Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Creamy Chickpea Casserole

I served this delicious casserole with grilled corn 'off the cob,' and roasted asparagus. 

What Satisfies

students who play guitar
11 bell ringers
being a character in someone’s fiction
mulching all by myself
clean windows
new white bed sheets
sleeping dogs
creamy casseroles
a white peony 

One easy meal that I have missed making and eating since becoming vegan, is the classic casserole. Protein and veggies swimming in creamy sauces satisfy the palate. Plus, they’re a cinch to make ahead and serve to a crowd. A few years ago, I hosted a party and made a Cheesy Chicken Casserole, (find that recipe here), and I made my own vegan portion by swapping mushrooms for the chicken, and ate it without anyone knowing the difference. I guess, looking back, I felt embarrassed, for whatever reason, to serve the mushroom version to my guests. Times have changed.

This excellent Creamy Chickpea Casserole is based on a classic from my childhood – in fact, I like it so much, I have featured it twice already here on my blog: once with chicken and dairy cheese and once as a chickpea vegan variety.

Today’s post is the almost perfected version – except for the horrible photos. Which means that I’ll have to post about this again in the future. It’s worth it.

Creamy Chickpea Casserole-Take Two

Make a batch of vegan cream of chicken soup by blending the following:
1 pound firm tofu
2 t vegan chicken base / seasoning
2-3 t curry
1 ½ t onion powder
1 ½ t garlic powder
½ t turmeric
¼ C milk or water

For the casserole
Saute a few stalks of celery until they are soft but not brown. Place in a large bowl and add a can of drained and rinsed chickpeas, some toasted sliced almonds, the correct amount of soup base, some mayo (1/2 C or so), and lemon juice to taste. Oh, also add some cooked rice, but not too much! The last time I made this I added too much and it totally dried out. Keep it satisfyingly saucy.

Mix well. Pour into casserole. Grate cheddar over the top. Bake till warm. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

Rhubarb Toad

There’s a toad living in my rhubarb patch
I rescued him from the middle of the lawn last month
He almost got chopped in the lawn mower.
Caught him in a bucket
     Neighbors watched
          John Deere in idle
               Dumped him in the rhubarb
“Stay!” said I.

I saw him today and felt happy. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

Salsa Suiza Two

Do not, I repeat DO NOT grow tomatillos in your home garden unless you are prepared for 300 tiny invasive plants next year. I grew three tomatillos last year, and this year I have 300. It’s like magic! I’m NOT laughing! So much weeding….but I am allowing three of them to continue to grow in my garden this summer, because I want more Salsa Suiza. I guess the weeding is worth having more of these amazingly tart fruits and more of this gorgeous green and creamy sauce.

A smear of homemade almond cheese, chipotle seasoned refried beans, and a shred or two of vegan cheddar.
Roll up and place in 9x13. I use some green salsa on the bottom and also on the top of the burritos to
keep them from drying out. Bake, covered, until warm....maybe 20 minutes or so. 

Last fall, I experimented with my tomatillos – first making a salsa, that was not near hot enough for us. Then adding more heat, only to find out that the texture was weird. I strained the entire batch and added cream cheese and voila! I had created my own Salsa Suisa.

Well, as the three tomatillos in my garden currently plot to take over the world, we are quietly eating the remaining Salsa Suiza from the freezer.  It raises the humble bean burrito to a gourmet meal.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Rhubarb Martini

Tired of Cosmopolitans and Margaritas? Want to wow your friends at your next cocktail party? Need a little something to lift your spirits? Is it 5:00?

There’s a simple solution! Make this syrup and add vodka.

Rhubarb Syrup

3 C chopped rhubarb
1 ½ C water
1 C sugar

Simmer for about 10-15 minutes, or until all the rhubarb has broken down and gotten all soft and mushy.  Cool a bit. Pour through mesh strainer – resist the temptation to press on the solids. You only want the gorgeous pink syrup. To really make a clear syrup, also strain the liquid  through cheese cloth. You'll be amazed at how much of the solids the cheesecloth will catch. The color just keeps getting prettier and prettier every time you strain it. 

I mix this with lemonade, ice tea, and seltzer water….but it’s best with vodka. It freezes like a dream.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Moong Dal Tadka

Have you shopped on Devon Street in Chicago? Yes? Then you already know that it’s a little India – clothing, groceries, restaurants, and people. We recently took a ½ hour detour on our way through the windy city to visit Devon street and to purchase some spices and dal.

“What’s dal?” you ask. Dal, or dhal, or daal, is quite simply a split, dried pulse.

“What’s a pulse?” you ask. A pulse is a pea, bean, chickpea, or lentil.

The first time I ever entered an Indian grocery, I was speechless at the variety of dal and beans and lentils and chickpeas. It’s crazy how many types of legumes exist! And the spices! We are really limited in choice in the American spice aisle when compared to the Indian spice aisle.

We ended up purchasing two large bags of dal (dried, split beans): a mung bean and a chickpea, both dried and split, and so now called dal…. or daal, or dhal.

I’ve had to put on my detective cap and search far and wide to learn how to prepare these tiny beans. Soup is the obvious first choice, but last night, I made this Moong Dal Tadka.

“What’s tadka?” you ask. Tadka means ‘tempered’ …. in other words, ‘all the spicy goodness you add to the dal to make it taste great.’ In this case: ginger, garlic, jalapeno, cumin seed, garam masala, and pepper.

Moong Dal Tadka (adapted from

For the Dal
¾ C moong dal (dried split mung beans)
1 medium onion, diced
2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 inch of fresh ginger, minced
¼ t red pepper powder
½ t turmeric powder
3 C water

For the Tadka
1 T butter (Earth Balance)
1 T vegetable oil
1 t cumin seeds
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
¼ - ½ t garam masala powder
¼ t red pepper powder
1 jalapeno, diced (with or without the seeds, depending how hot you want it)

Place the dal ingredients in a pressure cooker and process for about 10 minutes. I suppose you could simmer it all on the stove also.

Warm the butter and oil over medium heat. Add the tadka ingredients being very careful not to burn the garlic! Just warm and soften it all.

Mix together and serve with white rice. I also served frozen peas with a bit of fresh spinach and fresh chives. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Vegan Parmesan Cheese Two

I recently took an excellent 'Non-Dairy Cheese Making' class. The room was filled with vegans and the vegan-curious, and I felt so comfortable being with them! Some folks were looking for ways to eliminate lactose from their diets. Others were life long vegans. The woman sitting next to me had been eating vegan for three weeks - I hope she was inspired and not overwhelmed. The diet is amazingly simple - eat vegetables, not animals. All the other stuff, like the following recipe, is just icing on the cake.

This cheese tasted EXACTLY like dairy Parmesan. The only thing I do not like about it is that it kinda melts a bit when sprinkled over hot food and becomes a bit saucy. If you don't mind that, then this is the new Parmesan for you.  I actually mixed in this cheese with a batch of cashew Parmesan I had in the fridge which created a superb creation!

The recipes from the Non-Dairy Cheese Making class came from these books: Artisan Vegan Cheese by Miyoko Schinner, Non-Dairy Formulary by Skye Michael Conroy, and The Un-Cheese Cookbook by Jo Stepaniak. I do not know which author gets credit for this recipe. Sorry!

1 Cup almond meal
1/4 toasted pine nuts
2 T nutritional yeast
1 T mild miso
1/2 t salt
1/4 t onion powder
1/4 t garlic powder

Process in a food processor or high speed blender until finely ground. Store in refrigerator.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Chickpea Cutlets - Isa Chandra Moskowitz

Remember when Valentines Day was all about decorating a shoe box and lugging it to school for the class party? Didn't you secretly dream of getting a Valentine card from that special someone - and then actually read the messages on the cards to see which friend chose which card especially for you? My Valentine went way over and above this year and sent me these beautiful tulips! If you look closely, you can see another bouquet on the piano in the background - 2 dozen!! They did not fit in one vase. I am blessed with love and showered with kindness, thoughtfulness, and appreciation.

So the least I could do in return was clean the kitchen, set the table, and make a nice dinner. I think I did pretty well by choosing Isa Chandra's Chickpea Cutlet, homemade mushroom gravy, mashed potatoes, roasted butternut squash. You can find the Chickpea Cutlet recipe all over the internet, so I won't reprint it here.

The texture of these cutlets is *almost* like meat....but not really. You're supposed to use a knife to cut them.... but you could just use the side of your fork. They are simply some crushed chickpeas and seasonings.....but there is also some of the mysterious wheat gluten thrown in. So, basically, it's a meatless meat for those of us who no longer eat meat, but still want to include a knife when setting the table and chew something toothsome. Try them - they're excellent! In fact, make a double batch.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Spicy Nacho Cheese

Winter has not lost its grip on me. It's snowing right now out my window.  I have been cold, cold these past few weeks. Wool sweaters barely do the trick. I kept my winter coat on in a meeting last week.  Is it my age? Is it my metabolism? Am I tiring of the dark months? Why won't people stop talking about their recent trips to Florida and the islands?

There is, however,  much beauty to be found in the winter months: ice on bare branches, dogs with snowflakes on their noses, children bundled up.

I'm hanging in there till I see my first robin. And I'll keep eating comfort foods.

Spicy Nacho Cheese
(This recipe is much easier if you have all the ingredients in place before you begin)

1/4 C flour
2 T Earth Balance non dairy butter
2 t smooth peanut or almond butter
1 C unsweetened non dairy milk (maybe a bit more)
3/4 t garlic powder
1/2 t salt
1/2 t onion powder
1/4 C nutritional yeast
1 can El Pato brand salsa (or 1 C of your favorite salsa)
chopped pickled jalapenos to taste with a little juice (optional)

Toast the flour by whisking it over medium heat until it starts to produce a warm, toasty smell. It will smell nutty.

 Remove from heat and drop in the margarine and nut butter. Allow them to melt and then whisk them into the flour. Slowly pour the milk into the butter blob and whisk until smooth. It should become quite thick.

 Add the remaining ingredients and adjust the milk to your taste - depending on how thick or thin you want your cheese.

This stuff is great! 

The recipe is inspired  from a Non-Dairy Cheese Making class I recently attended. All the recipes came from these books: Artisan Vegan Cheese by Miyoko Schinner, Non-Dairy Formulary by Skye Michael Conroy, and The Un-Cheese Cookbook by Jo Stepaniak. I do not know which author gets credit for this recipe. Sorry!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

A Basic Formula for Veggie Patties

The basic formula for making any kind of veggie burger at home is very simple. Once you have conquered the basics, you may add all sorts of flavors, spices, additional vegetables, and then depending on how wet or dry the mixture is, you may fry or bake the burgers. These turned out a bit too wet for a bun, so I call them patties rather than burgers.

We rarely eat a veg burger in a bun because we're already eating plenty of fiber and carbs. We much prefer eating our veg burgers in a pita pocket or in a tortilla - either flour or corn, depending on what's in the fridge. My favorite way to eat patties or burgers is with a fork and possibly a drizzle of something saucy.

For these patties, I used some leftover, cooked "Three Continent Blend." Here you could use a mixture of grains and beans, or just straight grains (like I did today) or even straight beans. Then I minced and sauteed some carrots, onions, and celery. Sauteed mushrooms are always a big success in this step. Be sure to cook all the water out of them though. Stir in the grains, season well, and blend.

The secret to a good consistency is to remove about 1/2 of the mixture and blend it well in a food processor. Place everything in a bowl, add some bread crumbs or oatmeal or ground crackers. Sometimes I add a flax egg or E-ner G egg, but today I did not. Stir gently. Form patties, Chill. Saute or bake. Sometimes, it works to saute the patties and then also bake them for a bit. It all depends on how wet or dry you want it to be.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Smashed Chickpea and Avocado Dip - Forks Over Knives

This recipe is genius! It's everything 'guacamole' plus the beloved chickpea all rolled, or in this case, smashed, in to one. Seriously, if you need to impress, and you're totally OVER hummus and guacamole, (well, who can entirely ever be over those?) - try this recipe. You won't regret!

You can find the recipe HERE on the Forks Over Knives website. Don't change a thing! 
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