Friday, October 24, 2008

"Creamy" Mac & "Cheese"

I have been on the search for a good vegan mac and cheese for a long time. True, EJ and I aren't vegan, and we have a lot of love for cheese. I mean a LOT of love for cheese. But, we also try to be health conscious at least part of the time, and I can't justify making a homemade mac and cheese all that often. But with this recipe, I can.

I have had some disasters in the kitchen when it comes to making vegan mac and cheese - some things were completely inedible. Seriously, my big piece of advice is this: avoid recipes that call for 3 cups nutritional yeast and claim it tastes just like cheese. This is a LIE. Nutritional yeast is good, but only in moderation.

Another note about this recipe. I don't feel comfortable saying it is completely original. I have tweaked it a bit, and I'm pretty happy with the results, but I wouldn't have been able to do it without a little help from Vegan Planet.

This recipe is dedicated to Rachel, who asks me for it all the time :)

From Food pics

Vegan Mac and Cheese

Elbow macaroni
1 block soft silken tofu
2 cups soy milk
1/2 chopped yellow onion
1 garlic clove
1 tbsp miso paste
1 tbsp dry mustard
1-2 tbsp nutritional yeast
large sprinkle nutmeg
Cajun seasoning, to taste (I use about 1-2 tbsp)
salt, pepper, to taste
bread crumbs
Spinach (I use about half a bag of fresh spinach but frozen will work too, just thaw it and get out as much water as possible)
3 tbsp olive oil

1. In a large pot of salted water, cook the macaroni until al dente.

2. Preaheat the oven to 375.

3. Meanwhile, get out the blender and blend together the onion, tofu, soy milk, garlic, miso, mustard, nutritional yeast, nutmeg, olive oil, about 3/4 the cajun seasoning, salt and pepper until smooth. At this point, I taste it to see if I like the flavor. If not, add more spices.

4. Spray some oil on a 13 x 9 casserole dish. Drain the macaroni and dump it all into the casserole dish. Pour the tofu mixture over it, reserving about 1-2 cups of the liquid. Mix well, cover all the pasta. Break the spinach up into small pieces and mix it here, too. The heat of the pasta will help steam it, so it might be easier to mix the spinach with the pasta before adding the tofu mixture. Another trick that I do is take about half the spinach, and throw it in with the boiling water when cooking the pasta. It only need to be in the water for a second, so I put it in, stir it, and drain the pasta. Don't do this with all the spinach because it will clump. I recommend doing that to half and adding the other half when mixing it in the casserole dish.

5. Cover the casserole dish with tin foil and bake 25 minutes.

6. Remove from oven. Pour the rest of the tofu mixture over the macaroni and mix well.

7. Mix the bread crumbs (about 1/4 - 1/2 cup) with a little olive oil and sprinkle about half of it all over macaroni. Mix lightly, just mixing the bread crumbs with the top layer of pasta. Sprinkle the rest over the top with the rest of the cajun seasoning.

8. Bake, uncovered, for another 10 minutes.

NOTE: Instead of bread crumbs, spin some almonds in a coffee grinder until coarsely powdered and use in place of the bread crumbs.

From Food pics

Monday, October 20, 2008

Green Curry

I have tried and tried to make a curry that I am truly happy with. The ones I've made in the past are ok, but not great. I wouldn't order them in a restaurant. And if I had something like that in a restaurant, I would say "meh". EJ even bought me a book on curry for last christmas, and still all my curries are simply meh. Now that I'm happy with the way this green curry came out, I want to experiment with more red curries. I'll keep you all updated.

A dear friend has told me that he has conquered a never fail curry recipe, and so I dedicate this to Joe. Thanks, man :)

From Food pics

Joe's Curry:

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 white or yellow onion
3 cups vegetable stock
1 can chick peas
1 cup dry lentils
1 bottle curry paste (the one I bought was green curry, about a 3/4 cup of paste).
1 tbsp curry powder
3 tbsp raisins (optional)
1 tsp garam massala
1/2 tsp ground cloves, or about a tbsp whole cloves
1 tsp minced ginger
crushed red pepper, to taste
dry basmati rice
cumin seed
mustard seed
flat bread

1. Saute garlic in olive oil for 30 seconds, and add chopped onion. Saute until the onion becomes slightly translucent.

2. Add stock, chickpeas, lentils, curry paste, cury powder, garam masala, crushed red pepper, raisins, ginger and cloves. (here's the thing about using cloves. The ground cloves are about 10x more concentrated, so be careful. Its a little safer to use the whole cloves, but they are not good to eat. You can eat them, but I don't recommend it. When I made this, I actually went through and picked out the whole cloves before I served it so that EJ wouldn't accidentally eat one. That was a pain. However, Breza says that if you cook it for long enough, the cloves are edible. Worth a try. I'll keep everyone updated.)

3. Let the curry simmer for awhile, I try to let it simmer for at least an hour. You can also add tofu or TVP or anything else to give it a thicker consistency.

4. Meanwhile, you can prepare the rice. Toast about 1 tsp mustard seed and 1/2 tsp cumin seed until it pops (on the stove top) and prepare the rice the way you normally do. We have a rice cooker, which I swear by. The water : rice ratio should be 2 : 1. Add the spices to this and cook as usual.

5. For the naan, I purchased some flat bread from the grocery store (though naan is usually available at Indian grocers). I spread some margarine over it, sprinkled with garlic powder, onion powder, fresh cilantro and Parmesan cheese, and baked about 5 minutes at 350. This was GOOD.

6. Ok, back to the curry. Here you have a couple of options. To thicken it, add about 2-3 tbsp corn starch. You could also use flour, but corn starch is more concentrated, so it has less of a grainy texture. Don't add too much, though. You can also add a little milk or cream to soften the texture, but that is optional. Simmer a bit longer, until it has reached the desired consistency.

7. Mix in a handful of fresh cilantro.

8. Serve over rice with naan. Plain yogurt on the side is also really good for this dish.

From Food pics

Thanks for the help, Joe. I really enjoyed making this.

From Food pics

Cheese and garlic bread

This recipe goes along with comfort foods, because there is nothing better than hot bread, fresh from the oven. This was also the first recipe I could put together on my own. My mom's kitchen was the best to cook in (of course I didn't realize at the time - I only realized when I had my own kitchen and discovered that my gadgets aren't nearly as high quality as my mother's. Nor do I have as much counter space). When I tried the recipe (and it worked!) I was ecstatic, and baked the bread all the time. As time went on, I baked less and less, and cooked more and more, until here I am, 15 years later, in search of that original recipe. I tried several, and none were quite right, and after a lot of tweaking, I finally decided on the final version. And now I present Baby Melissa's Cheese Bread (with modifications).

2 cups warm milk
2 packets active dry yeast
2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
2 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
3 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
5 cups flour

1. Heat milk - I microwave 2 cups of milk for 2 1/2 minutes. You want it hot, but not so hot that it gets a skin. Mix the milk and the 2 packets of yeast in a bowl. Let sit 5 minutes.

2. After 5 minutes, add garlic, onion, salt, sugar, butter and about a quarter of the cheese. The reason I add some of the cheese now is because the hot milk will melt it, mixing it with everything. I like to keep some of it for later so that there are also pieces of cheese in the bread.

3. Add the flour, a little at a time. Also add the rest of the cheese, but reserve a little Parmesan for a garnish. When it becomes too hard to stir with a spoon, I knead it in the bowl with my hands. If you choose to do this (if you don't have an electric mixer, like myself (ahem, christmas present!?!)), put some oil on your hands so the dough doesn't stick to them as much.

4. Once the dough is kneaded, grease 2 bread pans and divide the dough in half. Put some more oil on your hands and press the dough into the pan - not too firmly, but you want the dough to reach all the corners. The oil on your hands help coat the bread with oil, too - it will brown nicely. Now, sprinkle some Parmesan cheese on top for a garnish.

5. Cover with a damp dish cloth and let rise for ~ 1 hour.

From Food pics

This is what it will look like after an hour (it should double in size).

From Food pics

6. Preheat the overn to 350. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Serve warm.

From Food pics

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Apricot and Brie Sandwiches

These sandwiches are simple, yet still have an elegant feel to them. They would be a nice addition to a picnic platter, or could be served as an hors d'oeuvre at a dinner party (here's the thought - slice them into bite size pieces and spear them with a toothpick).



Ciabatta bread
Apricot preserves
Pecans (roasted)
Brie, sliced

1. Assemble sandwich. Gaze at it longingly. Take first bite. Be surprised and pleased.

E.J.'s Favorite Sandwich

Really, he loves it. I love it because its flavorful and super easy.


ciabatta bread
1-2 squash (cut in half then sliced lengthwise)
1-2 zucchini (cut in half then sliced lengthwise)
fresh spinach, a handful
fresh mozzarella
garlic powder (sprinkle)
onion powder (sprinkle)
salt, pepper, to taste
olive oil

1. Roast the vegetables. There are a couple of ways to do this. The easiest thing is to put them on a cookie sheet with a little spray oil (very little, but make sure they won't stick to the pan). Sprinkle with the spices to taste. A very light sprinkle will do. Roast them in the oven at 350 degrees for ~10 minutes. You could also grill the vegetables. I saute them in a cast iron skillet that has grooves like a grill. Whichever method you choose, be sure to not cook them too long, because they can get soggy. The goal is to have them soft, but not too soft.

Also, don't feel limited to only using squash and zucchini. Mushrooms, eggplant, carrots and other squashes would all be great in this sandwich.

2. Sandwich assembly. Spread a light layer of pesto on each slice of bread. Layer the zucchini and squash, add some fresh spinach and a few slices of fresh mozzarella. Any cheese will do, but I think the fresh mozzarella really brings the sandwich together.

3. Wrap each sandwich in tin foil. Stick them in the onion (hot from roasting the veggies) for about 10 minutes. Unwrap the tin foil (its not hot) and serve hot. The cheese will be all melty and the bread warm. Mmmmmm......

From Food pics