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I have been a really, really bad Mo Fo this week. I have several tests and papers coming up, my roommate moved to New York, and I’ve been doing my best to spend time with Friendboy. It hasn’t been a vigorous week for cooking, but I have a few things and I’ve been remiss in not putting them up.

Smashed red potatoes topped with beef-style seitan simmered in a thin gravy, with blanched broccoli on the side. I think it looks unfortunately like something that might appear in a veg version of a cafeteria, but it was warm and tasty and required almost no effort.

The first part of this week was unseasonably cold for Charleston, with temperatures in the 40s and 50s. Today it was in the 70s and low 80s. Come on, South Carolina, get with the program. It’s fall, bring back the sweater weather! On one of the cold mornings, I made a warm breakfast for Friendboy and myself. Oatmeal with almond butter mixed in, topped with brown sugar and slices of local winesap apples. Usually I mix peanut butter into my oatmeal, but I bought some CRUNCHY (!!) almond butter the other day and couldn’t wait to use it.

Spinach udon in faux beef broth with red and yellow peppers, purple wax beans, snap peas, onion, and fried tofu. I drizzled some sesame oil over the top, and after I took this picture I added a little bit of soy sauce. The noodles and broth are cooked separately, the noodles are placed in the bowl and topped with the raw vegetables, and then boiling broth is poured over everything. I cover it with a bowl and let sit for a couple of minutes. Fast.

Tonight I steamed a spaghetti squash in the oven, scraped out the flesh, and mixed it with Smart Balance. I made a sauce out of canned tomatoes, diced red pepper, and garlic. Last weekend I bought some bok choy and I wanted to try something a little different from the usual Asian-style preparations, so I sauteed it in olive oil with chopped portobello mushrooms and then dressed it with balsamic vinegar and crushed red pepper. SO GOOD. I like bok choy in stir fry as much as the next girl, but it pairs pretty well with Italian flavors, too. I made some quickie garlic bread in the toaster oven out of “English toasting bread” (I don’t know, but it’s good), Smart Balance, and garlic salt.

Awesome byproduct of spaghetti squash:  spaghetti squash seeds. Everybody roasts pumpkin seeds, but did you know that acorn, butternut, and spaghetti squash also have edible seeds? You can roast them just like pumpkin seeds. I put these ones in the oven on some foil at 275F for 20 minutes. They’re coated with olive oil, salt, fresh cracked pepper, and curry seasoning. I’ve eaten a couple of them, but they’ll mostly be my snack with a mug of peppermint soy cocoa while I watch Mulholland Drive.

I solemnly swear that I will do better in the next and final week of Mo Fo.

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Last night, I made a pot pie for dinner. It had faux chik’n gravy, chicken-flavor seitan, potatoes, turnip greens, and lima beans. It was delicious, but the pictures turned out horribly. I am not talented enough to photograph pot pie–it’s not a very photogenic dish. 

Now, it was a pot pie for one, so I didn’t need very much crust, but I still made a full recipe of the dough and put the excess away in the fridge. When I was a kid, my mother would give us the extra bits of pie dough to make “treats” out of, which usually involved folding some jam into them or sprinkling them with sugar and baking until crisp. As an adult, I still love to play with my leftover dough, and one of my favorite uses is “samosas.” Now, these are only samosas in the loosest sense of the word. I didn’t use the flaky crust that samosas usually have–I used an olive oil herb crust, because that’s what suited my pot pie best. It’s also not filled with completely traditional samosa ingredients. It’s filled with… tofu scramble! Think of it as a tasty hybrid of samosas and those gross breakfast Hot Pockets.

The filling for two samosas is ~1/4 lb of extra firm tofu, 1 medium red potato, and 1/4 cup of frozen peas, although you could use onions, carrots, cauliflower…whatever vegetables you want. I pressed, drained, and crumbled the tofu, and seasoned it with turmeric, ginger, crushed red pepper, black pepper, onion powder, salt, and coriander and made the seasonings a bit stronger than I usually would, since I’d be thinning the mix out with my vegetables later. I diced the potato and boiled it with the frozen peas and a peeled chunk of ginger root until the potatoes were just tender, but didn’t break apart when poked. I scrambled the tofu as usual in a small amount of olive oil, and when it was nearly done I added the drained peas and potatoes (remove the chunk of ginger root if you use it) and about 1/4 tsp of sesame oil for flavor. While the veggies and tofu were mingling on the stove, I rolled out my crust very thin and divided it into two pieces.


You’ll need either fresh or leftover savory pie dough. I used olive oil herb dough (1 cup white wheat flour, 1 cup unbleached AP flour, 1 tsp herbs of your choice, 1 tsp sea salt, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup cold water) leftover from last night’s dinner. The paring knife is provided in the picture for a sense of scale. That’s the only knife in my entire kitchen except for one wobbly steak knife and some butter knives, by the way. Every meal you see on this blog has been prepared with that knife.

I put about 1/2 cup of tofu and veggies in the center of each piece of dough, which left about 1/3 cup of filling for me to snack on. I folded the dough over the filling, then sealed the edges with a little bit of water and rolled the edges up. A small hole in the top to release any steam, a brushed-on coating of a little melted Smart Balance, and they’re ready for the oven.

The left samosa is done properly, I had some… technical difficulties with the one on the right, but it tasted totally fine, I promise. It’s just not as attractive. I baked the samosas on foil misted with olive oil for twenty minutes at 375. Now, at this point, if you wanted to make samosas for future breakfasts, you would bake them for five minutes, remove them from the oven, allow them to cool, then wrap them up and freeze them. When you want to eat them, put ’em back in the oven. Vegan breakfast Hot Pockets!

While the samosas were baking, I decided that I wanted chutney on the side. The problem is, chutney takes an hour or more to cook down, and my samosas were going to be ready in twenty minutes. So I took my basic chutney recipe and turned it into a deconstructed chutney, or (since “deconstructed chutney” sounds a little too Top Chef) a chutney salad. It uses the main flavor components of my usual chutney–tart apples, tomatoes, onion, ginger, vinegar, and brown sugar. This makes enough to eat with two samosas.

CHUTNEY SALAD
1/2 a large tart apple, like Winesap or Granny Smith, diced
1 medium or 1/2 large ripe tomato, seeded and diced
1 green onion stalk, chopped into segments
1 teaspoon peeled and finely diced ginger root
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon sea salt

Whisk the brown sugar and salt into the vinegar with a fork until dissolved. Toss all remaining ingredients in the dressing. That’s it, you’ve got a chutney salad.

After the picture, I spooned the chutney salad onto the plate and ate it in combined bites with the samosa. Because of the chutney salad, I ate this all with a fork, but if you’re eating this as a reheated Veg Pocket, it works very well as a handheld food.

Yesterday was A Major Kitchen Project for me, so I decided to make today’s cooking a bit more scaled down and I made the choice to experiment with converting some fondly-remembered omni recipes from my childhood to vegan versions–some of them more successfully than others. Also today, I actually ate three whole meals, something I almost never do. Most days I eat one meal (dinner) and one or two snacks. I essentially only eat breakfast on Sundays and usually only eat lunch if someone has invited me out. This really doesn’t seem healthy, so I’m trying to remedy that.

For breakfast, I toasted one of yesterday’s sandwich buns and spread it with natural peanut butter and some slices of Jazz apple. I looooved peanut butter and fruit on sandwiches when I was a kid–in high school I used to eat peanut butter and kiwi sammies as a snack–and it seemed like a good way to kick off the morning. I ate it on the run with a travel mug of rooibos tea with soymilk and turbinado sugar.

For lunch, I tried my hand at adapting Childhood Classic #1: Chicken Fingers, using chicken-style seitan. I used a recipe on the side of a Bisquick box which called for dipping the chicken in egg before shaking it in coating. Lack of egg is usually my main problem in effectively breading vegan food for baking or frying, and today I decided to try soaking my seitan pieces in “vegan buttermilk” (soy milk + lemon juice). In addition to making the breading stick, I hoped that the soaking process would keep the seitan from drying out too much in the oven.

The seitan in a bag of “buttermilk.” I would have put them in a bowl, but we had “planned water line maintenance” on my street which meant that I was without running water for part of the afternoon and wanted to keep a stack of dirty dishes from forming on my counter.

And the seitan, breaded and drizzled with melted margarine as per the Bisquick instructions, waiting to go into the oven. Okay, the problems with this recipe were mostly strategic. The foil on the baking sheet is sprayed with olive oil. The side of the seitan which was facing down for the first six minutes of baking crisped up beautifully, exactly the texture I was hoping for. But because the flip side didn’t get this same oil exposure and had to rely on the margarine drizzle, only parts of its breading cooked properly. The directions on the box could have been a bit clearer on the purpose of the margarine drizzle–if I had thought about it, I would have sprayed the tops of the seitan with oil, too. But as cooked, one side did not crisp up as well as the other. The seitan inside stayed moist thanks to the buttermilk, and the properly cooked side of the breading was tasty and crisp. I ate these dipped in leftover Carolina barbecue sauce. I had a prettier picture, but I decided to use this one displaying the improperly crisped side of the seitan so ya’ll could see what I did wrong.

Childhood Classic #2 was peanut butter Hershey’s kiss cookies. Even if your own family never made them, I’m sure that you’ve seen them somewhere: a sugar-coated peanut butter cookie topped with a melty Hershey’s kiss. I love those cookies. I even already have an excellent vegan recipe for them somewhere, but I couldn’t find it, so I hastily veganized a recipe from the internet and hit a couple of stumbling blocks. The cookie dough had a texture closer to muffin batter and the proportions of sugar seemed off to me. I added more sugar and flour in tablespoonfuls until I had a dough I could work with (although it developed bizarre ooblick-like properties), rolled them in a mix of vegan sugar and powdered ginger, and popped the little suckers in the oven. When they came out, I topped them with squares of Chocolove dark chocolate* instead of Hershey’s kisses. The cookies themselves are soft and cakelike, and not terribly sweet–and honestly, I like them that way, because while I love to bake I do not have a big sweet tooth.

Childhood Classic #3 was Macaroni and Cheese. I used the Eazy Breezy Cheezy Sauce recipe from the PPK, and ended up channeling Cuny Queen by adding peas to my pasta. Normally I would use broccoli, but since I don’t have any, peas it was. On the side I fried up some beef-style seitan, as a nod to the chunks of Polish sausage that my mother would serve with mac and cheese when I was a kid. Then I drenched the entire thing with hot sauce. I actually tend to make my food much spicier than other people like. My father is anosmic–that is, he has no sense of smell–and because of this his sense of taste is very limited. Since the spicy “flavor” of hot peppers comes from capsaicin, he can actually taste spicy food, so most of what my mother cooks for him is very hot and she passed that tendancy on to me.

I liked the cheezy sauce. It’s not Kraft, but if you’re used to the boxed vegan mac and cheese mixes like Road’s End Organics, eazy breezy cheezy is better and cheaper than those. After I took the picture, I got a little concerned about my general lack of vegetables today and I cooked up some turnip greens with sesame oil and ginger. They were yummy, but I was rather hungry by that point and I neglected to take a picture.

*a note on Chocolove dark chocolate:  Chocolove bars work well for this recipe because they are divided into roughly Kiss-sized pillows of chocolate which break apart easily. Chocolove recieves some of their base chocolate from sources which do not have separate processing lines for dark and milk chocolate. While Chocolove uses separate dedicated lines for dark and milk chocolate bars in their own facility, and the dark chocolate bars do not contain dairy ingredients, they cannot promise that there is no cross-contamination from prior steps in the processing chain. I’m comfortable with that, but if you are allergic or if this is an issue for you, any other vegan chocolate bar which can be broken into Kiss-sized lumps can work for making peanut butter kiss style cookies. The higher the percentage of dark chocolate in a Chocolove bar, the lower the chance that there has been cross-contamination.

I love Sunday breakfast. For many people, Sunday breakfast is when the whole family sleeps late and then tucks into a traditional spread together. Or they go out to brunch after church. Or they host their own brunch for their friends with pitchers of mimosas. I eat Sunday breakfast alone. Friendboy is out of town today, but even when he’s here he sleeps until the middle of the afternoon on the weekends.

Yesterday I made pumpkin fauxsage using the recipe at Have Cake Will Travel, and then realized that I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do with a massive one pound log of fauxsage. This morning I decided to recreate a dish that I loved as a child:  corned beef hash. If you’re thinking of the mush that comes in cans from Hormel, that’s not what I’m talking about. That stuff is just one processing step away from being dog food. I’m talking about made from scratch, and I feel somewhat pleased that, having made my own “meat,” my hash is made-from-scratch-ier than any omni hash that isn’t cooked up by a cowboy.

I cut up some red potatoes into tiny cubes and boiled them in salted water until just tender, then drained them and set them aside. I reserved about three tablespoons of the cooking liquid. Then I diced the pumpkin fauxsage, a portobello mushroom cap, and two giant cloves of garlic. I melted some Smart Balance Light in my large frying pan and added a tablespoon or so of vegetable oil to keep the Smart Balance from burning off. I sauteed the garlic just until I could smell it, and then added the fauxsage and a generous sprinkle of kosher salt. When the fauxsage started to look nicely browned on one side, I added the diced mushroom and stirred until they softened. I turned down the heat, pushed all the fauxsage and mushrooms to one half of the pan, and added the potatoes to the other half with a couple more pats of Smart Balance. I cracked black and red pepper over everything, stirring the potatoes in their half of the pan until they were coated with Smart Balance and spices. I then stirred everything back together and let it sit, coming back every two or three minutes to stir things around. When the potatoes started to look “fried,” I poured the reserved tablespoons of cooking liquid over the hash and let it sit over low heat until the liquid had absorbed and the fauxsage had begun to dry out again.

During the last stage of cooking the hash, I whipped together some waffle batter. I usually make waffles with Ener-G egg replacer, but I’m out, so I took a bit of a gamble and stirred in some applesauce in the place of an egg. The applesauce sub works fine in muffins and quick breads, but I didn’t know how it would work out in waffles. Verdict:  absolutely fine, they didn’t taste much different from the waffles I make with Ener-G. My waffle iron smoked a little more than usual, but the waffles themselves were not burnt. I regret not taking a picture of the waffle iron. It’s a battered old warhorse and is older than I am–my mother passed it down to me when she got a new, prettier model. My waffle iron has no safety features to speak of, the internal cooking surface is cast iron, and it weighs a ton. I hope it never stops working, I love it.

My waffles covered in three-berry preserves, surrounded by a moat of fauxsage hash. The waffles were good, but I am ADDICTED to the hash. Between this plate and all of the “tasting” I did, I ate half the pan by myself. It’s salty, starchy, and delicious–just like hash should be.

I’m sure this seems ridiculous, but of all of the things I cooked over the past couple of days, I was most excited about blueberry pancakes. Not because I had a surplus of blueberries kicking around and not because I am particularly fond of blueberry pancakes, but because I have never IN MY LIFE successfully made pancakes before this week. They always came out lumpy, thin, translucent, burnt, or rubbery, no matter what recipe I followed. Scratch? Failure. Boxed mixes? Failure. Who messes up making boxed pancake mix? I do, every time.

But the stars aligned on Thursday morning, and I pulled off perfect light, round pancakes. Accompanying these blueberry-cinnamon pancakes are a cup of Greek yogurt topped with three-berry preserves, red grapes, and Gimme Lean vegan sausage.

Next up are vegan chocolate chip pumpkin muffins. The recipe:
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 16-oz can of pumpkin puree, 1/3 cup vegetable oil, Ener-G egg replacer (2 eggs’ worth), 1 1/4 cups vegan cane sugar, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp ginger, and 2/3 cup of vegan chocolate chips.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/tonguetrip/3957097056/in/photostream/

 

At Whole Foods the other day, I discovered that Gimme Lean (my favorite vegan sausage) also comes in a beef-style version, so I bought some to make meatballs. I thought about just serving them with spaghetti, but my friendboy had a meatball sub for lunch and it sounded good to me. “Meatballs” browned in olive oil, served on a toasted sesame bun with tomato sauce and an Italian six-cheese blend that my roommate uses for pizza. On the side are braised brussels sprouts with carrots and onions and a green salad with grape tomatoes.

I was not in a good mood today, so I went with something very lazy and comforting for dinner. The recipe comes from the Jif peanut butter website and is called “Easy Peanut Pasta Twists.” One of my former roommates used to make this dish, and while the ingredients seem kind of like a strange combination (peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar, chili powder, crushed red pepper, garlic, ketchup), it’s spicy and creamy and delicious. I didn’t even bother to plate it, I just ate it out of the serving bowl with a tall glass of orange juice and a Law and Order marathon.

Veganmofo III is about to begin in October. While I didn’t have a blog until this year, I followed Veganmofos I and II. I am an ovo-lacto vegetarian, not a vegan, but I will be going vegan for the month of October to participate. I was a vegan for several years, and I “reverted” to vegetarianism after a period of serious illness during which I lost a lot of weight. I wasn’t gaining weight back fast enough on a vegan diet, and so I returned to eating eggs and dairy. It bugs me a lot, but I feel… fallen? Disgraced? Strangely religious language to use, but lacking a religion, veg*nism is an important part of my ethical views and I feel like I’ve let down myself and factory farmed animals by falling off the vegan wagon.

So I’ll be a vegan again for the month of October, eating and blogging exclusively vegan food every day for thirty-one days.

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