holiday meals

Normally my family uses tofu turkeys for their holiday entree, which are simple: you just take them out of the box and bake them. If you haven't tried tofu turkeys, they're simple marinated/seasoned tofu shaped like a happy turkey. They're gluten free and come with an easy-to-make gravy. And they're just so cute!
However, my sister-in-law is sensitive to soy,  and I wanted something we could all have. Many vegan entree options have gluten, but half the people at our meal were gluten-free, so I was pretty much left with one option: THE VEGDUCKEN. This recipe (and similar ones) was circulating around the internet for a while, just calling to be veganized. First, I have to tell you, this recipe is good, but poorly written. Or, at least, poorly organized--the list of ingredients isn't in any particular order. I ended up rewriting the whole thing in a Word doc just to make it make more sense.

Here's what I changed: I used vegan butter (homemade, but Earth Balance would work) and halved the butter for the layering/sauce, and never used any mint. This turned out just fine, and we had plenty. I used two flax "eggs" (2 Tbsp flax meal mixed with 6 Tbsp water) to replace the eggs, and to replace the parmesan cheese, I just used 2-3 Tbsp light miso. (Because of the miso, this means the recipe wasn't completely soy free, but you could use a soy-free vegan cheese like Daiya to make it so.) I used gluten-free breadcrumbs--the Hannaford store brand is just corn, sugar, and salt. Oh and my mushrooms were reconstituted dried. Finally, because I am allergic to nightshades, I replaced the eggplant layer with lightly steamed sliced celery root.

And here's the thing: even with all these (in some cases rather dramatic) substitutions, it tasted great. And went together really easily.

Here it is before putting the sides together and baking:
And here it is, baked and with some slices taken off.
I recommend carving it at the table and serving it one piece at a time; when we tried to cut several slices in advance they fell apart and were not as pretty to serve.

It serves a lot! I actually made two because there were 11 of us eating and my family are big eaters, but we never ended up finishing the first, let alone cutting into the second. And everyone really liked it!

We hosted Thanksgiving so we wouldn't have to travel with the baby, but our dining room is small so half of us ate in the dining room and half of us ate in the makeshift second dining room (the living room).
My side of the family! My brother is holding the baby in the back.

Christmas dinner was a much smaller affair, with just us and Kevin's mother, so we cooked the meal together. Our entree was Elizavegan's vegan tourtiere, made with sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes, and phyllo dough instead of pastry crust--which was a delicious substitution! The crisp of the phyllo went well with the sweet potato and made up for the lack of starch the white potatoes would have provided.
For Christmas dessert, I wanted to make something special. Inspired by The Great British Baking Show, which I watched in less than two days during my first week home with the baby, I decided to try my hand at a Swiss roll (also known as a jelly roll). And it went GREAT!
The cake is the chocolate cupcake recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, spread out on a baking sheet and baked for only 10-15 minutes. I cooled it just enough to handle, then rolled it in a tea towel and let it cool completely.
After that I unrolled it, spread it with strawberry jam and Coco Whip (I didn't have time to make frosting), rolled it back up and decorated it. It was huuuuge, so I only used half of it to decorate and serve (halved, with edges trimmed off for neatness, it served 5 people). I couldn't believe how simple and yet elegant it was! I'll definitely make Swiss rolls in the future, hopefully with yellow cake that I can decorate with batter like they do on the show.
I also dressed my baby as a reindeer.
Finally, New Year's brunch is a big meal in my parents' house, with loads of food and plenty of relatives to eat it all. With a baby in the house we were lucky to make it till midnight, and were not up for making a huge brunch the next morning, but we did something a little special: Kevin made a delicious fruit and nut coffee cake (from Angelica Kitchen) and I made tofu florentine with a hollandaise sauce from Vegan Diner. I usually make the one from Vegan Brunch, but I don't find it too flavorful. The Vegan Diner one has a lot of flavor, but I think the wine comes through a little too strong. Still a delicious New Year's brunch!
Now the holidays are over, we're back to simpler meals... more on those later!


vegan doughnuts and a baby!

First, I'd like to present you with the best thing I ever made:
A baby! His name is Ezra and he is exactly one month old today. My work schedule leading up to the end of pregnancy picked up more than I thought it would, so blogging didn't really happen much during my pregnancy, but it was an easy pregnancy overall. We've had no problems or pushback regarding our veganism from any of our healthcare professionals. And this baby is awesome!
He loves to eat, just like his mother, and has many strong opinions. (We don't know what the opinions are, since they all come out as wailing, but still.)

I am ambitiously hoping I will actually update more often now that I have a baby, in part because we spend a lot of time sitting down to nurse and/or nap, but also because I am done working! While I loved my job (teaching English at BFIT, a local college), I've always known that I wanted to be a stay-at-home mother, and (with years of saving and planning, mind you) I am able to realize that dream!

But let's talk about doughnuts. I love doughnuts! Growing up in Cooperstown NY, my favorite doughnuts were from Schneider's bakery. They make old fashioned doughnuts there: they're cake doughnuts, but still fried (as they should be) and have a dense inside with a crispy, barely sweet outside. You can get them glazed but then you don't get the same crispy outside. To me, these will always be the world's most perfect doughnuts. But they're not vegan.

It has, until recent years, been really hard to find vegan doughnuts... especially if you can't have potato starch (which is in most powdered egg replacers and is used in many vegan doughnuts, like DunWell doughnuts in NYC). I've been hoarding doughnut recipes to veganize for when I have the time and ambition to deep fry. But in the last year or so, Boston has kicked up its vegan doughnut scene!

For those who like cake doughnuts, Sabertooth Vegan Bakery, which operates out of Taco Party's (also vegan and delicious) restaurant location, has a staggering number of options. The flavor combinations are always on point--tasty and interesting: Matcha and Macadamia, Peanut Butter and Jelly, Cookies and Cream, etc. There are often at least a couple gluten-free (and I think soy free?) varieties as well.
The doughnuts are better than the picture quality would suggest.
 For me, there are a few down sides. First, they're baked, not fried. Which yes, is healthier, but I like traditional (fried) doughnuts. Second--this is minor--the base is the same to every doughnut. The flavors are all in the icing. It's a good, simple base, but if you get a sampling (like we did above) it is easy to get tired of it, Finally, for my taste, they're too sweet. The base is sweet, and the icing is almost entirely sugar. But I think most people go for that sort of thing when they want dessert anyway!

If I can't have vegan old fashioned doughnuts, I'll still happily eat yeasted (i.e., the Dunkin/Krispy Kreme type) doughnuts. Union Square Donuts has the best in town.
They used to only have vegan doughnuts on weekends, but now you can get them any day of the week. There are usually two kinds: cinnamon sugar and a seasonal flavor. Above, a coworker happened to hit the on a day when there were two seasonal flavors. They also have vegan doughnut holes!!! I hadn't realized I missed these until I was able to eat them again.
Obviously Union Square Donuts' doughnuts are heavy (because they are fried), but other than that, I have no complaints. They are delicious!

I don't have pictures, but Veggie Galaxy also has vegan doughnuts on Saturday (possibly also Sundays soon). They're the yeasted kind, with basic or chocolate icing. They sometimes do jelly-filled, too!

Have any of you tried making your own doughnuts at home? How did it go? What recipe(s) did you use?


vegan deviled eggs from Lagusta's Luscious

We'll get to the deviled eggs in a moment, but first a small announcement: I'm pregnant! I'm at 17 weeks (4 months). I am, of course, vegan, and my doctors are totally fine with every aspect of my pregnancy. There have been many great vegan bloggers who openly blogged about their pregnancies well, so I am not interested in doing that myself at the moment, but I am happy to answer any questions people have.

The biggest change for me since being pregnant is how much more often I get hungry! I fill up easier, which means my meals are often smaller, but my body still needs more calories per day, which means I'm snacking about every hour or two. Women should up their protein intake during pregnancy, so I try to make sure that at least some of my frequent snacks are protein-rich. But after 4 months, all my usual snacks are starting to bore me. So when I found Lagusta's Luscious recipe for vegan deviled eggs, I had to try them!

I had all the ingredients on hand, but I do not have egg-shaped molds. I have these though!
And I don't mind if my "eggs" are shell or dome shaped.

The "egg white" recipe calls for soy milk, though Lagusta  and the comments on the blog entry all say that almond milk makes for a firmer and whiter white. I went with soy to make sure the eggs were higher in protein, but I did notice a little of the graininess she mentions. 
They hold up well, but next time I might use a little more agar (2.5 tsps?) to make them even firmer.

And then I filled them! Before you judge how they look, remember that my eggs are upside-down shells. I also spooned in the filling instead of piping it in because I am lazy.
The filling is pretty good, but it is WAY TOO SALTY for me. My mother's deviled eggs always had a lot of mayo, so I did up the amount of vegenaise, which could contribute to the over saltiness, but when I make this next I'm going to skip the whole 1 1/4 tsp salt and just salt to taste after all the other ingredients are in.  It's okay in combination with the whites since the whites are a little bland, but the whole deviled egg is still a little saltier than I'd like.
And holy cow, look how much filling is left! I mixed some of it with the scooped-out parts of the whites for an egg salad that I'll have on bread for lunch. Lagusta says that it makes a good dip, but like I said, it is WAY too salty on its own, so I'll probably blend in some cashews before I can use it straight.

Despite the saltiness, I liked this recipe a lot, and will definitely make it again!


uzbek dinner! plov and tashkent salad

A while back, a friend linked to one of those buzzfeed posts--you know the ones, "the top 20 things you have to eat in [city name]" or "30 signs you're [insert age]." But the one my friend linked to was about food. And I often click the food ones. I don't even remember what the list was, but at the side, another recommended article was "16 Delicious Uzbek Dishes You Need to Try Immediately." I love delicious food, and knew NOTHING about Uzbek cuisine, so I clicked--and discovered a whole list of very non-vegan things. (There is actually one vegan thing: a tomato salad, which, since I'm allergic, was sad.)

For some reason, rather than deciding Uzbek cuisine was not my thing, all this started me on a quest to try to make some vegan Uzbek food at home.
Vegan Tashkent salad, "roasted" garlic (I'll explain later), and Plov!

The most obvious dish to start with: Plov, which is essentially a rice pilaf. After a long internet-rabbit-hole search, I decided to mainly stick with this recipe from Olga's Flavor Factory (ironically, the blog is Russian, not Uzbek, but I swear, this was the most promising recipe to start with). Traditionally, plov is made with lamb or beef, for which I substituted chickpeas. (Chunks of seitan would probably be better if you wanted it to be really authentic, but since I'm vegan and nightshade-free, I never really bother with authentic, and chickpeas are what I had on hand.) Her recipe is also enormous, so I halved it. So here are the ingredients I ended up with:

Chickpea Plov
Serves 3-4, depending on how hungry you are!

2 Cups (or 1 can, which is a little scant but fine) Chickpeas
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
2 carrots, shredded
1/2 tsp pepper
2 bay leaves
1.5 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric (this was to substitute in color for the paprika she uses)
A generous shake of ground allspice
1.5 Cups rice (I used brown basmati for extra flavor)
3 Cups water
1 head garlic, most of the papery skin peeled away (as much as you can with just rubbing it)

I sautéed all the veggies and spices together first, until the chickpeas started to brown, to give everything lots of flavor:
From there I followed the directions from the original recipe: add the rice, stir to mix it all together, then add the water, lower the heat, and cover.
And here's the coolest part, the "roasted" garlic. In the last 10-15 minutes of cooking (so if you're using white rice, pretty much as soon as you cover it--if you're using brown rice, after about 15-20 minutes), you put an entire head of garlic right in the center of the pilaf, so it steams and gets soft and creamy on the inside--just like roasted garlic from the oven, but less messy and in way less time! I could not believe how cool this was, and have done it with other dishes now.
There it is! Hidden in the center of the plov! At the time I was really worried about the garlic burning or sloughing off its skin into the rice, but it all worked out just fine.

The tashkent salad (or is it supposed to be salad tashkent? I do not speak Uzbek so I have no idea) was a veganized version of this recipe from Tasty Arbuz. Tashkent salad is basically a creamy slaw made of radishes and tongue, which, you know, super not vegan. (Have any of you read Hugo Hamilton's memoir The Speckled People? There is a tongue-as-food-related scene in it that is incredibly well written... and it describes how gross the whole family found it. If I were still doing my "food from books" series, this would be such a good one!) But I had some leftover baked tofu from a previous dinner, which, thinly sliced, was a perfect tongue substitute. And I used vegenaise instead of mayo, and everything was fine! 

Verdict: I would definitely make plov again, and am so excited about this "roasted" garlic technique. As for the tashkent salad, it was fine, but essentially a radish slaw, for which I don't really need a specific recipe in the future.

Have you ever had Uzbek food? Is there any dish from that buzzfeed list you'd like to make/veganize? Keep me posted!


aburaage, inari, and kitsune udon

I have decided to admit to myself that I am not good at blogging regularly. Admit it, get over it, and try to update at least more than one month a year. So hello again!

When I go out for sushi, my FAVORITE thing to order, hands down, is Inari. For those of you who haven't had it, it's fried tofu that has ben simmered in soy sauce, sugar, and mirin, then turned into thin pouches that are then stuffed with rice. It's sweet, salty, and filled with rice, so it has pretty much everything I love.

At various Asian markets, I have seen canned and refrigerated prepared aburaage that is just ready for stuffing with rice, but the ingredients are awful. Many have fish flakes, high fructose corn syrup, and/or MSG, all of which I avoid. (For the record, many restaurants make their own, so you can ask if you're concerned about these ingredients.) So I decided to try to make it on my own.

To prepare inari-style tofu, you "start" with aburaage, I say "start" because aburaage is deep fried, thinly-sliced tofu cutlets. You can make these yourself, but who wants to spend a bunch of time deep frying thinly sliced tofu? Not me. I bought it.
 I harbored secret hopes that the interiors would be pre-split, like pitas are, so that the "pouch" effect would be really easy to attain. This was not true. But also not something I had to worry about yet. I followed Just Hungry's methods for preparing inari, which first involves blanching the tofu, then patting it down with towels, to help get rid of some of the extra oil.

The next step was to slice them in half, then simmer them for a little while in a broth made of dashi (mine is always made from boiling kombu and wakame for a few minutes), tamari, mirin, and sugar. I don't have sake, so I just doubled down on the mirin. The thing I liked best about making this myself was being able to cut back on the sugar; I like it a little sweet, but some inari is too sugary for my taste.
 After they simmered and cooled in their own broth, I separated the insides (using the method recommended by Just Hungry--poking around in it with a chopstick) and stuffed several of them with rice. (Another thing I liked about being able to make it at home: brown rice!)
 I served the inari with nimono made primarily from butternut squash, more rice, and some sesame-garlic collards. This is Kevin's bowl; mine had a heck of a lot more inari pouches, but his looks daintier so we're going with that.

BUT I didn't use ALL the prepared aburaage for inari sushi. I saved some of it to make kitsune udon! "Kitsune" means fox, because in Japanese folklore, the trickster fox loves fried tofu. I agree with the fox. I followed this recipe from Just One Cookbook almost exactly, except no fish cake, obviously. And, as usual, gluten-free tamari instead of soy sauce.
I know the cropping is a little weird, but I wanted you to be able to see how our cat Molly creeped into the corner of the picture, lurker that she is. This udon was AMAZING, and we both went back for more.


dessert friday: apple cider jellies

A while back, I read and bookmarked a recipe on the kitchn for "spiced apple jellies." This is a classier way of saying make-your-own apple juice jello (with agar). I loved jello-esque things, but I don't like apple juice, so I decided to try the recipe with apple cider once when I had family coming to visit.

It was a success!
I topped it with whipped coconut cream. Because I used apple cider, it was tart, but in a good way. It was also so light that I had the leftover cups for breakfast the next couple of days.

I always find agar to be firmer than I want it to be; next time I might try less (so a scant teaspoon). Also next time, I'm going to take a tip from them and serve it in cute little mugs; I just didn't own cute little mugs at the time of making these.


Restaurant Thursday: Root (Now closed)

Edit: Root has closed since the writing of this post. Another vegan restaurant has opened in its place, but I have not yet been there.

Root is an all-vegan restaurant in Allston, a Boston neighborhood that is very close to my heart (and used to be close to my home, when I first moved out to Boston). It had big shoes to fill when it opened: its location was previously home to Peace o'Pie and before that, to TJ Scallywaggles, both vegan pizza places that almost all of us Boston vegans were sorry to see go.

Root has healthy, surprisingly inexpensive meals with a cafe feel. Kevin and I have been for dinner twice and brunch once. Dinner there was great!
Kevin got the sweet corn and jalapeno hush puppies with the Thai peanut salad (in the back), and I went with the sweet potato quesadillas and warm kale salad. The employees were transparent and accommodating when it came to my unusual food allergies.

While we were underwhelmed by the brunch (not a lot of flavor in the tofu scramble or the breakfast burrito), we'd be willing to try again, considering how good (and enormous) the pancakes looked.

A couple notes: for lunches/dinners, you order at the counter and choose your own seat, but brunch is a be-seated-and-waited-on affair. Also, Root doesn't offer desserts, but is conveniently located two doors down from Fomu, Boston's vegan ice cream shop. (The two businesses even share a bathroom.) If you don't want something as upscale as True Bistro, but want something a little less dingy than Grasshopper, I strongly recommend Root.