Cookies, Strike 3 (Sort Of)

We had the Vietnamese Seitan Sandwich from V’con for lunch today, which was a no-brainer lunch for me. I knew I’d love it. But it got me thinking about sandwiches in general. Here are my favorites:

1. Any seitan sandwich- like I said before, it’s my favorite protein (at least this month).

2. Reubens- these always hit the spot for me. But if you get one at an awesome place like the Chicago Diner, it actually jumps into #1.

3. TLT – sometimes I like these better as a salad than a sandwich. They are a distant 3rd, but lists look better in 3’s than in 2’s.

Today’s sandwich definitely is in that # 1 slot. I’m a sucker for sandwiches, but then I think I have to eat less carby stuff at dinner. Don’t worry, I just think it, I still eat whatever.

Back to those Bordeaux cookies. The taste from today’s batch was really, really good. It had the right sweetness, a caramelish taste and was pretty much right on. The texture wasn’t so hot. Some were crispy and others were downright chhhheeeewwwwyyyy. Really chewy. One of the two sheets ended up as one huge cookie. It made me think of geology, forming new earth and all that. The margarine was kind of volcanic and they spread like crazy. I’m making one more attempt in a day or two. Mel’s suggestion about decreasing the flour and soymilk definitely helped. Thanks, Mel.

All these attempts at one kind of cookie really makes me appreciate the effort cookbook authors put into things before releasing them to their testers and the public. And I’m getting a little frustrated just working on one recipe!

Tonight’s dinner: the enchiladas from Veganomicon, made with spinach instead of kale and pepitas. Honest, I’m not a hater. I just wanted to use what I had.

Is it cheating that I’m mostly writing about what we eat every day? I’ll have to think about that over dinner.

The Cookie Quest Continues….

I tried another batch of those Bordeaux Cookies after playing with some of the ingredients. They’re closer, but still not there. At least I can see France from here, even if I’m not in the right region. If you’ve tasted (and loved) one of these from Pepperidge Farm more recently than I have, maybe you could take a shot at this recipe and tell me just what is missing.

The Not Quite Right Bordeaux Cookies
1/3 cup margarine
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp molasses
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cornstarch
1 3/4 cup flour (dip and level)
1/4 cup soymilk

Cream margarine and sugars. Add vanilla, molasses and syrup. Mix, then add the dry ingredients and soymilk (in two different pours). Mix. Roll into a tube-like shape in wax paper and place in freezer for 15 minutes. Slice into 1/8 inch slices, place on parchment lined cookie sheets and bake at 450 for about 8 minutes. Leave on cookie sheet for a couple of minutes, then place on cooling rack. They will continue to crisp until cool.

That cornstarch? I’m not sure why I added it. It just seemed like a good idea at the time and it always made the playdough recipe more fun so I thought it might be more fun in these cookies, too.

The surface of these looks less right than the first attempt, the shape is better and the texture and flavor are improved. If I try them again, I think I’d go all white sugar and up the molasses and maple syrup.

I’d love any suggestions from more experienced cookie bakers!

I was a little disappointed with the way they came out, so thought I’d lift my spirits with soup. This time it is the Black Bean and Vegetable Soup from Veganomicon. I consider myself a black bean soup expert… at tasting it, not making it. I almost always order it if it is on a menu or is a special, unless it is one of those lovely 100 degree and humid days. Without a doubt, this is the best black bean soup. I cheated and used canned beans and it was still unbelievable. Just the right spice. Not only does it taste incredible, but it’s easy, too.

The cornbread recipe I usually use is this one. Yummy, especially in a cast iron skillet.

Since I haven’t posted a picture of this amazing BBQ Seitan Sandwich with Crispy Coleslaw yet, here it is. I admit, the idea of coleslaw on a sandwich sounded a little (OK, a lot) weird to me…but we loved it. Then again, it was seitan (my favorite protein!) and bbq sauce and coleslaw (all on a whole wheat bun), so how could we not? I confess: I almost served the coleslaw on the side instead of on the bun. I’m glad it I didn’t.

Thanks, Isa and Terry! You make meal times so much fun (sung to the tune of Mr. Bubble).

Tempeh Talk

I’m starting to think that Isa believes in tough love. That’s why the boards are down. It’s to make us fill our commitments to blog. I miss the PPK but probably wouldn’t have done this if the boards had stayed up. Some of you might be in the same boat…and the fact that we’re blogging might actually make more vegans. I can hope, right? (Damn, I miss the PPK!).

With our first snow falling, it really drives home the idea that this is soup weather. You’re warned: I love soup and have a few new recipes to try. But for starters I’ll go to an old favorite. It may sound far-fetched, but believe me when I tell you that Cleveland used to have a vegetarian restaurant in the mid 1980’s called the Noble Bean. It was owned by a woman named Lynne who was also the cook. They made their own tempeh and had a cool incubating room you could see from the restaurant. It’s the first place I had tempeh and loved it from the start. She made wonderful dishes like tempeh fries, tempeh salad, tempeh paprikash and lots of others. They hosted vegetarian dinners for the holidays. I remember for Easter they made these adorable tempeh bunnies that they served with a chick pea gravy. She also made tempeh noodle soup and since then some version of it has always been in rotation at our home. Here is the latest.

Tempeh Noodle Soup
8 oz tempeh, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
2 Tbsp oil (or less, if you can)

1 large onion, diced
1 stalk celery, sliced
2 carrots, cut in 1/2 inch slices
2 tsp thyme
2 tsp parsley
1/4 tsp sage
2 Tbsp Bryanna’s Chicken stock powder
1/2 cup white wine (to deglaze, you can just use stock if you prefer)
3 or more cloves garlic, crushed (5 cloves roasted is nice, if you have it)

1/2 cup peas
1 cup swiss chard, cut in bite size pieces and loosely packed
8 cups (or so) stock (how soupy do you like your soup?)
1 cup ditalini or pasta choice, cooked
salt and pepper to taste

Mix first 3 spices together in a small bowl. Pop the tempeh in and toss it around til they are coated. Heat the oil in a soup pot. When hot, lightly brown the tempeh. Add onions, celery, carrots and the spices left in the tempeh tossing bowl. When onions are translucent, add garlic and the other spices. Cook for a few minutes, then deglaze the pan with either wine or broth. Add the stock and Bryanna’s Chicken Powder. Let simmer about 1/2 an hour. Add peas and chard. Adjust seasonings. To serve, I put a little cooked pasta in a ball, then top with soup. I hate when my pasta gets all bloated and mushy in soup. You can also add potatoes early on, or sub barley or rice for the pasta.

For the record, I’m one of those who almost always steams my tempeh before using it. Except when it’s going into a soup or a stew. Steaming not only makes it more digestible, it also helps it absorb marinades. If you haven’t tested the difference for yourself, give it at a try.

With the boards down, I’ve been a little (actually a lot) more productive. By 9:30 this morning, I’d already made those sweet somethings up top. If that isn’t a good use of time, I don’t know what is.

Yep, they’re Peanut Butter Cups! Testers for Autumn Vegan and Garrick. We have an omni friend who is peanut butter crazed and he’s coming over tonight. I thought they’d be a great surprise.

Since I had dessert figured out so early, what could I do but think about dinner? I was itching to try the mustard sauce from V’con, so we had that over the chickpea cutlet with asparagus (of course, the book told me to use it with the sauce so I had to do it!) and caramelized leek mashed potatoes. This is comfort food, but more like hip, gourmet comfort food.

The PPK is back up! If you don’t see me blogging for a while, you’ll know I’ve given in to my old vice. You’ll know just where to find me.

Go-To Dinner #1- Seitan

I ended up doing one of my go-to dinners last night. That’s what happens when I realize that the chickeny cutlets from the Every Day Dish dvd won’t be out of the oven until after 6 and I just want some dinner and to relax. There are a few recipes I consistently make: tempeh reubens, some of the lolo testers, some of the VwaV standbys, but I really like to cook something new every day. Some of the best advice I’ve ever read about cooking was to just do it (not to sound like a nike commercial here) but trying to sound like Tofu666 who said it to Jess who put it in Herbivore. This is sounding like one of those nursery rhymes about a crooked man or a lady who swallowed a fly. Ewwwww.

This go- to dinner is a take off on pepper steak, seitan with red wine or just any old stir fry. The first time I ever had seitan, I sauted it with onions, peppers and mushrooms and this isn’t much different, just with a sauce. To be fancy, I’m calling it Glazed Seitan. Oooh la la. So much classier.

Glazed Seitan
8 oz seitan, cut in chunks (oops, I mean ‘cubes’. Classier, right?)
1/2 onion, sliced in thin 1/2 moons, then into 1/4 moons
1/4 cup diced celery
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup red pepper strips, cut lengthwise then in 1/2
1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms (your choice of kinds)
1/2 cup broth
1 cup red wine (combine these two how you want, just so you get 1 1/2 cups liquid)
1 Tbsp worcestershire sauce (I use lolo’s – it’s a tester and fabulous!)
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp tamari or soy sauce
1 Tbsp arrowroot (this makes a shinier sauce than cornstarch)
herb blend of choice (1 tsp tarragon, 1/2 tsp thyme, 1/2 tsp herbes de provence)
black pepper

Brown the seitan in a bit of oil, then remove from frying pan. Saute the onions and celery until the onions are translucent. Add red pepper and garlic, being careful not to burn the garlic. Cook a few more minutes, then add the mushrooms. Cook until they are just starting to soften a little, then add the herbs and seitan. Stir to combine then deglaze the pan with part of the liquid mixture. Let reduce by about 1/2, then stir in the worcestershire, vinegar and tamari. Add the arrowroot and stir until slightly thickened. This will be a thinner sauce rather than thick. Adjust seasonings and keep warm until ready to serve.

We usually have it over a flat noodle with roasted vegetables on the side. If this sounds like your kind of thing, be sure to check out the Seitan with Black Pepper,Red Wine and Green Beans over at get sconed!

Remembering the first time I had seitan reminded me of the last time I had meat. It was at a time we had no money and somehow got $10. We were sick and tired of eating potatoes and drinking coca-cola and actually went to KFC, which was then called Kenny King’s in Ohio. I got a chicken sandwich and onion rings… took one bite and realized I was eating skin and muscle of what was once a living being. I have no idea why the light went off so brightly that day when we’d hardly been eating any meat any way, but it was blinding. One of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life.

I’m still thinking about those Bordeaux style cookies, which taste good but are soft. According to All Recipes cookie advice, I need to shake up my ingredients a little. For example, all brown sugar in a cookie makes a softer cookie because it retains more moisture. If you can disregard all the dairy and egg shiitake advice, some of the info is good. I’m going to give it another try. Stay tuned.

Much to my surpise, Isa posted one of pics on her blog. It’s the Seitan Piccata from Veganomicon and is one of the most gourmet meals I’ve ever eaten. Thanks, Isa!

The Omelet Diguised as a Scramble

Last night was not as long as I thought it would be but still just about as bad. I’m not naming names, but this group said the Pledge of Allegiance and even added 3 words to the end. This might be a widespead thing, I don’t know. It’s definitely a parochial school thing. I’d never even stepped foot in a parochial school. The words are “born and unborn”. Whether you agree or not with the point they are making (and I’m definitely pro-choice), I was still taken aback. I couldn’t believe they just popped those 3 little words which say so much in there. Who rewrites the Pledge of Allegiance to suit their own purposes? Oh, never mind. I should know better…the same type of people who write laws to benefit themselves rather than for the greater good, the same type of people who cut in front of you, all those me-firsters, the list goes on. Some of greatest “patriots” are at the top of that list.

On to the food. They served either chicken cordon bleu or prime rib, both of which looked and smelled disgusting. The people at our table tried to offer us their ‘vegetables’ (you know, the kind that look overcooked and kind of jelled?), but we happily had nothing. After all, check out what we had for our dinner before the event! Yep, that is the Salt and Pepper Tofu that was inadvertently left out of the book. If you haven’t tried it yet, do! This packs a wallop of flavor (yeah, I said “wallop”) and does this crazy little peppery dance in your mouth. Or at least, our’s did.

For breakfast, I was determined to make the omelet from Fatfree Vegan. We’d even gotten a new blender in honor of it! Our’s just died after serving us for about 23 years. I can remember making homemade soymilk in it in the 80’s. Back when I used to freeze my fingers kneading seitan under cold running water. Veganism sure has changed for the better. We didn’t last long as vegans at that time, but we’ve been vegetarian for about 25 years. Oh yeah, the omelet. And my oj glass. I love that glass.

Two things should have deterred me but didn’t. 1: I had the wrong tofu. The recipe calls for extra firm and all I had was firm. So what. I ‘m a risk taker. 2: I have never been able to flip an omelet. Ever. Some things don’t change. My husband gave it a shot, too, with no success. Look at it in all of it’s prefolded glory! I used swiss chard, onions, mushrooms, red peppers, some leftover tempeh bacon and a little FYH Monterey Jack. Whoever told me I could freeze FYH, thank you again.

After the flip, it looks more like a scramble. But the flavor is incredible. I’ll get the right tofu and try again. I also think I didn’t let it cook long enough before trying to flip it, but I can get that down. It’s a great recipe, in spite of user error. I’ve liked every recipe I’ve tried from Susan. It might look like a scramble but it tastes like an omelet. those are Diner Home Fries from Veganomicon on the side.

So I needed to do something else in the kitchen. Cookies sounded like a good idea. I’m lucky to be a tester for Autumn Vegan and Garrick. See, I can finally make cookies! Those are the Pixies or Iced Chocolate Cookies up top. So good. Why not try to make up my own cookie recipe? I’ve never done that and used to really like Bordeaux cookies from Pepperidge Farm. I got some parts of the recipe right (like the color!), but that’s about it. Need to be crisper and the flavor is missing something. If I try again and get it right, I’ll let you know.

Just ’cause I want to actual post a recipe, here is my Embarrassingly Easy Onion Dip. It goes great with potato chips or vegetables, but if I’m going for a dip I usually use chips. I figure I’m already diving in the deep end with the sour cream, so what the hell? This is so easy you’ve probably made it before, but try eating it while watching E on Entourage and celebrate the Letter E. Or listen to the Eels. Your choice. If you eat it with vegetables, you can feel a little virtuous. Just a little.

Embarrasingly Easy Onion Dip
1 package tofutti sour cream (yeah, Isa, but this is junk food!)
3 Tbsp dried minced onion
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp dried parsley
1 tsp celery salt
Combine all of the above and let sit for an hour or so in the fridge.
As always, adjust those seasonings to suit yourself.

Tonight’s dinner is going to be something with seitan.