Timing is everything, especially when it comes to seasonal cravings. Though immediately inspired to get in the kitchen as soon as my copy of Hearty Vegan Meals for Monster Appetites by Celine Steen and Joni Newman came in the mail, mere months ago, it was too hot to even contemplate turning on the stove, or even approaching the oven. After pouring over the pages with shining eyes and growling stomach, leaving a barrage of bookmarks in my wake, all I could do was wait for the inevitable switch that would make a warming, belly-filling meal more appealing than a bucket filled with ice-cold watermelon. As temperatures now dip and dance around the 40′s and 30′s, it’s safe to say that that time has come.
Finding a pause in the action to break into my long list of desired dishes was another matter, though. Luckily, many recipes are brilliantly simple to throw together, and pretty much cook themselves, as was the case for the Slow Cooker Corn Chowder (page 76). Toss ingredients into your slow cooker, crank it up to high for a few hours, and eat. Preferring a thicker, creamier chowder myself, I opted to blend half of it to add body, but otherwise followed the recipe to a T. The natural sweetness of the corn was nicely balanced with the spicy kick contributed by a dose of cayenne pepper, giving this unassuming recipe a complex, delicately nuanced flavor profile. Though I had never used a slow cooker prior, now I can’t for the life of me figure out why not.
Having first spied the Red-Eye Treats (page 250) on Celine’s blog years back, I knew that it was time to finally give them a test run for myself. An unusual combination of chocolate, coffee, and peanut butter, I wasn’t entirely convinced that these distinctive components could all play nicely together. Happily, my fears evaporated with one taste. A soft, chewy, but crisp bite yielded subtle sweetness, and a very satisfying depth of roasted flavor due to the coffee. The chocolate does take a bit of a backseat here, contributing more color than flavor, but next time, I think I will just have to add a handful of chocolate chips to remedy that, because there will be a next time.
The sleeper hit of my recipe trials actually came about by accident. First lured in by the promise of Hickory-Smoked Breakfast Strips (page 36) wrapped around water chestnuts to imitate bacon-wrapped scallops, my original plans were dashed once I popped open that can and discovered tiny chestnuts approximately the size of chickpeas. So here I was, far too much seitan bacon on hand, and no where to go with it. Quickly switching gears and frying it up as one typically would for “bacon,” I riffled through the pages for an appropriate accompaniment. Scramble, there had to be a scramble, I thought, homing in on the breakfast section. There, almost as an afterthought, the Scrambled Eggs hidden within the recipe for a Hearty Breakfast Bowl (page 35), were the perfect thing. So few components, so little effort, I didn’t expect much other than a nice way to round out the photo, to be honest. Adding in a bit more creaminess with a splash of soy creamer, I could scarcely believe how downright eggy things were beginning to smell- and look.
The hickory strips were completely overshadowed by the greatness of this scramble. A bit too sweet and chewy for my tastes, any flaws could be forgiven as long as that scramble was on my plate. Although I always add tons of veggies and seasonings, yet again, the mantra of “simpler is better” was proven true. I’m only slightly embarrassed to say that I wolfed down the first entire batch, unaided. The very next day, I had to have this killer tofu again, and couldn’t help but make further tiny tweaks, just to suit my own palate to perfection. Though there are a million recipes out there for tofu scramble, I implore you: Try this one. You will never miss eggs again.
1 16-Ounce Container Extra-Firm Tofu, Pressed for About 45 Minutes
2 Tablespoons Nutritional Yeast
1/2 Teaspoon Onion Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Kala Namak (Black Salt)
1 Teaspoon Braggs Liquid Aminos
2 Tablespoons Non-Dairy Margarine or Coconut Oil
3 – 4 Tablespoons Plain (Unsweetened) Vegan Creamer
2 Scallions, Thinly Sliced
Crumble the pressed tofu into a large bowl and add in the nutritional yeast, garlic and onion powder, kala namak, turmeric, and braggs. Use a fork to lightly mash and combine.
Set a saute pan over medium heat, and melt the margarine or coconut oil. Once liquified, add in the tofu mixture and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until heated through and just barely browning in some places. Pour in the creamer until it reaches your desired state of creaminess, cook for 1 minute longer, and turn off the heat. Toss in the sliced scallions and serve while hot.
Makes 2 Servings, or 1 for a Vegan with a Monster Appetite