Saturday, December 24, 2011

Chili recipe -- my Xmas gift to you!

There are a few dishes I feel that I just have down. This includes my red beans and rice, and my gumbo (recipe coming soon). The first recipe I ever truly feel like I truly mastered though was my chili. I've been making vegetarian chili for probably 13 years or so now, and I have settled on a basic process -- it's like I make chili on autopilot at this point.

A lot of vegan chili recipes call for some sort of fake meat, like tvp, Boca crumbles, or something comparable. I tend to like fake meat products, but for some dishes like this I think it's best to leave out processed stuff when you can. The role of meat in this dish is played by the diced mushrooms. I prefer crimini mushrooms (as I love the flavor they add), but any mushroom will work. Note they are diced, not sliced! For one thing, having little cubes of chewiness is preferable to having large slices for the same reason that having smaller pieces of meat would be better than having large strips or chunks of meat in your chili. If you absolutely must, you can use a meat substitute, and for some things (like gumbo) it's kind of unavoidable to use something processed like that, but I like to avoid it when I can. One day I might experiment with dicing some seitan that I make myself, but i don't see it topping mushrooms.

I also don't like majorly non-traditional stuff in my chili -- no celery, no squash, and certainly no fucking carrots. This is not something that is supposed to be a montage of good healthy ingredients, or even stuff that you happen to like. It's supposed to be simple, flavorful, and robust. It's there to kick your ass, not be your artistic medium of culinary expression you fucking hippie. This is chili, not vegetable soup.

Another note -- the prep time for this chili is at the least two and a half hours, so keep in mind this is not something you can just whip up at the last minute.

  • Two medium onions, diced
  • One large green bell pepper, diced
  • One head (that's right, a whole head) of garlic, minced
  • 16 oz of mushrooms, diced (I prefer criminis)
  • Several tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • Red pepper flakes, however much you think you can handle (no more than 3 tablespoons unless you are really bad ass)
  • Chili powder, 5-6 tablespoons
  • Brown sugar, 4 tablespoons
  • Salt, not too much (you can always add salt; you can't take it out)
  • Large can of crushed tomatoes
  • Large can of diced tomatoes
  • Three cans of beans (I used one each of black, red and navy)
  • A 12 oz. bottle or can of beer
Get a good sturdy pot and coat the bottom with your olive oil. Saute your onions and green pepper over medium-high heat. While doing this add at least some of your red pepper flakes. I like to get the heat going in there early. (I like to add more a little later after tasting for a sort of layered effect of the hotness, but that's not necessary at all.) After the onions are getting translucent cut the heat down to medium and add the garlic. Continue the saute for about two minutes and then add the mushrooms.

Keep the saute going until the mushrooms cook down and are saturated with moisture. Then turn up the heat to high and add the beer. Any type of non-flavored beer works, and will do slightly different things to the chili. I've tried IPAs, lighter wheat ales, darker ales, lagers, and they all work. During the colder months I like to use Schlafly Oatmeal Stout. Bring that up to a boil and add the chili powder and brown sugar. Keep this boil going for three or so minutes. Be sure to stir it to make sure nothing sticks.

After this add all the tomatoes and the beans. I don't drain the beans, I just pour the whole can in there. (Now you can use cooked beans of your own if you want of course, but you will need to add some water.) Bring it up to a simmer.

If you happen to do a quick taste at this point don't expect much. It won't taste great. You're going to have let this simmer for at least a couple of hours before it's ready. Make sure to stir it at least every fifteen minutes, scraping the bottom well so nothing sticks for too long. A little sticking will probably happen though, and that's no big deal at all, but you don't want any charring. During this time you can also give it an occasional taste to see if it needs anything, like more chili powder (as all chili powders are not created equal), or more red pepper flakes (or cayenne pepper if you want).

So after a few hours you will have a pot of kick ass chili. I like to eat mine over thin spaghetti noodles, also known as chili-mac (which is probably the Midwest's sole positive contribution to Western civilization).

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Rotel "cheese" dip - way overdue update just in time for bowl season!

Okay, so I was out drinking last night with friends, and got scolded by The Little Vegan that Could for never updating this thing. She's right -- I'm just fucking lazy. Every time I make a new post I resolve to "do better." And I never do. Meh. Whatever. Maybe I will start to post more. We'll see.

So yeah, I've been meaning to share this dip that I whipped up a few weeks ago when I was craving cheese dip. As someone that LOVES college football, I'm glad I managed to get this post down before college bowl season, as this is a vegan take on a tailgating classic.

Aside about college football: It's been a great year to be an LSU fan. Not only are we* in the national championship game, but have the chance to become one of the best college football teams of all time. An LSU player -- a DEFENSIVE player no less! -- got invited to the Heisman Trophy presentation. This was a great year for us, and it will be even better after we kick Bama's ass again in Nawlins. Geaux Tigers!

*Yes, I use the inclusive plural pronoun -- roll your eyes all you want, I really don't give a shit. Plus I actually went to LSU, so I'm not a sidewalk alumnus.

Okay, this is a food blog, so back to food stuff. Here's how to do it:

  • A can of Rotel (whatever kind you like -- I like the hot kind)
  • A can of coconut milk
  • 4 tablespoons of garlic powder
  • 5 tablespoon of nutritional yeast flakes
  • Arrowroot slurry (3 tablespoons of arrowroot powder mixed with a cup of water)
  • Salt to taste
This is super easy to make. Simple heat up the Rotel and c milk in a pot and add the dry ingredients when it start to simmer. Then all the slurry a bit at a time and stir it in. It should start to thicken pretty nicely. Add as much as you want to get your desired thickness.

This is great to dip chips in, and will legitimately remind you of the one good use for Velveeta -- making a fake cheese dip, only this time instead of the dairy-infused plastic product you are using coconut milk. This is perfect when you get that craving for food made out of petroleum products.

So enjoy bowl season y'all, and remember, Auburn sucks!

Obligatory. Also, my ringtone.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Stuff to do with baked potatoes

Potatoes are rad. They are easy to prepare, cheap, taste good and aren't inherently bad for you. Okay, about that last part... you know I'm about to suggest some bad-for-you stuff here. That's my shtick I guess, and I like to think I'm pretty good at it.

Baking a potato is super easy. All you have to really do is nuke it. Sure you could wrap it in foil and bake it for like 40 minutes (or longer), but why bother when you can stick it in the microwave for a few minutes and have a well baked potato? What I do is poke a large potato with a fork several times (after washing it), and stick it in the microwave for five minutes. Then I flip it over and put three more minutes on it. If you prefer the oven method more power to you, but this is more in line with my philosophy of general laziness and doing shit fast.

A lot of people have a favorite topping they like on baked potatoes, but I thought I would suggest a couple that might seem a little unusual, but really good. The first is margarine and and Italian vinaigrette. It sounds weird, but trust me, Italian dressing is an amazing baked potato topping.

The other thing I like to do with my baked potatoes is after cutting it open and laying it out, put a Moningstar Farms Riblet on it. Be sure to get all the sauce out of that packet and put it on the potato; that stuff is really good and it's a shame to waste any of it.

Speaking of not wasting anything: [*vrrrrooooOOOOOOMMMMM* redneck powers engaged!]

Okay, now that you've eaten your potato, you're left with a lot of potential deliciousness that most people just throw away. Yeah, I'm talking about the peels. Here's what I like to do with my left over baked potato peels: wrap them up or put them in a container in the fridge, and when the mood strikes you, throw them in a hot skillet with some oil, maybe some diced onion, and fry those bad boys up. I like to dump ketchup on top and eat this for a snack, though if you save them up you can make a nice little hashbrown-esque breakfast. Other stuff you can add are bell peppers, copped garlic, tomatoes, or pretty much anything else. Hell, I bet some fake sausage stuff would work well, though I've never tried it. Cracked black pepper is also good on it, though honestly if you just fry the potato peels up and add ketchup that's really good on its own.

Monday, September 5, 2011

RAEG!!!11!1 Self-righteous vegan stupidity

If there's one thing that pisses me off about fellow vegans (or anyone, really), it's when they seemingly go around looking for things to get pissed off about. I often say that if you look for something to be offended about then you will invariably be successful. Usually when self-righteous vegans go the "OMFGZ this is SO offensive" route it's in the form of criticizing something an omnivore wrote or said about the vegan diet. Often times this involves simple ignorance or bad logic being misinterpreted (often willfully) for maliciousness and deceit.

I'm not a guy that goes around being angry all the time. I'm like this in my everyday life, and I take that with me in my animal rights stances. I like to think I take things in stride. Sometimes though, I come across something that legitimately makes me rage, and this often comes in the form of vegans criticizing other, "inferior" vegans. There are two common types of sniping attacks vegans make against other vegans. The first is healthier vegans are better than vegans that eat bad-for-you food. Obviously I don't buy into this "philosophy" at all. I'm vegan for the critters, not for myself. The second type of vegan on vegan crime is a self righteous anti-fake meat position.

Now if you want to eat your super healthy hippy shit I'm cool with that. Just because I'm willing to put stuff that's less than good for me in my body, and believe that exercise is for women doesn't mean that I expect you to agree, much less live by this ethos. Similarly, while I love fake meat, I realize that the very thought of meat grosses some people out, so if they don't happen to share my personal tastes I try not to take it personally. I mean, that's just more seitan for the rest of us.

But I refuse to feel guilty because of my tastes, and when some self-righteous asshole tries to put me in my proper "place" I'm gonna call him on his shit! Case in point: this bullshit.

Yeah, well I know maybe I should expect this kind of nonsense from a mushy-headed liberal outfit like alternet, but unfortunately this kind of sentiment has a lot of currency within the vegan community at large. There are a lot of high-horse vegans that look down on people like me, that love seitan, Boca nuggets and chik patties, and those awesome Morningstar Riblets.

This is the thing: I LOVED meat. I didn't give up meat because I didn't like it, but rather because I didn't think it was right to eat it. Giving it up was not easy for me. It was damn hard. Frankly, it would be much harder to be vegan if it weren't for fake meat. So when someone writes something like this, I have to shake my head.

...the next time you go shopping, imagine what a kid gleans from veggie burgers, veggie bacon, veggie sausage patties, veggie hot dogs, Tofurky and all the other similar fare that defines a modern plant-based diet. While none of it contains meat, it is all marketed as emulating meat. In advertising terms, that’s the “unique selling proposition” -- to give you the epicurean benefits of meat without any of meat’s downsides.
[This is] the vegetarian industry selling itself to meat eaters by suggesting that its products aren’t actually all that different from meat. The problem is how that message, like so many others in American culture, reinforces the wrongheaded notion that our diet should be fundamentally based on meat.

For those who have chosen to be vegetarians, this message is merely annoying. But for those like [the author's young son] who are being raised as vegetarians, the message is downright subversive. It teaches them that as tasty as vegetarian food may be, it can never compete with the “real thing.”

Raising your kid vegetarian is great -- if I have kids I plan to do that myself. But if you have trouble coming to terms of how to explain to your kid that seitan, Tofurkey, and fake nuggets are different from meat, well no offense, but maybe you should not have had kids in the first place. Call me crazy, but stuff like sex, drugs and the like are the thing I know that I would worry about, not concern of explaining to my kid why these horrible things called Gardenburgers exist.

Make no mistake -- this kind of bullshit it NOT about concern for animals. This is about aesthetics. This is about people have an ideological problem with even the idea of consuming animals, and finding animal products undesirable for stylistic reasons rather than ethical ones. Ultimately this kind of all-or-nothing stance is not only detrimental to veganism and animal rights in general, but it's downright cult-like, imposing limitations on not only what we consume but imposing criteria on how we are supposed to think about what we consume. And we wonder why some people associate vegans with being cultist! It's dumbass garbage like this -- some of us unfortunately ARE cultists! (And hiding behind your child to justify your Orwellian views is not only lame, it's fucking pathetic.)

Like it or not, humans evolved eating meat. Many of us crave it (I know I do), probably for evolutionary reasons. This does not justify it from a moral perspective; just because something is "natural" doesn't make it moral or ethical. We don't need to consume animals to live, or even to live comfortably. Thankfully, thanks to some really great meat substitutes I don't need to kill an animal to get my meat fix. And I know I'm not alone. I honestly don't know if I could be vegan if I could not satiate my meat tooth -- I like to think that I could (I am pretty serious about being vegan), but there would be a lot of people that gave up being vegetarian if you get rid of the fake meat products. 

So you keep brainwashing your child Mr. David Sirota, instilling him with the evils tempeh BLTs and Tofu Pups. I'll keep making my vegan Alfredo sauce, my awesome seitan, barbecue sandwiches, tacos, and the like. And if you think I'm hurting the movement, then you may kindly kiss my chubby vegan ass.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Garlicky Alfredo sauce and Friday night nothingness

I'm insanely bored and restless feeling -- I'm stuck in my home state of Mississippi tonight, alone, listening to Fugazi, and for some reason not getting drunk. So this is as good of a time as any to share something I made last night with the masses (and by masses I mean the three people that will actually read this).

I'm visiting my grandfather -- a true Mississippi good ol' boy -- and decided that while I'm here running various errands, I will also use his thoroughly unsophisticated pallet to experiment. I take this as a challenge; if I can make this man, who thinks pork is its own food group, love something that I made then I've accomplished something. I've done this with chili, a dish I've pretty much mastered (I contend that I make the world's best vegetarian chili. No, your's is not better, nor is Isa Moskowitz's or Jesus Christ's -- mine is the best. Game. Set. Match.)

So, I had a recipe for vegan Alfredo sauce in my head that needed to get out. I made it, and it was a success. He said, he LOVED it. He was amazed that it had no meat or dairy at all in it, which is pretty much what I'm going for. The sacrifice is, of course, health. This is not a healthy dish, but holy Christ Jesus Hisself it's pretty damn good if I do say so myself.

  • One regular size can of coconut milk
  • Several (4-5) tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • Half a cup (no more) of all purpose flour
  • Several cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • Fresh cracked black pepper
  • Generic dried Italian seasoning mix
  • A glass of water (or veggie broth)
  • Salt
  • Pasta of your choice (16 oz.)
(You will do this while simultaneously preparing your pasta.)

Start off by heating the oil in a pan or small pot on medium high heat with your garlic in there. When it starts to fry a little stir it around so it doesn't stick or burn. Then you want to add your flour to make a roux. Add it slowly, a little at a time. You don't want to add too much; ideally you want the same amount of flour and oil. You will stir it for a couple of minutes. You don't want to cook the roux too long because you want a light one for this dish. Also, be sure to keep stirring! A burned roux is not a good thing.

Add the can of coconut milk and stir it well. The roux will be stuck to the bottom, so make good and sure you get it all. While that heats up add a good bit of fresh cracked black pepper and your Italian seasoning. Stir it in and notice that the consistency of the sauce is like a gravy. (In fact, your sauce should look a lot like white sausage gravy.) You will add water or broth a little bit at a time, stirring it in until it's a proper consistency. Add salt to taste.

Pour is over your prepared pasta in a large pot or some other appropriate serving receptacle. This can feed three hungry people. It's good.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


It's been too long. Well I will try to do better. This blog doesn't have a huge following anyway, but that certainly won't change if I insist on going awol for months at a time.

For this you will need to make my seitan. (Other, inferior seitan might also work.) You need about 2 cups or so. I like them sliced into strips. It gives them a steak-like feel. If that freaks you out, well sorry, but some of us vegans miss meat and liked it. So deal.

  • 2 cups of sliced seitan
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Shredded lettuce or greens
  • 8 hard taco shells
  • 2 tablespoons taco seasoning (you can sub chili powder in a pinch)
  • A small glass of water
  • Whatever extras you want (salsa, pico de gallo, guacamole, taco sauce, sour cream, whatever)
First, prepare your taco shells. Try to time it where they are warm when ready to eat.

Saute the diced onion on medium-high heat for a couple on minutes until it starts to get a little translucent. Add the seitan and cook for several minutes until good and hot, and starting to brown a little.

Add the taco seasoning and stir it in. It will be dry, which is where the water comes in. Pour a little in, and savor that cool hissing sound. You will add it until the bottom is good and watery. (Add a little at a time so you don't add too much.) You shouldn't be adding more than a few tablespoons. The goal is to make the tacos really good and tender, not to make fajita soup. If you do add a little much you can boil it out. Otherwise cover it for a couple of minutes.

It should be really tender and ready to put into your prepared taco shells. Add the shredded lettuce and whatever else you want.

This is a pretty simple and very good meal. It's easy to make -- the hardest part is the cleaning. But that's what women are for, right?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Louisiana style red beans and rice

Living (currently) as a southern boy transplanted to the midwest, one thing that I see constantly done wrong here is red beans and rice. Most people around here have no clue what real, Louisiana style red beans and rice is like. When I first moved to Saint Louis almost five years ago I was really stoked about all the vegetarian and vegan options there are for eating out. (Many of the local veggies here bitch, which I marvel at; Saint Louis is likely the most underrated vegan friendly city in the country -- and I've been to the supposed vegan meccas of Portland and San Francisco.) So imagine my horror when I order "red beans and rice"as a vegan selection on a local bar's menu and get basically whole kidney beans with a thin soupy broth served over rice.

First of all red beans and rice are NOT made with kidney beans. Understand that. True red beans and rice use the small red beans. Furthermore, the finished product is not simply whole beans in a broth, but creamy and thick, and not soupy at all.

  • One pound (regular 16 oz. package) of small red beans
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 head of garlic (yes, a whole head), minced
  • 4 decent sized sprigs rosemary, finely chopped
  • 5 bayleaves
  • 1/2 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • One regular (32 oz.) carton of vegetable broth
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt
The first thing you do is soak your beans overnight in plenty of water. The alternative to this is the quick soak method. The quick soak method is basically boiling the ever living shit out of dry beans for a few minutes, then taking them off the heat and letting them sit for an hour. It works, but I recommend an overnight soak, as the beans end up a better, more evenly cooked finished product.

After your beans are soaked the next step is to cook them. Throw out the soaking water and replace it with until the beans are well covered with water. Boil them for an hour with your bayleaves. After they are done drain them set them to the side.

Saute your onions, bell pepper, and celery on high heat until the onions start to caramelize. Turn your heat down to medium and add the garlic and the red pepper flakes. (If you think you are bad ass you can add a whole tablespoon, but any more than that and I think the heat starts to take away from the flavor of the red beans.) Stir this for a few minutes making sure it doesn't burn, then add half of your veggie broth.

Bring everything up to a vigorous boil and add half of your rosemary. Let it boil for a three or so minutes, then add your drained, cooked red beans (with the bayleaves) and the rest of your veggie broth. Bring it up to a boil then turn the heat down a little to medium-high. You want a good simmer going on here -- you don't want a full boil but you also don't want a light simmer either. These need to cook about an hour and a half. You need to be sure to stir regularly to make sure the beans don't stick to the bottom and burn. You will also need to add some water a couple of times (a cup or so at a time) as it cooks down. About 45 minutes or so into this process add the rest of the rosemary. Also, take a little taste and add salt accordingly.

Another thing that I like to do toward the end, but is optional, is to take a potato masher and mash the beans up a bit. This gets them a little creamier, which I like.

Serve over rice. Choose your own beans to rice ratio. You can add some hot sauce if you want. Also, this is one of those dishes that's better the next day, so don't eat it all up immediately.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Side dish: roasted cauliflower

I'm a true food nerd. Often times I have a recipe in my head that I just have to try out. These ideas for dished just pop into my head form time to time. A couple of months ago I had dinner with some friends who made a simple and delicious roasted cauliflower dish that was styled on Indian cuisine. They just took various spices and coated cauliflower florets with and roasted it. Cauliflower already has a pretty good natural taste to it in my opinion, and the spice combination did a decent job of complimenting this natural flavor.

Ever since then, and after tweaking and "perfecting"* my marinade, I've been thinking of how to take the great interaction that exists between chili powder and brown sugar and add it to other dishes. For some reasons combining those two ingredients seems to give rise to a new flavor that is better than the sum of their parts. So I decided that instead of using Indian spices I would experiment and alter my marinade to work as a spice mixture with which to roast cauliflower.

So here's what I did -- and it was good.

  • One head of cauliflower
  • 1/2 cup of soy sauce
  • 1/8 cup white vinegar
  • 2.5 tablespoons of chili powder
  • 3 tablespoons of brown sugar
Chop the head of cauliflower into florets and set it aside. Add all the other ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir well until well mixed. Add the florets a few at a time and stir into the spice mixture, making sure each piece is coated, after which you will add it to a roasting pan or casserole dish. Keep doing this until all the cauliflower is covered. Put it in preheated oven at 425F uncovered for 10 minutes. Then take it out and stir it, and put it back in for another 10 minutes.

That should do it. If you don't think there is enough of the spice mixture (some cauliflower heads are bigger than others) then add more of each ingredient. This dish goes really well with my meatloaf. I had it the other night.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Guacamole -- K.I.S.S.

I had a bit of a get-together yesterday. I'm not allowed to drink alone any more, so I have to invite people over when I want to get drunk. And while I was at it I figured I should set things on fire in my backyard have a barbecue. Anyway, this isn't another grilling post. I just got a request for the recipe for my guacamole, which by my own admission is pretty damn good. Avocados were on sale at Whole Paycheck for a buck each, so I grabbed seven and decided to make a nice big bowl. I'm going to keep this recipe smaller though.

The trick to making good guacamole is, in my opinion, keeping it pretty simple. You don't need to add a lot of ingredients. This goes along with my general opinion on cooking and food prep in general, which is that you want to use as few ingredients as possible when making anything. This is a constant topic of debate between me and my friend Anna, which is fine. She's a sweet girl and completely entitled to her wrong-ass opinion.

  • 2 avocados
  • 1/2 medium red onion, diced
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 6 grape tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 small lime wedge
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
Mix this up however you see fit. If your avocados are not that ripe then you can put the lime juice and the tomatoes in first, as the acidity will break the avocados down a bit. Also, this is one of the things I like to just mix using my (usually washed) hands; you can squish it around pretty good and mix it fairly easily.

You can of course, as with pretty much anything else I put on this blog, adjust this as you see fit. If you have regular or roma or cherry tomatoes those will work. You can add a little cayenne pepper if you want a kick, or cilantro if you want to make it disgusting. (Sorry, I know this sounds insane to some people, but I do not like cilantro -- I think it tastes like soap.)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Setting shit on fire, portabellas, and the ultimate marinade

The weather is starting to get somewhat warm, so that means going outside and setting shit on fire -- a practice otherwise frowned upon in our society -- is perfectly acceptable under the auspices of "grilling." Now we all know that grilling is really just an excuse to satiate our barbaric pyromaniac tendencies. I don't care what those silly hippie ass raw foodists say; it's natural baby! The human race has been burning the ever living shit out anything and everything that's even halfway edible for thousands of years now, and I do mean anything and everything.

Yes, this is me. Yes, I was drunk. Yes, this is really fucking stupid.

Well since we are playing with fire, and doing so under the auspices of cooking, I figure we might as well want to do a halfway decent job while we're at it. There are several awesome things to cook on the grill. Hippie dogs are good; my favorite variety is the Yves'. Corn in the husk is great, though I suggest you soak them in water first (and add a little Tony Chachere's seasoning while eating). There are other obvious things like seitan, burgers, various veggies, etc. My favorite thing to grill though by far are portabella mushrooms.

I'm talking about those big boys they sell that look like small umbrellas. If you are gonna buy these then I suggest that you buy them in bulk. You can get really good deals at farmer's markets. You will be amazed how cheaply you can get some.

The great thing about portabellas is that they are great for marinating and grilling. They are very porous and taste amazing after being grilled. I developed a marinade especially for grilling portabellas that I'm pretty damn proud of, and can be used for all kinds of things, grilling or not. Anyway, here are the ingredients:
  • One cup soy sauce
  • One cup veggie broth
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 5 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3-4 tablespoons chili powder
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
Add this all together and that's it. I suggest you allow at least and hour to marinate the mushrooms in a plastic bag or whatever you want to use; I like to use large plastic bags as I can freeze and reused the marinade. This stuff also goes well with squash (marinated), seitan (brushed on while on the grill), and even brussel sprouts (though you need to marinate for a while), and will certainly work with lots of stuff I have not even thought of yet.

Good luck and enjoy this excuse to go outside and burn things!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

"Meat"loaf, thoughts, excuses, and whatnot

I told myself when I created this blog that I would never let it go this long without an entry. And of course I did. Oh well. I've been dealing with a lot of family and other personal stuff lately. My redneck grandmother just passed away, and I have been doing what I can for my redneck family to give them all the white trash support they needed.

Anyway, I thought I should post a recipe for meatless meatloaf and give a few thoughts on making it. Faux meatloaf is something I have been trying to perfect for a while now. I could always manage to make it taste pretty good, but I could never really get the consistency right. It was always too crumbly, falling apart whenever I tried to cut it with my fork. I got a couple of more ideas to try out after having a really great fake meatloaf at a vegetarian restaurant here in Saint Louis. It tasted great, and didn't fall apart when eating it. I asked our server how it was made and he said with just a handful of ingredients.

I think the problem with my meatloaf before was that I was simply putting too many ingredients in it. I was basically trying to copy real meatloaf recipes, and they would add lots of stuff like ketchup or barbecue sauce, which would loosen the consistency, which was easily made up for by adding eggs. Egg substitute, in my experience, simply doesn't work all that well. So first I simply stopped adding anything to the mixture that would make the final product too loose.

The other end of the consistency issue is to find something better to bind it, and I think I found a pretty good solution to this. Instead of adding regular bread crumbs I used crumbs made from a bagel in a food processor. Bagels are sticky enough that the crumbs do an excellent job of holding the mixture together.

Finally, one thing i was doing with my "meat"loaf was simply making it too high. You don't want to loaf to be more than two inches thick. This makes it much easier to cut.

Okay here is a recipe that should make you a pretty good vegan meatloaf:

  • 16 oz of fake meat (I used Match, but Gimmie Lean, Boca Crumbles or even TVP should work fine)
  • Half a medium onion, diced
  • Several (4 or 5) cloves of garlic, minced
  • Bagel crumbs from one bagel (made in a blender or food processor)
  • One tablespoon (several sprigs) of finely clopped fresh rosemary
  • Olive oil
  • Liquid smoke
  • Ketchup or barbecue sauce (for the glaze)

Saute the onions in a pan, adding the garlic after they start to caramelize. Set aside and mix together all the ingredients except for the ketchup for the glaze. Form into two elongated loaves, about six inches long, two inches wide, and one and a half or so high. Form a shallow channel down the middle going the length of each loaf. Add your glaze, spreading generously on the top and on the sides of the loaves.

Cover with foil and bake in a greased making dish or cast iron skillet at 425F for an hour. Take out and remove the foil and add more ketchup glaze, and put back in the oven for another 15 minutes and that's it.

I really like the flavor of rosemary in this dish. I'm a fan of rosemary anyway (it's probably my favorite herb), but it goes especially good in this dish. This "meat"loaf goes very well with salad, mashed potatoes, rice, or pretty much anything nice and starchy.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Barbecue sauce from scratch

I love a good barbecue sauce. I like a good traditional Kansas City style sauce -- that's a sweet tomato based sauce that most commercial sauces are based on. I've made my own years ago, and it turned out okay, but not good enough that i would want to try to recreate it. Plus I didn't totally even remember what I did, so I started over, and created a recipe of my own based on bits and pieces of informations from various recipes.

One thing I noticed is that most recipes called for ketchup. Now I love ketchup, and I an almost religious admirer of Heinz ketchup, but I wanted a more made from scratch thing here. I take pride in my cooking, and making barbecue sauce that's little more than suped-up ketchup isn't really my style.

So, based on all this I'm going to give the following recipe. This will make a a sweet and tomatoey sauce.

  • One large can of crushed tomatoes
  • Half of a small red onion, finely chopped
  • Five to seven cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • White vinegar -- 1/3 cup
  • Liquid smoke -- 1/2 teaspoon (a cap full)
  • Soy sauce -- 1/4 cup
  • Brown sugar -- 1/3 cup
  • Regular yellow mustard -- 1 teaspoon
  • Crushed red pepper -- 1 teaspoon for a mild sauce (up to a couple of tablespoons if you are bad ass)
  • Arrowroot powder -- make a slurry of several tablespoons.

Heat up some olive oil in a sauce pan on medium-high heat, and add the onions. Cook a couple of minutes until translucent, then put your heat down to medium and ass the red pepper flakes and the garlic.

After a couple of minutes (watch your garlic -- don't let it burn) add the vinegar, soy sauce, and the liquid smoke and turn the heat back up to med-high. When it gets boiling pour in the tomatoes, brown sugar, and mustard.

Stir all this together well and let it simmer (turn back down to med-low) for about 40 minutes, stirring every few minutes so it doesn't stick.

After it's cooked for about 40 minutes stir in your arrowroot slurry a bit at a time. It should thicken as it heats up. Allow it to simmer another minute or two -- it should be noticeably thicker.

At this point you have a pretty decent sauce, but it will be a bit chunky. Ladle the sauce out of the pan into a blender, and blend the mixture well. Let cool, and refrigerate.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Eggplant red Thai curry

So I decided that I was going to try to make red curry for the first time ever last night. I think the heartiness and bad-for-you high calorie and fat content of this dish makes it sufficiently redneck enough. Now for some reason I have always had a bit of trouble making Asian foods more than any other, and my downstairs smoke detector always goes off whenever I try. (I think my smoke detector is racist.)

Often when I decide I’m going to make something for the first time I will browse around other recipes online and try to formulate my own recipe. From there I can usually create a good recipe that I think will work best. That’s what I did here, lurking around various sites, making mental and sometimes actual notes on what to do, until finally I developed what seemed like a process that would work. And it did – quite well actually.

Most red curry recipes out there are for chicken curry, though a lot is for tofu. While I like the tofu curries that I have had when I go out to eat (St. Louis has really good Thai restaurants by the way), I don’t particularly like cooking with tofu at home. I don’t hate it or anything, but it’s a bit of a process to get it drained and marinated and all (which I do by freezing then thawing and squeezing). I decided that I was going to use eggplant, as eggplant is pretty hearty, and will often work well in lieu of meat. I ended up going to the cool little ethnic food market here in town (Jay’s International) to get the necessary ingredients. They had these cool little cans of red curry paste which were perfect.

Anyway, the curry turned out really well, enough to where I feel pretty confident giving this recipe out for mass consumption:


  • Two Chinese eggplants (or one regular eggplant), diced into largish chunks
  • One medium-small red onion, sliced
  • One green bell pepper, sliced
  • Five cloves of garlic, minced
  • 8 oz or so of sliced button mushrooms
  • Several tablespoons of red curry paste (exact amount may vary)
  • A light oil (I used Canola)
  • One (normal sized) can of light coconut milk
  • Three tablespoons of soy sauce

Note: I don’t like dicing the onions and peppers for this dish like I would a soup or a chili. For a curry I think it’s good to leave the pieces a little longer. Most pieces were around an inch long.


Get a wok (or a large pan of some sort) and heat up several tablespoons of oil (enough oil to coat the bottom well) using medium-high heat. Throw in the eggplant, pepper and onions at the same time, and stir fry until the eggplant starts to get saturated and the onions begin to get translucent. Then turn the heat down to medium and add the garlic and the mushrooms, and keep stir frying until the mushrooms are saturated.

Then add your curry paste. I should note here that not all curry pastes are created equal, so you might need to use more of some types than of others. Most of the time you will use between three and six tablespoons, but if you like it hotter and more flavorful then feel free to go crazy. Stir in your curry paste well, then add the coconut milk and the soy sauce.

Turn the heat down to medium-low and let it simmer for a few minutes. Also, you might want to take a taste to see if it needs anything (most likely either curry paste or soy sauce). Serve this over your favorite rice (I like white jasmine rice) and eat. Yum. This was pretty good.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Product review: Frieda’s Soy Taco

Every now and then I will provide a review for a product here at RVK. These posts will be fairly short and straightforward for the most part. I will provide a grade ranging from A to F, as well as more specific grades like A- and C+.

My first review is of the meat alternative Frieda’s Soy Taco.

This is meat alternative made from soy protein. I had a hankerin’ for some tacos, and was planning on getting the Boca meatless crumbles and use some taco seasoning that I had gotten from Trader Joe’s. Well, I live in south city St. Louis, and no, it’s not the cool part. It’s a more middle-low income area where they don’t carry some meatless stuff on a consistent basis, so although this place (a Schnuck’s in south city) has had them before, they didn’t this time. So I decided to look in the hippie section of the produce department where they sell the tofu, some fake dogs, and the like, hoping to find a tube of SmartLife fake ground beef. No luck. But they did have Freida’s Soy Taco, so I figured what the hell; I was too lazy to drive to the Dierberg’s a few miles away.

All in all, it was good not great. I used some regular taco shells and some shredded spring greens, and I was not disappointed in the tacos at all. It was spiced pretty well. It had a taco flavor to it so I didn’t have to add anything to it. Now they were a little acidic – a little too vinegary. But in a pinch, this product makes some pretty decent tacos pretty quickly, and isn’t too expensive.

Grade: B

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Let's start with seitan

Okay, this is the first post for RVK. Welcome. I made this blog because I think that too often vegan food blogs more concerned with either making healthy food or making stuff that conspicuously uses exotic ingredients. Why can’t vegans just have simple food that tastes good without concern for making sure it’s made of stuff you can’t pronounce and has so much fiber that you might as well throw it in the toilet and cut out the middleman?

Well, I guess I will jump right in with a recipe, and seitan seems like the best place to start, since it can be used to make so many hearty things like barbecue sandwiches, tacos, “beef” stew, and plenty of other cool dishes. Lots of people are intimidated by the thought of making seitan, and I can understand as there are several steps to the process, and hence more chances to screw up. But if you get the process down it’s actually pretty easy.

This is my own recipe. I have been making seitan for the better part of a decade, and while I found a lot of good recipes (such as from the Veganomicon), I have always thought I could improve it. So over the years I have modified existing recipes and proportions and basically experimented. So this recipe is the culmination of years of fiddling around, and one grand accident, where I found the secret ingredient. I ran out of olive oil when making seitan one day, and was too lazy to run to the store. But what I did have was some toasted sesame oil. So I tried it, and the seitan was phenomenal. You come across some of the best discoveries by accident, and this is perhaps the best culinary accident I have ever made. Anyway, the recipe…

Here's what you need and the amounts*:

Dry ingredients
  • 2.25 cups of vital wheat gluten flour
  • 7 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
  • 4 tablespoons of garlic powder
Wet ingredients
  • 1 cub of broth
  • 0.5 cups soy sauce
  • 5 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
*This makes a pretty large batch of seitan. If you want to make a smaller batch just use half of everything.

You want to thoroughly mix the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients together, separately. Then, in a large mixing bowl, add the wet to the dry. Some people suggest using a spoon for this, but I just use my hands.

You are going to want to kneed this for several minutes until the dough is nice and elastic. Then I roll in into a log shaped form several inches thick and slice pieces about half to three-quarters inches each.

Then you put them into a stock pot with 10 cups of cool broth. You can add some soy sauce the broth if you like. It doesn't have to be cold -- room temperature is fine -- but it can't be warm. The turn the heat on high and bring it up to a boil. After it's boiling, put the heat on medium low (high enough to where it still simmers) and cover for an hour.

After it’s simmered for an hour, drain the seitan through a strain and then you let it cool. When it's cooled off then you will need to squeeze the excess broth out. It will be pretty watery if you don't do this.

This recipe makes the best seitan I have ever had. My omnivorous mother told me it actually tastes like meat. I plan to put a lot of recipes on here that use seitan, so I will probably refer back to this recipe quite a bit. Enjoy!