Don’t Forget To Smoke Your Weed

I follow blogger Shared Skillet and find her recipes useful as I too am living in a “mixed” family in that I am the sole vegan amidst omnivores who don’t mind eating strictly vegan meals a surprising amount of the time but who are not interested in giving up meat, eggs, and cheese.  In January, a recipe for Smoked Spinach and Artichoke dip was posted on Shared Skillet’s blog and I read the recipe as just that: smoked spinach and artichoke dip.

How does one smoke spinach? I wondered.  Does the spinach get crispy like when making kale chips?  Wouldn’t that be a weird texture?  Would the spinach stay crispy once the other ingredients were added?  Didn’t I read somewhere that spinach is referred to as ditch weed?  Ha Ha.  Smoked weed.  Especially apropos as I live in Colorado.  And that, my friends, is how a blog post title is born.

In answer to my most pressing question, no; spinach is not synonymous with ditch weed.  According to Wikipedia, wild spinach is wild spinach and feral cannabis is ditch weed.  In answer to all my other questions, I found it helpful to actually read the recipe.  It isn’t the spinach that’s smoked: “smoked” refers to the type of cashew cheese used.

I recently found myself with artichokes I needed to use and remembered the recipe.  I had enough ingredients on hand that, while I didn’t exactly follow the recipe, I didn’t make any weird substitutions.  The only big substitution I made was Heidi Ho brand smoked chia cheese for the Miyoko’s Kitchen  High Sierra Rustic Alpine cheese because Heidi Ho was on sale and Miyoko’s Kitchen wasn’t.  I used a package of frozen spinach instead of fresh and my artichokes were jarred rather than canned.  No worries: I borrowed my parents’ food scale and weighed out 14 oz of artichokes.

The recipe calls for olive oil and I don’t use oil to cook so I wasn’t vigorous when squeezing the water out of the defrosted spinach in hopes it wouldn’t stick when cooking.  The little bit of water and medium low heat was all I needed.

I wish I could say leaving out the olive oil makes this dip a healthy treat but it doesn’t.  A cup of vegan mayo and the entire package of chia cheese made this dip as rich and creamy as any I ever ordered as an appetizer in my pre-vegan days.  I admit that, while it was cooking, I wondered if it was something I was going to be interested in eating…

Hmmm…doesn’t look very delicieux

…but then the smells hit me and I started salivating.  When all the ingredients had heated through I could hardly wait to spoon some into a dish and set to.  The recipe suggests eating the dip with crusty bread which I would have done if I hadn’t eaten the bread I had with spaghetti earlier in the week.  I did have some Tres Madres purple corn chips-non GMO thank you very much-which I figured would do just as well.

I was not disappointed.  The dip is rich, creamy, and I could taste both the sweet and smoky flavor of the paprika.  My version might be a bit too smoky with the cheese I used as well as including a full cup of nutritional yeast.  I probably could have used a bit less nutritional yeast as the smoked flavor of this dip did hit me in the back of the throat.  I don’t mind strong flavors though and now my only question is; how am I going to avoid eating the entire pan by myself?

Eatin’ Broccoli

I know broccoli is good for me and that it should make up a significant portion of my diet: that’s not challenging.  What is challenging is finding unique ways to eat it.  One of my favorite ways is steamed and added to my spaghetti sauce along with beans and black olives but cooked tomatoes and I aren’t the best of friends so that meal, while tasty, isn’t one I can eat regularly.

I’ve had a recipe I copied down-I can’t remember where-when I first became a vegan I was excited to try but it got put in my recipe box and was forgotten.  That is, until I had a head of broccoli in my fridge that needed to be eaten.  I remembered the card and was pleased to find the ingredients and steps were simple.  My family was game and the plan to eat Broccoli Bisque Amandine was put into action.

Like most recipes I try, what’s printed on the page/recipe card is rarely what ends up in the pot.  My mother and I started making changes immediately.  She’s always been a fan of broccoli cheese soup and we happened to have a block of Daiya’s Jalapeno Havarti cheese.  Then, the question became how to make it a one pot meal?  The answer?  A can of organic cannelloni beans.

Broccoli was chopped and steamed, almonds were blanched and toasted in the oven, and beans were drained and rinsed.  I blended the broccoli, beans, and almonds in three batches with 1 cup of almond milk per batch and then poured it into a pot.  My mom added the cheese and we heated it through on medium to medium low heat.

The original recipe said to steam the broccoli until tender and suggested doing so for 12 to 14 minutes.  I usually steam broccoli only a few minutes, just until bright green, so was concerned such a long cooking time would make the broccoli smell like overcooked cruciferous veg.  It didn’t.  The soup did, however, look a little distressing while heating through.


Does anyone remember that TV show that was on in the (very) early 90’s, Swamp Thing?  Not that the soup reminded me of a muck monster at all, it was just green…and it would bubble from time to time…

It tasted ever so much better than it looked.  The soup wasn’t perfectly smooth but neither was it lumpy.  It was delicious, thick, and spicy.  A perfect soup for cold weather though I think it would be okay during the warm months as well.  The original recipe suggested retaining a bit of the toasted almonds for garnish but I blended them all into the soup.  Instead, I garnished with a slice of whole wheat bread spread with a little Earth Balance.

Fortunately, I have left-overs.  I anticipate this will reheat very well at work tomorrow although I may be fighting my parents for it.  We all liked it and votes about eating it again were unanimous.

Want to try it?

Broccoli-Almond Cheesy Soup

1/3 cup blanched whole almonds, ground

3 cups non-dairy milk (I used Simple Truth Unsweetened Almond Milk)

6 cups broccoli flowerets

1 7 oz package Daiya Jalapeno Havarti cheese, grated

1 15 0z can Organic Cannelloni beans, drained and rinsed

Salt and pepper, to taste

  1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Put the ground almonds in a thin, even layer on a dry baking sheet and toast 8 to 10 minutes, just until golden.  If desired, reserve 4 tsp toasted ground almonds for garnish.
  2. Steam broccoli until very tender, about 12 to 14 minutes.
  3. Combine cooked broccoli, rinsed beans, almonds, and milk in batches in a blender.  Process each batch until the mixture is completely smooth.  Pour the blended soup into  a large saucepan.
  4. Add the grated cheese and heat soup over medium to medium low heat until heated through and cheese is melted.
  5. Season with salt and pepper to taste and garnish with almonds, if using.
  6. Enjoy!
  7. Makes 6 One cup servings




Pizza Perfect

I’ve been spending a few months focused on my manuscript and haven’t been going out or experimenting with food.  My dinners have been tried and true meals I through together without need of a recipe: usually a bean and veggie soup served with a grain.  They’re easy to make, don’t require much planning, and my entire family likes them.  I can focus on my writing rather than spending a great deal of time planning dinner.  But then, the time comes when I’m ready to take a break from my manuscript and look forward to trying something new.

Last weekend, that something new was a chicken artichoke pizza.  Or chik’n, as there was no bird involved.  I had a package of Beyond Meat‘s Lightly Seasoned Strips and a jar of artichoke hearts.  I also had an Archer Farms brand thin pizza crust (no dairy or eggs!), a block of Daiya‘s Jalapeno Havarti, and half a bag of Daiya’s Cheddar Shreds.  I like making my own pizza because ordering a veganized pizza from a vendor costs me over ten dollars and a ready-made vegan pizza from the supermarket’s freezer section costs about as much.  Plus, if I make my own, I can have as many toppings as I like.

Most of my pizzas have olives on them as I am an olive addict.  Green, black, kalamata…you name ’em I love ’em.  This time, I decided to leave them off.  I only had green and black and I didn’t feel the flavor of black olives would compliment my pizza.  The pizza was going to be tart enough with the artichokes and I decided to leave the green off as well.  I gathered my ingredients, checked my instructions on the crust, and was ready to go.

The crust didn’t require pre-baking so got my oven ready, layered on my toppings, and slid my pie into the oven.  15 minutes later, I had a pizza that smelled delicious, the crust lightly browned on the edges.  The middle was a bit soggy but another five minutes did the trick.

How was it?  Wonderful.  The shreds of jalapeno havarti on the top of the pizza didn’t melt all that well but the cheddar shreds layered between the strips and the artichokes did and helped hold the pizza together.  Nothing was missing.  There was no layer of flavor I searched for while consuming way more pizza in one sitting than I should.  The thin crust was a bit fragile but once I folded the edges of a piece together, I didn’t deal with the crust giving way and all my toppings ending scattered on the plate.  The best part?  I had leftovers and my workplace has a toaster oven.  Delicious pizza, two days in a row.

So good!

Want to try it?

Vegan Chicken Artichoke Pizza

1 vegan pizza crust

4 TBSP organic tomato sauce

2 TBSP Italian Seasoning

2/3 package Beyond Meat Lightly Seasoned Strips

1 cup Daiya Vegan Cheddar Shreds

6 jarred artichoke hearts (equals about two cups once chopped)

1/3 block Daiya Jalapeno Havarti Cheese block, shredded

  1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. While oven is preheating, prepare Beyond Meat according to the package’s skillet instructions.  Remove from heat and, when cool enough to handle, chop into chunks.
  3.  Chop the artichoke hearts and press well to get rid of any excess liquid.
  4. Spread the tomato sauce on crust, coming close to the edge.  Top with the Italian seasoning, then the artichokes, the cheddar shreds, and the chicken chunks.
  5. Top with the jalapeno havarti shreds.
  6. Bake on the center rack for 15 minutes.  Check center of pizza and, if necessary, bake 5 minutes more.
  7. Cut into triangles with a pizza cutter.
  8. Makes 8 slices but only serves 2 unless paired with a salad.

It’s My Party and I’ll Fromage if I Want To

I have friends and family that are interested in my vegan lifestyle but I invariably hear; “I could never go vegan-I could never give up cheese”.  I understand.  Cheese was an important part of my life before becoming a vegan.  The sharper the Cheddar the better, Stilton; Gouda, Gruyére, Brie…yes, I did eat a great deal of cheese.

I haven’t missed cheese; not with brands like Daiya, Follow Your Heart, and Chao slices by Field Roast taking care of most of my needs.  There is no denying the texture is not the same and, excepting Daiya’s Gouda style farmhouse block, I haven’t found a vegan cheese substitute I like sliced and eaten with crackers.  Cheese and crackers along with grapes or a sliced apple is one of my favorite simple snacks and one I was willing to drop the cheese portion if I had to.  And yet, I couldn’t help holding out hope that I’d find a cheese substitute I’d find tasty with a cracker.

It turns out, I don’t have to give up my snack.  My local King Soopers has a vegan/vegetarian section that carries some Tofurky and Field Roast products, some Tofu, some cheese options, and something new.  I found Treeline brand cheese: a non-dairy product made from cashews.  King Soopers carries the Chipotle Serrano Pepper, Scallion, and Herb-Garlic flavors.  I’m always willing to try something new and, hoping it would prove delicious, I purchased a carton of the Scallion and took it home.

I was not disappointed.  Treeline’s product is smooth, creamy, and spreads easily onto a cracker so there’s no worry of breakage.  The flavor is pleasant as well.  Despite being made with cashews it doesn’t take at all like cashews.  Treeline isn’t heavy on the spice either.  I liked the Scallion so much that, when I was ready for another treat, I purchased the Herb-Garlic and didn’t find the flavor too strong.  I am looking forward to trying other vegan substitutes as they come to hand, especially that made by Miyoko’s Kitchen, but I am thrilled to have access to Treeline.  Now, I only have to find a place that offers the other flavors.


My favorite cracker for cheese and crackers indulgence used to be Triscuit crackers.  Unfortunately, despite releasing new and interesting flavors-including a pumpkin spice-Nabisco has not sought 3rd party non-GMO verification for their Triscuit crackers.  Fortunately, Back to Nature makes a Harvest Whole Wheat Cracker that tastes exactly like a Triscuit but sports the non-GMO butterfly.  My snack life is saved!


I don’t mind purchasing a product like Treeline as an occasional treat but there’s no denying it’s a bit expensive so I’m scouring my cookbooks for recipes I can try at home.  A few make-at-home cheese recipes will be ideal for the Holiday Season.  Have a favorite?  Let me know.  I’m always up for cheese and crackers and perhaps a little wine.

Comfort and Pasta

My workplace had a Halloween potluck earlier this week and were planning a chili competition.  I thought I’d bring something different and decided to make a corn chowder.  An added inducement to the corn chowder was that I could make it with ingredients I had on hand and any time I can avoid the grocery store I will choose to do so.

I used the recipe in The Part Time Vegan as a template, adding a few tweaks of my own, and ended up with a chowder that wasn’t bad.  Wasn’t bad isn’t usually what I go for so my corn chowder recipe needs work before it can be posted.  Having a recipe not turn out as I’d hoped is always a little bit of a downer so I decided to drown my sorrows in comfort food.  Enter pasta and, fortunately, the McDougall diet allows me to eat as much as I like.

With both comfort and temperance in mind, I decided to try a new pasta.  I got sucked into one of those sample stands at Costco which introduced me to Explore Cuisine’s Chickpea Pasta (which is not on the website but other tasty products are).  The woman at the sample stand assured me the pasta kept a chewy texture despite re-heating and I was persuaded to buy a box.


I have tried other gluten-free pastas.  I like quinoa pasta but have found brown rice pasta ends up too mushy.  I wasn’t sure what to expect when I boiled water and measured out the pasta.  I was concerned with taste as the pasta smelled well, beany, as it cooked but all my worries were for naught.  The pasta has a slight flavor that didn’t remind me too much of chickpeas and kept a perfect al dente texture.  My family liked it as well.  Though I don’t know this will replace quinoa pasta for me, I’m definitely interested in trying more of Enjoy Cuisine’s products.

Wondering what to eat with the pasta?  Here’s my Mom’s recipe for chunky vegan pasta sauce.  Neither she nor my step-father are vegan and they both choose this one over sauces laden with meat.  Let me know if you give it a try.

Sue’s Spaghetti Sauce

1 cup minced onion

1 TBSP minced garlic

1 jar Classico Traditional Favorites Pasta Sauce, Tomato & Basil

1 jar Prego Light Smart Traditional Italian Sauce

2 TBSP Hunts Tomato Paste

1 14oz can Muir Glen Organic Tomatoes, Diced, No Salt Added

1 15 oz can Tomato Sauce

1 15 oz can Simple Truth Organic Tri-Bean Blend beans, drained and rinsed

1 15 oz can Organic Canned Black Beans, drained and rinsed

6 oz Boca Veggie Ground Crumbles

Cook onions and garlic until onions begin to sweat.  All all other ingredients except beans and crumbles.  Cook 1 hour.  Add beans and crumbles and cook 15 minutes.  Pour over cooked spaghetti.

Prep and Cook time = 75 min

Serving Size = 2 cups

Serves = 8

A Special Cake for that Special Occasion

I made my step-father the most amazing cake for Fathers’ Day.  I prefer to make cakes rather than buy them as grocery store cakes are one, not vegan; and two, made with white sugar.  I swear the longer I don’t eat white sugar the more sensitive to it I become.  I can hardly tolerate desserts made with it any more and am shocked at how sweet I used to like my treats.  I prefer to make my own white sugar free vegan treats.

Fortunately, my step-father loves of vegan treats.  He’s been heard to say the vegan desserts are the best and he gets a light in his eye when I suggest baking a cake.  He requested chocolate for Fathers’ Day so I hauled out my go-to baking book.  It’s The 100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes by Kris Holechek.  Ms. Holechek doesn’t exaggerate: these are the best baked goods I’ve ever tasted.  She has a recipe for The Blackest Forest Cake that I made before and my notes say it’s amazing.  I took a look and thought I’d make it again but the contents of my cupboard convinced me to try an experiment.  Twenty minutes of prep and forty minutes of baking later I ended up with something I’m going to call Kate’s Double Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cake.  I’ll have to come up with something shorter but that works for now.

I have had past experiments tank.  My baked goods usually turn out okay although I’ve had a few I wouldn’t make again and, though the cake layers smelled good while baking, I doubted the wisdom of attempting an experiment on a holiday.  I’d committed and it was chocolate after all…how bad could it be?

The answer?  Absolutely fabulous.  This cake is incredible.  I added chocolate chips to the batter just before baking and they add a fun contrasting texture to a rich, moist cake.  I put a layer of strawberry fruit filling on top of the fudge frosting between the layers, then topped the cake with the rest of the strawberries.

I did cheat here: I used canned strawberry pie filling rather than making my own fruit filling.  If I hadn’t decided on this recipe on the fly I would have made my own fruit filling/topping as I think it would have resulted in a stronger strawberry flavor.  You can’t beat fresh, right?  Not that I’m complaining: this cake is amazing.  I’m surprised at how good it is.  The secret might be the coconut sugar.

I use coconut sugar in most of my recipes.  It can add a toffee-like flavor to cookies and I believe that, because it isn’t overpoweringly sweet like white sugar, it lets the chocolate shine in this cake.  Coconut sugar can be a bit expensive but I find deals on or Vitacost.

Want to try it?  The recipe is below.  These ingredients aren’t the cheapest but are well worth using for a special treat.  Try it.  Make changes.  If your changes are tasty, let me know!

Kate’s Double Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cake

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour, sifted

3/4 cup Hungarian High Altitude Flour (if you don’t have to worry about altitude, use all-purpose flour), sifted

1 1/2 cups organic coconut sugar

3/4 cup organic cacao powder

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp Himalayan pink salt

1/2 cup plus 2 TBSP plain non-dairy yogurt

1 cup unsweetened almond/coconut blend milk

1/2 cup oil

2 tsp vanilla

1 cup boiling water

2 cups non-dairy chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease and flour two 9 inch round cake pans and then line the bottoms with wax paper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  In a separate bowl, mix yogurt, milk, oil, and vanilla.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and thoroughly mix.  Add boiling water and mix to combine.  Fold in chocolate chips.
  3. Divide the batter between the two pans.  Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 30 to 45 minutes.  Cook cake in pans 20 minutes and then run a thin knife around edges and turn onto a cooking rack to cool completely.  Note: I find baked goods usually take 10 to 15 minutes longer than the original recipe directs.  I baked for 30 minutes and then checked every five until the cakes were done.
  4. Make fudge frosting.

Fudge Frosting

2/3 cup chocolate chips

6 TBSP Earth Balance vegan margarine

2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

1/8 tsp salt

6 TBSP milk

1/2 tsp vanilla

Combine chocolate chips and margarine in a saucepan and whisk over low heat until completely melted.  Resist the urge to dip fruit in the melted chocolate and scrape into a mixing bowl.  Add the sugar, salt, milk, and vanilla.  Put frosting in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to set before using.

Build the cake.  Put the bottom layer on the cake plate and cover the top with a layer of fudge frosting and 1/3 of the strawberry filling.  Place the second layer on the top.  Frost cake with remaining icing and top with remaining fruit.  Carefully cover cake and put in refrigerator until ready to eat.  Store cake covered in refrigerator.

Tip:  Put the layers on separate cooling racks.  It will be much easier to turn them out on the cake plate.

If you have the time and a star tip for cake decorating, run a border around the bottom and top of the cake.  It will frame the fruit topping and keep it from running off the sides of the cake.  Here’s an article on making your own piping bag.



What’s In This?

My diet contains all sorts of tasty foods based on vegetables, grains, and beans but, sometimes, all I want is dessert.  In an attempt to stick to my way of eating, I’m always looking for healthier forms of desserts: ones based on whole fruits, high fiber grains, and beans.  Yes, that’s right, beans.  I didn’t believe it either but having tried desserts based with beans, I’m becoming a convert.

My first bean based dessert was black bean brownies.  I was skeptical but the result is a dense, fudge-like brownie that’s well worth blowing a diet on.  True, they do have to be eaten within a few days or they get really dry but a pan of brownies doesn’t last all that long around my house anyway.

My second bean based dessert was chocolate chip cookies that had tofu as the secret ingredient.  I’d had some bad luck with tofu-based desserts, was again skeptical, and was again proven wrong.  I prefer chewy cookies and these were perfect.

With both experiments going so well, I was ready to try something new.  I found a recipe for a Great Northern Apple Cake in my Vegan on the Cheap cookbook and the secret ingredient is in the title: Great Northern Beans.

Great Northern Beans are not my favorite.  I find them rather tasteless which I suppose is desirable trait when they’re being used in dessert.  Beans don’t contain a great deal of liquid so I couldn’t help wondering if any cake made with them was be too dry.  There was no way to know but to make it so I gathered the ingredients, hauled out my food processor, and got started.

This cake might be cheap but it’s definitely not quick.  Walnuts must be toasted and chopped; apples cored, peeled, and sauteed in vegan butter, brown sugar, and lemon juice; oats ground to flour, the pan to be lined with apples…there’s a lot of steps, setting bowls aside, reserving liquid…it’s not a recipe I would recommend unless you have a great deal of time and energy.

So…I made this cake twice.  The first time I made it, I got the baking powder out of the cupboard and completely forgot to add it.  I thought the cake looked a little flat when I got it out of the oven but, what did I know?  Maybe a cake made with beans doesn’t rise.  Well, one without baking powder doesn’t and is certainly dense.  I don’t want to say the cake was inedible but it certainly isn’t a dessert I’d crave.  I knew I wanted to try it again but, with the amount of prep time, I put it off.

Then there was a snow storm here and and the weather was perfect for baking.  I dug a can of Great Northern Beans out of the cupboard, collected everything else, and mixed the cake making sure to include the baking powder.

The cake already looks better than my first attempt

The cake rose!  Who knew!  This one looked much better than the first.  The real test was taste and it isn’t bad.  The apples, brown sugar, and walnuts make a nice caramel-apple topping and the cake is nice and moist.  However, it is missing something.  I don’t know what it is but the cake itself is missing a layer of taste: it’s subtle but it’s missing.  If I’m going to continue to make this cake, some experimenting is necessary.  Maybe cardamom, or chili pepper, or ginger…

An upside-down apple/white bean cake

On a health note: I ate a piece of this cake with a scoop of cashew milk salted caramel ice cream and woke up with a weird headache the next morning.  I’ve been reading about sugar sensitivity and, while there are a myriad of reasons why I could have a headache; I wondered it was because I’ve been cutting way back on my sugar intake and cake and ice cream were a bit much.  Perhaps, indulging in dessert isn’t such a great idea after all.

Cake and Ice Cream
Is “healthy dessert” an oxymoron?

Cold Comfort Food

Does every meal I make turn out a celebration of wonderful vegan options?  No!  In fact, I’ve been having a week.  Recipes aren’t turning out or I’m forgetting important ingredients (a cake fiasco post is forthcoming): it’s enough to drive a person back to eating canned chili beans which just so happen to be on the menu tonight with baked potatoes and steamed broccoli.  I need a break.

My week of ruined recipes started with an attempt at making tempeh with potatoes and cabbage.  I didn’t start out wanting to make this.  I first intended to make a tempeh recipe from my Macrobiotic cookbook but then Julianna Hever posted a health benefits of cabbage photo (which I can’t find again) so I decided to try sweet and sour cabbage with tempeh and fried rice-substitute the rice with barley.  Then a blizzard hit and sweet and sour cabbage didn’t sound comfort foody enough so I perused my cookbooks and found the afore mentioned recipe in 1000 Vegan Recipes by Robin Robertson.  The dish was supposed to be reminiscent of Hungarian goulash and I thought that sounded like it would bring comfort while I was buried under 2 feet of snow.

I gathered my ingredients, found I didn’t have Hungarian sweet paprika, and subbed Spanish paprika.  I cooked the dish according to instructions and, after 30 minutes, my potatoes hadn’t cooked.  At all.  They remained raw.  What happened?  Did I not cut them small enough?  Had I used some kind of mutant potato that refused to cook?  I stirred my meal and let it cook another ten minutes.  No softening of the potatoes.  Another ten minutes and nothing.  Meanwhile, the carrots and cabbage were cooking into mush.  I threw in the towel, turned off the fire, clapped a lid on the pan to keep the heat in, and made myself a sandwich.

Why aren’t the potatoes cooking?!


I left my meal to cool, hoping the potatoes would soften and found they did so.  Now what?  The meal didn’t taste bad.  There weren’t a ton of flavor layers in it but it wasn’t unpleasant and, while I only had a few dollars of ingredients in it, I hate wasting food.  What could I do with it beyond scraping it out of the pan into the trash?  I wasn’t sure but I decided to save it and come at it another day.  Once I had it in a refrigerator dish, I had the thought that it looked like filling for something.  What, I wasn’t sure but I decided to let that thought mull.

A couple of days later, I had it.  Runzas.  I hadn’t had a Runza in years.  For one, they’re made with ground beef and, two, I don’t think the restaurant exists outside the state of Nebraska. My meal already had cabbage and the tempeh had cooked up soft enough it could almost substitute for ground beef.  All I needed was a dough recipe.

I found one, veganized it, and put my Runzas together.  They didn’t look too bad when I pulled them out of the oven: while the  dough seams had separated in places I didn’t have any filling explosions.  The recipe I’d veganized wanted me to make 16 squares with 3/4 of the dough.  I was using all the dough so decided to separate it in half and make large hand pies with half the dough and smaller hand pies with the other half to see which I preferred.  I chose one of each and was ready to see whether I’d salvaged my tempeh meal or not.

I think I did.  The larger pie had (of course) a large dough to filling ratio.  The dough baked up a bit sweet so, with the larger pie, the filling needed more spice.  If I’d planned on making Runzas from the beginning, I’d have used smoked paprika and cumin.  With the smaller pie, the taste contrast wasn’t as strong.

Not the best picture, but I was tired 🙂

All in all, I think I did manage to salvage this meal.  I ended up making enough Runzas to freeze for work lunches; something that makes me happy because it saves me money in the long run.  Still, they weren’t amazing so my vegan Runzas still need work.

The dough doesn’t though.  The dough is fabulous.  While I was eating my cabbage stuffed hand pie, I couldn’t help thinking the filling should be dark chocolate, cherry, and a touch of cayenne.  An idea for the next blizzard.

Need a recipe for vegan runza dough?  This the original recipe I found: my veganized version is below.

Vegan Runza Dough

3 cups whole wheat flour

3 cups all-purpose flour

4 1/2 tsp yeast (or 2 packets)

1/3 cup sugar

1 stick Earth Balance

2 flax eggs

2 cups unsweetened coconut milk

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Mix together 2 TBSP flax meal (I use Bob’s Red Mill Organic Golden Flax Meal) and 6 TBSP water.  Set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine 3 cups flour, yeast, sugar, and salt.
  4. In a saucepan, melt the butter.  Add the 2 cups milk and heat to lukewarm (105 degrees).  Pour the liquid into the dry mixture.  Beat with a mixer until a soft dough forms.
  5. Add the flax eggs and the remaining flour.  Mix with a dough hook or knead by hand (great to vent frustration!) until all the flour is incorporated.  The dough will be a bit sticky.
  6. Let rest for 20 minutes.
  7. Divide dough in half and roll out onto a floured surface.  Cut into squares.  Spoon filling onto the center of each square and fold the dough around the filling, pinching the edges to seal.
  8. Place on the cookie sheets and let raise in a warm place for 25 minutes.
  9. Bake at 350 for 25 to 30 minutes.  The large squares did best at 30 minutes-the smaller ones were done after 25.
  10. Let cool and enjoy.

A Hankering for Bread Pudding

My family and I enjoy watching British Police Dramas together and we recently finished Pie in the Sky starring Richard Griffiths.  Richard Griffiths plays Henry Crabbe, a DI who’d like to retire and devote himself to his restaurant, Pie in the Sky, but is basically blackmailed into remaining a police officer by his boss.  Poor DI Crabbe must attempt to devote his time to his restaurant while being the flunky and sometimes whipping boy for his rank-climbing boss.  The mysteries are exciting, the relationships between the characters fun, and the food is amazing.

Well, some of the food.  None of the characters are vegan so there are a few cringe-worthy meat shots I could have done without but there are several recipes featured on the show I want to make for myself.  Parsnip chips and saffron potato mash will show up on my dinner table soon and, after one craving-provoking episode, I had to make bread pudding.

I used to make a vanilla bread pudding from a recipe I found in Saveur magazine.  This recipe used heavy cream and a whole vanilla bean.  I remember it being wonderfully rich but, of course, I no longer use heavy cream.  I needed to come up with my own recipe and, as I had some apples to be use; I decided to try my hand at a vegan cinnamon-apple-raisin bread pudding.

My step-father loves bread pudding so he and my mother were willing to visit the store and bring me home an Italian baguette.  I let it dry out a few days and was finally ready to make my pudding.

There was a bit of trial and error involved: I ended up doubling the milk and crossing my fingers the spices wouldn’t be too diluted.  I chopped up my apples and tossed them with cinnamon and coconut sugar, whisked almond and cashew milk together with some apple pie spice, and broke my baguette into chunks.  I covered my casserole dish with a layer of bread, covered it with milk and apples and raisins, then added more bread, apples, raisins, and milk.  My bread should have been used before it was and was very dry.  I wanted to let the bread have a very good soak and covered my pudding and put it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.  Then, I let it sit on the counter for another 20 minutes to return to close to room temperature while I pre-heated the oven.  The bread looked like it had absorbed enough liquid so I left the cover on and popped the pudding in the oven to bake for 1 hour. My pudding looked too wet when I pulled it out of the oven so back in it went, uncovered, for another 15 minutes.

It tastes better than it looks

I considered a topping but, as this was the first time I’d ever made it, I didn’t know how sweet it was and didn’t want to go overboard with sugar.  I let the pudding cool and attempted to make a whipped coconut topping.

I’ve had the worst luck making my own whipped coconut topping.  It’s supposed to be so easy: skim the coconut fat off a can of coconut milk, add sugar and vanilla, and whip.  It’s not.  It’s turned out fine only a few times.  More often than not I end up with a vanilla flavored, slightly thicker than milk, topping.  Such was this case.

No matter.  I’d intended on a vanilla sauce all the time, I just hadn’t known it.  With some sauce drizzled over the pudding and some chopped pecans sprinkled on the top, my family was ready to test my experiment.


The verdict?  I can make this again any time I choose.  The coconut sugar cooks into the milk and the pudding develops its own caramel taste as it cooks.  I can’t say ‘caramel sauce’ as the pudding is too dry to be considered saucy but there’s definitely a hint of caramel in it.  The pudding is not too sweet and I liked the texture: reminiscent of puddings I’ve made in the past but not too soft.  This made six servings total: two for the three of us and it wasn’t enough.  I need to get more bread chunks and make this again.

Want to try it for yourself?

Vegan Cinnamon Apple Raisin Bread Pudding

1 Italian style baguette, broken into chunks*

1/2 teaspoon apple pie spice

3 medium tart apples

1/2 Tablespoon cinnamon

2 Tablespoons coconut sugar

2 cups original cashew milk

2 cups unsweetened almond milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 to 1/2 cup raisins, depending on taste


  1.  Lightly grease a 4 quart baking dish and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl or large mixing cup, whisk together the milk, apple pie spice, and vanilla.  Set aside.
  3. Peel, core, and chop the apples.  Put apples in a large bowl and thoroughly toss with the cinnamon and sugar.
  4. Place half the bread chunks in the baking dish.  Cover with half the apple mixture and sprinkle with half the raisins.  Add half the milk.  Repeat.
  5. Cover the baking dish and refrigerate for 30 minutes.  Remove from refrigerator and let set at room temperature an additional 20 minutes.
  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  7. Place pudding, still covered, on center rack of oven and bake for 1 hour.
  8. Remove cover and bake an additional 15 minutes.**
  9. Let cool and then spoon into bowls and serve with desired topping.

*I didn’t bother removing the crusts and the pudding softened just fine.

**Baking times will vary.  The pudding will take at least an hour but the 15 additional minutes may not be necessary.  I live at over 5,000 feet and find I have to bake things a little longer.



Filè Like Soup?

I eat a great deal of soups although; since I like big chunks of veggies in my soup they’re more like stews.  Soups are perfect as they’re something I can make from scratch and have ready for dinner in about a half an hour, depending on prep time, of course.  All my soups start the same: onion and garlic left together in a pan for about five minutes, then the addition of vegetables, broth, beans, and a grain.  It’s one pot cooking at it’s best and, if I plan ahead by soaking and cooking my beans and grains, the entire meal is from scratch and no can or package goes into the recycle bin.  Eating veggie, grain, and bean soups never get boring as there are a great many combinations of grains and beans and I have to cook a great deal before I repeat myself.  To ensure my family doesn’t find my meals boring, I also experiment with spice blends.

I don’t care for pre-made spice blends.  They’re easy to use, certainly, but using a blend means someone else has decided on how much salt and/or spice I’m going to use and rarely does his or her taste correspond with mine.  I like playing in my spice cabinet and feel a little spurt of creativity when one of my spice blends proves to be wonderfully tasty.  To that end, I’m always interested when I come across something new and, recently, that something new was filè powder.

I read about filè powder in my 1,000 Vegan Recipes cookbook by Robin Robertson.  She suggested its use in a gumbo recipe but, as I’d never heard of it and had no idea where I might find it, I made her gumbo without it; making a mental resolution to acquire some and try it when the opportunity presented itself.  I did acquire some but haven’t had a chance to try it until last week.  I’d soaked kidney beans and wanted to taste what filè was like but needed to say away from spicy foods so gumbo was off the table.  What then?  I wanted to try filè so decided to come up with my own hot pepper-free soup/stew and opened my spice cabinet.

I create my spice blends based on what smells like it should go together.  Since the majority of taste is smell, I figure if it smells good it will taste good.  I may look a little crazy smelling the contents of jars but this process has served me well and kept me from adding a citrus smelling herb from a smoky blend I’m creating.  I hauled out several jars, lined them up on the counter, and started smelling; beginning with the filè powder as that was the star of the evening.  I ended up with smoked paprika, cumin, tumeric, basil, ground mustard, and the merest pinch of red pepper flakes: not enough to make my meal spicy but enough to add that special layer of flavor.  I was ready to cook.

Both the McDougall and Vegiterranean diets stress cutting back on oils, if not going completely oil free.  To that end, I don’t cook my onion and garlic in oil.  How do I keep it from sticking to my stainless steel pots?  Medium-low to low heat.  Try it.  Spread the onion and garlic in a single layer in the pot over medium-low to low heat and then DON’T TOUCH it for about five minutes.  I like to agitate my veggies so this was difficult for me.  Now, I have no problem leaving my onion to cook while I chop the rest of my veggies.  If the onion and garlic should stick a bit, toss some water or veggie broth into the pan after the onion has turned translucent and the pieces lift right off.

Once I’ve cooked the onion and garlic, I toss in the rest of my veggies with the spices and let them cook another couple of minutes.  I think adding the spices before the veggie broth brings out their flavor a bit more.  Then, I add the veggie broth, bring the whole thing to a boil, and clap a lid on it.  Once the veggies are finished, I add my pre-cooked beans and grains, heat the entire thing through, and dinner is served.

This particular experiment was a big hit.  My entire family enjoyed it the first night I made it and, since I have a tendency to cook for a horde, enjoyed it for a few more days.  This was one case where the leftovers are better: the spices have a change to meld with each other if left in the fridge over night.  Should you make this, it’s excellent the same night but I do recommend making it one to two days before.

Want to try it?

Kate’s Excuse to Use Filè Stew

Early Prep:

In separate pots; rinse and soak 1 cup hulled barley and 2 cups dried red kidney beans.

Step Two:

Discard soaking water from both barley and kidney beans.  Cover kidney beans with clean water and cook until soft, about 2 hours.  Add 2 cups water and 1 not-chicken bullion cube to the barley pot and cook until barley is soft but still chewy.  Do not discard excess liquid from barley.

Bringing it all together-you will need:

1 white onion, chopped

1 tsp garlic, minced

3 carrots, sliced I used rainbow carrots; one yellow, one orange, and one purple

2 stalks celery, sliced

1 sweet potato, cut into medium sized chunks

1 green pepper, cut into medium sized chunks

1 tsp each smoked paprika, cumin, turmeric, filè powder, basil, and ground mustard

1/2 tsp coarse salt

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

4 cups water

2 bay leaves

1 cup frozen broccoli florets

Prepared kidney beans and barley

cracked pepper, to taste

  1.  Add onion and garlic in a single layer to a large stainless steel stock pot.  Turn heat to low or medium-low (depending on the heat of the burner) and leave to cook until onion is translucent; about five minutes.
  2. Add remaining vegetables and all spices except the salt.  Stir together and let cook another two minutes.
  3. If necessary, add a bit of the water to the pot and scrape spices and any stuck vegetables from the bottom of the pot.  Add remaining water and bay leaves and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook until vegetables are soft but not mushy; about 20 minutes.
  4. Taste, adding more spices if desired.  Add kidney beans, barley (along with any remaining liquid), broccoli, and salt.  Cook until heated through, about another 10 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat and discard bay leaves.
  6. Serve with crusty bread.

As I said, the leftovers are very good on their own but can be spiced up with a can of diced, fire-roasted tomatoes or topped with cubes of savory baked tofu.  Try to eat all leftovers within two days or the broccoli gets too soft.