Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Oriental tofu casserole

This is a recipe that has been in our family since I was 10 years old. The original version was not vegan, but I veganized it tonight with success. It was good, but not as tangy as the original version was with miracle whip rather than vegenaise. The good news is that the family liked it, even my two year-old.

1 medium onion, diced
1 8-ounced pkg of mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 can of bamboo shoots
1 can of water chestnuts, chopped
1/2 block of extra firm tofu, crumbled
1 cup vegan mushroom soup (I used Imagine foods)
3 cups cooked brown rice
1.5 cups crunchy wheat chinese noodles (I used La Choy), divided
1 tsp garlic powder
3/4 cup vegan sour cream
1/2 cup vegenaise
1/4 cup soy sauce

Sautee vegetables in pan spray and water
Mix with all other ingredients except half cup of the chinese noodles. Sprinkle this half cup on top.

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. We also had stirfried veggies with this meal.

Minestrone soup

One medium onion, diced
1/2 head of cabbage, chopped
1/2 stalk broccoli, chopped (or from frozen)
1 cup frozen green beans
3 large carrots, washed and peeled
1/2 a zucchini, washed and diced
1 can of kidney beans, drained
1 can diced tomatoes

5 medium red potatoes, peeled and diced
4 onces dry whole wheat pasta
4 tbsp dry beef-like vegan broth seasoning
8 cups of water
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp oregano
salt to taste
2 cups tomato sauce or spaghetti sauce
2 tbsp olive oil

Place onion in olive oil over low heat in a large stock pan. Cook until 0nions are soft and clear and then add other ingredients except pasta. Cook for half an hour and then add pasta. Cook an additional ten minutes.

Vegan soy-free lasagna

My husband's favorite food is lasagna. His mom makes an awesome lasagna filled with cheddar cheese, vegeburger, onions, mushrooms, green pepper. Mmm, it is very good. However, also very high in cholesterol and saturated fat. So, I wondered if I could come up with a lasagna that would make my husband happy. I doubted it could surpass his mom's delicious dish, but I hoped to come close! I also wanted to make it soy-free because I like to try and avoid putting soy in every single vegan thing I cook. The result was really good! My husband's comment, "I can't stop eating this stuff." And, the kids ate their portion and asked for seconds. I didn't follow a recipe, just made it up as I went, so here it is:

1 medium box lasagna noodles
1 large jar of vegan pasta sauce
1 small onion, finely diced
1 cup cleaned and sliced white mushrooms
1/2 a zucchini, washed and diced
2 large carrots, peeled, washed, and diced
1 tsp oregano
2 tbsp olive oil
"cheese" *see recipe below

Sautee vegetables in the oil, pour about 1/2 cup of pasta sauce in the bottom of a large casserole dish. Place a layer of dry lasagna noodles down. Pour more sauce and then add several spoonfuls of the vegetable mixture and cheese. Follow this pattern to the top of the casserole dish. Top with a generous amount of the pasta sauce and the oregano. Bake in 350 oven for 45 minutes.

*cheese recipe

1/4 cup drained canned pimentos
1/4 cup sesame seeds
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
2 tbsp vegan chicken style seasoning
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup pecan pieces
1/2 cup roasted cashews
1/4 cup flaxseeds
1/4 tsp salt, or to taste

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend on high, adding just enough water to blend. It should be a thick paste when it is done.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Super Easy One dish Mexican Meal

We were feeding three toddlers tonight as our little three year-old niece is here for her (and our) first ever sleep over. The kids have been having a blast! In any case, we are planning homemade popcorn and soy hot chocolate for later while we watch Mary Poppins, so I made a simple, not-too-heavy dinner.

For each Bowl:

3/4 cup brown rice
1/2 cup black beans
1/4 of an avocado, diced
1/4 cup sweet corn, from frozen
4 grape tomatoes, halved
2 tbsp mild salsa
1 tbsp vegan margarine (I use smart balance light)
1 tbsp diced cilantro
a pinch of salt

I already had the beans and rice on hand, so I just microwaved the beans, rice, and corn and then added the fresh ingredients. It got the toddler two thumbs up. My two year-old polished hers off and asked for more, the other girls ate almost all of it.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Vegan Fruited Gel

The local Oriental Market is a handy place to have around, as I recently resolved to remove gelatin from my diet. Yes, some of you will think this is strange as I am a lifetime vegetarian. I have no excuse for myself except to say that growing up we ate this in our vegetarian home and I never questioned it. Now I know that gelatin is made from animal bones and parts and it grosses me out! No more yogurt for me as even yogurts that have kosher gelatin often contain fish gelatin. So, another good step in the dairy-free direction. In any case, back to why the Oriental Market is handy to have around. Besides a wide variety of tofu, canned vegan "meats," and oriental veggies, they also have agar. I discovered there a packet of agar for making a gelatin dessert. Double-checking the ingredients, I found that it did not actually contain any gelatin, only agar and sugar. My kids have never had gelatin, but became entranced with it recently as we were reading a book where a group of toddlers shares this "jiggly-goggly" treat. So, I made it today, with pieces of cut-up canned pears inside. I then cut it into toddler-sized pieces and the kids were able to pick it up and eat it. They were very excited to tell daddy all about it when he came home. So, recipe-wise:

Buy a package of agar "gelatin" dessert at the oriental market, follow directions, but:

Replace half of the water with fruit juice, I used pear

One can of pears, diced

2 tbsp lemon juice

1 pkg black cherry drink mix, no sugar added

(this picture is from my daughters' 4th "Hello Kitty" birthday party)

Mix all ingredients in a pan on the stovetop, stirring constantly until it boils. Remove from heat and pour into a shallow dish. It will be completely set within 2 hours and it actually turns out firmer than gelatin. Then, you can cut it into cubes or other shapes.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Grandmas' fried potatoes

My mom makes the best fried potatoes in the world, and I have adopted her recipe. We made this for dinner last night, along with a veggie chicken patty and green beans. Plus, some more homemade "ice cream" for dessert. Here's the fried potato recipe:

5 medium red potaotes, washed and then baked or microwaved with peels on, sliced thin
1/2 medium sweet onion, sliced thin
3 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
salt to taste
4 tbsp olive oil

Place the olive oil in the pan and begin to fry the sliced onions. After a couple minutes, add the potatoes as well. When they appear done on one side, flip to the other side, then add all the seasonings. Serve with ketchup, of course.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Two Toddler-friendly recipes

At the beginning of each week, I cook a big pot of brown rice and also a crockpot of beans. Then, we can use these througout the week as they are or as part of recipes. The kids love rice and are often very happy with a bowl of beans right along with it. My husband made the rice already yesterday, so it was on hand for breakfast this morning: brown rice, scrambled tofu and fruit. Here's the scrambled tofu recipe:

1 block extra-firm tofu, pressed to remove excess water and then fork mashed
1/2 small onion, diced
1 small jar pimentos or 1/4 of a red pepper, diced
1/2 cup fresh mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp garlic powder
salt to taste
pan spray or olive oil

Cook the onion, peppers and mushrooms in the panspray or oil until soft and onions are clear. Add tofu and spices, soy sauce. Serve atop brown rice with tomatoes and a spoon of vegenaise. My husband also likes a little hot sauce and/or salsa on his.

Vegan chocolate chip cookies

1 cup vegan sugar
1/2 cup canola oil or vegan margarine
1 medium banana, mashed well
1 tbsp flaxseed, freshly ground and mixed with 2 tbsp water
1/2 tsp vanilla
1.5 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup quick oats
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
6 ounces vegan chocolate chips

Mix wet ingredients well, add dry ingredients. Mixture will be crumbly. Press into a golf-ball sized ball and then gently flatten the top of each ball. Bake on greased cookie sheet in 350 degree oven for 12 minutes. Leave on hot cookie sheet for five minutes before removing. Makes 18 small cookies, perfect for little toddler hands.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Lentil Soup by Vegedaddy

I had to work today. What an INSANE day in the trauma ICU. My husband was home with the girls today and I came home to a clean house and a meal of lentil soup, whole wheat bread, and veggies. Often, I'll give my hubby some food ideas, but he does a great job all on his own too. I was surprised at how quickly the girls polished off their lentil soup and asked for more. Here's the recipe, but I'll warn you that it's all approximate as we don't do much measuring around here when it comes to creating soup.

Lentil Soup

1 small package dry lentils, sorted and rinsed
8 cups water
2 large carrots, cleaned and diced
1/2 a small onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
2 medium potatoes, diced
4 tbsp dry vegan chicken broth powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion salt
1 can petite diced tomatoes

Place the cleaned lentils and water in a large pot at medium heat

Add all veggies, spices, and veg. chicken broth powder

Cook until veggies and lentils are tender

I thought my husband did a great job: good soup! I'll post my recipe for Indian lentil soup sometime.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Vegefamily eats out

We're off to Imperial Palace tonight with my sister and her husband daughter, all our family, and my parents. Good Chinese food. My favorite dish there is spicy eggplant with tofu.

Friday, February 15, 2008

A day in the life of my vegetarian toddlers


Steel cut oats or millet with vegan margarine and maple syrup
blueberries (usually from frozen)
soy yogurt


brown rice
veggie chicken patty
a whole fruit popsicle for dessert


whole wheat pasta with marinara sauce
lentil patties
salad or mixed vegetables
homemade fruit "ice cream"

The kids also get snacks twice a day:

Usually rice milk and then fruit or sunflower seed butter on bread or crackers

I still give the kids eggs on occasion and my older daughter will occasionally eat some dairy. (Trying to get away from it completely.) My younger daughter is highly intolerant to dairy. Now, I just have to convince my husband to be vegan. As he was a meat-eater when we first got married, vegetarianism in itself has been a big change.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Feeding Toddlers

I live in Nebraska. That's beef country, for those of you that don't know. People at work are astonished to learn that I am a vegetarian, and the question of "what do you eat?" is often raised. The other day while at work, I was on the phone with my husband discussing a few things I wanted him to pick up at the grocery store. A co-worker overheard me asking him to pick up "Rice mik, soy milk, tofu, soy yogurt, dry lentils, dry red beans, etc." When I got off the phone, she remarked, "My grocery list is so different from yours. My kids would never eat that kind of stuff, do yours?" I assured her that my kids eat pretty much anything I feed them, and that hers would likely do the same if those options were offered. She then related to me that her 5 year-old was a very picky eater and wouldn't even eat her chicken nuggets and fries from McDonalds the other day. She herself is currently trying to undergo a lifestyle change and eat healthier: more salads, fruits, etc. I encouraged her to feed the kids what she eats. My two year-old will eat salad off my plate. She loves lentils and rice pasta. My four year-old's favorite food is brown rice! This is the way I have fed my girls since they first started eating. They like healthy food because it's what they are given and are used to. Now, don't get me wrong. They have had junk food, too, and they love french fries. I do allow them these things in moderation. However, they are every bit as happy with the ice cream I create at home from fresh fruit and coconut or rice/soy milk. And, they love eating oven fries. I try to give them these healthier options the majority of the time. I hope my girls will take these healthy habits and keep them for a lifetime.

Easy Hummus

I love hummus. I'd never tried it until moving away from home to go to college. There, I discovered a restaurant called Jerusalem Cuisine. They made absolutely the best hummus around! Unfortunately, they have gone out of business. So, I have been forced to create my own hummus at home. Here's the recipe I used when I made it the other day. My family loves garlic. Even my two year-old loved this. Just wanted to let you know that it is truly very galicky! We ate our hummus with toasted whole wheat bread, slices of avocado, grape tomatoes, a bowl of brown rice, and some cauliflower. A simple meal, but the kiddos polished it off.

Easy Hummus

1 can chick peas (garbanzo beans)
1 tsp salt, or to taste
2 small cloves fresh garlic, crushed and roughly chopped
1/4 cup natural-strength lemon juice
3 tbsp tahini OR 3 tbsp sesame seeds
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
A little water, as much as it takes for your blender to blend the chick peas and garlic

Blend all ingredinets in a blender until smooth, may add cumin or fresh chopped parsley if desired.

This is also great on a sandwich with your favorite fresh veggies: lettuce, tomato, cucumber, black olives, avocado.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A few of my favorite vegan recipes

Chick pea ala king

This is my adaptation of a recipe from Vibrant Life magazine. It's very good!

1 cup raw cashews
1.5 tbsp onion powder
1.5 tsp salt
1 tbsp vegan chicken style seasoning powder
2 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
1/2 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp basil
3 cups of water
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 cup diced sweet red pepper or small jar diced pimentos
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1.5 cups cooked or canned garbanzo beans (chick peas)
1 cup frozen peas
2 tbsp olive oil or may use pan spray

Rinse cashews will. Place cashews in blender with the water and seasonings. Blend for at least two minutes. Sautee the onion, mushroom, and red pepper in a large pan. Cook until soft, then add the cashew mixture. Simmer until bubbling and then mix in the frozen peas and chick peas. May add a little additional water if it's too thick. Serve over brown rice, quinoa, or pasta.

Soy-free Veggie Burgers

Another recipe adaptation, originally Bryanna Clark Grogans' with my modifications. The original recipe used TVP and soy sauce. I changed the recipe to make it soy-free. However, I must tell you that this recipe is much better *with* soy sauce rather than the soy-free chicken broth. So, if you can do soy, replace the vegan chicken broth with 2 tbsp of soy sauce for the wet mix and 4 tbsp of soy sauce for the broth. Another option is to use TVP or vegeburger crumbles rather than the flaxseed and ground walnuts, although I have had great success with those. I've even used lentils. This recipe is a great starting point for many variations.

Dry Mix:
2/3 cup pure gluten flour
1/3 cup chick pea flour
4 tbsp oatmeal
1 tsp dry marjoram
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 cup walnuts, ground to a meal
1/4 cup flaxseed, ground to a meal
2 tbsp dry vegan chicken broth mix
1 tbsp nutritional yeast

Wet Mix:
1 tsp marmite
3 tbsp catsup
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp smoke flavoring (opt)
plus enough water mixed with the above to equal a cup.

Cooking broth:
1 cup hot water
2 tbsp dry vegan chicken broth
1/2 tbsp olive oil
2 gloves crushed and finely minced garlic

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Mix the dry ingredients and set aside. Combine the wet mix ingredients and then gradually mix into dry ingredients. Be sure to mix the marmite thoroughly until it is all dissolved before adding to the dry ingredients. Form in to 6 medium harmburger-shaped patties and place in a lightly oiled 9x13 baking dish. Pour cooking broth over the patties, cover with aluminum foil. Bake x 15 minutes on one side, then flip to the other side for 15 additional minutes.

May freeze for later use, or fry to use now. I like them best prepared in a pan with a little pan spray and barbecue sauce, then served on a bun with veganaise, fresh sliced onion and tomato, and catsup. Enjoy!

Peanut butter tofu

1 block extra-firm tofu 1/2 cup creamy natural peanut butter
1 tbsp hot chili sauce, or more to taste (I use "sweet chili sauce for chicken" from the oriental market)
1 clove garlic, crushed and diced
1/4 inch section of fresh ginger, diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 1/2 cups water

1 tbsp honey or honey substitute
1 small onion, sliced thin
2 tbsp olive oil

Cut the tofu into 1/4 inch slices, place in a shallow dish with the soy sauce,honey, sweet chili sauce, garlic, and ginger. Tilt dish to cover tofu well. Marinate 1/2 hour or longer.
Meanwhile, sautee onion in the olive oil in a frying pan until soft and clear. Also, mix the creamy peanut butter with the water until it is a smooth sauce.
After the tofu has marinated, mix the peanut sauce mixture with the marinade and add it all the frying pan with the onions. Let it cook at low heat for about half an hour until the sauce is very thick, stirring gently if needed. Top with fresh chopped cilantro. Serve over rice noodles or brown rice. This recipe is milder as I serve it to my four year-old. You may want to add more chili sauce and ginger for adult tastes. *thanks to 'Llan and Wendy for being the creators of the original recipe I modeled this after!
I've just recently discovered Vegan Gourmet "cheese" by Follow Your Heart. It's the most palatable soy cheese I've found. Good enough that my cheese-loving 4 year-old likes it! The other day, I made pizza and topped it with the cheddar version of Vegan Gourmet and then a little olive oil and some garlic powder. She gobbled it down and wanted more. Two days ago, I made vegan burritos with the monterrey jack variety. I find that my little ones (age 2 and 4) will eat burritos much more readily if they are smothered in enchilada sauce. Here's the recipe:

6 whole wheat tortilla shells
1 medium avocado, diced
1 cup shredded vegan gourmet monterrey jack cheese
1/2 cup sweet corn (from fresh or frozen)
1/2 cup diced fresh tomato
1/4 cup sliced black olives
2 cups Morningstar Farms vegeburger crumbles (or you could use TVP, reconstituted), warmed
1.5 cups vegan enchilada sauce
6 tbsp vegan sour cream or vegenaise

Warm the whole wheat tortilla shells in the microwave for 20 seconds, equally divide the vegetables and vegeburger crumbles, cheese, and sour cream/vegenaise. Roll outer edges of tortilla in and then over. Place in a casserole dish. Warm the enchilada sauce atop the stove or in the microwave and then pour over the burritos.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Tropical ice cream (vegan)

For a couple years, I have been reading and enjoying the blogs of Vegan Lunch box, Vegan Lunchast, and more recently the blog of Megan the Vegan. Ahhh, such good food. It has inspired me! I have been a vegetarian my whole life but lately am finally beginning to seriously contemplate becoming vegan. I do believe it's the healthiest way to be. I've never been a big fan of eggs and feel pretty confident I could do without them quite easily. I have a bag of flaxseed in my freezer that I pull out whenever I want to grind a tablespoon of flaxseed to replace an egg, and that works well. The challenges are ice cream and cheese. Tonight, I made an *awesome* vegan ice cream, recipe follows. I wish I would have taken a picture!

Tropical ice cream

1 can lite coconut milk
1.5 bananas
1/2 cup white grape peach juice, frozen concentrate
1 cup frozen mango chunks
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp maple syrup or brown rice syrup
1 cup sweet tart frozen cherries

Blend in all the ingredients except half a banana and the cherries in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into ice cream maker and process until the consistency of soft-serve. We use the type of ice cream maker (see above) where you put the metal bowl in the freezer and then pull it out when ready to use.

When almost done, toss in half a banana, cut into chunks, and 1/2 cup tart sweet frozen cherries. This was SO good that the kids were going after the ice cream bowl with their spoons when their portions were finished.