Vegan Oyster Sauce

In order to veganize some classic Chinese recipes, I need vegan oyster sauce.  Although there are supposedly some you can buy, I doubt I could find them locally.  I found this simple recipe on Food Dot Com and think it’s kind of genius.  It does taste remarkably like what I remember oyster sauce tasting like.  It takes about 5 minutes to make and will last for three months in the fridge.  I found a bag of kombu type seaweed at my local health food store for about $5 and it’s way more than I need; enough to share with someone.  And now I’m inspired to find other ways to use it.  Maybe I’ll perfect my own miso soup, and use it to salt various dishes.  I heard recently that Eden Organic uses kombu to salt their canned beans.  From the Wikipedia link above, I see that Kombu is a natural sort of MSG, and is the umami flavor we hear so much about now.  Below, I cut the original recipe in half, as this vegan oyster sauce will surely go bad before I could ever use it all.  This is my 19th post for Vegan Mofo, and I even posted during Hurricane Sandy, while praying that the power didn’t go out.
Vegan Oyster Sauce

Yield:  1 Cup

1/2 Cup soy sauce,  or tamari sauce
1/2 Cup mirin (often available in the Oriental section of grocery stores)
a very small piece of kombu or kelp dried seaweed, measuring one inch at most

Soak kombu in soy sauce and mirin overnight in an airtight container.
Remove kombu and discard (you now have a thin oyster sauce).
To thicken, place oyster sauce in smallest saucepan.
In a small, separate dish, mix 2 teaspoons corn starch with 2 teaspoons of water, until a smooth slurry forms.
Set oyster sauce on medium heat, add slurry and stir constantly until thickened  (This takes less than 5 minutes).
Cool, label with date, and store up to three months in fridge.

Notes:  I used Main Coast Sea Vegetables kelp, an American seaweed that is supposedly like the Japanese kombu.  Make sure to taste the vegan oyster sauce before adding it to dishes, as it is very salty (just like the regular oyster sauce with mollusks in it).  Adding shiitake mushroom stock enhances flavor, but is optional.  I think you could also use dried shiitakes to make a quick broth if you want to bother.

Salted Caramel Popcorn

I saw this recipe on Pinterest and it hails from My Vegan CookbookI have to give Josh credit for creating a recipe that is much lower in fat than the standard caramel popcorn (he uses an air popper and eliminates the oil).  Also, the recipe is dead simple and does not require a candy thermometer.  I did change a few minor things and added some nuts, but you don’t have to.  When I was trick-or-treating as a kid, if we were lucky, we’d come to a house where we’d receive large, homemade, gooey popcorn balls wrapped in waxed paper, and this brings back those memories just in time for Halloween.  This is my 18th post for Vegan Mofo 2012, phew.  For the last two days, I did not post because we’ve been getting ready for Hurricane Sandy here in the coastal areas of Maryland.
Salted Caramel Popcorn

1/2 Cup un-popped, organic popcorn kernels
1/2 Cup light brown sugar, packed
1 Tablespoon agave nectar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 Tablespoon Earth Balance Buttery Spread
1/4 Cup Unsweetened/First Pressing, canned Coconut Milk
        (I used Thai Kitchen brand)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 Cup of cocktail peanuts or dried fruit  (optional)
1/4 Cup of sliced almonds  (optional)

Preheat oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit.
Pop the popcorn in an air popcorn popper into a very large mixing bowl, like the largest one you have.
Mix any nuts and/or fruit into the popcorn and set aside.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Josh says oiling the pan is not enough; the caramel will still stick to the pan if you only use oil.

In a medium saucepan combine all other ingredients except vanilla.
Place on heat that is one-click-below-medium and stir constantly for 5 minutes.  Caramel should be bubbling well.
Remove from heat and carefully add vanilla while stirring, just in case it splutters a bit.

Drizzle caramel by the spoonful over the popcorn and stir well after each spoonful.
Spread caramel popcorn onto the prepared baking sheet and bake 15 minutes.
Remove from oven, mix popcorn gently with a spatula and return to oven for 10 more minutes.
Remove from oven.
Caramel will be soft but it will become crispy as it cools.

Notes:  You should link to the original recipe, because I have changed a few things.  This recipe is not quite sweet enough for me, so next time, I’ll probably make 50% more sauce and try rolling the popcorn into balls (after oiling my hands).  I’ll also add some dried cherries or some other extra goodies.  However, Lars likes a lighter, less-sugary popcorn and was really pleased with how light this is.  And so it’s his, all his, bwa ha ha.

Easy Refrigerator Dill Pickles

Here’s one of the best Dill Pickles I’ve ever eaten.  I used organic, pristinely-fresh, full-size cucumbers, and store-bought dill seed, to make this a year-round quick pickle.  By partially peeling and then slicing the cucumbers into spears, we now have a pickle that you can begin eating the next day.  The result is a crunchy, fresh, semi-raw-tasting pickle that’s addictive.  The original recipe appeared in the Dayton Daily News on August 14, 2006, but I cannot find the link and adapted my version from an old photocopy.   It’s one of those popular refrigerator-pickle recipes that’s probably not approved by the FDA.  However, my friend Gail has been making the original recipe for three years and nobody’s gotten sick yet, despite the fact that she refrigerates them for three to six months at a time.  When you consider, for example, the crocks of sauerkraut made around the world and stored in grubby basements, I think we’ll live.  You can find many recipes for refrigerator pickles online, on sites like and people are letting them sit in the fridge for months on end and even adding fresh veg into the jars of original brine.  Pickling is the oldest form of food preservation, but there’s a real rebirth of fermented foods going on here in the United States, as evidenced by the plethora of books published on the subject recently (just go on and type in “fermented foods“).  The original recipe is called “Cold Pack Dill Pickles” which is a bit of a misnomer, because supposedly, Cold Pack means using a water-bath canner instead of a pressure canner, but this simple recipe uses neither.  I’ve also reduced the salt a bit, added some mustard seeds and brought the yield down from 16 pints, to two quarts, which saves a lot of time and is fine for our home consumption.  Like my Pickled Red Onions, I’ll just make another quick batch when we’re out.  Thank you, Gail, for the original recipe, and all the fabulous garden produce you folks shared with us last summer.  Vegan Mofo 2012.
Easy Refrigerator Dill Pickles

Makes 2 quarts.

3 large, full-size, firm, fresh, organic cucumbers
(or four medium cukes)
3.5 Cups filtered water
1 Cup distilled white vinegar
3 Tablespoons fine sea salt
2 Tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons Dill seeds
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds (optional)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and halved

To make brine:
In a large saucepan or small stock pot, add water, vinegar, salt, and sugar.
Heat until good and hot, stirring to dissolve salt and sugar.
Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly.
Have 2 clean quart jars at the ready (or 4 pint jars).
Wash cucumbers carefully and partially peel them, leaving some green strips along the sides.  If the cucumbers are from a safe, organic garden (un-waxed cucumbers), peel them only lightly for visual appeal.
Cut the ends off each cucumber.
Cut each cucumber in half the short way, and then quarter each half into long spears.
Slice away at least half of the seeds from the length of each cucumber spear.
Rinse peeled garlic halves in hot water to make sure they’re clean, and divide the garlic between the two jars.
Add 1 teaspoon of Dill seeds to each jar.
Add 1/2 teaspoon of mustard seeds to each jar.
Place prepared cucumber spears vertically into jars, packing them in tightly.
Fill jars with the hot brine and then tighten the lids by hand.
Wipe jars dry and place them immediately into the fridge.
Supposedly, these keep in the refrigerator for 3 to 6 months.

Notes:  I always run my canning jars through the dishwasher with the other dishes to make sure they’re sterilized.  Make sure cutting board and knives are impeccably clean, etc.  The original recipe calls for chopping the garlic and adding 2 fresh dill sprigs to each jar.  It did not call for heating the brine, or peeling the cukes, and it recommended letting the completed pickles/jars sit out at room temperature for 24 hours, but I was too scared to do that, especially with the garlic in there.

Vegan Nut Bars

This Nut Bar is sort of like my old favorite, the Payday candy bar, which is unfortunately not vegan.  No worries, because this tastes way better.  The nuts and dried fruit can be mixed and matched here, using whatever you like.  The Lyle’s Golden Syrup, while British, is easily available in most U.S. grocery stores, and it adds a buttery unctuousness that’s hard to describe, with a slight caramel flavor.  The salt is a tiny bit intense but is an amazing foil against the sugar, and makes up the whole “salted nuts” flavor profile.  Any kind of nut combinations would do, so I plan to experiment with hazelnuts, pecans, etc., someday.   Vegan Mofo 2012.

Makes approximately 12 to 16 bars, depending upon how you cut them.

1 Earth Balance Buttery Stick  (1/2 Cup vegan butter)
1/2 Cup packed brown sugar
1/2 Cup Lyle’s Golden Syrup
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

2 Cups old fashioned rolled oats
1/4 Cup slivered almonds (also called blanched almonds)
1/4 Cup white sesame seeds
1/2 Cup cocktail peanuts
1/4 Cup raisins

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.    Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper  (cut the parchment paper slightly long so you will be able to grasp it to pull the baked-and-cooled bar mass out of the pan).

In a large bowl, combine oats, all nuts and dried fruit, and stir well.    In a small saucepan, combine vegan butter, brown sugar, syrup and salt over medium heat.
Cook, stirring, just until you see a bubble or two, about 5 minutes, and remove from heat.   Add syrup mixture to oat/nut mixture, stir well and press evenly into prepared pan.    Bake 20 to 25 minutes, making sure edges turn golden brown, but do not burn.  Place pan on rack and allow mixture to fully cool in the pan, so it can harden and set.   Lift nut-bar mass onto a cutting board and cut into bars.  I used a long, sharp knife.   Store in airtight container with wax paper between the layers, so they don’t end up stuck together.  Chill in fridge, which will harden them a bit and make them less likely to fall apart.  Or freeze.

Notes:  Mix and match, use any combination of nuts and fruit you like!  Wrap in wax paper for the best lunchbox or road trip snack ever.

Puff Pastry Squash Tart with Almond Feta

This rich, savory tart is great for lunch, brunch or even a fancy dinner.  The Almond Feta from a previous post provides lots of protein and antioxidants.  And honestly, it tastes a lot like feta in this dish, but better.  I put this together in under one hour, so we could have it for lunch, and it made 6 generous slices.  The only phyllo style sheets I could find were Pepperidge Farm brand, but it worked out.  I looked at the Trader Joe’s phyllo recently, and was disappointed to see that it was NOT vegan.  I did use Penzey’s Greek Seasoning, but you could just improvise with lemon zest, oregano, and marjoram.  Lars had to have another half a slice, so depending upon whom you’re feeding (and what else you’re serving), the yield does vary.  Another photo below.  Vegan Mofo 2012.

Serves 4 to 6

1/3 Cup chopped parsley (flat leaf or regular)
1 teaspoon Penzey’s Greek Seasoning
1 garlic clove, crushed and minced
3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 small zucchini, cut into 1/8 inch thick rounds
2 small summer squash, cut into 1/8 inch thick rounds
one package Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets, thawed
1/3 Cup Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced the long way
1/2 Cup Almond Feta, divided in half

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Make sure Puff Pastry sheets are thawed but very chilled.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a small bowl, stir together parsley, Greek Seasoning,  garlic, only 2 Tablespoons of the oil, salt and pepper.
Place squash rounds in a large bowl, and add the remaining Tablespoon of oil and only 1/4 Cup of the Almond Feta, and mix well with a wooden spoon.
Unfold one sheet of puff pastry/phyllo and place on parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
Unfold second sheet of pastry, and slice off long, one-inch-wide strips and use them to build up the edges of the bottom sheet of phyllo  (see photo below).  I built mine up twice.  Visualize a picture frame.
Spread parsley mixture all over the bottom phyllo sheet.
Spread zucchini and squash rounds on top of the parsley.
Top with sliced olives and the remaining 1/4 Cup of Almond Feta.
Bake 30 minutes, until phyllo crust is golden brown.
Cut into six pieces, garnish with a light sprinkle of tiny oregano leaves (optional).

Notes:  It is important that the squash slices be cut no thicker than 1/8 inch, so that it cooks through with everything else.  In hindsight, I would cut the kalamata olives lengthwise (not in rings) as it would be prettier.

Here below is a photo of the built-up pastry edges.

Vegan Spiced Parsnip Bread

Here’s a delicious, unusual little quick bread, perfect for Fall.  The slightly-spicy parsnips create sort of an Autumnal zucchini bread.  Due to the sugar and perhaps to the generous greasing of the loaf pan, there’s a thin caramelization on the outside of the crust that’s pleasantly chewy.  Zap it in the microwave and put a little Earth Balance vegan butter on it, and it’s surprisingly good.  Vegan Mofo 2012.
Vegan Spiced Parsnip Bread

Makes one loaf,  serves 8-10

1.5 Cups all-purpose flour
1.5 teaspoons Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 Cup white sugar
1/2 Cup brown sugar
1/2 pound parsnips (about 2 medium), peeled and finely grated  (I used a little food processor for this)
1/3 Cup Safflower oil, or some other oil
2 Tablespoons flax seed meal plus 6 Tablespoons of water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 Cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Mix flax seed meal and water well, and set aside to thicken.
Generously grease a 9×5 inch or 8×4 inch loaf pan.  I generously sprayed my loaf pan with cooking spray laced with flour.
In a medium bowl, dry whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice and salt.
In a large bowl, stir/mix together sugars, parsnips, nuts, oil, flax-seed binder liquid, and vanilla.
Add flour mixture to parsnip mixture and stir well.
Spoon batter into pan, pressing batter gently into pan with your hands.
Bake 55 minutes, until a straw or knife comes out clean.
Remove from oven and cool in pan for 15 minutes.
Invert onto baking rack to cool further.

Notes:  I like to use a Caffe Latte Frother or tiny whisk for my flax seed mixtures.  My pan was 9×5 inches (regarding cooking time).  The flax seed liquid is a must, as it’s the binder in the recipe.

Moroccan Stuffed Acorn Squashes

These Moroccan Stuffed Acorn Squashes can be made ahead to save time before dinner.  This protein-packed dish would be lovely for any Autumnal meal, or even Thanksgiving.  The Middle-Eastern ingredients are lightly spiced, and the raisins add chewy sweetness as a foil against the savory broth.  Instead of ground beef, I used chopped walnuts.  Walnuts provide not only extra protein and omegas, but a rich meatiness that pushes this into the main-dish arena.  For those who are avoiding gluten, you could easily substitute quinoa for the bulgur.  You could also add a cup of Beyond Beef Crumbles, or other vegan protein, if you want to.  Vegan Mofo 2012.
Moroccan Stuffed Acorn Squashes

Serves 4

2 small Acorn squashes
1/2 Cup bulgur wheat  (or cooked quinoa)
1 Cup vegetable broth  (I used Better Than Bouillon)
1/3 Cup golden raisins
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 Cup flat-leaf parsley, stems removed, chopped fine
1/2 Cup raw walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Heat one Cup of vegetable broth.
Put bulgur in a small bowl, pour in only 3/4 Cup of the steaming broth over the bulgur, and cover and wait 30 to 45 minutes.
Pour the remaining 1/4 Cup of hot broth over the raisins and set them aside to plump.

You will now pre-bake the squash so it’s easy to cut into.
Wash acorn squashes and set them in a baking dish with 1/2 inch of water.  Find the place where you will cut each squash in half and then pierce along that invisible line several times, to let steam escape.
Bake squashes for 35 minutes.
Remove from oven and carefully slice along your previous perforations with a sharp knife to create a continuous slit.
Bake 30 more minutes and then remove from oven to cool.

In a pot, heat oil and add onion and cook about 5 minutes.
Add garlic, spices and salt, and cook another minute or so.
Add hydrated bulgur and cook until any excessive moisture (if there is any) is gone, maybe 3 to 5 minutes.
Remove from heat, add parsley and walnuts and stir well.
Drain raisins and fold them into the bulgur mixture.
Scrape out the cooled squashes, forming squash bowls, and fold the squash meat into the bulgur mixture in the pot.
With a spoon, mix gently but well, and fill each squash bowl with stuffing.
You can now refrigerate these to bake later, if you want to.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Place stuffed squashes side by side in a baking dish and bake until warmed through and tops are browned, about 20 minutes or so.  If squashes have been chilling, it might take longer.

Notes:  I used Bob’s Red Mill 100% Whole Grain Quick Cooking Bulgur.  All I had in the house were regular raisins, so the photo reflects that.

Vegan Molasses Cookies

These classic American molasses cookies are going in the mail tomorrow to my father in-law in the Midwest, for his 80th birthday.  They are a bit like him, progressive but still a bit old fashioned.   No eggs or dairy butter, but still with all the traditional flavor.  Happy Birthday, George, wish we could be there for the big day!


Makes 48 to 50 cookies

4 Cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1.5 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 Earth Balance Buttery Stick (1/2 Cup vegan butter)
1/2 Cup vegetable shortening, such as Spectrum brand
1 Cup white sugar
1/2 Cup brown sugar
1/2 Cup unsulfured molasses
3 teaspoons Ener-G powder plus 4 Tablespoons water (egg substitute)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, ginger, cloves and cinnamon.
Mix Ener-G together to a froth, and set aside.
In another large bowl, beat with an electric mixer butter, shortening, sugars and molasses until fluffy, like for several minutes on medium to high speed.
Add Ener-G mixture and beat again.
Gradually add flour mixture, and combine well.
In small shallow bowl put 1/3 Cup sugar.
Using a measuring tablespoon, form dough balls and flatten them slightly and roll in the sugar.
On baking sheets, arrange cookies 3 inches apart.
Bake in middle of oven for 13 minutes at most, or until risen and slightly cracked.
Cookies should be soft because they will harden as they cool.
Cool on baking sheets for 3 minutes or so.
Transfer to racks to cool.
You can try one batch at 12 minutes for a softer cookies the next day.   (Vegan Mofo 2012)

Earl Grey Poached Pears

I recently got the cookbook The Vegan Slow Cooker by Kathy Hester.  These Earl Grey Poached Pears are the first thing I’ve made in my 4 quart, oval Crock Pot.  You end up with a thin floral sauce that could easily be cooked down to a thicker syrup on the stove top.  While we ate them plain, I think these pears also would be great chopped up on top of hot oatmeal, in pancakes or crepes, or over some vegan ice cream.  I’m a tea addict, and have made side trips to Fortnum and Mason, Mariage Freres, etc.  While I normally only drink oolong or green teas, with the occasional Darjeeling debacle, I do like the Earl Grey here.  That faint scent of roses on the melting, sandy pears.  I actually doubled up on the tea bags and we both liked the result.  I have a bunch of other recipes marked in this cookbook to try.  So for Vegan Mofo 2012, I’m recommending this cookbook.  It’s really got me thinking.

Squash Curry Soup

Here’s a beautiful Fall soup with warming Indian spices for the cold weather.  It takes advantage of the early Butternut squashes, and it makes 4 pints,  so some can go in the freezer.  I originally saw Padma Lakshmi making this soup on the Martha Stewart show back in 2006 (video here).  I made her version but we could not take that level of heat and spice, so this is milder and does not obliterate the taste of the squash itself.  Use my easy method of baking-before-cutting, and you won’t have to struggle with a knife and a fresh, rock-hard squash.  Vegan Mofo 2012.
Squash Curry Soup

Makes about 4 pints, serves 6-8

2.5 lb. Butternut squash, baked and seeded (yields 1.3 pounds, supposedly)
1 Tablespoon oil
1 large onion diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
1 teaspoon fresh ginger grated
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon turmeric (optional)
1 Bay leaf
1.25 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 Cups vegetable broth (I used Better Than Bouillon)
1 Tablespoon palm sugar  (or brown sugar)
15 oz. can low-fat coconut milk

Wash and pierce squash, and set in a glass baking dish with 1/2 inch of water.
Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour.
Cool squash, and discard seeds.
Peel, and chop squash meat into a bowl.
In a Dutch oven or stock pot on medium heat, heat oil and cook onions for 3 to 5 minutes.
Add ginger, garlic, cayenne, curry, and turmeric, and stir another minute.
Add squash, salt, vegetable broth and Bay leaf, and cook 5 more minutes.
Add palm sugar and coconut milk, and cook 5 more minutes.
Remove Bay leaf from the pot.
Now you have a choice; you can use a potato masher or immersion blender to make the soup however chunky or smooth you like.
Or you can cool the soup and then puree it in a blender for later.

Garnish with curry leaves, chives, pumpkin seeds, croutons, etc.

Notes:  I would prefer 1/2 teaspoon cayenne, but Lars doesn’t like it that hot, so I just use a little Sriracha at the table.  If making this for kids, definitely keep the cayenne and ginger light.

Cornflake Chocolate Chip Marshmallow Cookies

Described as “a bowl of cereal, s’more and cookie all rolled into one,” this famous treat is sold at Momofuku Milk Bar in New York City.  This vegan version of the Cornflake Chocolate Chip Marshmallow Cookies by Christina Tosi took me two tries to make.  On the first batch I followed her amounts and directions and the cookies were thin, flat, greasy and overly salty.  I found her recipe short on flour, oily, and under leavened, and of course I was using an egg substitute.  So, I added flour, bumped up the leavening, reduced the fat and salt, substituted the egg, veganized the Cornflake Crunch, and used vegan marshmallows.  In future, I will add a touch more flour, and reduce the sugar a little (these are so packed with sugar that you would never miss it).  I made normal size cookies, not the 15 to 20 giant cookies specified in the original recipe.  I also chilled the dough in a bowl overnight instead of chilling individual cookies on sheets because, who the hell has room for that?  So, the conclusion is that these are now so decadent and different that it was worth it.  They are crunchy and have little hits of velvety chocolate and pockets of baked marshmallow that are not gooey but almost meringue’y.  Took these to Book Club last night, and froze a bunch.  These are the wow cookies for a special occasion, not something you really want hanging around the house!  Another photo below.
Cornflake Chocolate Chip Marshmallow Cookies

Please note that this cookie dough MUST sit in the fridge overnight, or they will just spread all over the baking sheet.  Also, it requires making the Cornflake Crunch first.

Makes 60-65 normal-size cookies

1.5 Cups Earth Balance Buttery Sticks, at room temperature
1.25 Cups granulated sugar
2/3 Cup packed brown sugar
Ener-G Egg Replacer to equal one egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 Cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
3/4 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/4 teaspoon Baking Soda
3 Cups Corn flake Crunch
2/3 Cups vegan chocolate chips
1 Cup Dandies Vegan Marshmallows  (minis, or cut the regular size ones in half with scissors)

In a small mixing bowl, dry whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the vegan butter and both sugars on medium-high speed, 2 to 3 minutes.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add egg substitute and vanilla, and beat for 7 to 8 more minutes.
Reduce speed to low and add flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda.  Mix just until dough comes together, no longer than one minute.
Scrape down sides of bowl with spatula.
With the mixer on low, add Cornflake Crunch and chocolate chips, and mix until just combined, 30 to 45 seconds.
Add mini vegan marshmallows  (or regular size Dandies cut in halves or thirds) and mix until just incorporated.
Place dough in airtight container and chill overnight or up to one week.  Do not skip this step or cookies will spread on the baking sheet.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Shape cookies using a round measuring Tablespoon.
Flatten cookies slightly.
Bake approximately 12-13 minutes until puffed, cracked and slightly browned on the edges.
Let cool on baking sheets at least 5 minutes.
Tosi says these cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to five days, and frozen for up to one month.

Note:  If you cannot find the mini vegan marshmallows, it’s important to cut the Dandies in halves and/or thirds.  The marshmallow puffs and spreads as it bakes, so if you want any uniformity in your cookies, this is what I recommend.  To save time, make the Cornflake Crunch a day early and measure out your dry ingredients into a jar the night before.

Armenian Lentil Apricot Soup

IMG_1948    This easy soup has had a little food buzz lately, and I was intrigued because the idea of lentil soup had never appealed to me before.  I found three recipes online, one being from The Armenian Kitchen.  I took what I wanted from each recipe and the result is really good.  I switched out the green bell pepper for a red bell pepper, but this soup is very versatile and you can do whatever you like.  The key here is the sweet and chewy dried-apricot flavor and texture, in contrast with the heat and spice and hearty lentils.  The bonus is that lentils are so nutritionally dense; very high in protein, fiber, iron, folate and other goodies.  And Red Lentils are hulled (decorticated), so they cook relatively quickly.  I added the turmeric just because it’s an anti-inflammatory, and it gives a golden glow, but you don’t really taste it (it’s optional).   This is a pretty soup for Vegan Mofo 2012!
Armenian Lentil Apricot Soup

Serves 6

1.5 Cups dried red lentils
6 Cups water
2 teaspoons Better Than Bouillon  (or some other bouillon)
1/2 Cup chopped dried apricots
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 medium to large onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/8 teaspoon coriander
1/8 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon turmeric (optional)
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 Tablespoon paprika

Add water and bouillon to a stock pot.
Rinse lentils, add them to the pot and bring to a boil.
Skim off any foam.
Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
Watch the pot, because mine almost boiled over!
Meanwhile, in a skillet, saute the onion in the oil until it’s translucent.
To the onion, add the bell pepper, spices and salt, and cover and cook for 10 minutes.
Stir the sauteed vegetables and the chopped apricots into the lentil soup and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
Taste the soup to make sure the lentils are done.
Garnish with any of the following:  croutons, toasted almonds, a drizzle of vegan cream, finely chopped mint, etc.

Vegan Meltable Muenster Cheese

Vegan Mofo 2012 is keeping me on my toes, but it’s also motivating me to try things that have been on my wish list for a while.  After doing the post on Rejuvelac, I of course, decided to try Myoko Schinner’s vegan Meltable Muenster, which requires no Rejuvelac or culturing.  It’s in her category of Meltable Cheeses, and I can attest that it’s very quick to make.  You can find this recipe online, but her newest cookbook, Artisan Vegan Cheese, is sort of fascinating so I really recommend buying this one, or have Santa bring it to you.  Below are my experiences with this particular cheese, which is only one of many in her book.
It’s easy and fast.  You don’t need a fancy blender; any one would do.

I did not use soy yogurt because I didn’t have any on hand.  I used Amande almond yogurt, the Plain flavor.  I took the lid off the yogurt and it was very watery, so I whisked it with a fork until it came back together, before measuring it into the blender.

I used a small, heavy-bottom stock pot and had no problem with the mixture sticking.  For me, this came together on the stove like magic, in about three minutes of constant whisking.  I’m guessing the Kappa Carrageenan is responsible for this wizardry.  First it’s liquid and then all of a sudden it’s looking and feeling like melted mozzarella.  It even stretches and gets stringy on the whisk.

The finished cheese is very creamy and mild, and would be good with something else.  Myoko recommends putting it on a sandwich or eating it with apples, pears and crackers.  I could see making some little canapes with this and garnishing the top with something salty, like a tiny caper, or a thin slice of olive or something.  I’m going to try it on a  sandwich and see what’s up.  Where dairy Muenster is mild (I remember it to be mild), this is even milder in taste.

Here below are photos of gathering Carrageenan on gorgeous Prince Edward Island, Canada.  Some years ago, Lars and I spent part of an afternoon watching this harvesting process, which seemed to be just a mom-and-pop deal.  Carrageenan is in a lot of products we use every day, such as toothpaste, and I ordered mine from Modernist Pantry, as Myoko recommended.


Vegan Cornflake Crunch a La Momofuku

Corn Flake Crunch is a mixture that Chef Christina Tosi uses to make her Cornflake Chocolate Chip Marshmallow Cookies from the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook.  Here, I’ve easily veganized and improved it.  I’ve also veganized several other Momofuku recipes on this site, such as the Blueberry and Cream Cookies,  the Milk Bar Compost Cookies and even the Momofuku Pork Buns.  Just to remind you,  Kellogg’s Corn Flakes are not vegan, and they are not even vegetarian.  Due to the over-hyped Vitamin D demand, they are now using Lanolin in their cereals.  There are great cruelty-free sources of Vitamin D-2 by companies like DevaVegLife, Freeda, and others.  Vegan Mofo 2012.

Vegan Cornflake Crunch

Makes 4 Cups

5 ounces Erewhon Corn Flakes vegan cereal
1/2 Cup Better Than Milk powder
3 Tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 stick Earth Balance Buttery Sticks (4 oz.), melted

Preheat oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a small bowl, dry whisk the soy milk powder, sugar and salt.
Place cornflakes in a mixing bowl and using your hands, crush them to 1/4 of their original size.
To the Corn Flakes, add vegan milk powder, sugar and salt, and toss to combine.
Add melted butter and stir to mix well.
Spread Cornflake mixture in an even layer on prepared baking sheet.
Bake until corn flakes are toasted and buttery, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Remove from oven and cool completely.

Notes:  Tosi says that Cornflake Crunch can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week, and refrigerated or frozen for up to one month.

Easy Marinated Tofu Steaks

These Marinated Tofu Steaks are for any application; wraps, Banh Mi sandwiches, salads, stir fries, etc.  I’ve made various marinated tofu recipes and they’ve all been too strong for my taste, so I created my own this morning.  Take a basic pack of organic extra-firm tofu, press, drain, marinate and fry it up, and that’s it.  The meat industry has done a good job of scaring people off soy, but it’s mostly wrong information they dispense, unless we’re talking about the genetically-modified, pesticide-laden freak soy that industry giants like Monsanto pump out.  Studies have proven that soy does NOT cause breast cancer (on the contrary), or cause the feminization of males, or any of the other stupid claims.  Whereas studies HAVE proven that meat and dairy cause cancer.  Hello, haven’t we all seen Forks Over Knives, or read The China Study? Anyway, DO be sure to buy only USDA Organic tofu and soy milk, and you’ll be better than fine.
(Vegan Mofo 2012)   p.s.  Be sure to check out the Maple Smoked Tofu Steaks, also on this site, they’re my favorite.
Marinated Tofu Steaks

one package extra-firm organic Tofu
1/4 Cup Cooking Sherry (or any type of vinegar)
2 Tablespoons Tamari or soy sauce
2 Tablespoons water
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated

Drain tofu, and press it to expel the water out of it.
I use my Tofu Xpress to really press it well.
Mix all other ingredients and put them in a little glass dish.
Slice pressed-and-drained tofu into two steaks (see photo).
Place tofu steaks in marinade and chill in fridge, turning the tofu steaks every now and then.
Marinate for an hour, or several hours.
Remove tofu steaks from the marinade and place them directly into a non-stick skillet on medium heat, or one click below medium heat, and fry on both sides until golden brown.  You’ll need to eyeball the heat, and the frying may take a good 15 minutes or more.  You do not need oil in the skillet because of the oil in the marinade.
Slice and use.

Here’s a marinated tofu and veggie wrap with hummus, kale, carrot batons, and cucumber sticks that were sprinkled with rice vinegar and chilled.  So good for lunch or dinner.  You do not get that sleepy or stuffed feeling after eating this for lunch.  Fresh mushrooms would also be good in this.

Harvesting Chestnuts

Inspired by Vegan Mofo 2012, today we went Chestnut picking for the first time ever.  Here in Maryland, we’ve had a warm Autumn so far and there are a lot of chestnuts already on the ground.  The old trees we picked from have probably never been pruned, or sprayed.  After reading conflicting instructions online, we picked up perfect-looking chestnuts off the ground, and gently shook some branches until other chestnuts fell.  I devised a system where we would lay down an old sheet on the ground and the freshly-fallen nuts would be easily seen.  Standing under the venerable old tree, I’d hear a thunk every few minutes, and another chestnut or two would fall.  The ground was littered with old burrs and nuts, but we got good at tracking the falling chestnuts with our eyes so we could pick the freshly-fallen ones right up.  There’s a lot of chestnut information on sites like eHow.  Here are some theories that are interesting:

Chestnuts should be observed all through September and October.  It can take five weeks for all the nuts to fall from the time the first nuts drop.  Observe and pick up nuts each day so they don’t sit on the ground too long.

Chestnuts fall when they are ready and fully ripe.  They do some critical ripening in the two weeks prior to dropping, so do not pick or shake from the tree (oops).

Some supplies to bring with you for harvesting are a sheet or tarp, heavy gloves, a bag or two to hold your harvest, and bug spray.  Now that I have a fine kettle of chestnuts, I must figure out what to do with them.


Just for Vegan Mofo, I’m going to discuss a hot topic, and something I had not heard of until recently; rejuvelac.  I will discuss here why to make rejuvelac, how it can go horribly wrong, and the various paraphernalia one obsessive person can end up buying in the quest for cultured vegan cheese.  I recently bought the new vegan cookbook Artisan Vegan Cheese by Myoko Schinner.  I have not been this excited about a vegan cookbook in over a year.  It seems cheese is the stumbling block and reason why many vegetarians don’t just go vegan already.  Not so surprising when you consider the natural pregnancy hormones present in any dairy product.  These powerful hormones are there to draw the calf back to the teat, and they are natural, not added.  Any cow giving milk is impregnated over and over for her whole life until slaughter, because unless a cow is lactating and giving birth, she cannot give milk.  So, these natural opiates in cheese and dairy are no joke;  the dairy addiction is not all mental.    I recently posted the most delicious non-cultured Almond Feta, and it’s a total classic in my opinion.  However, it’s not cultured like dairy cheese or yogurts are.  What sets Myoko’s cheeses apart is the culturing, which is done by the use of natural probiotics, which is exactly what rejuvelac is.  You soak grains, then rinse them twice a day until they sprout, which takes about 24 hours.  Then you put water over them, and just let them sit with air circulation until the natural fermentation of these grains creates a probiotic situation in the water.  If you don’t know what probiotics are, it’s good bacteria, the kind that helps humans digest food, etc.  There are entire books written on this stuff, trust me.  Anyway, so in my little town on the sleepy Eastern Shore of Maryland, I went in search of the requisite wheat berries to ferment my very first batch of rejuvelac.  Myoko’s instructions are very simple, and as it turns out, a tiny bit too simple.  You see, I could only find wheat berries in the bulk section of our little health food store, and my rejuvelac ended up stinking to high heaven, and I mean it literally reeked of totally rotten cheese or something, or rancid vomit.  Horrified, I dumped it out and started over.  Same thing.  Rejuvelac is super simple to make, despite tricky-looking instructions on some sites.  So, I went to my Internet guru–You Tube.  And found some great videos there, like this one,  and this one,  and this one.  Once I watched these videos, I realized I should be using something called Soft White Wheat Berries (not mentioned in Myoko’s rejuvelac recipe).  Also, my local health food store bulk section probably does not get the turnover it should, and my original regular brown wheat berries were probably stale.  It was also helpful to see the rinsing and draining process, which was different from what was explained in the book (in the videos, the jars were tilted to really drain well to avoid mold).  I only had about 15 minutes of actual hands-on effort in each rejuvelac batch, but rejuvelac takes a few days to develop, so I lost some time there.  For my first two batches, I was covering the jars with cheesecloth, which did shed some little cotton fibers into the rejuvelac also.  So, I went to the online site Sprout People and ordered some nifty Screen Lids for the jars.  I thought about making my own screen lids, but read that the metal jar rings do rust.  After watching several amazing documentaries, such as The Vanishing of The Bees,  and Food Beware: The French Organic Revolution,  and King Corn, I absolutely knew I should be using organic wheat berries.  So, I found Purcell Mountain Farms and ordered Organic Soft White Wheat Berries,  and just for the hell of it, Organic Rye Berries, since the food buzz on You Tube is that the rye rejuvelac tastes the best.  I ordered a pound of each, plenty to launch my experiments.  Then there are other interesting things to order, such as Carrageenan from Modernist Pantry.  Be aware that one should order Kappa Carrageenan, (not Iota).  This fact was also not explained until I looked in the very back of the cookbook, but luckily, I had heard on You Tube that I should order the Kappa variety.  I might have also gotten my Agar Powder from Modernist Pantry, but I can’t recall.  I was able to get Xanthan gum and miso paste at my local hfs.  Other items I purchased in this relentless pursuit are Tapioca Flour, non-dairy yogurt, refined organic coconut oil, etc.  Phew, I think I am done.  Luckily, rejuvelac keeps in the fridge for weeks, so now I am set to begin.  The good news is that there are recipes in Artisan Vegan Cheese that are “Almost-Instant,” and all the recipes look easy, but you need various ingredients.  You can find some of these recipes in the October 2012 issue of VegNews (The Cheese Issue), and some articles on sites like Vegansaurus, and additional notes on one of Myoko’s web sites.  So, my final batch of rejuvelac came out perfect, and it does NOT smell bad.  It smells of grains and water, and it tastes mild, with only a faint taste of lemon, like you have to think about it to associate lemon with it.  And I let this third batch sit for three full days (a day longer than the two bad batches), so I know I gave it enough time and it still did not go bad.  So, the talk about it tasting like lemonade eludes me.  Wish me luck and stay tuned for the results this month.  After all this, I’m still totally fascinated.

Banana Pecan Pancakes

OK, here’s my first recipe to kick off Vegan Mofo 2012.  I have never made a vegan pancake before, so what better time to try it.  This recipe is from Vegan Goddess Sarah Kramer, and it was in her awesome 2011 calendar.  This recipe is easy and delicious, and I could also see these going sort of Elvis; slathered with peanut butter and eaten like a sandwich with vegan bacon.  Hot damn.
Banana Pecan Pancakes

Makes about 6 pancakes.

1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1 Cup vegan milk
1 banana
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 chopped pecans

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.
In a blender, blend the milk, banana(s) and vanilla until smooth.
Pour wet ingredients into flour mixture and add pecans.
Stir together until “just mixed.”
Put a little pat of vegan butter into a non-stick pan on Medium heat.
Using a 1/4 Cup measure, portion batter into pan, and cover.
Let sit on medium heat until the center starts to bubble or become sturdy.  Mine took about two minutes per side.
Flip and cook the other side until golden brown.
Repeat process until batter is gone.

Notes:  You can keep these pancakes warm in an oven set to 175 degrees Fahrenheit.  I dusted mine with powdered sugar and used this amazing maple syrup from NH, which you can easily have shipped to you.  Lars really liked these pancakes but suggested he would also like some little chunks or slices of banana in there too (he loves banana), so I’ll definitely do that next time.  A time-saving tip would be to measure out the dry ingredients into a little jar the night before.