Sunday, December 27, 2015

How to Feed Six People for Seven Days of a Holiday Visit

We're in the home stretch of a long and labor-intensive hosting stint - four guests for seven days! And we're fairly proud of the food we've served. I figured this post might be helpful to you if you're planning on feeding people plant-based holiday food of high quality over the course of several days. You'll notice that this plan relies on some leftover action, but we rework the leftovers so that they're delicious and unrecognizable, and there's always something new.

Things to do in advance, beyond shopping, include making a large quantity of almond yogurt and baking lots of pumpkin breads in mini bundts, freezing them. You can defrost one or two every night in the fridge, then pop it in the oven in the early morning to serve warm before glazing it.

Breakfasts and Brunches

Almond yogurt (save 2-3 tbsp every day to use for the next day's batch)
Pumpkin breads (we baked them in mini-bundt pans, so we could defrost one or two every day)
Cashew-orange glaze
Compote (we made it with lots of prunes)
breads, granola, fresh fruit, dried fruit and nuts
coffee, tea, juice

Dinners and Special Meals

Wednesday night

Vegetable and white bean soup (similar to this one, with white in lieu of pinto beans)

Thursday night

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms (make a lot of brown rice and reuse Sunday night, if you like)
Rosemary Gravy
Cranberry Sauce (simmer fresh cranberries in orange juice with a bit of maple syrup)
Mashed Potatoes
Roasted Brussels Sprouts (halve them and massage with a bit of olive oil and cider vinegar; roast in a 350 oven until golden and crispy)
Green Salad
Chocolate Pots de Creme
Mulled Cider

Friday night

Mini burgers
Potato croquettes
Grilled vegetables
Tahini (mix raw tahini with lemon juice, minced garlic, and parsley, and drizzle on grilled eggplant)

Saturday Night

Mushroom and caramelized onion ravioli (purchased at Rainbow Grocery) in mushroom-alfredo sauce
fresh tomato bruschettas (slice two big tomatoes in half; squeeze out juice; stick flesh of tomato in blender with two onion cloves; toast some good quality bread and spoon tomato mix on them; decorate with ribbons of basil)
Green salad

Sunday Night

Stir-fried bok choy (garlic, ginger, sriracha, soy sauce - you know the drill)
Brown rice
Dark lentil stew
Romanesco broccoli - simply steamed with some lemon squeezed on top
Blondies with nibs and raisins
Coconut ice cream

Monday Night

Cabbage Rolls: I modified the recipe some. We have leftover rice and masoor daal, and I fried up an onion, added the rice and daal, and about 1 cup of minced seitan. I threw in Bragg's liquid aminos and liquid smoke, placed the mix in the food processor for a few seconds to combine better, and used that to stuff the cabbage rolls.
Baked potatoes and sweet potatoes topped with some Miyoko's Cheese
Cauliflower-chickpea-olive salad
Vegetable salad (cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, green onions, radishes, lemon juice and a splash of olive oil)


Serving people two giant meals a day, cooked from scratch, is a lot of work for you. You can lay out these snacks at lunchtime and invite people to make their own sandwiches.

Good quality bread
hummus, tahini
Miyoko's Kitchen cheeses
Chao Slices
Field Roast deli slices
fresh oranges and tangerines
fresh cucumber sticks and tomato slices

Rosemary Gravy (and ravioli sauce)

This comes straight from Chloe Coscarelli's Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen, where it accompanies the stuffed portobello mushrooms. I made a few minor adaptations.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion
5 mushrooms, or stems of portobellos from other recipe
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups water
3 tablespoons Bragg's
2 garlic cloves
1 tbsp rosemary
salt and pepper

Heat olive oil in saucepan and saute onion and thinly chopped mushrooms. Add yeast and flour and whisk for 2 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and continue to whisk until very thick. Transfer to blender and puree until smooth.

And there's a bonus: if you make this with mushrooms it works wonderfully as a ravioli sauce. All you need to do is whisk the prepared gravy, or whatever's left of it, with an equal amount of cashew milk.

Cashew-Orange Glaze

I served a lot of mini-bundt pumpkin cakes this week, and I find they go exceedingly well with this simple and delicious glaze. Here's what you do:

1 cup cashews
1/3 cup water
2 tsp maple syrup
2 tbsp orange juice
1 tsp orange zest

Place all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. Keeps beautifully in the fridge for several days. I can see how this would be a perfect glaze for a carrot cake, too.

Mini Burgers

I've already posted a few versions of mini burgers, such as here and here, but this one might be my best yet, and I discovered it entirely by mistake. On Christmas Eve, we made Chloe Coscarelli's stuffed portobellos and were left with four of them (ten shrooms; six guests). You can, of course, make this from scratch, but I'd recommend this as the next-day meal after you make the mushrooms.

The only additional ingredient you need is about a half-cup of seitan. Place the stuffed mushrooms--stuffing, tomato, and all--in the food processor with some seitan and process until smooth. Make two-inch burgers and grill them with some vegetables. I can totally see taking the mix to a picnic, in a tupperware, and forming and grilling the burgers in situ.

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

This recipe was our piece-de-resistance for Christmas dinner, and we made it following the instructions in Chloe Coscarelli's Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen with small modifications: the addition of a bit of minced seitan and a change in spices. I'm reproducing it here, but strongly advise all of you to buy the book, which has many more wonderful recipes!

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion
1 cup cashews
4 garlic cloves
1 cup cooked brown rice
2 cups cooked lentils
1/2 cup seitan
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup vegetable broth (we used the broth in which the seitan was stored)
1 tbsp Herbs de Provence
10 portobello mushrooms
1 tomato

Preheat oven to 350 and drizzle baking sheet with olive oil. Remove gills and stems from mushrooms and thinly mince. Heat up olive oil in a pan, slice up the onion and fry them up with the cashews until translucent. Add garlic continue sauteeing a few more minutes.

Transfer onion mixture into bowl and add rice, lentils, chopped up seitan, broth, breadcrumbs, and spices.

Brush both sides of each mushroom with a bit of oil, place in one layer on baking sheet, and generously spoon stuffing on top of each. Place a thin slice of tomato on each mushroom. Place baking sheet in oven and bake for about 30 minutes.

We had four leftover mushrooms, which we used to make mini-burgers for the next day. Stay tuned!

Potato Croquettes

This is a nice way to use up leftover mashed potatoes. If you don't have any, make some; with some spices and breadcrumbs, this makes for a nice addition to grilled vegetables and little burgers.

2 Russet potatoes
1 tbsp Earth Balance
1/2 cup almond or soy milk, unsweetened
1 tbsp Herbs de Provence
1 tsp salt
1 tsp lemony pepper
1/4 cup breadcrumbs

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place a couple of Russet potatoes in the microwave until soft, peel as much as you can or wish to, and mash with a fork, mixing up Earth Balance and unsweetened almond or soy milk to taste. Add spices. Roll into little balls and roll each in breadcrumbs. Place on baking sheet and bake until golden.

Blondies with Nibs and Raisins

It is the fifth day of my guests' visit, and the seemingly interminable amounts of chocolate and candy they brought with them are beginning to abate. But everyone seems to fancy sweets this time of year, so I'm baking much more than usual. And, as the Dos Equis man would say...

So, I made blondies, which I plan to serve with coconut ice cream tonight.  I adapted it from Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Vegan with a Vengeance

1/3 cup Earth Balance
1/4 package (about 3.5oz) silken tofu
1/2 cup almond milk
3/4 cup jaggery
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/5 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1/2 cup cocoa nibs
1/2 cup raisins

Heat oven to 325 degrees and place parchment on a square pan. Place Earth Balance, tofu, and almond milk in blender, and blend until smooth. Transfer to bowl and whisk with jaggery and vanilla. Add flour, baking powder + soda, and salt, and mix well. Add nibs and raisins and combine. Pour mix into pan, atop parchment, and smooth with spatula. Bake 25-30 mins, until edges just begin to brown a bit. Take out, cool for at least 30 mins, then cut into pieces.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Almond Yogurt

This yogurt is the bomb! I've made it several times now and, once you figure out the two-step process, it's easy and yields wonderful tangy yogurt. You can see it in the picture on the left in the blue bowl. The recipe comes from Miyoko Schinner's wonderful book The Homemade Vegan Pantry. And it's pretty fortunate, because while now there are marvelously tasty vegan yogurts available, they are also fairly expensive, and this recipe gives you a nice quart of yogurt for the price of an almond milk carton.

The key thing to remember is not to add the yogurt in Step Two before the contents of the jar cool enough to allow the cultures to do their thing. Beyond that, easy peasy.

1 container unsweetened almond milk
1/3 cup cashews
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp agar flakes
2 heaping tbsp vegan yogurt (I use the last of a previous batch; to start the process, you can buy a little container of Kite Hill plain almond yogurt, or any soy yogurt, and use that.)

Step One

Place almond milk, cashews, cornstarch and agar flakes in blender and blend until smooth. Pour into saucepan, place on stove, and whisk while bringing to a simmer. Cook for about 3-4 minutes, until the mix thickens somewhat. Then, turn off the heat and pour the contents of the saucepan into glass jars (I like larger ones.) Place the jars outdoors or on the counter until they chill to 110 degrees (warm, but not hot - so that you can put a finger in the mix comfortably.)

Step Two

When the contents have chilled enough, add the vegan yogurt and mix a bit. Then, close the jars and place them somewhere warm, at about 105-110 degrees. We have an old-fashioned oven, so we just place it inside with the pilot light on; you can put it in a modern oven and turn it on and off, or put it in a dehydrator at a very low temperature, or outside if it's warm. Leave it in the warm space for about 8 hours, then retrieve and place in fridge. The yogurt will continue to thicken in the fridge.

Ecocentricity, Biocentricity, and Hunting

The Hunt in the Forest, Paolo Uccello, circa 1470 (original at Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)

We've been hosting Chad's family for a week, a visit that is still ongoing, so in a few days I'll put up a big post on vegan hosting with some fab recipes and advice. But for now, I want to talk a bit about hunting.

Earlier this year, we hosted an event at Hastings titled Hunting for Answers about Sustainable Use Conservation. It was an impressive initiative by our students, which brought together NRA gun enthusiasts, hunters, and Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) activists and lawyers to talk about hunting. The event was prompted by the brouhaha about the killing of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe. Among other guests, our event featured a self-described former vegetarian turned hunter and trapper, who spoke about the "hate campaign" waged against her by animal rights activists.

As with all events funded by the ALDF, lunch had to be vegan. Our animal rights student chapter members (of which I'm a proud faculty advisor) liaised with the other student groups organizing the events, and were puzzled when asked where to find "vegan food vendors." "How about... the Earth?" asked one of my students. "You do know that vegetables and fruit are vegan." They were also saddened to see that, in letters to attendees, there was a tone of apologetics about serving a vegetarian lunch. In response to the courteous but overly apologetic email, one attendee, an NRA member, wrote back a furious email, protesting the fact that lunch would not include dead animals (I cannot even fathom what mind produces an angry email about the contents of a free lunch, which do not exclude anyone, and which one is more than welcome to privately substitute for anything they desire across the street. But I suppose my students got a valuable lesson that not everyone in the world is gracious.)

But more to the point: At the event itself I sat with my beloved friends and colleagues, Dave Owen and David Takacs, both of whom know more about the environment than I'll be able to learn in a lifetime. David, whom I consider one of my closest friends, is vegetarian (almost vegan) and a very conscientious person. During the break, we got into an interesting conversation about hunting--a practice that we all absolutely abhor from a personal standpoint, as we can't see any pleasure in promulgating death and suffering for sport. I was surprised to hear from David that there were some advantages to animals in allowing hunting on a small scale, in a heavily licensed and restricted regime. Where one stands on this issue has a lot to do with how one sees the natural universe: through an anthropocentric, ecocentric, or biocentric perspective.

Setting aside anthropocentrics, who think the natural world is here to serve us and cater to us, there are two pro-animal ways to examine hunting. David's view is ecocentric, which is to say, he focuses on the natural world as an ecosystem and on sustaining and encouraging biodiversity as an overarching goal (here's his terrific book on biodiversity.) From that perspective, selling hunting licenses to rich tourists who hunt for leisure, and singling out prey that is too old to reproduce, can bring much-needed funds into poor communities in developing countries that would better serve wildlife species overall. My perspective, by contrast, is biocentric, which is to say, I perceive all life to be of intrinsic value. I simply do not believe that animals are at all ours to sell, kill, or regulate, or that it is for us to judge who lives and who dies, and I believe than any killing that does not serve an immediate survival goal should be outright banned (and socially reviled as a serious moral crime.)

Part of the reason we differ is that we come to the issue of animal rights from different places. David's view has been shaped by science and environmental ethics, while mine owes a lot to philosophy (such as the work of Peter Singer, J. M. Coetzee, and Sherry Colb.) But even though I am fairly firmly in the biocentric camp, I have to be honest and ask myself whether the sanctity of individual life holds well in our less-than-ideal world, in which regulated hunting may result overall in less gratuitous cruelty than poaching. I also have to wonder whether it makes sense to view eusocial insects, such as ants, bees, and wasps, as individuals or as part of a group enterprise (maybe, if ants could philosophize, they'd be more ecocentric; that's at least how matters seem in our kitchen, when they go for a crumb we forgot on the counter!). In short, I know where I stand, but I have respect and appreciation for the competing worldview.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Dark Lentil Stew

I had wonderful guests today and made them lunch, which included this lentil dish. It's not authentic Indian or Moroccan, but rather a haphazard creation including spices from both cuisines. I made it in a slow cooker and, for various hosting reasons, used the high temperature setting. I imagine you could make this over a longer period of time using the low setting, or even let it simmer slowly on the stove.

1 tsp olive oil
1 yellow onion
2 cups masoor daal
1 tomato, cubed
1 small eggplant, cubed
7-8 mushrooms, sliced
1 garlic clove, thinly chopped
1 tbsp ras el hanout
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
3 cardamom pods

Heat olive oil in pan. Slice onion thinly and caramelize in the oil.
While this is going on, place daal, tomatoes, eggplant, mushrooms and garlic in slow cooker. Add the onion. Cover with boiling water about an inch and a half above the ingredients. Add all spices - be sure to crush the cardamom pods before placing them in the pot. Cook on high setting for three hours or on a low setting for longer.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Adventures in Soy: Soymilk, Okara Cake, and Vegan CrabCakes

Being unwell at home has its advantages: boredom breeds big kitchen projects. Happily, I was well enough to mill about the kitchen, and we had a package of dry soybeans lying about.

I started off by making soymilk, for the first time ever. I had two recipes on hand: one from The Homemade Vegan Pantry and one from The Tofu Book. The former advocates boiling the beans for one minute and the latter instructs to soak them overnight. Since I wanted to go through the whole process from start to finish that day, I went with the former approach.

Making soymilk is a multi-step approach. It starts off with boiling a great quantity of water in a big pot. Then, the beans are added to the boiling water and boiled for one minute. The pot is then removed from the stove and left to cool for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, I drained the beans. I put some of them in my blender with fresh water and blended to the point of creating a thick slurry. I then poured the slurry into a nut milk bag over a big bowl, squeezing with all my might. The milk dripped into the bowl; okara, the by-product of soymilk, was left inside the bag. I repeated the process in batches, until all soybeans were blended and milked. I ended the process by simmering the milk for ten minutes without letting it boil. Contrary to the book's promise, the soymilk retained much of its original, beany flavor, which some absolutely love. I'm not very fond of it, but it can be partially masked with some vanilla extract. I might make tofu out of the milk I have, but I don't think I'll make this process a habit. Next time, I'll try the soaking method, but I suspect it'll yield a similar outcome.

The silver lining of the entire enterprise was the okara; I was left with so much of it that I packaged and froze four cups. I was left with enough fresh okara for two feats: a dried fruit cake and Miyoko Schinner's "fab cakes", which were a resounding success.

The recipe for fab cakes is in The Homemade Vegan Pantry; it requires a lot of ingredients, but fortunately I happened to have odds and ends of everything at home. I encourage you to buy the book and try this recipe. It's fantastic. The cake itself is made mainly of okara and silken tofu, so it's rich in protein and fiber, and it also contains quite a bit of delicious nori. Having missed crab cakes quite a bit, I was delighted to have such a delicious substitute.

The recipe for dried fruit cake is my own, so I'm happy to share it:

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup fresh okara
1 cup boiling water + 3 tbsp room temperature water
1 cup mixed dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, apricots, figs)
4 tbsp flax seeds
2 tbsp brown sugar (and I think this would come out fabulous even without sweetener)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp hawaiiej for coffee (but I think you can do without)
1 pinch salt

Heat oven to 350 Farhenheit.
Pour cup of boiling water over dried fruit and leave aside to plump a bit.
Grind one tbsp of the flax and mix with three tbsp water. Leave aside to become gelatinous.
In a big bowl, mix oil, sugar, and vanilla. Add flax and dried fruit (with the liquid) and mix some more. Then, add all dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Pour into pan--I used my trusty silicone bundt cake pan--and bake for about 40 minutes, or until a knife plunged into the middle comes out dry and clean.

I've done some more reading on okara. It seems that you can easily substitute about 1/2 of the flour in almost any baking recipe with okara, though some websites prefer the use of dried to fresh. Since I used fresh okara, I can attest that it doesn't harm the final product; the cake came out marvelous, fluffy and moist, and makes a delightful breakfast treat. What with this and the fake crab cakes, I feel like I got a lot out of my soymilk-making adventure--including newfound appreciation for commercial unsweetened organic soymilk, which I plan to continue buying most of the time!