Nikki’s no-sugar, no-flour cookies

December 31, 2009 at 1:54 am (101 cookbooks, B plus (3.5 stars, like a lot), Cookies, Dessert, Grains)

I accidentally left my freezer open last night and everything in it defrosted.  I’m taking it as a higher power’s way of telling me it’s time to do some New Year’s cleaning.  I decided to start with a ziploc bag full of now uber-soggy bananas.  I was going to make banana bread when I came across the recipe for Nikki’s healthy cookies on the 101 cookbooks blog.  I’ve made vegan cookies with banana before (from the Rancho la Puerta cookbook I think) and they were terrible–fluffy and too-banana-y and not really anything like a cookie.  But the comments on Nikki’s recipe were almost universally positive, so I decided to give it a try. Read the rest of this entry »

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Vegetarian Pad Thai at Home

December 30, 2009 at 2:15 am (Derek's faves, East and SE Asia, Nancie McDermott, Other, Pasta, Starches, Tofu, unrated)

I love paht thai, but I rarely order it in restaurants anymore because I’m always disappointed by the oily, bland mockery they serve.  Restaurant pad thai is invariably insufficiently sour, and often too sweet.   Proper pad thai requires a careful balance of sweet, salty, and sour, as well as warm heat and a strong peanut flavor–two other features that are often lacking in restaurant versions of this popular dish.  Traditionally, pad thai is made with salty dried shrimp and fermented fish sauce.  Nancie McDermott, in her book Real Vegetarian Thai, suggests that vegetarians substitute Asian bean sauce (dao jiow), a pungent condiment made from salted, fermented soybeans.  She says that either the “brown bean sauce” or “yellow bean sauce” will work fine.  McDermott’s excellent cookbook includes a recipe for vegetarian phat thai that is superb, if decadent.  If you’re going to eat pad thai, and don’t have any excellent Thai restaurants around, I strongly suggest making it yourself rather than settling for another mediocre mockery.  Here’s Nancie’s recipe, with a few adjustments to reduce the oil content and speed up the process just a little. Read the rest of this entry »

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Bill’s ricotta hotcakes

December 27, 2009 at 11:33 pm (breakfast, F (0 stars, inedible), Necessarily nonvegan, Other)

Derek has very fond memories of eating Bill Granger’s  ricotta hotcakes when he ate at Bill’s in Sydney.  We finally got around to trying to make them ourselves last week. The recipe is all over the web, along with a huge number of really beautiful pictures of stacks and stacks of hotcakes.  Derek even tried to make the “sugar honeycomb” that’s used to make the crunchy “honeycomb butter”.  However, the recipe he used wasn’t very precise about heat or timing, and the honeycomb never crystallized.  It just ended up a big, hard slab of sticky sugary goo.  So we ended up eating our hotcakes with regular old maple syrup.

I thought the hotcakes were fine, but nothing special.  They tasted like good but not particularly unusual white-flour pancakes.  We used store-bought ricotta from the German grocery store.  Maybe the pancakes would have been significantly different if we would have had really fine, freshly-made ricotta.  As they were, however, they were simply okay.  I don’t think they were worth the calories.  I actually prefer a slightly heartier pancake, with a little more heft.  These were quite light and fluffy and “white” tasting. Rating: B-.

Derek thought that the texture was good, but the pancakes themselves were kind of bland, and undersalted.  He suspects that the honeycomb butter (and the crystallized crunch it adds) is the truly stellar part of the recipe.  Derek’s rating:  B-.

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Tofu and millet patties

December 27, 2009 at 11:10 pm (C (2 stars, okay, edible), Grains, The Vegan Gourmet, Tofu)

I wanted to use up some leftover millet, and decided to try a variation on the tofu patties in The Vegan Gourmet.  I figured I’d try out one more recipe before passing it on.  The recipe calls for bulgur rather than millet, but I figured the two grains are similar enough, and the substitution should work okay.

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Cornmeal cookies

December 27, 2009 at 10:53 pm (Alice Medrich, C (2 stars, okay, edible), Cookies, Dessert, Necessarily nonvegan)

Derek wanted to make almond crescent cookies, but we didn’t have enough almonds, or his mom’s recipe.  We decided to try these delicate cornmeal cookies instead.  The recipe is from Chocolate and the Art of Low-Fat Desserts by Alice Medrich.

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Two vegetarian cookbooks bite the dust

December 27, 2009 at 2:36 pm (Cookbook reviews, Crescent Dragonwagon, The Vegan Gourmet)

I am a collector of cookbooks, but a principled one.  I believe that a cookbook that is not cooked from is a cookbook whose purpose is unfulfilled.  If I don’t cook from a cookbook, then I shouldn’t own it.  I also believe in finishing cookbooks.  My ultimate goal is to finish every cookbook I own, where “finishing” means making every recipe that appeals to me.  (In other words, I can skip the recipes for eggplant parmigiana and blue cheese and artichoke ravioli.)  I try not to buy too many cookbooks, as I always feel guilty about all the cookbooks I already own that go untouched.  Still, sometimes my principles lapse a little and I buy myself a new present.  Other times, friends or family give me new cookbooks.  It’s two of these gifted cookbooks that I’ve been holding onto for years that finally bit the dust.

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French-style baked white beans

December 25, 2009 at 11:36 pm (Beans, French, My brain, unrated)

I’m not a fan of traditional tomato-y, ultra-sweet baked beans.  Instead, I put together a number of different “vegan cassoulet” recipes, and baked my beans with traditional French seasonings:  a base of carrot, celery, and onion, plus garlic, rosemary, thyme, and oregano.  I started out by “quick brining” my beans, as Cook’s Illustrated recommends.

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Spicy cauliflower simmered in red wine

December 25, 2009 at 11:17 pm (C (2 stars, okay, edible), Cruciferous rich, Italian, Jack Bishop, Vegetable dishes)

I love cauliflower, but other than cauliflower curry, I actually don’t have any standby recipes for it.  I was looking for something new to try, and I found this recipe in which the cauliflower is simmered in red wine instead of water.  It sounded interesting, and, as an added bonus, it would give me a chance to use up the red wine that we often have lying around from unfinished bottles. The recipe is from Jack Bishop’s The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook.

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Essential cookware for the vegetarian kitchen

December 25, 2009 at 4:05 pm (Equipment reviews)

Now that Christmas is over, it seems the perfect time to talk about purchasing pots and pans!  What cookware should you buy if you’re just starting out as a cook, or you have some extra cash (or someone itching to spend money on you) and you want to rebuild your cookware set from scratch?

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Potato, beet, and belgian endive salad with toasted hazelnuts

December 21, 2009 at 12:19 am (B_minus (2.5 stars), Peter Berley, Root vegetables, Salads, Starches, Winter recipes)

I bought some beets and potatoes at the farmer’s market and started looking around for something to do with them.  I found this recipe for a winter salad in Peter Berley’s modern vegetarian kitchen.  The potatoes and beets are each dressed separately–the potatoes in a lemon juice and olive oil vinaigrette and the beets with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic, and caraway seeds.  Then the two are mixed together and garnished with chopped, toasted hazelnuts and fresh dill.  The salad is meant to be served with endive petals.

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Eating vegetarian in New York City, October 2009

December 20, 2009 at 7:03 pm (Restaurant review, Trip report)

In October I spent ten days in New York City, and ate out at a number of new restaurants, and a few old ones.  We leaned pretty heavily towards Italian this trip, pretty much spurning all cuisines originating east of Italy.  Next time we go to NYC we’ll have to focus on Ethiopian, Chinese, and Indian!

This post took me a long time to finish, but hopefully I’ll soon finish up my post about all the cooking we did while we were in NYC, including the cooking class Derek and I took at the Natural Gourmet cooking school. Read the rest of this entry »

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Vegan macaroni and “cheese”

December 20, 2009 at 5:33 pm (Pasta, Soymilk, Starches, unrated, Website / blog)

There’s a large corner of the internet devoted to recipes for vegan macaroni and “cheese.”    When I was a kid I remember my mom making a recipe from the farm cookbook that calls for nutritional yeast and lots of oil.  Even though I love vegan mac n’ cheese, I can’t remember the last time I made it.  I often eat pasta with yeast and soy sauce, but not mac n’ cheese per se.  Last night Derek was craving something creamy and I had the brilliant idea of making him vegan macaroni and cheese, which he’s never had before.  I wanted something a little less rich than the farm recipe, and I finally settled on the creamiest vegan mac n’ cheese ever, which had received rave reviews from the Pink Haired Girl and others. Read the rest of this entry »

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Mom’s lentil soup or split pea soup

December 20, 2009 at 5:00 pm (Beans, Mom’s recipes, Quick weeknight recipe, soup, unrated)

I think I have about five different lentil soup recipes on this blog, yet I’ve somehow never gotten around to posting my mom’s recipe.  It’s a pretty simple, basic lentil soup recipe, but I think the particular combination of spices is quite nice.  Sometimes I add a little tomato paste or chipotle powder, or some frozen spinach before serving. Read the rest of this entry »

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Simple winter salsa

December 16, 2009 at 10:35 am (Mexican & S. American, Mom’s recipes, Sauce/dressing, unrated, Winter recipes)

Last night I made the recipe for pico de gallo from my mom’s blog, to accompany some black bean and sweet potato burritos.


  • 4 cups of canned small-diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup of lime juice, from one lime
  • 1/4 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 1 cup finely chopped cilantro, from 1 bunch
  • 1-2 jalapenos, with seeds


  1. Chop cilantro including stems to make about 1 cup.
  2. Chop onion, jalapeno and garlic, finely.
  3. Combine garlic, onion, cilantro, jalapeno and tomatoes.
  4. Add salt and lime juice.
  5. Let sit for at least 30 minutes to combine flavors.

My notes:

I used a large can of tomatoes with the juice, but only got about 3.5 cups total.  After letting the salsa sit for 30 minutes it tasted a bit bland.  I had added 1/4 tsp. salt but I added a little bit more, some chipotle powder, and some fresh ground cumin.  Those additions helped.  It wasn’t the greatest salsa ever, but it was perfectly fine.  I served it with the burritos and although I thought the sweet potato burritos actually go better with a green salsa verde, my guests seemed to like this red one–almost the entire bowl of salsa was eaten.  I only had about 1/2 cup left after the six of us were done with dinner.

The homesick Texan’s pico de gallo recipe is similar

4 cups ripe red tomatoes diced (about 8 medium tomatoes)
1/2 cup diced onion (about 1/2 of a small white onion)
2 tablespoon minced garlic (but she says from 2 cloves–she must have some massive cloves of garlic!)
4 Tbs. lime juice limes (but she says from 4 limes? are her limes very tiny?)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
4 jalapenos (stems and seeds removed) diced
1 tablespoon olive oil (she says it’s for flavor and texture, but can be omitted)
Salt to taste

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Hot candied walnuts

December 13, 2009 at 7:44 pm (B plus (3.5 stars, like a lot), Derek's faves, Dessert, Ice cream & toppings, Other)

Many years ago Katrina and Dan shared some of these nuts with us.  Derek immediately fell in love.  The recipe is originally from the book party nuts! by Sally Sampson.  We’ll probably be trying out some more of her recipes shortly. Read the rest of this entry »

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Roasted cauliflower with tomato and green olives

December 13, 2009 at 6:58 pm (B plus (3.5 stars, like a lot), Cruciferous rich, Italian, Meyer & Romano, Vegetable dishes)

This roasted cauliflower dish was the second dish we made last week from the Second Helpings from Union Square Cafe cookbook.  It’s similar in spirit to pasta puttanesca, but the base is cauliflower rather than pasta. Read the rest of this entry »

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Polenta with white beans, chard, and celery

December 13, 2009 at 6:48 pm (C (2 stars, okay, edible), Meyer & Romano, Other, Starches, Vegetable dishes)

I asked Derek what to make for dinner and he suggested making something out of Second Helpings from Union Square Cafe, which we haven’t used in a long time.  There’s not much vegetarian in the main course section, but we found two yummy looking recipes in the chapter on sides.  The first recipe was a relatively light recipe for soft polenta with white beans and veggies.  It didn’t call for any butter or cream or cheese, just olive oil. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tofu in garlic-thyme vinaigrette

December 12, 2009 at 2:08 pm (Baked tofu, C (2 stars, okay, edible), Peter Berley, Tofu)

I really like Berley’s recipe for tofu baked in white wine, mustard, and dill.  The recipe directly opposite that one in Berley’s cookbook is a similar recipe for tofu baked in a garlic, thyme vinaigrette.  I vaguely remember trying it once before, and not finding it all that exciting, although Derek liked it quite a bit.  Since I have no record on my blog or notes in my cookbooks, I decided to try it again.

The vinaigrette calls for olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, thyme, salt, red pepper flakes, and “2 bay leaves, crumbled”.  I’m not sure exactly how you crumble bay leaves, but both times I tried this recipe I ended up with jagged pieces that were not pleasant to eat.  I thought maybe I should have tried to remove the pieces of bay leaf, but there were enough pieces that it would have been a pain, plus the recipe doesn’t mention removing them.

Other than the prickly bay leaves, the recipe was fine.  I wouldn’t make it again though.  The tofu seemed a bit greasy to me, and it doesn’t end up very flavorful.  Even after baking it for a long time, the center of each piece was still white and bland and kind of raw tasting.  The marinade didn’t infuse the tofu with flavor like the Greek marinade does.

Derek liked this recipe more than me, both times I made it.  He scarfed it down happily.  I didn’t ask him for a rating, but he would have probably said B or B+.

Rating: B-

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Carrot barley soup with mushrooms, thyme, lentils, and miso

December 9, 2009 at 12:11 am (B_minus (2.5 stars), Jewish, Miso, Mom’s recipes, My brain, soup)

When I was a kid my mom would often make carrot barley soup.  There was something uber-comforting about the warm, orange broth and fluffy, exploded barley kernels.  I had some barley in the pantry and decided to make carrot barley soup for dinner, but Derek objected.  He would accede only if I made it into a miso soup.  I wasn’t in the mood to cook, so I decided to also throw in some mushrooms and red lentils to make it a one pot meal.  And thus, this soup was born.


  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 8 ounces grated carrot (about 1.5 cups tightly packed, or 2 medium carrots)
  • 9 ounces chopped onion (about 2 cups)
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced (about 3 cups)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 9 cups stock or water + no-salt bouillon
  • 1/2 cup pearled barley
  • 1/2 cup red lentils
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large garlic clove, peeled
  • 1 tsp. minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 Tbs. red miso
  • 2 Tbs. chopped parsley (optional)


  1. In a 4-6 quart pot heat the olive oil over high heat.  When it’s hot add the carrots, onion, mushrooms, and salt.  Reduce the heat to medium-ghigh. Saute for 10 minutes, or until the vegetables stop releasing water.
  2. Add in the water, barley, black pepper, garlic clove, thyme leaves, and bay leaves.  Bring to a boil, then cook over low heat for 1 1/2 hours.
  3. When the soup is done, mix in the miso. Either mix it in a separate bowl with some of the broth from the soup, or put it in a sieve and slowly push it through into the soup.  Garnish with fresh chopped parlsey and serve immediately.


I didn’t have any parsley so I left it out.

The red lentils totally dissolved, but added a bit of grittiness to the soup.  The sliced mushrooms ended up slightly rubbery but I liked the textural contrast compared to the gritty lentils and the fluffy barley.   I couldn’t decided if the red lentils added depth to the flavor profile, or if they muddied up the pure flavors of the soup.  Similarly with the miso.  I just couldn’t figure out whether the miso added a nice umame flavor, or muddied it up.  The thyme, on the other hand, was clearly a great addition.  I think the soup would have even benefited from another 1/2 tsp. or 1 tsp. of thyme added at the end.  Of course, if I had had parsley maybe the extra thyme would have clashed with the parsley.

Derek ended up liking the soup.  He said he’d eat it again, but he wouldn’t yearn for it.  He gave it a B.  He liked the barley, and said that with enough salt it had good flavor.  He thought the flavor was a bit muddy, but the soup was pretty satisfying.

I enjoyed the soup.  I think perhaps it could be improved a little, but it was very comforting and satisfying, just like my mom’s carrot barley soup.  Rating: B.

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Mini crustless tofu quiches

December 5, 2009 at 12:26 am (Cruciferous rich, Silken tofu, Soymilk, unrated, Website / blog)

I had some expiring silken tofu in the fridge and felt like eating something savory.  I love how Isa Moskowitz uses silken tofu to simulate eggs in Vegan with a Vengeance, so I thought I would give these mini quiches from the fat free vegan blog a try.

I didn’t have any mushrooms so I used small broccoli florets instead.  I didn’t have the chives so I left them out.  I used tahini for the nut butter and lowfat milk instead of soymilk.  I used arrowroot instead of cornstarch.  I didn’t have any oil spray so I brushed my muffin tins with olive oil instead.

The batter tasted good.  The nutritional yeast flavor dominated, giving it a savory, umame flavor.  I couldn’t taste any of the other ingredients individually (not even the rosemary) but I think they contributed to the depth of flavor.   The texture of the batter, however, was very powdery from the arrowroot.

I didn’t have enough batter to fill my muffin tins halfway.  I’m not sure if I didn’t do a good job of scraping all the batter out of the food processor and skillet, or if my muffin tins are just a little bit bigger than Susan’s.

I took the quiches out of the oven after 20 minutes, since I was using metal muffin tins, and a knife came out clean.  However, after letting the quiches cool down, I couldn’t get them out.  I’m not sure if I greased insufficiently or didn’t cook them long enough.  The top of the quiches had a nice firm eggy texture but the rest kind of resembled mashed up raw tofu.  They tasted pretty good, and they were definitely low calorie.  I’ll probably try this recipe again sometime, and see if I can get them to firm up more and come out of the tins.

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