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Vegan Planet: December 2009

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Too Good Tiramisu

Desserts are a rarity in my house — I usually only make them when we’re having company, or if I need to test a recipe. This can be a problem when your husband happens to have a sizeable sweet tooth. So, for Christmas this year, I told Jon I’d make him any dessert he wanted. He chose tiramisu.

I have long been tinkering with making a vegan tiramisu that captures the decadent richness of the non-vegan version and I think the one in 1,000 Vegan Recipes does the trick. The secret is in the filling: I combine tofu with vegan cream cheese and vegan vanilla ice cream to get just the right balance: firm yet light, sweet yet not-too-sweet. For the cake, I use the pound cake recipe also found in 1,000 Vegan Recipes. It works beautifully, but you can use another white or yellow vegan cake, if you prefer.

Here’s the tiramisu recipe, and I hope you enjoy it as much as Jon did. By the way, the recipe is easily doubled, if you need a dessert to serve a crowd on New Year’s Eve.

I want to wish everyone a very Happy New Year. See you in 2010!

Vegan Tiramisu

Serves 6

For extra decadence, add a layer of vegan whipped cream and chocolate curls. This recipe is from my latest book, 1,000 Vegan Recipes (where you will also find the recipe for vegan pound cake).

1 cup firm tofu, drained and pressed dry
1 (8-ounce) container vegan cream cheese
1/2 cup vegan vanilla ice cream, softened
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon superfine sugar
1/2 cup brewed coffee, cooled to room temperature
3 tablespoons Kahlua or other coffee liqueur
1 vegan pound cake (or other white or yellow cake), cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

1. In a food processor, combine the tofu, cream cheese, ice cream, vanilla and 1/3 cup of the sugar. Process until smooth and well blended.
2. In a small bowl, combine the coffee, the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar, and the coffee liqueur.
3. Arrange a single layer of cake slices in an 8-inch square baking pan and brush with half of the coffee mixture. Sprinkle with half of the cocoa. Spread half the tofu mixture over the cake. Arrange another layer of cake slices on top of the tofu mixture. Brush with the remaining coffee mixture, and spread evenly with the remaining tofu mixture. Sprinkle with remaining cocoa. Chill 1 hour before serving.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Pasta Fagiole... and More

There’s something about a 24-inch snowfall that makes you want to cook hearty, comforting food. For us, it was pasta fagiole, the classic Italian pasta and bean soup. As the snow fell relentlessly for 24 hours straight, we were warm and cozy inside, cooking up a storm to rival the one outside. We’ve lived in the South so long, we don’t even own a snow shovel.

I hadn’t made “pasta fazool” in ages, and suddenly Jon and I were both craving it. I usually make it with cannellini beans and elbow macaroni, but with the snow raging, I had to make due with pinto beans and tiny tri-color shell pasta. It may be a new favorite combination. I sautéed some onion and garlic, added diced tomatoes and a little tomato sauce I had on hand, some basil, oregano, crushed red pepper, and salt and pepper. Within 20 minutes, it was ready. I especially love the way the pasta absorbs much of the flavorful broth, making the finished dish less a soup, but no less delicious. Let it snow!

Speaking of snow, one of the ducks who shares our property with us decided to make his very own “snow angel.” How cute is that?

1,000 Vegan Recipes News:

1,000 Vegan Recipes
has been popping up all over lately and thanks to everyone who has blogged, commented, or written such great things about my new book. There are two in particular that I would like to share here. The first is from the December e-newsletter of cookbook author Nava Atlas and the second is from this month's e-newsletter of Howard Lyman, the “Mad Cowboy” himself. (They both also posted sample recipes!)

from Nava’s e-newsletter:
“Okay, vegans, here it is—your very own Joy of Cooking. Covering every culinary angle under the sun, Robin’s tome is a great resource and reference for every vegan kitchen. Robin has been a great colleague for many years and is a prolific and talented food writer. Her recipes reflect the way I like to cook, with creative variations on easily available ingredients and streamlined procedures. ...The Soy-Tan Dream Cutlets, made from both tofu and gluten, cooked up quickly and were indeed a dream for my sons, who love “meaty” items made from these ingredients; I paired these cutlets with Golden Mushroom Gravy, which has a hearty base of pureed chickpeas. I inadvertently increased the quantity for this, which made for quite a lot of gravy, but no matter—tonight I used the leftovers as a base for really good soup Chocolate Chip-Banana Bread was every bit as good as Robin’s testers claim it to be.” — Nava Atlas

from Howard’s e-newsletter:

“Robin Robertson's 1,000 Vegan Recipes is the perfect book for a start towards a healthy new diet. Robin has created a must have for everyone interested in not only tasty food, but food that is good for you. 1,000 Vegan Recipes is the crown jewel of cook books." —Howard F. Lyman LL.D., "The Mad Cowboy"

(Thank you, Nava and Howard!)

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Stove Rags and Book Giveaway

Nothing says comfort food like potato pancakes. After all, they’re made from potatoes, they’re pancakes, and they’re fried!

My mother used to make two kinds of potato pancakes: one from raw grated potatoes and another that used leftover mashed potatoes combined with flour, which were known as “stove rags” in the coal region of Pennsylvania where I grew up. They got their name because they were cooked directly on the coal stove, which is how my grandmother made them.

Although “stove rags” may be the most colorful name for potato pancakes I’ve ever heard, it’s certainly not the only one. In Eastern Europe, potato pancakes are known as latkes or latkas. In Sweden, they’re called raggmunk or rarakor. Potato pancakes are also found in many other countries including Korea, India, Russia, and Ireland. Naturally, every culture has a unique spin that makes them their own.

At my house, we usually enjoy them served with applesauce, although I sometimes put out small bowls of vegan sour cream, chutney, chow-chow, and even cranberry sauce. I’ve even served them doused with sriracha sauce, which takes them to an entirely new level. My current favorite condiment for them is sour cream with some sriracha blended into it (as seen in the center of the condiment tray in the photo, flanked by chutney and applesauce).

I wonder what my grandmother would think of stove rags with sriracha.

Book Giveaway: For a chance to win a copy of 1,000 Vegan Recipes, head on over to Cafe VegNews where the VN staff is cooking up a recipe from the book every day this week -- and also giving away a copy of the book each day. That's five chances to win!

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Broccoli and White Beans with Potatoes and Walnuts

Rich in potassium, vitamin C, and other nutrients, broccoli is a superstar vegetable to be sure. It’s readily available, reasonably priced, and infinitely versatile. Think of it: this verdant crucifer is equally at home in a creamy soup or spicy stir-fry as it is steamed and sauced or added to a salad or pasta.

Broccoli also shines in the dish you see here, where it shares top billing with potatoes and white beans. With walnuts added for crunch and seasoned with garlic, lemon, crushed red pepper, and your favorite herb (I used savory) this is a simple and satisfying meal that can be made ahead of when you need it. (It makes a great lunch.)

The recipe is from 1000 Vegan Recipes, and it calls for fingerling potatoes, but any potato can be used -- the tiny red-skinned ones are especially pretty in this. The potatoes and broccoli are steamed and the garlic sautéed in olive oil and combined with creamy cannellini beans or other white beans. Some chopped red onion can be sautéed with the garlic, if you like. And, if you have time, you can roast the potatoes instead of steaming them. The dish can be served hot, cold, or at room temperature.

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Thursday, December 3, 2009


Corn and Potato Chowder with Variations

During the colder months, a nice hot bowl of soup is often our go-to lunch. I usually make a large pot of “soup du week,” and, since it’s just the two of us, it lasts several days. Often I just make some “clean out the fridge” minestrone, using up whatever stray vegetables are on hand. Other times, we’re in the mood for a brothy soup with Asian flavors, and that usually means pho is on the menu.

This week we wanted something cozy and comforting so I made the Corn and Potato Chowder from 1000 Vegan Recipes. Delicious in its simplicity, the soup is partially pureed to add creaminess to the broth, but still has nice chunks of potatoes and lots of sweet corn kernels for a good textural contrast. You could, of course, leave the soup entirely chunky or puree it all, depending on your preference.

The textural versatility of this soup is only the beginning. You can change the flavor in a variety of ways to suit your mood. Consider this: From the same batch of soup, I served it six different ways, just by garnishing each serving with something different:

1. a drizzle of Sriracha sauce; chopped scallions (and/or cilantro or parsley)
2. vegan sour cream; chives; smoked paprika; chopped vegan bacon
3. hot or mild chopped green chiles; a splash of Tabasco
4. chopped roasted red bell pepper; minced sun-dried tomato; fresh basil leaves
5. pureed (or minced) chipotle in adobo
6. diced avocado; chopped tomato; chopped Kalamata olives

Another time when I made this soup, after about half of it was gone, I decided to stretch it further by adding a can of diced tomatoes and some cooked lima beans and it took on an entirely different character (and gave us a few more days of soup!).

Here’s the recipe for the basic soup. If you make it, I’d love to hear if you tried any of my variations or, even better, if you’ve come up with some of your own.

Corn and Potato Chowder

This recipe is from 1000 Vegan Recipes by Robin Robertson © 2009, John Wiley & Sons.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
3 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
4 cups vegetable broth
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cups fresh, frozen, or canned corn kernels
1 cup plain unsweetened soy milk
1 tablespoon minced green onions or chives (or garnish of choice)

1. In large soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and celery. Cover and cook until the vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes. Add the potatoes, broth, and salt and pepper, to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the potatoes begin to soften, about 20 minutes.
2. Add the corn and simmer 15 minutes longer. Puree about half the soup in the pot with an immersion blender, or in a blender or food processor, and return to the pot. Stir in the soy milk and taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary.
3. Ladle the soup into bowls, garnish with green onions, and serve.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Teriyaki Tribulation

An alert blogger recently pointed out that the teriyaki sauce component of the Tempeh Teriyaki on page 296 in 1000 Vegan Recipes was too sour. It's easy to see why: the recipe calls for 1/4 cup lemon juice and just 1 tablespoon sugar. I checked my original recipe test notes, and it listed “2 tablespoons sugar” (not 1). Just to be sure, I made the sauce recently using 2 tablespoons of sugar and it tasted just as I had intended — not too sweet, and still a little on the tart side, but in a good way. So, if you have the book, please change the sugar amount in that recipe to read “2 tablespoons sugar” not “1.”

Of course, if you prefer a very sweet teriyaki sauce, then you can add even more sugar to suit your taste. The best way to make sure it (or most any recipe, for that matter) tastes the way you like it is to observe a cardinal cooking rule: taste it as you’re making it.

By the way, for a yummy (and sweeter/fruitier) variation on this sauce, you can substitute orange or mango juice for the lemon juice (adding sugar to taste). Try it with baked, grilled, or sautéed tofu, tempeh, or seitan. (I used tofu this time).

That recipe will be corrected for the next reprint of the book, as will the recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookies, on page 428 where it calls for “1/2 cup vegan margarine” — it should, instead, call for “1 cup” ( “/2” was somehow added during the editing process). Once you make the correction, be sure to make some of those cookies — they’re so good!

A word about typos: All books have typographical errors, so it’s not unusual to find a few, especially in a book with more than 600 pages. There’s always a chance that between the tested recipe and the printed page a typo can be accidentally introduced. If you ever have a question about any of my recipes, feel free to e-mail me either through my website or blog, and I will respond as soon as I can.

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