Vegan Friday: Stir-fry

April 11, 2014

I was running low on rice, so this batch is mostly veggies. C’est la vie.

I practically lived on cheap stir-fry my senior year of college. It’s not the highest-protein dinner around, but if you’re worried about that, you can add a handful of Soy Curls soaked in bouillon and Asian five-spice seasoning or a block of extra-firm tofu (pressed for optimal texture) along with the vegetables or just serve it over whole-wheat couscous laced with a bit of TVP.

Cheap Vegan Stir-Fry

1 bag frozen Asian-style vegetables
2-3 tbsp. olive oil
Orange juice
Soy sauce
Ground ginger
Celery salt
Garlic powder
Onion powder
Ground red pepper
Sriracha sauce


Store-brand vegetables are fine for stir-fry.

The starting point for stir-fry is a bag of frozen Asian-style vegetables. Saute them in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil until they’re heated through.


If you look closely, you can see a drop of sriracha in midair, falling into the pan. Don’t act like you’re not impressed.

Here’s the part where it gets as precise and scientific as usual: Stir in all the other ingredients to taste. Left to my own devices, I usually start with a quarter-cup of orange juice, a few good shakes of soy sauce, celery salt and red pepper, and maybe a teaspoon or so each of ginger, garlic and onion powder. Then I douse the whole mess with approximately two metric crap-tons of sriracha, because sriracha is a beautiful thing.


You can never have too much sriracha.

Cook another minute or two and serve over the starch of your choice — rice, couscous, ramen noodles, etc. All I had on hand the other night was a handful of brown Minute Rice, but if you’ve got whole-wheat couscous, it cooks even faster and tastes pretty great.


Belated Vegan Friday: Mexican gumbo

April 5, 2014

Protip: If you make dinner at home, nobody gives you the side-eye or charges you extra for topping it with half a cup of guacamole.

I posted a version of this recipe once before, but I’ve tweaked it a little to make it faster, easier and slightly better. It’s basically my riff on Qdoba’s Mexican gumbo, which I love, but which has made me terribly ill the last few times I’ve eaten it. Could be a coincidence, but I think it’s more likely that I’ve developed an allergy/sensitivity/whatever to some ingredient they’re using. Anyway, here’s my version. As always, adjust the spices to suit your taste.


Mmmmm … cilantro.

Mexican Gumbo

For the soup part:
1 cube vegetable bouillon
2 c. water
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can chopped green chiles
2 cloves garlic, minced, or 1 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. onion powder
2 tbsp. chili powder
2 tbsp. ground cumin
1/4 c. fresh cilantro, chopped coarsely with scissors
2 tbsp. lime juice

Throw everything in the Crock-Pot, turn it on low and ignore it until you’re ready to use it. (If you’re cooking at the last minute, you can also make your soup on the stove or in the microwave.)


If you have the storage space, a rice cooker is a great tool.

For the rice part:
Make a batch of plain white rice. Add a handful of coarsely chopped fresh cilantro when you add the rice. I like to make mine in an automatic rice cooker, because I’m lazy.


Hard to go wrong with black beans and salsa.

For the beans:
Can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 c. salsa
Chili powder to taste
Cumin to taste
Onion powder to taste
Garlic powder to taste

Throw everything in a small saucepan and cook gently until heated through.


You know I’ll seize any available excuse to eat avocado.

For garnish:
Fresh avocado slices or guacamole (I kept mine simple and just mashed up the avocado with a little chili and cumin, a sprinkling of chile-lime salt, and a squirt or two of lime juice)
Tortilla chips if desired
Salsa if desired

To assemble, put a big scoop of rice, a big scoop of beans and a big scoop of tortilla soup in each bowl and top with avocado, guacamole, tortilla chips, salsa or all of the above. Makes about three big servings.


Vegan Friday: Vegan Black Metal Chef

March 28, 2014

My attempt at a vegan recipe this week didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped, so instead of subjecting you to something subpar or cheating you out of a recipe altogether, I thought I’d introduce you to someone whose work I am sure you will appreciate:


You have to say it like that.

At. A.

I haven’t tried any of his recipes yet. I keep meaning to, but I keep getting distracted by shiny objects. They look promising, but the real attraction here is the performance. Be advised that he uses some strong language, so use headphones if that’s likely to offend anybody near you. If you enjoy metal, cooking shows, or satire, Vegan Black Metal Chef is a must-watch. I think it may be the greatest thing on the Internet. I can’t really think of anything that one-ups it.

If you don’t have 12 minutes, skip to the second segment. It starts around 4:45 and is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.

Can we talk about how much I need a mace to use as a potato masher? That is badass.

I’ll cook something this week. I promise. In the meantime, you can try one of Vegan Black Metal Chef’s ideas.


Eco-Saturday: Coffee conscious

March 22, 2014

NOTE: This is the second of two Eco-Saturday entries I’m posting today to make up for the lack of a post last week.


Saving the planet with help from the Good Doctor.

I am a shameless coffee junkie. One way I’ve reduced my environmental footprint is by making my own coffee and bringing it to work in a reusable container.

Here are a few tips and instructions for making three popular drinks: plain, single-serving coffee; cappuccino; and mocha frappes.

Plain coffee

First, don’t buy a Keurig. They are obscenely expensive and generate a lot of unnecessary waste. You can get a good single-serving coffee maker that will brew directly into an insulated travel mug for $25 or less. I use this model. Make setting up the coffee maker part of your before-bed routine. That way, all you have to do in the morning is flip the switch on your way into the shower.

For a coffeehouse-worthy experience, buy unflavored, whole-bean coffee (preferably fair-trade and/or organic) in small quantities and grind it as you use it. You can get a decent burr grinder for $40, and it’s well worth the money. Avoid flavored coffees, as artificial flavoring is often used to mask inferior-quality beans. If you want your coffee to taste like hazelnut or vanilla or whatever, buy a bottle of Torani syrup and DIY.


Ignore the big bubbles in the froth. I tried using almond milk for this one. I don’t recommend it. Some things were never meant to be vegan.


Real cappuccino is one part espresso, one part steamed milk and one-third foam, and you can’t make it without an espresso machine. Anyone who claims otherwise is either a fool or a liar.

You can buy a perfectly good espresso machine for less than $50 at any big-box store. Just be aware that when you are using a small machine to make cappuccino, you may have trouble getting it to build up enough steam to froth and heat the milk. To prevent this problem:

1. Make sure the coffee is ground finely enough. Some of the pre-ground “espresso” is too coarse to work well in small machines, as the water flows through it too quickly to build up a good head of steam.
2. Set up the machine to make four shots instead of two. This helps ensure you have adequate steam.
3. Tamp down the espresso as firmly as possible. (The bottom of a shot glass works well for this purpose.)

This is a great demonstration of the frothing process, which is the hard part:

Frothing takes practice, so don’t get frustrated if your initial efforts are less than satisfactory.


Purple haze courtesy of the growlights I’m using on my tomato seedlings, which are in the dining room at the moment.


Frappes always make me think of Travolta’s “five-dollar milkshake” riff from Pulp Fiction. They are not worth $5. Make one yourself for less than $1.

Start by making a couple of shots of espresso. Add an equal amount of any kind of milk (skim, whole, soy, almond, whatever) and a handful of ice cubes.


Ice cubes, ice Daleks — potato, potahto.

Add chocolate syrup to taste and blend until thick and frosty, adding more ice if necessary. (Protip: Most blender blades will fit on a narrow-mouthed Mason jar, so you can make the drink and serve it in the same container to save time and dishes. This also works well for smoothies.)

Top with whipped cream and chocolate sauce if desired, add a straw and enjoy.

Vegan Friday: Red beans and rice

March 21, 2014


Somehow I failed to take step-by-step pictures of this, but I don’t think you’ll need them.

Red beans and rice

Two to three bell peppers (any color), diced
Three or four ribs of celery, chopped
Small onion, chopped
Olive oil
Two to three cloves of garlic, minced
Can of kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Can of tomatoes
File powder to taste (start with about 1 tbsp. and go from there)
Ground red pepper to taste
Bay leaf
1 c. water
1 c. Minute Rice

Combine vegetables and olive oil in a covered, microwave-safe dish and nuke until celery is tender. Combine vegetables with garlic, kidney beans, tomatoes, spices and water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove bay leaf, add rice and cover. Simmer over low heat until rice is tender. Serve immediately.

Vegan Friday: Hummus

March 15, 2014

I didn’t get too fancy with this, because I was taking it to an office party.

Yeah, I know it’s Saturday. It’s been an outrageously busy week, and I’m exhausted.

Anyway, here is your belated Vegan Friday recipe for what I think is pretty much the best vegan food there is: hummus.

In case you’re not familiar with it, hummus is a dip made from garbanzo beans (a.k.a. chickpeas), tahini (sesame paste; find it at the health-food store) and lemon juice. Other ingredients vary, but those are the three main ones.

I like my hummus heavy on the tahini and lemon juice, but as always, you can adjust any or all of these ingredients to suit your personal tastes.

1 to 2 cloves of garlic
1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
Tahini (start with a couple of tablespoons and add more until you’re happy with the taste)
Lemon juice
Olive oil


Peel the garlic and mince it in a food processor. Add a can of garbanzo beans and process into a thick paste.


Add tahini, lemon juice and olive oil to taste. Start with a couple of tablespoons of each and go from there. Hummus is extremely flexible. Process until ingredients are well-blended. You should end up with a smooth, creamy dip. I like mine fairly thick, but the consistency will depend on the amount of olive oil and lemon juice you use. Add a couple of pinches each of cumin and paprika and process again.

Dish up into a serving container, sprinkle with paprika and serve with pita wedges, pita chips or fresh vegetables. This is a very quick, easy recipe to take to office parties and the like.


Vegan Friday: Quick fajitas

March 7, 2014

Vegan fajitas are about as easy as it gets, and my husband likes them so much he specifically requests them when I’m making grocery lists. NOTE: You will need Soy Curls for this recipe. I discussed them before in this post. If you can’t find any, you can substitute sliced portabella mushrooms, but the taste will be less like chicken and more like steak, and the protein content will be much lower.


1 c. Soy Curls
1 c. water
1/2 large or 1 small veggie bouillon cube
Lime juice to taste
Taco seasoning to taste (I make my own with cumin, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder and whatever else sounds good at the moment)
Small yellow onion
Two or three bell peppers (I like a variety of colors, but green will work just fine; if you’re in a hurry or can’t find decent peppers, the frozen, precut kind will do in a pinch)
Olive oil



Combine the Soy Curls, water, bouillon, lime juice and taco seasoning in a microwave-safe dish and nuke for a minute or two until the curls reconstitute. Meanwhile, cut the peppers and onions into thin strips.


Saute peppers and onion in olive oil until onion is translucent. (If using portabellas instead of Soy Curls, leave out the water and bouillon and just add the portabellas, lime juice and taco seasoning to the pan when you saute the peppers and onion.)



Add reconstituted Soy Curls, if using, and saute until peppers start to brown on the edges.


This guacamole isn’t as pretty as it should be, because I discovered — after I’d already started to mix it up — that one of my avocados had spoiled. It tasted fine but didn’t look as appealing as I’d have liked.

Serve immediately with warm tortillas, salsa, guacamole, vegan sour cream, hot sauce, or whatever else makes you happy.

The best thing about this recipe is that you can make it in less time than it takes to pick up drive-through fast food, and it tastes better than anything you’re likely to find at the big taco chains.


Vegan Friday: Spicy baked potatoes

February 28, 2014


I’m not gonna lie to you: I could eat my own weight in hot wings. I will eat just about anything if it’s doused in wing sauce. Fake chicken nuggets. Real chicken nuggets. Fries. Chips. Sandwiches. Whatever. I have been known, on occasion, to drink Louisiana hot sauce straight from the bottle.

I had a craving for wing sauce a few weeks ago, but I didn’t have any wings. Or sauce, for that matter. But I had TVP, potatoes, hot sauce, and butter, so I did the only thing I could be expected to do under the circumstances: I made fake-wing-stuffed baked potatoes.

Start by baking a couple of potatoes. You can do them in the microwave, but they taste better in the oven, especially if you smear the skins with olive oil, sprinkle them with a little sea salt, and wrap them in aluminum foil, shiny-side-in, so the skins get nice and crispy and browned.


Melt half a stick of margarine (this is butter, which isn’t vegan, but it was all I had on hand, so let’s just pretend it’s margarine, which will work just as well) and add a quarter-cup of Louisiana-style hot sauce. Other types of hot sauce also work, but to get the traditional Buffalo wing flavor, you need a cayenne-based hot sauce.


Stir until well blended and simmer over low heat while you do the next step.


Microwave a small vegetable bouillon cube with equal parts textured vegetable protein and water (I think I used about 3/4 c. of each) until the TVP absorbs all the water. Stir the reconstituted TVP into the sauce and let it absorb as much of it as possible. It will look disgusting while it’s cooking. Don’t worry about it; the end product will be fine.

Split baked potatoes down the middle and top with the TVP mixture and, if desired, your favorite vegan sour cream substitute.

The TVP mixture also works as filling for wraps or sandwiches, but I like it best over baked potatoes.


Vegan Friday: Lentil soup

February 21, 2014


Sorry I’m a few hours late with this. It’s been nuts around here this week. Anyway, here we go.

About 20 years ago, during one of my early forays into vegetarianism, I found a great little book called The Gradual Vegetarian by Lisa Tracy. It’s out of print now — or was the last time I checked, anyway — but if you can put your hands on a copy, do it, because it’s about as sensible an approach to the subject as anything you’re likely to read. As the name suggests, Tracy advocates easing into vegetarianism instead of trying to go vegan overnight or whatever. Hers is a three-stage approach that works very well, regardless of your ultimate dietary goals.

One of my favorite recipes from the book is lentil-mushroom soup. I have long since forgotten the proportions listed in the recipe (and you know I am too lazy to look them up), but soup is an inexact thing anyway, and as long as you end up with something earthy and hearty that tastes nice on a cold evening, you’re golden.

Lentil-mushroom soup

Olive oil
Medium onion, cut into little slivers
Sliced mushrooms (I think I used a pound)
About a cup of dried lentils
Chopped-up carrot (as much or as little as you like)
Soy sauce


Saute the onion in olive oil until clear. Add mushrooms and saute lightly.


Throw the onions, mushrooms, lentils and carrots in the Crock-Pot. Add enough water to fill it up, turn on high, and ignore it overnight or all day or until the lentils are soft. Serve with soy sauce.


The mushrooms and lentils combine to produce a sturdy, beefy sort of flavor that’s particularly satisfying on a chilly day.


Vegan Friday: Mushroom-wine cream sauce

February 14, 2014


If you need a good last-minute, impress-your-vegan-date recipe for Valentine’s Day, here’s a good one: mushroom-wine cream sauce. Completely vegan, but it’s so rich, you’d never know it.

Start with a pound of sliced mushrooms. You don’t need anything fancy here; just plain old white mushrooms from the grocery store. Saute in margarine or olive oil over medium heat until they start to release liquid. Reduce heat to low.

In a separate pan, make a quick roux by melting about 2 tablespoons of margarine, adding enough flour to make a thick paste, and stirring constantly over medium-low heat until browned. (I normally use white flour for this, but I didn’t have any on hand this time around, so I tried substituting wheat flour. It was OK, but the texture of the final product was slightly gritty because of the bran in the flour, and the little brown freckles didn’t make the sauce look particularly appetizing. White flour will yield much nicer results.)


Add the roux to the mushroom pan, then add about a cup of wine, stirring it in a few tablespoons at a time to prevent lumps. If you can put your hands on a bottle of Madeira, use that; if not, any decent red wine will work in a pinch. (Rule of thumb on wine: If you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it. Seriously. Heating lousy wine won’t make it suck any less.)


Gradually add about a cup of soymilk, stirring constantly until you have a thin sauce. Simmer over low heat, stirring constantly, until sauce thickens. If it seems too thick, add more soymilk. If it’s too thin, you can thicken it with a little more roux — or just keep simmering until the excess moisture evaporates.

You’ll end up with a rich, boozy cream sauce that’s great over linguine, capellini or couscous. Serve with salad and maybe some chocolate-dipped strawberries* for dessert.


*Vegan chocolate-dipped strawberries are uber-easy. Just put a bag of vegan chocolate chips (available at any respectable health-food store) and about a tablespoon of plain cooking oil in a microwave-safe bowl, nuke 30 seconds, stir, and repeat until chocolate is completely melted. Dip whole strawberries in chocolate and refrigerate until ready to serve.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 595 other followers