Monday, December 26, 2011

This year's Christmas Feast

Pumpkin Lasagna (before baking)

I decided to make this for Christmas this year because I was a little short on time and energy and needed something easy but festive. It comes together pretty fast if you do the no boil version.

Pumpkin Lasagna

Tofu artichoke filling:
2 1-lb packages firm tofu, mashed coarsely
1 15 oz can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 cup chopped onion (I used frozen)
1 tbsp dried basil
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp bouquet garni or similar seasoning mix
¾ tsp salt
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
¼ cup lemon juice
1 tbsp olive oil
a dash or two of lemon pepper

1 29 oz can pumpkin puree
½ cup soymilk
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp sage
a dash or two each onion and garlic powder
up to 1/3 cup sweetener

lasagna noodles
soy cheese or more nutritional yeast or breadcrumbs (optional)

Mash tofu until it is crumbled into small chunks.  Add other filling ingredients and stir well. 

Stir together pumpkin with soymilk, spices and sweetener.

At this point you can either precook the lasagna noodles or not.  This is a moist recipe that will actually work with raw noodles if you like. This would save time and result in a final product that is firmer and holds together better. If you are more comfortable cooking the noodles though, go ahead.

Assemble the lasagna: Spread a thin layer of pumpkin sauce over the bottom of your baking pan. Place a layer of noodles on top. Next comes a portion of the tofu filling, then more sauce, more noodles, etc repeated until everything is used up. The last two layers should be noodles then sauce, with the noodles well covered enough to keep from getting crunchy.  Sprinkle with nutritional yeast, breadcrumbs, or another crunchy topping if you like. If you want to put a little shredded soy cheese on top, I’d wait until the last ten minutes.

Cover pan with foil and bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees F.


The tofu filling works just as well in a standard tomato lasagna.

You could also add cubed roasted butternut squash to either the sauce or the filling for more texture.

A bechamel would be a nice addition for a creamier final product.

For more lasagna variations, see this post.

Partially decimated

Sunday, December 18, 2011

C is for Cookie

Here is a nicely flavored golden cookie that I like to make for the holidays.  The cornmeal gives them a rich, almost buttery flavor, and keeps them crispy, not cake-like.

Vegan Crispy Cornmeal Sugar Cookies

Fresh baked Cornmeal Sugar Cookies

¾ cup flour (I used whole wheat pastry)
¼ cup cornmeal
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
a dash or two of nutmeg and/or cinnamon (optional)
1/6 cup oil  
1/6 cup soymilk
½ tsp lemon juice
½ tsp vanilla (or more)
¼ tsp almond extract (optional)
¼ tsp coconut extract (optional)
½ cup turbinado sugar

Whisk together dry ingredients. Mix together wet ingredients. To measure those awkward 1/6 cups, just fill a 1/3 cup measuring cup half full of the oil, then fill it the rest of the way with soymilk. Stir the wet mix into the dry mix. It may be helpful to use your hands. Form the stiff dough into a ball or disk.  If you wish, you can chill the dough at this point.  It’s not totally necessary but chilling will help prevent sticky dough. And the dough can be put back in the fridge for a few minutes anytime it starts getting obstreperous.

Rolling out the dough
When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Roll out half the dough to a thickness of 1/8 to ¼ inch. Thicker will make softer cookies that may take longer to cook; thinner will make crunchier cookies that are more prone to burning. 

Cutting out the shapes
Cut out shapes with cookie cutters and transfer to a parchment lined cookie sheet.  Bake for about eight minutes.  They should look a little underdone.

While the first batch bakes, roll out the rest of the dough and finish cutting shapes.
Bake the second batch.  Roll out and shape any remaining dough and bake.

Makes 2 dozen medium size cookies

Decorating: You can frost these if you like, either simply or with elaborate piping and painting. Candies, sprinkles, nuts, or coconut can be placed on top before the frosting dries. You could also sprinkle the raw cookies with turbinado sugar or colored sugar sprinkles before baking. You can use a butter knife or similar implement to create grooves, patterns or other details in the raw cookies before baking.  Food coloring can also be added directly to the dough for tinted cookies. The last two options work well for sugar free cookies.
Frosted with sprinkles


Poppy seed: Add 1-2 tbsp poppy seeds to dry ingredients

Lemon or Lime: Replace extracts with up to a couple teaspoons of lemon or lime zest. You could also replace some or all of the soymilk with lemon juice.  If you want them nice and tangy you should also consider omitting the baking soda (because it cancels out acid) and increasing the baking powder to 1 ¼ tsp.

Stained Glass Cookies: Cut window holes in the middle of each cookie before baking, being sure to place cookies on foil or parchment paper.  Crush transparent colored hard candies, keeping colors separate. Halfway through baking, pull cookies out and fill cavities with crushed candies (1/2 to 1 tsp candy per cookie, depending on size of holes).  Return to oven and finish baking for 4 more minutes. Don’t try to remove the cookies until they’re cool, and do so somewhat gingerly with a spatula when they are ready.

Peppermint: Replace almond and coconut extracts with ½ tsp peppermint extract and decorate with crushed peppermint candies.

Sugar free: These do pretty well with sweetener; the cornmeal makes the texture more forgiving than most cookies. You may want to use slightly more equivalent sweetener than you would sugar to make up for the sweetness you won’t get from frosting or sprinkles (which are sugary).                                                                                                                                                                       

All packaged up and ready for gifting

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Seitan Pot Pie with Mushrooms and Pearl Onions

I mentioned this dish in the last post so I thought I’d give you the recipe. This is what I had for Thanksgiving this year, and it went over pretty well! I liked that it satisfied my appetite for more than one Thanksgiving dish at once with its gravy and biscuits and veggies all mixed together.

Seitan Pot Pie with Mushrooms and Pearl Onions

8 oz. sliced mushrooms
10 oz. pearl onions, peeled if fresh, thawed if frozen
2 8 oz packages seitan, sliced into thin strips
1 tbsp minced garlic
2-3 tablespoons oil, more if necessary
1 ¼ tsp dried parsley
¼ tsp dried marjoram
¼ tsp dried savory
¼ tsp dried rosemary (crunched up a bit)
¼ tsp dried thyme
Salt and pepper and/or lemon pepper seasoning to taste

3 Tbsp flour
3 cups low sodium vegetable broth (or water + bouillon/broth powder)
Up to 1 tsp cornstarch dissolved in 1 tsp water (optional)
1 or 2 tsp soy sauce

9-10 uncooked biscuits (dough), either frozen or homemade

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Sauté mushrooms, onions, seitan, and garlic until browned, either separately in batches or all together in a big pan, using whatever oil or cooking spray is necessary. Stir in herbs and seasonings and pour it all into your casserole pan, distributing ingredients evenly so some of everything will be in each serving.

Now, make the gravy.  For the roux, put 2 tbsp oil into the same pan used for sauteing (no need to wash it in between) and add the 3 tbsp flour. Stir together with your spatula and cook over fairly low heat, continuing to stir, until slightly browned. Add broth and simmer for 3-4 minutes while stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan. Try to mash any clumps that occur. At this point examine your gravy to see if it has thickened adequately.  If not, add the cornstarch and water and cook a minute or two longer.

Add soy sauce to gravy and stir.  It’s not a bad idea to taste it at this point and add salt, pepper and/or lemon pepper if necessary.  Don’t be too generous, though, as it may get stronger once it’s mixed with other ingredients and cooked. When you’re satisfied, pour gravy over the seitan and vegetables in casserole pan.

Bake for 25 minutes.

Pull dish out of the oven and carefully place biscuits over the top of dish.  Bake about 15 minutes more, until biscuits are fully cooked and golden brown.

Note:  I've made this with only half the seitan before, and it worked fine. It's just not as high protein that way.


The vegetables can be changed: potatoes, carrots or peas would be typical choices.  The protein could be switched out for various fake meats, tempeh, or even beans (garbanzos or butter beans would be my top choices). 

The gravy could be turned into a creamier sauce by switching part or all of the broth with soymilk.
The topping could be changed to a pie crust or puff pastry, in which case you would want to put the topping on at the beginning of the baking time instead of partway through.
The seasonings could be changed too. Cajun or curry flavors might be interesting.