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SusanV I'm SusanV, and I love good food. Join me as I create delicious dishes made with whole foods and without a lot of processed fat and sugar. Want to know more? Check out my FAQs, look through my recipe index, or get inside info on Facebook. Like what you see? Then subscribe to receive email updates. But above all, enjoy!


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Friday, August 31, 2007

Portabellas Stuffed with Red Pepper Hummus

I've been afraid of cooking with hummus ever since I had a hummus pizza while on vacation in Colorado last year. The idea sounded good--pizza crust slathered with hummus, topped with kalamata olives--but in actual execution it tasted dry and bland. Perhaps that was the restaurant's fault because I've come around to the idea of hot hummus since making these mushrooms.

Portobellas Stuffed with Red Pepper Hummus

I think it was seeing the Tempeh Bacon-Wrapped Portobello with Baba Ghanoush at Albion Cooks that got me thinking about hummus-stuffed mushrooms. Actually, every time Catherine posts one of her many creatively-stuffed mushroom recipes, I find myself picking up stuffing-sized portabellas the next time I'm in the grocery store. My stuffings are never as fancy as hers. The fanciest I've gotten was filling them with Pesto Mashed Potatoes, which was delicious, but hardly beautiful.

This time I opted for a simple filling, something I was making anyway. I make hummus an average of once a week, in an industrial-sized batch that I use in sandwiches, on salads, and with crackers, cruditées, and sometimes just my fingers (but only when I'm trying to get the last bit out of the bowl, I swear!) A few days ago, when I made Gazpacho with Roasted Tomatoes and Peppers, I tossed an extra red bell pepper into the oven to roast, so when I made this week's hummus, I added the roasted pepper to it.

Portabellas Stuffed with Red Pepper Hummus

Portabellas Stuffed with Red Pepper Hummus

This isn't a recipe so much as a set of guidelines that you can follow to stuff portabellas with any pre-cooked filling.
  1. Prepare your filling. Allow about 2-3 tablespoons of filling per mushroom. (These are not the large portabellas but the ones that are about 2 inches wide and come 6 to a pack.) I basically followed my Spicy Red Pepper Hummus recipe but left out the harissa so that it wouldn't be spicy. I used about 1 cup of hummus for 6 mushrooms.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 F. Clean the portabellas and remove the stem and any fluffy flesh that surrounds it.
  3. Brush or spray a baking dish with a little olive oil. Sprinkle a little salt on the inside of each mushroom (optional, but does add flavor). Fill them with the stuffing, heaping it high in the middle, and set them in the baking dish. Spray the tops with a little olive oil, if you wish, to help prevent them from drying out.
  4. Place in the oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes. Serve hot, sprinkled with a little smoked Spanish paprika, if desired.
If you prefer your hummus cold, you may cook the portabellas without the filling and fill them with it when they are done. Simply follow the cooking directions above, placing them in the baking dish with the cavity side down.

Enjoy these as an appetizer, side dish, or as I did, as a light snack. Delicious!

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Gazpacho with Roasted Tomatoes and Peppers

It's been a strange summer, as far as my tomato garden is concerned. On the one hand, our heirloom and yellow tomatoes haven't fared well, not because they didn't grow but because the villains from last year were back again this summer. Yes, the birds (and I don't mean the ones that menaced Tippi Hedren!) They've managed to eat almost every "Mr. Stripey" heirloom tomato before it can even ripen. Most of our tomatoes have been small, but there was one huge one, as big as my two cupped hands, that we were eagerly waiting to ripen, but just when some color appeared on it, I walked out into the garden to find it like this:

Bird-eaten Tomato

Ugh! I understand that the birds are hungry and thirsty because of the heat and drought, but couldn't they have let me have this one freaking tomato?!

On the other hand, the birds haven't been able to diminish our supply of cherry and grape tomatoes, at least not so we know it. These little tomatoes came in early and heavy and just haven't stopped, despite the last couple of weeks of high temperatures often in the 100's. Just when I figured they were finished, they grew off their stakes and into the driveway and proceeded to set new fruit, so that now we have to carefully drive around them. Since there are still some tomatoes yet to be harvested from them, I haven't planted my fall crop yet (which is probably a good thing, considering the current heatwave).

Soon, though, even the prolific little tomatoes will be finished and I'll be back to buying them at the farmers' market or (when in dire need) the grocery store. So I thought I'd better act fast and make the one summer tomato dish I usually make but haven't this year: Gazpacho. Since I've fallen in love with the taste of roasted baby tomatoes this summer, I thought I'd give my old gazpacho recipe a twist and roast the tomatoes and peppers this time. The result was a deeper, richer flavor--with the added bonus of lycopene. Yes, cooking tomatoes actually increases the amount of cancer-fighting lycopene, an antioxidant that has also been linked to reduced risk of heart disease. So, if you're not averse to turning on your oven in August, give this healthy twist on traditional gazpacho a try.

Gazpacho with Roasted Tomatoes and Peppers

Gazpacho with Roasted Tomatoes and Peppers
(printer-friendly version)

I like to serve this soup in clear glasses with ice cubes to make it extra cold. It's so refreshing!

1 pound cherry, grape, or small roma tomatoes
1 small red bell pepper
1/2 large cucumber (or 1 small), peeled
1 clove garlic
1/2 slice day-old bread, crust removed (optional)
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh parsley
1/8-1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce, to taste
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup cold water
4 ice cubes

Preheat oven to 425F. Spray an 8x8-inch baking dish lightly with olive oil and place the tomatoes in it in a single layer. Spray a smaller dish, and place the pepper in it. Roast for 15 minutes. Stir the tomatoes, turn the pepper, and roast for 10 more minutes. When tomatoes are wrinkled and have exuded their juice, remove them from the oven to cool. (Larger tomatoes will need more time.) Turn the pepper and continue to roast until the skin has darkened on all sides and is lifting from the pepper. Remove it from the oven and place it in a paper bag or seal it in a storage container until it is cool enough to handle. Peel off the skin, discard the seeds and stem, and cut it in half.

Once the tomatoes are cool, put them in the blender. (Note: If you used larger tomatoes, first remove the core and chop them roughly.) Add half of the bell pepper and half of the cucumber, cut into chunks. Set the remaining bell pepper and cucumber aside. Add all of the remaining ingredients, except ice cubes, and puree until vegetables are finely chopped. Refrigerate until chilled.

When ready to serve, finely chop the remaining bell pepper and cucumber and add it to the gazpacho. Serve in individual bowls or glasses with an ice cube in each.

Makes 4 small servings or 2 large ones. For 4 servings, each contains: 45 Calories (kcal); 1g Total Fat; (10% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 10g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 163mg Sodium; 2g Fiber.

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

It's All About ME!

Well, that's kind of how this post sounds, and for that I apologize, but I'm just so excited that I had to tell you...

Liz Crain, of the online food magazine Culinate, interviewed me a couple of weeks ago for her column Blog Feed, and that interview has just gone up on their site. Please go check it out. You just might find out some things about me you didn't know...like my favorite vegetable (not what you think) and my real [gulp] age. Thanks, Liz! It's an honor to be included!

And while I'm here, I might as well remind you that it's the last week to vote for your favorite veggie stuff, including blogs. In case you've missed the giant banner plastered in my sidebar, this blog is up for Favorite Blog in VegNews Magazine's annual Veggie Awards, and the competition is stiff. So, if you like this blog, please go cast your vote for it. I can't afford to bribe all of you, but VegNews is offering some great prizes to a few lucky winners, so you just might win a trip for two to California.

That's all. This blog can now go back to being all about the food. Thanks for stopping by!

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E's Fruit Salad with Strawberry Sauce

I've got a couple of new bloggy happenings to announce today. First of all, some of you have already noticed the new format. I've spent all week redesigning the blog so that in addition to the bright, shiny new page header, it has a three-column layout that, I hope, will make it easier for people to find what they're looking for. All of the essential links--to the search box, the home page, the recipe index, my blog list, and Frequently Asked Questions--are easy to find right at the top of each page. If you're looking for different ways to navigate the site, such as by date of posting or by topic, look a little further down the sidebars, where you'll also find links to the answers to specific questions, like "What's that cake in the header photo?" and "What kind of camera do you use?" And you may have noticed that I now have an advertiser. Let's face it, someone needs to pay the enormous website hosting bills I'm accumulating! I'm very grateful to the BlogHer Ad Network for providing the ads and for assuring me that no meat products will be advertised.

E Cooks: Tasty, Easy Dishes That Kids LoveThe second new feature, heralded by the logo you see to the left, is something I've been hoping to do for a while, but it took a 10-year-old to finally put it into practice. A lot of parents come here looking for vegan dishes that their kids will eat, and I thought what better way to find out what works for children than to have an actual kid help with the creation and cooking of the recipes. My thought was to have my daughter, known here as E, choose the dish to be prepared and come into the kitchen with me to help tweak it to her taste and cook it.

Well, that was the plan. And I'd been thinking about it all summer without doing anything to get it going when E took the initiative and told me that she'd be making our dessert all by herself. And what's more, she'd be photographing it and writing up the recipe, and I wasn't allowed to help.

E Slicing Bananas

I managed to snap a couple of shots of her as she sliced the first ingredient, but after that (and several warnings about the sharpness of the knife) it was all up to her. She came up with her own unique preparation of fruit salad using the fruit we had on-hand and some strawberries we'd frozen earlier this summer, took the photo below, and emailed me her instructions. Here they are exactly as she wrote them, with a few notes from me in brackets:

E's Fruit Salad with Strawberry Sauce

E's Fruit Salad with Strawberry Sauce

Fruit salad:

1banana
2 honeydews [mom's note: 2 slices of a very large honeydew]
1 apple
1 peach

Sauce:

put 6 or more [frozen] strawberries in microwave
cook on high for 1:00
mash up with fork
add sugar [not too much!]
add lime or lemon juice
stir well
[pour over chopped fruit and serve]
[makes about 3 servings]

E Says Enjoy Your Fruit!

E's Tip: Always test your fruit first to make sure it's good!

Thanks, E, for a delicious fruit salad and for getting us started with E Cooks. We'll be going into the kitchen together and coming up with another kid-tested recipe soon!

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

Home-Style Tofu with Shiitake Mushrooms

I don't often cook other people's recipes, at least not exactly as written. I like to get inspiration from cookbooks and other people's blogs and then go off and do my own thing, incorporating the techniques that have worked well for me in the past. But when I saw the recipe for Peng's Home-Style Bean Curd on Barbara Fisher's Tigers and Strawberries, I just knew I had to make it exactly—well, almost—as written.

Barbara is a blogger and cook who inspires confidence; she has attended culinary school, worked in restaurants, and taught cooking classes. Her particular love and specialty is Chinese cooking, and she writes about it in clear, evocative language that somehow summons up the taste of the food as she guides you through the steps in preparing it. Reading the recipe for Home-Style Bean Curd, I could imagine exactly how it would taste, full of the pungency and saltiness of fermented black beans.

Home-Style Tofu and Shiitake MushroomsAnd I wasn't disappointed. One bite of this dish transported me back to a little Chinese restaurant back in South Carolina that D and I loved, instantly conjuring up its dark, candle-lit booths and strange door chime that chirped "Thanks for coming" whenever the door opened. From the outside, it looked like nothing special, one Asian restaurant among the many that graced the strip malls of that neighborhood, but once inside, visitors were greeted with tantalizing aromas and a diverse menu that included a whole host of vegetarian dishes. It's amazing how many memories a taste can bring back; I didn't realize how much I missed that place until this tofu dish reminded me.

Of course I made a few changes to the recipe, but Barbara had already suggested the main one, that vegetarians replace the pork with dried shiitake mushrooms. And though I trust Barbara when she asserts that it's best with deep-fried tofu, I hope you'll trust me when I say that baked tofu worked wonderfully for me. (I'm sorry, Barbara; I just can't bring myself to fry anything!) Finally, I didn't have fresh red chiles, so I substituted dried red pepper flakes (heresy, I'm sure). Next time I make this—which will be soon because I've been craving it ever since we ate it—I'll make sure I have fresh peppers on-hand. Thanks, Barbara, for a wonderful dish!

Home Style Tofu with Shiitake Mushrooms

Home-Style Tofu with Shiitake Mushrooms
(printer-friendly version)

16 ounces extra firm tofu, drained
soy sauce
1 cup (about 1 ounce) dried, sliced shiitake mushrooms
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon fresh finely minced garlic (about 3 cloves)
3 tablespoons fermented black beans*
1/2 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1/4 teaspoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water
3 scallions, green parts only, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

Preheat oven to 425F. Cut the block of tofu in half lengthwise and then slice each half into approximately 8 slices about 1/2-inch thick. Brush each slice with soy sauce on both sides and place on a baking sheet. Bake until light brown, about 15 minutes, and then turn over and cook for another 10 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

While the tofu is baking, pour the hot water over the sliced shiitake mushrooms. (If you don't have sliced mushrooms, use whole ones and slice after rehydrating.) Allow them to soak until soft. Leave the mushrooms in the soaking liquid and set aside until needed.

Spray a wok or large non-stick skillet with a little canola oil and place over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, black beans, and red pepper, and stir-fry for about 1 minute. (*See note below.) Add the red pepper strips and cook for another minute. Stir in the mushrooms, along with their soaking liquid, and add the tofu and soy sauce. Let simmer for about 10 minutes to allow the tofu to absorb the flavors. Then stir in the corn starch mixture and stir until thickened. Add the sliced green onions and sesame oil and serve immediately over rice. Makes 4 servings.

*I used black beans that were packed in oil and pressed them lightly to remove as much of the oil as possible. If you are using the type of fermented black beans that are packed dry, you may want to lightly crush them before adding them to the skillet. Also, adding a little water or oil to the skillet will make stir-frying them with the garlic easier.

(adapted and re-adapted from Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook: Recipes from Hunan Province)

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Grilled Baby Eggplants with Korean Barbecue Sauce

Blame my husband. Normally I wouldn't post back-to-back eggplant recipes, but while visiting his family in New Orleans, D took a shopping trip to the Hong Kong Market and brought home the last thing we needed, more eggplant. But he knows how much I love baby eggplants, so he and E couldn't resist buying them for me, even though we're up to our ears in their longer, thinner Japanese cousins.

Double Eggplant

They also couldn't pass up the opportunity to bring home this cute double eggplant. They know me so well that they assumed I'd want to take photos of it, which of course I did, before reluctantly cutting it apart.

But what to do with the eggplants? They'd brought home a whole bag of them, in sizes that ranged from smaller than a golf ball to almost as big as my fist. I knew that I needed to watch them individually as they cooked so that I could remove the little ones before they got overdone while letting the big ones cook longer. And somewhere along the line I got these visions of grill marks dancing in my head, which was really inconvenient with the temperature outside at 104.

So against all sense and reason, we started the charcoal and prepared the grill. Earlier in the day, I made the Korean barbecue sauce, marinated some sliced tofu, and made Mung-Bean Salad from D's other major Hong Kong Market purchase. It was ridiculously hot over that grill, turning eggplants and tofu every minute or so to prevent them from burning. And I will not lie to you. By the end I was hot, smoky, tired, and cranky as hell and wished I'd just roasted them in the oven. But as we sat down to eat in the lovely air conditioning, it seemed almost worth it to savor the smoky flavor that you can get only from grilling. That doesn't mean I'll be doing it again any time soon!

Grilled Eggplant with Korean Barbecue Sauce and Green Onion

To Grill Baby Eggplant:

Grilling baby eggplant is easy because there isn't a lot of slicing involved. Simply cut the eggplant in half. You can even leave the stem on and cut it in half, too, though most people remove it.

Spray the eggplants lightly with olive or canola oil. I like to also spray the grill to prevent sticking. Since many of my eggplants were tiny, I used a vegetable grill basket similar to this better-looking one at Amazon, which kept them from falling through the grill. Watch your eggplants carefully, turning them long before you think they're done because they will burn in the blink of an eye. (Tofu will burn even more quickly, so if you're grilling tofu at the same time, watch it too or you'll wind up with black-crusted tofu as I did!)

When the eggplants are done, arrange them on a plate, drizzle them with Korean Barbecue Sauce, and serve topped with the optional Spicy Green Onion Garnish (recipes below).

Grilled Eggplant with Korean Barbecue Sauce and Green Onion

Korean Barbecue Sauce

You can, of course, buy this wonderfully sweet and savory sauce. In fact, I have a whole jar of it in my refrigerator, but homemade is really tastier and not filled with thickeners and preservatives.

1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 teaspoon minced chile pepper
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine
2 tablespoons agave nectar
2 tablespoons water
1/3 cup apple juice concentrate (the frozen kind is fine)
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

Place all ingredients except the sesame seeds into a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to very low and simmer until partially reduced, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and add sesame seeds. Sauce should thicken as it cools. To use, warm slightly and serve over vegetables and tofu.


Spicy Green Onion Garnish

For best color, make this right before you plan to serve it.


4 green onions, bulb removed
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons minced red bell pepper
1-2 teaspoons minced hot chile pepper (I used jalapeño)
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
1/8 teaspoon sesame oil

Finely chop the green onions. Mix them well with the remaining ingredients. Serve over eggplant or other vegetables.



Tis the season to grill eggplant! If you're looking for more recipes, check out Kalyn's Spicy Grilled Eggplant with Red Pepper, Parsley, and Mint. As an added bonus, she has links to 10 more grilled eggplant recipes from other bloggers.

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Garden Gumbo

Even the best cooks can't work their magic without good ingredients. I like to think I know my way around a kitchen, but I can say with certainty that without fresh ingredients, my cooking would be pretty blah. In the summer, cooking becomes very simple for me: walk outside, see what's ripe, and combine it with some of fresh herbs growing in the corners of the garden. Anyone can do it, anyone who's lucky enough to have room to garden.

So I'd like to take a moment to thank the suppliers of two of the ingredients that went into today's dish:

Japanese Eggplants

Next to my tomato plants, the hardest workers in my garden have been this Japanese eggplant bush and its 3 companions. They have kept my family eating eggplant 2 and 3 times a week, for which I, at least, am thankful. This is just the top of one plant, and you can count 4 developing eggplants as well as the flower at the top--it'll be an eggplant soon. There were 4 more eggplants on the lower limbs of this plant and more on the other plants.

Okra Flower

I didn't plant enough okra, but the ones I planted have been steadily producing enough for me to be able to toss a handful into soups and casseroles every few days. Next year I'll plant more, just so I'll have enough of the young, tender vegetables to make Roasted Okra. The plants have such pretty flowers that I'm actually considering filling the flower bed in front of the house with them. See the little okra in the background? It's just the right size for roasting, but I'd need about 20 more that size in order to justify heating up the oven.

Today's recipe is really just a modification of the Chickpea Gumbo I've been making for years, except I walked outside, saw eggplants that were getting too big, picked them, and threw 'em in the pot. I increased the amount of broth and seasonings I use just a little, and the results were so good that even E the Eggplant Hater loved it. (It probably didn't hurt that she was in the kitchen helping cook this, which always increases her appetite for foods she says she hates.) But if you don't have eggplant (or really don't like it), don't let that stop you from making this recipe. You can substitute any vegetable you want for the eggplant, and I've even heard of some people substituting for the okra, though I really don't advise that. In my opinion, gumbo without okra is just soup!

Garden Gumbo

Garden Gumbo
(printer-friendly version)

2 tablespoons unbleached white flour
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium green or yellow pepper, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups vegetable broth
2 15-ounce cans diced tomatoes
8 ounces eggplant or other vegetables, diced*
1 pound sliced okra, fresh or frozen
1 16-ounce can chickpeas -- (drained)
1 teaspoon salt -- (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper -- (or to taste)
1-3 teaspoons Tabasco
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke flavoring (or chipotle chile powder to taste)
2-3 cups additional broth or water

In a small skillet, toast the flour over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until it is a uniform tan color, about the color of whole wheat flour. (If you use whole wheat flour for this, it will of course be darker.) Be very careful not to burn it. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Spray a large non-stick pot lightly with olive oil, and sauté the onions, pepper, and celery over medium-high heat. When the vegetables begin to get brown, add the garlic and browned flour and stir to combine. Add the vegetable broth and tomatoes, stir, and add all the remaining ingredients. The gumbo should have enough liquid to resemble a chunky soup; if it is too dry, add some more vegetable broth or water. Cook for at least 30 minutes, until the flavors have a chance to mingle. Remove the bay leaves and serve over rice.

*If you use softer vegetables like zucchini or summer squash, add them after the gumbo has cooked for 15 minutes; adding them earlier will make them mushy. Carrots, eggplant, cabbage, brussels sprouts, and other longer-cooking vegetables can go in with the okra and other ingredients.

Makes 8 servings. Each (without rice) contains 135 Calories (kcal); 1g Total Fat; (6% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 28g Carbohydrate; trace Cholesterol; 611mg Sodium; 7g Fiber.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Peach Upside-Down Cake

No long introduction to this recipe, folks. I could talk about how it's peach season and the sweetest, juiciest, not-quite-local peaches come from Chilton County, Alabama. Or I could travel down memory lane and plague you with childhood stories of how I used to gorge on peaches in my family's orchard until the fuzz burned off the skin under my nose. But no. Sometimes a few pictures and a recipe are all you need. Feel free to chat amongst yourselves.

Peach Upside-Down Cake

Peach Upside-Down Cake
(printer-friendly version)

This is a lightly sweetened cake that allows the fresh flavor of the peaches to shine through. If you like your desserts sugary (like my daughter does), feel free to increase the amount of sugar that goes into the skillet by up to double. The same goes if your peaches are not quite sweet enough. But my husband and I like it just like this.


Dry ingredients:
1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 cup natural sugar (I used demerara for all the sugar in this recipe)
1/8 teaspoon salt

Liquid ingredients:
1 cup vanilla soy milk mixed with 1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest (or 1/4 teaspoon lemon extract)

4 cups peeled and sliced peaches
2 tablespoons natural, raw or brown sugar
1/4 cup natural, raw or brown sugar
2 tablespoons water

Preheat oven to 350.

Combine the dry ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Combine the liquid ingredients in a separate bowl. Set aside without mixing them together.

Combine the peaches with the 2 tablespoons of sugar. Wipe or spray a 10-inch, well-seasoned cast iron skillet with oil. (This step is very important if you want to be able to get the cake out of the pan.) Begin heating it and add the 1/4 cup (or more) of sugar and the water. Heat and stir until the sugar is completely melted. Continue to cook and stir until the mixture is bubbly and slightly reduced (but be careful not to burn it). Place the peaches on top of the sugar and remove from heat:

Peaches in Skillet

Add the liquid ingredients to the flour mixture, stirring briefly just to moisten. Pour and smooth the batter over the peaches, covering them entirely. Put the skillet into the oven (you may want to place a cookie sheet or foil on the shelf below it to catch drips) and bake until the sides of the cake pull away from the edges of the pan and a toothpick comes out clean (about 30-40 minutes):

Peach Cake just out of Oven

Allow the cake to cool in the pan for about 15-30 minutes. Then, run a knife around the edges of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Place a large plate or serving platter over the top and invert the skillet. Remove the skillet carefully from the cake:

Peach cake turned upside down

Be sure to scrape any caramelized juices from the pan and smooth them over the peaches. Voilà! Peach Upside-Down Cake:

Peach Upside-Down Cake

Serve warm or at room temperature, alone or with vanilla non-dairy ice cream. Makes about 8 servings.

Peach Upside-Down Cake

Here's the amazing part. Each serving (based on 8) provides 148 Calories (kcal); 1g Total Fat; (2% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 36g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 166mg Sodium; 2g Fiber. With the sugar and white flour, it's hardly health food, but it is loaded with fruit and is almost totally fat-free.

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

TLT Sandwiches

When I told D that we needed to use the tempeh soon before it went bad, he got this far-off, dreamy expression on his face. I thought for a minute he was having some type of male menopausal seizure, but no, he was just thinking about tempeh "bacon."

The first place D ever had tempeh bacon was with me in the little vegetarian restaurant we went to on our first date. It became a tradition for us to go there every Sunday for brunch, and their plate of tempeh bacon, grits, and biscuits was D's favorite. After E came along, those Sunday morning outings became less convenient, though I still remember her sitting in a high chair, raining down biscuit crumbs and grits on everyone nearby. We were sad to hear that the restaurant closed after we moved away, but thinking of it brings back happy memories. So my apologies to D for my uncharitable thoughts of male menopause. Memories of tempeh bacon have been know to inspire rapturous looks on my face, too.

When I have lots of time, I like to steam or simmer tempeh before marinating it to improve its flavor, but in this recipe, I've shortened the prep time by combining the simmering and marinating. The result is an all-purpose tempeh that's less bacony than my usual recipe but can be used in many types of sandwiches. In addition to making TLT's, you can use it in Ruben sandwiches or put it on a bun and treat it like a burger. But watch out--you may find yourself getting dreamy-eyed over tempeh, too!

Tempeh, Lettuce, Tomato Sandwich

Tempeh, Lettuce, and Tomato Sandwiches
(printer-friendly version)

1 package tempeh (any variety will do)
1 cup warm vegetable broth
2-3 tablespoons soy sauce (I used 2 but use more if you like your tempeh saltier)
1 teaspoon Liquid Smoke
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon chipotle chili powder or smoked Spanish paprika

Slice the tempeh about 1/4-inch thick. In a flat, microwavable baking dish (or a large skillet) arrange the tempeh slices in a single layer. Mix the remaining ingredients and pour over the tempeh.

For microwave cooking, cook on high power for 3 minutes. Turn or rearrange any pieces that were not covered by broth and microwave on high for 2 minutes. Then cook at 50% power for 3 more minutes. Allow the tempeh to stay in the broth until you're ready to pan fry.

For stovetop cooking, bring the broth to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes, turning the tempeh halfway through to make sure each piece gets equal time in the broth. Remove from the heat and allow it to sit in the broth until you're ready to pan fry it.

Spray a large non-stick skillet with canola oil or cooking spray. Put it on medium-high heat until hot, and then remove the tempeh slices from the broth and put them in the pan in a single layer. (I did this in two batches.) Cook until brown, and then turn. When they are almost brown on the second side, add a few tablespoons of the simmering broth to the skillet and allow it to evaporate. (This adds more flavor.) Remove from skillet and serve immediately.

Cajun Tempeh option: Sprinkle the tempeh with Creole seasoning just before you turn it for a spicy treat.

For sandwiches, spread bread with your choice of condiments (I use vegan mayo and spicy mustard). Arrange lettuce and tomato (I used yellow ones) on bread and top with strips of tempeh. One package of tempeh will make about 4-5 sandwiches.

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

FatFree Vegan Pigs Out in Chicago

"Chicago: Seitan maker for the world."--updated Carl Sandburg


Chicago with view of City Center Hotel

There's so much that I left out of my last post about the BlogHer conference. Like...I saw Amy Sedaris practically hijack a session about craft blogging, and I heard Elizabeth Edwards make candid comments that I can't imagine any other spouse of a presidental candidate saying. I can only hope that being around outspoken, funny women rubs off. This blog could use a little controversy to perk it up!

But I promised I'd tell you about the food. Thanks to some great reader comments and links, I had a list as long as my forearm of vegetarian and veg-friendly places to eat in Chicago, and if I'd stayed for a week and eaten out 3 times a day, I still wouldn't have gotten to them all. I really regret not having been able to eat at Amitabul, the all-vegan Korean restaurant (long-time readers know that I'm a Korean food addict living in a state with no Korean restaurants), but we needed to concentrate on the places we could get to easily. I'm hoping to be able to go back soon and hit all the places we missed.

Our first outing was to the Chicago Diner, where we sat out on the patio and perused a menu that made my head spin. If you're a vegan who's used to having to scour the menu for the one vegetarian dish that can be adapted (chef willing) to be vegan, when you're presented with a menu chock-full of vegan delicacies, your brain goes into overload and you either take a hour to figure out what you want or start ordering everything on the menu. We, of course, took the latter course and ordered WAY TOO MUCH.

Barbecue Seitan Wingz

We started with appetizers. E wanted potstickers, which we gobbled up so fast that I didn't get a photo. (Hint: They looked like potstickers.) I don't know what was in them, but it was good. Next came the BBQ Seitan Wingz, pictured above, which were very tasty and tender. (Not that I got many of them; while I was busy taking photos, E and D were snatching them off the plate!)

Lasagna Bolognese

The entrees arrived very quickly. The Lasagna Queen, of course, ordered the Lasagna Bolognese, which turned out to be a little spicy for her. She compensated by drinking lots of water, but she only managed to eat a quarter of this huge piece. I thought it was tasty enough, full of meaty seitan, but D, who wound up eating what E left, thought it was a little dry.

Raw Tamale with salad

D. decided to try a raw dish for the first time, and he was very satisfied with the Raw Tamale and salad that came with it. (He said it made him feel all virtuous inside, but that was before he finished E's food!) I thought the tamale itself was a little mushy and bland, but the salad was wonderful. It was getting dark by the time we ate it, so I never got to see clearly what was in it. Delicious, though!

Great Wheatballs of Fire

I'm a sucker for a funny name, so I ordered the Great Wheatballs of Fire, which came with mashed potatoes, gravy, and roasted root vegetables. The seitan-wheatballs were delicious--not spicy but well seasoned--and the rest of the plate was extremely filling. I think I made the best choice.

Of course, we didn't stop there. The vegan dessert menu was calling us, even though we were stuffed. E had a mint-chocolate chip sundae while D and I shared a slice of chocolate chip cheesecake. (Sorry, no photos because by then it was too dark on the patio.) I never thought I'd say this, but there was too much chocolate on the cheesecake. Now, chocolate lovers hear me out. I'm one of you, but this was a slab of chocolate about 1/2-inch thick that covered the entire slice. I really wanted to taste the cheesecake, but all I could taste was chocolate. After just a couple of bites, I was satiated, and D (we call him the Human Recycle Bin) had to finish the rest. I kept looking over to the table next to us, where someone had ordered the raw cheesecake, and wishing I'd gotten that.

Karyn's Cooked

You would think that with so much gluttony, we wouldn't be hungry the next morning, but you'd be wrong. Bright and early at 11:00, we made the 14-block walk from our hotel to Karyn's Cooked for their Sunday Brunch.

 Rainbow Mexicana

I'd hoped that at least one of us would order one of the sweeter dishes, like the banana-stuffed French toast or the cherry blintz. But for some reason, all of us were in the mood for scrambled tofu, so instead of pretty shots of artfully styled baked goods, all I have are photos of crumbly tofu. What you see in the photo above is the Rainbow Mexicana that I ordered. It came with tortillas to wrap around the tofu and seitan chorizo, and the two sauces that accompanied it were just out of this world. I think the orange one is supposed to be a chipotle sauce and the white one a soy sour cream, but they were both lightly spicy and delicious.

Breakfast Skillet

D ordered a skillet scramble, which he thought was good, especially when drizzled with the salsa that came with it. Then he managed to eat all of his as well as E's and my leftovers!

Blissed Out

After a peach shake, E was positively craving the breakfast plate that included scrambled tofu, "sausages," and grilled potatoes, and by the end of the meal, she was doing a little dance of ecstasy that somehow transported her into a psychedelic state. I didn't get a good shot of her food, but the blissed-out expression on her face is more descriptive than a plate of yellow tofu anyway.

Chicago

That night, after spending the afternoon on a boat tour of Chicago (see more photos), we took the train to Evanston to meet up with some friends who graciously took us out to the restaurant of our choice, the Blind Faith Cafe. This time, I left my camera at home (sometimes the company is more important than the food, you know), but I can tell you what we ate. I had the Tofu Veracruzana (panko crusted tofu filet served in a traditional Mexican olive, caper and tomato sauce), which was good, but I'm not a big fan of the "big hunk of fried tofu in the middle of a plate of sauce" school of cooking. I mean, the tofu was really huge, like take a package of tofu and cut it in half horizontally--that kind of big. D's dish was delicious, though I had only two bites since we weren't sitting next to each other. He had Seitan Marsala (seitan again!), and the sauce was divine. I didn't get a chance to taste anything else on his plate or any of E's food, but I did have room for dessert, a chocolate-peanut butter cake that was incredible and beautiful--multiple layers of chocolate cake alternating with the creamiest peanut butter filling. Probably the best thing I had all trip. It was so rich that I had to pass it over to D long before I wanted to.

We had to be ready at 5:30 the next morning to catch the shuttle to the airport, but we all wished we could have stayed longer. I loved Chicago and found it very veg-friendly--if you know where to look.

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