Pasta with Tempeh Bacon

I generally consider pasta one of those things that doesn’t need a recipe. I mean, basically you just toss it with stuff that tastes good together, right? Who needs a recipe? Unless you are perhaps doing something revolutionary with the pasta. This isn’t revolutionary by any means. But I had the urge to use the camera tonight, so I wrote it up anyway. It was also good and worth repeating, or I wouldn’t subject you to it.

Pasta with Tempeh Bacon

8 oz pasta – just about any shape would be okay
1/2 onion, chopped
6 slices tempeh bacon (homemade or packaged)
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 can artichoke hearts, chopped
1/2 can chickpeas
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp chili pepper flakes
1/4 cup white wine or water (preferably pasta cooking water)
1/4 cup water (preferably pasta cooking water)
salt or vegan soup seasoning (I used Vegeta), to taste
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup vegan cheese, grated (I used Sheese Mozarella) (optional)

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Mince the garlic:

Prep the other ingredients: chop the tempeh bacon, artichoke hearts, onion, and tomatoes; drain the chickpeas.

Heat some olive oil in a wok or large skillet over medium high heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent.

Add the tempeh bacon and a few minutes later, the garlic.

Add the sun-dried tomatoes and cook another couple of minutes.

Add the cherry tomatoes, artichoke hearts, chickpeas, oregano, chili pepper flakes, pepper, and salt or seasoning and cook for two or three minutes.

Add the white wine (or half the water) to deglaze the pan, then toss in the cooked pasta as as well as the water, mixing well.

Optionally toss with vegan cheese.

I served with roasted broccoli (tossed with a mixture of olive oil, fresh lemon juice, garlic, and salt and baked at 400 degrees for 15 minutes). This was a quick but tasty weekday meal, the pasta using all pantry items and therefore being easy to whip up with no planning.

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Spaghetti Bolognese

Ever since Kylie mentioned her spaghetti bolognese in passing the other day, I’ve been thinking about making a vegan version, and when I wanted something pretty hearty for dinner tonight, I decided to try it. I’ve never actually had real spaghetti bolognese, which is a pretty meat-tastic meal, and this in no way approaches tasting like real meat, however, it was made in the spirit of a thick, rich spaghetti sauce, and was easy, tasty, and just what I wanted for dinner.

Spaghetti Bolognese

[I didn’t take an ingredients photo because I wasn’t sure I was going to post it.]

1 cup TVP crumbles (textured vegetable protein)
1/2 cup bulgur
2 cups water
2-4 vegan “beef” bouillon cubes (enough to make 2 cups worth of double-strength broth)
1/2 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes
1 14-oz can tomato sauce
2 tsp Marmite
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp rubbed sage
red pepper flakes, to taste
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup non-dairy milk

I didn’t take a picture of this step, but bring the water to a boil in a saucepan, then whisk in the bouillon cubes, making a double-strength broth. Add the TVP and bulgur, cover, reduce heat, and cook for 10 minutes or until broth is absorbed. Remove from pan and set aside.

Heat some olive oil in the saucepan and add the onions and celery, cooking until soft. Add the garlic and cook another minute.

Add the Marmite and tomatoes and cook for a few minutes.

Add the TVP/bulgur mixture and the rest of the ingredients. If it seems too dry, add a bit of water, broth, or wine.

Simmer, partially covered, for at least half an hour or until thickened.

Serve over spaghetti …

… to your very silly husband.

I also made soup but it was kind of boring and Mark advised it was not blog-worthy. But you can look at it anyway:

Fortinbras was here last night, with his friend from “back home” in Louisiana, Nikki. He made a curry for us (in a mere four hours!) and I took a gazillion photos, so now he’s got to write up a post for you. Y’all might have to help me nag him considering it took him 4 months to make his Christmas cookie post. Here’s a preview:

(Nikki brought me that apron as a gift, isn’t she sweet?!)

Brachtune: not as into being picked up and flung around as Tigger used to be…
Me and Nikki: drinking way too much champers…

What happens to me when I set Fortinbras loose in my kitchen:

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Hot Dog Casserole

I don’t have a shot of the ingredients for this one because even as I had begun to prepare it I still wasn’t sure what direction I was going in with it. All I knew was I had three leftover hot dogs and I wanted to use them up in a non-bun manner. (I don’t know why that was because I now have six un-used hot dog buns I need to find a use for.) This was another throw-whatever’s-in-the-fridge together meal, this time in delicious casserole form!

Hot Dog Casserole

8 oz whole wheat elbows
1 recipe Yeast “Cheese” (from New Farm Cookbook/Simply Heavenly!; scroll down a little bit to see recipe(s)); I used extra mustard
3 vegan hot dogs, sliced into coins
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 green pepper, diced
1-2 cayenne peppers, minced (I used 4 and it was overwhelming; I’d use 2 next time)
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes (I used orange, which I keep buying at the farmer’s market because they’re awesome)
1 cup to 1 can baked beans*

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Cook the pasta until al dente, drain, and set aside. Prepare the “cheese” and set aside.

Mince the chili pepper(s) …

… and chop the other veggies and the hot dogs.

Mark entered the picture this point to steal “free” macaroni and tomatoes. I had to shoo him away.

Saute the onions, bell pepper, and chili pepper for about 5 minutes.

Combine all of the ingredients …

… and place in a baking dish.

I topped it with some panko bread crumbs and Dragonfly’s Bulk, Dry Uncheese because it seems like that’s what you do with casseroles.

Cover and bake for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.


* A note about the baked beans: I threw this in because I had them leftover from the other night and I think the flavour is essential to the casserole, however, they need to be more of the “Boston” variety than the British Heinz variety. I only had a bit left over and wanted to try it with more beans, so I removed a little of the casserole and tried adding a bit of a can of Heinz vegetarian baked beans (from the British aisle of Wegmans, and which I buy because I like beans on toast because sometimes I think I’m actually British and my parents aren’t telling me something…) but they were too runny and too sweet and just not right. So if you are using canned baked beans, use some brand that is sort of thicker, darker, and has molasses in it. I also described how I cheat and make Boston “baked” beans in this post. (In regards to my Britishness, I’ve also begun subconsciously adding extraneous u’s to words like colour and favourite. I guess it’s both because I read a lot of books that are in British English, and also my laptop seems to think I’m British for some reason and tries to tell me “color” and “favorite” are spelled wrong…and they really do look wrong to me now. I am not, however, phobic about zee/zed and realiZe that no matter what the laptop says, I’m American enough to embrace the zee.)

In other news, I noticed a Vegan Lunch Box display in Wegmans the other day, complete with the cookbook and the laptop lunch boxes that Jennifer uses. How cool is that? I’m not sure why, because I like the website, but I never got around to buying the cookbook, so despite the fact I don’t have room for any more cookbooks, I might buy one anyway just to make sure Wegmans knows I’m happy they promote vegan products. (I actually also bought another vegan cookbook at Wegmans a couple of years ago; they’re well-stocked!) You know, Mark and I have been talking about how much longer we really want to stay in Northern Virginia, as there’s a lot not to love about the area (read: traffic), but there are entire vegan displays, not just in Whole Foods or other natural food stores, but my regular, local, every day grocery store. Anything I need is pretty much available to me within a five mile radius. I’m sure that would also be true if we moved to San Francisco or New York, two of our favourite cities, but here we also live in a house and not a one or zero bedroom, 500-square foot apartment with no parking space, which would likely be the case in the good places. Oh, Northern Virginia, how I both hate and love you.

Speaking of lunch boxes, though, here’s mine!

I take my bento box in sometimes, but most of the time, it’s my trusty Tupperware lunch box, and I love it. I didn’t have one when I was a kid – I had aluminum lunch boxes with Strawberry Shortcake or Smurfs or something on them – but my best friend in elementary school did and I was always fascinated by it and its matching interior containers. And the fact that my friend’s contained a hard boiled egg and a tiny little packet of salt every single day. I had a peanut butter and jelly or ham and cheese sandwich with a rotation of Hostess snacks every day. Now, I have leftovers from the previous night’s dinner 90% of the time. Anyway, you can find these Tupperware lunch boxes on eBay, and I’ve seen them in thrift stores a couple of times as well. I have Corningware that I transfer contents I want to microwave to at work because I don’t like microwaving plastic. Other than the little extra clean-up I have to do, I find this works very well for me.

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Pizza Pasta

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, and that’s mostly because my dear friend V is in town from San Francisco celebrating her birthday. I’ve simply been too busy hanging out with her and several of our friends to do anything creative in the kitchen or to update the ole blog. Many of our meals have been random events, however, Saturday night we hosted people here at the house – it was basically a big slumber party, minus the slumber – and I decided to serve individual pizzas. I made a huge batch of pizza dough, rolled out personal sized crusts, and let everyone add their own toppings. For some reason there are no pictures, but I did have leftover sauce and toppings, so for a low-key, detoxifying dinner tonight V suggested I toss some pasta in the leftover sauce. I did one better and dumped all the leftover toppings into skillet with the sauce and some pasta. I now have more than a square inch to spare in the refrigerator and dinner was surprisingly tasty. I didn’t take pictures during the preparation, and I don’t even have a real recipe, but since I took a picture of the resulting meal, here’s approximately what I did.

Pizza Pasta
Made with leftover pizza toppings. Serves 3.

8 oz whole wheat small shell pasta
1/4 red onion, diced
1/4 cup slivered vegan pepperoni
6-8 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/4 heirloom tomato, sliced thinly
1/2 orange bell pepper, chopped
3 Tbsp sun-dried tomato tapenade (or chopped sun-dried tomatoes)
1/4 cup sliced kalamata olives
2 Tbsp capers
1/2 cup caramelized onions
salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste
red chili flakes, to taste
3/4 cup pizza sauce, preferably home-made

Cook the pasta until al dente and drain. Toss with a small amount of olive oil to prevent sticking and set aside.

Heat some olive oil in a wok or large skillet. Add the diced onions and pepperoni and cook for two minutes, then add the bell pepper, tomatoes and garlic; cook for another three minutes. Add the tapenade and mix thoroughly. Add the capers and olives; cook for a minute or two. Add the caramelized onions, salt, pepper, and chili flakes; stir well. Add the pizza sauce and heat thoroughly. Toss with the pasta, garnish with fresh basil, and serve.

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Bacony, Beany Spelt Pasta with Australian Zing

I want to thank everyone for their kind words about Tigger. Tigger was a bit of a momma’s – and in the second half of his life a daddy’s – boy, and I used to have to do a lot of defending of him to people he’d slashed. A lot of people who knew him in real life were scared of him. Scared of that sweet, adorable, lovable little guy – can you believe it?! It really makes me happy to know he had such a following on my blog and that the internet saw him for who he really was: a beautiful, funny, and wonderful cat with a huge personality. I still cry when I think about him, and this first post will be a little depressing without his presence, but I did manage to get a couple of Brachtune pictures to help fill the void.

I’m still adjusting a bit to being back in America. I was jet lagged a bit for a couple of days – couldn’t sleep – and then Mark’s mom and aunt were here for a couple of days, and what with missing Tigger, things haven’t yet seemed quite “normal”. I worked late tonight but I’d promised Mark Brussels sprouts for dinner, so I tried to think of a quick yet interesting accompaniment. (How many girls have husbands they have to try to please by finding meals to go with Brussels sprouts?! Honestly, though, Mark would have been perfectly happy to eat the sprouts and nothing else.) I sort of just pulled this together based on ingredients that seemed like they’d go with with my Brussels sprouts. It turned out quite well.

Bacony Beany Spelt Pasta

4 oz. spelt pasta ribbons
2 tsp olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
6 sliced tempeh “bacon”
7 oz. diced tomatoes (about half a can)
4 leaves Swiss chard
2/3 can Great Northern beans
1/4 tsp Australian habanero sauce (or other hot sauce to taste, or red chili pepper flakes to taste)
1/2 cup vegan stock
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Prepare the pasta as directed on the package. I found that it took significantly less time to cook than stated on the package, so if you aren’t used to spelt pasta, make sure you check it frequently.

Mince the garlic.

Chiffonade the the chard. (That’s sort of fun to say.)

Rinse the beans.

Crumble the tempeh bacon.

In a large skillet or wok, warm the olive oil, then add the garlic.

Saute for 20 seconds, then add the tempeh bacon and fry until beginning to crisp.

Add the tomatoes and their juices; cook for two minutes.

Add the chard and cook for another two minutes.

Add the beans and stir.

Stir in the stock and hot sauce or chili flakes. The hot sauce I used was purchased for Mark at The Rocks Markets in Sydney. Mark’s a hot pepper and hot sauce aficionado and I tend to buy him the hottest sauce I can find when I travel as a souvenir. I warned the seller of this sauce that Mark didn’t like “sissy” sauces and his “extra hot habanero” had better really be “extra hot”, and it is quite good! It’s pretty hot, but in small doses it has a really nice flavor and it worked well in this dish. Use whatever type of heat you like if you can’t make it to Sydney!

Add the drained pasta and toss, then warm through before serving.

Goes well with roasted Brussels sprouts and Australian red wine!

Brachtune has taken to following me around the house, much like Tigger used to. In fact, I think Tigger was oppressing the poor thing because she’s been more active lately than she has been in a while. So although I miss my constant orange companion in the kitchen, The Toonse was at my feet the whole time I prepared tonight’s meal.

Would it be wrong of me to tell Brachtune that it’s much easier for me to get a good angle for her photos if she jumps up on the island like Tigger used to do?

I know it’s not that hygienic to let my cats walk on the counters, but it can’t be that hygienic for me to be rolling around on the floor to take their picture either!

The Toonse is just too well-behaved!

I have a few more pictures to share from Australia, but it’s getting late so I’m going to postpone them for now. Koalas and kangaroos, oh my!

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Kangaroo Pasta

Greetings from Sydney!!! I LOVE it here! My friend Luke and I touched down about 8:15 a.m. Sunday morning. I was surprisingly un-jet lagged and we spent Sunday walking around Smucky’s neighborhood. We decided to take it easy the first day so I cooked the three of us a meal. At the grocery store I found these:

So kangaroo pasta it was!

The challenge was cooking the meal. Smucky has lived in his house for nine months now, so you’d think it’d be reasonably stocked. However, Smucky does not cook – at all – and it was painfully obvious. His oven was pleading for help. I’m not kidding: the clock/temperature window read “H E L P” when I got there. I assuaged its pain somewhat by setting the clock, but between the three of us we were unable to get the oven – other than the clock – to work. Smucky claims it’s been used since he moved in, but it definitely doesn’t work now. And he didn’t even know!

Before leaving the States, I had asked Smucky if he had a decent knife, planning to pack my chef’s knife if he didn’t. He stated he had a “big knife”, so I didn’t bother. Smucky’s “big knife”, however, turned out to be nothing more than a glorified steak knife, accompanied by about 20 steak knives. So after an hour in King of Knives, I bought him a cheapish but somewhat decent chef’s knife. I can’t live without a knife!

Smucky’s mum has stocked him with a few pots and pans that he’s never used, so I did find a nice pot for cooking the pasta and a large skillet. After a few minutes of panic (on my part), he even managed to scrounge up a cutting board. So I was finally in business. Kangaroo pasta and a tossed salad! A quick and easy meal prepared in a woefully underused kitchen!

Kangaroo Pasta

1 pound kangaroo-shaped pasta (obviously you can use any pasta but unless it’s kangaroo shaped it won’t be Kangaroo Pasta)
olive oil
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp capers
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes
1 tomato, chopped
1/2 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp chili flakes (I added this to my dish separately since I was dining with spice sissies)
sea salt to taste
fresh basil

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Add the pasta and cook until al dente.

Mince the garlic and chop the onion.

Chop the sun-dried tomatoes and measure the capers.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onions and garlic.

When the onions are translucent …

… add the sun-dried tomatoes and capers.

Cook for a few minutes, then add the fresh tomatoes …

… and the tinned tomatoes. Season with oregano, salt, and chili flakes.

Let the tomatoes cook down for a few minutes, then add the basil and the pasta and allow to warm up.

I also made a tossed salad.

For a dressing, I just mixed together some olive and balsamic vinegar, along with a bit of salt and garlic. Smuck doesn’t have a whisk, can you believe that?! I used a fork.

I had also bought a baguette: if Smucky’s oven doesn’t work I can’t bake my own, unfortunately. Here’s the table:

Smucky’s father had suggested a good Australian red for us. And here’s the pasta plated:

Luke – who couldn’t tolerate a vegan meal and cooked up some sausages for himself and Smucky- adds some dressing to his salad:

Smucky was very happy to enjoy a home-cooked meal for once!

Happy as the Smuckster was, I was not that happy with the meal, unfortunately. First of all, I didn’t let the pasta warm up enough after adding to the sauce and it was not as hot as I’d have liked. Secondly, I don’t think this is really the thing to make with kangaroo-shaped pasta. This dish is really better with penne or something like that. I think kangaroo pasta is crying out for a more mac and cheese approach. I have another box of it though!

Now that the food is out of the way, meet Max Powers!

Max is Smucky’s cat, whom I LOVE! I always feel a little sad and lost when staying in a catless home, so I was very happy when Smucky got Max, and not only that, but Max is very friendly and loves me too! And he’s so handsome!

And now if you will indulge me, a few photos from my trip so far…

My dear friend Smucky in his natural habitat:

We visited the famous Sydney Opera House:

And then the Botanical Gardens next door:

The greatest thing about the Botanical Gardens, though, is the BATS! I have a life-long love of bats and the Sydney Botanical Gardens are home to a very large breed of macrobat called flying foxes or fruit bats and they are really, really neat.

He’s sticking his tongue out!

There are also wild parrots!

Today, we walked from Bondi Beach to Congee Beach, which is a beautiful (but long!) walk. Here’s me and Pig early in the walk:

Here’s Bondi:

And some waves:

It’s February and I was hanging out on the beach! I’m sunburnt! I’m sure I’ll be back with another post before I return home next Friday, but please forgive me if my posts are sporadic and possibly non-food related. Eating vegan is easy in Sydney, though. Cheeseless pizza on its way to me as I type!

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Love Day Lasagne

The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne,
Th’assay so hard, so sharp the conquerynge,
The dredful joye alwey that slit so yerne:
Al this mene I by Love, that my felynge
Astonyeth with his wonderful werkynge
So sore, iwis that whan I on hym thynke
Nat wot I wel wher that I flete or synke.

Okay, okay…I won’t subject you to any more of The Parliament of Fowls, but consider yourselves lucky because I’ve been known to read the whole thing on Valentine’s Day. Yes, I am a Chaucer geek, and in the days, so long ago, before I met Mark, I was particularly enamored not only of the idea that the first written association of St. Valentine’s Day with romantic love was made by my buddy Chaucer, but also that it ends with the female bird choosing none of her three tercel (eagle) suitors. (As I was picky about men myself and spent many Valentine’s Days alone.) I copied the above out of my battered but beloved Riverside Chaucer, but I’ve found both the original and a modern translation for you. Enjoy!

I’ve been fortunate to have a Valentine for the last eight years and I asked him what he’d like me to make for dinner tonight and he requested lasagne. It occurred to me that I’ve never featured lasagne here, so I documented it. Pour a glass of wine and sit down: this is going to be long. Not because it’s particularly hard to make lasagne, but because I took a gazillion photos….

Love Day Lasagne

1 lb lasagne noodles
1 1/2 quarts marinara sauce (recipe follows)
1/4 recipe cashew cheddar (from the Real Food Daily cookbook; the recipe is here. I only made half a recipe and barely used half of what I made.)
12 oz fresh spinach
1 lb vegan sausage (optional; Mark requested this)
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes
1 recipe vegan ricotta (recipe follows)
vegan mozzarella and parmesan, for topping (optional)

Vegan Ricotta
1 lb tofu
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1 Tbsp miso
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried basil
juice of 1/2 lemon

Marinara Sauce
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 head garlic, minced or pressed (I love garlic, reduce the amount if you’re a vampire)
2 28 oz cans diced or crushed tomatoes
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (optional; I like a little punch)
1 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper, to taste
juice of 1/2 lemon

First, start the marinara sauce. In a Dutch oven or large pot, heat a bit of olive oil then add the onions and carrots. Saute for 5 minutes.

Add the garlic and saute another 5 minutes.

This is about the time Tigger was taking a shower in the sink.

He was really thirsty.

Anyway, when the onions and carrots are soft, add the tomatoes and bring to a boil.

Then add the rest of the ingredients except the lemon juice and turn down the heat until the sauce is just simmering. Allow to cook for half an hour.

While the sauce is simmering, fill a large stock pot with water. This is where I encountered a problem:

Is this normal?!?

When you are able to get rid of the cat, bring the water to a boil and add the lasagne noodles. I have never had luck with no-bake noodles, or not pre-cooking regular noodles, so I always cook my noodles. If you’ve had better luck than I have not cooking your noodles, go for it.

When the sauce if finished cooking, blend in batches in a blender (only after cooling!), or use an immersion blender. (This step is optional.) The stir in the lemon juice.

Chop the sun-dried tomatoes.

Crumble the vegan sausage.

To make the ricotta, place the tofu in a bowl and use your hands to crumble it.

Add the remaining ingredients.

Mix thoroughly; it’s easiest and most fun to just use your hands.

Unmold the cashew cheese.

The last time I made the cashew cheese, it firmed up enough to shred, but I had blender issues this morning and added more soy milk than called for, so it was too soft to shred. So shred it if you can, otherwise, you can just smear it on!

To prepare the spinach, stick it in a bowl and microwave it for 2 minutes. I had to do it in two batches because I didn’t have a large enough bowl to handle it all at once.



To assemble:
Spread about 1/4 cup of the sauce on the bottom of a 9×12 lasagne pan.

Add a layer of noodles.

Add a layer of cashew cheddar.

Add a layer of sauce.

Add a layer of noodles.

Add a layer of sauce.

Add a layer of sausage and sun-dried tomatoes.

Add a layer of noodles.

Add a layer of sauce.

Add the spinach in a layer.

Add a layer of noodles.

Add the ricotta in a layer.

Add a layer of sauce.

Add a layer of noodles.

Add the rest of the sauce, making sure it slides down the sides of the lasagne.

Cover with foil.

Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for half an hour. Remove the foil.

Add shredded vegan mozzarella and/or parmesan.

Return to the oven, uncovered, and bake for an additional 20 minutes. Remove and let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with fresh, crusty bread!


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Chinese New Year

By now most of you have probably heard about Monday being the Chinese New Year, this year being the year of the ox. I wanted to celebrate but had something to do Monday night so I had to postpone my celebration. Yesterday may have been ideal for implementing my celebratory plans, as the weather was all sorts of snowy and icy and I worked from home, meaning I should have had plenty of time to make dinner, however, I wasn’t hungry at dinner time because I ate lunch too late. So tonight it is Chinese New Year at Mark and Renae’s! The holiday is traditionally celebrated over 15 days anyway, so I don’t feel too bad about being a couple of days late.

I just wanted something light for dinner tonight so this is not an elaborate feast, but I did do something special and that is I made pot sticker wrappers from scratch for the first time. I usually buy pre-made wrappers from Super H, and frankly, although they consist of no more than flour and water, making my own never even occurred to me. I’m not really good with things that need to be rolled out evenly. It seemed like an unfathomable amount of work. As I mentioned earlier, though, the weather is being stupid here and I didn’t have any wrappers in the house. And I’d seen Jes’s pot stickers on Cupcake Punk the other day, which inspired me. So, home early tonight, I embarked on my first pot sticker wrapper journey. The journey wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be!

These recipes were adapted from Bryanna Clark Grogan’s Authentic Chinese Cuisine.

Pot Stickers

1 1/2 cups vegan ground beef substitute, either a commercial product (which I used because I had leftovers) or TVP reconstituted in water or vegan “beef” stock
1 carrot, minced
1 parsnip, minced – this is a weird addition and very optional; I only included it because I have parsnips I have to use up
1/2 onion, minced – I’d have used a bunch of scallions instead of the onion if I’d had any
2″ piece of ginger, minced
5 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 Tbsp soy sauce

I used a chopper to mince the veggies:

Mix with the remaining ingredients in a medium bowl.

Next up, the wrappers! Feel free to buy them pre-made, though. I won’t think any less of you! (Do check that they are vegan, I’ve seen egg in them on rare occasion.)

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp very hot water

Mix the flour and water together, either with a wooden spoon (or your hands) in a bowl, or in a food processer.

If using a food processor to knead, pulse for about 30 seconds. If kneading by hand, knead for about 5 minutes.

Roll dough out into a long “rope”.

Cut off a piece about 1″ long and flatten a bit. As you are working, keep the unused dough covered with a wet tea towel to prevent it from drying out.

Using a rolling pin, roll the lump of dough out into a thin circle about 3 1/2″ in diameter.

I rolled out about 5 wrappers, then filled and sealed them, then rolled out 5 more wrappers, etc. For sealing the filled wrappers, you have two choices: you can either use a pot sticker press or you can pleat them by hand. Until tonight, I have always used a press because I figured it was really hard to do by hand. I was wrong; it’s really pretty simple and nearly as fast as using the press once you do it once or twice. I had to do about half of my dumplings by hand tonight whether I wanted to or not because my wrappers were too small for the press. In either case, have a small bowl of water handy.

To use the press, lay the wrapper on the open press:

Place a scant tablespoon of the filling in the center:

Dip a finger in the bowl of water and rub it along the outer edge of half of the dumpling. Then close the press and squeeze lightly.

Open the press and remove the dumpling.

To pleat by hand, place a wrapper in your palm and then place a scant tablespoon of filling in the center.

Lightly wet half of the outer edge with your finger as described above, then fold the dumpling in half, squeezing the edges together to seal.

Starting on one side of the folded dumpling, make a pleat like this:

Continue pleating the entire semi-circle:

Here is a dumpling made using a press (on the left) next to one hand-pleated (on the right):

Continue until either all the dough or all the filling is gone – hopefully they are about even – placing the filled dumplings on a cookie sheet and covering with a towel so they don’t dry out.

To pan fry, heat a large skillet until hot. Add a tablespoon of oil (I used peanut oil with a bit of sesame oil mixed in, as Bryanna suggested) and tilt the skillet until it is coated evenly. Place as many dumplings as you can fit into the skillet without overlapping, pleated side up.

After two minutes, pour 1/3 cup water into the pan and immediately cover.

Cook until water is evaporated (about 5 minutes). Remove lid and if necessary, continue cooking until bottoms are brown and crispy:

The dumplings will have puffed up a bit.

To freeze leftover (un-fried) dumplings, place the dumplings in a single layer on a cookie sheet and cover with plastic wrap to avoid freezer burn.

When they are frozen, remove from the cookie sheet and place in a freezer bag. Cook them exactly as you would fresh dumplings: no need to thaw.

Serve pan-fried dumplings with a dipping sauce. I usually just throw together a couple tablespoons of soy sauce, shaoxing wine (substitute dry sherry), vinegar, hot chili oil, and garlic. Your dipping sauce could be as simple as soy sauce and vinegar or soy sauce and sesame oil.

Although I wasn’t hungry for an elaborate meal, eating nothing but pot stickers for dinner seemed a little wrong, so I also threw together a very fast soup. I just flipped through the same cookbook to find a soup that was very quick to make and called for only ingredients I had on hand. This one fit the bill perfectly (though I had to use frozen instead of fresh spinach).

Tofu and Spinach Soup

2 1/2 cups vegan broth or stock, any flavor
1/2 cup frozen spinach
1 ounce bean thread noodles
1/2 cup tofu, cubed
1 1/2 Tbsp shaoxing wine
1 Tbsp soy sauce
Sichuan pepper, to taste (optional)

Place all ingredients into a small pot. Season with sichuan pepper if you’d like.

Cook for 5 minutes. Eat.

And that was my little Chinese New Year celebration! Happy Year of the Ox everyone!

Comments (8)

I’m out of WHAT?!@ Pasta

I don’t want to whine at you, but I’ve been having a somewhat stressful week at work. Don’t be alarmed, on the stress scale, my job is usually pretty low, so it’s no big deal, but I got home late tonight and was a little cranky and not feeling that great. So I put SPAM Week on a hiatus and decided I was craving good ole non-experimental, quick and easy pasta. I put a pot on to boil and set about gathering ingredients for my go-to last-minute pasta dish, when I was suddenly confronted with the startling and upsetting news that I have no tomatoes.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I use a lot of canned tomatoes. Mark recently informed me that all of my meals are very “red”. I probably don’t have a big following of people with nightshade allergies. I buy tins of tomatoes nearly every time I’m at the grocery store, and to come home and stare in my cupboard and see NO tomatoes…well, I was flabbergasted. Pasta with no tomatoes? HOW IS IT POSSIBLE?

I soon decided that some sort of garlicky sauce was in order. Only to be confronted with equally astonishing fact that I was down to a mere three cloves of garlic. WHAT IS MY WORLD COMING TO?!

Follows is the story of how I overcame these obstacles. I didn’t take any preparatory photos because all I wanted to do was make dinner as quick as possible and cuddle up with The Toonse (aka Brachtune) and a book, plus I’ve already told you how I usually throw together pasta. But after deeming my experiment a success, I decided to post the recipe after all, if for no other reason for myself to refer back to if ever I am ever unfortunate enough to find myself in this devastating situation again.

You may find it disingenuous that the recipe below includes tomato paste when I’ve just complained about having no tomatoes. I didn’t say I had no tomato-y products, though, I just said I had no tomatoes. What kind of household do you think I’m running here?! Not having tomato paste?! Impossible! (Oh yeah, I also had sun-dried tomatoes.)

Renae Desperately Needs to Go to the Grocery Store Pasta

8 oz dried pasta of any sort (I used multi-colored spirals)
1-2 Tbsp roasted garlic olive oil (or herbed olive oil, or regular old plain extra virgin olive oil)
all the garlic you can muster up (I had just 3 pathetic cloves)
1/4 cup capers
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes
1 can artichoke hearts
1 can chickpeas
3 Tbsp tomato paste
3 Tbsp Dragonfly’s Bulk, Dry Uncheese Mix
1 cup vegan “chicken” broth
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp red chili pepper flakes
freshly-ground black pepper, to taste

Cook the pasta as directed on the package and drain. In a wok or large pan, heat the oil. Add the garlic and fry for 30 seconds. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and capers and fry for 1 minute. Add the artichoke hearts and chickpeas and fry for 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and stir to distribute evenly, then add the Uncheese mix and stir. Pour in the broth and stir until evenly mixed in, stirring as it thickens. Season with oregano, chili flakes, and pepper. When the sauce thickens, mix in the pasta.

Maybe not the most exciting meal on the planet, but surprisingly good despite all the obstacles. A word on that Uncheese Mix by Dragonfly: you’ll want to make a batch of this and keep it around for just such emergencies as this. Also sprinkle it on popcorn, on pizza, on pasta: anything that start with a “p”, really. And based on how yummy those artichokes tasted in my pasta tonight, I’m thinking UNCHEESY ARTICHOKE DIP in my immediate future. Stay tuned.

Comments (1)

“Hamburger” Noodle Bake

I don’t remember often hankering for any particular meals when I was a kid. I ate just about everything and I think I was relatively happy regardless of what my mother served on any given night, although I wasn’t very happy when she insisted on making breakfast (eggs or pancakes) for dinner. Really, the food I remember most fondly from my childhood is the salads my mom and I made just about every night in the summers, with vegetables grown in our own garden. Other than the occasional brownies or cake from a mix, picking the veggies for the nightly salad was about the only “cooking” I did as a kid. And my mom even made her own croutons, can you believe that?!

Anyway, apart from salads, although I remember particularly liking special-occasion meals like baked ham and roast beef, I don’t remember ever requesting my mother make any particular meals…except once, when I remember asking for “that noodle stuff with the meat and cheese” for my birthday dinner. When I went through her recipes this weekend, I discovered it is called Hamburger Noodle Bake and it was my great-aunt’s recipe, and although Mom didn’t make it all that often, I guess it made a big impression on me because I’ve never forgotten it (unlike the alleged pork chops). As more and more years have passed since I became vegetarian (more than 20 now), I’ve forgotten what the dish really tasted like, but I have never forgotten liking it. At long last, the memory is restored!

The original:

1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
2 T. shortening
1 1/2 lb hamburger
1 med. onion
1 tsp salt
3 8-oz cans tomato sauce
1 8-oz package noodles
1 tsp sugar
1 3-oz package cream cheese
1 cup sour cream

Melt fat in skillet. Put in hamburger and brown. Add onion, salt, pepper, sugar, and tomato sauce and cover; cook 15-20 minutes. Cook noodles according to pkg. Combine cream cheese and sour cream together and add in layers starting with noodles, cream cheese mix, and meat Cover with cheddar cheese. Bake 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

Now mine:

“Hamburger” Noodle Bake

1 medium onion, diced
1 12-oz package vegan “ground beef”
5 cloves garlic, minced or pressed (optional, as it wasn’t in the original)
1 tsp salt
freshly-ground pepper to taste
1 tsp sugar or 2 drops stevia (optional; I won’t use next time)
1 15-oz can tomato sauce
8 oz noodles (the rombi shape I used was perfect)
3 oz vegan “cream cheese” (I measured for those of you who don’t have a kitchen scale: it’s about 1/3 cup)
1 cup vegan “sour cream”
1/2 cup grated vegan “cheddar cheese” (I can really only recommend Cheezly, but I realize with grocery bills being what they are right now, most of you outside of the UK are going to think I’m crazy.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Weigh noodles. I usually never scale pasta and just guess at serving sizes, and I always vastly over-estimate. So tonight I scaled it!

Cook the pasta al dente and drain. Meanwhile, bring a large skillet up to medium heat and then add a bit of oil. When oil is warm, add the onions and saute until translucent.

Add the “ground beef” and cook for 5 minutes.

Next I added garlic because I found it inconceivable it wasn’t called for, but that’s just me.

Add the tomato sauce, salt, pepper, and sugar or stevia if using and stir to mix.

Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the cream cheese and sour cream in a small bowl.

Grate the “cheddar cheese”.

Place the noodles into a casserole dish. I sprayed it lightly with olive oil so they wouldn’t stick.

Cover noodles with the cream cheese/sour cream mixture …

… then top with the “meat” and sauce mixture.

Top with the “cheddar cheese”.

Bake for 20 minutes.

Serve with a tossed salad (I do wish for those halcyon days of having a garden that grew an entire salad!) or plenty of veggies.

I made a super-easy zucchini dish by sauteing a sliced zucchini with a few onion slices, then tossing with Hawaiian red salt and freshly-ground pepper. I also steamed some broccoli because I figured Mark wouldn’t touch the zucchini, however, he not only helped himself to some, he stole a slice or two off my plate while we were eating! This is highly unusual; I think it was the salt. Must remember to put red salt on things I want Mark to eat…

Mark, who is on a big health kick, has a habit of asking me if everything I make is “bad for you”. As a general rule, very few things I make are actually downright bad for you, and he actually asks this question of things like steamed broccoli, so the answer he generally gets is, “Are you insane?” His question was a bit more relevant than usual in regards to this meal, because it was made with several processed and convenience foods, which I generally like to avoid or use sparingly. So I told him it wasn’t as great for him as most meals I make, although probably better than the original. However, I wanted to know what this meal from my memory banks really tasted like, and making it with Tofutti products and commercial vegan “ground beef” was the closest I was going to get to that – and it worked: it tasted right. But as I was pulling it together, my mind was already churning with ways to healthify it – or in other words, in typical Renae fashion, make it much more difficult than it needs to be – and sophistify it. I’m thinking bulgur instead of “beef”, cashew and/or tofu cream for the “cheese”, and whole wheat noodles. And I felt the tomato sauce was just calling for wine. It is my plan, therefore, to repeat this meal, using whole foods. I think it will be a fun experiment.

This meal also reminded me of one I was served more frequently as a child: Hamburger Helper.

Comments (6)

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