Sunday, October 30, 2011

V eggies & Seitan in a Brown Sauce with Szechuan Style Fried Eggplant with Spicy Dipping Sauce

Sometimes I really surprise myself and get really ahead of myself.  This meal is exactly what I mean by that.  I made this on the weekend, on a Saturday when the Hubby and I were spending the day off together.  We both woke up way too early (should have definitely slept in!) and were tired midday.  Hubby, unlike me, has no issues with going back to bed and taking a nap for a couple hours.  I try as hard as possible not to do that because I know how quickly the day goes by then, and working so much really makes you want to take advantage of the time you do have off.  So, off Hubbs went to sleep, and here I was, bored and tired, but not wanting to waste the day (why do I have to be so stubborn!?), so I went through my new Vegetarian Times Magazine and since I was hungry, I decided I would ultimately make every recipe in there (well, most anyway!).  So, I realistically looked through the magazine a second time and looked through the fridge, and decided I couldn't really make anything at that moment.  So. what was I to do?  Go through my bajillions of cookbooks and find something else.  SO, I looked through all the books and settled on something I haven't really made any recipes from before - something I bought when I was a teen still living in Michigan.  The book was Linda McCartney's On Tour - Vegetarian Recipes from Around the World.  I found several recipes I could make then and there, but they were pretty damn labor intensive.  What did I have but time though, afterall?  SO, I started and several hours later (this was supposed to be time off - away from the kitchen, right???), I went and woke up the sleepy Hubby and showed him the great spread.  He was definitely surprised and impressed.  And loved every bite.  It was pretty damn tasty.  So we sat down, ate dinner and enjoyed a nice movie together.  A nice ending to a good (and tasty!) day!

Veggies & Seitan in a Brown Sauce with Szechuan Fried Eggplant with Spicy Sauce:

Serves 4

Veggies & Seitan
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 green pepper, julienned, about 1 cup
1/2 orange pepper, julienned, about 1/2 cup
1/2 yellow pepper, julienned, about 1/2 cup
1 medium red onion, cut in half and sliced thinly, about 1 1/2 cups
2 broccoli spears, cut into florets and stems peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups seitan, sliced thinly

Brown Sauce (will include recipe later)
Cooked White or Brown Rice

Fried Eggplant:
1 medium/large eggplant, peeled, sliced into 1/2" slices and cut in half
1/2" no-taste oil, such as canola

1 cup unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
pinch cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons flax eggs
2/3 cup water

Spicy Dipping Sauce:
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Serrano pepper, seeded and minced
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons red chili paste
1/2 teaspoon agave
1 large tomato, finely chopped, about 1 1/2 cups
2/3 cup water
1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1.  Prep the vegetables first.  Set aside.  They will come together very quickly once everything else is going.
2.  Now prepare the dredging mixture for the eggplant - it has to sit for 15-20 minutes before it can be used.  In a small mixing bowl, add the flour, baking powder, sea salt and black pepper.  Whisk together (I used a fork).  Add the flax eggs and water and whisk again.  A thick batter should have formed.  Allow it to sit for the indicated amount of time, stirring occasionally.
3.  Make the spicy dipping sauce.  In a large pan over medium heat, add the oil and allow it to become hot.  Once it is hot, add the garlic and the Serrano pepper.  Saute for about 2 minutes, or until fragrant, but not browned.  Add the vinegar to deglaze the pan.  Add tomato paste, red chili paste and agave and stir until the pepper and garlic are coated.  Cook for one minute.
4.  Add the chopped tomato and the water and bring to a simmer.  Lower the heat slightly and allow the sauce to continue cooking.  You want the sauce to be pretty thick - about the consistency of a thick marinara.  This will take about 10 minutes.  When the sauce has thickened, turn the heat off, cover with a lid and keep on the stove - you want the sauce to stay warm. 
5.  Begin to cook the eggplant.  Place the oil in a medium sized pot over medium-high heat.  Allow the oil to become hot.  In the meantime, Line two plates with paper towels and set aside.  Dip the eggplant slices into the mixture.  It should stick and coat the pieces very well. 
6.  The oil is ready when a drop of the batter begins sizzling and immediately comes to the surface.
7.  Make sure the eggplant slices are thoroughly coated in the mixture, allowing excess batter to drip back into the bowl.  Place carefully into the hot oil.  You can cook up to 5 at a time in the oil, depending on the size of your pan.  These need to cook for about 2-3 minutes per side.  If yours are cooking faster than that, your oil is too hot. 
8.  Once the eggplant slices are cooked thoroughly on both sides, place on paper towels to drain and immediately sprinkle with sea salt.  Continue cooking the rest of the eggplant.
9.  Begin cooking the seitan and veggies.  Place a large wok over high heat and add the oil.  Once the oil is hot, add all of the peppers, the onions and the broccoli.  Cook for several minutes, stirring frequently.  If the veggies appear to be sticking to the pan, add a small amount of water - this will also help to steam the veggies and let them cook faster.  Once the veggies are tender-crisp, add the minced garlic and cook for an additional minute.  Add the seitan and cook just until hot.
10.  Add the brown sauce by the ladleful, stirring to coat, until your desired sauciness is achieved.  I used about 2/3 of a cup of the sauce.  Stir to coat. 
11.  To serve: place a serving of the prepared rice in the center of your plate, top with the sauteed veggies and seitan mixture, followed by any additional sauce.  Place 2-3 slices of the fried eggplant (you can always get more - the plate just looks better when it's not so heaped with food!) on your plate and serve a ramekin or small bowl of the dipping sauce on the side.  That's it!  And if you're cooking for two, you'll have leftovers for the next day.  Can't wait to eat this tomorrow too!



Saturday, October 15, 2011

Baked Vegan Pumpkin Donuts! (And Other Goodies!)

Part II from my vacay to Michigan!

It always seems that vacations are over before they even start, which was definitely the case when I was back home.  Even though I was away from NY for a full 7+ days, and the pace of life in MI is much much slower, the time sped by.  Unfortunately, the Hubby was only able to stay for 4 days - he already took his vacation earlier in the year to go back to his home country - the Dominican Republic.  The last day we had together was spent running around like maniacs trying to get in the last little bit of time with everyone we could, considering it will be another year before we are able to come back to MI as a couple. 

We went over to my oldest brothers new home, took the grand tour (so beautiful and HUGE!).  My adorable amazing niece To (nickname of course!) jumped on my Hubby's back as soon as she saw him - it must be their thing - she loves piggy-back rides, and him being 6'3" and super strong, could likely carry her around all day.  As soon as I saw it, I had to snap a pic:

Aren't they adorable?!  And check out the beautiful kitchen.

When she first met Hubby 2 years ago at my other older brother's wedding, he did the same thing and she has loved him ever since!  I swear he carried her around for half an hour like a princess.  This was that occasion:

She was so much tinier then - I could carry her around too! 
Kids grow up way too fast!

Back to the present: To happily showed us around, particularly her space  - a walk-in closet showcasing all of her gymnastics awards (I swear she had at least 20 of them - no joke!) - she has been in gymnastics since she was 6 months old thought and is amazing, so I'm not overly surprised!  She also showed me her own bathroom right inside of her bedroom, decorated in her favorite color scheme, a laptop and a large tv hanging on her wall.  Lucky much!?  I can't even begin to imagine what that would cost here in NY - it makes me shudder to think of it! 

Anyway, once we finally made it to the kitchen - my favorite place of course! - I was in heaven and my niece was very proud to show me all of the amazing kitchen tools she has acquired in the recent past.  Her mom, my sis-in-law Debbie, told me that she wants to be a pastry chef, and has wanted to for over a year.  I am so proud of her!  So after talking for a while, we decided to do a vegan baking class for her, because naturally, she bakes conventionally.  I went to the local natural foods store Oryana (now wishing I would have taken her with me so I could show her and explain the ingredients as I was choosing them -next time!), bought all the ingredients, came over one night after she finished at school - Hubby was back in NY at this point, so we had all the time in the world.  Together we chose to make baked donuts, red velvet cake (as cupcakes) and pumpkin baked donuts (anything pumpkin is Debbie's favorite), which we also made into cupcakes.  As it turns out, both To and Debbie are lactose intolerant, which I did not know, so Debbie avoids dairy, but To being an almost 12-year old just eats it anyway - ice cream has always been her weakness!  So it was even better making all of these things vegan and show her that not only were they incredibly delicious, they wouldn't make her feel bad after she ate them. 

I soooo enjoyed working in their kitchen and To had a blast working with her Auntie Koko the chef.  She is actually the origin of my nickname  - Koko - by the way.  When she was super little and learning to speak, I was trying to teach her to say "Korrie".  I kept telling her "Say Korrie ... Korrie".  All she would come up with was ko-ko.  I was really disappointed at first, but when her mom heard it, she thought it was adorable and soon everyone started calling me Koko.  The idea for the "k" came from To's mom, who thought it more appropriate since Korrie is spelled with a K, therefore Koko, not coco or cocoa.  Nice story, huh? 

Anyway, when I went into the kitchen, I was expecting to have to lecture To about not touching her hair, constantly washing her hands, not licking the spoons, etc., but to my surprise she was very professional.  Debbie told me she watches all the shows on the food channels.  When we first went in the kitchen, she put her hair in a rubber-band, washed her hands, put on an apron, washed off the counters, washed her hands again and set out all of the measuring cups and spoons.  She then asked me what temperature I would like the oven preheated to and proceeded to preheat it for me.  The whole time my mouth was slightly opened - amazed at her professionalism at 11 years old!  Once I showed her how to properly measure and portion everything, she did a great job.  She even decorated the cupcakes when they were cooled.  She was definitely a harsh critic of herself - really bummed when she didn't get the design exactly as she wanted.  But she did a great job!  I bought her a little booklet about decorating and a piping kit with like 20 tips.  She was so excited - I'll have to see if she has had a chance to try them out yet. 

To portioning out Red Velvet Cupcakes.

The Baked Cupcakes

Vegan Donuts!!!!

And More Baked Donuts!!!!!

I loved these large flakes of coconut!  Yum!

Glazed & Coconut Dipped, Powdered Sugar, Cinnamon Sugar

Vegan Buttercream Iced Red Velvet Cupcakes

Vanilla Donut with Glaze & Coconut

White Chocolate (I thought it was a good idea because I am
not a fan of regular chocolate - but it was a little weird!)

Chocolate Glazed - To's Favorite!

Cinnamon Sugar!

White Chocolate Dipped in Coconut

Vegan Baked Pumpkin Donuts:

The finished product:
Glazed Pumpkin Baked Donut - My Fave!

1 can pumpkin puree
2/3 cup canola oil
2 cups organic evaporate cane juice
3/4 cup soy non-dairy milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

To Garnish:
Coconut oil  - refined or unrefined, as desired

Organic powdered sugar
Non-dairy milk

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease 2 baked donut pans and set aside.
2.  In a medium bowl add the pumpkin, oil, sugar, milk and vanilla.  Whisk together until lump-free, the sugar seems to have dissolved and the mixture has emulsified.  To this mixture add the dry ingredients:  unbleached flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt.  Whisk to combine until a thick batter forms.
3.  Using a portion scoop or a spoon, portion out the batter amongst the donut pans.  Use a finger to flatten the tops.  Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the top bounces back lightly when touched.  Immediately remove the donut from the pans - place on a cooling rack.  If you leave them in the pans, the bottoms will become moist and squishy. 
4.  Allow the donuts to cool for 10 minutes.
5.  In the meantime, place about 1/2 cup of coconut oil in a small pot and place over low heat until completely melted and liquid. 
6.  Now prepare the glaze: in a small bowl, place the powdered sugar and add enough non-dairy milk until the glaze is slightly thick, but thin enough to coat the donuts. 
7.  If any of the donuts are large and you cannot see a hole in the center, use your finger to press out the dough.  Using a pastry brush, brush the entire surface of the donut with the coconut oil.  Continue with all the donuts. 
8.  Once all the donuts are glazed with the coconut oil, dip them in the glaze.  You can just dip the top, or be like me and dip the entire donut into the mixture.  Place back on the cooling rack until the glaze sets up.  Sample!  So tasty!  I put a couple chocolate chips in my sister-in-law's - it is her fave combo! 

The sample platter - I took a tiny tiny bite of each one and
my bro ate the rest.  To ate all of her samples and was almost
delirious from sugar!

The sweetie and I after baking - were were both od-ing on sugar!


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Michigan Vacation and Garden Fresh Produce

I have been so busy lately that I have not had any time to even log on to my blog, let alone update it.  But hopefully that will be changing now.  I am waking up earlier, going to my first and second jobs earlier and thus getting out earlier.  I am usually home now by 6 pm, versus 8 pm, so I have more time to do things in the evening and have more time to spend with the Hubby!  I also bought a mini laptop a couple weeks ago to bring on a business trip to the Florida Keys (more on that later) and now take it on the subway with me on my long commute so I can do something more than sleeping and staring at the passing subway tunnel! 

So onto the story: In the beginning of September I went on vacation with the Hubby to visit my family in Michigan and had an amazing time!  I was pretty surprised by how beautiful everything seemed and how much I missed my family and how not as beautiful NY seemed when I was away from it.  The pace of life was about 100 times slower that nyc, so I was actually able to enjoy my days and not feel as if they went by in 15 minutes, as they do here.  I'm just amazed at how being away from home has made me appreciate it so much more.

The first day back I went to get my hair cut and visit my grandparents in a super tiny city called Rapid City, about a 45 minute drive away from my parent's house.  While there my Grandma Allen insisted on showing me her garden.  She was very proud of it - and she should be: at 81, she is out there almost everyday picking berries, weeding the garden and picking and preserving (canning, juicing and freezing) the bounty that comes from her garden all by herself.  She only has help with turning the soil over periodically.  While Hubby and I were out there ooing and aahhing over all the fresh berries, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, etc., my uncle came out and was explaining to us how to determine which items were the freshest, which items were on their way, etc.  I have never had so much fun eating sandy raw green beans, green tomatoes and uncooked Jerusalem artichokes.  Seriously loads of fun!  I took pictures of pretty much everything, which you can enjoy below.  I ate almost everything I took a picture of (except the watermelons - they weren't quite ready & the yellow squash - really funky eaten raw!).  Everything is organic by the way and everyone in my family (including my parents) practices composting, which I love.

Tiny Strawberries so full of flavor

Golden Raspberries

Watermelon, not quite ready

Tomatoes - wish they were ready!

Hubby didn't have any trouble eating the green tomatoes!
They actually were really tasty and super juicy.

Summer squash - almost ready


Blueberry Bushes - wish I had those in my garden!
(not that I actually have one - in my dreams I do!) 

Elderberries - so tiny and sour.  Yuck!  But as jelly - out of this world!

All the blueberries we picked - in my mom's shirt of course!

The strawberries we picked & the tiny artichoke - they will be
ready in the spring but we couldn't resist trying it early.

Corn - not ready yet.

Burpless cucumbers - we ate them just like that- without even slicing them!

Grapes!  Grandma makes her own grape juice.  So good!

We then meandered on over to my Grandpa Bill & Grandma Rosie's who also have a huuuugggeee organic garden, including broccoli, corn, cherry  and heirloom tomatoes - we ate so many things raw again there as we helped picked the ripe fruits. 

Super tasty Broccoli

Grandpa's Corn was ready.

As a treat, Rosie made us a nice lunch that was so simple, but ridiculously delicious - everything straight from her garden or kitchen: homemade bread, homemade vinegar and onions (a raw pickle favorite!), homemade dill pickles, fresh onions (so sweet!) from the garden, fresh tomatoes from the garden and fried summer squash, also fresh from the garden.  Most of us ate everything separately, but not my Hubby.  I don't think I have ever told anyone about his propensity for making funky sandwiches out of combinations that really do not and should not work or be eaten together.  My Grandpa was staring at him open mouthed, watching him pack down like 6 sandwiches filled with dill pickles, vinegar and onions, fresh onions, fried squash and tomatoes all in one.  I thought it was pretty unpleasant, but I'm used to it.  Here is a picture of the simple, garden-fresh lunch (I didn't include a pic of Hubby's "creation" because it really wasn't pretty :)

My plate - fried summer squash, dill pickles, vinegar & onion
 cucumbers, fresh corn & Rosie's fresh bread.  So Tasty!

Hours later we returned home, hung out with my Mum's rescue cats (another story about them later) and passed out at 10 pm.  Really 10 pm.  In all fairness, we had worked the entire day before, come home, rushed to the airport, flew to Michigan and ended up at my parents at 2 am!

I will be posting more of my stay in Michigan with more pics of the trip.  I even had a vegan baking session with my 11 year old niece Toria.  She wants to be a pastry chef and made some amazing treats with her Auntie Koko.  God was it good to be back!