Sunday, April 27, 2008

Tofu 'Tinis

Jess of Get Sconed! inspired me to play with tofu shapes after seeing her Heart of Tofu. I used my martini cookie cutter to make crispy tofu 'tinis. Serve with spicy barbecue dipping sauce in a cocktail glass. A mustard or peanut sauce would taste great too. Thanks for the idea Jess, these were fun to make!

Tofu 'Tinis
2 blocks extra-firm tofu, sliced through the middle and pressed
panko bread crumbs
salt and pepper
olive oil
sauce of your choice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Lightly coat a cookie sheet with olive oil.
Pour some panko bread crumbs, salt, and pepper onto a plate and combine.
Cut pressed tofu into martini shapes. I got 12 tofu cocktails out of my batch, then I cubed the remaining tofu and prepared it the same way as the 'tinis.
Brush tofu shapes with olive oil. Dip shapes into crumb mixture and place on cookie sheet.
Bake about 35 minutes. Serve with dipping sauce.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

A Vegan in Vieques

We are back from a restful, sunny vacation in Old San Juan and Vieques, Puerto Rico. We found delicious vegan food in Old San Juan, such as this veggie-packed wrap with lentil-cilantro pate in a chipotle tortilla and mango vinaigrette at Zesty Bites. You can spot my Cafe con Soy Leche in the corner of the photo. Mandolin Don ordered the cashew pate wrap, which was a brilliant shade of red.

Here's a shot of Zesty Bites. So cute, and I was one happy vegan. I'll be checking out their menu online for inspiration.

Thanks to recommendations on the PPK forum, we also dined at Tantra in Old San Juan, which happened to be within walking distance of our hotel. The chana masala was divine.

Carli's is another great spot for dinner. Although we missed a performance by Carli Munoz because he was out of town, we still enjoyed a romantic dinner with excellent service. I ordered the pasta primavera.

After a couple of nights in Old San Juan, we headed to Vieques for some beach time. The island has many beaches with silky, white sand and teal, clear water. If you just want to soak up the sun and splash in the waves, this is the place for you. We reserved a place with a kitchen and ate many meals in. Here's a view of the palms, pool, and ocean from our condo.

The restaurants were a little unpredicatable in Vieques, with some recent closings and hours not as advertised. However, I highly recommend El Quenepo. In fact, we ate there twice. Here are our cocktails one visit, a lemongrass, ginger infused cocktail (I was not expecting the shocking blue!) and a housemade sangria. Unfortunately, no shots of our delicious meals as it was dark by the time we ate.

El Quenepo's menu is extensive and you can request a vegan version of many dishes. We had a delicious appetizer of lettuce-wrapped glass noodles with pickled carrots, basil, nuts, and a chile jam for dipping. I had a delicious salad of organic greens, red and yellow cherry tomatoes, pine nuts, marinated onions, and balsamic vinaigrette with grilled bread on the side. One night I had an entree of pita, hummus, Mediterranean eggplant, and salad. Another night I had a pasta in coconut curry sauce with shiitake mushrooms and bell peppers. I'm getting hungry just remembering it. A great vacation, plus lots of ideas for dishes to re-create at home.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


Things will be quiet around here while we get our yearly beach fix on vacation. I thought I'd leave you with a few great looking vegan recipes posted elsewhere. Give them a visit and I'll see you back here on April 26th.

Kitchen Parade's Lucky Black-Eyed Pea Salad

Glazed Tofu from One Hot Stove

FamilyStyle Food's Quinoa Salad with Smoky Lime Dressing

Vegan Dad's Thai Tofu Red Curry

Monday, April 14, 2008

Creamy Lentil, Avocado, & Sprouts Sandwich

This sandwich is a vehicle for my new favorite store bought dip, Ah!Zeefa black Beluga Lentil spread. Wow. It's creamy, spicy, and delicious. I buy it at Local Harvest, and believe Whole Foods sells it too. It's locally produced. Local Harvest also sells Claverach Farm sprouts, which have petite grassy-green leaves and crunchy purple stems. Today's sandwich ingredients are: Brown Bear Bakery's Rosemary Olive bread, lentil spread, sprouts, avocado slices, and roasted red peppers. Easy to prepare, easy to eat.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Vegan Shoes for Summer

Although it's gray here, I have summer shoes on the brain. What vegan-wear options are out there? Madden Girl offers these Gladiator sandals for your inner Roman warrior. Madden Girl also comes to the rescue for those of us who need to look like trustworthy professionals at our day jobs, with these synthetic patent pumps, which have a side cutout and kitten heels. And for the flashiest shoes I've ever bought, Marshalls offered these sandals embellished with copper beads and sequins. The Madden Girl shoes come from, which provides free shipping both ways. Another good source for vegan shoes is Alternative Outfitters. Happy cows, happy shopping. And back to vegan food tomorrow!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Dinner and a Food Movie

As manager of our Netflix queue, I occasionally subject Mandolin Don to a food movie. Fortunately, they've all turned out to be entertaining. Woman on Top and Big Night were favorites, and recently we enjoyed Dinner Rush. To my delight, the opening scene featured a platter of pasta in marinara sauce, similar to the dinner I'd prepared for us.

Our Baked Penne with Vegetables was adapted from a Baked Ziti dish by Random Vegan Recipes. It includes a tofu "ricotta", and is simple enough to make after a day at work. If you're in the mood for comfort food, this pasta satisfies. I plan to increase the ancho chile next time, or perhaps use ground chipotle instead for more heat. Don't be deterred by the Newman's Own Marinara sauce. While I usually make my own sauce, I like to have some shortcuts available after a busy day and this sauce is actually very good.

Baked Penne with Vegetables
16 ounces whole wheat penne
1 Tablespoon olive oil for sauteing, plus 2 teaspoons olive oil for "ricotta"
1 cup diced onion
2 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise, then each half cut lengthwise in thirds, then diced
1 carrot, diced
1 cup sliced mushrooms
2 large cloves garlic, minced
24 ounces Newman's Own Marinara sauce
1 package silken firm tofu
2 teaspoons Italian Seasoning
1/2 teaspoon ground ancho chile
freshly squeezed juice from 1 lemon
salt and pepper to taste
vegan parm, optional
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cook penne according to package, but reduce cooking time by a couple of minutes because you will bake it later. Drain penne.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat and saute onion, zucchini, carrot, and mushrooms until veggies soften. Add garlic and saute a minute or two. Add marinara sauce and simmer about 10 minutes.
In a food processor, puree tofu, Italian Seasoning, ground ancho chile, lemon juice, 2 tsp olive oil, salt and pepper until consistency is similar to ricotta.
Spread some of the tomato sauce mixture to coat the bottom of a 13x9 inch casserole dish.
Combine the drained penne, tofu mixture, and remaining tomato veggie sauce in a large bowl. Add to casserole dish and bake for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with vegan parm if you like.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Gin Thursday, No. 2: Gin Swizzle

The internet can be the information
superhighway or a world of confusion. Take the Gin Swizzle, for example. Some recipes say add club soda, some don't. Some recipes say the drink should have a "froth", others indicate the glass should "frost" from the swizzle action. Hmm....

The Ultimate Book of Cocktails sounds omniscient, or at least cocky, so let's just go with that recipe and call it a day.

I quote, "The Swizzle dates from the early 19th century, and was originally a drink made frothy purely by energetic stirring. The implement used for this, the swizzle-stick, took its name from the drink....Some recipes add soda water to achieve the swizzle effect, but originally it was all done by elbow grease. The froth will subside fairly quickly anyway." I did not get a froth effect from my swizzling, vigorously as I tried, but the cocktail was tasty and crisp, nonetheless. Below you'll find my adaptation of the recipe, with the original ingredients in parentheses.

Gin Swizzle
1 1/2 ounces gin
1/2 teaspoon agave syrup plus 1/2 teaspoon water, combined (or 1 tsp simple syrup)
freshly squeezed juice from 1/2 lime (or from 1 lime)
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine all ingredients in tall glass with ice. Stir vigorously with a swizzle-stick.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Chickpea Potato Curry

Simply Recipes is probably one of the first cooking blogs I bookmarked. Elise takes such pretty photos, and many of the vegetable recipes are vegan or easily veganized. This recipe was easy and filling. I made a few adaptations based on what was in my pantry. It does not have curry powder, so don't expect that flavor, but is still spicy and I love those Yukon Golds.

Chickpea Potato Curry

2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 (10 ounce) can Rotel Original diced tomatoes with chiles
1/2 cup salsa
12 ounces Yukon Gold potatoes, chopped into bite-sized chunks
1 cup onion, diced
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

In a large pot, combine all ingredients. Stir to mix and nestle the potatoes into the liquid.
Set the pot, uncovered, over medium heat. Simmer vigorously about 35 minutes, until potatoes are tender. Mine got a little dry and I added a half cup of water while simmering. Add more salt to taste. Serve over Jasmine rice.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Vegan Eats in St. Louis

First things first. Readers, Scout. Scout, Readers. She is the best dog in the world, and will show up here periodically when I need a photo and because she's so awesome. I know you think your dog is the world's best, so let's just agree to disagree.

We had a full weekend of friends, live music, and good vegan food. Here are a few local restaurants with vegan options.

Terrene is one of the vegan friendliest restaurants I've found here. There is always a vegan entree, currently a spicy tofu lemon curry. During the winter, I had a delicious seitan stew with a vegan biscuit nestled in the center. Yes, I said vegan biscuit. Each time I've visited, the daily soup has been vegan. And I haven't even mentioned the small plates yet. I can never skip the Tofu on a Stick with Cashew Dipping Sauce. Plus, they have special happy hour prices on cocktails and small plates weekdays, 5-7pm, in the bar. They focus on seasonal ingredients, and have outdoor dining too. Obviously, they rock.

After Terrene Friday, we ventured out to the County for live music at The Natural Fact Deli. Will and Laura Scherer opened with some great bluegrass tunes, followed by Brothers Lazaroff. What a fun show. Keep a lookout for the Brothers' new cd coming soon. The Natural Fact serves tasty hummus, and I'll explore more vegan possibilities next time I'm there.

Saturday night found us at El Scorcho. I ordered the taco salad, with veggies added and no dairy. They tend to put sour cream on the plate, even when not mentioned on the menu, so I specify that they can hold the sour cream and cheese for my orders. The server was very accommodating. This was a tasty and filling dish with chips, black beans, mixed veggies, lettuce, tomato, guacamole, and salsa. I've also had the burrito with added veggies and no dairy. They offer a variety of creative salsas ranging from mild to super spicy, in beautiful hues of orange, red, and pale green. They recently expanded, so there's more seating and the atmosphere is funky and casual.
If you have other good vegan dining experiences in St. Louis, feel free to share them with me!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Quinoa Vegetable Soup

I wish aroma-net existed so you could smell this soup. The cumin, cilantro, and garlic smell so good.

This recipe is from Real Food Daily cookbook, one of my favorites. Every recipe I've tried has been delicious, and it has lots of photos. You can find this and many other recipes from Ann Gentry here. Choose an episode from the "Episode Selector" and there are recipes for each. I substituted green beans for the zucchini just because that's what I had on hand. Potatoes would be a nice addition too. This soup makes a lot. I freeze a large portion for later.

Quinoa Vegetable Soup

3/4 cup quinoa, rinsed well
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 onions, diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
3 celery stalks, diced
1-2 cups cut green beans
1 cup corn kernels
1 red bell pepper, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons kosher salt
12 cups vegetable stock
1 28oz can whole peeled tomatoes
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
freshly ground black pepper

Heat a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the quinoa and stir frequently for 10 minutes, or until the moisture evaporates and the quinoa crackles and turns golden. Transfer the quinoa to a bowl and set aside.

Heat the oil in the stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the onions, carrots, and celery. Saute for 12 minutes or until the onions are translucent. Add the green beans, corn, bell pepper, garlic, and salt. Saute 3 minutes longer or until juices form. Add the stock. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the toasted quinoa. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Squeeze the tomatoes into the soup and add the juice from the can. Add cumin and coriander. Simmer uncovered over medium heat 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until quinoa is tender. Stir in cilantro. Add black pepper.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Gin Thursday, No. 1

There I was minding my own business, reading Serious Eats. Before I knew it, this led to the LA Times on gin cocktails making a comeback. You could have knocked me over with a juniper berry. A few of us like our cocktails classic and not sweet, but we seem to be in the minority. (A , D, & J, you know who you are.)

The plot thickened as I sought a recipe for the Pegu cocktail. Not only did I find one, but a whole list of gin cocktails.

Hence, the first in a series on Gin Thursday. Thursday so you can stock up any missing ingredients by Friday, of course.

This cocktail is sophisticated, citrusy, and tart. A great combination with Bombay Sapphire. Put on your Gotan Project cd and mix one up. Ahhh.

The Pegu:

1 1/2 ounces gin

1/2 ounce Cointreau or Triple Sec

3/4 ounce fresh lime juice

a dash of Angostura bitters

Shake in cocktail shaker with ice until your hands start sticking to the shaker. Strain into chilled up glass.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Orzo with Roasted Vegetables

I tend to fret a little about potluck dishes. How will I keep it hot? Can it wait on a buffet while guests have some cocktails and mingle before eating? So I avoid the hot dish dilemma and go for room temp recipes. This one is an adaptation of Ina Garten's Orzo with Roasted Vegetables, from long ago and faraway when I watched Food Network. Veganized, of course.

Orzo with Roasted Vegetables
1 small Yukon Gold potato, peeled and diced
1 small sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound orzo
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and

1/3 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (about 2
1/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

For mixing at the end:
4 scallions, chopped
1/4 cup pinenuts, toasted
big bunch basil, sliced just before adding to

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss the potatoes, peppers, onion, and garlic with olive oil, salt and pepper on a large sheet pan. Roast for about 40 minutes, until browned, turning partway through. Cook the orzo according to package. Drain and put in serving dish. Add roasted veggies and cannellini beans.

Combine dressing ingredients in a jar, shake well, and pour over orzo mixture. Let cool to room temp, then add scallions, pinenuts, and basil. Add salt if needed. Serve at room temp.


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