Friday, April 30, 2010

A Moment of Silence for the Loyal Little Vegan Bacon Avocado Cheeseburger

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We miss you already dear friend.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Betty Crocker Project : Tuna Casserole

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The world is big and wonderful place. It is full of so many possibilities - some a little weirder than others - this is true of mock fish as well.

After years and years of food scientists all over the world slaving away over hot plates in laboratories and spaceship kitchens, vegans now have numerous mock and faux fish choices* and many of them don't even come close to resembling fish. Keeping this in mind, Dan and I invited several brave friends over to sample Betty's Tuna Casserole made with Fish Ham - a surprisingly delicious faux fish from May Wah. Our good buddy, Kim (IDA's Vegan All-Star for March) brought over vegan Caesar Salad. She made it using the Post Punk Kitchen Recipe and it was perhaps the fastest Caesar Salad this side of the Mississippi. We drank a few bottles white wine - since we were kinda eating seafood and talked for hours about Dune, casted super hero movies if qualifications, the space-time continuum and salary were no object and other such nerdery. Scott was allowed to leave with our beloved Red Son after signing over his soul. We told a few anecdotes from our younger years. I admitted that for several years, I had thought Dr.Pepper was only available at Mexican restaurants and we all had a good laugh . . . but seriously though - nothing goes better with Mexican food than Dr. Pepper.
We ate maybe WAY more than we should have. . . even Marta (cookbook author and adamant faux seafood dissenter) ate a big plate of it and LIKED IT! There a few things I might have done differently and I'll note those below but all and all this was a really good casserole that you could make with almost any kinda of mock meat or marinated tofu and feed a lot of people!

We really hope you like it too. We also encourage anyone who reads this to have their own Fake Tuna Casserole Party! We think they are the new wine tasting.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Betty Crocker Project : Coq Au Vin

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So I went with the cooking photo rather than the dinner table photo because even when you make the original Coq Au Vin correctly it looks kinda less than super.  When it all gets spilled onto a plate and garnished, you miss the carrots, the perfect mushrooms and those cute little pearl onions. . . and THE BOUQUET GARNI

I have never made one of those before.  Rather than the traditional French way of tying the herbs with a string I followed Betty's instructions to put the herbs in a tea ball infuser. . . which wasn't as cute but worked. She also had other suggestions like putting the herbs in a small cloth bag or using cheesecloth. I have to admit this recipe was kinda one of the hardest things I have ever made. . . mostly because I have never actually eaten the meaty version and it is a dish that people have such strong feelings about.

There are all these stories that Coq Au Vin was a dish that can be traced back to ancient Gaul and Julius Caesar but many think that this might be an attempt to add a little distinction and history to an old rustic French farm dish. Anyone who has been to Paris and seen all those columns and statues of generals with laural wreath halos and paintings of women in togas knows the French really love themselves some Romans.

But that is not the only controversy surrounding Coq Au Vin. Anyone who watches Top Chef can remember Season 3's BIG Coq Au Vin debate. See "Coq" is French for "Rooster" and if you are making it with anything else you are suppose to address it as such. So out of respect for French people - who I adore (except that waiter in Paris who was super rude to us when we ordered glasses of wine rather than a bottle so we could sample a bunch of different types) and any other foodies who have found us, please enjoy our Seitan au Vin

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Betty Crocker Project : Chicken Chow Mein

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So I was working on this joke that went something like this: You don't like Fake Chicken Chow Mein? What are you a Commie?

But I just couldn't really get it to come together and it seemed somewhat insensitive to people who are being exploited in China as well as people with a irrational phobia leftover from The Cold War. I'll get back to you if something inspired happens.

This recipe makes a lot of food and there's none of the MSG you get from those FABULOUS Chinese take-out spots that fry their tofu "chicken" into little nuggets. You know the ones that also have disgusting bags of chicken wings and Mexican sodas. I love those places. They are usually really sweet about leaving out the fish and oyster sauces, you can watch them make your food and are eager to make vegan spring rolls and serve mock meat as long as you promise to tell your friends. Alas - without the MSG there is a bit of blandness that is easy to fix with some Braggs Amino Acids. 
  • 10 Pieces of Fake Chicken (We are still using these from May Wah but really any vegan chicken - Seitan, Morningstar Chick'n Strips or Gardein will do)
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil for cooking
  • 1 Cup of Carrots (cut into coins)
  • 1 Cup of Celery (chopped into large pieces)
  • 1/2 of 1 Red Onion (chopped)
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic
  • 1 Can (8oz) of Sliced Water Chestnuts (drained)
  • 1/2 Cup of Cashews
  • 1/2 Cup of Baby Corn 
  • 1 Can of Bamboo Shoots
  • 1 Cup of Better Than Bouillon (Vegetable Broth - prepared using the directions on the package)
  • 4 Tablespoons of Braggs ( you may want to add 2 at fist and then add more till you like the flavor)
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Minced Ginger (you may want to add 1/4 a teaspoon first and then add another if you want more flavor)
  • 2 Tablespoon Corn Starch
  • 1 Cup of White Mushrooms (halved)
  • 1 Cup of Pea Pods
  • Chow Mein Noodles 
  • Rice (optional)

In a wok heat, Olive Oil at a medium heat. Add the Fake Chicken and cook until both sides are brown and crispy. Remove Fake Chicken and set aside on a plate with a paper towel to soak up extra oil. 

Throw Carrots, Celery, Onion, Garlic, Water Chestnuts, Mushrooms, Cashews, Baby Corn and Bamboo Shoots, Pea Pods to the oil and cook. Keep turning the vegetables so they cook evenly. 

In a bowl mix Vegetable Broth, Soy Sauce, Corn Starch and Ginger. Whisk the mix until smooth. Add Fake Chicken to the bowl and mix till the Fake Chicken is covered. Then add to the cooking vegetables. Be sure and pour all the Soy Sauce mix into the vegetables. Keep turning to make sure everything gets covered.

This is when you will want to test the flavor to see if you want more Ginger or Braggs. . . if the sauce has gotten too think during the cooking - because you wok has gotten too hot or whatever - you can add 1 or 2 Teaspoons of water. . . I didn't do this - but I am assuming that if you add more water you will want more Ginger and Braggs. 

Serve over Rice and Chow Mein Noodles.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Betty Crocker Project : Potato, Bacon & Egg Scramble

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Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not one bit simpler. - Albert Einstein

I almost feel guilty posting this recipe. It is extremely easy and takes about 10 minutes to make. . . But we are cooking our way through Betty and it would be wrong to skip the easy ones. 

Sunday morning, we had this scramble with some toast points and coffee. The baby birds are flying all around the Holly trees in the courtyard of our apartment building these days. We watched them and talked about how the Celtics were doing in the Playoffs and what we would make for dinner to go with the Wrath of Pecant beer we got on Saturday when we took The Dogfish Brewery Tour with the always adorable & charming yet controversial Bruce and Alka. 

It was pretty much an awesome weekend. . . Bruce and Dan owned the Beer Quiz, we ate HUGE onion rings (they were like something from Sleepers) and Netflix sent my next disks of Supernatural (I get giddy when I get my fix) . . . We enjoyed the simple pleasures of life. . . like this recipe which is pretty awesome and simple.
  • 6 Red Potatoes (small and cubed)
  • 1 Package of Firm Tofu (drained)
  • 6 Peices of Fake Bacon (We used LightLife - But Tempeh marinated in Liquid Smoke or these Tempeh Bacon Strips would have been better) 
  • Olive Oil for Cooking
  • 1 Splash of Liquid Smoke
  • Salt for boiling water - I wouldn't add more than 2 teaspoons.
  • 4 Medium Green Onions (chopped)
  • 1/2 of 1 Red Pepper (sliced)
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoon Cumin
  • 1 Teaspoon Thyme
  • 1 Teaspoon Basil (dried)
  • 1 Teaspoon Paprika
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Turmeric
  • 1 Teaspoon Braggs
  • 1/4 Cup Nutritional Yeast 
In a cast iron skillet, heat the Olive Oil at a medium heat. 

Heat salted water to a boil in a pot large enough to fit all the Potatoes without the water overflowing. Once the water starts to boil - add the Potatoes and cover the pot. Remove the Potatoes once they are tender.
Fry Fake Bacon and when it reaches a desired crispiness remove from the skillet and place on a plate on top of some paper towels - to help soak up some of the oil. Cut into strips small enough to sprinkle of the Scramble.

Add one splash of Liquid Smoke to the Olive Oil in the Skillet. Add the Potatoes and fry. Don't stir them continually. Let them start to get crispy on one side before flipping. 

In a large bowl - Mash Tofu and then mix in Nutritional Yeast, Cumin, Basil, Thyme, Paprika, Braggs and Turmeric. Normally I wouldn't tell people to mash the Tofu - I like my Tofu Scramble with big pieces of Tofu. . . BUT. . . We are trying to recreate liquid eggs and are trying to cover the vegetables with the Tofu mix - SO it is OK if it is pasty - Actually pasty is GREAT! 

Before the Potatoes are the desired crispiness, pour Tofu Mix in over the Potatoes and add Red Peppers. Mix in the Skillet till the vegetables are covered. You may need to add a TINY bit more oil then but not more than 1 Teaspoon. Let it cook and flip/ stir occasionally. Add Green Onions. 

You are now cooking off the moisture from the Tofu and the vegetables. Once you reach a desired texture, remove the Scramble from the skillet and sprinkle the Fake Bacon Strips. 

Then sit back and enjoy a little Thoreau or SportsCenter.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Betty Crocker Project : Turtle Cheesecake

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Can we just be awesome here for a minute?

Vegan fudge sauce, pecans, Oreo cookie crust & cheesecake. . . and wait for it. . . CARAMEL! Technology has come a long way from my early days of compassionate living. Sometimes I get that nostalgia often reserved for veterans of foreign wars or grandparents raised during the The Great Depression when I think about that first year of figuring out what was derived from animals and what wasn't. I had to learn words like Casein and Rennet. No one was really on the internet for much more than email then and I lived off Dr.Pepper and baked potatoes for the better part of year. I can't help but feel a little jealous of how easy kids these days have it. . . with their melty faux cheeses and Italian sausages . . . and now you can make your own CARAMEL!

So let's do this. . .

Hot Fudge Topping
  • 8oz Silk Vanilla Coffee Creamer ( half the container)
  • 1/2 a bag of Vegan Chocolate Chips ( I use Ghirardelli - but there are lots of others)
  • 1/2 cup of Sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Margarine
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla

In a sauce pan, heat at medium heat Creamer, Chocolate and Sugar til it starts to boil. Remove from heat and whisk in Margarine and Vanilla until the mix is smooth and creamy.  Let sauce cool for 30 minutes. NOTE : If you put it in the fridge - it gets firm - like fudge.

Caramel Topping

In a saucepan, heat  Corn Syrup, Brown Sugar and Margarine to a boil over low heat - Stir constantly. Boil for 5 minutes, Stir occasionally. Stir in Creamer. Then remove from heat and let cool.

Heat oven to 300.

Combine Cream Cheese, Sour Cream and Sugar in a bowl. Mix using a hand mixer til smooth. Add Vanilla, Flour and Egg Replacer and mix for about a minute. Make sure there are no clumps of flour. Pour into the Oreo Crust.

Bake for about 40 to 45 minutes. Check the center to make sure it solid with a toothpick. Pull it out when the cheesecake is solid to the touch and passes the toothpick test . . . another clue is when the top starts to crack a little - pulling from the sides.

Cool on a wire rack for around an hour and then add Pecans, Hot Fudge and Caramel.

Refrigerate overnight and SUIT UP! Turtle Cheesecake is going to be LEGENDARY!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Betty Crocker Project : Buffalo Chicken Wings

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NBA Playoffs - Where vegan Big Baby Hot Wings happen. . .

Welcome to the shameless Meet The Shannons/NBA Playoffs cross-promotion. Though not as shameless as this one - at least ours makes sense. 

When I married an Irish-Italian boy from Boston I knew what I was getting into - unlike the Miami Heat this week. They may have thought that since Kevin Garnett was suspended they had a chance. Even the die-hard Boston fans were like : "How will we live without him?"

What they didn't count on was Big Baby Davis stepping up and proving to us all that just because someone or something is a substitute doesn't mean they can't BRING IT!  Just like these faux chicken wings - that we have renamed  Big Baby Hot Wings. . . because even The Heat have nothing on how hot they are!
  • 1 Package of your favorite Fake Chicken on/and skewers ( We went with these Chicken Drumsticks from May Wah that are very similar to these but are not "spiced" - but I think this recipe would work just as good with Chicken Seitan or  Morningstar Chikn Strips on bamboo skewers or toothpicks. The Fake Chicken should be put on the skewers AFTER being coated in the Flour mix. Fake Chicken should be defrosted. )
  • 2 Tablespoons Margarine 
  • 1/2 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Pepper
  • 1 Cup of your favorite BBQ Sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons of Hot Sauce 
  • 1 Teaspoon Cajun Seasoning  
  • 1/4 Teaspoon of Liquid Smoke
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Cumin 
  • 1 Bottle of Tahini or Vegan Ranch Dressing
  • Celery Sticks, Carrots or other raw veggies

Preheat oven to 425.

In a 13x9 pan, melt the butter in the oven. In a large zip lock bag, mix Flour, Salt and Pepper. Put the Fake Chicken in the bag and shake  - 2 at a time - until the Chicken is completed coated. Place coated Chicken in the pan.

Bake uncovered for 3-5 minutes and then flip the Chicken to make sure it gets completely covered with the Margarine. It should take about 10 minutes for the Fake Chicken to be a golden color and have a crispy coating. . . If you are using smaller pieces of Fake Chicken - it will take less time - so keep an eye on them.

During that time mix BBQ Sauce, Hot Sauce, Cajun Seasoning, Liquid Smoke and Cumin in a bowl.

Once the Fake Chicken has a golden crispy coating pull it out of the oven and pour the BBQ mix over the Fake Chicken. Flip the Fake Chicken a few times to make sure it gets completely coated in the BBQ mix.

Bake uncovered for around 10-12 minutes. or until the BBQ Sauce reaches a desired moistness. . . some people like them more sticky than saucy.

Serve with Dressing and Veggies.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Betty Crocker Project : Breakfast Tacos

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So when I think of these tacos I can't help but get this song * in my head. . . OK - those fabulous dresses aside . . . I know tacos are Mexican and the Puerto Rican version of a taco is pretty different ( at least the versions I have seen in Puerto Rican restaurants in NYC). But that really isn't what made the connection in my clockwork brain. See this taco is to me very American.

In America, we seem obsessed with revamping breakfast. We make sandwiches with mini pancakes instead of bread and French toast you can eat with your hands. . . or make replicas of prehistoric monuments with. So a Breakfast Taco wasn't that odd of a concept. I feel like I've seen them before. Though they may have been called a Chalupa or Gordita. . . or something

We made these for a Brinner this week and I admit they were pretty good. We both agreed they'd be a fun breakfast for kids. They had that kinda fun novelty to them that can be fun to make with smaller people with shorter attention spans. Of course, people of all sizes love a good taco toppings spread and us American's seem to love eating with our hands . . . things to consider if you are making this dish for American adults. I'm just chattering now. Let's get down to some tacos.

  • 1 Package of Firm Tofu 
  • 2 Tablespoons of Nutritional Yeast 
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Garlic Powder
  • 2 Teaspoon of Cumin
  • 1 Teaspoon of Paprika
  • 1/4 Teaspoon of Black Pepper
  • 2 Pinches of Turmeric
  • 1/4 Cup of Red Peppers (chopped)
  • 1/2 Cup of Daiya Cheese - Cheddar (shredded)
  • 6 Taco Shells 
  • 1 Avocado
  • 1/3 Cup of Cilantro (chopped)
  • 1 Jar of your favorite Salsa
  • 1 Tablespoon of Olive Oil

Heat the Olive Oil over medium heat in a cast iron skillet. Add Garlic Powder, Cumin, Paprika and Black Pepper to Oil and mix. In a bowl, crumble - not mash - the tofu and then stir in Nutritional Yeast and Turmeric. Put Tofu in the skillet . Occasionally stir and flip the Tofu mix to keep it from sticking. Fry until it reaches a desired texture/moistness.

Heat Taco Shells as per directed on the package. Spoon Tofu mix into shells and top with Avocado, Cilantro, Daiya Cheese and Salsa. 
This is just our adaption of Betty's recipe. . . we recommend you use your favorite tofu scramble recipe for the "eggs" and also mix the cheese in with the tofu mix before putting it in the shells - it will melt better. 

* The book West Side Story is based on was written in 1949 - 61 years ago. Pretty sad what they are singing about is still the reality for many people who come to this country. Just saying. . .

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Betty Crocker Project : Osso Bucco

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I've eaten a lot of Italian food in my life. Probably more than most people not actually living in Italy. I can still remember one of the first times I realized the world was not Italian. I was at a friend's house and saw their dad cut his spaghetti with a knife and fork and eat the tiny pieces like rice. ( Insert Shudder Here )

But there was one Italian dish we never had at my house is Osso Bucco and not just because it is a Milanese dish and that's like a world a way from Palermo. The reason : VEAL.

See - No matter how Italian my mom is and how not down with the whole animal rights/vegan thing she might be. . .  she would never eat, serve or allow her children to eat baby cows. There are just some things that just aren't right. What happens to baby cows to make veal is one of them. Ironically, this systematic form of cruelty was my introduction to how awful the world can be to animals and much to the frustration and disapproval of my mother - started me on this life-long mission to make the world a more compassionate place for animals and to the love of my life.

Let's get back to food that isn't made by jerks because THIS DISH FREAKING ROCKS!
  • 1 Package of Gardein Homestyle Beef-less Tips
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Black Pepper ( freshly ground )
  • 1/4 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
  • 2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons of Apple Juice
  • 1/3 Cup of  Dry White Wine
  • 1 Clove of Garlic (minced)
  • 2 Pinches of Onion Powder
  • 1 Cup of Better Than Bouillon Broth ( vegetable flavor - made into a broth per directions on the label )
  • 3/4 Teaspoon Braggs (if you don't love salty food - you may want to make this 1/2 of a teaspoon)
  • 2 Bay Leaves (dried)
  • 2 Tablespoons Parsley (fresh and chopped)
  • 1 Tablespoon Lemon Peel (grated)
  • Vegan Parmesan Cheese (topping)
  • 6 Cups of Mashed Potatoes (see below)
Ingredients for Mashed Potatoes:
  • 6 Medium red Potatoes (chopped - not peeled - we like the skin in there)
  • 1/2 Cup Soy Milk
  • 1/4 Cup Margarine (softened)
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt (if you don't like salty food - skip this ingredient - there is plenty salt in the sauce)
  • 1/4 Teaspoon of Black Pepper
Boil the Potatoes in a 2 quart saucepan - make sure you have enough water to cover the Potatoes. Once the Potatoes are tender when stab them with a fork, drain the Potatoes through a colander.
Pour the cooked Potatoes back into the saucepan and blend with a Pastry Blender. Add Soy Milk, Margarine, Salt and Pepper. Blend with an electric hand mixer till it is perfection. It takes less than 5 minutes. . . be sure and get all the lumps out.
In a shallow bowl or deep dish, mix Flour and Pepper. Coat the Gardein with the flour mix.
In a 4-quart Dutch oven, heat Olive Oil over medium heat. Cook Gardein in the oil till the outside gets a crispy coasting - you need to keep the extra coating from sticking to the bottom - so scrape the bottom of the pot with a spatula while cooking a few times.
When the Gardein is brown on all sides, stir in Apple Juice, White Wine, Garlic and Onion Powder. Reduce heat and stir. The sauce will start to thicken in less than a minute. Once it starts to thicken, add the Better Than Bouillon Broth, Braggs and Bay Leaves. Let simmer uncovered. If you cover it - the Gardein will get mushy.
Once it comes to a boil, remove from heat. . . You're ready to serve!
Place one or two scoops of Mashed Potatoes on a plate and then ladle the Gardein and "Gravy" on top. Sprinkle with Vegan Parmesan, grated Lemon Peel and chopped fresh Parsley. Be sure and get a lot of the Gravy/Broth. . .it is really the best part. (I was kinda -sorta licking my plate after I finished dinner to get it all)

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Betty Crocker Project : Garlic Cheesy Biscuits

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These are the biscuits that made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs. They can outrun Imperial starships. Not the local bulk cruisers mind you, I'm talking about the big Corellian ships now. They're fast enough for you, old man.

Seriously though, they might even take less than 12 minutes.

I made these Saturday morning, thinking we could eat them all weekend... but they never saw another sunrise. Yes, we ate the whole batch in one day, and not because we didn't have any other food. Since we started this project, our pantry and fridge have never looked so healthy and big boned. We ate them because Betty's claim that these biscuits are so good they’re served in restaurants is not an exaggeration.
  • 2 Cups Original Bisquick Mix
  • 2/3 Cup Soy Milk 
  • 2 Tablespoons of Nutritional Yeast 
  • 1/2 Cup of Daiya Cheddar Cheese (shredded)
  • 1/4 Cup of Olive Oil 
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Garlic (minced)
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Dill
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Thyme
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Rosemary (dried and crushed)
Heat oven to 450.

In a bowl, mix Bisquick Mix, Soy Milk and Nutritional Yeast with a hand held mixer until completely mixed. Stir in Daiya Cheese with a spoon. 
On an ungreased cookie sheet, drop spoon-sized clumps. They won't be pretty, but it’s important that they don't get too thick or they won't bake all the way through.

Bake for around 8-10 minutes. Keep an eye on them. They bake FAST. Pull out once they’re golden. 
In a bowl, mix Olive Oil, Garlic Powder, Minced Garlic, Dill, Rosemary and Thyme. Once you pull out the biscuits, brush with the herbed Olive Oil. 
Once they’ve cooled, eat them.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Betty Crocker Project : Peanut Butter Cookies

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Can't have a trampoline. Can't do a cartwheel without dislocating my thumb. Can't write my name in the snow like a boy. Can't stay up till 3am watching Buffy The Vampire Slayer on a school night. Can't stop burning cookies. . . and quoting Parks and Recreation.

Yes - The first batch burnt. We have a broken seal on our oven that can lead to issues with our projects heating evenly. You have to keep rotating the pan or you end up with raw at one end and carbon on the other. I may have let myself get distracted during the first batch BUT I used the second batch to avenge their deaths!

It is a pretty simple recipe and they are chewy even a day later. Which is my favorite part - besides the Peanut Butter and Chocolate and Cookie parts.

  • 1 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Peanut Butter
  • 1/2  Cup Margarine (softened)
  • 1 Egg of Ener-G Egg Replacer
  • 1 1/4 cups of Organic Whole Wheat Flour
  • 3/4 Teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Cup of Vegan Chocolate Chips ( optional ) 

Preheat Oven to 350.

In a bowl, mix Brown Sugar, Peanut Butter, Margarine and Egg Replacer with a hand held mixer. Then mix in Flour, Baking Soda, Baking Powder and Salt. Stir in Chocolate Chips with a spoon.

Shape cookies into balls about the size of a melon ball. Place on a ungreased cookie pan about 3 inches apart. If you don't add the Chocolate Chips - make those cute little criss crosses on the top with a fork.

Bake about 10 minutes - until a light golden brown. They do a bit better if them cool on a wire rack.
Also - A little known fact - GREAT for Buffy Hangovers with a HUGE soy latte.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

French Bread Pizza

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I've been thinking about these new frozen soy cheese pizzas. So I took the leftover toppings from the Stuffed Crust Pizza and a baguette and made a fast easy dinner. . . and not to brag but this was perfection. OK to brag. . . It really was just wonderful.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Betty Crocker Project : Thai- Style Coconut Chicken

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With a basil jungle in our kitchen, a few leftover limes from the fruit salad in our fruit basket, and new shipment of May Wah  Fake Chickn in our freezer... our fates seemed sealed. This week we were destined to make from scratch one of our favorite dishes to order in a restaurant. We didn't expect that Betty's recipe would have that subtle hot bite that you get from really good Thai food—like we said before, her recipes are perfect for making a base for a large family full of diverse palettes. They aren't a passport to Bangkok.

In the end, we passed on the brown sugar in the original recipe to keep the natural sweetness of the coconut milk intact, and added a few dashes of this hot sauce we picked up on our Agavemoon (har-har, vegan humor). But, it still lacked that signature kick that makes your eyes water a little in a good way.

We may revisit this one, but that's not to say this recipe isn't worth making. It’s a fast and very easy way to make really good food for half the price of going out.

  • Olive Oil for cooking
  • 2 Cups of Fake Chicken (we used more of the May Wah fake chicken - but Morningstar Chickn Strips or Gardein would also work)
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Lime Peel (grated)
  • 2 Teaspoons Ginger (grated)
  • 1 Tablespoon Garlic (minced)
  • 1 Can Jalapenos (chopped)
  • 1/4 Cup Cilantro (fresh and chopped) 
  • 1 Can Coconut Milk 
  • 2 Tablespoons of Braggs
  • 1 Cup Snap Peas Pods
  • 1 Medium Red Pepper (cut into slices) 
  • A Tablespoon of Fresh Basil per serving (as a topping) 
  • 2 cups of cooked Jasmine Rice 
  • Hot Sauce to taste 
  • Lime wedges

In a cast iron skillet, heat Olive Oil over medium heat. Stir-fry the Fake Chicken till you get a crispy crust. This is key to keep the Chickn from getting spongy in the sauce. Add Lime Peel, Ginger, Garlic and Jalapenos. Continue to stir-fry for another 1-2 minutes.

Pour in the Coconut Milk. Stir in the Braggs, Pea Pods, Cilantro and Red Pepper. Let simmer for 3 to 5 minutes - stirring occasionally to keep the Coconut Milk from sticking to the pan. (We added a few dashes of Hot sauce to give it a bit more warmth.)

Serve over Rice and top with Fresh Basil and some Lime Wedges to add a bit more of an acidy kick.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Betty Crocker Project : Stuffed Crust Pizza

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Until this weekend if you had asked me about my immediate family - I would have told you all about my 2 loving yet willful kittens, my dashingly perfect husband and my loyal cast iron skillet. I might mention my hand mixer - a hardworking little worker bee that comes out on the weekends and special occasions for cupcakes and muffins. I may even mention our Xbox. . . always good for some Katamari or a movie. Dan and the Xbox have made the world a safer pace several times over. Together they have conquered many evil kingdoms, killed Nazi zombies, fought their way through a failed underwater utopia and captured  randomly depraved supervillians galore. This weekend we welcomed into our home a new friend. A comrade that I know will grow to become a trusted and cherished member of our little clan.

Welcome Home Pizza Stone!

To celebrate we made some of the best pizza south of The Belt Parkway. . . pizza not just topped with fake cheese but STUFFED WITH FAKE CHEESE!
And now you can make it too.

  • 1 Package of Whole Wheat Pizza Dough ( we used Trader Joe's which is vegan - Betty suggests using pre-made bread dough thawed )
  • 1 Bag of Daiya Vegan Cheese ( Mozzarella )
  • 1/4 Cup of Pizza Sauce 
  • 2 Tofurky Italian Sausages ( sliced into coins ) 
  • 1 Package of Smart Deli Pepperoni
  • 1/4 of Large Red Onion ( chopped )
  • 1 Can Black Olives ( sliced ) 
  • 1 Can of Artichoke Hearts ( Halved )
  • Fresh Basil
  • Nutritional Yeast
  • Cornmeal 
Preheat the oven as per the directions on the Pizza Crust package.
Dust the pizza stone with cornmeal and where you are going to roll out the dough.

Roll dough into a circle ( around 13 inches in diameter ) and then move very carefully to the pizza stone. Create a little pocket/canal  along the edge of the pizza. Fill the canal with Daiya Cheese. Be careful to not use more than a 1/3 of the bag and to stay inside the pocket. Seal the cheese in by folding over the outer edge and pressing lightly.

Spread the Pizza Sauce over the dough in the center. Sprinkle Fresh Basil. Spread out a small handful of Daiya cheese. Sprinkle the Sausage coins and Pepperoni. Spread another small handful of Daiya cheese over the fake meat. Sprinkle the Onion, Artichoke Hearts and Olives over the pizza. Spread another small handful of Daiya Cheese.

Follow directions on Pizza Dough to know how long to cook. It should take around 15-20 minutes. Just wait till the crust is golden and cheese is melted.

Sprinkle with a little Nutritional Yeast and repeat after me "Meat Lovers Stuffed Crust Deep Dish Pizza Commercial - YOU HAVE NO POWER OVER ME!"

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Betty Crocker Project : Chicken Salad

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It is REALLY hard to take a photo of white food and make it look like something you’d want to eat. But, trust me—you want to eat this.

This weekend Dan and I had a big yard sale to kick start the Los Angeles Exodus. It was the first really warm and sunny weekend of the year, and I guess everyone went to the beach instead of coming by to buy our extra TV—the one Dan deemed "too small" when we moved in together, but before then was the largest TV I ever owned. We purged most of the awkward things we've outgrown. . . Kevin Smith and Quentin Tarantino movies on VHS tapes, ironic hoodies, and the teapot I've had since college. I have to admit there are still a few objects kicking around here that belong in a dorm. . . but some things you can't rush. I need time to let go.

Growing up can be hard. To ease the pain, we ate Faux Chicken Salad on toasted whole wheat everything bagels. Normally I'd use our family recipe but these days, it's all about Betty. I'm even debating a Betty-inspired tattoo for the big 3-5 birthday coming up. I have to admit, she’s been an inspiration—breaking my rut of lasagnas and baked zitis, in addition to my rut of hoarding obsolete media.  Betty's Chicken Salad was a great base, but I added a few extras because that's what I do. . . 
  • 2 Cups Cooked Fake Chicken (fried up in a cast iron skilletYour browser may not support display of this image. the night before in olive oil and some liquid smokeYour browser may not support display of this image. , chopped and then stored in the fridge wrapped in paper towels over night to soak up extra oil.We used this product from May Wah, which doesn't look great in the photo, but is very strongly suggested; but Morningstar Strips and Gardein are always good too, and available in most grocery stores.)
  • Olive Oil for cooking 
  • Liquid Smoke for cooking
  • 1/2 Cup Veganaise
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Lemon Pepper
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Lemon Juice
  • Pinch of Celery Seed
  • Pinch of Dried Parsley
  • 2 Medium Stalks of Celery (chopped) 
  • 1/2 Large Red Onion (chopped) 
Mix it all in a bowl - Add salt and pepper to taste.
Eat on bread, try not to get too sentimental about outdated technology, and reminisce about how funny this is.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Betty Crocker Project : Key West Fruit Salad

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"Bringing a girl to the BBC is like bringing sand to the beach"
The Bahama Beach Club was the only all-age dance club in Boston when my husband was younger ( well not as young as that guy ).  From time to time whenever I notice a bit of unnecessary excess he drops this pearl - spoken by a childhood friend and immortalized in a yearbook somewhere and nods his head and we have one of those moments married people have. We get each other.

See - I have this part of my DNA that becomes inflamed at the idea of unnecessary excess.  I suspect I inherited it from generations and generations of  Mediterranean people who just don't feel alive unless they have an opinion about something. In America, excess is a good reliable trigger. Sometimes I am blissfully enthralled at the idea of bottomless popcorn tubs or a well stocked quality salad bar but sometimes it just seems like poor resource management on a global scale or a selfish and childish display - examples of this would include Hummers and pretty much anything on this website.

So when I saw the first ingredient in this recipe I admit I was immediately suspicious. I mean - really? Adding sugar to fruit seemed unnecessary. Fruit is sugar. But I have to admit the dressing was tasty. . . in particular on the mangoes and berries. It added just a touch more sweetness and a little spike of sour. It was good BUT wait there's an amazing part. It was a pretty hot night and I had left the fruit salad out on the table while we ate dinner. It had be around 80 - bit excessive in my opinion for April. We had some salad and we talked for hours. The whole time leaving this poor salad to the elements and the apples never really turned brown! NO JOKE! The photo above just doesn't do it justice because our home at night has a kinda golden glow to it I am having a hard time getting around for these photos. So I'm asking for a little trust here. You'll thank me.

The sugar and lime juice must work some kind of chemistry induced food magic that keeps this salad fresh for hours! Again we are in the position where we must apologize to Betty for doubting her. I'm a believer in The Key West Fruit Salad. This would be an awesome dish for any potluck or BBQ. I guess at this point I should warn you this recipe make A LOT
  • 3/4 Cup of Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup of Water
  • 1/4 Cup of Key Lime Juice
  • 2 Tablespoons of Tequila
  • 1 Teaspoon Lime Peel ( granted )
  • 1/2 a Pineapple ( cubed )
  • 2 Apples ( sliced )
  • 1 Orange ( peeled and sectioned )
  • 1 Mango ( sliced )
  • Handful of Raspberries
  • Handful of Blueberries
  • Handful of Blackberries

Heat Sugar and Water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat. Simmer uncovered for 2 minutes - stir continually until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and add Lime Juice and Tequila. Let the Lime Juice mix sit until room temperature.  Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours - or if you are in a hurry - until it is cool.

Slice up all your fruit and mix in a large serving bowl.

Stir Lime Peel into cooled Lime Juice mix ( dressing ).

Pour Dressing over Fruit Mix and CAREFULLY toss the fruit till it is evenly covered with Dressing.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

By Popular Demand - Our Pinch of Chutzpah Matzo Ball Soup

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Photo Credit : Sarah Posey

So the past 4 springs Dan and I have hosted some of the best Secular Passover Potluck Seders in the fine state of Virgina. We live in Peta-ville. . . also known as Norfolk - The Headquarters for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. . . where we're all mostly transplants from everywhere really. . .  and maybe that is why we all have grown so close. You find yourself within walking distance of 5 or 6 people who share a lot of your view of the world - your ethical compass and understand your dedication to helping those who can't help themselves. . . you find a family - a Mishpocha in this home away from home.

This year's Seder was particularly momentous for us because it was going to be the last one we would host in our first apartment in the city where we met and fell in love and of course - our first as a married couple. Next year - we will be living in Los Angeles and have new friends to invite to our home and we won't all be walking distance from each other anymore and some people won't be making the move and well things will change. . . it's hard to not be nostalgic. . . while also being excited for the step.

This year we've had several people write in asking for the Matzo Ball Soup Recipe. . . we get requests every year. . . but maybe it was the number of emails or maybe it was because I know next year - we won't all be together anymore. . . But this seems to be the right time to go public with this little jewel from my box of tricks.
  • 1 Cup of Matzo Meal 
  • 1/2 Cup of Nutritional Yeast 
  • 3/4 Teaspoon Braggs
  • 3/4 Teaspoon Freshly Ground Pepper ( The big chunks are key for texture )
  • 1 Package of Firm Silken Tofu 
  • 1 Half of a Large Red Onion 
  • 9 Cups of  Better Than Bouillon - Organic Vegetable Broth (you can also use Faux Chicken Broth - this is just less salty - follow directions on the label on amount of water)  
  • 2 Tablespoons White Wine
  • 1/2 Cup of Olive Oil 
  • 3 Carrots  ( sliced like coins )
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Celery Seed 
  • 1 Tablespoon Fresh Parsley ( chopped )
  • 1 Teaspoon Fresh Dill ( chopped )
  • 2 Pinches of Onion Powder
Blend the Tofu, 1 Tablespoon of Veg Broth and Oil  in a food processor. In a bowl mix Matzo Meal, Nutritional Yeast, Braggs and Pepper.

Then combine the two mixes in the bowl - till everything is moist. Cover the bowl and put in the fridge over night. You can visit your baby matzo throughout the night and give it a good mix with a spoon a few times. . . but always put it back in the fridge.

It will take about an hour to cook the Matzo Balls. . . So about an hour and half to two hours before you want to serve your soup - fill your pot with the rest of the Veg Broth, White Wine, Carrots, Red Onions, Celery Seed, Parsley, Dill and Onion powder and bring to a boil.

Put some parchment paper in a casserole dish. Remove the Matzo Mix from the fridge. Form VERY tightly packed balls - about the size of a melon ball - and place them on the parchment paper so they don't touch. Then drop in the boiling soup one at a time. Give yourself time - so you don't need to rush. After they are all in there - put the lid on and leave it on for around a half hour. Don't lift the lid. . . I know you will want to. . . but it's OK. . . give them time. . . sometimes you just have to let things do their thing. . . have trust.

After that half hour - lift the lid and watch your Matzo Balls rise to the top.

Now you're ready to Nosh All Night! 

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Betty Crocker Project : Mexi Shells

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Easter was very inconvenient this year.

We had big plans for organic Cuban beans and whole wheat shells from Trader Joe's and Daiya soy cheese . . . but apparently corporate America is not as heartless as one would think and store after store was closed. Tapping into an another aspect of American spirit  - we made it through or as our our good friend The Rev would say we "Git 'er Done". . . I might be using that term incorrectly. We're Northerners. 

We made more than a few tweaks and substitutions to Betty's Mexi Shell Recipe. There was a general pleasant blandness to her recipe that I could see being beneficial in a big family setting. Where everyone can add their own salt, pepper and Tabasco to taste. But there are only 2 of us and I can't really handle bland. I just feel like it is unfinished or lazy or something. Our food has wine, liquid smoke, soy sauce . . . when our food hits the table - it is just right. . . for us. So having said that - you'll notice a lot of "tweaks" to this recipe and also a glimpse to how we roll over here. 

  • 1 Package Jumbo Pasta Shells ( uncooked )
  • 2 8oz Cans of Organic Tomatoes ( Mexican Flavor )
  • 2 8oz Cans of Organic Tomato Sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1 Tablespoon Nutritional Yeast
  • 1 Teaspoon Chili Powder ( we used a Chipotle version ) 
  • 4 Dashes of Texas Pete Hot Sauce
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Onion Powder
  • 2 Teaspoon Ground Cumin 
  • 1 Package Gimme Lean - Beef
  • 1/2 1 Large Red Onion ( diced )
  • 1 Teaspoon Ground Cumin
    1/2 Cup Fresh Cilantro
  • 1 Can Chopped Green Chilies
  • 1 Can Organic Black Beans ( drained )
  • 1 Tablespoon of Braggs
  • 1 Cup Shredded Follow Your Heart Soy Cheese - Mozzarella
  • 1/2 Cup Nutritional Yeast
  • Olive Oil for cooking

Preheat oven to 350. 
Cook Pasta Shells - using instructions on Box. 

In a bowl, mix Tomatoes, Sauce, Flour, Nutritional Yeast, Chili Powder, Onion Powder, Texas Pete and 2 teaspoons of Cumin. Set aside. 

Unwrap Gimme Lean and roll into balls that would fit into the shells. In a cast iron skillet on medium heat, heat oil and cook the Gimme Lean and Onions till they start to brown. Then add the can of Black Beans, Braggs and Green Chilies. Continue to cook till the onion have carmelized and the Gimme Lean is completely cooked. 

In an ungreased 13x9 inch glass baking dish, spread one cup of the Tomato Sauce mix. Fill each shell with the Gimme Lean & Beans mix and place in the dish with the filled side up. With a ladle pour about half the remaining Tomato sauce mix over the shells. Sprinkle with Nutritional Yeast and Follow Your Heart Cheese and bake uncovered for 30-45 minutes - till cheese gets to the level of melting you like. 

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Betty Crocker Project : Mandarin Chicken Salad

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So I have to admit we didn't make it to 8 glasses of wine at Passover this weekend - BUT we sure tried.

So the next morning - around 7 a.m. when Percy started scratching on our bedroom door - banging really - I mean he had to really put his little shoulder in it - my day died a little. The little guy had been accidentally locked out all night and had reached his breaking point. I woke up in a terrible mood with a black cloud of hazy Kosher wine abuse following me around and then 2 hungry attention starved cats joined the parade. I walked out into our blessed home which had been the scene of an unrivaled Seder. One of the best we've ever hosted. I found my pink slippers ( actual photo of what I look like when I wake up in the morning ) and ate a leftover vegan hamantaschen. . . and made a real effort to do more than just survive.

Dan handles these things so much better than I do. He can poison himself and just keep on ticking. He didn't flinch at the tower of dishes, scattered haystacks of dirty linens and sticky little splatters everywhere. It really was an exceptional night. 3 tables of loved ones, wine and vegan food. Elijah stood us up again  - but that happens. The afterglow was helping a bit but after hours of cleaning the kitchen - we didn't really want to mess it up again with a casserole or something saucy. It was - literally - not in a Cleopatra way - a Salad Day.

I have to admit from the beginning - I was giving Betty a hard time with her ALREADY VEGAN Mandarin Salad Recipe. I'm not sure why really - I blame the black cloud. The very first step - Sugaring the Almonds - seemed unnecessary. Just extra flavor and calories . . . for people who drink too much soda to enjoy a good raw almond. But I was wrong. It took very little time and it really did make a nice extra detail to the salad. Though I think next time I would leave out the sugar and just roast the almond slices. . . PLUS it made our kitchen smell really good.
  • 1/4 Cup Sliced Almonds
  • 1 Tablespoon + 1 Teaspoon Sugar
In a saucepan, cook  Almonds and Sugar over low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly, until Sugar is melted and Almonds are cool and a little roasty looking.
We also didn't love the Sweet & Sour Dressing. . . but I am willing to admit we may have been playing favorites. I mean we just made the Caesar dressing - which is an ambrosia and this just isn't ambrosia - not everything can be ambrosia. . . but it was the right choice for this salad. . . we tweaked it a little ( maybe a lot ) but this was pretty much the recipe :
  • 1/4 Olive Oil
  • 1 Tablespoon Sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons White Wine Vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons copped Fresh Parsley
  • 3/4 Teaspoon Braggs
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Texas Pete Hot Sauce
  • Dash of ground Black Pepper

Put it all together in a tight container and shake - refrigerate till serving. 

Now Betty had a little side recipe for Crunchy Chicken Mandarin Salad - really you just add Chow Mein Noodles and some grilled Chicken Breasts. We were going for a meal so we upgraded.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Betty Crocker Project : Impossibly Easy Cheeseburger Pie

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I can remember being a little eater and reading recipes on the side of products and cans of vegetables for pretty random things like Cornflake-Covered Pork Chops and Cheezy Corn Wiener Roast made from those mysterious "Cheese Food" substances that never made their way to our kitchen. I never grew up in a home where my mother would allow us to eat food that she said "wasn't really food". So I would read these recipes as if they were a sneak peak into what was on dinner tables all over America being served by Non-Italian mothers that didn't think Ragu tasted like catsup. . . which it does. . . but that's a tangent for another day.

So one of the more exciting parts of this project ( for me anyways - I suspect Dan is being a really good sport ) was making some of the more random, creative and oh so very American - Brand Suggesting - Cross Promotional Concoctions. . . such as this true classic : THE IMPOSSIBLY EASY CHEESEBURGER PIE!

Now - Anyone who has ever been to our house to eat or watch a movie  - whatever - knows I like to research things. I like going into really anything with a little bit of a heads up of what to expect. Surprises are for people who aren't prepared. So I looked into this so called "Cheeseburger Pie". . . and guess what? This is a REAL THING. I found little old ladies sharing their recipes via websites I'm pretty sure their grandkids made and several recipes designed for bachelors and Southern Food Enthusiast with raving reviews from folks filled with cherished childhood memories of making this dish from a recipe on a Bisquick or Velveeta box. AH-HA! I KNEW IT!
It was surprisingly easy to Veganize this recipe and I have to admit it was also pretty good. I would wholeheartedly suggest giving it a try. It would be a great thing to bring to a potluck or BBQ - especially one with meatier guests.

Preheat Oven to 400 degrees.
Grease a  9 inch glass pie plate with Margarine - You can also use a cooking spray.

Heat the Olive Oil and Liquid Smoke in a cast iron skillet - add Boca Burgers and Red Onions. Brown the Burgers and Onions. Once the Burgers start to get a to soft - chop them up into bite size clumps with your metal spatula. Stir in Braggs. Cook until the Onion is translucent and Burger clumps have crispy edges ( be sure and scrap up any Burger that is sticking to the skillet - those are the best parts ).

Spread in pie plate. Slice up 4 Tofutti Cheese Slices and sprinkle on Boca Burger pieces.

In a small bowl, stir in the remaining ingredients with a wire whisk until blended.Sprinkle the Nutritional yeast over the Burger pieces and Cheese and then pour the Bisquick mix into pie plate - over Burger pieces and Cheese.

Slice up the remaining 2 Tofutti Cheese Slices and Sprinkle of the top.

Bake about 25 minutes or until you can poke the center with a toothpick and have it come out clean. 

I ate mine with a side of dill pickles. Dan ate his with mustard and catsup. It is a Cheeseburger after all and I have to admit  - it was everything I always knew it would be!