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The title says it all. At a yard sale I found a copy of La Dolce Vegan, How it all Vegan, The Garden of Vegan, and Skinny Bitch in the Kitch. Anyone of those books would sold for 20 bucks new, but I got all four for eight bucks total. And they are as close to brand spanking new as you get. No stained, or dog eared pages here. Burn with envy all of you. And then you could recommend some recipes for me.

Eggs started to disgust long before I decided to go vegan. One time while making eggs my mom discovered a half formed chicken fetus in one of the eggs. Eww…. Then while I was living with my friends in New London, one of their friends brought over “farm fresh” eggs. They looked like misshapen brown ping pong balls and hadn’t been cleaned well. Cracking open one of these nasties, you discovered that it was 5/6 yolk and in lieu of egg white there was a little blood in it. So given my history with eggs it was not hard to give them up.
Most of the vegan French toast recipes I found on the internet require silken tofu or chickpea flour. I don’t think I can find chickpea flour around here and while I can get silken tofu we haven’t gotten in the habit of keeping it in the fridge 24/7.
French Toast
1 cup of vanilla soymilk
2 tablespoons of flour
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
Cinnamon to taste
Thick cut bread pieces
Oil for frying
Heat oil in a skillet.
Mix together all ingredients except bread and oil. Dip bread pieces in the mixture. Don’t soak them just a quick dip. Fry for a few minutes on each side or until brown.

I was surprised how well this recipe turned out. While it was not “eggy” tasting it was crunchy and delicious.
Fun fact: ever wonder if French toast was actually French? It is. Known as pain perdu (the lost bread) it is made to salvage bread that would have otherwise been thrown away and is served as a dessert.

Tempeh. First off what the heck is it? Tempeh is a fermented soybean cake from Indonesia. Oh yippie. A fermented soybean patty. One can only imagine how yummy that tastes.
Doing research on soy I come to find people either love or hate it. One person will say that is the most wonderful thing ever and another will proclaim it to be the most repulsive thing ever to slide down their throat. Well you may now officially file me in the former category.
My aunt has been trying to find tempeh for me for weeks but everyone she asks either has never heard of it or just doesn’t know where to find any. (One person asked her if it was a cleaning product) Well over the weekend her parents came over and brought with them some soymilk, vegetarian burgers, vegetarian meatballs, and two packages of three grain tempeh. I felt as if I had died and gone to heaven.
Ironically, they had found it at the store she usually shops at. And not only did they it, they had whole rows of it.
Any way everyone had to look the package over and then ask me what it was and what I intended to do with it. I told them that it was a fermented soybean patty and that I still hadn’t decided what I wanted to do with it yet.
After thinking about it for a while I decide to make tempeh bacon. This recipe is from the fat free vegan kitchen blog, the blog that set me on the path to veganism. Not having soy sauce, I just left it out. I also didn’t measure out the spices. I just dumped some in and tasted it. Having done that I made it a bit too spicy and then decided to add some maple syrup to counteract the spiciness.
So does this taste like bacon? No. Not remotely. Actually with the texture of the tempeh I was kind of reminded of my grandmother’s hash. Which is a good thing, I suppose ‘cuz I love my grandma’s hash. But it doesn’t taste like bacon.
I ate the whole batch. By myself. As is.
Oh tempeh….I have a feeling that this is the start of beautiful friendship. *snuggles package*
Tempeh Bacon from Fat free Vegan Kitchen
1 package of tempeh (I used 3 grain)
1 cup of warm vegetable broth
2 to 3 tablespoons of soy sauce (can be omitted without disastrous results)
1 teaspoon of liquid smoke
½ teaspoon of onion powder
½ teaspoon of garlic powder
¼ teaspoon of chipotle chili powder
Slice tempeh into thin strips. The thinner the strips the crispier they get. Mix together all the other ingredients. Bring to a boil on the stove then reduce to a simmer. Simmer tempeh strips in the broth for about ten minutes. Prepare a skillet over medium high heat. Fry each strip of bacon in canola oil. When the second side is almost done spoon some of the marinade onto the strips. I ate these bad boys as it but Susan made T.LT.s with these and I think I’m gonna try that next. Maybe with some avocados.

The fifth of May will mark my one month anniversary as a vegetarian.  And it seems that attacks of culinary nostalgia are coming on.  First of all I have been having a weird craving for meatloaf.  I say weird because I’ve never really liked meatloaf.  And I’m having a craving for egg salad.  Unfortunately I used up my last package of firm tofu to make a less than satisfactory batch of baked tofu.  So nothing I can do about that.  Third, I have been really, really jonesing for a good burger.  That I can do something about. 

There are about as many veggie burger recipes as there are cooks so all I really had to do was pick one that suited me.  So I picked this Lentil Burger recipe from my aunt’s Weight Watcher cookbook.

The original recipe made said that it made four veggie patties.  Even making only half a batch I still ended up with three patties.

Lentil Burgers

Adapted from Weight Watcher’s The Versatile Vegetarian

¼ cup of uncooked brown lentils

1 carrot, peeled and shredded

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon of onion powder

1 teaspoon of pepper

½ cup of breadcrumbs

Burger buns

Oil for frying

Cook lentils in water until tender.  Drain and set aside.  In a medium skillet, heat some oil and sauté the garlic and carrot shreds until garlic becomes fragrant.  Add lentils and then I cup of water.  Cook until liquid has been absorbed.  Mix in bread crumbs and spices.  Form into patties and refrigerate to let them firm up.  Heat oil in a skillet.  When its warm cook the patties a few minutes on each side until nice and brown.  These are really delicate so only plan to flip them once.  Serve on burger buns with your favorite condiments.

When making these I wanted to try to put some vital wheat gluten in the mix, thinking it might make the patties hold together better.  I didn’t but I bet the recipe would be better if you did.

Transitioning to a vegan diet is a wonderfully uplifting experience that transforms your palate and leaves you wondering why more people don’t do it, and why you hadn’t decided to do it sooner.  Except those times when it isn’t.   Lately I’ve been a culinary rut.  The last three recipes I’ve made have been duds.  First there was a sweet potato quesadilla that was okay, but wanted something savory to balance out the sweetness, than two tofu dishes that well…..look at carnage for yourself.

 

Even though dumping my old eating habits is exciting and that trying new stuff gives me a thrill, making a dish that bombs discourages me almost as much success uplifts me.  Which is weird.  When I was first learning how to cook, I made pancakes the hue of charchoal and afterward the smoke lingered in the air for hours.  My omelets became scrambled eggs, the toast caught on fire, my muffins could double as baseballs, and I once had to dump out an entire plate of fried chicken because it burnt on the outside and was raw on the inside.  Yet I never once became discouraged and rarely became frustrated.  I plodded along.  Soon I could actually cook pretty well and had a pretty nice cooking reputation in my family. 

So what’s so different now?  Well for starters I suppose I had my father.  He’s the kind of dude who would eat a fried pleather shoe if you served it to him and have something nice to say about it.  So if a dish didn’t work, he would just there chewing and insist “No, it’s good, sweetie.”  I’m not living with my father anymore, and when I’m cooking nine times out of ten I’m cooking for just me.  So if I can’t find redeeming quality in a dish, no one will.  As they say you are your sometimes your toughest critic.  Second, since I’ve already gained some talents there’s a sense of going backward that just galls me.  I mean if a guy came along and took away your diplomas and inform you that you had to repeat school from kindergarten on up ‘cuz you had learned all the wrong things wouldn’t you be pissed?  That’s the feeling I’m getting.  Third, when I make a recipe I’m not quite sure if a recipe failed because I screwed up, if the recipe itself is screwed up, if I just don’t have the taste for the dish, if I don’t have the taste for it yet but might later….see my issue? 

Despite the fact it irritates me to think that I am starting over culinarily  speaking, it seems to be the very method I might have to use.  Start with the most basic of vegan dishes.  Baked tofu, bean soup and work my way back up.  Ultimately, I will regain my kitchen mojo.  Ariel will be back and when she’s back she will better than ever.

My aunt has two vegetarian cookbooks.  One is a Weight Watcher’s book, the other is an old diet book entitled Eat More Weigh less.  The book is about as old as I am and advocates a nonfat vegetarian diet.  No oil at all and only uses nonfat dairy and egg whites.

The book has some recipes I wouldn’t mind trying out, but there was this thing in the preface that confused me.  After going on about how meat didn’t contribute to your diet, yada, yada, it says this: If you can’t be a vegetarian than eat one.”  It went on to explain about how animals that eat a vegetarian diet are lower in fat and cholesterol and are therefore better for you.  Hence, it you can’t be a vegetarian than eat one.

That confused me.  I mean, cows are vegetarian and they were just ranting about how unhealthy beef was and I have never seen a pig eat meat outside a PETA advertisement. 

I myself was a huge meat eater up until a couple of weeks ago, and even I have given up meat without too much trouble.  I have a new slogan for them: if you can’t be a vegetarian then obviously you haven’t been trying very hard.”

 

Spaghetti and Tofu Balls

My aunt bought two packages of extra firm tofu and I’ve had troubled deciding what to do with them.  So finally my aunt says “Can you make tofu into meatballs?” 

Hmm…light bulb goes off over my head.  Today turned out to be the perfect day to experiment with a new recipe.  I mean I had the house to myself most of the day.  I looked at vegweb for a recipe but couldn’t find one so I used the vegetarian search engine on fatfreevegan.com and found one in at the Post Punk Kitchen.

I modified mine slightly.  First off I added some ground flax-seed to the recipe.  Then I refrigerated them for like 15 minutes or so before I cooked them and then I baked them as opposed to frying them.  Even when making “normal” meatballs I can never keep them from falling apart if I fry them.  I’m serious.  I could be making meatballs out of superglue and concrete they would still fall apart if I tried to fry them.

So how was this recipe?  I would give it about a 31/2 out of 5 stars.  They were rather soft for one thing.  Maybe next time I should broil the tofu balls for a few minutes.  And the peanut butter didn’t mix into the dough all that well so little patches of dough that had a faintly peanutty taste to them.  This I’m willing to bet is my own error, rather than the recipe’s.

Tofu Balls

14 ounces of extra firm tofu, drained and pressed

3 Tablespoons of soy sauce

3 Tablespoons of peanut butter

1 teaspoon of garlic powder

1 teaspoon of basil

1 teaspoon of oregano

1 teaspoon of ground flax seeds

Mash together all the ingredients.  Form into small balls about the size of a walnut and line up on a baking sheet. 

 I refrigerated these for about 15 minutes after that.  the oven to about 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Bake for about 20 minutes.

I’ve been looking for some recipes to make for the blog but I’ve recently made a big batch of chickpea cutlets and want to eat those up before I make anything new I’ve decided to give you a little anecdote on how I decided to become vegan.

I was a sophomore in high school.  Our biology teacher wanted us to do a paper on a “controversial biological issue”.   My paper was on evolution versus creationism but what I got out of that research is something in itself and has nothing to do with veganism.  My friend (we’ll call her Daphne) did her paper on animal rights.  I was really interested in the stuff she was researching so I went to look at the PETA website.  I didn’t leave with anything other than the typical omni response of “you people are insane!” but I suppose that something stuck with me.

Later, out of sheer morbid curiosity, I googled vegan recipes and found fatfreevegan.com.  I was really impressed by Susan’s blog.  The pictures are pretty, the recipes have great reviews and she never used the words “cruelty free.”  After checking out the fatfree vegan store, I bought Veganomicon and Vegan with a Vengeance.  I really liked them so after that I bought Vegan Planet, Vegan Express, and the Voluptuous Vegan.  As time wore on my parents really began to worry about this new found obsession of mine.

Fast forward a few years.  The year after high school I was living with some new found friends in New London Wisconsin.  The guy’s worked in a lot of different industries and has a certain liking for grossing people out.  I was more inclined to believe his meat horror stories than PETA’s because he’s actually worked in these industries and as he is not a vegetarian himself he had little reason to exaggerate.  Then he told a story about some dude that got caught masturbating while with his hand up a cow’s butt.  One need not be a vegan to think that’s repulsive but what came next shocked me even more.

“Isn’t he out of prison?”

“Yeah, I think he lives around here.”

And that’s I decided I wanted go vegan.  I was already moving out to live with my aunt and uncle in New Hampshire and decided there was no better time to make a change.  I couldn’t drink a glass of milk anymore without thinking of cow-masturbator-dude.

Ahh…Veganomicon. Once upon a time I had my own copy. However, in a series of unfortunate events I lost most of my worldly possessions, including V-Con. Even though I had not yet fully embraced veganism, I loved that book and was deeply saddened by the loss of it. Lucky for me, so many of the recipes have been posted on the internet. I can’t afford to buy myself a new book anytime soon but at least I won’t go without.

By the way, if you feel generous perhaps someone could e-mail me the recipe for Chickpeas Romesco, the Tamarind Lentils, Tempeh Shepherdess Pie, or Pumpkin Saag? I can’t seem to find any of these recipes on the internet. My e-mail is arielassault91@gmail.com

Any way, I’ve always wanted to make this recipe, but have never been able to persuade my mom to buy the vital wheat gluten.  My aunt bakes regularly and has vital wheat gluten around all the time.  I didn’t have the lemon zest called for in the recipe and we didn’t have any prepared breadcrumbs so I just toasted two pieces of bread and crushed them up. I also added onion powder and white pepper.

I learned several things. One: chickpeas take forever to mash with a fork. I started with fork, then switched to a potato masher, without success, and then finally my fingers.  In the photo you could see that some of the chickpeas still evaded mashing.  Oh, how I long for a food processor.  Two: if you bake these they may turn out looking like mutant cookies. Look at the photo. ‘Nuff said. And three: no matter how horribly and irrevocably you screw up this recipe it will taste good. And that’s a good thing.

Chickpea Cutlets

1 cup of cooked chickpeas

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1/2 cup of vital wheat gluten

1/2 cup of plain breadcrumbs

1/4 cup of vegetable broth or water

2 tablespoons of soy sauce

2 cloves of garlic, grated

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

1/2  teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon Hungarian Paprika

1/4 teaspoon dried rubbed sage

olive oil to taste

Mash chickpeas and oil together until no whole chickpeas remain.  Add remaining ingredients and knead 3 minutes or until strings of gluten have formed.  Divide dough into four pieces and stretch each piece into a 4 by 6 inch patty.

To fry: Preheat a thin layer of olive oil in nonstick pan over medium heat  Add cutlets to the pan and cook, 6 to 7 minutes per side or until golden brown and firm to the touch.

To bake: Preheat an oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Place cutlets on a greased cookie sheet and brush with oil. Bake for 20 minutes, flip the patties, then bake for 1o minutes more or until cutlets are golden brown and firm to the touch.

Sunday was a day for a one of those family bonding moments.  Saturday evening, I remarked to my aunt that I had wanted to make some chocolate chip cookies and in doing so I discovered that my uncle has a chocolate chip cookie fetish so big, its almost scary.

So Sunday me and my cousin got to make some chocolate chip cookies.  We had fun all through the process and that included doing the dishes. 

It was a good thing I took the photos while they were still hot ‘cuz they’re all gone now.

Chocolate chip cookies

3/4 cup white sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 cup vegetable shortening

1/4 cup applesauce

11/2 tsp of vanilla extract

21/4 cups of all purpose flour

3/4 tsp of baking soda

1 tsp of baking powder

3/4 tsp of salt

12 ounces of chocolate chips

1 cup of nuts (optional)

1 tsp of cinnamon (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a bowl, cream together the sugars, applesauce, shortening. 

 Stir in remaining ingredients. 

Drop by the rounded teaspoon onto an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake until lightly browned, about 8 to 10 minutes.  They should look slightly underdone. 

Let stand on the cookie sheet for two or three minutes to firm up, then transfer to a wire rack for cooling.

Do I need to tell you what to do next? Eat and enjoy!

We adapted this from a Betty Crocker recipe and according to the book this should yield 7 dozen cookies.  Either we made bigger cookies than specified or this cookie fetish is more serious than I thought ‘cuz the entire batch is gone.

My cousin Hannah enjoying cookie

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