Tagged: Comfort Food

Easy Comfort Food: Vegan Stuffed Shells

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My family is coming to visit in a few months, so I need to come up with some good meals that can go both ways:  vegan but appealing and familiar to non-vegans. In preparation for their visit, I have been scouring Pinterest with the intention of finding some non-vegan comfort food that I can veganize and add to my family-friendly recipe box. Last night I was on the hunt. I found lots of homey comfort food recipes: cheddar beer soup, caramel-studded shortbread, decadent ravioli, and salted chocolate pie just to name a few. But once I laid eyes on the stuffed shells: It was no contest. I knew that I must come up with an easy rendition of stuffed shells to add to my repertoire. Thus began my vegan stuffed shell research to see what other cooks came up with. Here’s the roundup:

The Chubby Vegan wrote about making stuffed shells using the cashew ricotta recipe from Veganomicon. The cashew ricotta sounded delicious. Alas, I had no cashews in my cupboard last night, and I was just too lazy to get to the grocery store. The Zesty Vegan  stuffed shell recipe piqued my interest because of its inclusion of spinach. However, it also called for Daiya, and we didn’t have any in the fridge. You know how I feel about unnecessary trips to the grocery store. It was time to move my search forward. The Little Vegan That Could blog features a recipe with spinach, Daiya, seitan, breadcrumbs, and a promising ricotta recipe.

After my research I came up with a combination of the three recipes. The ricotta mixture is probably the most important element. For that I borrowed from the Little Vegan That Could. I made her recipe with firm tofu, Tofutti cream cheese, olive oil, garlic, nutritional yeast, oregano, and salt and pepper. I made sure to include spinach like the Zesty Vegan recipe, but I omitted the seitan, Daiya, and breadcrumbs for simplicity’s sake. However, I would consider adding a veggie crumble or seitan to create more of a Bolognese in the future.

The bottom line is that these shells turned out very well – I think I could sneak these on my family and have a winner!  What is your favorite dish that works equally well on vegans and non-vegans alike?

A Fall Pumpkin Treat and a Bake Sale for SARA Animal Sanctuary

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Who doesn’t love the fall? The leaves begin to turn deep orange and red colors. Sweaters make their way out of the bottom drawer and onto our shoulders to keep us warm during  nippy evening strolls with our dogs (also wearing sweaters) through Central Park — wait — this is not the New York of When Harry Met Sally and You’ve Got Mail. This is Austin, and our Zilker Park is still recovering from the throngs of people treading all over it for the Austin City Limits music festival. Yes, this is Austin, where pretty falls days are scattered between “unseasonably” warm days. What do we do in Austin to remind ourselves (and our dogs) that it is indeed Fall? We go to vegan bake sales, buy pumpkin-laced goods, and raise money for SARA Animal Sanctuary in Seguin!

Austin blogger Lazy Smurf recently reported that SARA Animal Sanctuary has fallen on hard times and particularly needs help paying their electric bill. Ms. Smurf has organized a vegan bake sale to benefit SARA Animal Sanctuary this Sunday October 21 at Counter Culture. If you can not attend the actual sale on Sunday then you can still sign up to donate baked goods and make plans with Ms. Smurf for a Friday or Saturday drop off. Alternatively, you can simply make a direct donation to SARA Animal Sanctuary. However you decide to help, please join the facebook event and invite all of your friends. Volunteers from the sanctuary will be present to answer questions, and Counter Culture will feature live music from Ken Atkins and the Honky Tonk Kind to entertain you during their popular weekend brunch. All in all, Lazy Smurf and Counter Culture have put together a pretty neat event for an awesome cause. And just to remind myself that is indeed fall, I plan to contribute something made with delicious pumpkin.

Obviously, I have been in a pumpkin mood tonight, so I took action and made the tempting cake you see pictured at the top of the page. To read about my experience making a vegan version of the pumpkin poke cake from the Something Swanky blog, click through to the next page.

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Sunday Night Supper

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You don’t have to be a church goer to regard Sunday as a day of repose and hardy food. As a general vegan feminist renegade, my every day existence hardly resembles any kind of June and Ward Cleaver wholesomeness. However, that does not preclude me from enjoying a hot meal that is heavy on carbs and served on that day of rest when the malls close at 6:00pm sharp.

This past Sunday I made two recipes from Dreena Burton’s book Eat, Drink & Be Vegan: Everyday Vegan Recipes Worth Celebrating. We capped off our week with the Chickpea Sensation Patties and the Thick ‘n’ Rich Gravy. I also steamed some broccoli and mashed up some potatoes to go along with it.

By now one would hope that I might anticipate the making-a-new-recipe phenomenon where you look at the recipe and think, “Oh I should have dinner on the table by 7:00pm.” Then recipe prep rages out of control and you find yourself sweating profusely and barking out orders to anyone within shouting distance —even if the only creature within range is your cat staring at you from the top of the refrigerator.

So goes the reality of those sunday night suppers. You imagine yourself enjoying a hearty meal with your loved one, with the matching plates and the card table freshly wiped. In the end, what you get is a very dirty kitchen and dinner served on the couch at 9:00pm while watching Arrested Development on Netflix.

Do not let this scene of domestic chaos discourage you from trying out these two recipes from Dreena Burton’s book. They are worth the effort. Surprisingly, the gravy recipe is gluten free, so file that away for the next time you entertain a GF friend. Since the patties do not call for vital wheat gluten flour, they could be made gluten free with few minor adjustments.

The chickpea patties consist of an oat and rice base and call for plenty of delicious ingredients like vegan worcestershire sauce and capers. Those imaginative additions are what make the end result so delicious and save the recipe from banishment to the much maligned 1970’s style vegetarian food graveyard. The recipe officially serves 4, but I think we’ll wind up getting closer to 7 servings from it. The patties are versatile and could be used as a veggie burger, broken up into pasta, sliced for tacos, or frozen for a future quick meal. We ate them smothered in Dreena’s delicious Thick ‘n’ Rich Gravy.

This unexpectedly gluten free gravy recipe is a real gem. The only floury bits are nutritional yeast and arrowroot powder. (I substituted arrowroot for cornstarch, and it came out fine.) In reality, it is a fancied up tahini sauce, which is a point worth celebrating for tahini freaks such as myself. Ingredients like red wine vinegar and miso give this gravy a substantial tang. This recipe comes together very quickly, but make sure you don’t neglect to stir as my gravy wanted to stick to the pan a bit —but maybe a little gravy stuck to the pan is okay, because then you will have more scrape up and lick from your index finger.

I definitely want to make these recipes again. The Thick ‘n’ Rich Gravy is straight up delicious, and now that I have completed the inaugural batch of Chikpea Sensation Patties I will be spared from future, “Oh-shit-I-should-have-started-cooking-the-rice-earlier” moments. These are not the only good recipes from Eat, Drink & Be Vegan either, so I definitely recommend picking up a copy of the book for yourself.

Have Your Salt and Lick It Too

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Red Rabbit Bakery Donut
Red Rabbit Bakery maple glazed donut with candied walnuts! (Picture Credit: Red Rabbit Bakery)

One fluffy Red Rabbit maple candied walnut donut leaves its oily calling card on your fingers. Two thick slices of Conan’s saucy deep pan pizza smothered in Daiya cheese and dotted with briney olives beg for a frosty beer to accompany them to your stomach. Three Wheatsville frito pies —okay three frito pies might make you vomit, but do read our friend Lazy Smurf’s love letter to the Wheatsville Frito Pie. These are just a few of the menu options I love to take advantage of when I’m out and about in Austin. My love of food goes way back, predating my vegan days. A few nacho cheese Doritos strategically stuffed into my ham sandwich spruced up my childhood brown bag lunches. While my palate has evolved to include an appreciation for roasted asparagus and sautéed cabbage, I still jones for comfort foods on a daily basis.

Following only the whims of my taste buds, I would eat Wheatsville’s vegan mac and cheese (Our friend Kristen from Sugar Skull likes it too; click on the link for her write-up) or a big fat bowl of Titaya’s red curry Gang Dang three times a day. But I saw Forks Over Knives. I observe those often preachy purple “Health Starts Here” labels affixed to Engine 2 approved items at Whole Foods (okay, to be fair, the purple labels only seem preachy if I am in a foul mood and would much rather eat a taco loaded with Daiya, vegan chorizo, and potatoes with some sorbet on the side. I tip my hat to the Engine 2 folks). I know fueling one’s body with enough fruits and vegetables to keep a biodiesel school bus running as smooth as your inner plumbing is the thing to do these days. Eating square meals is all well and good at home, where all the practical stuff happens: like laundry folding, cat box cleaning, and bill paying. But what is an Austin vegan, out on town, who wants to eat healthfully in a non-committal kind of way, to do? Often, I opt for menu items that will up the fruit and vegetable intake while still allowing me to indulge in those warm, squishy, salty foods I love so much.

Lately, my two favorite dishes for satisfying the at times competing urges to eat healthfully, tastily, and heartily while out and about in ATX are the Noodle Garden from Koriente and the Garden Breakfast from Bouldin Creek Cafe. Both dishes are a bargain at $6.50 ($8.50 if you add tofu) and $6.25 (always 50 cents extra to sub tofu for eggs) respectively. Continue reading