November 27, 2012

mock tomato sauce

Now that the Thanksgiving feast is over and the leftovers are all gone, some of us might be feeling a bit out of sorts. Consuming overly rich and heavy foods, white flour and lots of sugar can turn your body acidic. Eating nightshades can exacerbate this condition.

Here is a great alternative to tomato sauce if you are avoiding nightshades (or just simply out of canned tomatoes). My husband is the master of mock tomato sauce. (Check out his blog for a great vegan pizza recipe!) He was actually the one that made the tomato-free ketchup and barbecue sauce that I had for the first time. With the sweetness from the carrots and onions and the tartness from ume vinegar, it tastes so much like the real thing. You won't miss the tomato. Here's my version with a small piece of beet.


2 tsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 red onion, sliced (about 1 1/4 cups)
2 tsp ume vinegar
2 small carrots, sliced (about 1 cup)
half of small beet, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup water
2 TBS shoyu

1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme 

  1. In a medium sized pot, place olive oil and crushed garlic and sauté on medium high flame until fragrant. Add onion slices and sprinkle ume vinegar on top. This helps to brighten up the onion's red color. Cook until the onions soften. 
  2. Add the sliced carrots and beet. Sauté for a couple of minutes. Add water and shoyu and cover. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes until the vegetables are soft.
  3. Transfer to a blender and blend until smooth. Return to pot, add the herbs and cook for a few minutes.

This sauce can be used for pizza and pasta. Also great spread on toast or pan-fried polenta!

November 12, 2012

mushroom/leek tofu quiche

As cold weather sets in here in the Berkshires, it becomes harder and harder to get up in the morning. I started off a lazy Sunday by mustering up the will power to get out of bed, imagining a warm kitchen with a hot oven. Tofu quiche, here I come....

makes one 9" pie plate
Rosemary-Scented Crust
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup unbleached white flour (OR white pastry flour)
1 tsp dried rosemary, ground (double the amount if using fresh)
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/3 cup coconut oil*
1 TBS safflower oil
2-3 TBS cold water

*Coconut oil is what makes the crust nice and flaky. You can go with all coconut oil instead of the safflower/coconut oil combination, but I found the coconut flavor to be a bit too overwhelming. The chopped up rosemary makes a nice addition to the savory crust. 

1 TBS olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
l medium leek, sliced, keeping the white and green parts separate (3 cups total)
12 oz crimini mushrooms, sliced (3 3/4 cups)
1 TBS shoyu


1 block of extra firm tofu, drained & pressed
1 1/2 TBS sweet miso
1 TBS nutritional yeast (optional)
2 tsp ume paste
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried rosemary
1/4 tsp dried tarragon 
1/4 tsp dried thyme
dash of turmeric


  1. To prepare the crust: Place whole wheat pastry flour, white flour, rosemary and salt in a bowl. Add coconut oil and safflower oil and mix it with a fork in a cutting motion.
  2. Stir in the cold water one tablespoon at a time. Mix the dough with your hands to form it into a ball.
  3. Press the dough into an oiled pie plate. Prebake the crust in a preheated oven at 350°F for 12 to 15 minutes. Set aside to cool. 
  4. To prepare the filling: Place the oil and garlic in a pan and cook until fragrant. Add the white parts of the leek and sauté for a few minutes until coated with oil. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook until they become soft. Season with shoyu and add the green parts of the leek. Cook for a minute. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
  5. Place the rest of the ingredients in a food processor to make the base for the filling. Process until smooth.
  6. Add the tofu base to the bowl of cooked vegetables and mix. Pour into the cooled crust and bake at 350°F for 20 to 25 minutes. Allow the quiche to cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

asparagus/mushroom tofu quiche

Use 1 lb of asparagus instead of the leek. Trim the ends and reserve some of the tips for decoration. Cut the rest in thin slices. Sauté them in oil in place of the white parts of the leek in the directions above. Blanch the asparagus tips that were set aside for decoration. Prepare the filling and spread it over the crust as above. Arrange the asparagus tips on top of the filling and bake.

<Gluten-free option>

This quiche can also be baked without a crust for a tasty gluten-free option. Make sure all the seasonings contain no gluten: use chickpea miso instead of white miso, use Bragg's or Coconut Amino instead of shoyu and make sure the nutritional yeast is certified gluten-free (nutritional yeast itself contains no gluten but some brands may be cross-contaminated).

Prepare the filling and add 1 TBS of arrowroot or potato starch. Oil a muffin pan and spoon the filling into the cups. Bake in a preheated oven at 350°F for 15 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes and remove from the pan using a butter knife.

Looking for more vegan brunch ideas? Why not giving tempeh sausages a try?


November 5, 2012

thanksliving wellington

Wellington usually involves some kind of meat which is wrapped in puff pastry and baked. Here is a vegetarian version stuffed with homemade seitan, caramelized onions, yam and kale. Served with mushroom gravy, this makes a wonderful main dish for Thanksgiving. Seitan (often referred to as "wheat meat") can be purchased through a health food store. The homemade savory seitan roast is very simple to prepare and I recommend giving it a try as it can be used in a variety of dishes.

Ingredients (makes 2 rolls, serves 6-8 people)

1 box of vegan puff pastry (contains two sheets), thawed according to directions on package
seitan, sliced thin (for homemade seitan roast, see the recipe here)
2 medium yellow onions, sliced thin (about 4 cups)
1/2 bunch kale, de-stemmed & torn into bite size pieces (about 2 cups)
1 medium yam, peeled & sliced thin (about 2 cups)

1. Caramelize the onions by sauteing the slices in 1 TBS olive oil. Cook the kale in a steamer for a minute. Steam the sliced yam for 3-4 minutes. Set them aside.

2. Place a sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough out using a rolling pin to about 1/8" thickness.

3. To assemble, lay strips of seitan across the dough, leaving an inch on the sides. Layer the caramelized onions on top and place the steamed yam and kale on top.


4. To roll it up, pull the edge toward you to cover the stuffing and tuck it in. Try to achieve a tight roll. This process is kind of like making a giant sushi roll.

5. Then tuck the sides in and roll up the rest of the pastry tightly.

5. Close up the roll by wetting your fingers a little bit and pinching the dough.


6. Place on a baking pan lined with parchment paper and bake at 350°F (preheated) for 30 minutes. Rotate the pan and bake for another 20 minutes or until golden brown.

7. Place on a cooling rack and let it sit for a few minutes. Slice and serve with mushroom gravy (recipe below).


Mushroom gravy
1 TBS olive oil
1 large shallot, sliced thin
8 oz crimini mushrooms, sliced thin
8 oz oyster mushrooms, shredded by hand
2 cups soy milk
1 cup vegetable stock
2-3 TBS shoyu
1 tsp ume paste
1/4 cup kuzu, mixed with 1/2 cup cold water  

1. Saute the shallots in oil until they become translucent. Add the mushrooms and cook until they become soft.  

2. Add soy milk and vegetable stock. Let it come to a gentle boil and add shoyu and ume paste to season.  

3. Thicken the mixture with kuzu mixed with water. Cook for a couple of minutes.

Looking for menu ideas for the ThanksLiving dinner? How about making a balanced meal by adding rice pilaf, roasted vegetables with balsamic reduction, greens or fresh salad, cauliflower/leek chowder and a light dessert (May I suggest poached pears from THE PEACEFUL DESSERT BOOK?)

November 1, 2012

squash soup with croutons

It's getting chilly these days and the weather is strongly calling for soups. I had these lovely organic butternut squash and orange kabocha squash (aka red kuri squash, "kuri" meaning "chestnuts" in Japanese) from a local farm, some stale sourdough bread on the kitchen counter and it was cold outside. There was no way to pass up on the opportunity.

The beauty of using soft-skinned butternut and/or orange kabocha is that you don't have to peel them (unless you're using non-organic or the skin is unusually tough). Regular kabocha can affect the color of the soup because of its green skin (which could be perfect for St. Patrick's day). Just clean it up a little bit by removing the blemishes and the hard bits on the outside.

Here I kept the soup very simple by seasoning it with just salt to bring out the natural sweetness of the squash and to balance it with the herb-baked croutons. Have fun and change the recipe around. Roast the squash until caramelized to intensify the sweet flavor. The soup can be seasoned with white miso to give it a mellow taste. Add crushed garlic or nutritional yeast when making the croutons to give them a little more pizazz. Hmm... I'm craving for more. 

Squash soup 

5 cups winter squash, cubed
2-3 cups vegetable stock (make your own with vegetable scraps)
salt to taste

Homemade croutons
3 cups sourdough bread, cubed

1 TBS olive oil
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dried basil

salt and pepper to taste

parsley and pepper to garnish

  1. Place the cubed squash in a pot and add 1 1/2 cup of the stock. Sprinkle some salt, cover and let it come to a boil. Lower the flame and cook until the squash becomes soft, about 15-20 minutes.  
  2. Prepare the croutons while the squash is cooking. Mix all the ingredients and place it on a baking pan. Bake at 375°F (preheated) for 15 minutes, giving the mixture a stir half way through. 
  3. Blend the cooked squash along with the rest of the stock. Use 1/2 cup if you want it thick and add more if you want to make it lighter. Season the soup with salt and return to the pot to warm up. 
  4. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with croutons. Garnish with freshly ground pepper and parsley.

If you love kabocha squash as much as I
do, you might also want to try kabocha custard and kabocha salad with sesame dressing.