BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


29 Comments

Happy Tofurky Day!

Deeply mired in our collective culture and the butt of many a joke, the original Tofurky roast produced by Turtle Island Foods has managed to survive the infancy of veganism, if you will. Even at a time when your Aunt Betsy might that vegans still eat butter and cream, Tofurky was there to save the family dinner, for well over a decade now. Slowly evolving over the years from a modest main meant to serve four, paired with dubious-sounding dumpling “drumsticks,” the contents of a Vegetarian Feast finally deserve such a generous title. Though I had never before considered trying any of those previous incarnations, I can now vouch for the current 3 1/2 pound, all-inclusive Thanksgiving in a box, and let me tell you, it’s worth a taste.

Given the opportunity to review the Feast, it was an offer I couldn’t refuse. A vegan who hasn’t tried Tofurky? This was a situation in need of remedying before yet another holiday season came to pass. Made to serve six, the tofu-based roast is filled with wild rice stuffing, and is accompanied by “giblet” gravy, Wishstix, and my favorite part of any meal: Dessert. Amy’s Chocolate Cake, to be precise, which I already knew was a killer little loaf. Designed with the non-cook in mind, it takes only a little planning ahead and some rudimentary knife skills to serve up this celebratory meal in style. Roasted as instructed with a handful of vegetables that were already kicking about the kitchen, the most difficult part of serving a Tofurky is waiting the prescribed hour and half for it to cook to golden perfection, or two and half hours if you forgot to thaw it.

Emerging from its shrink-wrapped tomb looking about as enticing as an overinflated football, it requires a small leap of faith to overcome the lack of visual appeal. Given proper garnishing and a nice wide platter, it becomes quite the impressive entree once sliced thin and ready to serve.

And slice thin you must, as the instructions strongly admonish. Thankfully robust, this request is easily fulfilled, with no worry of tearing apart the roast inadvertently, even if your clumsy Cousin Louie takes over carving duties. Smelling unnervingly like actual poultry, some vegans may very well be turned off by such realism, but I don’t think that this meatless roast will really fool anyone. However, that’s not to say that it falls down in the taste department- Hardly! Surprisingly meaty, the texture was pleasantly chewy yet still tender with a somewhat generic but agreeable savory flavor. If you’re not sure about taking the plunge with a whole roast on Thanksgiving day, just try out the Oven Roasted Deli Slices first; They’re made of exactly the same stuff, but packaged in a more sandwich-friendly format.

Easily my favorite part, the wild rice stuffing provided a much needed textural contrast to the roast, along with adding a hearty starch to this festive meal. If only more could have been packed inside that small cavity! Fairly traditional with a gently herbaceous undertone, it stayed wonderfully moist despite the extended cooking time.

Starting life as a slightly disturbing separated mess in a plastic bag, I was quite leery of the “giblet” gravy from the start. Happily reconstituting with ease after just a minute or two of nuking in the microwave, things improved considerably once it finally hit the table. Although I personally prefer a slightly smoother gravy, the viscosity fits the bill quite nicely, clinging richly to each thin tofu slice while avoiding a gummy mouth feel. Falling on the saltier side of the tracks, the flavor is greatly improved with a very small dose of fresh chopped herbs, but few will object to it served as is.

Eventually, the meal nears a close, stomachs comfortably full, and the question of the Wishstix remains. How should this strange item be served? Literally made of two short pieces of Tofurky Jerky arranged as an “X,” I was somewhat as a loss with what to do with it, especially since there’s no way it could have accommodated six eaters like the rest of the meal was designed for. Ultimately opting to save them as a snack for later, I could have very happily done without this extra item. Does anyone actually serve a real wish bone anymore in the first place? Perhaps the nostalgia is simply lost on me, and other families will get a kick out of it.

Finally, the cake, simply defrosted and sliced, is a perfect ending to a memorable meal. Rich, chocolaty, and impossibly moist, it remains the best vegan chocolate cake available in mainstream stores, in my opinion. Even if all else fails and close-minded family members refuse to taste the festive roast, you will likely have to fight off the hordes to claim your slice of cake.

In case you find yourself at a loss this Thanksgiving or Holiday season, the Tofurky Vegetarian Feast is a safe bet to satisfy veggie guests. Even if you haven’t given a second thought to tomorrow’s holiday up until this point, Turtle Island Foods has made it possible to save the day and still pull out a remarkable meal with close to no effort. Truly, the snide comments and crude cracks about the classic Tofurky are uncalled for; if only those jokers would give it a taste!


41 Comments

If You Can’t Take the Heat…

…Then don’t cook with chipotles. Spice is one thing; those distinctive flavors and gentle warmth make cooking come to life, adding a spark that simply cannot be replaced. Chilies, however, are on a whole different playing field, and the threat of their taste bud-obliterating burn has kept me far away for as long as I’ve been cooking. Pick just one wrong, innocent-looking little capsicum, and you’ll pay dearly for hours to come. My reluctance was only reinforced when a venture in chili making went awry after using a whole can of chipotles in adobo sauce in a batch meant to feed six… To call it inedible would be kind.

And yet, for ages it seems, one lone can of those very chipotles remained in the pantry, quietly waiting to be released from their aluminum prison and start some fires. After studiously avoiding them for perhaps a year or so, curiosity (and frugality; as if they would ever go to waste!) got the best of me. Armed with a can opener and a plenty of vanilla ice cream to extinguish the burn, it was time to push the limits and see how these hot peppers behaved… In dessert.

Maybe I’ve spent a few too many late nights watching Alton Brown, but suddenly, the sound of chipotle mashed sweet potatoes became too attractive to put out of mind without a second thought. Presenting such a dish to my straight-up, butter- and cream- mashed potato family would be flat out heresy, so a different approach with clearly needed. Dialing back on the chipotles so that they provided just the slightest tingle on the tongue, a gentle after burn, if you will, their intensity is further tempered by the soothing contrast of brown sugar and rich coconut milk. Better yet, a thin base of dark chocolate adds depth to the dessert, and adds appeal for those who aren’t big on pumpkin or sweet potato pie. Yes, this one is different indeed- Just try a bite for yourself!

Sure, it may not look like a traditional pie, but with filling this good, I wanted to really pile it on, and a standard pie pan simply couldn’t accommodate my ideal proportions. And of course, spice is a matter of preference, so if you’re a real chili-head, go ahead and pack it in, but beware; The difference between 1/2 of and 1 whole chipotle is astounding.

Chocolate Chipotle Sweet Potato Pie

Chocolate Crust:

1 Cup Chocolate Wafer Cookie Crumbs
3/4 Cup Almond Meal
2 Tablespoons Natural Cocoa Powder
2 Tablespoons Granulated Sugar
5 Tablespoons Non-Dairy Margarine or Coconut Oil, Melted

1 Cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

Chipotle Sweet Potato Filling:

2 Cups Roasted Sweet Potato Puree*
1 Cup Dark Brown Sugar, Firmly Packed
1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 – 1 Small Chipotle, Canned in Adobo Sauce
1 Teaspoon Adobo Sauce
Pinch Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1/4 Cup Tapioca Starch
1 Cup Coconut Milk
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Coconut Whipped Creme
Chocolate Shavings or Curls

*To get roasted sweet potato puree, crank up your oven to 400 degrees. Peel and roughly dice two medium – large sweet potatoes, and toss with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Sprinkle very lightly with coarse sea salt, and bake for 20 – 30 minutes, until the pieces are fork-tender and lightly browned around the edges. Let cool, and puree to a completely smooth consistency in your food processor or blender. Alternately, you could use canned sweet potato or even pumpkin puree.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and lightly grease a 9-inch round springform pan.

Beginning with the crust, combine the cookie crumbs, almond meal, cocoa powder, and sugar in a large bowl. Pour in the melted margarine or coconut oil, and mix thoroughly, until all of the crumbs are moistened and will stick together when pressed. Transfer this mixture into your prepared pan, and use lightly moistened hands or the flat bottom of a measuring cup to smooth it out, pressing it evenly into the base of the pan. Bake for 10 – 15 minutes, until it no longer appears shiny on top. Immediately after removing the crust from the oven, sprinkle it evenly with your chocolate chips, and let them sit for a moment to soften and become melted. Use a spatula to smooth them out over the crust, to form a fairly consistent layer. Set aside.

Moving on to the filling, simply place all of the ingredients (starting with the lesser amount of chipotle) in your food processor or blender, and pulse to combine. Pause and scrape down the sides of the work bowl as needed, to make sure that everything is getting incorporated, until the filling mixture is completely smooth and homogeneous. Taste for seasoning, and add in more chipotle (or even adobo sauce, if that’s not enough for you) as desired. The heat does tone down a bit after being baked, but not too much, so go easy on those spicy little peppers! Once you’re satisfied with the level of spice, pour the sweet potato mix on top of your prepared crust, and smooth out the top.

Tap the pan a few times on the counter to release any air bubbles before sliding it into the oven. Bake for 20 – 28 minutes, until the edges are set but the center still looks wobbly, much like a cheesecake. Let cool completely before moving the pie into the fridge to cool. Only after it is thoroughly chilled can you top it with the coconut whipped creme and chocolate shavings. Release the ring from the springform pan and and serve! And yes, if you added just a touch too much chipolte, a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream does help tame the flame.

Printable Recipe


34 Comments

Thankful for Leftovers

Hyper-abundance is the name of the game for this all-American holiday we have rounding the corner, just one week away now. If you don’t have guests stuffed to bursting and still mountains of uneaten food after the whole ordeal, you’ve simply failed as a Thanksgiving day host. Or so the unspoken wisdom goes, compelling well-meaning mothers and wives to believe that 3+ pounds of food per person is a safe bet for menu planning purposes. It’s simply part of tradition, and honestly, though I may sound appalled by the extreme measures, it’s the waste that bothers me, not the extra edibles themselves. Thanksgiving leftovers are quite possibly the best thing about the 4th Thursday in November, having aged to perfection like a fine wine.

Not to mention, fewer pesky relatives to detract from the food, and more freedom to use it in “unconventional” ways. For all the complaints of how boring and static the menu is, should the cook dare change it up and try to foist a festive Thanksgiving quiche onto unsuspecting guests, the backlash may be felt the entire holiday season, if not the whole proceeding year.

The day after, or perhaps the day after that if you’re the type with family that likes to stick around, once the dust has settled, it’s time to use or lose those valuable leftovers. Easier is better after slaving over the original meal in the first place, so an all-inclusive meal like quiche sounded too appealing for me to resist. The beauty of this is that absolutely anything can be tucked away into that “eggy” chickpea mixture, so no matter what you still have on hand, it can find a welcoming home here. …Just don’t try to hide any marshmallow-topped potato abomination within the depths of an honest savory quiche; it’s a gross misuse of vegan marshmallows from the start, and just plain wrong. Not that I have strong opinions about such things. (Does anyone still make those disturbing casseroles anymore? Please tell me they’ve gone the way of aspic and other unfavorable culinary atrocities.)

…As I was saying, don’t be afraid to mix it up and use any veg or protein you have leftover after the big feast. I suppose I may have been a bit over zealous in my attempts to use all of my extra <a href=”http://bittersweetblog.wordpress.com/2010/11/07/hungry-for-the-holidays/”>holiday savories</a>, ending up with more filling than could reasonably fit inside a humble pie shell, but not to worry; This dilemma is easily remedied by baking the excess filling in lightly greased little ramekins, as individual, crustless portions.

So while most of America is thinking about what to serve and how to get it on the table one week from today, I’m focused squarely on the aftermath, knowing that even better delights are still in store.

Thanksgiving Quiche

1 9-Inch Pie Crust

1 Cup Diced Vegan “Turkey,” Seitan, or Tempeh, Diced or Shredded
1/2 Cup Green Beans or Brussels Sprouts, Chopped into Bite-Sized Pieces
1 Cup Roasted Butternut Squash, Pumpkin, or Potatoes, Cubed
1/2 Cup Roughly Chopped Cremini or Button Mushrooms
1 Stalk Celery, Finely Diced
1/2 Small Leek, Cleaned, Greens Removed, and Thinly Sliced
3 – 5 Cloves Garlic, Minced

1 Cup Garbanzo Bean Flour
2 Tablespoon Potato Starch or Cornstarch
4 Teaspoons Nutritional Yeast
1/2 Teaspoon Dried Thyme
1/4 Teaspoon Dried Sage, Powdered
1/4 Teaspoon Paprika
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cumin
1/4 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1 Cup Vegetable Stock or Water
3/4 Cup Unsweetened Non-Dairy Milk
1/2 Cup Pumpkin Puree
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce
2 Teaspoons Dijon Mustard
1/4 Cup Raw Pepitas (Optional)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and have your pie crust at the ready.

First prepare your protein and veggies as indicated in the ingredient list, straight through to the garlic, and mix them all together in a large bowl. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the chickpea/garbanzo flour, potato starch, nooch, salt, herbs, spices, and baking powder. Pour in the vegetable stock or water, non-dairy milk, pumpkin puree, oil, soy sauce, and mustard, and whisk until smooth. It should be about the consistency of pancake batter. Pour this batter into your bowl of prepared veggies, and stir gently to combine but not smash any of the ingredients. Transfer the whole mixture into your waiting pie crust, and if there’s extra, pour it into lightly greased 4-ounce ramekins. Lightly tap the pan(s) on the counter a few times to release any air bubbles. Place quiche and ramekins if using on a baking sheet to make them easier to transport into and out of the oven. Sprinkle the top(s) with pepitas, if desired.

Bake the quiche for 45 – 55 minutes, until the filling appears set and it’s lightly golden brown on top. Keep a close eye on the little ramekins, and expect them to be done closer to 30 minutes or so in; be prepared to pull them so that they don’t over-bake. Let cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing. (The leftovers also taste great cold, in my opinion!)

Serve with cranberry sauce or gravy, if desired.

Serves 12 – 14

Printable Recipe


39 Comments

Breakfast for Dinner… And Dessert

It’s true that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, at least for me, that is. Without my warm bowl of steel cut oats, doused in cinnamon and vanilla, with an over-sized mug of jet-black coffee on the side, I can’t promise I could function like a decent human being. Dramatic, yes, but those two items are so grounding and comforting, I haven’t varied the combo in nearly a year. While everyone waxes rhapsodic about the occasional waffle or donut in the morning, I fear that altering the delicate balance that is a properly composed breakfast would throw an entire day off kilter. If there wasn’t coffee or oats first thing upon waking, oh, there would be hell to pay.

But that isn’t to say that I’m uninterested in other breakfast options. On the contrary, traditional breakfast foods are some of my favorite dishes- I just don’t eat them at breakfast time! From pancakes to french toast to even a bowl of cold cereal, I’m happiest having any of this morning fare for dinner, dessert, and sometimes both at once. It should come as no surprise that my tastes tend to run on the sweet side, so all of these choices come with more than a good dose of sugar, too. Instead of feeling guilty about essentially eating mini cakes fried up in a skillet as a meal, why not embrace that fact and just make the first course also the last course all at once?

Seeking a more hearty variation to the generally light and fluffy pancake, I rifled through my overwhelming assortment of flours until the ancient package of buckwheat came to light. Buckwheat definitely says “satisfying” to me, and by using the flour to create pancakes, you get not only a filling and more healthy meal, but a delectable one, too. Despite the misleading name, buckwheat is gluten-free as well, so it made sense to leave wheat out of the picture altogether for this one. Toss in a few roughly chopped almonds or walnuts if you’d like to further enhance the naturally nutty flavor of the buckwheat.

As for me, well, a scoop of vanilla ice cream sounded like a more appealing addition. Melting luxuriously over the top of a tall stack, the contrasts of hot and cold, light and dense, simple and complex flavors made for a much more exciting dinner/dessert combo than I could have imagined.

Buckwheat Pancakes

2 Cups Plain or Vanilla Non-Dairy Milk
2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
1 Tablespoon Molasses
1 Packet Rapid Rise Yeast
1 Cup Buckwheat Flour
1/2 Cup Tapioca Flour (NOT starch)
1/4 Cup Garbanzo Bean Flour
1/3 Cup Sweet White Rice Flour
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
3/4 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil

Heat the non-dairy milk briefly just to bring it up to room-temperature if it had been in the fridge, and stir in the lemon juice, sugar, and molasses. Set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together all of the flours, yeast, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon, making everything is well mixed and evenly distributed. Pour your wet ingredients into the bowl of dry, along with the oil, and stir with a wide spatula until just combined. Small lumps are just fine, so long as you don’t over-mix the batter.

Heat a large skillet over moderate heat, until you can get a drop of water to skitter around on top. If it instantly evaporates, it’s too hot, and if it doesn’t do anything, it’s too cold. Drop about 1/4 cup of batter on the skillet per pancake, but don’t crowd the pan because it will become difficult to flip them. When a good number of bubbles break on the surface of the pancake, carefully check the underside to make sure they’re ready to flip. It should take about 3 – 5 minutes per side, so just keep a good eye on them and don’t walk away. Stack them on a plate and cover with a kitchen towel to keep warm for a few minutes before serving.

Serve with maple syrup or vanilla ice cream if desired.

Serves 4 – 5

Printable Recipe


39 Comments

Hungry for the Holidays

As much as I want to tell myself that Thanksgiving is still months away, and I still become alarmed when the subject of Christmas comes up, the truth is that I’ve actually had a head start on the holidays. In fact, all things considered, I’ve already eaten more than one Thanksgiving dinner! No, it wasn’t because I celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving, but because I was tasked with the weighty duty of preparing and photographing a number of dishes for the VegNews Holiday E-Cookbook. Come mid October, I had quite the harvest feast on my hands; all vegan, all incredibly delicious, and all to myself. Open up this handy guide to holiday cooking and you can expect to find mains, desserts, and everything in between, such as…

Pumpkin Seed Battered “Chicken” with Cranberry Cabernet Sauce

Seitan Roulade with Oyster Mushroom Stuffing

Dark Forest Trifle with Coconut Custard

Plus many more, of course.  Additionally, you can find my White Gingerbread recipe in the dessert section as well, in case you missed it two years ago! Just having that lovely loaf baking away in the oven, filling your whole house with the scent of sweet spices, is sure to get you in a festive mood.

So, do you have the menu for your grand vegan thanksgiving banquet planned out yet?


113 Comments

Not Just For Girls

Despite the limited audience that the title might imply, The Vegan Girl’s Guide to Life is a book for all genders, ages, and walks of life.  Though the self-help section of the bookstore isn’t somewhere I would start looking for delicious, tried-and-true recipes, crafts, or inspirational profiles on kick-ass, successful vegan women, that’s exactly the category Melisser Elliott‘s debut work of writing is filed under.  Far more than just another cookbook, the pages of this slim text are positively crammed with DIY projects for those with crafty inclinations, help on selecting cosmetics free of animal products, and general advice on living vegan, presented in an exciting and approachable way. Melisser has a fresh, fun style all her own, so you can bet this won’t be a dry, monotonous read. Heck, she could make a computer manual sound like fun!

Melisser has been a dear blog buddy and long-distance confidante for years now, so of course, my opinion is highly biased. However, I know a good vegan quiche when I taste one, and Melisser’s definitely ranks up on the very top of my list. Those leftover slices were so tempting, the wait I would have had to endure while reheating them in the toaster oven was entirely unbearable; Sneaking downstairs in the middle of the night for a little late nibble, I ended up skarfing down almost the whole thing cold.

Naturally, I skim straight to the recipes first, and there are quite a few keepers to bookmark. Happily, I had the incredible fortune to photograph a few select entries, so I feel confident that I sampled a good cross section of the overall offerings found in The Vegan Girl’s Guide to Life.

Flip over to the dessert section, and you’ll find a sweet recipe from me! Simple but unique cupcakes, again pushing the limits of natural coloring with Purple Cow Cupcakes. …Hate to tease, but you just have to check out the book to see what they’re all about.

For those with a sweet tooth and a penchant for brunch, the Banana Bread French Toast is another must-make. Combining the best of tender banana bread and custard-like yet crispy french toast, it’s the kind of meal that you dream about waking up to.

And those craving heartier fair will not be disappointed, because there are plenty of meaty, spicy, and salty offerings to go around! In particular, the Jackfruit Carnitas could woo the most staunch carnivore- Even the texture is eerily “realistic.”

Graciously, Skyhorse Publishing has offered an additional book for one of you to ogle and enjoy! If you’d like to win a free copy of The Vegan Girl’s Guide to Life, please leave me only one comment on this post with your name and a correct email address, answering the following question: What piece of advice (or vital recipe, tip, or trick) would you give to a new vegan?  [Open to those with mailing addresses within the continental US only; Sorry!]

The contest will close at midnight on November 8th, and the winner will be announced shortly thereafter. Win or lose, you’ve got to check Melisser’s listing of tour dates, because you may be able to meet the brains behind the whole operation and even snag yourself a signed book!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 8,630 other followers