Veggies in a Blanket: Vegan “Pigs” in a Blanket

My family loves to watch the Super Bowl. It was a tradition when I was a child that every year we would spend the morning preparing chips and dip, pigs in a blanket, guacamole, and other finger-foods before settling in for the game. The excitement of cheering for our favorite team became synonymous in my mind with these special treats.

This year I wanted to replicate that experience, but with a cruelty-free substitute for pigs in a blanket. For those unfamiliar with the dish, it’s often made with mini pork sausages, or wiener sausages, wrapped in crescent roll dough and baked in the oven. Luckily for all animals, human and non-human alike, Pillsbury Crescent Roll dough is already vegan. For the mini sausages, I looked to Hell Yeah It’s Vegan! for a great recipe, and then changed some of the ingredients for my own taste and preference. You can click the link to see the original recipe, along with a suggested serving sauce, or follow my recipe below. Either way, enjoy your cruelty-free, absolutely delicious Veggies in a Blanket!

Veggies in a Blanket

Dry Ingredients:

  • 1 cup and 2 tbsp vital wheat gluten
  • 2 tbsp whole wheat flour
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground marjoram
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

Wet Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1/4 cup onion, finely minced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 tsp corn syrup

Crescent Roll Dough:

  • Any vegan crescent roll dough will do, whether you make it yourself or buy it in a store. I used Pillsbury Crescent Rolls.

Preparation

2014-01-14 17.13.472014-01-14 17.19.23In a large bowl, mix together all of the dry ingredients with a wooden spoon. In a small bowl, whisk together all of the wet ingredients. Then, pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix with your wooden spoon. Be careful to mix only until the ingredients are fully combined, you don’t want to overwork the gluten.

Let the dough rest for a few minutes while you get a pot with a steamer basket prepared. Then, on a cutting board or clean counter, knead the dough a few times and use a very sharp knife to cut the dough into eight small portions. You may want to keep a wet towel nearby to constantly wipe your hands; the dough is very wet, sticky, and leaves behind a bright red residue from the tomato paste.

Taking one portion of the dough at a time, squeeze it in your hands until it forms a long, thin rope. Wrap the rope in a piece of aluminum foil, and then twist the foil to seal every two inches, so that you create several individual sausages in one rope of foil-wrapped dough. Don’t worry about perfection, the sausages will be wrapped in crescent roll dough when they’re done anyway.

2014-01-14 18.12.44Once all your dough is wrapped, steam in your pot for 20 minutes. Remove the links to a plate and leave in foil for 10-15 minutes to cool. Then, using kitchen prongs or careful fingers (there’s hot steam trapped inside the foil!) unwrap all of the links. Use a knife to cut the links apart from each other and then let them cool completely.

2014-01-14 19.44.43Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Then, remove your crescent roll dough from it’s package. Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface and cut each portion of crescent roll dough into three triangles. Then, roll a mini sausage into each triangle, placing on a cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake your veggies in a blanket for 12-15 minutes, or until the dough gets golden brown.

To serve, I would suggest pairing with ketchup, mustard, or other hot dog fixings. Enjoy!

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Italian Spumoni Holiday Cookies

As much as I love traditional cookies like chocolate chip or oatmeal raisin,  it’s fun to have a unique cookie recipe saved just for the holidays. Of course you can make them any day of the year, but the unique flavor of these cookies make them extra special to wrap up and give out to friends. They’re based on the Italian ice cream Spumoni, which is a traditional dessert flavored with chocolate, pistachio, and cherry. The original idea to turn them into cookies belongs to the Food Network, but I’ve replaced all the animal products with wholesome, healthy ingredients to add an extra kick of cruelty-free deliciousness. These cookies are total crowd-pleasers, and if you don’t portion them correctly you’ll have eaten them all before you even get a chance to wrap them up!

Italian Spumoni Cookies, or “Spumookies”

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted vegan margarine (I use Earth Balance), melted
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax seed
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped pistachios
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried cherries

Directions

2013-12-14 10.44.37Preheat your oven to 325 degrees and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. In a small bowl, mix your flour, baking powder, and salt. Using a butcher’s knife or other large, flat blade knife, roughly chop the pistachios and cherries.

Next, add three tablespoons of water to a small bowl with the ground flax seed. You’ll want to use the mixture about 3-4 minutes after you do this, so it’s had a bit of time to set but not so long that it becomes gelatinous.

In a large bowl, melt the butter and then whisk in your brown and granulated sugars. You can just hand-whisk, there’s no need for a machine. Add the flax seed mixture, vanilla, and almond extracts and whisk until fully mixed.

Then, with a rubber spatula, slowly fold the flour mixture into the large bowl. Once the flour is fully folded in and you cannot see any remaining white powder, use a wooden spoon to stir in the chocolate chips, pistachios, and cherries.

Using two teaspoons or clean, dry hands, scoop the cookies into roughly 1/4 cup balls and space evenly on your cookie sheets. There are about 26-30 cookies in each batch. With one baking sheet on each shelf, bake for 10 minutes. Then, switch racks and rotate each sheet 180 degrees. Bake for another 8-10 minutes, or until cookies are golden brown. If you prefer a softer cookie, take them out a little sooner and let them sit on their hot pans outside of the oven to finish setting. If you prefer a chewier cookie, leave them in for the full 10 minutes.

After they’ve cooled on the cookie sheets, use a metal spatula to remove to cooling racks. After the cookies are fully cooled, feel free to wrap up to give to friends for the holidays, or simply enjoy them yourself. Either way, happy eating!

France and Italy: Vegan Travel

Hello again! You’ll have to excuse the long time between posts, as I just got back from a long trip to France and Italy. Yes that’s right, Europe! I had never been to Europe (although I have been international twice before), so it was quite the experience. I saw so many sights, including the Palace of Versailles, the Mona Lisa, the Piazza San Marco, and the Colosseum. It was truly an amazing experience.

But how was the food, you ask? Well at least for me, that is a very important question. My travel partner is not a vegan, and was very set on eating traditional French and Italian cuisine, so I had to work around that. I did my research before leaving for Europe, and the idea of vegetarianism is actually very common in France and Italy. All of the places I visited (which, admittedly, were very touristy), all understood “vegetarian” meant no meat. For those ever planning on visiting Europe, you might be interested to note that “meat” does not include “fish”; “meat” only means land animals. But of course, keep in mind I only visited France and Italy.

As for the concept of a vegan diet…unfortunately the term “vegan” isn’t as prevalent as the word “vegetarian” is. Most restaurants, if asked for their vegetarian menu options, will point to most pastas and salads and omelettes (In France it is common to eat omelettes at dinner!) and you can pick from that. Asking for “vegan” food often causes a strange look and a confused “Sorry, what is that?”. Instead of spending the time to explain the concept to an often busy waiter, I chose to pick one of the vegetarian dishes on the menu and ask what ingredients were used in the dish (citing allergies as my concern if they asked why). For most pasta dishes, butter and cheese were the top two ingredients I asked to have removed, for a salad it was often a dairy-based dressing. Almost all of the restaurants I ate at were able to remove the ingredients, although I’ll admit I was sometimes given a strange look when I asked for no butter. If you’re not totally comfortable with confrontation or questions, especially in broken English or a foreign language, I would suggest using allergies as your reason for being picky.

And how about breakfast? Well, in both France and Italy, most patisseries or cafes have baguettes, which you can either eat plain (I did, they’re delicious), or with jam if they serve it. Fruit is also easy to obtain.

So in summary, what did I eat most often? Well, eating a vegan diet in France or Italy essentially boil down to three specific meals you will eat every day. For breakfast, it’s a baguette with jam and fruit. For lunch, it’s salad and bread. And for dinner, it’s pasta, most likely with a tomato or mushroom based sauce. It is humorous to note that almost every single restaurant in Italy has “spaghetti with tomato and basil” on their menu. It’s very akin to how American restaurants almost always have a hamburger on their menu, for young children or picky eaters like me.

20130708_125853Admittedly, it’s easy to get bored with such a strict diet. But it was very important to me to try my best to do so because I believe that no matter where I am, I shouldn’t add to the suffering of animals. And luckily, I didn’t always find myself consuming the same foods. I was completely surprised when I found out one of the specialties of Rome is something called a “Jewish-style fried artichoke”. Although I’ve eaten my fair share of artichokes (they are my favorite vegetable), I have always steamed, roasted, or boiled them. The concept of frying such a complex vegetable that takes so long to break down to its edible parts in the first place seemed completely foreign to me, but when I tried it– WOW. It was the most delicious artichoke I had ever eaten. Soft on the inside and crispy on the outside…I dream of those artichokes now.

So in the end, I have to admit it wasn’t easy striving to eat a vegan diet in Europe, but I feel very glad that I did so. Saving animals is one of the most rewarding things, emotionally and physically, that I believe a person can do.

P.S. As a side-note, there are actually many fully-vegan restaurants in Europe. They are most often Asian-style cuisine or slightly more expensive, fancier restaurants serving the local cuisine but with vegan ingredients. I wasn’t able to try any of these places. If you have, let me know what you thought!

Fried Egg: The Vegan’s Answer to a Hearty Breakfast

20130612_181253I am a huge fan of the podcast Our Hen House, a brilliant and inspiring podcast about changing the world for animals. Seriously, it’s amazing, listen to one podcast and you’ll be hooked! They’re even a 2013 Webby Award Official Honoree. On one of their recent podcasts, they interviewed the Shannons, the fantastic duo behind Betty Goes Vegan. This amazing cookbook veganizes 500 iconic Betty Crocker recipes, and one of these fantastic recipes happens to be for a vegan fried egg.

Yes, that’s right. A vegan FRIED EGG. As in that over easy or sunny side-up pocket of yolk in the middle that spills everywhere when you poke it with your fork. I’ve got to admit, I never ever thought it would be possible to veganize a fried egg. Scrambled? Oh yeah, tofu scramble it up. But a fried egg? I was so shocked when I heard them start to speak about this particular gem on the podcast that I tore off my headphones and googled it immediately. And sure enough, right on their blog (you don’t even have to buy the cookbook! Although I suggest you do) is one of the most exciting recipes I’ve encountered in quite some time.

And yes, it’s easy too. Admittedly, I cheated, and although mine tasted just as delicious, the original recipe calls for using a flavor injector (read: a needle for cooking). I didn’t have one, so I improvised. You can see the fancy version on the Meet the Shannons website here. If you don’t have a flavor injector, you can do it my way: and you’ll never think of vegan breakfast the same way ever again.

The Vegan Fried Egg

Ingredients

  • 1 Package of Firm Tofu
  • 1/2 Batch Cheese Sauce (from here)
  • 2-3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste

Preparation:

20130609_174024Press and drain your tofu. This is an easy process, which starts with simply removing the tofu from it’s package and wrapping in one or two paper towels. Place the wrapped tofu on a plate with another few paper towels below and above it, and then put something heavy on top for about 20-30 minutes. I used a couple pots, as seen in the picture.

When your tofu is almost fully pressed, prepare a 1/2 batch of the cheese sauce recipe from my Macaroni and Cheese blog, seen here. If you’re familiar with nutritional yeast cheese sauces, make your own favorite version, but if you’re not then you can use what I suggest. And yes, you’ll have lots of leftover sauce (even with a 1/2 batch!) but you can always dip veggies in it or mix it in with some pasta. Personally, I plan to use my extra with tortilla chips and salsa for some killer nachos.

20130609_180344While the sauce is thickening, cut your pressed tofu into four20130609_181124 equal rectangles. Heat a pan with olive oil until sizzling, and then place your tofu into the pan. Simply let the tofu saute until you start to see the edges browning, then turn over and cook the other side. You may want to do this a few times to get the perfect fried consistency.

When the tofu is the perfect amount of crispness, remove from the pan and place on a plate. Carefully (they’re hot!) use a sharp knife to cut out an oval shape in each piece of the tofu, making sure not to cut all the way through to the bottom. Then spoon in some of your yummy egg-y cheese-y sauce and place the cut out pieces back on top. The sauce will spill over as if you had just cut into a regular fried egg, although this egg has no cholesterol and doesn’t do any harm to animals. Serve with salt and pepper on top.

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And that’s it! You can enjoy these on their own if you really want, but I’d suggest pairing them with some other breakfast goodies. I made breakfast for dinner, an incredibly hearty meal (I was stuffed afterwords!) that you can see in the picture at the top of the page, paired with some plant-based chicken and a bagel. As you also might notice in the picture, I thought I might need some extra sauce, but I never ended up touching it- the eggs themselves are so moist and creamy that they complimented the other foods very well. You can pair these eggs with anything really- some plant-based bacon perhaps? Pancakes? Whatever you eat with them, you can feel proud knowing the eggs you consumed are cruelty free and absolutely delicious.

Macaroni and Cheese

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As a child, I adored macaroni and cheese. We were a “from the box” kind of family, and so in the eternal battle between baked casserole or from the pot, I am on the side of the creamy from the pot variety. When I became a vegetarian, macaroni and cheese was one of the go-to options for when the food on my family’s dinner table was made of animal flesh. It was so easy, I could make it myself.

Well guess what? This recipe is so easy you can make it yourself too – and it’s vegan.

As a vegan, there is no way I want to give up the amazing, powerful comfort that comes from food like macaroni and cheese. So called comfort food truly does work to both satisfy your hunger and your emotional stresses. But because I no longer value my own pleasure at the dinner table more than the suffering of animals, I turned to Chef Chloe, an amazing young vegan chef who is taking the culinary world by storm and even won Cupcake Wars on the Food Network with vegan cupcakes. Although I normally dabble and change up most of the recipes I find online, hers is so delicious and reminds me so much of my childhood that I only made one or two minor switch-ups. So, without further ado:

Vegan Macaroni and Cheese

Ingredients

  • 1 pound of your favorite small pasta noodle (elbow, rotini, penne, etc)
  • 1/4 cup vegan butter (My favorite is Earth Balance)
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups of your favorite dairy free milk (I prefer almond milk)
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons salt, or more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder, or more to taste
  • Lemon Juice, to taste

Preparation

Cook your pasta according to the directions on the package.

While your pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a small saucepan and whisk the flour into the butter on medium heat. Whisk for about two minutes, or until the mixture forms a paste like in the picture here.20130507_191513 Once your roux, or flour-butter mixture is the proper consistency, whisk in all of the dairy-free milk, nutritional yeast flakes, tomato paste, and the salt and garlic powder. Bring to a boil, then heat at a low simmer while whisking frequently until the sauce becomes thick and creamy. At this point, taste the mixture and season to your taste with lemon juice (and more salt or garlic powder if you choose).

20130507_193349Drain your pasta and pour it back into the pot. Pour the sauce over the pasta and stir. You’re done! Enjoy the delicious, creamy, cruelty-free comfort that only vegan macaroni and cheese can truly provide.

As a side-note, Chef Chloe’s original recipe called for broccoli mixed in as well. Sometimes I’ll mix in broccoli like she suggests, or sometimes I like to throw in red pinto beans for an added protein kick. No matter what, I enjoy this recipe every time I make it. I hope you do too.

Barbecue Sauce and Ketchup

20130426_151344 As the spring rains slowly start to withdraw, I’ve found myself faced with summer quickly approaching. And with summer comes the inevitable barbecues. Now, I myself adore barbecues. What’s not to love? Get together with some friends, throw some vegetables on the grill, and soak up that delicious, delicious smell of barbecue sauce. Yes, if you’re like me, you crave barbecue sauce. I love the stuff! It’s addicting, really. And for now, seeing as it is not summer just yet, I’m staying inside to satisfy my cravings.

There are many recipes in which I like to use barbecue sauce. Barbecue ribz, barbecue seitan chicken sandwiches, grilled vegetables, and more. I recently made a batch of the “chicken” sandwiches and was it was super yummy. I’ll post that recipe at a later date, and when I do you can find it HERE. For now, I give you my favorite barbecue sauce recipe. It is amazingly delicious, smoky, slightly peppery, with just a hint of tang that is bound to satisfy anyone. And yes, there is a ketchup recipe included here too, because my favorite barbecue sauce recipe has a ketchup base and there is no way I’m tainting this gorgeous sauce with the high fructose corn syrup found in so many popular brands of ketchup. I’ve put the ketchup recipe first because you’ll have to make it first.

And don’t worry, it’s an incredibly simple recipe, and needs essentially the same ingredients as the barbecue sauce does, which is nicer on your wallet. Plus, it actually does make the barbecue sauce taste much better than with one of those store bought corn syrup filled brands. High fructose corn syrup is gross. This barbecue sauce, however? Freaking delicious.

Ketchup20130426_143242

Ingredients

  • 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 tsp agave
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar

Preparation

In a measuring cup (makes for easy pouring into the sauce), whisk all ingredients together. Seriously, it’s as easy as that. To make getting the tomato paste out of the can easy, just open both ends with a can opener, then push one end through to push out all the paste. No need to worry about scraping the sides, although you can if you want.

Barbecue Sauce

Ingredients

  • Ketchup (about one cup, or the whole recipe above)
  • 1/4 cup agave
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2 tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 black pepper (I use less because I don’t like much pepper. If you love to load the stuff into your food, I would use no more than 3/4 teaspoon)

Preparation

In a medium saucepan, whisk all ingredients together until smooth on medium heat. Bring to a simmer and then reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered, whisking every few minutes for 30 minutes. At this point, you will have a thickened sauce, but if you prefer it thicker just continue to simmer and whisk occasionally until it’s the density you prefer.

And then, enjoy the heck out of your made-from-scratch barbecue sauce. If it wasn’t looked down upon by society, I would just eat the stuff by the spoonful. Yum!

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Chocolate Chip Cookies

20130427_193650There are few things more delicious in this world than chocolate chip cookies. The warm, gooey center. The crisp, chewy edges. In my egg and butter eating days, I adored one chocolate chip cookie recipe above all else: Alton Brown’s The Chewy. Alton Brown is an amazing chef, and I love watching him on the Food Network, whether he’s hosting a competition or doing the cooking himself. Either way, he’s incredibly scientific about his recipes, never stopping until he has the perfect dish on his hands. So, that’s why his chocolate chip cookie recipe was so appealing to me. But The Chewy commits three non-vegan crimes: it contains butter, eggs, AND milk. So if I was going to continue to enjoy Alton Brown’s concoction, I was going to have do a little altering. Did I dare mess with Alton Brown’s masterpiece?

I dared, and it was delicious.

There are so many things I love and want to note about this recipe. Firstly, the butter is melted, so you don’t have to remember hours before you bake to bring your butter to room temperature. Secondly, the ingredient I use to replace eggs in all my baking recipes is flax seed. Ground flax seed is filled with all sorts of amazing nutrients, and if you mix one tablespoon with three tablespoons of water and let sit, it forms a consistency very similar to an egg. Alton’s recipe needed an egg and an egg yolk, so I adjusted accordingly.

Also, sift your flour. I know, I know, it’s an annoying process that results in one extra dish to clean, but running your flour through a strainer is incredibly important in making these cookies moist and creamy, instead of tough and crispy.

Lastly, because this recipe calls for melted butter, the dough will be extremely wet and you cannot bake it immediately after stirring together. You’ll have to chill the dough in the fridge for a minimum of an hour. But don’t worry: it’s worth it.

The Vegan Chewy: Or, a Delicious Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks vegan butter (I use Earth Balance)
  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax seed
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons almond milk or any non-dairy milk you prefer
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preparation

In a small bowl, pour three tablespoons of water over two tablespoons ground flax seed. No stirring is necessary. Set aside for ten minutes.

Melt your butter in a measuring cup or any microwave safe bowl. Alton Brown says to melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat, but nuking it in the microwave is much faster and super easy. This recipe is vegan, not complicated!

Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Yes, SIFT! A side-to-side motion sends the ingredients through the strainer faster than an up-and-down shake, in case you’re curious.

Then, pour the melted butter into a large bowl. Add the sugar and brown sugar and mix until creamy. You can use an electric mixer if you want, but because the butter is melted it’s incredibly easy to stir all the ingredients together by hand with a wooden spoon. After it’s creamy, add the flax seed mixture, the milk, and the vanilla extract and stir again. Next, slowly incorporate the flour mixture until combined. Even with the flour, the mixture should be very dark brown, due to a larger ratio of brown sugar to white.

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Lastly, mix in the chocolate chips. Then cover with plastic wrap, aluminum foil, or even a large plate- you don’t need to seal out the air, the cover’s just to keep other food spilling into the bowl. Chill in the fridge for a minimum of an hour. It will keep overnight if you want to make the dough ahead of time and cook the next day as well.

When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Scoop the cookies onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper and bake each batch for about 9-12 minutes. I have a slightly over-heated oven, so everything bakes faster for me. You want to bake the cookies until they look slightly raw, then take them out. Let each batch sit on the cookie sheet for at least five minutes before removing to a cooling rack, and those last five minutes on the hot pan will cook the rest of the cookie through without burning the top.

And then, enjoy! As a note, I prefer my cookies very creamy and almost slightly under-cooked, so I like to scoop very large scoops and cook for the same amount of time as smaller cookies. They come out of the oven with the middle still looking too raw to eat, but a few minutes on the hot pan cooks them through to the perfect consistency without burning the tops. If you prefer smaller cookies or more crispy ones, just scoop smaller batches.

Enjoy! 20130427_194450