Jackfruit Chipotle Chili | VeganMoFo 2019 Day Twenty-One

What do you do when you need to use up the veggies in your fridge, you’re a little sick of rice/noodle-and-veg dishes, and it’s 90˚ out? Make chili!

Heh. Maybe it wasn’t the most obvious choice for a hot summer day, but it worked with what we had in the fridge. Steven whipped this sucker up on the fly and it was ready when I got home from work — always a treat! He used black beans, red pepper, a shallot, corn, and jackfruit, along with the standard tomato base. He also added some chipotle peppers, giving it quite an unexpected kick. (So much for my resolution to avoid super-spicy foods!) But you can’t really complain when someone is cooking for you., right? Plus, we had a bit of leftover cheesy sauce, which we mixed in to temper the spice. (Not pictured because it was not very visually appealing.)

Do you have a favorite chili recipe or do you always wing it? I usually make it up as I go, but when I want a tried and true recipe, I go for my smoky black bean chili. It’s one of my favorites!


Eggplant Dengaku | VeganMoFo 2019 Day Twenty

A few days ago, Susan over at Kittens Gone Lentil offhandedly mentioned enjoying eggplant dengaku, and I was intrigued: I’d never heard of it! (Or so I thought.) Turns out, there’s an eggplant dengaku recipe in Appetite for Reductionone of my all-time favorite cookbooks. I had to try it!

Isa’s recipe has you slice and broil the eggplant, then brush the slices with a sweet and salty (but incredibly simple!) miso sauce. Sounds like a recipe for deliciousness, and it is. I had a pound of those cute thin little Japanese eggplants from the farmers market, so I sliced them up. The recipe is intended for two pounds of eggplant, though, so I decided to supplement with a head of broccoli instead. Why not?! Instead of broiling the broc, I chopped it into florets and roasted it, then put the florets on the pan with the broiled eggplant slices, glazed everything, and gave it all a final quick broil until the miso sauce bubbled.

I served my eggplant and broccoli dengaku with some brown rice and topped everything with scallions. I also whipped up a quick spicy peanut sauce because I didn’t think the glaze would provide enough sauciness for the rice, but it wasn’t entirely necessary. What a flavorful dish! The miso is so robust, and it pairs so well with the meltingly soft eggplant. It was almost too salty for me, though, so I think I’ll reduce the miso and soy sauce next time I make it.

I’m so glad I tried this recipe — it’s one I’ve overlooked in AfR all these years. Shame on me! And now I know that if I ever see vegan eggplant dengaku on a menu, I’d be wise to order it.

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Spaghettini with Garlic and Tomatoes | VeganMoFo 2019 Day Nineteen

When your coworker brings in a whole pile of tomatoes, places them on the common table, and begs you and your colleagues to take them off your hands, what are you to do but indulge her?

For whatever reason, my garden refuses to produce more than one full-sized tomato at a time. Every year this happens. While I can pluck handfuls of cherry and grape tomatoes from the vine every other day, I have to wait weeks and weeks for a single slicer. So I was thrilled for this unexpected bounty (seen here next to my homegrown garlic, which is still curing (though I frequently use it in its super piquant state)).

I knew what I wanted to do with these babies, too: a super simple spaghetti with garlic-infused olive oil, tomatoes, and basil. Years ago, when I was visiting a friend in Italy (about which I produced one extremely sparse — yet comprehensive — blog post), we ate out at a restaurant in Florence and I had the most mind-blowingly delicious garlicky pasta. I’m pretty sure it didn’t have any tomatoes, just lots of quality olive oil and garlic. I’ve been chasing that dragon ever since…

…and I did not find it today. Ha.

Today’s pasta was tasty, don’t get me wrong, but it did not have the intense garlicky deliciousness I was hoping for. I tempered three cloves of my garlic in olive oil, but I should’ve used more. Always use more garlic than you think you need, right?! And I’m sure my Florentine pasta used a hell of a lot more olive oil than I do/did.

Ah well. It was still a satisfying and filling summery dish. But if you’ve got any tips for a killer spaghetti aglio e olio, hit me up!

Chips + Dip(per)s | VeganMoFo 2019 Day Eighteen

Hello on a truly steamy Sunday! Low 90s and some serious humidity. Good thing I spent two hours at the pool today, lounging in the shade with a book and then cooling off in the water. :)

It’s been a mish-mash food sort of day, with no real meals and lots of grazing (bagels, leftover Chinese food (from a post-bowling, late dinner last night), the odd apple).

So it seemed fitting that Steven made a graze-y dinner: tortilla chips, potato-carrot cheesy sauce, and a bean-pepper-corn-tomato-cilantro salsa/salad/dip. Yes please! Unfortunately we ran out of nutritional yeast, so the sauce isn’t quite as cheesy as one would hope. But it’s still tasty, especially mixed with the salsa. A perfect casual summer Sunday meal.

On a wholly unrelated side note, I’m curious: What do you call it when it rains while the sun is still shining? That happened earlier while I was walking Rosie, and it got me thinking about terminology. I’ve always called it a sunshower, which is both an accurate description and a sweet little word. My Southern friends say that in Alabama, when this phenomenon occurs, folks will say that the devil is beating his wife. Yikes. Somehow I would expect nothing more or less of the American South. So what do you call it?

A Birthday Cake for a Birthday Boy | VeganMoFo 2019 Day Seventeen

Today is Steven’s birthday! As such, I asked what kind of cake he wanted. The answer: German chocolate.

And thus, this beauty.

I’m pleased to report that it tastes as good as it looks. I used this recipe from Loving It Vegan, with just a few modifications:

  • Using vegetable oil rather than olive oil.
  • Foregoing the chocolate frosting on top and instead doubling the coconut-pecan recipe so I’d have enough to decorate the top.
  • Adding a scant tablespoon of this King Arthur espresso powder (affiliate link!) to the dry ingredients. Steven gave me this powder a while back, and it’s perfect for enhancing the flavor of chocolate-y baked goods.

Highly recommend!

In other food news from the day, Steven’s mom and stepdad came over for a low-key celebration and brought us Impossible Whoppers! Did y’all see the ridiculous vegan drama that developed last week when the Whoppers were introduced nationwide? It made me want to tear my hair out.

On the one hand, I get it: It really, truly sucks that Impossible Foods was required to test on animals to get their burger approved. And if you’re concerned about cross-contamination, you have to take the extra step of asking them to cook it separately. And, of course, you may not want to support Burger King at all. (I will not defend the “BuT iT’s PrOcEsSeD/gMo!11!1!!!” argument, however.)

But… I don’t see how this is not an unqualified Good Thing for animals on a macro scale, not to mention the environment. Anecdotally, I’ve seen so freaking many omnivores saying they’d happily order this rather than a beef patty. We’re normalizing the term “plant-based” along with plant-based products themselves. We’re showing that vegan food can be just as good as (if not better than) animal products.

So like… if you don’t feel that the Impossible Whopper fits with your personal ethics, that’s fine! I get it! Don’t buy it! But don’t spread your negativity all over the internet. You’re (1) giving vegans a bad name, making us seem like Negative Nancies who have achieved a level of moral perfection nobody else should even consider trying to reach, and (2) marring what should be good news with manufactured outrage.

As for me, I can’t see myself incorporating the Impossible Whopper into my regular rotation. I don’t eat out very much, and I actually don’t love that fake char (??) flavor. (I do love those classic fast food pickles, though.) I also would rather patronize veg establishments when possible. But if I’m on the road and need something fast, I’ll be very happy to know the Whopper is available.

Whew, so… rant over! Let me leave you with a photo of Sam, our friends’ kitty. They’re out of town, so I stopped by their apartment to give Sam some attention. She’s pretty standoffish, but she at least came up to greet me when I came in the door! And she posed for some photos. I’ll take it.

A Mid-MoFo Cobbler Fail | VeganMoFo 2019 Day Sixteen

I ate leftovers for lunch and leftovers for dinner, so let’s talk about dessert! Last night’s dessert, a peach and nectarine cobbler. It was… well, what’s a succinct way of saying “a total waste of peaches and a really crappy recipe I should’ve known better than to follow?”

Ah yes, a failure. That’s the word.

Faced with a dwindling supply of vegan butter, I wanted a recipe that used oil in the biscuit portion of the cobbler. I found one! But as I was following it, warning signs were flashing left and right: Hmm, no salt? Really? and Wait, you want me to cook this at 450˚?! and Just brown sugar? No white?

Ugh. Basically, I made a saucy peach casserole (OK, that part’s fine) topped with bland-ass, undercooked biscuits. UGH.

I knew – KNEW! – that stupid 450˚ oven temperature was going to cause trouble, yet I still followed the directions. (I hate being a consummate rule-follower.) Most cobblers cook at 350˚ or maybe 375˚ for a good half hour at least, which gives the bready biscuit topping time to bake through without burning. LOL, guess what happened at 450˚? I took it out after the prescribed ~25 minutes to find the undersides of the biscuits completely raw and doughy, yet the tops already beginning to catch. Come ON. I lowered the temp and put them back in for another 10-15 minutes, but they were still pretty soft when they came out.

They were also tasteless. I’d even added a shake of salt when I noticed there wasn’t any in the recipe, but they were still bland AF. I suspect it’s partly because they only used brown sugar, which somehow doesn’t seem to have the assertive sweetness of white in baked goods. Don’t get me wrong — I’m actually pretty sensitive to overly sweet baked goods these days, so I don’t want like, tooth-melting sweetness. But I do want to taste some sweetness if I, y’know, added sugar.

I’m not going to link to the recipe here because I don’t want to call out this blogger’s less-than-stellar recipe. I know most bloggers don’t have legions of testers, so sometimes a mediocre recipe slips through. (I’m sure I’ve posted a few.) But let me just say: If you find a cobbler recipe that calls for a 450˚ oven and 22-25 minutes of baking time, run away and find another recipe.

(This one is yummo; you can use berries or replace them with sliced stone fruit. For a slightly different (and slightly richer) twist, I also have had luck with this one.)

Stir Fry ft. Mock Duck | VeganMoFo 2019 Day Fifteen

Although I really like where I live thanks to the area’s great walking paths, access to the woods, multiple pools, etc., I do not love how car-reliant it makes me. There just aren’t many places within easy walking distance. I suppose that’s more a symptom of American suburbia than my neighborhood in particular, but it still stinks. So I was bummed to learn that the nearest grocery store is closing as part of a village overhaul project. :( Granted, Global Foods is still more than two miles away, but at least it’s feasible to walk there. I’ve done it once or twice, as has Steven. And it’s definitely close enough for super-quick, “Oh crap; we need an onion” runs. Plus, because it’s an international market, it has all those fun ingredients you can’t find at the chain grocers: a million kinds of noodles, just as many types of rice, cheap and exciting produce. And bizarre canned fake meat.

I say “bizarre,” but I have a sincere and appreciative fondness for these visually unappealing cans of seitan-based meats, and I’ve bought them occasionally over the years (including this memorable experience with “seitan tidbits” eight years ago).

I have not, however, tried the canned mock duck before — at least not of my own preparation. (There’s a decent Thai place nearby that used to do a fun pineapple-y mock duck curry, but I think they’ve since taken it off the menu, unfortunately. ) So when I made a quick run to Global Foods today and discovered that all the shelf-stable foods were 20% off as part of a closing sale (sob), I picked up a small haul that included a can of mock duck and a can of — wait for it — faux pork. My god.

While the pork is still sitting in my pantry, I used the mock duck right quick. I figured it would be best as part of a stir fry, so I made this hoisin-based sauce and whipped up a stir fry with red bell peppers, broccoli, mock duck, and rice noodles.

I’ve gotta say, I really dug (Digged? Should I just not use past-tense “dig” in this context?) the mock duck here! It’s definitely the same kind that Thai place uses; I could tell by the bizarre bumpy texture that I can only assume is meant to mimic real duck meat. Never having eaten a duck, I cannot verify how realistic those bumps are. I think the key was to drain it of its excess oil, both by putting it in a colander and by literally squeezing the chunks dry. I also sliced it into smaller pieces and lightly fried it before adding the sauce, so it had a chance to get nice and crispy. It’s got a gentle, almost sweet, gamey flavor, and the crispiness was a nice foil to the softer peppers. Plus, broccoli in a stir fry is always a home run; the space between the little nubbins soaks up all the sauce for a truly enjoyable bite.

So yeah, I’m well pleased with this dinner! Now I think I’m going to do what I failed to do last night: Make a cobbler for dessert. I’m craving something sweet after that salty dinner.

If you’ve used mock duck or mock pork before, what’s your favorite preparation for it?

A Full-On Southern Supper Plate | VeganMoFo 2019 Day Fourteen

I have recently (i.e., within the last year) come to a startling realization: I do not care for super spicy foods. I say “startling” because I have long used my seeming tolerance for spiciness as a marker of some kind of courage and as something that sets me apart from my wimpy Midwestern friends who pale at the sight of sriracha. I grew up on spicy foods thanks to my dad’s predilection for them, and for quite a while I think I confused “able to eat” with “enjoy.”

No longer! I’ve recently realized that I just don’t enjoy super spicy foods. I don’t enjoy having to keep a tissue on hand to wipe my streaming nose. I don’t enjoy not tasting the rest of what’s on my plate. I simply don’t appreciate spice for spice’s sake anymore, and frankly, I don’t think I have a particularly high tolerance for it either. Heat can be great when combined with other bold flavors, but you have to be able to taste those flavors!

I mention this because tonight’s dinner included quite a spicy element. I had an after-work happy hour, meaning I arrived home a bit later than usual. Steven had dinner in the oven, and the timer dinged almost literally the moment I stepped through the door. What bliss! He’d made a big ol’ pan of mac and cheese and some BBQ tofu, using a homemade, sriracha-based BBQ sauce. I added a simple side salad for some greenery and had myself a nice big plate of food.

So, that BBQ tofu. It packed quite a kick. I kept eating pieces and feeling the burn until I realized something incredibly obvious: If I ate it at the same time as a forkful of mac and cheese, it was not nearly as painful, and it added a nice kick to the pasta.

I mean. This is not rocket science. But as a person who likes order and clearly delineated lines (in pretty much every aspect of life), I do not typically mix two types of food on a fork. I like one thing at a time, so I can taste it individually. (On Thanksgiving, I have to purposefully remind myself to put some mashed potato and stuffing into my mouth at the same time.) Yet clearly there is a benefit to mixing things up, to using a more neutral element to temper a stronger one. Even if I have to consciously remind myself to do it, it’s worth it. That BBQ tofu — so painful, so tissue-requiring on its own — became deliciously palatable when paired with the creamy neutrality of the mac and cheese.

(There’s a metaphor in here about balance, I’m sure. Feel free to read whatever you’d like into this revelation.)

And about the mac and cheese. Steven used this much-heralded VegWeb recipe, reducing the oil (!!!) and adding some shredded Violife parm for good measure. It was nice and creamy and a good reminder that sometimes old-school vegan recipes are worth keeping around, even when newfangled fancy products seem so much flashier.

Quite a satisfying meal overall, and doubly so because I didn’t make any of it! It reminded me of the platters at NuVegan Café, a local chain serving up Southern-style vegan classics. You typically order a main and two sides, and I can never resist their mac and cheese. So filling and so scrumptious.

Now I’m debating making dessert, possibly one of the stone fruit crumbles or cobblers that have been my go-to this summer. But do I really want to turn on the oven again? More to the point, do I really want to get up from the couch?! I predict a “no” on both counts.

A Two-Salad Supper | VeganMoFo 2019 Day Thirteen

It’s funny how sometimes I can stare into my cupboards and crisper and just have zero motivation or inspiration for dinner, whereas other days everything falls into place with barely any forethought.

I already knew I wanted to use that leftover creamy basil sauce as a salad dressing, so I whipped up a super simple green salad with mixed lettuces from the farmers market, a few sliced tomatoes, and a big scoop of chickpeas. And because I was craving potato salad after picking up a quart of new potatoes (also at the farmers market), I asked Steven if he wouldn’t mind mixing up a tater salad as well. I was craving a super simple mayo-based traditional potato salad, but Steven tried something else: Minimalist Baker’s cashew cream-based potato salad.

I was skeptical, but it’s pretty good! Steven added diced celery and bell peppers for crunch, so it’s a pretty veggie-packed dish. I do question the use of raw garlic in the dressing — raw garlic always has the potential to be overpowering! Steven used three small cloves, and it was juuust on the verge of being too much. Plus I bit the side of my mouth while eating, and then of course kept biting it, and the sharp garlic did not help.

This is compelling stuff, right? The goings-on of my injured inner cheek? This is what you get with raw, unvarnished, diary-style blogging… real A-plus content. :D You’re welcome.


Magical Creamy Basil Sauce | VeganMoFo 2019 Day Twelve

A short and sweet (well, savory) post today, because… Monday.

Vegan Richa posted a shot of this amazing creamy basil sauce on her Instagram a few days ago, and I’ve been waiting for a chance to make it! It’s super simple and quick (especially if you have a high-speed blender), and it was absolutely delicious drizzled over roasted veggies (Brussels sprouts and broccoli) and brown rice.

Yes, this photo is crap. Sorry; I was irritated and hungry and not in the mood to find a better spot to snap a quick pic with my phone. Trust me when I say that the sauce tastes much better than it looks! The recipe made a respectable batch, and I think the leftovers will be great thinned out a bit and served as a salad dressing.

I’ve really been feeling the love for summer produce today! In addition to the broccoli and Brussels sprouts that made this dinner so satisfying, I enjoyed a perfectly ripe white nectarine and a criminally crisp Sansa apple earlier today. That apple almost — almost — made me feel OK about the inevitable end of summer and return of cooler weather.

For now, though, I’ll take 90˚ days and an abundance of produce, please and thank you!