Smoky “Cheese” Sauce and a perfect baked potato

This recipe is more for myself to refer to the next time I want to make something like it than a hard and fast recipe. I was planning to have a baked potato for dinner and wanted a “cheese” sauce to serve over it with steamed veggies, but I also wanted to clear a few things out of the fridge. I’ve just estimated the amounts below as it was a real throw-a-bunch-of-things-in type of deal. Here’s approximately what I came up with:

Smoky “Cheese” Sauce

1/2 cup silken tofu
1 cup nutritional yeast
3 Tbsp tahini-based salad dressing (this was something I wanted to use up, in the future I’d just use 2 Tbsp plain tahini)
3/4 cup water (this I poured into the bottle I had the dressing in and shook it, in order to get the last of the dressing out)
1 small jar (4 oz) pimientos
1 Tbsp soy sauce or Bragg’s liquid aminos
1 tsp liquid smoke
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp tumeric (optional, for color)
juice of 1/2 lemon

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Transfer to a small sauce pot and heat over medium heat, stirring often, until bubbly.

For the baked potato, I scrubbed and dried a russet potato, poked it several times with a fork, then poured a little bit of olive oil in my palm and then rubbed my palms together, then rubbed my palms all over the potato to get a thin film all over it. Then I sprinkled some smoked Maldon salt on all sides and put it in the toaster oven at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for about an hour.

A perfect baked potato.

When it was done, I made a rough seam across it with a fork, then pushed the ends together to make it pop open into a wide boat to receive the veggies and “cheese”.

I steamed broccoli and asparagus together for just a couple of minutes, then topped the potato with the veggies, some “cheese” sauce …

… and some fried onions I found in the cupboard. OK, the fried onions kinda negate the innate healthiness of the meal, but I’ve had a really bad week and damn it, fried onions cheer me up.

Mark and I both had off on Monday for President’s Day, and Mark surprised me immensely by announcing early that day that he was going to Wegman’s to buy stuff for dinner. “Are you making dinner?!” I gasped in surprise. Turns out, yes, yes he was making dinner. He made gumbo and it was darn good! I’ve been eating it for lunch all week. I tried to get him to do a post, but I think that would have overwhelmed him. I did snag a photo, though. I didn’t help at all!

The last post was crazy kitten-heavy and I’m sure I do have readers that aren’t interested in kittens, and I don’t wish to alienate them, so this is a kitten-free* post. I’m sure they’ll have done something ridiculously cute that warrants a picture next time, though.

* It’s not technically kitten-free. If you look carefully at the last picture of the baked potato there is a vaguely kitten-shaped, black blob in the background that is, in fact, Gomez. It’s near impossible to take a kitten-free photo around here.

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Tempeh in Horseradish Gravy

I saw this in the grocery store and knew Mark would find it amusing. (He did.)

It is, of course, fresh horseradish. I’m a fan of horseradish, fresh or prepared. I like the sinus-clearing bite it gives to food. I did a little googling and decided to make this recipe, using tempeh instead of the unspecified meat. If you use vegan stock, it’s vegan as written. I made it pretty much exactly as directed, although some of the measurements are a bit vague, so I’ll clarify what I did.

1 package tempeh (no time to make my own recently, alas)
1/2 small onion, minced
1/2 small to medium horseradish root, or about 1/4 cup prepared horseradish
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp brown sugar (I used 3)
2 Tbsp cider vinegar (a bit less if you use prepared horseradish)
2 bay leaves
2 cloves
1 to 1/2 cups vegan “beef” stock
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Chop the tempeh into 3/4″ cubes. Fry lightly in a skillet and set aside.

Peel the horseradish.

Grate the horseradish. I highly recommend using a food processor if you have one because freshly-grated horseradish fumes are quite noxious.

Heat about a tablespoon of olive or other oil in a skillet, then add the onions and brown.

Add 2 tablespoons of the grated horseradish and the flour, and fry for a minute or two.

Add the broth, cloves, bay leaves, brown sugar, and vinegar and bring to a boil.

Allow the gravy to thicken up a bit, then add the tempeh and the rest of the horseradish (you may want to taste it before dumping all the horseradish in), seasoning with salt and pepper as well.

Leave the burner on low until thickened to your likeness. Adjust seasonings if necessary. (I added an extra tablespoon of brown sugar.)

I also made some roasted mustardy potatoes.

I whisked together equal parts olive oil, German mustard, and white wine vinegar.

I tossed this with some teeny tiny potatoes, then spread them on a toaster oven-sized baking sheet. Whenever possible, I like using my toaster oven for small roasting and baking jobs. Then I roasted at about 400 degrees until everything else was done, about half an hour. Larger potatoes will take longer.

For the green counterpart of the meal, I made Elise’s Sautéed Kale with Smoked Paprika. I blanched the kale for 5 minutes …

… then drained, remembering (for once) to save the kale nutrient-filled water (I used it in the gravy above).

I gathered the spices:

Sauteed the onions, then added the spices.

And finally added the kale and sauteed a few more minutes.

And here it is all together:

Any Nabokov fans out there? I got The Original of Laura!

I was so excited about it I actually had to buy the December Playboy to get a preview, but the real thing makes for a bit classier of a read:

Each page is printed on heavy card stock with a scan of the actual index cards on which VN wrote the incomplete novel. The pages are perforated so you can re-order them. That’s how VN wrote all his novels: on index cards that he would rearrange until the story formed itself in the correct order. Because he died before the book was finished, we don’t know for sure in what order the cards would have ended up.

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Mustardy Vinaigrette Potatoes with Broiled Tempeh and Sauerkraut

We’re back from the beach! Although now Mark wants to move to Charleston….

I did some refrigerator restocking this afternoon but have mostly been just relaxing today and didn’t make anything elaborate: just the usual tofu and pizza (I need to show you my new crust made with 00-style flour!). It was nice to be back in the kitchen with all my own stuff, although I did enjoy making Carolina Red Rice for Mark’s family one night at the beach. Next year I am definitely taking my own chef’s knife, however! Anyway, since I didn’t have time to make tempeh this weekend, I sucked it up and bought some, although store-bought just does not compare to home-made. The night before we left for Charleston, I had moved my latest batch of sauerkraut from its crock to the refrigerator after a 6-week fermentation and it is really, really good so I wanted to incorporate it into dinner tonight. Here is what I did:

Mustardy Vinaigrette Potatoes

5 medium red potatoes, chopped into bite-sized chunks
1/2 red onion, chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp German-style mustard
2 tsp sugar or 4 drops stevia
1 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp dried or 2 tsp fresh thyme
1/2 tsp coarse or flaked sea salt (like Maldon)
freshly ground pepper to taste

Wash and chop the potatoes …

… and the onion.

Boil the potatoes until fork-tender …

… then drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process.

Whisk together the remaining ingredients in a small bowl.

Put the cooked potatoes and the chopped onions into a bowl …

… and toss with the dressing.

Serve warm, room temperature, or cool.

For a protein, I made an improvised tempeh thing. I cut the tempeh in half, then cut each half into two slabs like this:

Then I whisked together a tablespoon of German mustard, a half tablespoon of soy sauce or Braggs liquid aminos, and a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar.

I brushed both sides of each tempeh slab with the mixture, then fried on both sides until golden:

I topped each slab with a slice of vegan “cheese” (I used the swiss uncheese recipe from The Uncheese Cookbook). I also put a dab of habanero sauce on each slice.

This photo is blurry, but I wanted you to see that when I removed the tempeh I was a little worried that the uncheese was setting up and baking instead of melting:

But I smeared it around with a spatula, mixing the hot sauce in, and all was well:

I tried heating up the sauerkraut to serve it warm, but decided it tasted much better cold, which meant it was raw and probably even healthier. Mark made a sandwich out of the tempeh and sauerkraut and some rye bread; I served mine without bread. Mark’s meal was probably a little better, though, because the tempeh was a little dry: smooshing it together with the sauerkraut probably improved it. What Mark had, therefore, was a super-healthy reuben, minus the fattening Thousand Island sauce!

As promised/threatened, I have some travel photos. Mark’s mom arranged a salt marsh tour for us and it was rife with photo ops. This is the Morris Island lighthouse.

There were a lot of birds on the island we stopped to explore. This guy didn’t budge regardless how close I got to him and had what I thought was a funny expression on his face.

My college roommate’s father was an artist who named all his works “Sentinel”. I named this photo “Sentinels” in his honor.

This guy left his post:

This one is facing the wrong way!

This one is a loner. I identify with him.

These pelicans didn’t let me disturb their wading.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m from Baltimore and that the single non-vegan thing I probably miss most is steamed crabs covered in Old Bay. As you buy bushels of crabs still alive in order to steam them, I’ve seen plenty of living crabs. My uncle thought it was amusing to chase me around the house with them during family crab feasts after I went vegetarian. However, I’m used to the appearance of Maryland blue crabs. We saw what I’ve identified as ghost crabs, which look quite different, scuttling around the island:

He ran away from me – sideways of course! – as fast as he possibly could (which is quite fast), but he needn’t have worried because I haven’t eaten a crab in more than 20 years!

I had another lesson in seafood on the boat tour as well. These are birds standing on oyster beds:

I never knew what oysters looked like in the wild. In fact, I’ve never even eaten an oyster and don’t even know what they look like on a plate!

The best part of the tour, though, was getting to see some dolphins just a few feet from the boat, and the captain kindly cut the engine for several minutes while I snapped away. It’s hard to get a picture of a dolphin, especially through a telephoto lens, because by the time you hear them surface and focus your camera, their faces are back in the water again and you have no idea (because the water is not clear) where they will resurface. Here’s what I managed to capture, though:

You can’t really tell from the photo, but the fin in front of the mama dolphin belongs to a baby!

And that’s how I spent my week at the beach: hanging out with dolphins, swimming in the ocean, reading, enjoying the company of Mark’s wonderful family, reading some more, and swimming some more. Pretty idyllic, really. It was sunny and hot in Charleston, and at an amazing 83 degrees, the ocean temperature was a good ten degrees warmer than the water in my pool when I left it. When I got home, I found the pool had actually also warmed to 83 degrees, which was nice. What was definitely NOT nice was that the filter broke while we were gone and my pool was a green, swampy – but finally temperate – mess. So while I thought I’d spend my transition day from vacation to work week poolside, what instead transpired is I spent an hour cleaning the pool, which I couldn’t get in, and then it rained and was overcast all day anyway. Yeah, hello, Virginia. Can’t say I missed you or your lousy excuse for a summer.

In happier news, however, Miss Brachtune missed the heck out of us. She hasn’t left my side for 24 hours. I’ve never seen a cat so incredibly happy to see a human being before. And she’s doing great! The cat sitter said she was a perfect angel when getting her sub-q fluids and she seems to have eaten pretty well, and she just looked healthy. So that was a relief! And now I guess I have to confront the fact that I need to be at work in 10 hours. I did realize today that thanks to the Fourth of July on Saturday, I have a 4-day work week – woo!

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