Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving 2001: Garlic Mashed Potatoes

I saved my favorite Thanksgiving dish for last. I LOVE mashed potatoes. When I was a teenager I used to eat a bowl of instant mashed potatoes for lunch most days. I am happy to say I have grown out of those unhealthy days and I don't eat mash potatoes that often anymore. But, they are still one of my favorite foods. Creamy, buttery, and fluffy---what's not to love? And, I thought garlic would make them special for holiday.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes
4 Russet potatoes
1 tbs vegan butter (I used Earth Balance)
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tbs more vegan butter
1/2 cup rice milk (soy milk works fine too) 
Salt and pepper, to taste

Wash, peal, and quartered the potatoes. 

Place the potatoes in the pot you plan the boiling them in. Covered the potatoes with cold water. Let them soak for at least 15 minutes. This allows the starch to leach out so they mash better. 

Place a lid on the pot, place it on the burner, and bring it to a boil. 

While that comes to a boiling, the 1 tbs of butter in a skillet over medium heat. Once it melts, add the minced garlic. Cook until golden, but careful not to burn it. 

Once it's ready, remove from heat and set aside. 

Check the potatoes once they have boiled for a few minutes, they will be ready when a fork can be easily inserted all the through a quarter with no resistance. Once they are ready, remove from heat and drain. 

Return the potatoes back to the pot, add the garlic, the other 1/2 tbs of butter, and rice milk. Mash the potatoes until smooth and all the ingredients are incorporated. 

Now you have a big bowl of potato heaven! I hope you love this as much as I did. 

Shampoo Free Update

It's been almost a month now since I posted my Shampoo Free post. My hair has continued to get better and better. I can go 3 days easily without washing it and it's so much more managable now. I can even blow dry it and straighten without it getting all frizzy. And I still have half my original jug of vinegar and half the box of baking soda left.

But, I have found one issue with this cleansing regime: it does not get sand out of your hair. I went to the beach on the Kona side last weekend and it was so windy that it pretty much imbedded the sand into my scalp. Normal shampoo lathers up and grabs all the tiniest little particles. Since baking soda doesn't lather, it didn't grab all the teeny particles so my scalp was still quiet sandy after my shower. I took a fine-tooth comb over my scalp and worked out most of the sand the next day before I went to class, so it wasn't the end of the world. I suggest that avid beach bums might want to use a natural shampoo that lather instead of the baking soda/vinegar regime if they don't like waking up with a sandy pillow. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011: Green Beans with Caramelized Onions

Green bean casserole was one of my favorite Thanksgiving sidedishes before I went vegan. But do you have any idea how many calories, sodium, and preservatives a traditional recipe can have? Even if you make it with all vegan ingredients like vegan sour cream and soup mixes, it still a lot of proceeded foods. I still wanted the taste of green beans and onions, but not all the junk. So I decided to keep it simple, caramelized onions and pan roasted green beans, cooked in just a little bit of vegan butter. This makes two servings.

Green Beans with Caramelized Onions
1 tbs vegan butter (I used Earth Balance)
1/2 medium onion, sliced into half rings
1 1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger, minced
2 clove of garlic, minced
1 cup green beans, washed and the ends cut off
Red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the vegan butter.

Add the onions and cook until the they are golden and caramelized. Turn the heat down as needed and be careful not to burn them. Be patient and don't crank the heat in frustration if it takes awhile.

When the onions are just about done, add the ginger and garlic. Cook until the garlic is slightly golden and the ginger softens. Again be careful not to burn anything.

Add the green beans, and seasoning to taste. Cook until the green beans soften and start to brown.

It may take some time, but this recipe is simple and healthy. I loved the pop of green on my Thanksgiving plate. The ginger is what totally makes this dish.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011: Seitan Roast

I saw the recipe on VegWeb for a Holiday Seitan Roast awhile ago and thought it sounded interesting. I love seitan, as evident in my two other posts about it, so I decided this year I would give the roast a try. But I deviated a from the recipe quite a bit. I boiled the roasts (the recipes makes two small loaves) first because I like the texture of boiled then baked seitan. Overall, I REALLY loved this dish. It was easy to make, flavorful and juicy. It even sops up gravy well. I am definitely be making this again sometime.

Seitan Roast
5 cups vegetable stock
1 tbs soy sauce
1/4 an onion, cut into chunks
1 carrot, cut into chunks
A small pinch of salt and pepper 
2 cups vital wheat gluten
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 cup vegetable broth 
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp house seasoning
A small pinch of salt and pepper 
2 carrots, quartered 
1 small onion, quartered and sliced divided
2 cups vegetable broth (you can use the broth you boiled the seitan in)
2 tbs low sodium soy sauce 
1 tsp cumin
1 tbs Italian seasoning

In a large pot, add all the ingredients for the broth together and set aside. Do not turn the burner on yet. 

In a large bowl, add the vital wheat gluten and nutritional yeast and mix together lightly. 

Add the remanning ingredients and stir until it is too thick for a spoon.

Knead the dough the rest of the way until it comes together and is smooth. This should only take a minute or two so don't over knead. 

Divided in half and form into small loaves. 

Put the loaves into the broth, turn on the heat, and bring to a boil. Make sure to cover with a lid. 

Once it starts to boil, reduce to a simmer and keep the lid on. Boil for about 30 minutes total. 

While that boils, pre heat the oven to 350 and spray a baking pan with cooking spray.

Combine the all baste ingredients except the carrots and onion.

Remove the loaves from the broth and place them in the baking pan. Spread the quartered carrots and onions around the loaves and cover with half the baste.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the broth is absorbed. Cover with the remaining baste and bake for another 10-15 minutes.

Plate, slice, and serve. I topped mine with some mushroom gravy. I think I will make this again for Christmas. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

Sorry it took me awhile to post my Thanksgiving recipes (I had to work on Black Friday), but I had a nice little feast. It was a little challenging coordinating with my mom in Oregon to have the meal ready at the same time but I managed. In the end, Penny and I had a lovely dinner with my family over FaceTime. My seitan roast was awesome, I even dare say it was better than a Tofuky.

My ohana!
  I stuck pretty close to my previously mentioned menu, seitan roast with veggies, garlic mash potatoes, green beans with caramelized onions, canned cranberry sauce, and one of my Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes. I decided to post each recipe separately to make it easier, otherwise it would be one long and boring post. So look for these posts over the next couple days.

Happy kitty. 

After dinner I watch Miracle on 34th Street and worked on my list for Santa. It was nice to have a relaxing day and  "have" dinner with my family for once. Penny was happy to have me home all day, and even tried to "help" me set the table.

Look, mommy cleared the table off just for me.

Holiday Cream of Wheat

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you all have a wonderful holiday filled with joy and are surrounded by those you love. I would like to take a moment to share what I am thankful for:

My amazing family who always supports and loves me.
My sorority sisters who still are my rock 2 years after graduation.
The privilege of higher education.
The aloha spirit of Hawaii.
All my readers and subscribers.
My darling litte kitty Penny who makes me smile everyday with her love and antics.
Took forever to get her to sit still and face the camera!

I will be posting the recipes for my dinner tomorrow, but I thought I would share a lovely idea for a holiday breakfast.

Like most babies, my mom fed me farina, more commonly known as Cream of Wheat. She says I loved it so much that I would practically fall out of my highchair in excitement the minute I saw the box. And to this day, it makes me so happy when I eat it. I have no idea why, guess it just brings back childhood memories. I saw a box of Cream of Wheat on sale at the grocery store and couldn't resist. I normally eat oatmeal for breakfast because of all its health benefits, but I figured if I can't have my family for the holidays, I can something that conjures up happy memories.

While I was heading to the registers, something else caught my eye: Rice Nog. It's pretty much a spiced up version of Rice Dream's Vanilla Rice Milk. I've only had egg nog once before I went vegan, and to be honest, I liked the flavor but it was too rich for me. I was curious if a non-dairy version with way less fat would be better, so I bought a carton. I poured a small glass of it the next morning and was pleased. The flavor is perfect, and creamy without being overly rich. My only complaint is that it isn't thick like egg nog, but that probably because of the lower fat content.

Then I realized it would be perfect in farina because it is already spiced and sweetened. I added some raisins for added fiber and I made myself a lovely little holiday treat. This makes one serving, but can easily be multiplied.

Holiday Cream of Wheat
1 and 1/4 cup Rice Nog
3 tbs quick cook Cream of Wheat
Pinch of salt (optional)
1/8 cup raisins (1/4 is a serving, but I find that is too many raisins)
Nutmeg, to garnish

In small pan, bring the Rice Nog to a boil.

Add the Cream of Wheat, whisking continuously for a minute to prevent lumps.

Let it cook for another 2-3 minutes, stirring often to prevent lumps.

Once the farina is cooked and it has thicken to desired consistency, remove from heat and add the raisins.

Serve in a bowl and garnish with a touch of nutmeg.

A big bowl of holiday happiness!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving Menu

Since a few people have asked already, I thought I would post the menu of what I will be making for Thanksgiving. I am staying in Hawaii and have to work the next day (yeah 10 hour retail shift) so I am just staying home and cooking for myself. But don't worry, I won't be alone. Being a member of very close and very nerdy family, I am making my meal at the same time as my family back in Oregon, and will be eating with them over FaceTime.

And of course, I have my darling little kitty Penny, she is getting a nice treat too. I am making her chicken (from a local organic farm, and no I don't believe cats are meant to be vegan) and brown rice.

Here is my menu:
Homemade Seitan Roast (based on the one from VegWeb)
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Pan-roasted Green Beans with Caramelized Onions
Pumpkin Spice Cake (from the recipe I posted last week, I made one big cupcake and froze it)
Homemade Cranberry Sauce (maybe)

If you don't want to go to all the trouble of making your own turkey alternative like I am, I highly suggestion a Tofurky. I don't know how Turtle Island does it, but their vegetarian roasts are juicy, flavorful, and savory. They are so good, I eat them all year round. If this is your first meat-free holiday season, a Tofurky is a great transition. Plus, you get to break the Jurky wishbone!

I can't wait for Thursday, and I am sure is Penny is excited too (she loves chicken). Lucky her just gets to sleep while I cook it all.

Wake me when the food is ready.
Oh, I almost forgot, the wine! I am deciding between a sparkling or a nouveau beaujolais.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Lentil Burgers and Homemade French Fries

As awesome and convenient as frozen, pre-made veggie burgers are, they are still a processed food. Just because something is meat and dairy free, doesn't mean it still doesn't have preservatives and fillers. On occasion when you are working late or in a hurry, they can make a fine dinner. But, the best way to get a good meat-free burger is to make it yourself. My favorite alternative burger is lentil. I first had one in this little restaurant by the Opera House in Sydney, Australia. It had great flavor and a meat-like texture. Like beef, it will take on the flavor of whatever you season it with, so you can make Southwest burgers with chili and cilantro, Indian with cumin and curry---or any other flavors you like. These are just basic burgers, so feel free to experiments with the spices. This recipe makes about 2 burgers and can be easily multiplied.

And what would a good burger be without fries. Making your own fries is just as easy as opening up a bag of processed frozen ones. Just cut, soak, season, and bake. And yes bake, not fry. Baking is so much healthier, no one needs to be eating deep fried foods. This recipe makes one serving and be easily multiplied as well.

Lentil Burgers
1 cup dried lentils
1/4 cup breadcrumbs (I used Italians ones, but it plain is fine)
1/4 cup onion, pealed 
2 cloves garlic, pealed 
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp house seasoning

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Rinse and pick through the lentils.

Cooking the lentils according to the directions on the package.

Drain the lentils and let them cool for a bit.

In a food processor or blender, at the lentils and remaining ingredients. Process until blender and fairly smooth. It's okay if there are some big chunks.

Form into patties and let them chill in the fridge for a few hours. This allows them to firm up and hold up better while cooking.

Now, you can fry them in a pan but I get better results baking in the oven. Lightly spray a baking sheet and place the patties on. Bake in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes, flipping half way through.

Since you have the oven all hot, might as well be efficient and throw some fries on the pan too.

Homemade French Fries
1 small russet potatoes
1 tsp salt
1-2 tsp house seasoning, depending on taste

Wash the potato very well.

Cut the potato in 1/4 inch strips.

In the small bowl, add enough water to submerge the potatoes and then stir in the salt. Add the potatoes and soak for 15 minutes. This will add some flavor and remove some of the starch.

Drain the potatoes well and lightly dry.

In small bowl, add the potato sticks and house seasoning. Coat the sticks well.

You can cook them at the same time as the burgers on the same baking sheet. Spread the sticks in an even layer on part of the baking sheet.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, same as the burgers, until golden.

I didn't have any buns, so I just ate mine plain. But I suggest a nice whole wheat bun, lettuce, tomato, red onion, and a good pickle on the side. I dipped my fries in some mustard and sweet chili sauce mix. If you go for ketchup, get the unsweetened all natural stuff. A lot of the big commercial brands are loaded with sugar and high fructose corn syrup.

A classic American meal with a fantastic healthy twist. Loves it!