Sunday, February 22, 2015

Oscar Noms #8: The Imitation Game (Vegan "Venison" with Cranberry & Wine Sauce)

This is my final Oscar Noms post of the year, as the awards show is this evening, and this one pretty much wrote itself in terms of what I was going to make. The Imitation Game...imitation game... what a perfect opportunity to take a game-y, meaty dish and veganize it. Lucky for me, my friend Annie Shannon has a perfect recipe on her site for Vegan Venison with Cranberry and Wine Sauce, which can also be found in her cookbook Betty Goes Vegan. As she points out, "venison" doesn't only refer to deer, but to any "wild game on four legs," which could also include elk, caribou, or moose.

I'll share with you my own experience with venison. When I was very young, probably around 8 years old, we had steak for dinner one evening. "Special" steak, I was told. After I ate my dinner, my dad announced, "You ate deer!" I'm pretty sure my brother said, "You ate Bambi!" And now I'm vegan. Coincidence? I don't think so.

So there's no need to eat deer or elk or cows or any of our other friends when there are things like seitan, or ready-made Gardein products, just for example, in your grocery store. It's still freezing cold here in NYC, and it was snowing yesterday when I made this, so Annie's wintery, Christmasy recipe with cranberries and red wine is still perfect long after the holidays are over. I made it with seitan instead of the Gardein Beefless Tips because that's what I had on hand, and served it over herbed mashed potatoes. Also, it was incredibly, surprisingly hard to find apple jelly - I searched four different stores - so I just added some apple cider instead and it still worked out fine, adding just the touch of sweetness. So go to the link above and make this vegan "venison" dish if you want something really comforting and warming and delicious. And enjoy the Oscars show, if you are watching, or even better, if you're throwing your own party.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Oscar Noms #7: Selma, Alabama Mud Cake

I had a really hard time coming up with a dish to make for Selma. Hard as I tried, I couldn't come up with  any play on words for the title. So then I tried to find a recipe that was representative of Alabama, where the film takes place, portraying the epic civil rights march from Selma to the capitol of Montgomery that led to President Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Let's just say that there is a dearth of recipes from Alabama. It's not really known for its cuisine. I hope I'm not offending any Alabamian readers when I say this, but the food scene down there seems to shall we say? Lacking. A mystery to non-locals.

Fun fact about me: I was actually born in Huntsville, AL. We didn't live there very long but growing up my uncles always teased me and called me an "Alabama pig farmer," which never failed to upset me. Even at a young age the thought of farming pigs was very disturbing to me. So anyway, back to my search for an inspiring Alabama recipe... Everywhere I looked, I kept coming across recipes for something called "Alabama White Sauce," a mayonnaise-based BBQ sauce, which I am intrigued by and might try another time. Then of course there are Alabama Slammers, which would be an excellent cocktail choice for your Oscars viewing party, but I don't drink hard alcohol these days so I didn't want to blog about those. And then I stumbled upon this recipe for an Alabama Mud Cake. Now, growing up with a Southern family, this recipe reminded me of all the desserts that people would bring to our family reunions and holidays. They always seemed to include a box of this, a can of that, a jar of something else. Almost everything somehow included a tub of Kool Whip or a box of Jell-O mix. Those recipes always seem more like a science experiment or an assembly project, rather than actual "cooking." So when I saw the Mud Cake recipe, and the ingredient list that included a can of pineapple, a can of cherry pie filling, and a box of devil's food cake mix, well, at first I just thought, "No. No. Nope. No way." Perhaps it wasn't quite as demented a recipe as this one, but this is just not my kind of cooking. But then I kept thinking about it, and it seemed so wrong that it might just be right. I had to make it.

I was ready to have a laugh at this "special occasion dessert," but you know what? It's good! I don't even understand how it works, when you just pour dry cake mix in a pan and bake it, but somehow the cake comes out brownie-like, with the pineapple and cherries caramelized on the bottom, like an upside-down cake. It tastes like a brownie sundae, all you need to add is some vegan vanilla ice cream, or even just a dollop of whipped cream. The pecans add a nice crunch and counter-balance to the sweetness, which isn't nearly as cloying as I expected. It's actually really good! I mean, it's not the freshest ingredients, obviously, and they definitely fall into the accidentally vegan category, but I mean, it's super fast and easy to make, and it's pretty fun to eat. My 3 year old had a great time helping me make this one. So without apologies, I will post the veganized recipe below. I will note that the original recipe calls for mint chocolate chips, but I don't know of any vegan version of those, so I used carob chips instead. I could have used regular vegan chocolate chips, but I was feeling so guilty about all the ready-made ingredients that I had to add at least one thing (other than the pecans) that had some redeeming "healthy" quality to them. But regular chocolate chips would be fine too.

Alabama Mud Cake
veganized from this recipe
makes 8-10 servings

1 (20 oz) can crushed pineapple, with juice
1 (21 oz) can cherry pie filling
1 (18.25 oz) package devil's food cake mix (Duncan Hines "Moist Deluxe" brand is vegan)
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup carob or vegan chocolate chips
1/2 cup vegan butter, sliced

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9x13 inch pan.
2. Pour pineapple with juice into prepared pan, spreading evenly to make the first layer. Spread cherry pie filling over the pineapple layer, then spread the dry cake mix over the cherry pie filling. Sprinkle the cake mix layer with pecans and carob or chocolate chips, then distribute the sliced butter evenly over the top.
3. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Oscar Noms #6: Po'Boyhood (Mushroom Po' Boy Sandwiches)

To start with, I can't tell you how pleased it makes me when the title of my Oscar Noms post works as well as Po'Boyhood. I realize how utterly nerdy that makes me, and I'm ok with it. Secondly, if you haven't seen Boyhood yet, run, or at least add it to your Netflix queue, and see it immediately.

Boyhood was filmed over 12 years, giving us a time capsule of a boy's life from 2nd grade to his first year of college. It's a nostalgic look at all the memorable moments of growing up, something that is especially touching to me now that I have little ones of my own. Somehow it seems fitting to me to make po' boys in honor of this film, as New Orleans holds a special and nostalgic place in my heart. Also, today is Mardi Gras! I made my first trip to New Orleans 20 years ago with college friends, a trip all about those horrid-tasting frozen Hurricanes on Bourbon Street and other underage shenanigans. And then there was the next trip, soon after, where we rode motorcycles and reenacted our own version of Easy Rider, and got regrettable tattoos. Remember, this was 20 years ago, before tattoos were ubiquitous and cool, when they still seemed kind of rebellious and dangerous. Every few years it seems that I find myself in New Orleans, but with each visit I find myself a lot tamer and a lot farther away from the Bourbon Street debauchery. I've grown up, I guess. Now when I visit, I steer clear of any frozen beverages and I'm all about finding some good local vegan fare and maybe a Trombone Shorty show. I've had some memorable and some not-so-memorable meals there, but one thing that has proven surprisingly hard to find is a good veggie po' boy sandwich.

I was thrilled to find this very authentic-sounding Mushroom Debris Po' Boy recipe online from The Chubby Vegetarian. It's even featured on the menu at The Second Line, a New Orleans po' boy Memphis, TN. So it might be still hard to find an authentic vegan po' boy in New Orleans after all. So go to Memphis! There's great music there too! Or better yet, just make this recipe at home! And eat it while watching Boyhood on Netflix.

The recipe starts out with slowly browning a mix of onion, celery, and carrots, then adding garlic, red wine, and thinly sliced portobello mushrooms. These all cook down with some vegetable stock, thyme, bay leaves, and other seasonings. The smell in my kitchen was heavenly. Mushrooms cooking with onion, garlic, and red wine... this combination takes me to my happy place. Then you heap the mushrooms onto some French bread rolls, along with sliced tomato, lettuce, pickles, some vegan mayo, mustard, and a dash of hot sauce if you like. Totally classic po' boy flavors. The mushrooms are meaty and umami, and juicy enough to run down your chin when you bite into the sandwich. Just like being back in N'awlins.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Oscar Noms #5: American Snicker

Sorry this picture is terrible. I will work on my candy-making skills so that they look as good as they taste.
Truth be told, it was tough figuring out a post to do for American Sniper. I will not get into the questionable politics of the film, as I am reserving judgement until I see it myself, and besides, this is a food blog, not a politics blog, so I'm going to keep it light and do what I do best: making good food and mediocre food puns.

If there is anything as American as a movie about the military and guns and stuff, it's a Snickers bar, right? Who didn't grow up eating those things? They are very nostalgic for me, but it's been a long time since I bought a candy bar that wasn't one of these or these. Ok, or one of these. So it's not that I'm at all opposed to candy bars, it's just that I buy only vegan and slightly less processed ones these days.

I had never attempted to make my own candy, until I came across this recipe for Vegan Snickers Bars from one of my all-time favorite blogs, Minimalist Baker. Seriously, Minimalist Baker has the greatest recipes and they are all super easy with a minimal number of ingredients, and totally delicious. They make me want to just give up on my own blog, they're that good. But hopefully, you'll stick with me and continue to read this one too.

So I made these homemade Snickers bars for my sweetie on Valentine's Day and they were just perfect. Did they look perfect? Nope. The caramel didn't really thicken as much as I would like, and the chocolate was trickier to work with than I expected. They were kind of a mess, and if we're being really honest they probably would qualify to be on this list. So I need some work on my confectionary decorating skills, but no matter, they were a sticky, sweet, chocolatey, totally decadent treat and we loved them. The "nougat" is made with a combination of dates and walnuts (I used cashews actually.) Then they are covered with a caramel, peanuts, and then chocolate. Did they taste exactly like Snickers? Nope! Did I care? Nope! They taste enough like them to perhaps make you reminisce about those candy bars of yore, but they are so delicious that you will enjoy them in their own right. So click on the link above to make these yourself, and enjoy. Just don't eat them while watching a war movie. Remember over at Vegan Good Things, we're lovers, not fighters.

Happy Belated Valentine's Day.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Oscar Noms #4: Grand Budapest (Hungarian) Goulash Soup

When thinking about what I wanted to make in honor of The Grand Budapest Hotel, naturally my mind initially went to the famous Mendl's "Courtesan au Chocolat," or chocolate cream-filled pastries that play such a significant role in the film. But alas, making a vegan pâte à choux is beyond my current baking skill level. Not to mention that I am still deep in the midst of unpacking my new apartment, and I haven't even found all my baking pans yet. Not that they would help me make such delicate pastries. So instead I decided on another Hungarian specialty, this one non-fictional, and made a nice big warm pot of Hungarian Goulash Soup. But if you want to attempt to make Mendl's Courtesan au Chocolat yourself, you can find the instructions and recipe here. Let me know if you do!

It's still icy and snowy here in NYC, so a big pot of soup is very much a part of our weekly menu still. I made this Beefless Stew before, which I love so much, and honestly I wasn't sure how different a goulash would be. Much to my surprise this is a whole different kind of stew. First, it's loaded with veggies - potato, carrot, parsnip, onion, celery, tomato, and green pepper. The caraway seeds and the sweet paprika add a wonderfully fragrant and distinctive flavor, and you will find yourself immediately transported to the snowy, alpine region of Zubrowka. Or Hungary. Or snowy Brooklyn. Wherever your heart desires. 

Hungarian Goulash
adapted from this recipe
makes 4-6 servings

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 1/2 tsp. caraway seeds
1 9-oz. package Gardein Beefless Tips
3 Tbsp. Hungarian sweet paprika
8 cups No Beef or vegetable broth
1 russet potato, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 parsnip, peeled, chopped
1 carrot, peeled, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 green bell pepper, cut into matchstick-size strips
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
6 Tbsp. vegan sour cream (like Follow Your Heart or Tofutti)

1. Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onion and caraway seeds and sauté until onion begins to soften, about 6 minutes. Add Beefless Tips and paprika; sauté until tips are brown on all sides, 4-5 minutes. 

2. Add broth, potato, parsnip, carrot, and garlic to pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, celery, and bell pepper. Simmer until vegetables are very tender, about 15 minutes longer. Cool slightly.

3. Transfer 3 1/2 cups soup to blender. Blend until smooth. Add to soup in pot. (Alternatively, use immersion blender.) Stir in parsley. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper. 

4. Ladle soup into bowls. Top each with 1 Tbsp. vegan sour cream. Curl up on the couch, pop in a Wes Anderson movie, and enjoy. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Oscar Noms #3: Whiphash (Brussels Sprout Hash with Caramelized Shallots)

This edition of Oscar Noms is in honor of the least-known nominee this year, Whiplash. Seriously, who has ever heard of Whiplash? I am actually into movies, and I'd never heard of it. Even more, after searching for info about this film online, I learned that this is a movie about musicians, something I am almost always interested in, and yet, nope, never heard of it. Seriously, did Sony's marketing department drop the ball on this one, or what?

At any rate, Whiplash is, apparently, the story of a student jazz drummer, learning from a real a-hole of a teacher at a music conservatory. And it got an Oscar nomination, after all, so I guess it's probably pretty good?

You know what's really, really good, that maybe you've never heard of either? Brussels Sprout Hash! Now, I've posted a few times about hash in the past (not that kind of hash), and I also posted my very favorite brussels sprout recipe way back ago, but this very simple recipe just might eclipse them all. It is the kind of magical recipe that sounds simple, maybe not that exciting, but is oh so much more than the sum of its parts. If you think you don't like the sprouts, please trust me on this one. The sweetness of the caramelized shallots with the earthiness of the crisped, browned Brussels... it is SO GOOD. I cooked this as a side dish along with tofu* and some rice, but I just stood in the kitchen, eating these by the spoonful. So please, please try this recipe. You'll thank me for it later.

Brussels Sprout Hash with Caramelized Shallots
adapted from this recipe

makes 4-6 servings

3 Tbsp. vegan butter, such as Earth Balance, divided
2 large shallots, thinly sliced
Salt & pepper
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 tsp. sugar
10-12 oz Brussels sprouts, trimmed
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup water

Melt 2 Tbsp. butter in medium skillet over medium heat. Add shallots; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté until soft and golden, about 6 minutes. Add vinegar and sugar. Stir until brown and glazed, 2-3 minutes.
Halve brussels sprouts lengthwise. Cut lengthwise into thin (1/8-inch) slices. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sprouts; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté until brown at edges, about 6 minutes. Add 1/2 cup water and remaining 1 Tbsp. butter. Sauté until most of water evaporates and sprouts are tender but still bright green, about 3 minutes. Add shallots; adjust salt and pepper if desired.

*I actually cooked some pressed tofu slices in the same pan I used to caramelize the shallots. The tofu picked up some of the flavors and got a nice, crisp, golden brown crust on it. I thought the tofu was going to be the main dish, but these Brussels really stole the show. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Oscar Noms #2: HummingBirdman Cake

If you are Southern, or into Southern food, you may be familiar with the Hummingbird Cake. It is a layer cake that includes a delectable combination of bananas, pineapple, and pecans, topped with a cream cheese frosting. My parents send me a big bag of pecans from their home every year, and this seemed like a great use for some of them, since I'm kind of pecan-pied-out from Thanksgiving and the holidays. Plus I love any dessert that features bananas, or pineapple, and this has both. And I made it as a tribute to Birdman, one of this year's most intriguing films, with a stellar cast. Although bananas, pineapple, pecans, and vegan cream cheese is a pretty stellar cast (of ingredients) too, if you ask me.

For this recipe, I simply veganized this one that I found online, apparently from the River House Tea Room in TX. This is the real deal, which is to say that although it is veganized it is NOT what would qualify as health food. There's plenty of sugar and vegan butter in it. But this blog has never been about dieting or weight loss, it's about good food. And this cake is delicious. So invite some friends over to help you eat it, and enjoy.

Hummingbird (Banana-Pineapple) Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
makes 10-12 servings

3 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 cup vegetable oil
3 1/2 tsp. Ener-G Egg Replacer, mixed with 6 Tbsp. water (equivalent of 3 eggs)
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups chopped bananas (from about 3 bananas)
1 cup chopped pecans
1 8-oz. can crushed pineapple with juice

2 8-oz. packages vegan cream cheese, room temperature (like Tofutti or Daiya brand)
1 cup vegan butter, room temperature (like Earth Balance)
2 - 3 cups powdered sugar (I found 2 to be sweet enough, but you may want to add more)
2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Use nonstick spray or vegan butter to grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans with 2-inch-high sides. Whisk first 5 ingredients in large bowl to blend. Whisk in oil, egg replacer, and vanilla. Stir in bananas, pecans, and pineapple. Divide batter equally between prepared pans. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on racks 10 minutes. Run knife around cake sides and turn out onto rack to cool completely.

2. Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl to blend. Beat in sugar and vanilla. Place 1 cake layer on plate. Spread 1 1/2 cups frosting over. Top with second cake layer. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. Sprinkle toasted pecans in border around top edge of cake. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill. Let stand at room temperature before serving.)