Colonial Apple Catsup and Baked Seitan Ham

Wandering the library the other day, I for some reason decided it would be a hoot to look for really old recipes, particularly from this area, that I could veganize, so I trotted on over to the cookbooks. I expected to find just a couple of books, but my arms were full after looking over just a shelf and a half of about six shelves of cookbooks. I checked out books containing recipes from colonial Williamsburg, the Civil War, and our “founding fathers”.

Flipping through them a bit more intensively at home later, though, I started having second thoughts. I don’t know that I really want to veganize anything called “Sheep’s Head Stew,” which yes, really is what it sounds like. I couldn’t even read some of the recipes they were so disturbing. One of the books used the old-style “s” that looks like “f”, though, which made the chapter called “Flesh and Fish” look like “Flefh and Fifh”, which I kept reading as “Flesh and Filth,” which was sort of amusing…and accurately conveys how appetizing I found most of its contents.

I did eventually mark a few recipes, though. One of the more interesting was Dutch Apple Catsup. The modern intro says,

Just as catsup is very American, so is the idea of making it from apples instead of tomatoes.

Which I thought was funny given the name of the recipe is Dutch Apple Catsup. The recipe is in the chapter on New York recipes, though, where there were a lot of Dutch settlers – it was called New Amsterdam when this recipe was in favor – and in fact, most of the recipes in the chapter are Dutch this or that. I just thought it was linguistically humorous.

The intro also goes on to say,

This recipe looks strange, but if you prepare it, you will be surprised at what a great relish is it with roast pork, baked ham, and many other main course dishes.

The recipe is entirely vegan as written, though I have halved all the amounts (and still made more than I can probably use). I didn’t find it strange at all!

Dutch Apple Catsup
an old New Amsterdam recipe from the 18th century

6 large or 8 medium apples (or 1 pint prepared applesauce)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1 medium white onion, diced
1 cup white vinegar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup prepared horseradish

Pare and core the apples …

… then quarter.

Place in a pot and cover with water.

Simmer without a lid until the apples are very soft and the water has almost completely evaporated.

Puree the apples. You can either push them through a sieve (the colonial method), run them through a food mill, beat them with a spoon, or put them in a blender. I did the least colonial thing:

At this point I realized I’d spent an hour and a half making apple sauce. You can easily skip all of the above steps and buy non-sweetened, all-natural apple sauce.

Place the remaining ingredients in a pot.

Stir in the apple sauce:

Simmer slowly for one hour.

As the recipe had said to serve with roast pork or baked ham, I figured I’d finalize my “ham” recipe. So here goes; it’s nearly identical to my last attempt.

Seitan Ham

2 1/3 cups vital wheat gluten (one box)
1/4 tsp white pepper
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
1 cup beet juice (or just use water; the resulting “ham” simply won’t be pink)
1 cup ketchup

For the simmering broth
7 cups water
1 cup soy sauce
3 Tbsp liquid smoke
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp sage
1 onion, chopped
1/4 cup nutritional yeast

Bring the simmering broth ingredients to a boil in a large pot:

Meanwhile, mix the dry ingredients together in a medium bowl:

In a separate bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients.

Pour the liquid into the dry and mix with your hands. Pardon me, but I forgot how to focus at this point. I’d have trashed the photo, but I wanted you to see the fuschia color.

Form into a log and place on a large piece of cheesecloth. I wash and reuse cheesecloth, which is why it looks dingy.

Roll up then tie of the ends like a Tootsie roll:

Place the seitan log in the simmering broth.

Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for an hour and 15 minutes (or pressure cook for 45 minutes).

Remove log from the broth.

When cool enough to handle, unwrap it. It’s much less pink, though the interior was pinkish when sliced.

It’s best if you bake it. Slice it up:

Baste it with something. The recipe I gave here is really tasty, but of course tonight I used the apple catsup, which was also tasty.

Bake at 400 degrees for half an hour.

Serve, with additional catsup.

Mark stole one of my slices off my plate, so it seemed to go over well with him. I have a ton of apple catsup left over. Now I’m wondering what else to do with it!

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Garlicky Chipotle Lima Beans with Smoky Seitan

I love lima beans! Mom, are you reading this?!

Lima beans are the only food I can think of that I didn’t like when I was little. My family never had much to do with mushrooms, so I didn’t realize until I was older that my real hatred is mushrooms. I expend so much energy hating mushrooms that I often forget to hate lima beans because although people are always trying to shove mushrooms down the throats of vegetarians like they are some mystical, meaty non-meat product that I must be lusting for, but no one ever tries to make you eat lima beans once you move out of your parents’ house. So the only time I ever remember that I hate lima beans is on Thanksgiving when my mom makes succotash with corn and frozen limas. And honestly, I can eat them that way, I’d just rather not because they are nasty.

I did learn a couple of years ago that I don’t hate large lima beans; it’s only baby limas I don’t like. But then I decided to test this thing out a little more and bought dried baby lima beans. I had no idea what to do with them – honestly the only thing I’ve ever seen a lima bean in is my mom’s succotash – so I did some googling today and found the promising Baby Lima Bean Soup with Chipotle Broth on 101 Cookbooks. Here is my variation; instead of a soup, I made them a lot thicker, as well as I think spicier and garlickier. I also made use of a product that is new to me that was recommended by a commenter: Goya Ham-flavored concentrate. Lucy at Vegan Del Ray recommended it for obtaining that elusive ham flavor in my seitan ham, and when I spied it at Wegmans I decided to check it out. If you can’t find this stuff, try substituting some liquid smoke or vegan “bacon” bits, or smoked paprika, and add some salt.

Garlicky Chipotle Lima Beans

8 oz dried baby lima beans (large limas would probably work fine too)
1-3 dried chipotle peppers (depending on how much heat you like)
1 small or 1/2 large head garlic, cloves removed and peeled but left whole
3 large shallots or 1 medium onion, sliced thinly
1 packet Goya ham-flavored concentrate

Soak the beans overnight, or speed soak by bring to a boil in 4 cups of water, simmering for two minutes, then removing from heat and letting sit for an hour. Drain. Place the soaked beans, 4 cups fresh water, the chipotles, and the concentrate in a pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

Meanwhile, sauté the shallots or onions in a small amount of oil …

… until beginning to caramelize. (I wouldn’t ordinarily have used such a small skillet – I was breaking in my recently seasoned little skillets and actually did half the shallots in each.)

Add the shallots or onions to the bean pot …

… reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for one to one and a half hours, or until beans are soft.

Meanwhile, I wanted a sort of “meaty” accompaniment to the beans, so I removed some seitan I had frozen from the freezer. To quickly defrost it, I merely sat it on top of the stove while I was seasoning my skillets at 500 degrees. Then I chopped it into bite-sized pieces and made a marinade using 1/2 cup soy sauce, 4 cloves pressed garlic, some fresh pepper, another packet of “ham” concentrate, and a cup of water, which I whisked together in the awesome wide vintage Pyrex bowl I scored for $10 at the antique mall yesterday when skillet shopping because I have the best luck ever:

Then I added the chopped seitan and let it marinate while the limas cooked.

When the limas were about done, I heated my new skillets: again, I’m using very small ones here, one serving in each, when usually I’d use one big skillet, just because I was breaking in my seasoning. I sautéed a chopped scallion and a chopped bell pepper for a minute …

… then added the drained seitan and cooked until it was beginning to brown.

Meanwhile, the lima beans were done:

Then I served it, with some peas because I need green on my plate:

To my immense surprise, this was absolutely delicious! I apparently love lima beans! They just need to be dried, not frozen. And cooked in a smoky, spicy, garlicky wonderfulness! Another note: some say there are two types of people in the world: those who go to great lengths to keep different foods from so much as touching each other on their plates, and those who like to mix all their food together and eat it at once. I’m definitely of the latter variety. And I don’t know why, but the lima beans were very tasty on their own, and the seitan was tasty on its own, but when I combined some lima beans and some seitan on my fork and ate them in one bite, it was a taste sensation! So feel free to try dumping both these dishes into one pot and making a lima-y, seitan-y stew out of them! That’s what I plan to do for lunch tomorrow!

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Baked Easter “Ham”

As I predicted, I baked some of the ham I made last night for Easter dinner tonight, and I have to say, it was definitely the “hammiest” thing I’ve eaten in 20 years, so I’m getting very close!

I took three of the “cutlets” I boiled last night, scored them, brushed them with a mixture of about 2 tablespoons agave nectar and 2 tablespoons of the balsamic mustard I mentioned in this post (that I got from this post on Cupcake Punk), and studded them with cloves, then baked at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for about 45 minutes.

I deplore having nothing green with my dinner, but I’m pretty much out of veggies and I don’t think Wegmans was open today. So homemade sauerkraut and more frozen corn it was.

I’m a little hammed out having had it two nights in a row now (and there are still more leftovers!), but I think in a few weeks when I get the urge to make it again, I’ll have a perfected recipe for you!

I also tested the babka recipe for Peter Reinhart’s upcoming cookbook, appropriately enough as it’s Easter. I wasn’t expecting it to turn out that well because it calls for a lot of egg yolks. But I substituted an equal weight of silken tofu and it turned out AWESOME!

I did some more organizing in my kitchen this weekend. What’s interesting about that is I was just looking at my first seitan “ham” post and realized that I made that attempt the same weekend I completely reorganized my kitchen the first time. Weird. Anyway, in the course of cleaning out my cupboards, I found a few things that I’m simply never going to use and I’d like to offer them to any of you who could use them.

First, I bought this set of Calphalon Hard Anodized cookware a few years ago. I use the pots all the time, but I never use the skillets, because as you know, I am extremely attached to my cast iron skillet. These are really, really nice skillets, though. I may have used the larger two once or twice, although I’m not sure I ever used them at all. They are pretty much brand new. I have used the smaller skillet a bit more often, though only for toasting things like seeds, so I therefore never use oil on it and it’s completely clean. I thought about keeping the small skillet, but then I figured I’d keep the set together and get myself one of the small cast iron skillets I’m always eyeing up and talking myself out of because I have a small skillet. If you are interested, leave a comment and I’ll email you for your address so I can send you the set; shipping is on me anywhere in the US. Internationally, let me know your country and postcode and I’ll figure out what shipping will be and if it’s a lot, we can talk. Together the set weighs just under ten pounds.

Secondly, this Italian bread pan. I used it a few times after buying it and it’s great, but I then got a huge baking stone that I now bake directly on. Same deal as above: if you want it, leave a comment.

These are both really nice items that I simply haven’t given the attention they deserve. I also don’t have room for them in my kitchen. I’d love to see them go to someone who will use them. I bought these items specifically because I like the brand name: most of my non-cast iron cookware is Calphalon hard anodized, and most of my bakeware is Chicago Metallic. I just don’t use these particular items. If you want, I can post pictures of them.

I guess if more than one person is interested in one or both of the items, I’ll pick winners at random on Friday, April 17 at 8 p.m. (Eastern time). If no one responds by then, I’ll either give them to the first person to comment after that time, or I may find something else to do with them. I’d just like them to have a good home.

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Easter “ham”

I foodically (what? it’s a perfectly cromulent word!) celebrated two holidays today! I made matzo ball soup for Passover lunch. I should have taken a photo, but I made it exactly as Isa directs in Vegan with a Vengeance. I’d never had it before, but it was good.

Then I was a day early, but I found myself in the mood to experiment with making seitan ham again, so I tried to make an Easter ham. It was a last-minute, throw-it-together sort of thing and I didn’t take photos, didn’t write it down, and didn’t think it would turn out well. However, it ended up being the closest I’ve gotten to a hammy taste, so I’m going to record approximately what I did. I’ll try to tighten the recipe up later and report back to you. Oddly, I think the breakthrough thing was an accident. When I went to add the liquid smoke to the pot, I thought for some reason it had the sort of cap on it that limits you to a few drops at a time and I rather rambunctiously dumped it in before realizing it had no such thing, and I added much more than I would ever have thought of using. I thought at first I had probably ruined the broth but I tasted it and it wasn’t bad, so I figured I’d try it. I think the smoky flavor is what made it taste more like ham to me. I have no idea how much I ended up pouring in there but I guessed two tablespoons below. It could well have been three or even four, though.

Seitan Ham

Simmering broth
7 cups water
1 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp liquid smoke
1 large onion, chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried sage
1/4 cup nutritional yeast

1/3 cup soy flour
2 1/3 cups vital wheat gluten
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
1 Tbsp smoked paprika (use sweet paprika or omit if you don’t have smoked)
1 1/4 cups water
1 cup ketchup

Bring all of the broth ingredients to a boil in a large Dutch oven or stock pot. In a large bowl, mix together the soy flour, vital wheat gluten, salt, pepper, and smoked paprika. In a large liquid measuring cup, whisk together the water and ketchup. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry and knead with your hands until all of ingredients are thoroughly mixed. Cut the resulting seitan mass into 6 pieces; shape each into a ball then flatten with your palm and place in the simmering broth. Cover the pot, reduce heat to medium, and simmer for an hour. Remove with a slotted spoon and pan fry or bake. Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days in some of the broth.

I did manage to get a picture of the ham floating in the broth:

I don’t know that ham is often pan fried. I think it is ordinarily baked. But I was anxious to get the meal on the table so I just browned it a bit in my cast iron skillet.

I served it with some broccoli and cheeze sauce, corn, and some yeasted bread, because for me, Passover was over.

Tomorrow I may bake the leftovers for my “real” Easter dinner. If I do, I’ll let you know the results.

Mark really liked the ham. Although I asked him if he thought it tasted at all hammy and he said it tasted more like horse. I asked him when he’d ever eaten horse meat and he said once when he was young he said he was hungry enough to eat a horse and a genie appeared and granted him his wish and a horse appeared so he cooked it and ate it. And I said I didn’t believe that story because he doesn’t know how to cook. And so he said he microwaved it. And I asked how did he have a microwave big enough to fit a horse and he said it was a tiny show pony. I still think he might be lying though.

And another thing. When Peter Reinhart’s new cookbook comes out, don’t be afraid to make the cheese bread! I can’t share the recipe, but I made it using a mixture Follow Your Heart nacho and Cheezly mozzarella and it was AWESOME!

Also, my mom reminded me to tell you how Brachtune got her name. I know you’re probably sitting up at nights wondering. I didn’t name her. When I was in college, I rescued her from some neighbors who had her for a while, and because they were irresponsible college boys, no longer wanted her and were going to take her to the pound. They informed me her name was “Brocktoon” and said that it had something to do with Mr Belvedere, which I never fully understood. Although it was not my initial plan – I already had two cats – I ended up keeping her and as I had never seen her nonsensical name in writing, I had to make up a spelling, so I made the spelling Brachtune, figuring it looked vaguely German. People would often ask me what it meant and I’d have to say vaguely, “uh, Mr Belvedere?” One night, however, I had a party which an old friend of mine from high school I hadn’t seen in a long time attended. He asked the name of my cat and when I told him, he laughed and said, “oh from the Saturday Night Live skit with Tom Hanks! That’s hilarious!” Not only did he know what Brachtune was, he had a video tape of the very episode! Two nights later I was at his house watching The Guy Who Plays Mr. Belvedere Fan Club! And it all suddenly made sense.

It’s on the Best of Tom Hanks SNL DVD, by the way, if you ever have a chance to watch it. It IS funny.

Also, since it is Easter, I will share with you a strange factor about my life. PEOPLE ARE ALWAYS MAKING ME DRESS UP LIKE A BUNNY. I DON’T KNOW WHY.

It started when I was very young. This is me and my godmother. I’m what, a month old?

Late-breaking addition from my mom:
I was then a bunny on what my mother said was my first Halloween, but as I was born on October 19, this was either technically my second Halloween or I was a very early walker:

I guess she meant my first Halloween dressing up. I guess I went as an infant for my first Halloween.

Then when I worked in the grocery store in high school, THEY made me dress up like the Easter bunny and walk around terrorizing small children. (There’s a sign for ham behind me, ugh!)

After a time, I just gave in. When a friend of mine asked me to be a bridesmaid, I insisted on hopping down the aisle wearing bunny ears. She vetoed that idea but I did get away with wearing them at the reception.

And this…I can’t even explain this. (Yes, that’s Fortinbras.)

Speaking of Fortinbras, wow, I had no idea you guys were going to want to start a Fort Fan Club! I shouldn’t be surprised as he is pretty awesome. He’s excited to make another post, possibly even next weekend, so keep your fingers crossed. We may have to nag him about it, though. You saw how long it took him to make his Christmas post. In the meantime, here’s one of my favorite pictures of us. We’re in New Orleans for Halloween:

I’m also fond of this one …

… though this one is a bit more typical:

Man, you want more pictures of Fortinbras? That’s a dangerous request. I have more pictures of him than I do of Tigger. I have more pictures of Fortinbras than I do all other subjects put together! But I think instead of digging up old photos, we should just implore ole Fort to make more guest appearances! He’s not vegan, but he’s always been extremely supportive of me, and in fact, he veganized ALL of the holiday foods he made to give away to friends and family just because he was baking them at my house.

And now I’m going to go celebrate my third holiday of the day: it’s Godless Saturday. I figure, since Jesus died yesterday and he’s not to be resurrected until tomorrow, we can all sin with impunity today! And with that, I’m going to go get another beer.

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Chinese-Style Orange “Beef”

I usually go to Trader Joe’s about once a month and stock up on stuff. Last night was a Trader Joe’s night. I found a new product: “Beef-Less’ and “Chicken-Less” strips (I assumed I’d be able to find a link for you but alas, no) in the produce department and decided to pick up a package of each for making quick dinners after late nights at work. And somehow the very next night became just such a night. I got home around 8 and wanted to make something fairly fast, so I broke out the “Beef-Less” strips and threw together an “orange beef” stir-fry. Ordinarily I’d have preferred to use a fresh orange so I could use the zest in the dish as well but I didn’t have any and it was already late, as well as rainy and dreary, so I just used orange juice from the fridge instead of running to Wegmans.

Chinese-Style Orange Beef

1 package vegan “beef” strips, such as Trader Joe’s Beef-Less Strips
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 hot pepper, sliced
1 head broccoli, chopped into florets
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 cup orange juice
2 Tbsp shaoxing wine (or sherry)
2 Tbsp agave nectar
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp chili paste
1 Tbsp bean paste
1 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp cold water

Chop the broccoli and steam until crisp-tender, leaning towards crisp (it will cook another minute or two in the stir-fry, so under-cook slightly).

Chop the bell pepper, slice the hot pepper, mince or press the garlic, and if desired, snip the “beef” strips into bite-sized pieces using kitchen shears.

Whisk together the orange juice, agave nectar, shaoxing wine, soy sauce, chili paste, and bean paste.

In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and water.

Heat a wok over medium-high heat, add 1-2 Tbsp peanut oil, then add the garlic and hot pepper. Stir fry for 30 seconds to a minute.

Add the bell pepper; stir fry for a minute.

Add the “beef” strips and fry for 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the broccoli and fry for 30 seconds or so.

Pour in the sauce and stir, then add the cornstarch mixture and stir until the sauce thickens and becomes slightly shiny.

Serve with rice.

This was a pretty good, fast meal. The “Beef-Less” strips were okay. I’d probably buy them again as they were very convenient and tasted fine. I asked Mark what he thought of them and he said, “pretty good”. I asked him if he could be any more specific because I wanted to review them on the blog and he said, “they are better than I could do!” But then he added, “they aren’t as good as that secret seitan recipe you made a couple of times. That was sooooo good. You should make that again.” He was talking about Kittee’s Gluten Log; it was a test recipe when I first made it. So I guess that’s that. But Kittee’s recipe, though amazing, really needs to be made the day before for best results and the Beef-Less strips can be ready in 3 minutes, and on some days, convenience wins.

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, a day late! I made “corned beef” last night:

I was going to share the recipe with you, then decided it’s not quite there yet, but worth working on. At least it was edible. Whenever someone says to me, “everything you make is so good,” Mark is always quick to say, “not EVERYTHING”. When asked to elaborate, he never fails to bring up “the corned beef”. I tried to make “corned beef” seitan about five years ago – following a recipe from the internet, I don’t know which one – and it was so salty it was completely inedible, and it’s saying something when Mark finds something too salty to eat because he’s a saltasaurus. A complete disaster. So I went very easy on the salt in my invention last night, although I think real corned beef is fairly salty. (I’ve never actually had corned beef. I know, I led a very sheltered life before going vegetarian! What’s weird is I think reubens would have been my favorite food ever had I ever had one.)

The other thing that I have made that was not good was the infamous “gasoline cake” that I baked for a friend’s birthday shortly after going vegan. However, that incident was entirely Fortinbras’ fault. It must have been a wacky cake because it had vinegar. Fortinbras showed up at my apartment to help decorate as I was mixing the batter, which I tasted and found to be “off”. I claimed I was going out to buy more flour and mix up a new cake because I’d ruined that one, but Fortinbras tasted the batter and said it was “fine”. I was still pretty new to cooking and baking and didn’t really feel like running up to the store, so with some misgivings, I listened to Fort and baked it up. I decorated it nicely and it looked quite lovely. After singing Happy Birthday, the cake was sliced and pieces were handed around. Suddenly people were making faces and politely putting their pieces down without finishing them. “What’s wrong?!” I shrieked. “It tastes like gasoline,” the birthday girl (never one to mince words) informed me. The only thing I can think of is I added too much vinegar. Only Fortinbras finished an entire slice, claiming it was “fine”, while I yelled at him because I’d TOLD him it there was something wrong with it and had wanted to make another.

A year or two later, though, I baked a cake for another friend who said it was the “most incredible cake” he’d ever tasted and who took the leftovers to his family who also said it was the most amazing cake they’d ever had. So I redeemed myself, just as I hope to redeem myself in regards to the corned beef incident.

I really like the texture I get from pressure cooking seitan, but I’ve been noticing that whenever I do, no matter how many flavorings I put in the seitan and in the broth, the finished product always tastes somewhat bland. I’m really quite baffled by it. Both the liquid for the seitan and the broth I made last night were very flavorful and I thought that seitan was going to be amazing, but it was just…seitan. Like all the flavor had cooked out of it. So I think I have the ingredients right, I need to work on the execution. I’ll try steaming this time. Has anyone else encountered this problem? Were you able to fix it?

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A Not-Very-Good Attempt at Seitan Ham

I know I haven’t been posting much and the reason is I haven’t been feeling very creative. Between worrying about the declining health of my two aging cats, preparing for my trip to Australia next month (and the nerve-wracking coincidence of these situations), and various other issues, I’ve been resorting to time-honored recipes I’ve already featured here or working directly from cookbooks. When Wegmans had 2-pound bags of green beans on sale this week, I thought of the time I made Smoked Seitan Butt and Green Beans, which was surprisingly good but in which I had wished for more green beans. So tonight, in my newly reorganized kitchen, I decided it was time to revisit the making of ham- (or pork-) flavored seitan. I had originally tried a Simply Heavenly pork recipe when I made Barbecued UnPork Chops, which was good, but didn’t taste anything like I remember ham tasting like.

I based the recipe on Bryanna Clark Grogan’s soy and seitan ham recipe (which I’ve made before and which is good, but doesn’t taste much like ham to me) and the Christmas seitan-ham on Vegan Fitness, as well as getting the Szechuan peppercorn idea from this recipe. It didn’t turn out all that well, so I DON’T suggest you follow this recipe. Basically I’m putting it up because 1) I took all the pictures and wrote the recipe up anyway (before tasting it) and 2) to remind me what not to do next time!

Seitan “Ham”

2 cups vital wheat gluten
2/3 cup soy flour
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp Szechuan peppercorns, crushed
scant 1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tsp liquid smoke
12 ounces firm tofu
11 ounces tomato juice
1 Tbsp beet powder

For the broth:
2 quarts water
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 tsp liquid smoke

Combine the dry ingredients, except the beet powder, in a large bowl …

… and whisk together. Combine the remaining ingredients in a blender.

Blend until smooth.

Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry.

Mix until they come together, then knead for a few minutes until fully combined.

Shape into a log and place on a large piece of cheesecloth.

Roll up and tie the ends of the cheesecloth off, like a Tootsie Roll.

Put the broth ingredients in a pressure cooker or Dutch oven and bring to a boil. Add the seitan log.

Cook under pressure for 45 minutes, or without pressure for two hours. Remove from the broth …

… and remove from the cheesecloth. This was the first indicator something had gone awry. The seitan was no longer pink! (The lighting is bad in this picture; it was a tan color; normal seitan color, actually.)

Although upon slicing, the center was slightly pinkish, which was a sort of gross likeness to meat that I could do without. You can’t really see that here either, but trust me, it was weird.

I tasted a bit of it and was very surprised to find that it had absolutely no taste! I can’t figure it out! With all of those ingredients, you’d think it would taste like something! Possibly something bad, but I expected a flavor! I decided to fry slices up in hopes that would add some flavor. (You can sort of see the pink middles here if you look.)

This did help somewhat, although not enough that I’d recommend using this recipe. I’ll work on improving it. Now it feels like a quest. The quest for vegan ham.

I made the broth for the smoked seitan butt extra smoky to make up for the fact that I couldn’t taste ANY smoke in the seitan. (Note to self: add liquid smoke to grocery list.) Remember I said I had wished for more green beans last time? I think I overdid it! (The seitan, potatoes, onions, and broth are under there somewhere!

In the end it turned out well, though. (This is before it was finished cooking.)

I also mentioned above that my kitchen is reorganized. I gave myself the task this weekend of procuring a bookshelf that would fit in my kitchen, moving my cookbooks in there, moving some other stuff around, and then using the freed-up space in my library bookshelves to shift and fix the order of my other books, which have been piling up and getting out of order.

I used to have a bunch of things on the floor between the kitchen island and the wall: the ice cream maker, yogurt maker, a cake stand, a basket for root vegetables, a stock pot, a tray, and a large container of soybeans. It was a mess. Additionally, I’d been storing one of my woks on one of the two stools that go with the island. I was always hitting my head on the island when leaning down to retrieve something and basically, as I crave order, the whole thing was driving me crazy. So I went to some thrift stores yesterday in search of a bookshelf. I finally came across one that I thought was ugly at first, but found that the color grew on me as I thought about it. (Mark finds it hideous, but I figured I could always paint it.) I moved all of the aforementioned stuff out of the area they were in and placed the shelf in their stead. Then I put all of my cookbooks on it. (I can’t actually acquire any more cookbooks as they fit perfectly!) The stock pot and the wok went on top. Here it is:

I moved the appliances out into a hutch in dining room, where they are much easier to get to and will stay dust-free. Next, I don’t know if you’ve seen it in any of the hundreds of photos I post, but I had about 20 bottles of various oils, vinegars, wines, and other cooking liquids sitting out on one of my counters. In one of our closets I found an unused wire rack on wheels. I loaded it up with all the bottles and wheeled it into the small space between the island and the wall, declaring myself an organizational genius:

Although they are out of sight when not in use, it’s actually now much easier to find what I want. I also had room there for the jars of dried beans that I’d been piling on my baker’s rack. So now the baker’s rack is cleaner too!

But wait, there’s more! I moved the mixie, which had been behind my chopping block and which was therefore a pain in the butt to use (because the chopping block had to be free of any ingredients and then the mixie lifted up onto it) to the empty space created by the moved bottles. I also moved the George Foreman grill, which had been in a very awkward corner. I installed a 6-outlet adapter and now I have a nice, neat “appliance” counter, where everything is easy to use! (The yogurt maker is currently out incubating tempeh, but ordinarily is stored away.)

This made room on my “chopping” counter for my ulu and a “bread station”.

I was damn proud of myself at the end of all of this! The kitchen is MUCH more inviting and easy to use. The only thing left over without a home is the container of soybeans:

Mark suggested some sort of hanging dispenser for them, but I’m still working it out. Considering how small my kitchen is and the enormous number of things I own, I’m shocked that the soybeans are the only thing left over!

I won’t bore you with the details of my library makeover, but suffice it to say that went swimmingly as well.

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Faux Pho

Many of my commutes home from work – which despite living a mere ten miles from my office take up to an hour – are spent contemplating what to make for dinner. Tonight on my way home (via Trader Joe’s), I was thinking that I’ve been so wrapped up in my nerdy database project (now I’m inputting years of records from book journals to track my reading habits) that I’ve been really slacking off in the cooking department, which was fine because I was sick anyway, but bad as far as maintaining a food blog is concerned. It dawned on me suddenly in the midst of my musing that what I wanted for dinner was pho. I think I saw a post about it on another, non-vegan, blog today, or maybe I was just driving by one of the many pho places around here. Pho – perfect! It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s healthy…and I’ve never featured it here! So I grabbed a few things I needed from Trader Joe’s (namely, bean sprouts which I never just “have on hand” and fresh basil) and, feeling very pleased with myself, came up with a probably-extremely-unoriginal title, and here we are.

Faux Pho

8 oz wide rice noodles
6 cups vegan “beef” broth
2 Tbsp Maggi seasoning or soy sauce
2 star anise
1 stick cinnamon
2″ piece of ginger, grated
1 chili, sliced
1 carrot, julienned or grated
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
6-8 oz seitan, shredded or very thinly sliced
several fist-fulls bean sprouts
something green, such as pea shoots (which I grabbed at Trader Joe’s because they looked good) or spinach, etc.
2 fist-fulls basil
1 fist-full cilantro (I couldn’t find any fresh so I used 2 frozen cubes from Trader Joe’s)
3 scallions, chopped

Soak the noodles in very hot water. I like to bring a pot of water to a boil, remove it from the heat, add the noodles, cover, and let them soak for about half an hour. If I need to speed the process up, I turn the heat back on for a couple of minutes.

Grate the ginger. There is no need to peel!

You should end up with, I don’t know, a tablespoon or two?

Gather the star anise and cinnamon stick. I’m fascinated with star anise. I don’t know what to use it in other than pho, so I get really excited every time I make pho and get to break out the star anise.

Meanwhile, bring the broth to a boil, add the ginger, star anise, cinnamon stick, and Maggi seasoning or soy sauce, and simmer for about 20 minutes so the flavors blend.

Prepare everything else while the noodles are softening and the broth is simmering. Julienne or grate the carrot, …

… thinly slice the chili, …

… and thinly slice the onion.

Shred or thinly slice the seitan.

Add the chili pepper to the broth …

… and the onion, carrot, and seitan. Continue simmering for the remainder of the 20 minutes (or longer).

Check the noodles – the best way to to taste one. They should be soft, but not too soft.

When they are done, drain.

When the broth is ready, remove the star anise and the cinnamon stick.

To assemble your bowl of pho, place some of the noodles in a bowl.

Top with the green stuff …

… and the bean sprouts and basil.

Ladle the broth over the noodles and veggies and top with scallions. Garnish with a lime half. (And when I say “garnish”, I intend for you to actually USE the lime! Squirt it over everything to taste – it really boosts the flavor!)

This was really, really good, I thought. It tastes so fresh, it’s so quick and easy, and it was a great way to use up some leftover seitan I had that wasn’t enough to be the basis of an entire meal. I wish I’d thought to make pho when I was sick: it’d have been perfect.

And here is a James Joyce finger pupper/magnet that Mark gave me today!

Isn’t it adorable? James Joyce plays an amusing role in the Story of How Mark and Renae Met, so I find it especially cute.

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I didn’t bother documenting my preparations for Thanksgiving because I didn’t do anything unique, unusual, creative, or different, so I figured I’d spare the world a boring post. But then it occurred to me that I might be interested to know what I did this year, next year. I only cooked for me and Mark. We went to the parental homestead, but my parents make a traditional meal and there’s no way I could ever convince them to eat vegan on Thanksgiving. Maybe some other day, but not Thanksgiving. My mother does make vegan portions of her dishes where possible, so I was saved from making a few things like mashed potatoes. It took me about three hours to knock out the following:

1 seitan “turkey”
green beans
“turkey” gravy
cranberry sauce
1 loaf of bread

In the past, I’ve spent more than three hours simply trying to decide what to make, perusing my cookbooks and the internet, looking for recipes and ideas. I’ve found it’s so much easier to just go into the kitchen and make stuff up as I go along!

I cheated on the bread: I had frozen a loaf before the final proof on Sunday, and just popped it out of the freezer and into the refrigerator the night before, then proofed for longer than usual before baking. And it wasn’t for really for Thanksgiving as my mother had two different kinds of rolls. The bread was for leftover “turkey” sandwiches later. Mark was so excited about the “leftover” sandwiches he started eating them the night before!

Everything I made (other than the bread) was totally off the cuff, and since I wasn’t planning to post it, I didn’t even try to mind measurements. But here is approximately what I did:

Seitan “Turkey”

2 1/4 cups (1 box) vital wheat gluten
1/2 cup soy flour
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp white pepper
2 cups vegan “chicken” broth

Mix dry ingredients together. Add broth. Form into log, wrap in cheesecloth, tying off ends like a Tootsie Roll, then pressure cook for 45 minutes. Remove from pressure cooker, set in foil inside a baking pan, and baste with some sort of sauce (I used one from the Tofutti site: some apricot preserves, soy sauce, pepper, and water). Bake at 375 degrees for an hour, basting periodically.


10-12 slices whole grain bread, sliced and cubed
1/2 onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1/2 half Granny Smith apple, chopped
1/2 tsp rubbed sage
1/2 tsp cracked rosemary
freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup vegan “chicken” broth

Because my bread was pretty fresh, I spread the cubes out on a baking sheet, then after baking another loaf, turned the oven off, let it cool for a few minutes (it had been at 430 degrees Fahrenheit), stuck the sheet in the oven and let the bread cubes dry out for somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes. Then in a cast iron pan, I sauted the onion and celery until soft, then added the apple, sage, rosemary, and pepper and stirred, then mixed in the bread cubes. Then I poured the broth over everything and combined until the cubes were mostly soft. I moved the mixture to a Pryex baking dish, patted it down, and baked at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for half an hour. Mark was obsessed with the stuffing and tried to eat it all before we even made it to my parents’.

“Turkey” Gravy

2 Tbsp Earth Balance
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
4 cups vegan “chicken” broth

In a heavy-bottomed pot, melt the Earth Balance. Whisk in the flour and other dry ingredients to form a roux. Slowly whisk in the broth, adding a little at a time to avoid lumps. Heat until thickened.

Non-Casserole Green Beans

1 pound green beans, trimmed
shallot salt (from Penzeys)
fried onions

I used to loooove green bean casserole, although my mother always made it with cream of celery soup instead of cream of mushroom because I hate mushrooms. Even as late as last year, I would make vegan versions of the traditional green bean casserole. But the idea of adulterating green beans that way sort of makes me ill these days, so I cooked the green beans for 5 to 7 minutes in boiling, salted water, then drained, tossed with shallot salt, and topped with fried onions. They were almost entirely cooked, but I left myself a little leeway for continued cooking when reheating them the next day. If I were serving them right away, I would have cooked for another minute or two.

Cranberry Sauce

12 oz fresh cranberries
1/3 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup orange juice

Heat all ingredients in heavy-bottomed pot until cranberries have all burst and mixture is somewhat thickened (it will thicken more upon cooling). Refrigerate for at least an hour.

My mother made a vegan dessert! Look!

It’s wacky cake! Here’s the recipe:

Classic Wacky Cake

Serves 6 to 8

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
5 T. vegetable oil
1 T. white vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup water
confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan.

Whisk the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in the prepared pan. Make 1 large and 2 small craters in the dry ingredients. Add the oil to the large crater and the vinegar and vanilla separately to the small craters. Pour the water into the pan and mix until just a few streaks of flour remain (but break up lumps). Immediately put the pan in the oven.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, about 30 minutes. Cool in the pan, then dust with confectioners’ sugar. (The cake can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 days).

Mum’s tip: don’t dust with the confectioners’ sugar until just before serving because the moisture in the cake will soak it up, causing it to “disappear”.

From “America’s Best Lost Recipes,” by the editors of Cook’s Country.

Per serving (based on 8 servings): 238 calories, 3 grams protein, 9 grams fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 37 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams fiber, 0 milligrams cholesterol, 264 milligrams sodium.

After we humans ate dinner, my parents’ silly dogs got some dog treats. This is Shannon scarfing them down:

This is him smiling about it:

Those treats were lip-smacking good!

Sophie Mae didn’t want to be photographed eating, but here she is being wary of me:

And that’s it for today! I hope all my American friends had a great Thanksgiving yesterday (or last month for the Canadians), even if the Australian Muck accidentally wished me a Happy Independence Day instead.

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Barbecued “Ribs”

I don’t ordinarily think of myself as having any “signature” dishes because I like to try new things so often; in fact, I’m the type of person who will host a dinner party and serve all-new, completely untested or totally made-up recipes. I’m daring like that. But I guess if I were forced to pick a recipe that I’m known for, UnRibs would be one of the top dishes. (Spicy Tofu is another.) But just because the UnRibs are everyone’s favorite (including mine and Mark’s), that doesn’t mean I don’t try other “rib” recipes from time to time, so when I was flipping through some of my “neglected” cookbooks today, it’s not surprising that I decided to make the Barbecued “Ribs” from Bryanna Clark Grogan’s Almost No-Fat Holiday Cookbook. And although I usually improvise barbecue sauce, I made her smoky chipolte barbecue sauce as well, because Bryanna said it was good and Bryanna is almost always right.

Barbecued “Ribs”
From Bryanna Clark Grogan’s Almost No-Fat Holiday Cookbook

Baked Gluten Balls

2 1/2 cups vital wheat gluten (I just used one box, which is just about 2 1/2 cups)
2 cups cold water

Smoky Chipotle Barbecue Sauce
(I cut this recipe in half from the original and it made plenty; follows are the halved measurements.)

1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlrc, minced or pressed
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes (or whole tomatoes that you’ve crushed in a blender or food processor)
1/2 cup brown sugar or Sucanat (or turbinado sugar with 2 Tbsp molasses)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp vegetarian Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp chipolte chiles in adobado sauce
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp liquid smoke

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

I got the barbecue sauce cooking first. As it’s an almost-fat-free cookbook, Bryanna suggests “steam frying” the onions and garlic, but I just put a little olive oil in the pot and sauted as usual.

While the onions were cooking, I measured all of the other ingredients into my new Fire King batter bowl: another cheap find due to a chip in the rim.

When the onions are soft …

… add the remaining ingredients to the pot, bring to a boil, the reduce heat and simmer for half an hour.

While the sauce is cooking, place the vital wheat gluten and water in a medium bowl.

Mix until the vital wheat gluten is entirely incorporated and it looks like a brain.

Bryanna says to cut the gluten into eight dozen pieces, so using a bench knife I cut it into four pieces …

… then eight …

… then each eighth into eight to twelve pieces, not worrying too much about ending up with exactly 96 pieces, but rather mostly same-size pieces.

I placed them on two half-sheet pans.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until puffy and golden brown. I put mine much closer together than the “couple of inches” apart Bryanna recommended, so I just used kitchen shears to snip them apart where they had merged.

Most of the puffs will deflate almost immediately after removing from the oven.

When the barbecue sauce has cooked down a bit …

… puree it with an immersion blender or in batches in a regular blender.

Because I have my oven set up in such a way for bread baking that unless I start moving a lot of very heavy (and very hot if I’ve preheated it) items (a huge baking stone and a large cast iron pan I use for steaming), I essentially only have one baking shelf, I moved half of my gluten balls to a smaller, glass baking dish so I could stick it in side-by-side on the same shelf as my brussels sprouts:

I don’t recommend doing this though. Leave ’em on the baking sheet so they are spread out and can get a little crispy when you bake them again. Cover with some of the sauce, but not this much:

They were sort of drowning. Bake for 15-20 minutes.

I couldn’t resist taking photos of the balsamic-roasted brussels sprouts I made to accompany the ribs:

Serve! In addition to the brussels sprouts, I also made the Potato and Green Bean Salad that was on the page right after the Barbecued “Ribs” (although it was for a different holiday).

As Bryanna suggested, I decided to freeze half of the gluten balls for another day. I also froze the rest of the barbecue sauce, so now I have a super easy, super fast dinner waiting for me after some future long day at work.

I got some comments that people were missing the cats lately. They’ve been extra lazy lately and have been sleeping through dinner preparations, so I went hunting for them before downloading the pictures from my camera. I found Tigger on my reading chair; he was startled by my appearance.

But he quickly went back to sleep.

The Toonse was hangin’ out by the “water cooler”, one of her favorite spots.

By the way, if your cats are as demanding of fresh water as mine are, they and I both really like the Catit Cat Waterer. I’ve tried a couple other brands of cat fountains and they have all broken after a year or so, and also got clogged up with Brachtune’s long fur very quickly. I’m not entirely sure why Toonsey’s fur doesn’t get in the Catit fountain, but this thing stays amazingly clean, and Brachtune is ALWAYS hanging around it. She never paid much attention the previous fountains, but she loves this one; I think perhaps because she gets to lick plastic without me yelling at her. (They can either lick the dome, which has a thin film of water running down all over it, or drink out of the basin it flows into.) Tigger still demands that we turn the kitchen or bathroom faucet on for him (RIGHT NOW! I DON’T CARE IF IT’S 4 A.M.! WAKE UP AND TURN THE FAUCET ON, STUPID HUMANS!), but I guess he’s always going to be a special needs cat.

Here’s a more complete view of the fountain:

And that’s it for tonight! I’m going to be attempting to make homemade sauerkraut this week – too late to have it ready by Thanksgiving, unfortunately, but I’ve been wanting to try it for a while. I made pretzels for the first time yesterday and they turned out well; I’ll do a tutorial next time I make them. (This paragraph brought to you by the German part of my heritage.)

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