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Vegan Planet: April 2010

Friday, April 30, 2010


Chocolate Surprise Brownies

The biggest surprise in these Chocolate Surprise Brownies lies in the combination of unusual ingredients that goes into making them. In addition to the usual suspects, such as cocoa and vegan chocolate chips, these chocolatey treats also include black beans, coffee, and bananas, resulting in rich brownies that not only taste great, they’re also economical, easy to make, and are lower in fat and sugar than many of their counterparts.

Chocolate Surprise Brownies are from my new book, Vegan on the Cheap and, as promised, I'm sharing the recipe below. Recipe testers pronounced these browinies “incredible” and “oooh so yummy!” When I made them for my brownie-loving husband, they disappeared in a flash. (No surprise there.)

Chocolate Surprise Brownies
(This recipe is from Vegan on the Cheap by Robin Robertson © 2010, John Wiley & Sons.)

1 cup cooked or canned black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons canola oil
4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 ripe banana
2 tablespoons instant coffee
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup semi-sweet vegan chocolate chips
1/2 cup walnut pieces (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8-inch baking pan and set aside.
2. In a blender or food processor, combine the black beans, sugar, and oil, and blend until smooth. Add the cocoa, banana, coffee, and vanilla, and blend until smooth.
3. Scrape the mixture into a mixing bowl. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt and mix until smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips and walnut pieces, if using.
4. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in the pan completely, then refrigerate for several hours before cutting into squares.

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Sunday, April 25, 2010


Vegan on the Cheap - Tester Photos #2

As promised, here are a few more tester photos from Vegan on the Cheap. This time, we're talking pizza! Homemade pizza is easy to make, versatile, and economical. In vegan on the Cheap you'll find recipes for the luscious Tuscan White Bean Pizza (above) and the pepperoni pizza (below). (The book also has a recipe for Polenta Pizza with Roasted Vegetables). These photos were taken by Lisa who tested these recipes for me. (thanks, Lisa!)

This last photo shows the pepperoni that goes on the pepperoni pizza. (It's great in lots of other recipes too.)

More tester photos to come soon, but next time I'll post that brownie recipe you've been waiting for from Vegan on the Cheap.


Friday, April 23, 2010


Vegan on the Cheap — Tester Photos #1

Over the next several weeks, in addition to sharing a few recipes from my new book, Vegan on the Cheap, I thought it would be fun to spotlight some recipe photos taken by the recipe testers themselves. First up are a few pics taken by Andrea of Vegancognito. The top photo is Fusilli with Potatoes, Green Beans and Lemon Basil Crème (page 119). When Andrea tested this delicious, creamy (and lemony) dish she noted that it “tastes sophisticated yet comforting at the same time.”

Below is Andrea’s photo of Orzo Pilaf with Tofu Feta:

And finally, the next one is Savory Vegetable Cobbler (complete with a biscuit topping):

Coming up next: Pepperoni Pizza, anyone? (and more...tester photos by Lisa). Also, a “surprising” brownie recipe, all from from Vegan on the Cheap.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010


For Earth Day: Recycle Roasted Vegetables into…Sushi!

In honor of Earth Day, I thought I’d share one of my favorite ways to “recycle.” It's by using leftover ingredients to make a new meal. The key to never wasting leftovers is to use them up quickly instead of letting them languish in the fridge. Many times, whatever you have on hand might inspire you to make something even better than it was originally. Take the sushi pictured above. I made it using leftover roasted asparagus and carrots as the filling. I never would have thought of using roasted vegetables as sushi fillings had I not had them on hand. I love the extra flavor the roasted veggies brought to the sushi rolls. It made a great lunch and there were no leftovers!

Speaking of Earth Day, the food section in my local newspaper ran an article today that, to me, epitomizes what’s wrong with the “green movement.” The “green” tip was to pound meat thin to reduce the cooking time! What part of “animal agriculture is destroying the environment” do these people not understand? Veganism is the ultimate way to go green – we vegans put our environmentalism where our mouths are!

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Saturday, April 17, 2010


“Say [We Can’t Say It’s] Cheese”

The nice folks at Wayfare Foods sent me samples of their vegan cheese spreads and dips called “We Can’t Say It’s Cheese.” In addition to their wonderfully rich flavors, the main thing that I like about these products is the ingredient list — it’s short, and it contains only recognizable, natural ingredients. The biggest surprise was that the main ingredient in these yummy spreads is (believe it or not) oatmeal!

We enjoyed the Hickory-Smoked Cheddar-Style Spread on crackers, celery, and my favorite, sliced apples. I combined the Mexi Cheddar-Style Dip with salsa for a quick and easy queso dip. I thinned out the regular Cheddar-Style Spread with some vegetable broth to make a rich and creamy sauce that I tossed with cooked pasta for a quick and easy mac and cheese. Maybe “We Can’t Say It’s Cheese” but we can say “it’s delicious!”

Other goodies:

The publisher of The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia by Rebecca Wood was kind enough to send me a copy. I’m finding the book to be a tremendous resource for at-your-fingertips information on more than 1,000 vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, and seeds, including the familiar and the not-so-familiar. This comprehensive book provides clear and carefully written descriptions of all these ingredients and how they can benefit us nutritionally. The entries also include information on home remedies, nutrition, and natural medicine. There are even a number of interesting recipes and informative sidebars. A great reference book, I’m actually reading it like a novel and enjoying the entries from acai to yuzu.

I’ll close this post with a photograph of lilacs from my garden. I picked some of each of the three different old-growth lilac bushes on our property. The dark purple ones are my favorite, but, interestingly, the white ones seem to have the most fragrance. Does anyone know why this is?

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Thursday, April 8, 2010


Vegan on the Cheap has Arrived!

My new cookbook, Vegan on the Cheap, is hot off the presses. I just paged through my first copy today and I’m very excited that it's now a reality.

I especially enjoyed writing this book because I felt it was important to show that eating vegan doesn’t have to be expensive. I come from a family of frugal cooks, so I guess it’s part of my DNA to find ways to be thrifty with the food budget. In Vegan on the Cheap, I share all the different ways I save money, while still cooking great vegan meals.

In addition to loads of money-saving tips, Vegan on the Cheap is filled with economical recipes including basics such as a Baked Seitan Loaf and Cutlets on the Cheap, as well as recipes for vegan sausage and pepperoni. There are lots of grain and pasta recipes, skillet dishes, sandwiches, and casseroles that taste anything but frugal, yet each recipe can be made for less than $2 per serving (some less than 50 cents per serving). Salads include a yummy Garden Rotini and White Bean Salad with Inner Goddess Dressing (the dressing tastes as good as that expensive store brand) and Orange-Chipotle Dressed Salad with Black Bean Salsa.

There's a chapter of slow-cooker recipes that include Tempeh Pot au Feu, Slow-Cooker Seitan Pot Roast, and one of my favorites: Smoky Red Bean Chili with Chipotle-Cornbread Dumplings. The dessert chapter is filled with delicious yet budget-conscious treats such as Italian Polenta Cake and Chocolate Blueberry Crumble.

I’ll soon be posting some sample recipes from Vegan on the Cheap. In the meantime, it’s already available and in stock on Amazon and (where they are currently offering it at an additional 5% off the already discounted price, if you buy it along with 1,000 Vegan Recipes). The book can also be ordered on Barnes and and or wherever books are sold.

If you like cooking great vegan food and want to save money on your food bill, then I think you’ll like Vegan on the Cheap.


Saturday, April 3, 2010


Not My Mother's Easter Pie

Two years ago I shared a recipe for a vegan version of my mother’s traditional Easter Pie, a savory pie made with hot Italian sausage and ricotta cheese. As I mentioned in that post, I tweak my recipe a little each year. The filling is usually a 2 to 1 ratio of seasoned tofu to vegan sausage. (See recipe.)

This year, I tried something completely different. First, instead of making it as a pie, I shaped it into a roll for something a little different. The second big change was that instead of using already-made vegan sausage in the filling (combined with a tofu “ricotta”), I combined the tofu in a food processor with the ingredients for homemade vegan sausage (vital wheat gluten, spices, etc.). I also used approximately equal amounts of tofu to the sausage mixture, resulting in a firmer texture. I then shaped the mixture into a log and baked it. Once cooled, I wrapped it in a sheet of puff pastry and baked it until golden brown. (The recipe for this new version is below.)

While the flavor is similar to my traditional “pie” version, the texture is much firmer (owing to the ratio of tofu to “sausage”) making it a dream to slice. My family always ate a slice of Easter Pie cold for breakfast, but this new version also makes a lovely main dish served with roasted asparagus, carrots, and small red potatoes. Any way you slice it, this is definitely not my mother’s Easter Pie — it’s way better.

Not My Mother’s Easter Pie
Allow to cool at room temperature for at least 15 minutes before slicing with a serrated knife. (It’s also great served cold or at room temperature.)

1 cup wheat gluten flour (vital wheat gluten)
3 tablespoons tapioca flour
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
10 to 12 ounces firm tofu, crumbled
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 Pepperidge Farm puff pastry sheet, thawed

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil a shallow baking pan and set aside.
2. In a food processor, combine the wheat gluten flour, tapioca flour, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, whole and ground fennel seeds, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Pulse to mix.
3. Add the tofu, water, soy sauce, olive oil, and ketchup and process until well mixed.
4. Shape the mixture into a 7-inch log, wrap it in foil and place it in a baking pan. Bake for 45 minutes, turning once about halfway through. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool completely.
5. Roll out the pastry sheet on a floured surface. Place the cooled sausage log on the lower third of the pastry and fold in the sides. Roll up the pastry to enclose the sausage and use your fingers to seal the ends. Place the roll on a baking sheet, seam-side down, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
6. Bake until the pastry is nicely browned, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes before slicing with a serrated knife.


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