Monday, October 31, 2011

FINAL POST: A Month Of Vegan Gravy. A Rant. And a Review.

I've been working on this final post for TWO years of gravy blogging. I've written and re-written and in the end..... I'm going to cop out. I can't do it.

My original plan was to review and rate the different places in Portland and Seattle that serve vegan gravy. A vegan gravy tour, if you will.
I've visited them all (or nearly all). And every place I go, I order something (tofu scramble, biscuits, potatoes, etc) with gravy AND an extra order of gravy on the side, so I can try the gravy plain and unadulterated. It's a miserable job, but someone has to be responsible for informing the masses, right? I LOVE going out. I don't do it often, but look forward to rare trips to places that serve all American vegan comfort food (including GRAVY!) like Paradox Cafe, Hungry Tiger Too, Juniors, Wayward, Caffe Dei, Quickies Too, Cafe Flora, Papa G's........ the list goes on and on and on...

I've definitely come up with a list of favorites and also have those places where I won't order their gravy again. There is good gravy, REALLY good gravy, bad gravy, salty gravy, lumpy gravy, starchy gravy, funny-tasting-instant-gravy and (a lot of) bland, tasteless gravy out there in vegan restaurant-land. And I wish they could all get it right, because gravy can make or break a meal.
But I love each of these many restaurants for different reasons, and gravy aside, I would recommend most any of them to someone looking for a vegan meal. They're places that serve VEGAN food and that's not always easy to find. (Except in Portland, pfffttt.)
And really, it's not fair, because I'm VERY picky about gravy - my personal opinion on a restaurant's gravy may not be ANYTHING close to the general population's consensus. I'm sure of this, in fact; because I can think, right off hand, of two specific places (one in Seattle and the other in Portland) where literally everyone (at least all the vegan people I know!) raves deliriously about the heavenly wonderousness that is their gravy - yet I find it pretty tasteless, bland, starchy, lumpy and awful.
I have to wonder, are other people eating the same gravy I am?
And several places that I personally thing make awesome gravy? I've had friends say it was salty or "weird"...
Even so, I would hate to have others judge someplace (especially a vegan place - I want to support those as much as possible!) based on a sentence or two that I wrote, and plastered all over the Internets, condemning their gravy.
Besides, just because their gravy is awful doesn't mean their other food... or Bloody Mary's... are not worth the trip. Every restaurant that serves vegan food is doing me and my fellow vegans a huge favor and I have a hard time ever publicly criticizing what they do. Most of them are small, locally owned establishments where the owners are putting their heart and soul into surviving. They live and die on word-of-mouth reviews. I admire the services they provide (even if I don't always like the gravy) and I want them to stick around and keep doing what they do!
So, there you have it. My cop-out, no recipe, no pictures, no opinion, NON review of Seattle and Portland's vegan gravy offerings. Google "Portland Vegan" or "Seattle Vegan" and try them all, they are ALL GOOD in their own way, for different reasons and different menu items!
And... if you want my opinions, go HERE to read my REVIEWS OF STORE-BOUGHT GRAVY MIXES. That was a WHOLE lot of fun and might be helpful for the Holidays!
Thank you, and good night!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Saucy Mac-n-Cheeze; A Recipe and a Product Review

As you probably ALL know by now, I'm blogging a month of all things gravy, for VeganMoFo. And once again, I'm straying ever so slightly from the traditional "brown gravy on potatoes" idea. But keep in mind, one of the definitions of gravy is simply "a sauce". 


And that's what I had planned to blog about today, my "cheesy" sauce that I use for vegan Macaroni and Cheeze. I've worked a long time at perfecting my vegan version of this classic comfort-food recipe, because it was one of the final dishes to make the vegan transition some years ago. My kids grew up on my signature homemade mac and (cow) cheese and they were pretty picky about giving it up.


However, the fine folk at Chicago Soy Dairy saw fit to throw my plans all out of order, by sending me a sample of their Teese vegan "Chedder-Cheeze Sauce" on Friday. AWESOME! I was excited but stuck it in the fridge, thinking I would blog about it another day. But, then my KIDS saw it and of course, being the cheese-curious not-*quite*-vegan munchkins that they are (they eat some dairy products when out with friends or with their Dad, they're 18 and 20 and perfectly able to decide what they want to eat) they asked me to try it in tonight's Macaroni and Cheeze. Who am I to deny my kids' wishes? (HA!)

Looks just like it's cow-cheese
namesake, but a WHOLE lot better!
I warned them this was an experiment but they were game. Not that I expected horrible things, I've had very good luck with Teese products! (And just so you know, my policy is not to post a review of something that was awful, I contact the manufacturer and let them know instead of blasting it all across the Internets, I only think that's fair).

Happily, I can report that the Macaroni and Cheeze made with Teese's Cheddar Cheeze Sauce was a yummy success an all accounts! It was easy to make, and actually VERY stretchy-creamy-gooey like mac-n-cheeze should be. I really liked both texture and taste, adding only a small shot of Tabasco for a bit more "kick". I didn't think it tasted "fake" or "chemically" like some vegan cheese sauces can be. 
And hardest to impress? My teens. They completely approved and voted it a very acceptable option when Mom didn't want to make Mac-n-Cheeze completely from scratch. I admit it WAS super convenient. Just make the noodles, pour sauce over them, heat it to get all melty and serve. YUM! Since I can't actually BUY Teese anywhere near me (and my budget doesn't allow products like this very often anyway) this was a rare and enjoyable treat. If you like vegan "cheese" products and tasty, but quick, easy short cuts, this is a perfect option, check it out!! 


If, on the other hand, you came here for a recipe, I'm including that as well. This makes completely awesome Mac-n-Cheeze, or use the sauce on rice, potatoes Au gratin, vegetables or your breakfast tofu.


Vegan 'Cheeze' Sauce
  • 1/2 cup cashews, soaked in hot water
  • 1 cup heated non-dairy milk (I prefer So Delicious UNSweetened coconut here)
  • 3 Tbsp margarine
  • 1/2 cup white beans of any type, cooked
  • 1/2 cup cooked yellow winter squash - butternut, acorn, kuri, whatever
  • 1/4 cup pimiento pieces, drained
  • 6 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. mild miso paste IF you have it, if not, it's fine.
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion granules/powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon prepared yellow mustard (use the plain old American hot dog mustard)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 tsp Tabasco or to taste
Instructions:

Place drained cashews, just enough non-dairy milk to cover them in blender or food processor. Blend until cashews are as smooth as possible. This may take a while.  Add the rest of the milk and margarine and blend until margarine is incorporated.


Forgive the old, crappy
picture, it's all I had
on this computer!
Add the rest of the ingredients and process until completely smooth.
It should be fairly runny, you can add more nutritional yeast if you want, but it will thicken as it bakes. Taste and add more Tabasco or salt if needed.

For Mac-n-'Cheeze':
Simply mix desired amount of the above recipe with some cooked, hot pasta - any shape or variety. At this point I usually add a cup of Daiya shredded cheese for extra stretchy-melty-ness, but that is TOTALLY optional.
Place in a casserole dish, top with buttery breadcrumbs and bake until bubbly and crispy on the edges.
I use whole wheat pasta and add peas, spinach and/or broccoli, though the girls prefer "no veggies please" in their mac-n-cheeze.



Saturday, October 29, 2011

Slow-Cooked Mushroom Gravy; A Gift From Friends


The gravy recipe in today's post is special to me because it comes from my foodie friends, Danica and Heather (the incredibly talented duo behind the "Soundly Vegan" blog).
When we met for the first time, they actually brought me a take-out container of homemade vegan "comfort food": Their awesome homemade tofu, AND a pint of this fabulous gravy!
I was in awe.
I still am.
You have no idea what a treasure the gift of homemade food was to me at that moment when I was feeling like a worn-out meal-cooking-machine for an always-hungry family!
I've had the privileged of sharing their table several times since, and let me just say, their meals are even more amazing than their blog's award-winning photography conveys, if that's possible. Yes, that good.

The original recipe, along with instructions for their home-made tofu and Tofu-Chicken-Fried-Steak, are posted here at their blog. You need to go check it out. EVERY single thing Danica and Heather create is going to start you drooling like Pavlov's dogs, I promise.

And if you don't manage to make anything else on the blog (you ought to) at least make this gravy, it is one of the richest tasting, most decadent gravies I have run across. We lovingly call it "Mushroom-Crack-Gravy" because it's that addicting. If it seems like a lot of steps, or too much work, STOP THINKING THAT! This is TOTALLY worth it!

I didn't make a single change (which is unusual for me) except to provide you with a recipe for the mushroom broth that is a component of the recipe. The comments in [brackets] are theirs.

Slow-Cooked Mushroom Gravy
Posted with permission from the creative minds at Soundly Vegan


  • 1 onion, diced
  • 8 oz fresh mushrooms, diced [Use whichever mushroom blows your hair back.]
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • fresh thyme [I tied 6 sprigs together with kitchen twine to make a bundle.]
  • 5 cups mushroom broth, divided {*see recipe below or use store bought, your choice}
  • sea salt
  • freshly-cracked black pepper
  • ½ cup white wine [I used a sauvignon blanc that I had on hand.]
  • olive oil
  • ¼ tsp freshly-grated nutmeg
  • all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup non-dairy creamer, optional [I used So Delicious original coconut creamer.]



Directions:
Sauté the onion in a drizzle of olive oil on medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic, mushrooms and thyme and sauté until the mushrooms have given off their liquid and are starting to dry. This should take 30 minutes or so.


Add the wine and turn up the heat to simmer off the alcohol.


Add 4 cups of mushroom stock and reduce heat back to low. Simmer at lowest temp possible, until reduced in volume by half. This takes about an hour.
Transfer half of the gravy to a blender and pulse until pureed. Return it to the pan. Add nutmeg and season with salt and pepper.


In a separate pan whisk together the flour and 2 T olive oil, cooking for a few minutes until the flour has a nutty scent. Add one cup warmed mushroom stock, whisking as it’s added. Add the roux to the gravy and bring to a low boil until thickened then reduce heat. You can add in the non-dairy creamer at this point if you wish a more creamy, Southern-style gravy.
-----------------------
-----------------------

*Mushroom Broth

This broth recipe is not from the fine ladies above, so if it doesn't turn out, blame me, not them. (No worries, it's also a great recipe.)
You'll need part of this recipe for the gravy above, but the leftovers will come in handy!! Mushroom broth can be used in place of any broth, but it is especially good at replacing beef broth because many mushrooms have a beefy flavor. This isn't an overly strong broth, let it simmer to reduce longer if you want a more concentrated taste.

  • 4 ounces of dried wild porcini, crimini, oyster or morel mushrooms (whatever combo you like, or can find.)
  • 3 cups chopped, fresh mushrooms of your choice
  • 2 Tb. olive oil
  • 8 cups water
  • Sea salt
  • Black Pepper



Place dried mushrooms in a medium sized stock pot (or crock-pot if you have a smaller one) and add water. Add a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper.
If cooking on the stove:
Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a low simmer.
While dried mushrooms are simmering, saute fresh mushrooms in oil in a medium skillet, keeping pan covered. When releasing their juices and cooked through, add to pot with dried mushrooms.
Continue to simmer on medium-low, covered, for 45 min. Check that water level doesn't get too low, it should cover mushrooms at all times. After 45 min, turn off heat and let set for another hour.
If using a crock pot: put dried mushrooms and water in crock-pot. Turn to high.
Saute fresh mushrooms in oil in a medium skillet, keeping pan covered. When releasing their juices and cooked through, add to crockpot with dried mushrooms. When liquid starts to bubble, (about 1/2 hour) turn crock-pot to low and cook three hours.


When mushrooms have cooked in broth, add two more cups of water, stir and allow to cool for an hour, then strain (I prefer to use a cheesecloth-lined strainer, to get all the bits) pressing the mushrooms to get all the liquid. (I actually squeeze them with my hands).


This broth keeps in the fridge for several weeks and also freezes well.
Enjoy!! And as the crazy-busy Holiday season rolls around, remember what a precious gift a home-cooked meal can be; Never hesitate to share from your kitchen and your heart, it can be a LIFE-SAVER, even for someone who (you assume) cooks all the time!!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Curried Tofu with Wilted Arugula - And A Cookbook Review - And Gravy

On my wall-covering cookbook shelf, there are tons of vegan, vegetarian and other cookbooks. I sort of collect them. It's an obsession. There are many decent books, some duds and a few great ones which I return to over and over. Appetite for Reduction is one of the latter.

I admit that I'm a late-comer to the AFR fan club. I avoided it, unreasonably, for a long time. People have pushed "low fat" cookbooks and recipes and products on me since I was, oh, about twelve. (And maybe with good reason.)
However, the problem with most of these was that they didn't taste good, they weren't easy to make and/or they were filled with a ton of weird substitutions trying to guilt you into thinking a half-teaspoon serving of watercress was the perfect and responsible replacement for a vat of cream sauce. Those books did not reside long on my shelves.
Appetite for Reduction is none of the above. Written by vegan genius Isa Chandra Moskowitz, you KNOW the recipes are going to be tasty and creative and the writing hilarious. Also good, each serving is under 400 calories, and these "servings" are hearty, filling and satisfying. I don't even think of them as "reduced calorie" recipes, EVER! (Remember, I write a "comfort food" blog!!)
     As a bonus, instructions are clear and recipes go together quickly, with no complicated substitutions or obscure ingredients. I mean seriously; Sweet Potato Biscuits? Onion Rings? Masala Tofu? Pad Thai? Butternut-Coconut Rice?
Is your mouth watering yet? I have so many dog-eared pages in this book, from recipes I love (or still want to try) that it looks like I've had the book much longer than six months.

Isa, Terry Hope Romero
 and Gail Davis hamming it
up vegan style at the
VVC Galarama! YES!
I met CELEBRITIES!
While I'm not part of the whole Post Punk Kitchen club, I'm still a longtime fan of Isa's cooking.
In fact, I actually bumped into her this past summer at VidaVeganCon (yes, literally, in my star-strucked-ness, I tripped into her in the breakfast line and caused her to spill her coffee, yet she was gracious enough not to call me unpleasant names).
I also had the opportunity to attend a class she taught and enjoyed every moment. She's as hilarious in person (more so!) as in her books!
That said, I'd enjoy this book whether I was a bumbling fan or not.
Even if you don't need "reduced"-anything recipes, this is probably well-worth the purchase price for most any vegan or wanna-be.


So, the other morning I was thinking about all this as I threw together one of my go-to favorites; and I realized I'd never really "reviewed" this book on my blog and I wanted to share this recipe. (WITH permission, no worries) just to show how awesome, and easy-to-use this cookbook actually is.
Seriously, who doesn't love a delicious recipe with only NINE ingredients!

Of course, being the meddler that I am (apologies to Isa), I mixed some leftover rice with it.
And added peas.
And topped it with gravy. |
Yes, this recipe is good with GRAVY!
But do what you want, it's also exceptionally tasty as written...

“Curried Tofu with Wilted Arugula from Appetite for Reduction” 

(used with permission from author Isa Chandra Moskowitz)

  • 1 tsp. olive oil 
  • 1 medium red onion, diced finely 
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 1 block extra-firm tofu 
  • 2 to 3 tsp. curry powder 
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin 
  • 1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice 
  • 3/4 tsp. salt 
  • a few pinches of freshly ground black pepper 
  • 2 cups baby arugula (or spinach works too, but I LOVE the flavor of the arugula) 

Preheat a large, heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat. Saute the onion in oil for about 4 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic saute for 30 seconds. 
Crumble the tofu into bite-size pieces and add to the pan. 
Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring often, until the tofu has browned on some of the sides. 
 Add the curry powder, cumin, salt, pepper, lemon juice and a few splashed of water if it’s too dry. 
Mix in the arugula. (I added frozen baby peas here too). 
Cover cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the arugula is wilted. Taste for spices and add another teaspoon of curry powder if needed, it will depend on the strength of your curry powder. 
(I added some cayenne and mixed in a cup of cooked brown rice because I had it leftover and can't leave well-enough alone)
Serve!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Peas, Potatoes and Cauliflower in Curry Gravy

It's 10 PM but I am GOING to get a blog post done today! I'd planned to do this earlier, as it's so nice and basic, but just got distracted...

Today's post turns gravy international: a tasty Indian-inspired curry gravy (and curry sauces in India are called "curry gravy", I'm not making that up to fit with the theme here) loaded with three of my favorite veggies; Peas, potatoes and cauliflower. (Also known as Aloo Mutter Gobi)
Join me as I continue blogging onward - we're almost through "A Month Of Vegan Gravies".

An old picture,
but one of my favorites:
My 'Little Sprout' slurping up
a bowl of veggies and curry!
Cauliflower is abundant and cheap in the winter farmer's markets around here, so we loaded up on the weekend; In fact, one of the market sellers told me our valley here in the shadow of Mt. Rainier grows cauliflower commercially for most of the grocery stores in the US!
Wow. I knew there were a lot of vegetable farms in the area but still found that fact interesting...

Here's what lil' Sprout requested we do with the cauliflower tonight. She LOVES all things curried and spicy, VERY spicy.

Don't be put off by the long list of spices - they're not difficult to find (you might even have most of them) and NOT "hot", just very flavorful. They're well worth locating. This makes a full-flavored, delicious Indian curry. Enjoy.


Peas, Potatoes and Cauliflower in Curry Gravy
(Aloo Mutter Gobi)
  • 1/2 medium-large head of cauliflower, broken into bite-size florets
  • 1 medium white or sweet potato, cubed
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/4 tsp powdered fenugreek (if you have it - not absolutely necessary)
  • 1/2 tsp red cayenne pepper (more or less depending on how spicy you like it)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp. fresh pressed garlic
  • 2 tsp. Madras curry powder
  • 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 2 Tbsp minced or grated fresh ginger
  • 1 cup frozen or fresh peas
  • Aprox. 1 cup finely chopped fresh, or 1 8 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup coconut milk
Not a great photo, but it's DARK here at suppertime!
Heat oil in a pan on medium heat. (I use a large, rather deep cast iron skillet.) Add the seeds and stir until they sizzle and "pop". This releases the spices flavor and infuses the oil with it.

Add the onion and ginger, stir-fry for a few minutes until onion is starting to brown at the edges.

Lower the heat and add in the spices from garlic to curry powder. Stir only a few seconds to get the spices coated with oil and just starting to heat.
Add the potato and cauliflower and stir well to mix in the spices. Add the salt.
Add the water and let the vegetables cook until tender. I cover the pan and let the veggies cook in their own juices which are released with the salt.
Stir every 5 minutes to evenly cook the vegetables, you may want to remove the lid to let water evaporate once potatoes start to soften.

When water has evaporated or vegetables are cooked, add green peas, tomatoes and coconut milk. (I tend to really mash up the tomatoes - my kids *think* they don't like tomatoes in curry)
Simmer for another 10 min. Turn off heat and allow to sit for a few minutes. This really blends the flavors.
Serve with rice.
(OK, I served it with quinoa today because I discovered we were OUT of rice. No one complained!)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fun Things To Do With Gravy; Pierogies

During this "Month of Gravy" I'm posting a few favorite recipes that I like to put gravy on top of (it's still part of a theme, work with me here), and one of those favorites is PIEROGIES!

Earlier this week I posted the question "What family favorite would you like to see 'veganized'?" and about half of the responses were from those of you looking for the German-Ukrainian-Polish-Russian foods of their childhood.
I'm in the same club!

I'm on a quest to "veganize" a recipe from my childhood; specifically my Grandma's German-Russian Kase Kenpfla, also known fondly as "Cheese Buttons".
They're similar to the Ukrainian pierogy, but the Cheese Buttons of my childhood were much lighter, the dough more tender and they were filled with an altogether different, crumbly, onion-cheese mixture. I'm drooling at the memory right now.

My Grandma would labor long hours over these savory cheese pillows, proudly serving heaping platters at family dinners. My sisters and I would then proceed to gobble these precious little dumplings as fast as we could, sometimes having contests to see who could finish off the most.
While I learned the recipe at my Grandma's side, it was years after she was gone before I appreciated how labor-intensive these precious little tidbits are, and I'm just slightly appalled at the sheer number that my siblings and I consumed.

Nowadays when one of the Miller girls decides to reverently make a "batch" of Grandma's Cheese Buttons, we do so on a comparatively small scale (yet somehow, with three times the mess in our kitchens!), and we ration the finished results quite sternly to the younger generation. No "dumpling-eating-contests" allowed!

But I digress.
A vegan version of Grandma's "Cheese-free Cheese Buttons" I have not managed to perfect, yet, but a close cousin, the pierogy, is now a vegan-ized success in my kitchen!
And since few people, (other than me, my sisters, my family, my relatives and the residents of South Dakota), will stress over the difference, I'll share my vegan pierogy recipe with you (because it's VERY good!) and I'll continue to try and perfect a vegan version of Grandma's Kase Knepfla.

These take a while, (someone asked if there was a "quick and easy" recipe, but I seriously doubt one exists) but like any time-honored classic, they're so very worth it.
And like all things white and starchy, these are DELICIOUS with the addition of some basic Brown Gravy (though traditionally they're served with browned onions or sour cream).

Vegan Pierogies

Dough:

  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or use all white flour for lighter dough)
  • 6 oz silken soft tofu
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


Filling:


  • 2 potatoes, cooked and mashed (3/4 cup instant or leftover mashed potatoes is fine too)
  • 1 cup firm tofu, drained crumbled with fingers or fork until small like cottage cheese
  • 1 onion, minced and sauteed in margarine until clear and starting to brown
  • 2 Tb. vegan mayonnaise
  • 1 Tablespoon melted margarine
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • pepper, to taste


Dough:
Mix all dough ingredients together to form a smooth, slightly moist dough. Add more flour if it is too wet, more tofu or some water if it is too dry. Set aside to rest.

Filling:
While potatoes are warm, mash well and add remainder of filling ingredients. Mix well. It shouldn't be too "wet" but should hold together loosely.

Directions:
Put a large pot of water on to boil.

Cut dough into 24 equal size pieces and roll into balls. Roll each ball out with a rolling pin fairly thin into an oval shape. Place a rounded tablespoon of potato mixture on each piece of dough and pull one side of the dough to the other, forming a half moon with the potato mixture enclosed.

Brush edge with soymilk, press with fingers to seal.

Place several pierogi in boiling water at a time stirring gently. Wait until they float and cook about one minute more.

Remove with slotted spoon.

Toss with oil to prevent sticking, and set aside to use later.
Or transfer immediately to a lightly oiled non-stick skillet. Pan fry until starting to brown, turn and brown other side.

While pierogi are cooking, make Brown Gravy.
Or:
(more traditional) saute 1 sliced white onion with as much margarine as you're comfortable using until onions are buttery and browned (these are comfort food - no one claimed they were healthy).
Add buttery onions to fried perogies and serve.

Or:
Serve with sour cream (not my favorite but traditional for some, I guess).
If you like Sour Cream, toss hot perogies and some sauteed onions in several Tbsp of Tofutti's Sour Supreme, add onion powder to taste and serve.
Or:
Brown some fresh breadcrumbs in margarine and toss pierogies with breadcrumbs.


(Some people skip frying the pierogy and just toss with sauteed onions after boiling - this is good too, not as much flavor but more tender and probably slightly healthier)

However you choose to enjoy them, hopefully this will fill that "comfort food" niche in your recipe collection, especially for those of you who grew up enjoying these with family and at special celebrations and events.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Apple Bourbon Pecan Gravy (And Pecan Pie! Yay!)

Welcome to Day 25 of the Vegan Month of Gravy, 2011.
Still going strong, plenty more recipes to share.

But let me digress for a moment. I find statistics fascinating. Resources like Google Analytecs, and Sitemeter end up being pretty absorbing reading for me, in a geeky, 'Numb3rs' sort-of way. I love studying the traffic on my blog; where people are from, what search or website referred them here (shoutout to the fabulous Bianca of Vegan Crunk, as my stats show that her website directs more people to my blog than any other site, except Google! Pretty cool, huh?).
Anyway, the magic of statistics also shows what recipes are most popular or most searched. My "Chick'n and Dumplings" had been the reigning recipe for quite a while, but in the last two weeks the most searched vegan recipe (no, not gravy - sigh) has been "Vegan Pecan Pie".
No surprise, being that Thanksgiving is less than a month away.

So for those of you still searching, this has nothing to do with gravy, but in a shameless self-promoting way, here's the link to my Vegan Pecan Pie recipe. And it's foolproof!! I've made this dozens of times since posting and it's always a HUGE HIT!!! Seriously? I'm not gaining anything by sharing the link, I just want everyone to have good pie for T-Day.

That said, let's get down to today's gravy!
This gravy recipe ALSO contains pecans, (which happen to be my favorite nut - aside from a few people I know). I may be a bit spoiled though, as I have a great (free!) source for these often expensive little gems - my friend Shaun (check out his great little newbie blog) lives in New Mexico, and he brings me big bags of them from his Granny's pecan trees. Pecan orchards in New Mexico. Who knew?

Anyway, this gravy is a bit different from the savory "meaty" gravies that I've been blogging. I personally think it's absolutely wonderful for a special Thanksgiving or other Holiday main dish though. Not to worry, the alcohol cooks out. I've used it with baked acorn squash; roasted root veggies; over wild rice pilaf; seitan "turkey", vegetable-nut 'loaf'; and, my absolute favorite - the super-amazing "Cranberry Hazelnut En Croute" that the fabulous people at Field Roast gave me last Thanksgiving. Try this when you're feeling all fancy (even though it's very simple)!

Apple-Pecan-Bourbon Gravy

* 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
* 2 cups apple juice
* 3/4 cup bourbon (I like plain ol' Wild Turkey brand, in the gravy I mean, or, just use more apple juice)
* 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
* 1 bay leaf
* 1 rosemary sprig
* 3 tablespoons margarine (The Earth Balance Coconut Spread works GREAT here!!)
* 1 apple, chopped, (no need to peel)
* 1/4 cup chopped onion
* 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
* 1 1/2 cups chicken-style broth
* 1/2 cup water
* 1/2 tsp. powdered/rubbed sage
* 1/4 tsp. powdered thyme
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1/8 teaspoon pepper

1. Toast pecans in a dry skillet until fragrant and starting to brown. Watch them carefully, once they start browning it happens FAST! Set aside.

2. Bring next 5 ingredients to a boil, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves. Lower heat and simmer on medium for 10 minutes until reduced a bit. Remove from heat. Discard bay leaf and rosemary.

3. Melt margarine in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in apple and onion; sauté 6 - 8 minutes or until onion is tender and apple begins to caramelize. Add pecans.

4. Remove from heat.
Whisk in flour, and put back on heat. Cook, whisking constantly, 1 to 2 minutes or until flour is smoothly distributed and mixed into juices and margarine.

5. Gradually stir broth into apple-pecan mixture. Then add water, herbs, seasonings and apple juice mixture to pan.

6. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes or until thickened. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve over whatever yummy thing you want! Or plain out of the pan.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Fun Things to Do With Gravy: Lentil Tamales

One of the foods we love most in the Tofu Mom household is TAMALES. I realize I've posted a dozen different recipes, but it's because we make them so often and are always finding new combinations we LOVE!

My kids will take them cold in their lunchbox or I serve them for dinner, usually with some sort of sauce (yes, sauces are like gravy) to top them.

Here's my latest and greatest tamale filling, made with the Green Lentils from the amazing Timeless Foods (Have you checked them out? Seriously so much better than your average bulk-bin variety lentils!) AND a recipe for the Cheezy Chipotle Sauce that we often top them with. A traditional sauce for tamales would be some New Mexico Green Chile Sauce or even the Mole from yesterday, but the smoky chipotle nicely compliments the earthy flavor of the lentils, and it's what my kids prefer. Enjoy.

Lentil Tamales 
Filling


  • 1 cup cooked, Green Lentils (or any variety you prefer)
  • 1/2 cup chopped green olives
  • 1 clove minced or pressed garlic
  • 1/2 tsp EACH: cumin, salt, oregano, onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp or to taste hot sauce
  • 1/2 cup vegan cheese OR mashed potato (to make tamale filling hold together and easier assembly)

  • --- Mix lentils with chopped olives, garlic, spices and vegan cheese or mashed potato while lentils are still hot. Mash up a bit to make filling stick together (but don't entirely mash lentils). 

    FOR TAMALE DOUGH AND FILLING INSTRUCTIONS, SEE MY TAMALE RECIPES HERE: AND/OR HERE: I won't overwhelm you with a giant page of tamale-assembling instructions today.

    When tamales are done, unwrap and serve with sauce of your choice (or serve them wrapped, with sauce on the side).
    ---------------------------

    Cheezy Chipotle Sauce
    • 1/4 cup raw cashews, (soaked while assembling tamales if you think that far ahead, otherwise soak in very hot water for 5 min or so) 
    • 1 cup water
    • 1/2 cup unsweetened plant milk 
    • 1 whole chipotle chile in adobo sauce, or to taste (the kind in a can, or 1/4 cup salsa if you prefer milder)
    • 2 tablespoons cornstarch 
    • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes 
    • 1 tablespoon lemon juice 
    • 1/2-1 teaspoon salt 
    • Directions:
       Rinse cashews with hot water while combining the remaining ingredients in food processor. When well blended, add drained cashews and process on high for 1-2 minutes until very smooth. Cook in a sauce pan over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened. (You can stir in some Daiya pepperjack here if you want, but it isn't necessary).
      Serve over tamales. (Or baked potatoes, chips for nachos, etc...)

    Sunday, October 23, 2011

    Michael Natkin's Mole Aproximado

    I realize Sunday is practically over, but it's been a crazy weekend, so this still counts! This is a SPECIAL-BY-REQUEST post especially for one of my favorite blogger-Twitter-VidaVeganCon people.
    Here you go: Mexican (or more correctly "Oaxacan") Chocolate mole.
    (I admit it's a re-post, but several people have since asked for the recipe, so... here it is again, well worth re-posting!!)
    Now, many of the supposedly 'genuine' mole recipes out there take forever fussing with them, mixing, cooking, simmering to perfection - AND, most of them have a ton of ingredients that would take me several trips to various international markets just to locate. I don't have that kind of time (or patience! I really admire those cook-chef-foodie types who can babysit a simmering pot of whatever for hours on end...).
    Anyway. Mole. The store-bought ones? Blargh! Quick-to-make, sure, but they taste awful!
    This recipe is pretty much the perfect compromise, a delicious sauce with all the flavors you look for in a "mole" and best of all? Made in about an hour!! If you're a fan like I am, you'll LOVE this!! Absolutely the easiest and BEST (authentic) tasting mole sauce EVER. (And yes, mole is also referred to as "gravy" in some areas.)

    I ran across this wonderful recipe quite by accident, while searching the internets for something completely unrelated (isn't that how it always happens?). It was posted on a foodie sort-of website that I've since come to refer to a lot, called "Serious Eats". (No, not a vegan website, but still, check it out!! It's a great place for ideas and inspiration). This recipe looked pretty easy, it was vegan, I had all the ingredients, and since I'd tried several previous mole recipes with little luck, I was hoping this would be a hit. And it was. Oh it was!!

    What I didn't realize until after I'd made the recipe, was that it was created by fellow Seattle vegetarian-blogger-acquaintance (and GENIUS cook!!) Michael Natkin, who writes the completely awesome (and vegetarian) "Herbavoracious" blog, of which I'm a HUGE fan!! I should have known - it's such a great recipe.

    If you've never tried any of Michael's recipes, definitely check it out - all the ones I've made are definitely keepers! While Michael isn't vegan, a large number of his recipes are, and many others are very easy to change up. He also notes which ones are gluten-free. He has such a great way of making things taste completely sensational and uses a wide variety of unique ingredients in ways I never would have thought of!

    Here then, is his fabulous recipe  - with just a FEW of my notes because you know I can't cook ANYTHING exactly as the recipe says to:


    (This recipe posted with permission from Erin Zimmer of 'Serious Eats', and the recipe's creator, Michael Natkin. My sincere thanks to you both.)


    Mole Aproximado




    * 8 dried ancho chiles or a mixture of ancho and pasilla
    * 4 cloves garlic
    * 1 large tomato, cored and halved
    * 2 slices bread, toasted and cubed
    * 1 small onion, diced
    * 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried)
    * 1 pinch of cloves
    * 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
    * 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    * 1 tablespoon sugar
    * 1 teaspoon salt
    * 1 heaping tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder 
    [I like to make this a bit more chocolate-y by using 4-5 ounces of unsweetened dark chocolate, melted. Don't shoot me Michael. ~MH]
    * Salt
    * 1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (bitter orange if you happen to have it).
     [I haven't tried this with bitter orange, I admit ~ MH]
    * 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
    Remove the stems, seeds and ribs from the chile peppers. You might want to wear rubber gloves for this. Cover them with boiling water and weight them so they stay underwater. Leave to soak for 30 minutes while you prepare everything else.

    In a hot, dry skillet, cook the garlic cloves and tomato for about 5 minutes, turning a couple of times.

    Drain the chiles, reserving the soaking water. In a blender, combine the chiles with the garlic, tomato, bread, onion, oregano, cloves, cinnamon, black pepper, sugar, salt and cocoa power (if using melted chocolate, add later on when everything is simmering in the pan), orange juice and 1/2 cup of the chile soaking water. Puree very thoroughly, adding more liquid as necessary until you have about 3 1/2 cups. Strain. [Sometimes I don't strain this, it's still good, just a few more seeds and not as smooth - straining just makes more dishes to get dirty!! ~MH]

    Heat the vegetable oil in a saucepan over a medium flame. Pour in the mole, and simmer for about 30 minutes, lightly covered. The sauce should darken and become more concentrated.

    Taste and adjust the seasonings. Can you taste the various herbs and spices? The chocolate? The chiles? Is there a bit of acid and enough salt? Aim for a balanced flavor, but one that you like. Also add a little more liquid or simmer a bit longer to get a pleasing saucy texture, like a thick tomato sauce.
    I love this with tamales or even a simple bean burrito - and the leftovers (what?) even go great with chips or keep in the fridge nicely for over a week.



    Saturday, October 22, 2011

    Cookbook Review; And A Give-Away; And Gravy.

    I wanted to take a quick break from recipes and gravy to post a review on a very special cookbook.
    For my Birthday last month, I treated myself to a couple Amazon.com purchases. My favorite purchase, by far, was World Vegan Feast: 200 Fabulous Recipes from Over 50 Countries by the lovely (and expert) vegan cook Bryanna Clark Grogan. Bryanna has written 8 (I think?) fabulous vegan cookbooks, (sadly I only own seven) each of which is packed with all sorts of wonderful foolproof recipes, details and cooking tips.

    (I would rave like the crazed fan that I am, even if I hadn't just had the awesome opportunity to meet Bryanna in person and have lunch with her at VidaVeganCon. Squeeee!)

    Seriously though, World Vegan Feast is (in my highly professional, totally unbiased Tofu-Mom opinion) Bryanna's best, and my favorite, so far! The book has over 200 really informative, well-written, unique and super-tasty recipes from around the world. As a history-geek-foodie sort myself, I especially love the extensive food science and history knowledge, and the obviously thorough research Bryanna has put in this book. So far, I've been blazing my way through this cookbook because SO MANY of the recipes sound so good! In fact, I've tried more recipes from this cookbook in the past month than I've made out of many cookbooks I've owned for years; Jamaican-style Pumpkin Rice, Smoky Baked Tofu, Pesto Hollandaise, Mashed Potatoes with Chard and Garlic, Guacamole, Italian Chocolate Hazelnut Spread, Späetzle and Polenta - and I think a couple more.

    Just look at my completely delicious little squares of perfect, crunchy-creamy, golden polenta!! I had no idea it was so easy! Ignore the other weird-colored food, the flash makes the veggies look anemic. (And of COURSE, I had to top it with gravy.You knew I'd do that. So, that wasn't from the book, that was my idea.) Anyway, I thought about writing a mouth-watering review and description of each recipe I've made, but realized that would take up a lot of room and I might possibly run out of creative adjectives for delicious, fabulous and super-yummy!

    Yes, each recipe was perfectly wonderful and the directions were very clear and helpful, making them virtually fool-proof.
     And best of all? Well, the whole book is fun! Lots of unique and interesting recipes you may have never heard of or those you HAVE; vegan versions of your Grandma's old German (Creole/Spanish/French/Hungarian/Chinese/whatever) recipes and those foods you always wanted to try but they weren't vegan.

    (Like the recipe I found that's JUST like I remember my Grandma's beautiful little späetzle drop dumplings. I put gravy on those too. Sorry, Bryanna, maybe this review should be called "How I changed every one of Bryanna's recipes by adding gravy to it".)
    Anyway, while not all the recipes are super-basic-beginner-easy, the instructions and directions are!!  They're thorough and carefully detailed so it's like Bryanna's hanging out in the kitchen with you and helping you, step by step. I think anyone of any cooking ability will feel confident tackling them.
    DO NOT miss a chance to check out this cookbook. It's a great compliment to any collection of cookbooks, large or small, vegan or not. and I am positive you'll find a dozen recipes you MUST try immediately!

    That said, I'm so infatuated with this cookbook, I want one of my lucky readers to start cooking like a culinary world traveler too, so I'm GIVING AWAY A COPY OF WORLD VEGAN FEAST!


    THE WINNER (after a random drawing) IS "LITTLE RED HEN" I'll contact you about shipping. CONGRATS!
     Open to U.S. residents only, leave a comment here telling me what "world recipes" or "family favorites" you've always wanted to find vegan versions of. For an additional entry, follow me (Tofu_Mom) or Bryanna (VeganFeaster) on Twitter and Tweet about this giveaway, then post another reply here saying you did so. I'll pick a winner on Monday about 8PM.

    Friday, October 21, 2011

    Fun Things To Do With Gravy; Tofu Scramble and Gravyy

    Sunday breakfast.

    Tofu Scramble drenched in creamy, southern-style Country Gravy over Biscuits.

    Can you hear it calling you? I thought so.

    Now, in the interest of time and blogspace, I'll assume you can make, beg, borrow, buy or steal reasonably good biscuits. Or toast. Or English muffins. Or whatever toasty-bready stuff suits you. If you want toasty-bready stuff. It's good with, or without.

    But here's the rest of breakfast...

    My Favorite Tofu Scramble

    1 lb. block firm, water packed tofu, well drained
    1/2 cup finely chopped mushrooms
    1/2 yellow onion, diced fine
    1/2 red bell pepper, diced fine
    - insert any other vegetables you'd like here

    2 tbsp oil or margarine
    1 tsp garlic powder
    2 tsp onion powder
    1 Tbsp soy sauce
    2 tsp chicken or vegetable bullion powder
    1/4 tsp turmeric
    1/2 tsp India black salt (optional but gives a very authentic "eggy" flavor)

    hefty splash of hot sauce
    squeeze of lemon juice
    1/2 cup soymilk
    1/4 cup nutritional yeast



    Slice the tofu into approximately one inch cubes. Then, using either your hands or a fork, crumble it slightly.
    Saute mushroom, onion and pepper in oil for 3-5 minutes, stirring often. Add tofu and sautee 5 or more min, until tofu dries out or firms up, and moisture evaporates.

    Stir remaining ingredients except nutritional yeast into the soymilk.
    P
    our over the tofu, reduce heat to medium and allow to cook about 5 min. Stir in nutritional yeast. Cook for about 5 - 7 more minutes or until moisture is completely evaporated again and tofu is cooked to your liking, or it starts to brown on the bottom, stirring carefully but infrequently with spatula, scraping pan to get browned bits.
    Creamy Country Style Gravy

    Make gravy as directed. (You can add crumbled "sausage" style bits if you want).
    Put Scramble on toasted English muffins or warm biscuits.
    Pour gravy over all of it.



    Enjoy. And happy breakfast-ing!

    Thursday, October 20, 2011

    Fun Things To Do With Gravy: Asparagus Goldenrod


    OK. We've been talking GRAVY-GRAVY-GRAVY for the last 19 days.
    I thought I'd spend the rest of the month giving you a few ideas on how to USE these gravies and sauces. (and I have a few reviews too!)
    Here's one of my favorite, and more unusual, ways to use Béchamel (remember, it's just "white sauce" nothing all that fancy).

    Growing up in the '60's, (yes, I'm old, deal with it) one of my favorite vegetable dishes was when my Mom would make asparagus on toast with a white sauce and chopped bits of yellow boiled egg-yolk. (I know, sounds odd maybe? But I always thought it was so "fancy" and elegant). Plus, believe it or not, my Mom rarely ever made sauces or gravies, so I was particularly in love with this dish because it had the rare and much-beloved GRAVY (or white sauce).

    I didn't realize it was actually a "real" recipe however; until I discovered years later (in a fancy restaurant, no less) that my childhood favorite was known by the prestigious name of "Asparagus Goldenrod" and it was STILL just as delicious as I remembered.

    In attempting to re-create this comfort-food memory in my now-vegan kitchen, I realized it was simply a matter of a non-dairy white-sauce and possibly something instead of the chopped boiled egg-yolks. Easy - us vegan folk tend to use tofu for eggs whenever we get the chance. (OK, not necessarily!) But it works in this case, scrambling it with a bit of turmeric for that characteristic "golden" color. First time experimenting, I nailed the recipe right on!!
    Next time you're looking for something just a little different, but quick and easy (perfect for brunch and sort-of retro) to do with asparagus, give this a try.

    Asparagus Goldenrod

    • 1/2 a brick firm, water-packed tofu
    • 1/2 tsp turmeric
    • 1 tsp. vegetarian "chicken"-flavor bullion powder
    • 1/4 tsp. India Black Salt
    • 1 pound fresh asparagus
    • 1 recipe Vegan Béchamel Sauce  
    • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh tarragon or 1 teaspoon dried tarragon, crushed, optional, if you want.
    • 4 to 6 slices toast, cut in half diagonally (these are called "toast points" which makes them sound all fancy)
    • 1 tablespoon snipped, fresh chives

    Make the "egg" part first; Mash tofu in a skillet with a small bit of oil. You want small pieces, I use a potato masher or a fork. Add spices and stir until well-incorporated, heat on medium-high and "scramble"-fry until dried out and crumbly. This takes 5 - 7 minutes. Mash a bit more to break up, and set aside.

    Prepare asparagus; Break off woody bases where spears snap easily. If you like, slice the spears diagonally into 2- to 3-inch pieces. Place the pieces in a steamer basket over boiling water. Cover and reduce the heat. Steam for 5 to 8 minutes or until the asparagus is crisp-tender.

    Meanwhile, prepare the Béchamel sauce as directed in recipe. Add tarragon if you like tarragon.
    Arrange 2 toast slices on each plate. Top with the asparagus. Spoon on the sauce. Sprinkle some very finely crumbled tofu (I put mine through a sieve to make it look all "egg-yolk-fancy", yes, I'm down with re-creating this dish as exact as I can) on top of white sauce. Garnish with the chives to make it look even more fancy.
    Serve to your 90-year-old-great-Aunt. She'll be impressed!!

    Wednesday, October 19, 2011

    Mushroom Stroganoff Gravy


    Mmmm... cleaning out the fridge today I found some beautiful little button mushrooms that had survived almost a week without shriveling into dehydrated bits. Amazing.

    The kids wanted baked potatoes, and what better way to serve up MORE Vegan Gravy, right?

    I decided to use up the mushrooms and make some stroganoff gravy to go with. Large slices of portabello mushroom work well here too. Use what you have.

    Served it tonight with my own (slightly overcooked) custom "blend" of mixed veggies: edamame soy beans, baby carrots and few green beans left from last week's grocery trip (all rescued from the depths of the fridge).

    Insanely quick, and easy, and quite yummy.

    Stroganoff Gravy

    • 2 - 3 cups mushrooms, sliced or cut into large chunks
    • (optional: 1 cup "beef-strip" type vegetarian product of your choice - not necessary though, as the mushrooms add plenty of "meaty-ness")
    • 2 cloves garlic
    • 1/2 small onion
    • pinch salt
    • pinch pepper
    • pinch of powdered sage
    • 4 tablespoons margarine
    • 2 cups water
    • 1/2 cup white or red wine (or more water)
    • 2 vegetarian "beef" bullion cubes
      or: 1 Tbsp. vegetarian "beef"-style broth powder
    • 1 Tb. cornstarch
    • 1/4 cup water
    • 1 cup vegan sour cream (I happen to really like "Wayfare Foods - We Can't Say It's Sour Cream", but use whatever)
      or: use this recipe and make your own
    Melt margarine in a large pot or trusty cast-iron skillet.
    Add mushrooms, "beef"-style strips (if using), garlic, onion, salt, pepper and sage and saute until vegetables are soft.
    You may need to cover it for a few moments if they're drying out.
    Add 2 cups water, wine and bullion cubes to the mixture. Cook at a a low simmer, covered, for 10 minutes, making sure bullion is fully dissolved.
    Mix water and cornstarch, add to mushroom and broth mixture. Bring to simmer or low boil and stir with whisk, until thick.

    Just before serving, add vegan sour cream to the mixture, stir gently and heat through (do NOT boil) for about 5 more minutes on low heat.

    Serve over noodles or rice (or a potato if you want!).

    Tuesday, October 18, 2011

    "Chipped Beef" or "Bacon" Gravy

    I have a VERY non-vegan friend who grew up on that 1950's, all-American breakfast staple, chipped beef gravy.
    He's never going to be converted to veganism, but is open-minded enough to enjoy most of my cooking when he's at my house (fortunately for him, or he'd starve). He had asked numerous times if I could re-create the comfort food of his past, animal-free, for him. Since I've never had this odd dried beef/chipped beef product that he raves about, I had to wing it rather randomly.
    But gravy is my signature "thing" so I had to at LEAST give it a try, right?


    Since I know of no veggie replacement for chipped beef (nor do I care to put much effort into researching exact substitutes) I used a veggie "bacon" type product and it actually seemed to do the trick fairly well.

    For purists, I guess it's more "smoky" and less salty than the original, but it was a hit with my friend - and whether it's "like the real thing" or not, (and I'm not fooling myself into thinking it's anything close) it's very tasty and I consider it the ultimate compliment that he enjoys it so much.

    And it's simple, so I thought I'd share.

    "Bacon" Gravy
    • 1 recipe Creamy Country-Style Gravy
    • 1/4 tsp liquid smoke or Bacon Salt (yes, they're vegan)
    • 1 Tablespoon margarine (in addition to gravy recipe)
    • 1/2 to a whole package fake "bacon" of your choice, depending on how much you want in the gravy; (or make your own "bacon"from tempeh, seitan or whatever). I use LightLife's Smart Bacon because it's what I have available and the texture works well. The Yves veggie bacon works really well too but I can't buy it locally.

    Slice uncooked "bacon" crosswise into small strips or bits. Put into large cast iron skillet with 1 Tbsp. margarine, stir around to separate and fry until cooked but not crispy.
    Add gravy ingredients as called for in recipe and cook as directed. Season with liquid smoke or Bacon Salt when gravy is cooked.

    Pour over lightly buttered toast or English muffins. Yum.

    Monday, October 17, 2011

    Southern Tomato Gravy


    I'm dragging out my second World-War II inspired recipe. Basic, cheap, tasty food that many of our parents and grandparents ate (and survived on!). Tomato Gravy originated in the Southern United States and apparently was a favorite with Army cooks who often served it to troops when ingredients for "typical" gravy were scarce.

    Tomato Gravy is milder and creamier than a garlic-y, herb-flavored Italian-type tomato sauce, but it's not exactly like brown gravy either. It's GOOD STUFF though, especially on breakfast-y stuff. Grits, scrambles, hashbrowns, biscuits.

    If you've never had tomato gravy, it's just one more thing I highly recommend that you try.

    I used to LOVE having this over at a friend's house, in high school. His Mom served it over toasty, buttered white bread (which I wasn't allowed at home - possibly why I loved this gravy so much!). She's the one who told me how her father had worked in an Army mess hall and fondly remembered this gravy being served on many occasions.
    I didn't know people called it "Tomato Gravy" though, and spent years looking for a recipe for that "yummy tomato-sauce stuff". Thank goodness for the Internet, as I just re-discovered it a few years ago and have been inventing new uses (besides toasted Wonderbread) ever since!

    It's also good on greens, pasta, gnocchi, "meat"loaf or (like any gravy) pretty much anything.

    Southern Tomato Gravy

    2 tablespoons margarine
    2 tablespoons flour
    1/2 cup soy milk or soy creamer (I prefer the creamer)
    1 teaspoon sugar
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    pinch cayenne
    15-ounce can chopped or sliced, stewed tomatoes


    Get out your cast iron skillet again. Heat the margarine or oil over medium heat. Stir in the flour with a whisk until it is lump free. Let simmer for a moment or two, to toast the flour just a little bit, and then remove from heat, and stir in the half cup milk, a little at a time.

    Put back on the burner, stir and bring to a boil, it will thicken considerably, and very fast. You’ll be left with a very thick mixture. Remove from heat, add the sugar and seasonings, whisking continuously, then slowly add the juice from the tomatoes. Put back on heat and simmer (very gentle boil).

    In a shallow bowl, smash the tomatoes with your fork or a potato masher to make them sort of choppy or shredded. This gravy is not smooth, so you don't have to work real hard at smashing them. The lumpy tomatoes are actually what give it the characteristic texture.

    Once gravy has come to a good simmer, add the tomatoes.

    Bring back to a medium simmer (but don't let it boil hard) and stir with whisk for 3 to 5 minutes until gravy thickens.

    *(optional: several tablespoons of nutritional yeast, whisked in at the end, are particularly delicious if you like that sort of thing.)

    **(optional: A couple shakes "Bacon Salt" or a drop or two of liquid smoke are really good here too, depending on if you want the "smoky" flavor; Southern Tomato Gravy is often, but not always, made with bacon drippings - blergh).

    Serve over toast, biscuits, whatever.

    Sunday, October 16, 2011

    Authentic New Mexico Green Chile Gravy

    Forgive the long, wordy post (I've posted the recipe before, but I can't help myself).

    Today's post for Vegan Month of Gravy travels to one of my VERY favorite parts of the country, the sunny, dusty Southwest, to bring you one of New Mexico's signature dishes, Green Chile Sauce; more fondly called Green Chile Gravy, especially by the state's "old-time" residents. And it is essentially a "gravy" with green chiles added.

    If you've been fortunate enough to visit, or live, anywhere near the spectacular "Land of Enchantment", you'll have discovered that this delicious gravy-sauce and it's counterpart, Red Chile Sauce, are EVERYWHERE, even McDonald's sells green chile burgers!

    This is not some Tex-Mex vinigar-y, tomatillo-jalapeno-cilantro "green" spicy sauce, but a totally different creation alltogether. New Mexico green chile gravy contains none of the above ingredients but is instead simple, earthy and made up primarily of smoky, roasted peppers.

    To make it right, you'll need real, genuine New Mexico green chiles. If you can't locate them locally (and few of us can) New Mexico's famous chiles are available shipped fresh, for a price, or better yet, go visit during chile harvest. Totally worth the trip.

    The fat, green chiles (sometimes called "Hatch chiles" after the town where large numbers are grown) have a distinct, fruity, rich flavor, with a mellow but building heat. Sometimes they're hotter than others. They've been compared to Anaheim chiles, but seriously - there's no comparison.

    During chile season, the peppers are roasted outdoors over fire in these big, rotating, round wire drums. You can smell chile smoke as they char, and hear the seeds and skins popping and crackling from blocks away. Totally an experience!! When it's time to use them, the skins are peeled off and the soft chiles are chopped and cooked in whatever recipe.
    The red chile is actually the same pepper, but picked later in the season so it is red (ripe), it's not roasted, but dried, ground into powder and blended with liquid to make the thick, dark, spicy, red chile sauce.

    For you trivia nerds (OK, maybe that's just me) chile peppers are New Mexico's largest agricultural crop; used at practically every meal, celebrated in songs and at festivals, and the subject of the Official New Mexico State Question, "Red or green?"
    The question refers to the color of chile you want on your food and you'll get asked at every Mexican (or New Mexican, sorry!!) restaurant. (And the correct answer? "Christmas". Meaning you'll have both red AND green.)

    I think the reason many of us know very little about New Mexico's green chiles is because they don't transport so well. They're a fragile seasonal vegetable, (well, yes, technically a fruit) and the only way to really appreciate them is freshly fire-roasted, though the fire-roasted, frozen variety are actually surprisingly good that's your second choice. Tasteless, acidic, canned, slimy green chiles are absolutely not an option here. Stop reading now if you think you're going to try this recipe with canned green slug peppers.

    Most larger grocery stores stock the frozen tubs of "Bueno Foods" brand frozen roasted chiles though, and they will work nicely for this sauce (they're also less labor intensive, as they've been chopped and peeled for you); but for me, there's just something magical about buying a package of smoky, still-warm, freshly-roasted chiles early in the morning at the Farmer's Market in Santa Fe...

    Anyway - exciting news, (for me anyway), two years ago, our "local" (Seattle) Whole Foods brought in some Hatch chiles and an authentic roaster for the fall, and I was able to get fresh-roasted green chiles without traveling half-way across the country to get my "fix".

    I tend to LOVE anything New Mexico, can you tell? This gravy-sauce (which isn't a bright cilantro green, but more tannish-roasty-green color) is absolutely heavenly, and perfect over enchiladas, tamales, chile rellanos, burritos, potatoes or grits especially.

    New Mexico's Famous Green Chile Gravy

    3 tablespoons oil or margarine
    2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    1 cup onion , chopped
    2 teaspoons minced garlic
    1/2 cup chopped fresh tomatoes
    2 cups roasted, peeled/seeded/chopped New Mexican green chile peppers
    3 cups vegetarian chicken-flavor broth
    1 teaspoon salt
    (optional: a pinch of oregano and/or a pinch of cumin can be added if you prefer a bit more spice, personally I like mine plain.)

    In heavy-bottomed sauce pan, saute onions in oil, stirring every now and then, over medium heat, until they begin to brown. Add garlic and tomatoes and cook another 2 minutes but do NOT let garlic brown.
    Stir flour in with onion mixture. Stir a bit and let flour "cook" for a few minutes. Remove from heat and slowly whisk in broth.
    Add green chilies, salt (if needed) and oregano and cumin (if using) and mix well.
    Bring to a boil, lower heat but keep at a simmer, stirring with wire whisk frequently, 20 to 30 minutes, to allow mixture to reduce.
    The sauce should be like a medium-to-thin gravy and bind chilies and onions together.
    Store in refrigerator up to a week if you can resist drinking it straight from the pan.

    Saturday, October 15, 2011

    Mushroom and Miso Gravy

    Wow. VEGAN MONTH OF GRAVY BLOGGING, day 15, half over already! So much to share, so little time!


    Today's recipe, Mushroom-and-Miso gravy, happens to be one of my favorite gravies to go over brown rice. (ALL gravy is my favorite for
    something, in case you haven't figured that out by now...)
    Not sure when I decided that this particular gravy and rice combo was the way it "should" be, but I've made it as a fast, easy supper for years (with the help of a rice-cooker); simple, warm, filling comfort food with a slightly "Asian" twist. Sometimes I get all crazy and add tofu cubes, stir-fried veggies and turn it into an Asian-stir-fry-gravy mess. That's good too!!

    They say that boiling miso destroys the beneficial properties, so I always add it at the end. It's good stuff, give it a try!!

    Mushroom and Miso Gravy

    1 cup vegetable broth, (I actually use a "beef" style vegan broth here, I like the stronger taste and rich brown color in this gravy, you can use 1 cup water if you prefer it milder and less salty)
    2 cups thinly sliced mushrooms (I like shiitake or morels here if I can get them, but regular button mushrooms work well too)
    1 -2 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely grated
    1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
    1 1/2 Tablespoons cornstarch
    2 Tablespoons white miso (or any variety)
    fresh ground pepper

    Combine broth, mushrooms, ginger and oil in a small saucepan. Bring to rapid simmer, then cover and simmer gently for 5 to 7 minutes.
    In a small container, combine cornstarch with just enough water to dissolve. Whisk it into the saucepan, bring to a boil, and cook just until the gravy thickens.
    Remove from heat.
    Combine miso with 1/4 cup warm water in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. Stir into the gravy.
    Season with pepper to taste.

    Friday, October 14, 2011

    Lentil Gravy

    I'm fascinated by vintage WWII cookbooks and recipes. First, because the recipes are usually quite cheap to make; and second, many of them are by default, vegan, or "almost" vegan.

    The product of desperate and creative housewives who needed to feed their families affordable and filling meals, despite the fact that milk, butter and meat were very limited, and "rationed" during war time; I think a lot can be learned from their ingenuity and frugal tricks.

    This recipe is most likely from that era; one I found on a yellowed card in my Grandmother's handwriting in my Mom's recipe box. I asked my Mom about it, and she said "I think I remember Mother making it when we were kids, she couldn't always get certain ingredients".

    Of course it intrigued me and I decided to try it for myself. The (vegan-ized) results were quite tasty and have become a popular part of our gravy collection.

    As a side note, I've discovered I really like this recipe made with the Green Lentils from Timeless Foods. I received a combo package from them some time back and am ABSOLUTELY in love with their products. If you ever want to try amazingly tasty (and organic) "gourmet" lentils and grains, I can't recommend them enough, seriously better than any other lentils I've tried (and I grew up on the stuff!). Even the green lentils cook up pretty brown, you won't have green gravy, don't worry.
    This recipe is a great way to use up leftovers too, if you have any.

    That said, let's start with my Grandmother's original recipe:
    Lentill Gravy

    Heat one cup of water (or for special meals, use milk or cream if affordable). Add a cupful of cooked, seasoned, soft lentills which have been rubbed through a sieve to remove skins.
    Add pinch of salt and pepper.
    Stir while heating.
    Once mixture is boiling, thicken with a teaspoonful of flour rubbed smooth in a little cold milk.
    Serve hot on nicely boiled potatoes, rice, or well cooked macaroni.
    Basic, cheap and nutritious food, right?
    Well, here's my veganized version, based on the above. I used So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut Milk as it works well in ALL my gravy recipes, and the mild coconut flavor especially compliments the lentils here. Obviously, this recipe will work just fine with any lentils and plant milk you might have on hand:

    Lentil Gravy
    • 2 cups So Delicious Coconut Milk (Unsweetened!) or any plant milk, divided
    • 1 cup soft cooked Green or regular brown lentils, seasoned or plain (I usually cook onion and herbs with my lentils.)
    • 2 Tablespoon flour + 3 Tablespoons cold water
    • pinch salt, pepper and sage

    Blend lentils with 1 cup milk in the blender or food processor until very smooth. (Or if you want, you can try "rubbing them through a sieve" like my Grandmother suggests.
    Yes. I tried it. It takes FOREVER and makes a big mess, but the end result is, indeed, a VERY smooth puree. Do what you want.)
    Heat remaining 1 cup milk in your trusty cast iron (or any large) skillet.
    Add lentil puree.
    Heat over medium, stirring frequently to make sure the mixture doesn't scorch.
    Raise heat just enough to bring mixture to boil.
    Stir in the flour-water mixture and boil until mixture thickens, whisking constantly.
    Remove from heat.
    Taste and add salt, pepper and sage as needed (depending on how much seasoning the lentils had to begin with).
    Serve.

    We LOVE this gravy over rice or a hearty, homemade wheat toast.