Month: December 2011

Top Chef Wednesday

Top Chef was a rerun this week, but I didn’t realize that until after dinner. I tried Ocean’s Delight fish patties that I ordered from Vegan Essentials.

I substituted the vegan fish patties for salmon in a Ron Duprat recipe.

Pan-Seared Vegan Fish Patties with Spinach and Cannelloni Bean Sauté and Citrus Butter

Serves 2


1 package Ecovegan fish patties
4 ounces Chablis
2 ounces almond milk
1 bay leaf
1 lemon, zested and juiced
4 ounces spinach, washed and cleaned
1 small can cannelloni beans
1 clove garlic, minced
2 ounces Earth Balance margarine
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Fresh herbs (I used basil)


1. For citrus butter, reduce Chablis and almond milk by half with bay leaf and lemon juice. Mount slowly with margarine. Strain and season with salt and pepper to taste.

2. In a sauté pan, heat olive oil and add vegan fish patties. Cook according to package, about 3-5 minutes.

3. In another sauté pan with oil, cook spinach, garlic, and cannelloni beans. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To Serve

1. Using a ring mold (or a ramekin), pack spinach-bean mixture onto center of plate. Remove mold.

2. Gently place vegan fish patties on top of spinach.

3. Spoon citrus butter sauce over vegan fish patties and plate.

4. Garnish with lemon zest and fresh herbs.

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Vegan Broccoli Cheese Soup


  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium baking potato, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 vegan chick’n bouillon
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups soy milk
  • 1/2 lb fresh broccoli, chopped
  • 1 cup carrot , julienned
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 package Cheddar Cheezly, grated
  • salt and pepper


  • Sauté onion in water until translucent.
  • Add 2 cups of water, chick’n bouillon and potato and simmer covered for 10 minutes (until potato is soft)
  • Whisk together soy milk and flour and pour into pot. Use immersion blender (or transfer to a blender) to combine all ingredients to a creamy soup base.
  • Add the broccoli and carrots. Cook over low heat 20-25 minutes.
  • Add salt and pepper. Use immersion blender again, but don’t completely blend the broccoli and carrots; leave some chunks. Add cheese and nutmeg. Simmer, stirring frequently, until the cheese melts.
This is a veganized (an healthy) version of Panera’s Broccoli Cheese soup, which I found here. The soup has over 600 calories and almost 50 grams of fat per serving! Pure insanity. I just did a rough calculation, but I think my recipe has around 300 calories and 12 grams of fat (most of that from the Cheezly). For a “cream” soup, that isn’t too bad.
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With the soup, we had some crusty bread and spinach bean dip.
  • 1 can of cannelloni beans
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon tahini
  • 1 tablespoon Italian herbs
  • 2 small cloves of garlic
  • 1 ounce of spinach
  • salt & pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a food processor until smooth.


It was pretty good; even Sassafras wanted in on our vegan noms.


Top Chef Wednesday: Cocoa and Black Pepper Gardein Beefless Tips with Spring Risotto

This is the best way I have had Gardein Beefless Tips! From now on, I might always cook them in cocoa and black pepper. This week’s Top Chef veganization is from Tiffany Derry of Seasons 7 and 8. It is also a suburbanization because cocao and morels are not sold at Jewel.


Cocoa and Black Pepper Gardein Beefless Tips with Spring Risotto

Modified from here


Beefless Tips:
  • 1 package Gardein beefless tips
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 Tbl black pepper
  • olive oil
Spring Risotto:
  • 2 tbsp shallots, minced
  • 1 tbsp vegan margarine
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 3 cups veggie chick’n stock, hot
  • ¼ cup parmesan flavor grated topping
  • 1 tbsp vegan  margarine
  • 1 Tbl fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 Tbl fresh thyme, chopped
  • ½ cup (+) fava beans, cooked
  • ½ cup (+) baby portabella,sliced, cooked (I used an 8 ounce package)
  • ¼ cup Tofutti Better than Sour Cream
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
Red Wine Reduction:
  • 1 bottle red wine
  • 1 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 cup veggie beef or chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp balsamic
  • 1 tbsp slurry (corn starch + water)
  • 2 Tbl butter, cold
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


For the Spring Risotto:

1. Heat up saucepot and sweat shallots in margarine (do not brown) for 3 minutes. Add rice and coat with margarine. Deglaze with wine and cook until you can no longer smell alcohol.

2. Add veggie chicken stock one cup at a time stirring constantly until rice is cooked but still al dente.

3. Stir in parmeasan topping , more margarine, herbs, fava beans, and mushrooms, and season with salt and pepper. Off the heat stir in Better than Sour Cream

For the Red Wine Reduction:

1. Reduce wine, sugar, cacao, and stock by half. Adjust seasoning with 1 tablespoon balsamic (if needed, add other tablespoon). Add slurry to slightly thicken. Mount (I don’t know what that means? so I just added it) with margarine and whisk. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Beefless Tips:

1. Heat a pan and add oil. Add beefless tips, cocoa powder and pepper; sear until dark brown and warm throughout.

To Serve:

Place risotto in middle of plate. Place filet on top and spoon sauce around the risotto. Garnish with a couple of arugula leaves around plate (or not).

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Holiday Tart

For dinner tonight we had the Holiday Tart from VegNew. I had to make my own crust, because you cannot buy pre-made vegan crust in Woodstock. I also left out the cranberries, because that does not sound delicious. I think it would be better with a reduced-fat crust. Maybe Fat Free Vegan’s rice crust, because this is very good, but the flaky crust has so many fat and calories. I guess as a holiday treat this would be worth it, but for a Sunday dinner it was a bit too much.

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Christmas Baking, Part 1

Yesterday it was all about cupcakes. First up, Cream Soda Cupcakes with Whiskey Brown Sugar Frosting, which I entered into the Earth Balance cupcake contest (click here).

Cream Soda Cupcakes

  • 1 1/4 cup(s) of all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp. of arrowroot
  • 1 tsp. of baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. of baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. of salt
  • 1/2 cup(s) of white sugar
  • 1/4 cup(s) of brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup(s) of Earth Balance original soymilk
  • 1/2 tsp. of apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup(s) of cream soda
  • 1/3 cup(s) of canola oil
  • 1 tsp. of vanilla extract

Whiskey Brown Sugar Frosting

  • 1/4 cup(s) of Earth Balance margarine
  • 1/4 cup(s) of Earth Balance vegetable shortening
  • 2 cup(s) of powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup(s) of brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. of vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp. of whiskey
  • 1 tbsp. of Earth Balance original soymilk
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F and put cupcake liners in muffin pan.
  2. Whisk apple cider vinegar into non-dairy milk and set aside. Mix flour, arrowroot, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.
  3. In another bowl, combine sugars (white and brown), soy milk mixture, cream soda, oil and vanilla extract.
  4. Create a well in the middle of the flour mixture and pour in the liquid mixture. Stir until no large lumps remain.
  5. Fill cupcake liners 2/3 of the way. Bake 18 minutes (a toothpick should come out clean). Cool completely before frosting
  6. With an electric mixer, cream margarine and shortening until fluffy.
  7. Add brown sugar, 1/2 cup of powdered sugar, and vanilla. Add 1/2 cup more of powdered sugar with whiskey; then 1/2 cup of powdered sugar with soy milk. Taste for sweetness. Add the final 1/2 cup of sugar (I like my frosting super sweet) with any extra soy milk or whiskey.
  8. After cupcakes are cool, pipe frosting on top and enjoy!
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Next up, the basic chocolate from Vegan Cupcakes Take over the World with red and green swirled buttercream frosting.

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And finally, my holiday favorite, gingerbread cupcake with lemon buttercream frosting. Also from VCTOTW.

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And then they were boxed up in festive gift boxes.

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Top Chef Wednesday: Polenta with Eggplant Bacon Wrapped Shrimp & Port Wine Fig Sauce

Polenta with Eggplant Bacon Wrapped Shrimp & Port Wine Fig Sauce

Modified from Grayson Schmitz



  • 1 cup polenta
  • 1 umeboshi plum
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 3 1/2 cups non-dairy  milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons vegan margarine

Port Wine Fig Sauce:

  • 1 teaspoon vegan margarine
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 cup dried figs, chopped
  • 1/4 cup red onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 cup port wine
  • 1 1/2 cups red wine
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 6 cloves
  • 10 whole Allspice
  • 10 whole black peppercorns
  • 4 pieces star anise

Bacon Wrapped Shrimp:

  • 1.2 recipe of eggplant bacon
  • package of frozen vegan shrimp, thawed
  • 1 tablespoon thyme, picked
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Oil, as needed


  • Frisee greens (for example arugula)



1. Caramelize the shallots. Add the non-dairy milk, umeboshi plum, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer then whisk in the polenta. Simmer on low until most of the liquid has cooked out and the polenta is soft. Stir in the margarine.

Port Wine Fig Sauce:

1. In a medium saucepan, heat the margarine and sauté the shallot, dried fig and red onion. Season with the salt. When the mixture has sweat out, add the sugar and turn the heat to high. Caramelize the sugar, then add the port, red wine, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, black peppercorns and star anise. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Reduce the sauce until it is sauce consistency, nape (that means it coats the back of a spoon). Strain the sauce through a fine mesh strainer. Turn the heat off, then let the halved figs sit in the sauce to reconstitute.

Bacon Wrapped Shrimp:

1. Prepare eggplant bacon.

2. Lay out a strip of eggplant bacon and sprinkle thyme on each strip. Wrap the shrimp, thyme on the inside.  Repeat. Then, in a large sauté pan over medium high heat, using a bit of oil, sauté the bacon wrapped shrimp until hot.  Season to taste.


1. Place a handful of arugula on plate and add polenta on top, then place the shrimp on top of it in an interlocking position. Drizzle the sauce and place the figs.


H’s Favorite Two Nights in a Row

We had tacos on Monday. This was super easy: 1 package of Trader Joe’s Beefless Ground Beef,  taco seasoning (make sure there is no milk hidden in the ingredients), jar of salsa, box of taco shells, shredded lettuce and guacamole. Sauteed green pepper mixed into a can of Amy’s refried black beans. It was good. I loved having tacos as a kid and the flavoring and texture reminded me of  the beef tacos I ate way back in the day. I’ll have to pick up some more beefless ground beef the next time I’m as Trader Joe’s because this earned an H’s favorite award.

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I saw this recipe on Twitter this morning, Tofu & Miso Roasted Squash over soba noodles, and had almost all the ingredients at home. I used butternut squash instead of pumpkin and I think it worked okay. Maybe a little sweeter than the pumpkin would have been? The miso glaze and broth are amazing; H, in particular, liked the broth and once again called it his favorite. I’m looking forward to leftovers tomorrow.

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H’s Niu Rou Mian


It’s a Suburban Vegan first! H cooked dinner for me tonight. He took the rest of the week off, while I went back to work today, so he decided to veganize a popular Taiwanese dish: niu rou mian (beef noodles). H’s family ate this several times when we were in Taiwan, and now I get to experience it, too! The house smelled so good when I walked in.


H got the recipe from Noodle Fever

Vegetarian beef broth
Green onion and ginger
Soy sauce/salt to taste

2 tablespoons of canola oil
2 teaspoons of sugar
6 tablespoons of Szechuan peppercorn (I’m sure he used regular peppercorn)
2-3 tablespoons of minced (or grated) ginger
1 head of garlic, cloves peeled and minced
2-3 star anise (he used 1 tablespoon powdered star anise because he did not know we had star anise leftover from Thanksgiving cocktails)
2 tablespoons of spicy chili bean paste
1 tablespoon cayenne or Indian red chili powder (optional)

1.5-2 packages of Gardein Beefless Tips (H used 2, but said 1.5 might be better, but who uses 1/2 a package of Gardein)
½ lb of Chinese greens (H used bok choy)
Noodles (homemade or fresh store bought)
Green onions

1. Place beefless tips in a large pot or Dutch oven with enough broth to cover, plus a little more water (4:1 broth water ratio). Add about 4-5 stalks of green onion (well-rinsed) and 4-5 slices of ginger.  Cover and bring to a boil, then turn down to a strong simmer for about half an hour. Remove and discard green onion and ginger.

2. Heat the oil for the seasoning paste in a medium-sized frying pan. Add the sugar and stir until completely dissolved and just starting to caramelize (you will see a golden brown color appear in the bottom of the pan). Then add the rest of the seasoning paste ingredients and stir vigorously for about 90 seconds.  Throw this delicious mixture into the broth pot.

3.  Add soy/salt to taste. Simmer a couple minutes more. Remove the peppercorns and star anise with a skimmer.  The meat version simmers for hours, but you can’t do that with Gardein beefless tips. This might be a good recipe to make in the morning, let it sit in the fridge all day and reheat for dinner.

4. Prepare your noodles according to the package instructions. Blanch veggies in the same pot of water. In your soup bowl, place a ball of noodles, followed by veggies. Pour about two cups of broth over, then add a few pieces each of beefless tips. Scatter the top with green onions and serve.

This is so good on a cold winter day. It was pretty mild over Thanksgiving and the weather in Taiwan was in the 60s, but it is freezing cold in Chicago now.  This really hit the spot.

Taiwanese Breakfast

Except for our time at the Holiday Inn in T’aichong, we ate a traditional Taiwanese breakfast. Our first day in Taipei, the in-laws went to Fu-Hang Dou Jiang Dian (阜杭豆漿) and brought us back sweet and savory rolls, fried dough sandwiches and non-dairy milk (soy and rice are available). This place is wildly popular and you have to get in line early because they sell out. The in-laws spent 30 minutes in line the first day, all on the restaurant’s second floor. But on Sunday, the day I woke up at 6 to go with them, the line was down the stairs, out the door and to the corner (down the block!) It was at least an hour wait. We didn’t have time for that, so we went across the street. They ordered me a piece of fried bread wrapped in sticky rice with pickled veggies, soy milk and a sugar filled “ping” (pastry). I couldn’t eat the pastry, so I saved that for dinner (The only negative of the trip was being sick on Sunday and confined to my hotel bed in a Chinese Theraflu daze, which meant missing the traditional Taiwanese market, the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall and Sunday dinner).

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Monday morning, while still in bed for the 15th hour straight, my in-laws went out for breakfast, this time arriving before 6:00 a.m. Foiled again! The restaurant is closed on Mondays. Instead, they brought back a steamed vegetable bun (which H ate half of before declaring it vegetarian) and seaweed wrapped sticky rice.

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There was one last chance to visit the famed Taipei breakfast establishment before leaving Taiwan. A morning flight on a rainy weekday meant we needed to be ready for the 6:10 bus. My mother-in-law arrived at 5:20, 10 minutes before the restaurant opened and was still 16th in line! The good thing about not being able to get breakfast from Fu-Hang Dou Jiang Dian was that I knew how much better it is than the other places. There is a reason these lines are crazy. Like the first morning, I ate a veggie filled roll and a sugar pastry (and that is why I woke up at 4:30 to run on the treadmill, even though it meant asking the front desk to unlock the gym for me).

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