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Vegan Planet: April 2008

Monday, April 28, 2008


Seitan for Satays and an Easy Peanut Sauce

I had one of those “aha” moments the other day while contemplating making seitan satays for dinner. Instead of marinating the seitan to infuse it with satay flavors, this time I decided to put the satay flavors directly into the seitan mixture.
To do this, I made a small batch of shortcut seitan —the kind everyone is making these days using gluten flour instead of the traditional (and time-consuming) method made with whole-wheat flour that involves lots of washing and rinsing and kneading. To the basic ratio that is nearly equal parts dry ingredients to wet ingredients (but just a smidge less wet ingredients), I included peanut butter, soy sauce, and garlic powder right in the seitan mixture to give it a rich satay flavor without marinating. I then stretched the seitan into a rectangle and baked it for about 20 minutes. After cooling, I was able to cut it into thin slices and thread it onto skewers. The satays were then arranged on a baking sheet, dabbed with a little spicy peanut sauce and drizzled with a little oil. I then broiled them for a couple minutes, but you could grill them if you prefer.

I served them with my favorite quick-and-easy peanut sauce (the recipe is below), and the satays were everything I’d hope for. I made extra peanut sauce to use later in the week, probably tossed with some noodles and veggies.

Announcement: The Humane Society International (HSI) recently added a section to their website to promote veg food choices, and I’m pleased to announce that they decided to use recipes from my book Vegan Fire & Spice for their launch. Here’s the link for the recipes — many of them have photos, too.

Reminder: The deadline for the Creative Couscous Cake Contest is coming up fast. Don’t miss your chance to win and be immortalized on these pages! It’s simple — just grab a box of couscous and think of your favorite dessert flavors…you may be surprised what you come up with!

Easy Peanut Sauce for Satays and More
Start with this basic recipe and then taste to customize it to your liking: add more water for a thinner sauce, a bit more vinegar or tamari for a more salty/pungent flavor, a pinch more sugar if you like it sweeter, and so on.

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons tamari or other soy sauce
1 teaspoon Asian garlic-chile sauce
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
1/2 cup water

In a bowl, combine the peanut butter, vinegar, tamari, chile sauce, ginger, and sugar, stirring to blend well. Slowly add the water, stirring, to make a thick sauce. Set aside.
Makes about 1 1/4 cup

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Monday, April 21, 2008


Veggies for Dinner

A trip to my favorite farm stand this weekend didn’t disappoint. While my own vegetables are still working their way up through the earth, the produce sold at a farm near my house was lined up and ready to go. Among the booty I brought home were tender green beans, sweet onions, baby red potatoes, and several rare and irresistible "black" tomatoes.

Whenever I see a vegetable display such as this I can only think one thing: Salad Nicoise, that lusty Provencal composed salad accented with Nicoise olives. Sure, the traditional version calls for tuna, but I like mine with thinly sliced pan-seared extra-firm tofu. Arrange the components on leaf lettuce, drizzle on some vinaigrette, and dinner is served.

Does anyone else out there have a favorite way to enjoy these veggies?

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Thursday, April 17, 2008


Top 10 Recipes on

Erik Marcus over at has accomplished an astonishing feat with a feature article called Vegan.Com Top 10 Recipes of 2008. In it, he has managed to compile a favorite recipe from the authors of 10 recent popular vegan cookbooks, along with a photo of each recipe and commentary by each of the authors. I'm honored to be included in this stellar group with my recipe for Indonesian Coconut Rice from Vegan Fire and Spice. Check out the article and see if your favorite books (and recipes) made the cut.

REMINDER: Don't wait until the last minute to submit your entry in the "Creative Couscous Cake Contest" – the contest closes on May 10. These couscous cakes are so easy to make, there's no reason not to enter! (BTW, if you have more than one amazing idea, there's no limit on how many entries you can enter...)

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Thursday, April 10, 2008


Enter the Creative Couscous Cake Contest

Everyone’s enthusiasm for couscous cakes has inspired a contest: The Creative Couscous Cake Contest! As I’ve said before, the variations on this recipe are only limited by your imagination. Just prepare a batch of couscous, using fruit juice or other sweet liquid, instead of the usual water, press it into a greased springform pan (I like to make it in a springform pan, but you can use whatever pan or mold you want), and refrigerate (see my April 9 blog entry below). Once chilled, you can add your choice of toppings, slice it up, and serve it for brunch, a snack, or dessert.

So here’s the challenge: come up with your own variation of couscous cake, then send me a description and photo of your masterpiece. The grand prize winner will receive a copy of my Proggy Award-winning vegan cookbook, Quick-Fix Vegetarian,* which contains a recipe for – you guessed it – couscous cake! The top three entries will get the photos of their creations posted on this blog and, undoubtedly, be the recipients of numerous accolades. The contest closes on May 10. Winners will be announced on May 17.

To Enter: Submit your entries by e-mail through the contact page on my website. Just go to, then click “Contact.” My e-mail link is at the bottom of the page. Good Luck!!

*if the winner already owns a copy of Quick-Fix Vegetarian, I'll be glad to send a copy of Vegan Fire & Spice or another book you don't have.

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Wednesday, April 9, 2008


Craving Couscous Cake

I discovered a great post and photo of my Pumpkin Couscous Cake from Vegan Planet on To Live and Eat in LA — a blog that I very much enjoy reading. All the talk about couscous cakes reminded me of how much I like making (and eating) them!
I started making couscous cakes many years ago when I was cooking without flour or sugar. This cake couldn’t be easier to make – it’s basically just couscous and fruit juice. Really. I discovered that, by simply cooking couscous in fruit juice instead of water, it took on a mildly sweet flavor that was both delicious and satisfying. Over the years, I’ve made this cake using apple juice, white grape juice, and pineapple juice. You can also add bits of fruit, nuts, and even melted chocolate to the couscous mixture. When you press the couscous evenly into a springform pan and chill it in the fridge, it comes out looking almost like a cheesecake, although it tastes more like bread pudding. You can garnish the cake with fresh sliced fruit or a pureed fruit topping (or nuts or chocolate, depending on the flavor combination). You can find a recipe for Pineapple Apricot Couscous Cake from Quick Fix-Vegetarian, in my January 16 post.

The first photo shows another variation using mangos (recipe below) — at the last minute I sprinkled some brown sugar on top and ran it under the broiler to caramelize a bit. It was so good! Next time I may use coconut milk and a little palm sugar instead of the mango juice and millet instead of couscous. It’s fun to experiment.

The second photo shows a slice of Couscous Breakfast Cake with Pear and Dried Plum Compote from Vegan Planet. The recipe for this one follows the mango version. A slice of this cake is great for breakfast or brunch. If you like dense bread puddings that aren’t too sweet, you’ll love couscous cakes.

Mango Couscous Cake
This is the easiest version of couscous cake there is, with a minimum of ingredients and a minimum of fuss. To dress it up, you could spread a thin layer of mango puree under the sliced mango and add some finely minced candied lime peel or crystallized ginger to the couscous mixture. It’s also great topped with a sweet cashew-coconut cream sauce or vegan whipped cream.

2 cups mango juice
1 1/2 cups couscous
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 fresh ripe mango, peeled, pitted, and chopped

Bring the mango juice to a boil in a saucepan. Add the couscous, sugar, and ginger and simmer for 1 minute. Turn off the heat, cover, and set aside for 5 minutes or until the juice is absorbed.
Press the mixture evenly into a lightly oiled 8-inch springform pan (or individual springform pans). Cover loosely and refrigerate for at least an hour to firm up before serving.
Serves 6

Couscous Breakfast Cake with Pear and Dried Plum Compote
Couscous cake is great for breakfast or brunch because it can be made the day before. Made with fruit juice, the cake is dense and moist without being too sweet – a great way to start the day. For a sweeter cake, add a little maple syrup or natural sugar. This recipe is adapted from Vegan Planet.

2 1/2 cups apple juice or pear juice
Pinch salt
2 cups couscous
Pear and Dried Plum Compote (recipe follows)

1. Place the juice and salt in a medium saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the couscous. Turn off the heat, cover, and set aside for 10 minutes.
2. Lightly oil an 8-inch spring form pan and spoon the couscous into it, spreading it evenly. Use the back of a spoon or a spatula to press the couscous firmly into the pan. Cover the cake and refrigerate it several hours or overnight to make it easier to slice. To serve, cut into wedges and spoon some of the compote on top.
Serves 6

Pear and Dried Plum Compote
1 ripe pear, peeled, cored, and sliced
4 ounces dried pitted plums (prunes)
2 ounces mixed dried fruit
1/4 cup sugar or maple syrup
Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
Zest and juice of 1/2 orange
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cups water
1. In a medium saucepan, combine the pear slices, dried plums, dried mixed fruit, sugar, lemon juice and zest, orange juice and zest, cinnamon stick, allspice, and nutmeg. Stir in the water and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until the pear slices are soft and the dried fruit plumps up, about 15 minutes.
2. Set aside to cool then transfer to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for several hours or until ready to use. Remove the cinnamon stick before serving. When ready to serve, return to room temperature for best flavor.
Serves 6

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Wednesday, April 2, 2008


Enter the 'Fire & Spice' Contest

I was so pleased to learn that is having a "Vegan Fire & Spice Cookbook Contest." Enter the contest to win the Grand Prize -- a set of three of my cookbooks: Vegan Fire & Spice, Vegetarian Meat & Potatoes, and the Proggy Award-winning (all vegan) Quick-Fix Vegetarian. Two runners-up will each receive a copy of Vegan Fire & Spice. It's easy to enter – here's the link: Vegan Fire & Spice Cookbook Contest

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