Month: August 2011

Top Chef Wednesday: Natural Vanilla with Sautéed Peaches, Brandy & Crisp

This was really good! There was only a splash of brandy, but it really takes this peach crisp to the next level. I’m craving seconds.

Natural Vanilla with Sautéed Peaches, Brandy & Crisp

From Eric Wolitzky



  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1½ cup pecans
  • 6 ounces cold Earth Balance or other vegan margarine
  • 2 T flour


  • 4 peaches
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • ¼ t nutmeg
  • 2 T Earth Balance



1. Make a crisp by combining oats, brown sugar, pecans, margarine and flour

2. Add to food processor and pulse until a crumb forms.

3. Bake crumb mixture until browned. Let cool and then break into clumps.


1. Cut peaches and sauté in saucepan with brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and margarine until soft and caramelized.

2. Add a splash of whiskey or brandy (I used armagnac) and flambé to taste. Let cool slightly.


Layer in a serving dish with soy ice cream and crisp.

Double Black Burgers with Magic Corn

I tweaked my black bean/black quinoa burger for the Daiya recipe contest and gave them a better name. I added more Daiya, so you can actually taste it, and added some red bell pepper for a little color.

Double Black Burgers

Makes 8 burgers

  • 2 15-oz cans of black beans
  • 1 cup cooked black quinoa
  • 3/4 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup diced green bell pepper
  • 1-2 jalapeno, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • handful of parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 cup Pepperjack Daiya
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon egg replacer
  • 1/4 cup wheat gluten flour
  • salt to taste

In a large bowl, mash beans with a fork, add spices and Daiya and set aside. Saute onion in a little water until translucent, add garlic, bell pepper and jalapeno. Stir in veggies to bean mixture. Mix in quinoa and parsley; stir to combine. Whisk egg replacer with 4 tablespoons of water, add to bean mixture. And finally, mix in the wheat gluten flour. Form bean mixture into 8 patties. Pan fry in olive oil until a little crispy on each side and Daiya melts.

The most talked about corn in the mid-west: Mirai, a Japanese hybrid sweet corn.

I have been hearing about this amazing corn for years. People have parties in honor of this corn. Unfortunately, it is not sold at the Woodstock farmers market, but it is sold in Huntley, which I happened to be driving through last Saturday, so I picked up half a dozen from Twin Garden Farms. It was $4, which will get you a dozen ears of regular corn. Honestly, it just tasted like good sweet corn. Maybe it was overhyped (this corn cannot cure cancer or make you fly). It’s very sweet. No margarine, salt or pepper is needed, but it’s still just corn.

Martha Stewart Monday: Peach & Buttermilk Sherbet

I have purchased peaches three times this year and more often than not they go bad before I eat them. Determined to not let this happen to the four beautiful peaches I bought at the farm stand on Sunday, I searched the Martha Stewart archives for something to do with them. This recipe both looked good and called for the exact number of peaches I had: Peach & Buttermilk Sherbet.


  • 4 large ripe yellow peaches (about 1 3/4 pounds), pitted and quartered
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown rice syrup
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 1/2 cups almond milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup non-dairy creamer


  1. Bring peaches and sugar to a gentle simmer in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until peaches are soft, about 20 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes. Puree peaches and their syrup in a food processor. Pass through a medium sieve into a bowl; discard solids save solids and put it on your oatmeal the next morning.
  2. Create “buttermilk” by whisking vinegar with almond milk. Set aside for a couple minutes to curdle.
  3. Whisk together brown rice syrup, lemon juice, and salt, and pour into peach puree. Whisk in “buttermilk” and milk. Cover, and refrigerate 30 minutes.
  4. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions, until thick and creamy, 35 to 45 minutes. Transfer to an airtight container.

Fall Fashion – Vaute Couture

Project Runway is in full swing with all its manufactured drama, but none of the designers can compete with Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart. While I don’t want to wish away summer, I am super excited about my new Vaute Couture coat.The look book came out yesterday and it’s full of cute coats and kittens.

My old (wool) green coat was starting to look ragged, so I pre-ordered the emerald green Belden. Pre-orders were 50% off the first 24 hours and are now 45% off for the next week.

I also won some Neuarua boots on eBay. They are 2 seasons old (and $35! Love eBay’s Best Offer option) but there are still plenty of riding boots coming out this season.

Continuing this pretty on the outside theme, for dinner, we had some colorful pasta from World Market with roasted tomato sauce and Gardein Chick’n scallopini.

Top Chef Wednesday: Just Desserts

Top Chef Just Desserts is back for its second season. I didn’t watch the first season and I should be cutting back on sugar, but I’m going to see how this week goes.

For dinner, I tried my new cookbook, The 4 Ingredient Vegan by Maribeth Abrams. I made tempeh BBQ: tempeh, onion, green pepper & BBQ sauce.  It’s four ingredients, so this is not going to be complex, but it was tasty and super easy. I served it with corn on the cob and Walnut-Crusted Artichoke Hearts. The artichoke hearts didn’t go so well.They tasted fine, but they look nothing like the picture. I’m not very good with frying (that’s probably a good thing!)

Now on to the star of the meal:

Oreo Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Sandwich with Chocolate Milk

from Just Dessert season one chef Morgan Wilson

Chocolate Milk:

Oreo Cookie Sandwich:

Mint Syrup:

  • 4-6 sprigs of Fresh Mint
  • 1/2 cup Sugar
  • 1/3 cup Water
  • 2 tbsp. Corn Syrup
  • 1 tbsp Grapeseed Oil


Chocolate Milk:

1. Put coconut milk and creamer into high speed blender. Melt chocolate to completely fluid (adding some of the milk to the melting chocolate makes it a little easier to blend) and pour into dairy with the blender running. Blend on high speed until mixture is homogenous. Strain and reserve.

Oreo Cookie Sandwich:

1. Pulse the cookies in a food processor until a course crumb is all that remains. With the processor running pour the melted chocolate in and run until a dough is formed.

2. Roll the dough out to 1/8” thick and freeze. Cut into rounds slightly larger than your ice cream scoop.

3. Scoop the Purely Decadent ice cream onto one disc of the cookie dough and press it down with another disc. Reserve the assembled sandwiches in the freezer until needed for service.

Mint Syrup:

1. Blanch and shock the fresh mint in boiling water and then in ice water to set the color. Strain the water off of the mint and squeeze as dry as possible. Place the mint pulp into a high speed blender.

2. Cook the sugar and water to 240F (soft ball stage) and pour into the blender over the mint. Turn the blender on and blend on high until all is pureed. Blend in the corn syrup and oil. Strain through a fine mesh strainer and reserve for service.


1. Pour milk and a shot of peppermint schnapps into a glass and dollop of rice whip to the top. Drizzle some of the mint syrup over the cream and into the milk. Place a desired quantity of ice cream cookies on the plate and drizzle a bit of the mint syrup around. Enjoy!

Oh my goodness, these pastry chefs are insane!! The things they can do with sugar. And without the huge focus on meat like the regular Top Chef, I bet a vegan chef could compete on this show.

Martha Stewart Monday: Red & Black Bean Pie

Tonight I made Martha’s red and black bean pie, which is a delicious bean mixture over polenta and topped with Daiya pepper jack.

Red & Black Bean Pie


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 scallions, white and green parts separated and thinly sliced (I used a leek, because scallions weren’t available at the farm stand).
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 cans (15 ounces each) pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cans (15 ounces each) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes, in juice (I pureed mine)
  • 1 package (16 ounces) plain prepared polenta, patted dry
  • 1 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped, plus more for garnish (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce, such as Tabasco
  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely shredded Daiya pepper Jack cheese (6 ounces) (I probably only used 1 cup)
  • Salsa (optional – didn’t use)


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium; add white part of scallions and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until softened, stirring constantly, 2 to 3 minutes. Add beans, tomatoes with juice, and 1/2 cup water. As you bring to a boil, mash about 1/4 of the beans with the back of a spoon against side of pan to release starch. Reduce to a simmer; cook until mixture has thickened, 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, brush eight 10- to 12-ounce ramekins or custard cups with remaining oil. Slice polenta crosswise into 8 rounds; place 1 round in each ramekin. Or if your ramekins are too small/you don’t have ramekins, place polenta in a square baking pan.
  3. Remove bean mixture from heat. Stir in green part of scallions, cilantro, and hot sauce; season with salt and pepper. Spoon bean mixture into ramekins (or pan); top each with Daiya. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. If desired, garnish with cilantro, and serve with salsa.
I also made Watermelon margaritas, which were incredible! The farm stand was selling seedless watermelon, so I couldn’t pass that up.

Watermelon Margaritas


  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 wide strips orange zest
  • 12 ounces watermelon cubes (about 2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 3/4 cup white or silver tequila
  • Lime wedges


  1. In a small saucepan, bring sugar, water, and orange
    zest to a boil over high. Reduce to a simmer and cook until sugar dissolves, 3 minutes. Let syrup cool
    in a bowl. In a blender, puree watermelon cubes until
    smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve, pressing on solids, into a pitcher (you should have about 1 cup juice). Stir in syrup, lime juice, and tequila. Fill salt-rimmed glasses with ice, then pour margarita mixture over top. Garnish with lime wedges.

Native Food Cafe is now open in Chicago

California-based Native Food Cafe opened its first Chicago location this month in Wicker Park and there are two more Chicago locations coming.  The Lakeview cafe will open at the end of the month and the Loop location will open just a block away from the federal courthouse in October. The more delicious vegan food in Chicago, the better!

There were so many awesome sounding things on the menu, but I decided on the Baja Surf Tacos, crispy battered Tempeh, homemade surfer sauce, salsa fresca, shredded cabbage and
guacamole. So good!

H had the special, Chicken Run Ranch Burger with seasoned fries.

He really enjoyed it and said we should come back the next time we’re in Chicago (Labor Day, can’t wait!).  One of us will be getting the bacon cheeseburger. H also ordered the lavender lemonade, which was quite refreshing. He got the watermelon fresca as a refill, which is fresh watermelon and a touch of mint, sweetened with organic agave. The lemonade was good, the watermelon was better.

And finally, dessert. Chocolate & vanilla cupcakes piled high with frosting.

After lunch, we went back downtown to shop at the soon to be closed Borders and get our bags. I got four vegan books, including Babycakes (looking forward to improving my gluten-free baking) and the Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook (vegan brie? Yes, please!)

Atwood Cafe at Hotel Burnham

We are back in the city this weekend for a goodbye party of some friends who are moving to California on Monday. Rather than taking the midnight train back to Woodstock, we decided to stay downtown again. We’re at Hotel Burnham, which has my favorite post-shopping lunch spot, Atwood Cafe. It has an amazing veggie burger. I love the decor and the silverware (it was the inspiration for our fancy silverware). This was the first time I had dinner there and I prefer lunch there. But dinner was good and our server was very knowledgeable about what was vegan on the menu.

I had the grapefruit mixed greens to start.


The picture does not do it justice. It was light and the apple was cut very thin for just enough texture and flavor.

For my main course I had the stuffed leeks.

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Two were stuffed with quinoa and tofu and one was stuffed with barley. It was served over spinach and tomato sauce. My only complaint is that the leek was hard to cut, so I ate the stuffing and only three bites had leek.

Again, our server was great. When telling us what the soup of the day was, he stated that it had a vegetable and tomato broth base. I thought about getting it, but first had to make sure that there were no chunks of tomato in the soup (texture thing). I said “I have a question about the soup” and he said “yes, it’s vegan.” Unfortunately, it had chunks of tomato, so I went with the salad. He also brought out olive oil with the bread, because the bread is served with a tomato butter (um, yum! Tomato Earth Balance might be in my near future). He also only brought one dessert menu for H (thanks for not making me read the descriptions of all the delicious things I can’t eat). However, he did tell me there was lemon sorbet that I could eat. We just had espresso and coffee and went out to the party.

“Beef” Stroganoff

Ground Beef Stroganoff
(veganized from Emeril Lagasse, Emeril Live)

1 package Lightlife Smart Ground

1 teaspoon Essence, recipe follows

1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil

1/2  large yellow onion, chopped

8 oz sliced white button mushrooms

3 cloves garlic, minced

8-10 oz small elbow macaroni, cooked

1-2  cups veggie beef broth

1/3 cup Tofutti Better than sour cream

Chopped parsley, for garnish

In a large skillet, saute onions in a little water until tender.  Add the mushrooms and garlic and cook, stirring until the mushrooms have released their juices, about 2 minutes. heat the oil over medium heat. Add the “beef” and essence (and oil if needed to keep from sticking).  Cook for 4-5 minutes. Add the macaroni, “beef” broth and Better than sour cream.   Cook, stirring, until the mixture thickens slightly, 5 to 6 minutes.  

Remove the pan from the heat and spoon the mixture onto large plates. Add parsley and serve immediately.  Serves 4-ish.

Recipe:  Emeril’s Essence

2 1/2 tablespoons paprika

2 tablespoons salt

2 tablespoons garlic powder

1 tablespoon black pepper

1 tablespoon onion powder

1 tablespoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon dried thyme

Combine all ingredients thoroughly.

Red Lentils with Spinach

Red lentils look so pretty and colorful in the bag and then you cook them and they turn into a dull, yellowish-brown mess.  To fix this “problem,” I added a can of tomatoes, which kept it more colorful.


  • 2 cups of red lentils, washed
  • 1 large onion
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 heaping teaspoons of Vegetarian Chicken Soup & Seasoning Base or a veggie bouillon cube
  • 1 14-oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 9 oz baby spinach
  • salt & pepper to taste


In a dutch oven, saute onion in water (enough to keep the onions from sticking) until tender. Add garlic and saute for a minute longer. Add cumin and paprika and cook for another minute. Stir in red lentils with 1 and 3/4 cup of water. Add veggie broth. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add tomatoes and simmer for an additional 20 minutes. Stirring occasionally.  With an immersion blender (or regular blender, working in batches), blend the lentils and tomatoes.  Return to pot if using the blender. Stir in spinach until wilted. Add salt & pepper and serve over rice.