas where she writes stuff and sometimes sends it out to other people to read. She used to grade papers, but not anymore. Check out her main site to see what she's up to lately.