Vegan Pizza Soup

April 8, 2011
pizza soup

Everything in pizza, except the dough, in soup form

Pizza Soup

I served this soup without telling my guests what it was. Since the menu was “Illusion Food,” everything was supposed to look like one thing, but actually be something else. So this looked like a blended tomato-vegetable soup and grilled bread triangles, but it had a very familiar flavor. I made them guess what it was.

Everything you’d put in pizza (except the crust) goes into this soup, so it’s no wonder it tastes like it. I served it with wedges of pizza dough, rolled into circles, cut into 12 wedges per circle, then cooked on a grill pan until each side had grill marks. It reminded everyone of pita bread wedges, although they weren’t puffed up at all.

Yes, eventually someone guessed what it was. “P..p…pepperoni pizza!” she cried.

How did I get the pepperoni flavor without using pepperoni or any meat? I used the spices: fennel seed and black pepper. Those, along with the garlic, basil and oregano that would normally be in the pizza sauce, gave it enough of a pepperoni taste to pass.

The nutritional yeast is there for the “cheese,” but if you aren’t vegan, you could use real grated cheese, I’m guessing. Add it just before serving, after you’ve blended the soup.

Recipe: Vegan “Pepperoni” Pizza Soup

3 TBS olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 TBS chopped garlic
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 carrot, grated or finely chopped
1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, or 4 tsp dried basil
2 TBS chopped fresh oregano, or 2 tsp dried oregano
1-1/2 tsp salt
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup chopped spinach
1/2 can whole olives, sliced, or one of those small cans of chopped olives
8 oz fresh mushrooms, chopped

2 cups water
6 TBS nutritional yeast
1 TBS sugar

Saute onion, garlic, bell pepper and carrot in oil 10 minutes. Add all ingredients except water, yeast and sugar. Cover and cook 30 minutes, until carrots are completely soft and the flavors have blended.

Blend in batches in a blender. (NOTE: Keep the blender lid partially off, and cover it with a cloth. Do NOT completely cover your blender when blending hot liquids. The mixture can explode, burning you and creating a huge mess!)

You can also use an immersion blender if you have one, to blend the mixture.

Add water and nutritional yeast, and sugar, if desired. You might not need the sugar, depending on the sweetness of the other vegetables.


Vegan Fondant on a Vegan Chameleon Cake

April 7, 2011
chameleon cake with vegan fondant

Chameleon birthday cake decorated with vegan fondant

Fondant is what you see on tv in all the cake and baking competitions. Typically it is rolled out and draped over the cake, where it creates a velvety-smooth appearance. It’s made from gelatin, corn syrup, powdered sugar, and gums. The consistency is a lot like play dough, and you can roll it out or mold it into shapes.

It’s notoriously finicky to work with. It hates humidity and heat. Since it’s primarily made of powdered sugar, when there is moisture in the air, it absorbs the moisture, becoming sticky, wet, and eventually melting.

You have to work fast with it, since the heat from your hands causes it to soften and tear. It rips easily and gets cracks in it. It picks up on any little dings, dents and mistaken finger pokes or marks.

In fact, it’s such a pain, it’s a wonder people work with it at all. But in a cool, dry, temperature-stable environment, you can get gorgeous results with it.

You need to use a base layer of frosting over the cake, to make the fondant stick. Traditionally this is buttercream. This year I opted to use a coconut milk and cornstarch mixture, like haupia, a thick pudding, which worked fine. You can also make a buttercream frosting by substituting vegan margarine for the butter. I’ve done that in the past, and it works great.

But the birthday girl thinks buttercream is a bit too rich, so I skipped the added expense and went with the coconut milk frosting instead. You don’t taste the frosting much anyway, since the fondant is sickly sweet and will overpower any frosting flavor.

Use a sturdy cake that will hold up to the weight of the fondant, which can end up quite heavy with several layers. And be sure to design your cake so it is structurally sound.

This was a vegan chocolate cake baked in a loaf pan. I kept it in the refrigerator overnight. Then I sculpted the base form before covering it with frosting and letting it harden in the refrigerator. Finally, I covered it with the fondant base layer and decorations.

I recommend you do not eat the fondant, although almost half the guests did. It’s just so sickly sweet. If you pull it off the cake, however, the frosting comes off with it, so you might serve a bowl of frosting on the side, so those people who remove the fondant aren’t stuck with just plain cake.

You can use commercial gel colorants, but the thought of making a vegan cake full of FD&C Color Number This, That, and the Other was gross and pretty much defeated the purpose. So I put on my thinking cap and used natural colorants that I had in my pantry.

The base fondant color turned out white, even with the addition of vanilla extract, so that was one color. To make yellow, I added powdered turmeric. Powdered annatto or achiote seed gave me a gorgeous orange.

I wasn’t quite as successful using my powdered green drink supplement mix to get a green. It ended up being more of an olive color, which was still nice, just not bright and colorful green like I had hoped.

colored vegan fondant

Vegan fondant colored naturally: with turmeric, annatto, and green drink powder. The white is the plain base fondant.

The fresher these powders, the brighter the colors you’ll get. Basically, whatever color it looks like in the jar or package will be what you end up with when you mix enough of it with the fondant.

Because I was using an obscene amount of powdered sugar (2 pounds for one recipe!) I started adding cornstarch towards the end, instead. I don’t know how much this affected the texture and ability to work with the fondant. It seemed to make it less sticky.

The mixture will harden up overnight, so resist the temptation to keep adding sugar until it stops sticking. You can’t take it out, and adding too much makes it crack when you try to roll it out.

So stop mixing when it becomes a solid mass that you can work into a ball, even if it still sticks a bit. Wrap it in plastic and leave it on the counter overnight.

The next day, when you go to work with it, you’ll need to use powdered sugar as dusting, so it doesn’t stick to everything. I also used cornstarch for dusting, which seemed to work well.

However, the fact that this was humid Honolulu, AND it was raining both days I made this, spelled disaster for the cake. The longer I tried to work with it, the stickier and meltier it got. I gave up halfway done and put the cake with fondant into the refrigerator, even though I’ve read you shouldn’t refrigerate it.

The next day, I finished it, but the whole thing ended up oozing, melting, and turning to pools of bright orange and mustard yellow liquid where the cake touched the board. Sigh.

chameleon cake face

You can see around the eye especially how the fondant is melting and blending together.

Oh well. At least we could get an idea of what it would have looked like with ideal climate and working conditions. And I don’t know how much of the problem was due to the fact that I changed the original recipe and instructions (from Mission:Vegan) slightly.

Instead of shortening, I used canola oil. And I used cornstarch instead of powdered sugar toward the end. My guess is that those things didn’t make that much difference. The rain and heat were bigger factors.

And although it was a huge pain to work with this fondant, I have to admit, it was still a lot of fun, especially in the beginning, when things were going along okay and the cake started to look cool. I hadn’t had that much fun making a cake since…well, one year ago, when I made a birthday cake for my friend’s last birthday!

Vegan Fondant Recipe

1/4 cup water
1-1/2 teaspoons agar powder
1/2 cup corn syrup
1-1/2 TBS glycerin (you can buy this at any drug store)
2 TBS canola oil
1 tsp vanilla
2 pounds powdered sugar
cornstarch
gel color OR
natural powder colorants:
for mustardy yellow–turmeric (buy this cheaply where Indian ingredients are sold)
for orange–annatto or achiote powder (available at Latin groceries or where Filipino foods are sold)
for olive green–green drink powder

In a small pan, heat the water and agar, stirring, until the mixture comes to a boil, or the agar powder has all dissolved.

Add this to a bowl with the corn syrup, glycerin, shortening, vanilla, and about half the powdered sugar. Mix completely.

Continue adding powdered sugar until the mixture starts to form into a ball. Knead it as you would bread dough. Stop even though it is still a bit sticky.

Wrap in plastic wrap, put into a plastic bag, close tightly, and leave out overnight.

The next day, separate into smaller portions. Keep the unused portions tightly wrapped.

Knead in colorants as desired to get the color you want. I used about 1 TBS powder for every 1/2 cup of fondant to color.

Use powdered sugar or cornstarch to keep the mixture from sticking as you roll it out on the counter.

Apply the fondant to a cooled and frosted cake which has been in the fridge so the base layer of frosting has hardened.

To make your decorations, roll out fondant and cut it with a knife. Use a tiny dab of water as glue to make it stick to the base layer of fondant.

You can also roll it into balls to make eyeballs, etc. or ropes. Basically, the same stuff you’d do with play dough. Use chopsticks, the back of a knife, and other things to make lines and holes as desired.

When done, cover the cake with plastic wrap and store in a cool, dry place until it’s time for your party.

You can also dust the fondant with powdered commercial dusts, like metallic gold and silver edible dusts, although I haven’t tried this yet. Watch any of the professional cake makers on tv for more ideas and inspiration. Their stuff is amazing, and I have even more respect for their work, now that I’ve tried doing this myself and seen how tough it is.

One of the judges, Kerry Vincent, is often criticized for being a stickler. She says things like, “Your fondant work was very sloppy. There were lots of cracks in it.” But she knows and respects good work, because she has done this herself.

So if you’re finding fault with my fondant work, oh well. Everyone’s a critic. I too wish it had been better, but I did the best I could. Go make some cake, frosting, and fondant for yourself, and see what you can come up with.

I’d love to see what you end up with. Feel free to contact me, and we can commiserate together! Hahahaha.


Vegan Spicy Peanut Dip/Sauce

April 7, 2011
vegan spicy peanut dip or sauce

Vegan Peanut Dip or Sauce

Spicy Peanut Dip/Sauce

This is kind of like Indonesian satay sauce, but without the coconut milk. It’s easier to make than the traditional version, because we are starting with peanut butter instead of raw peanuts. I used creamy, but chunky will work as well.

There is a mixture of sweet, salty, sour and spicy, along with a creamy richness from the peanut butter. You can adjust the spiciness to your taste. The recipe as written is on the mild side.

It works great as a dip for crudite, and I mixed the leftovers with sautéed vegetables and served them with rice. You can sprinkle some sesame seeds on the top for garnish.

Vegan Spicy Peanut Dip/Sauce

1 cup peanut butter
1 cup water
2 TBS shoyu
4 TBS brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
4 TBS apple cider vinegar
3/4 teaspoons salt
1 TBS toasted sesame oil (optional)

Mix together all ingredients. Using hot water helps to soften the peanut butter and makes it easier to mix.

Note:
This was served at Ray’s memorial service at the arboretum. The other recipes can be found also, including Black Bean Dip, Broccoli Salad, Pea Salad, and Vegan Tofu-Spinach Dip.


Black Bean Dip

March 6, 2011
vegan black bean dip

Vegan Black Bean Dip

I had forgotten about making this recipe in a normal-sized batch, and a friend reminded me today about it. So I apologize for the delay.

Yes, this is the dip that was served at Ray Baker’s memorial at the arboretum.

(If you want the dip with the hoisin sauce and lots of garlic, that’s the Asian Black Bean Dip recipe you want.

If you want the other memorial food recipes, so far I have:
Broccoli Salad
Vegan Tofu Spinach Dip
Frozen Pea Salad (with or without feta)
Russian-Korean Carrot Salad)

This black bean dip is quick to make and extremely healthy, full of fiber and antioxidants. You can adjust the cayenne to taste, or use fresh or canned chiles or chipotles or chipotle powder instead. It has a mild chile hit to it as it is.

I haven’t tried it with other beans yet, but my guess is it would be just as tasty with other types, such as kidney or pinto beans, and possibly garbanzos, too.

Here is the recipe. Please leave a comment to let me know what you think if you try this yourself.

Vegan Black Bean Dip

3 TBS canola oil
1-1/4 cup chopped onion (about 1 medium)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chopped bell pepper (about 1 medium)
1 can (11 oz) corn, drained and rinsed

1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 tsp salt
3 TBS apple cider vinegar

Saute onion, garlic, bell pepper, and corn in oil until onions and bell peppers are soft, about 10 minutes.

Add to blender or food processor with the other ingredients. Blend.

Serve with tortilla chips or crudite. Makes 3 cups dip.


Vegetarian Chilaquiles (not a vegan recipe…yet)

March 3, 2011

Vegetarian Chilaquiles

Vegetarian Chilaquiles or "Mexican Lasagna"


During a recent vacation in Mexico, one of the most popular dishes our group (made up of all omnivores, plus me) ate was chilaquiles, also known as Mexican lasagna. It’s quick to throw together and can be made with just vegetables, or enhanced with beans, if you so desire.

After eating refried beans and cheese at every meal in Mexico, I swore I didn’t want any more for awhile. Then the day after I got home, I went to the warehouse club, found queso fresco, and got the other ingredients to make chilaquiles and refried beans. I’m not regretting that decision. In fact, I made some to serve friends while I told them about my trip and showed them photos.

The first batch I made, I was skimpy with the tortilla chips, so there was too much filling. The second batch I was too generous with the chips, so it got too dry. You’ll soon find out what ratio works well for you.

It’s great comfort food, kind of chewy, warm, gooey if you use cheese, with as much of a spicy kick as you want. The top tortillas stay crunchy, but the ones inside get chewy and softened with the filling. And if you use a salsa made with fruit, you get sweet and sour in addition to the spicy and salty flavors. Yum!

Play around with this and have fun with it. It’s easy to see why this is such a popular dish. You’ll soon figure out your favorite combination of ingredients, but here is a basic vegetarian recipe to start with, followed with ideas for variations to try.

I’m planning to develop a vegan version of this, so stay tuned for that.

Vegetarian Chilaquiles

(these are approximate amounts; you can use more or less, to your taste)

2 TBS oil
1 green pepper, sliced
1 onion chopped
1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
2 cups prepared salsa
8 oz queso fresco, crumbled*
about 11-12 oz tortilla chips

To make the filling, saute oil, green pepper, and onion until soft. Stir in tomato sauce and salsa. Mix well.

In a 1-1/2 quart casserole dish, spread a layer of tortilla chips about 2 chips deep.

Spread on about 1/3 of the filling. Sprinkle with 1/4 of the queso fresco.

Repeat twice more, using all the sauce. Then top with just tortilla chips and cheese. In other words, make sure the last layer on top is just chips and cheese, so your chips do not get all soggy.

Bake at 350 degrees F for about 40 to 45 minutes, until cheese is melted.

!Buen Provecho!

*NOTE: Queso fresco is a soft, tangy cheese similar to ricotta. You can also use crumbled ricotta, or shredded jack or mozzarella.

Tortilla chips on the bottom

Tortilla chips on the bottom of the casserole dish

One layer of vegetarian chilaquiles

One layer is done. Repeat to fill the dish.

chilaquiles are ready to bake

Top with chips and cheese. These are ready to bake.

Variations:

    -Add fresh chopped chiles to the sauté mixture
    -Add canned chiles to the filling
    -Add cilantro
    -Make your own salsa
    -Try using a non-typical type of salsa. For example, the warehouse club had mango-peach salsa.
    -Add drained and rinsed, cooked black, pinto, or kidney beans to the filling
    -Use corn tortillas instead of tortilla chips
    -Add corn

Crowd-Pleasing Vegan Broccoli Salad With Cranberries

January 11, 2011
vegan broccoli cranberry salad

Easy, Crowd-Pleasing, Vegan Broccoli-Cranberry Salad

Here is another one of those easy, basically dump-and-mix salad recipes. It’s a broccoli salad with cranberries or raisins, that you can make vegan very easily. I started with a popular recipe by Paula Deen, famous food celebrity.

Then I read some of the many comments and tried some of them out. All the variations I tried seemed to come out well.

The salad is a lovely mix of crunchy, creamy, salty, sour and sweet. You can substitute other dried fruits, such as dates or raisins, for the cranberries. You can use different nuts. We used pecans in some batches and almonds in others, when we made food for a memorial service and started with 24 pounds of broccoli florets.

We made some with the carrots, and some without, when we thought we had run out of carrots. I had brought liquid smoke, intending to add it in place of the bacon bits or vegetarian, fake bacon bits, but I forgot to add it. So it’s quite a versatile salad.

It has been very well received whenever I’ve served it, too. Even a friend, who doesn’t care for raw onions, ate it and didn’t complain.

You can make it vegan by using vegan mayonnaise and vegetarian bacon bits. With the combination of vegetables, nuts and fruits, the salad packs a nice wallop of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber, too.

You could go through the trouble of blanching the broccoli if you find it too hard. But I prefer the less-work method, and it’s not necessary. Hey, you burn more calories when you chew more!

Here’s the recipe.

Crowd-Pleasing Vegan Broccoli Salad

4 cups broccoli florets (about 2 stalks)
1 cup minced sweet onion
2 carrots, grated
1/3 cup chopped nuts
1/2 cup dried cranberries or raisins
1/4 cup vegetarian bacon bits
1 cup mayonnaise
2 Tablespoons white vinegar
1/4 cup sugar

Mix all ingredients together.

The only complaints about this broccoli salad I heard were from those who were making it. We were using warehouse club bags of already cut broccoli florets, and dumped and mixed them with the other ingredients.

“This broccoli is too big!” and “How are they going to eat it–with their hands?” is what I heard them saying. “Aren’t we going to cut it smaller?” “Aren’t we blanching it?”

“NO!” I said. “We don’t have time.” We had hundreds of pounds of food to make, and no time to waste cutting or blanching broccoli.

“If anyone has a problem with the food, they can come talk to me,” I said.

Of course, I couldn’t help teasing them when we ate some for dinner that night. “Where is the quality control around here? WHO is in charge of this food? Look at this broccoli tree on my plate! Don’t choke on it!”

I guess you can’t please everyone.

But they had a point. The floret I had was the size of my palm. I cut it with a knife before eating it. So if you cut the florets yourself, be as meticulous as you so desire.

I hope you enjoy this Crowd-Pleasing Vegan Broccoli Salad With Cranberries recipe. Let me know if you try other variations and how they turn out.


Vegan Tofu-Spinach Dip

January 11, 2011

vegan appetizer tofu spinach dip

Vegan Tofu Spinach Dip


This recipe was developed as a vegan appetizer version of that onion and spinach dip that probably everyone has had at some potluck or party some time in their life. You know the one–I think you mix sour cream, onion soup mix, mayonnaise, water chestnuts, and spinach.

This has no dairy, no cholesterol, no unpronounceable chemicals or flavorings, and is almost as easy to make.

Recently I made a version for a memorial service, and I didn’t have gobs of dehydrated onions or powders to throw in. So I used minced onions and minced garlic for one batch, and sauteed onions and garlic for the second batch, for less of a strong onion bite.

Someone has already asked for the recipe, so it obviously tasted okay. I cannot post the exact recipe I used for the large batches, because I was making hundreds of pounds of food and had no time to measure or write anything down. Instead of 2 cups of tofu per batch, I used 2 blocks! I’ll give you some approximate amounts, though, to help you out.

Here is the original, normal-sized recipe I developed:

Vegan Tofu-Spinach Dip

2 cups tofu
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 Tablespoon dried onion flakes
5 Tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup oil
1/2 cup chopped water chestnuts (half of an 8-ounce can)
1 cup cooked, chopped spinach* (this is probably about equal to one box of frozen spinach, thawed)

Blend all ingredients EXCEPT water chestnuts and spinach. Add water if necessary. Blend until it is smooth.

Stir in water chestnuts and spinach.

Serve with crudite or chips, or as a spread on bread, crostini, or crackers.

I’ve also served it inside a round loaf of sweet bread. Cut off a thin slice from the top. Pull the center out in chunks, leaving a bowl-like shell. Put the dip into the bread bowl and serve the bread chunks for dipping.

That makes a nice mix of sweet, sour, crunchy, salty, and creamy, and the dry bread soaks up the dip very nicely.

To make it with fresh onion and garlic,

use the same recipe, with the following changes:

Omit garlic and onion powders
Omit dehyrated onion flakes
Add 2 cloves minced garlic
Add 1/2 cup minced onion (I used sweet onions)

Taste and see if you need to add more onion and/or garlic. Keep in mind that the flavors will meld nicely if you let it sit.

I recommend you refrigerate this several hours, or overnight, before serving, but it’s not necessary.

*Note about the spinach: I’ve used regular spinach and cholesterol spinach, and both worked well. You could probably substitute other cooked greens instead, such as kale or collard greens, to get a similar flavor.


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