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Vegan Planet: April 2011

Friday, April 29, 2011


Lotsa Laksa

If you follow my blog, you know that I love laksa, the spicy Southeast Asian soup with an addictive flavor and lots of garnishes. Well, my laksa craving struck again, this time with a few new variations. After a recent trip to the Asian market (see last week’s post), I still had some great veggies that needed to be used, including an Indian cucumber, Thai basil, and watercress. Laksa provided a great way to use them, since cucumber is a traditional addition to laksa, and I liked the idea of using Thai basil instead of cilantro. Plus, I thought watercress would make a great addition to the brothy noodle soup. (And I was right!)

We each had a big bowl of soup for dinner, with lots leftover. By the next day, the noodles had absorbed the delicious broth, so instead of having leftover soup, it was more like a saucy noodle dish, but just as good.

Even though laksa begins with making a spice paste, this soup is quick and easy to make, and the addition of watercress (or spinach) helps to make it a satisfying one-dish meal. For an even quicker version, look for laksa paste in Asian markets, but be sure to read the label to make sure it’s vegan, because some brands contain dried shrimp.

Lotsa Laksa
This spicy-hot soup that uses three different heat sources: dried red chiles, cayenne, and an added dose of heat in the form of sriracha or sambal oelek. If you prefer it less spicy, cut back on any or all of them.

1 small yellow onion or 2 large shallots, coarsely chopped
4 dried hot red chiles, softened in hot water
2 stalks lemongrass, white part only, crushed
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon curry powder (optional)
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon neutral vegetable oil
5 cups vegetable broth
8 ounces extra-firm tofu, cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 scallions, minced
1 bunch watercress (optional)
1 (14-ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste – depending on saltiness of broth)
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
8 ounces cooked rice noodles or linguine
Choice of garnishes: sriracha or sambal oelek, chopped cucumber; cilantro or Thai basil leaves; bean sprouts; chopped tomato; diced pineapple; lime wedges

In a food processor, combine the onion, chiles, lemongrass, ginger, coriander, paprika, curry powder, if using, turmeric, and cayenne, and process to a paste.
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion mixture and cook, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring in a small amount of the broth to prevent burning. Add the remaining broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 15 minutes then strain and return the liquid to the pot. Stir in the tofu, scallions, watercress, if using, coconut milk, sugar, salt, and pepper and heat until hot. Add the cooked noodles and simmer until hot. Serve in soup bowls, garnished as desired.

COOKBOOK GIVEAWAY REMINDER:  There's still time to enter the cookbook giveaway at the Vegan Heritage Press blog.  Enter to win a copy of The Blooming Platter Cookbook by Betsy DiJulio.  Contest closes on Sunday night!


Monday, April 25, 2011


Indian Indulgence + Cookbook Giveaway at VHP

I told you about our shopping excursion last week when we went to the Asian market and Trader Joes. Since it usually adds up to over two hours of driving and easily over two hours of shopping (the way I shop, anyway, as in going up and down EVERY aisle!), we also take the opportunity to go to lunch and make a day of it.

There are lots of great ethnic restaurants in the Centreville area. Our current favorite is called Masala Country and it serves mostly Southern Indian food, as well as Indian fusion, with elements of Thai and Chinese. We especially enjoy the Southern Indian specialties that we haven’t been able to find anywhere else in the area.

The top photo is the hauntingly delicious Manchurian cauliflower appetizer, so spicy and good. This is the uttapam — an Indian pancake made with green chiles, green onion, and cilantro, served with a vegetable sambar.

Next is the magnificent dosa — made with lentil flour, this crispy delicate crepe is filled with a spicy potato mixture and served with sambar. As you can see, it’s bigger than the plate it is served on, but is so light, eating the whole thing is not a problem.

Needless to say, we didn’t need to eat again until the next day and even brought home some leftovers. With the promise of a lunch like this, it makes me want to go shopping again real soon!

COOKBOOK GIVEAWAY: My hubby’s company, Vegan Heritage Press is giving away a copy of their latest cookbook, The Blooming Platter Cookbook: A Harvest of Seasonal Vegan Recipes by Betsy DiJulio. It’s a fantastic book with great recipes and gorgeous photos. Head on over to the VHP blog and enter to win!


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Saturday, April 23, 2011


From the Asian Market

The nearest Asian market is a little over an hour away, so I usually keep an ongoing list and when it gets long enough or we feel like a drive (whichever comes first) we hit the road and bring back a carload of goodies.

The Grand Mart in Centreville Va has a huge fresh produce section. I always make it a point to buy at least a few things I've never had before along with some favorites -- they have such good prices.  The photo shows a selection of this week's haul.  In addition to perfect smallish Italian eggplants, a ton of Thai and Italian basil, and tiny potatoes, I got some pipiane squash (they look similar to zucchini); round yellow Indian cucumbers (they look like tennis balls); batata yams; and a huge bag of Shanghai tips (like baby bok choy, only really small).  I also got some perfectly sweet yellow mangos.

Now I just have to decide how to prepare everything!


Thursday, April 21, 2011


Easter Pie 2011

I know you've all been waiting breathlessly for the unveiling of this year's Easter Pie. Ta Da!  Here it is: I made a traditional looking pie, just like mom used to make.  Only difference is mine doesn't contain meat, eggs, or cheese, like hers did -- even her crust had eggs in it!  Talk about cholesterol...

Thanks to the miracle of spices, including a hefty dose of cayenne, red pepper flakes, ground and whole fennel seeds, and paprika, this vegan Easter Pie tastes just like Mom's!  Mine is made with tofu and vegan sausage.  Although this is an Italian tradition, I think anyone who likes spicy savory pies would enjoy this. The recipe is here.

Happy Easter!


Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Apple-Pecan Haroset

I love haroset.  What's not to love about juicy sweet apples mixed with crunchy nuts and chewy raisins?  My recipe for Apple-Pecan Haroset is posted on  The recipe is from the Passover Menu in Party Vegan

I think haroset is too good to just serve once a year.  I recently made it to accompany a dinner of halushki (sauteed cabbage and onions with pasta).  I'm also planning to serve it alongside this year's Easter Pie.  Speaking of Easter Pie, it's almost that time!  Read all about it in my next post...

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Monday, April 18, 2011


An Open Letter

Dear Friends,
In recent days, a few of you have written to me to express your concern over the VegNews debacle. I am, of course, saddened by the situation. It's good to know that VN has now apologized. Hopefully it will help heal the damage that has been done to the vegan community by all the divisiveness.  On a personal level, I am also disappointed that “stockphoto-gate” has cast a suspicious light on the covers of my two recent vegan cookbooks, Party Vegan and Vegan on the Cheap. I’d like to share some facts about the publishing industry in general, and my books in particular, to help everyone gain some much-needed perspective:

In my experience, it is written into most standard book contracts that the author has no “approval rights” in the final cover design of a book. Sure, I can tell a publisher what I’d like to see, but they are under no obligation to comply with my wishes. On good faith, I generally trust that a publisher will choose vegan photos to illustrate my vegan recipes.

When my two recent books came out, I didn’t go searching for the stock photo images to see if they were labeled as vegan or not.  I assumed they were. At the same time, I knew it was also possible that certain ingredients weren't even real food of any kind, since it’s well known that professional food photographers don’t always use real food.  For example, they sometimes use shaving cream to represent sour cream and vegetable shortening in place of ice cream. (I actually think the “feta” on my VOTC cover looks more like little Styrofoam pellets than it does feta, vegan or otherwise.) I simply accepted the photos as representations of my recipes. Now that I’m aware of this issue, I will, from now on, insist that vegan-only photography of my recipes accompany my work.

As many of you know, vegan cooking is my activism.  My purpose in life is to provide vegan recipes to as many people as possible through my books, articles, and other media. I do this primarily for the animals and also to help improve everyone’s health.  I stand by the quality of my work, my books, and my recipes.  I encourage all my fans to please continue to enjoy my recipes in Vegan on the Cheap and Party Vegan—the recipes are what really matter, and the content is 100% vegan. 

As the old expression goes, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater” — don’t punish me, (or yourselves, if you like my work) just because a company chose to illustrate my work with a few questionable photos. I promise to be on guard to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Getting veganism into the mainstream has been an uphill battle for those of us who can consider ourselves veterans.  I’ve been writing vegan cookbooks since the mid-nineties (even though back then most publishers wouldn’t even allow “vegan” in the book titles!) I will continue to work hard every day to make veganism a viable force in this world. Because the VN story has been all over mainstream media, it has already done damage to our vegan community that is only now achieving credibility in this omni world of ours. I implore the otherwise well-meaning people out there to please put this issue into perspective and direct your attention and energies to more important matters. Let’s get back to making great vegan food, helping animals, and living healthier, happier lives. I look forward to continuing to develop and share great vegan recipes. If you have any questions about my work, I hope that you will contact me directly.

Most sincerely,
Robin Robertson

UPDATE:  VegNews has issued an apology. My original letter has been updated to reflect this new development. Maybe we can put this behind us now.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Lemon-Scented Roasted Asparagus Bundles

Because I’m crazy for asparagus, I love this time of year when tender and slender asparagus is plentiful and reasonably priced. I know I should try growing my own, but — not to sound commitment phobic and too much into instant gratification—let’s face it, asparagus isn’t the easiest or quickest thing to grow. Instead, I’ll probably just continue to buy up all that I can when it’s in season.

When I cook asparagus, I almost exclusively roast it because of how fabulous it tastes. And it looks so good on the plate, especially dressed up with lemon zest and little scallion ribbons. With Passover and Easter both on the calendar this week, these lemony asparagus bundles would make an ideal inclusion for either of those special menus. And it couldn’t be easier to make.

I just arrange the asparagus in a single layer on an oiled baking sheet, drizzle with a little olive oil and salt and pepper and then roast at 425 degrees until tender (the time depends on the thickness of the asparagus).

To make them into bundles, just steam the long green part of a few scallions for about 30 seconds, just long enough to make them pliable. Then, when ready to serve, just gather a “bundle” of the cooked asparagus and lay it across a softened scallion, then gently tie the scallion in a knot and serve.

These asparagus bundles are part of my Passover menu in Party Vegan: Fabulous Fun Food for Every Occasion.


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Tuesday, April 12, 2011


“More, Please” Spicy Tofu

When my omni sister and brother-in-law visited us recently, the talk turned to food, as it invariably does when anyone visits!  My sister mentioned her favorite shrimp dish that she enjoys at a restaurant, and when she told me what was in the simple but delicious sauce, I knew I had to veganize it.
The traditional version of the sauce calls for mayo, Thai chili sauce, and a few drops of Sriracha.  My adaptation uses Vegenaise (although I’ve also tried it with vegan sour cream and it’s good that way too.  I use the same amount of Thai chili sauce as the original, but instead of just a few drops of Sriracha (what’s the point in that?), I use an entire tablespoon, sometimes more. (Of course, if you're not a spice-hound like me, you'll want to use less.) I’ve also tried it with a small amount of rice vinegar to add an extra dimension of flavor.
In my version, extra-firm tofu replaces the shrimp.  I also prepared some roasted broccoli in the same way and it was fabulous, too.  The original is served as an appetizer but I serve mine as the main course over brown rice.
We found the flavor so addictively good, it made us want some more, hence the name: “More, Please” Spicy Tofu.

“More, Please” Spicy Tofu
1/2 cup Vegenaise or other vegan mayonnaise
1/4 cup Thai sweet chili sauce
1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce
1/2 teaspoon rice vinegar (optional)
1 pound extra-firm tofu, drained, pressed, and cut into 1 x 2-inch pieces
1/3 cup cornstarch
Neutral vegetable oil, for frying
Chopped scallions and or fresh cilantro, for garnish
In a large bowl, combine the Vegenaise, chili sauce, sriracha, and vinegar, if using. Set aside.
Dredge the tofu in the cornstarch. Heat a thin layer of oil in a large skillet. Add the tofu and cook until lightly golden brown, turning once.
Transfer the tofu to the bowl with the sauce and toss gently to coat. Top with chopped scallions or cilantro. Serve hot.

In other news:  The Blooming Platter Cookbook is now available!!  Congratulations to Betsy DiJulio and Vegan Heritage Press on this fabulous new cookbook that is "A Harvest of Seasonal Vegan Recipes."  I heard a rumor that Vegan Heritage Press will be hosting another cookbook giveaway soon, with this terrific new cookbook as the prize!  Be sure to "Like" Vegan Heritage Press on Facebook and follow the VHP blog so you don't miss out!

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Saturday, April 2, 2011


Easy Vegan Coconut Custard Pie

Thanks to all who joined in the fun on my FB page, trying to guess the secret ingredient which is: a box of Goya Flan Custard mix!  As promised, here’s the recipe for the vegan coconut custard pie. With only three ingredients in the pie filling, this is one crazy-easy pie to make.
Now, I’m not going to say this pie is healthy, although I’ve made “healthy” versions before.  What this version does have going for it (besides being quick and easy) is that it tastes remarkably like the non-vegan version my mom used to make — which was one of Jon’s favorite pre-vegan desserts.
One day when he was reminiscing about my mother’s coconut custard pie, I got the idea to try making it with the flan mix. I knew the flan mix was vegan and very “custardy” so I figured it would work -- and it did! Instead of using healthy unsweetened coconut, I bought the sweetened kind that my mom used in her pie, to try to duplicate the flavor we remembered.
For nondairy milk, I generally use one can of unsweetened coconut milk and make up the rest with either almond milk or Mimicreme. For a firm texture, I use no more than 3 1/2 cups of liquid (rather than the 4 cups called for on the flan box).
I only lightly toast the coconut, but you could toast it a little longer if you want.  Sometimes I pulse the toasted coconut a little in a food processor to give it a more coconut-y flavor.  I’ve also added a few drops of coconut extract but I like it fine without it, too.
So there you have it.  If you make this pie, be sure to let me know what you think of it!

Impossibly Easy Vegan Coconut Custard Pie
Note: Discard the caramel packet from the box of flan mix or reserve it for another use.

1 (5.5-ounce) box Goya Flan Custard mix
3 to 3 1/2 cups nondairy milk (any combination of: coconut milk, almond milk, soy milk, Mimicreme, etc.)
1 (12-ounce) bag flaked sweetened coconut, lightly toasted
1 prebaked pie crust (homemade or storebought), cooled

Place the flan mix in a saucepan and slowly stir in the nondairy milk. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. (It will be thin.)
Remove from the heat and stir in about 2/3 of the coconut, then set aside to cool slightly. Pour the mixture into the baked and cooled pie crust. Sprinkle the top with the remaining coconut and press into the pie filling. Refrigerate for a few hours to chill and firm up.
Makes 8 servings


Friday, April 1, 2011


Party Vegan Contest Winners!

I thought I'd put out a plate of Fresh Berry Tarts from Party Vegan while we chat....

With nearly 200 comments, this Party Vegan Giveaway was the best contest ever. And just reading how everyone likes to “party vegan” has been a party in itself. So many great ideas — and all of them winners!

Alas, there can only be two contest winners (this time, at least!). And thanks to that wonderful and oh-so-random number generator at, here they are:

Winner #1: #108 – JL Goes Vegan – who likes to party vegan: “by throwing myself into the joy of cooking and enjoying simple, beautiful, vegan food!”

Winner #2: #59 – AllyChristine – who like to party vegan “anytime I make a great vegan meal! I love to share my love for vegan food.”

Congratulations to the two winners — please e-mail me with your addresses and I’ll get a copy of Party Vegan out to each of you right away!

To everyone else: The party’s not over yet! Stay tuned to my blog for more contests, recipes, and lots more, such as this hot tip:   There’s another cookbook contest going on RIGHT NOW at the new Vegan Heritage Press blog — with 3 great cookbooks being given away plus a Grand Prize of all 3 books. Check it out now!

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