Monday, October 29, 2007

Breakfast! Yum version of chorizo and eggs

When I moved to Los Angeles in 1966 I was 20 years old and had not ever seen or heard of chorizo.

Living in Los Angeles was a great way to find out about Mexican food, obviously. My stepmother took me to a little hole in the wall place that made chile rellenos "the right way". I have to agree with her that the usual version is pretty awful in comparison to simply stuffing the chile with cheese, then dipping in egg white, beaten, and frying. There may have been a little flour in that egg white but not much. Anyway, those days are gone, no more chile rellenos for me. Well, honestly, I'm not a vegan 100% of the time and on occasion I get something made with eggs or cheese, and I wouldn't turn down eggs from a truly happy hen. I can also imagine using a vegan cheese and that being just fine.

One thing I discovered was chorizo. I suspect that at first I was afraid of this weird sausage. But then I tried it, and like most people I tried it with eggs. I would fry the chorizo to let loose some of that fat (and get rid of it), then I'd throw in the beaten eggs and scramble it up. Served with potatoes and toast, perfect.

Now I make the vegan version and honestly I think it's better. It's lower in fat by a whole lot, it has the flavors and the crispiness I like. It's very satisfying. Here's how I do it:

1/2 small onion, chopped
1-2 T neutral oil
6 oz firm tofu
4-6 oz soyrizo or equivalent (I don't know if any other company makes it)
1-2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
salt and pepper

Saute the chopped onion in the oil for a few minutes, until soft. Crumble in the tofu, which you have drained for a few minutes. Add the cumin and turmeric and stir until it achieves that nice yellow color.

Cut open the soyrizo package and squeeze out the amount you want into the pan with the tofu. Mix together with a fork and heat. Turn a few times with a pancake turner, letting the soyrizo get crispy in spots. When it's all heated through, add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

One generous serving. Two servings not quite as generous.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Tortilla Soup

My daughter Mary called to tell me about a tortilla soup she had made that was really easy and tasted great. Over the phone she told me how to make it. This is my version of what she said.

two or three corn tortillas
1 small onion, chopped
1-2 Tablespoons oil (neutral is probably best)
1 14.5-oz can stewed tomatoes, Mexican flavored (with jalapenos, cilantro)
1 Qt. vegetable broth
fresh cilantro (optional)

Slice the tortillas in strips.

Either fry them in a little oil until crisp (what Mary did) or
Spray with cooking spray (like Pam) lightly and then sprinkle with salt. Spread in a layer in a flat pan and put in the oven at 400 degrees until crispy.(what I did)

In a two-quart saucepan, heat the oil, then toss in the chopped onions. Cook until soft, a couple of minutes. Add the canned tomatoes, stir. Add the vegetable broth and heat through. Stir and break up tomatoes now and then.

When hot, ladle into serving bowls. Sprinkle with tortilla strips.

Makes about 4 generous servings.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Vegan Pork And Beans

A very simple, easy vegan dish is the vegan version of pork and beans.

Here's how you make it:
Take a can of vegetarian beans. Red beans work well, but you can use whatever you like. Then take a vegan hot dog or two and cut the hot dogs up into chunks. Heat up the beans, add in the hot dogs, and voila! You're done! Eat it with rice or toast.

I decided to showcase here a slight variation of veggie pork and beans. I make this version often.

1 can of spicy navy beans
2 Italian flavored veggie sausages
1 cup of cooked macaroni noodles

Heat everything up in a pot on the stove for about five to ten minutes.

Another variation I like to make is the caserole version. Take the pork and bean mixture and pour it over crackers or toast in a caserole dish. Top with crackers or toast and bake for about 20 minutes at 400 degrees F. You can even add a bit of shredded vegan cheese on top if you like.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Chili impromptu

Chili can go together with a few basic ingredients, plus odds and ends. The variety makes it fun and possible. You can throw this one together in 20-25 minutes.

Chop up a small onion. Saute in a little neutral oil until soft, a couple of minutes. Chop up a few other veggies if you have them. I used some zucchini and carrots. Throw those in, cook for a couple of minutes. Toss in a 14.5-oz can of beans (in this case I used Cuban black beans, which means they come with some nice extra ingredients well suited for chili), a 14.5-oz can of chopped or stewed or diced tomatoes, and as much chili powder as you like. I used maybe two tablespoons. I also added a healthy shake of cumin for that extra smokiness.

In a pinch, use frozen chopped onions or dried onions or onion salt, add dried veggies and skip the saute steps.

Heat until it all until hot. Break up large pieces of tomato if you like. I served it over brown rice, which I had in my freezer. When cook rice, I make big batches in my rice maker and freeze serving-size amounts in freezer bags. They microwave perfectly in about two to three minutes.

Preparing apples

Sometimes we find ourselves with apples. Fresh apples. And while eating them fresh is a good thing to do, sometimes we want to make something with them. This can lead to paring and coring and slicing. Here I offer the quickest way I have found to do these things.

Paring. Start by slicing off the two ends.

Then pare the rest of the apple, from end to end:

Cut the apple in four pieces, through the root ends. Then, angling the knife, cut the core out of each of the four pieces.

Chop or slice, as needed. Slicing goes quickly if you use a chef's knife and just run through the pieces. Watch a cooking show for the technique. In fact, I gleaned all of this from various cooking shows.

Incidentally, it's wise to position the fingers of your non-knife hand, the one holding the apple, so that the knuckles face the knife rather than the finger ends. I have done it wrong in this photo, but I'm careful.

Another tip from cooking shows: use a paper towel, piece of plastic, bowl or something else for the scraps. Then you can dump it all later - preferably into your composter.

It's a lot faster than running to the wastebasket with every handful of scraps.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Southwest Vegan Enchiladas


* 1 package of tortillas (corn or flour, whatever you like. I prefer corn.)
* 1 can of vegan baked beans
* 1 large jar of salsa (I like mild or medium southwest style.)
* 1/2 bag of frozen veggies (southwest mix or corn and peppers)
* 1-2 cups of shredded vegan cheese (I like Monterey Jack flavor)


Mix beans, veggies, lots of salsa, and most of the cheese in a bowl. Pour some salsa into your baking dish (I like a rectangular casserole dish). Arrange your tortillas sort of like tacos opening upwards. If you have a round baking dish or just a few tortillas, make a pie instead by lying the tortillas flat on the bottom of the dish. Scoop your bean and veggie mix into the tortillas (or on top of them if making an enchilada pie). Then roll up the tortillas and dump more salsa on top (or layer again with tortillas if making a pie, then spread salsa over them). Spread the salsa around with a spoon or rubber spatula so all the tortillas are smothered in salsa.

Bake at 350 degrees F for about 25 minutes.

Then sprinkle a little more cheese on top and bake another five minutes or until cheese is melted.

You can serve it with vegan sour cream, guacamole, rice and beans, or alone. It's a yummy, easy meal that almost everyone enjoys.

Tofu, Quinoa, Artichoke

The tofu: I took a 16 ounce chunk of tofu and cut it up into 6 large slices. I marinaded it in teriyaki sauce and then stuck it in the oven at 350- 400 degrees F on a greased baking tray for 30 minutes. (You can broil it too to get a crispier texture.)

The quinoa: I put half a cup of dry quinoa in the rice maker with 1 cup of water and turned the rice maker on. Quinoa is incredibly easy to cook, you can make it like rice or polenta. It's super high in protein and good for you; it's basically a vegan power food.

The artichoke: I cut off the stem, the leaf tops, and the outer leaves of an artichoke. Then I boiled it for 30 minutes (you can steam it instead), cut it in half, scooped out the fuzzy stuff and dropped a dollop of margarine or vegan mayonnaise inside.

Vegan Groceries Online

Shopping for groceries on Amazon sounds weird, but it's definitely easy and convenient. Here are some vegan selections:

Monday, October 15, 2007

A Work in Progress: Roasted vegetables en croute

The real cook will test and retest, work on a recipe until it's just right, and only then present it to the world. But I'm not a real cook. I want to share the steps along the way to the finished product. The trials that maybe aren't perfect.

I read a review of a restaurant recently that noted one of the specialities: roasted vegetables and cheese layered on top of an olive tapenade, wrapped in a flaky puff pastry. I thought I could come up with my own version. This is my first try. I'll describe what I did, how it came out, what I learned. If you have comments or suggestions I'd love to hear them!

I used:

puff pastry - frozen
vegetables: in this case carrots, onions, zucchini, portabello mushrooms, green bell pepper
olive oil for roasting veggies
seasonings for veggies: rosemary, parsley, oregano
tapenade: in this case green olive

First, I roasted the veggies. I cut them into strips, placed them in a casserole dish along with sprinklings of olive oil and the seasonings, and covered the dish. I roasted them in a 350 degree oven for 20-30 minutes. When it looked like they were about done, I took off the casserole top and let the veggies brown up a bit and let the steam escape, about ten minutes.

Wonderful alternative: Trader Joe's (and some other markets) offers roasted vegetables in a package, all ready for you!

I just guessed at amounts. I think, though, that the total bulk of one bell pepper, two carrots, two largish portabellos, and a medium onion is about right for this dish. More on that later.

When roasted my veggies looked like this:

When done, I let them sit a while to cool down.

After I put the veggies in the oven I took out the puff pastry to defrost. I took one sheet out of the package.

When it was defrosted (40 minutes) I rolled it out a bit.

I fit the pastry into my pan, having determined how much to roll it out by how large the pan was.

Then I started layering. I used up what was left in my jar of tapenade.

It is spread rather thinly there. Then I attempted to layer by color:

Some veggies did not cover.

I finished with the scrapings of onion and bits.

I folded one side of the crust over and the other on top of that, and pinched it to the side. On top, then, were two layers of puff pastry.

I baked it at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes, until puffed and golden.

I let it cool a little and then sliced into it.

Not bad but there were issues. Here is what I learned:

* Use more tapenade, make a real layer of it. I couldn't even taste it.
* Cut the veggies into smaller pieces and cook enough of each color to make a full layer. When I bit into my piece it was not as neat as we might like. I think smaller pieces would make it more layered, it would look more elegant, and it would "eat better".
* Don't overlap the crust. I found that two layers had some trouble. Both did not puff fully.
* Use a cookie sheet or other large pan with lips (to catch any spills or oil). I think this will allow it to blossom and will take full advantage of all of the pastry.

I also believe that this is the type dish that does well served at room temperature, could be made in little packets rather than in one big layered dish, and could even be the basis for an alternative Cornish pasty. I want to explore those alternatives in the future, and when I do you'll be sure to hear about it.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Easy Vegan Recipes

The vegan web is growing. More and more vegans are sharing their stories and recipes online to help each other and expand our network of information. Here are some other websites with simple, vegan recipes:

Boxed Indian Meals

Much of Indian cuisine is vegetarian or vegan. Indian convenience foods are great prepackaged options. Tasty Bite brand labels their vegan foods prominently, just look for the check boxes on the back. I like Punjab Eggplant and Spinach Dal.

The boxed foods found in the grocery aisle with rice and dried beans are often a good bet for vegan convenience foods. There are various rice mixes, couscous mixes, and other traditional "side dishes." Vegan meals can be made by combining various side dishes to make complete meals.

Often that grocery aisle also has the premixed spice packets. These are great for adding flavor to tofu, seitan, veggies, or beans. Just read the ingredients carefully because not all are vegan. However, ignore the pictures on the spice packets. Taco seasoning made for meat tacos can work well for tofu tacos too. Marinade meant for chicken or beef can work just fine on non-meat items like potatoes or TVP.

Vegan Chili

There are a variety of canned and dried vegetarian chili mixes that you can make on a stove top, in the microwave, or just by adding hot water. They're great for camping or for hearty Fall and Winter meals. Combine it with rice and you've got a complete protein, too.

A good side dish for chili is cornbread. My favorite vegan cornbread recipe is this one from Post Punk Kitchen.

But if you really don't want to cook or bake much, try getting some frozen corn on the cob and nuke (microwave) that in a plastic bag for about three to five minutes. Corn on the cob goes well with chili.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Miso Soup

Miso soup is really easy to make, but since this blog is about vegan convenience food, there's an even easier way to make miso soup: prepackaged.

Most miso soup is vegan, but check the ingredients to make sure. Some brands are not vegan.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Scramble it

Tonight I didn't have much in the house but didn't want to hit the market, so I went with a scrambled tofu.

1-2 T Neutral oil, like grapeseed
Firm tofu (or silken if you prefer the texture): about ten ounces
Small onion, chopped, or ready-to-cook frozen chopped onions, about a half-cup
Broccoli - about a half cup or so fresh or frozen
Tomato - one small
cumin, salt, pepper, cilantro - fresh, dry, or frozen - to taste
tumeric - 1/2 tsp

Drain tofu, set on paper towels. Heat oil until warm. Add onions, cook until soft. Cut broccoli if necessary into small pieces and toss in. Stir a bit, get it greened up. Crumble drained tofu into pan until it's about the size of egg scrambles. Mix it all together. Add cilantro, 2 teaspoons (or more) of cumin, and mix up more. If you have some turmeric put a bit in, but not too much (it gets bitter). It's nice for color.

Slice the tomato thinly and toss it in, mix up a bit just to warm it through.

Serve with salt and pepper.

Of course this is subject to endless variations: spinach, peas, chives would be nice additions. If you've got leftover cooked boiled potatoes I can see cutting those up and adding them in. Yum.

Takes about ten to fifteen minutes to get this on the table. You can eat it as is (which is what I did) or wrap in a tortilla or scoop with toast.

Breakfast variation - with onions and potatoes.