Top 10 Vegan Recipes

top-10At the beginning of the month Vegan.com put together a list of of his favorite vegan cookbook recipes for the year. I must have been sleeping, somehow I missed it. But I also read the Vegan Planet blog, and Robin posted about it today.

Having reviewed the recipes with Jane earlier, we feel compelled to share this with our readers who might not visit these sites. Some of these recipes look very interesting. And since they rate as "top 10" they're probably very worthy of a test drive.

The recipes that make the cut are:

  1. Plantain Omelet - From Mark Reinfeld and Bo Rinaldi’s Vegan Fusion World Cuisine
  2. Thai Coconut Corn Soup - From Nava Atlas’ Vegan Express
  3. Indonesian Coconut Rice - From Robin Robertson’s Vegan Fire & Spice
  4. Baked Ziti - From Beverly Lynn Bennett’s Vegan Bites
  5. Moroccan Phyllo Rolls - From Dreena Burton’s Eat, Drink & Be Vegan
  6. Italian Stuffed Crepes - From Bryanna Clark Grogan’s Nonna's Italian Kitchen
  7. Chickpea Curry - From Hema Parekh’s The Asian Vegan Kitchen
  8. Banana Chocolate Bread Pudding - From Isa Chandra Moskowtiz and Terry Hope Romano’s Veganomicon
  9. Root Beer Float Cupcakes - From Hannah Kaminsky’s My Sweet Vegan
  10. Fresh Mango Cobler - From Ani Phyo’s Ani's Raw Food Kitchen

Make sure to visit Vegan.com for the actual recipes, if you don't already own these cookbooks. We'll let you know what we think after we've tried them, but Jane wants me to put a caveat here: We have amassed a ton of "must try" recipes. So it isn't likely that we'll get through this list in the immediate future. Be sure to let us know what you think!

Vegan Brownies

Vegan BrowniesOver the past few months, I've been complaining about the results of Jane's vegan baking efforts. Don't get me wrong... she's been complaining too. Overall, we've come to the conclusion that vegan baked goods just aren't as good as traditional baked goods. And while we miss the olden days of Princess Cake (the most amazing cake -- genoise, marzipan, whipped cream, raspberry filling... mmm, princess cake) and other goodies, we're willing to make this "sacrifice." Well, as of today, that's changed. Jane made the vegan brownie recipe from "The Joy of Vegan Baking" ... and oh my god it's amazing.

These brownies are not too sweet. They don't have that "hmm that's different" taste that many vegan baked goods are subject too. These brownies taste exactly like BROWNIES. They're so good that Jane is making me take the remainder in to work tomorrow because she doesn't trust herself to be around them. And she's already planning to make a second batch to welcome our new neighbors this weekend. Who needs Starbuck's vegan brownies when you can make these at home.

Carrot Soup and Homemade Bread

Jane and I were out tooling around today and had a large lunch, so we weren't very hungry for dinner tonight. Since it was a little damp and overcast, it was a perfect night for soup. The soup, Indian Spiced Carrot Soup, is from Epicurious.com with minimal veganizing. We replaced the yogurt with Tofutti Sour Cream, and used vegetable broth, of course. Thanks to Christiane for suggesting it the other day. It has a light exotic taste.

And what goes better with homemade soup than homemade bread? So Jane baked the Simply Crusty Bread from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.

We cannot recommend this recipe enough. It's simple... four ingredients! And best of all, you make the dough and whatever you don't use goes into the fridge so you can have bread any time you want (within two weeks of making the dough). This bread tasted just as good as the Julia Childs french bread Jane made for the February Daring Bakers Challenge, but it was oh so much easier. (And there was no blood involved!)

If you decide to try the soup, we would suggest cooking the carrots and onions until they're tender before adding the broth. Also, Jane uses an immersion blender (if you don't have one yet, buy one!) instead of trying to transfer the hot soup to a food processor.

Veganomicon — Mac ‘n Cheese

2008 04 - VCon Mac n Cheese (1)Smokey Grilled Tempeh and Cheater Baked Beans. The tempeh and baked beans were okay, but we both decided there was no need to make the tempeh again. The beans were tasty, and worthy of a second try (and very easy to boot).

There's so much positive buzz about this cookbook that we figured we'd do well with one of the more popular recipes. Unfortunately, we're now one for three here. The mac 'n cheese just didn't work for us. Though I thought it was alright, I wouldn't ask Jane to make this again. She actually disliked it, so much so that she said she won't eat the leftovers. To put that in perspective for you, we don't typically throw food away in this house. I didn't have that strong an aversion to the dish, but something didn't work for us, perhaps it was the large quantity of nutritional yeast. 2008 04 - VCon Mac n Cheese

I hate to take such a contrarian stance, but so far this cookbook isn't living up to it's hype, for us at least. Last time we posted about the tempeh, everyone who commented said they loved it. So we're left to wonder if our taste buds are out of sync with the rest of the world, or perhaps Jane's having trouble following recipes lately? So far, we're much happier with Vegan Planet and the Real Food Daily cookbooks.

We're not ready to give up on this book just yet. It's a great big cookbook, and you all seem to love it so much. Next, Jane's going to try the Chickpea Cutlets which the authors state is their signature dish. If we dip below the Mendoza Line (one for six), we'll have to hang up our Veganomicon cleats.

Veganomicon — Smokey Grilled Tempeh and Cheater Baked Beans

2008 02 - VCon Smokey Grilled Tempeh and Cheater Baked BeansJane has Veganomicon on loan from our local library. As I mentioned earlier, it is our practice to borrow a book first, when possible, before buying. This way we only wind up buying those books we really want, and don't over-consume.

Anyway, Veganomicon looks to be a pretty good cookbook. Jane tried her hand at the Smokey Grilled Tempeh and Cheater Baked Beans tonight. The beans were really good. The tempeh was interesting, but neither one of us loved it enough for Jane to consider making it again. The cookbook suggests pairing the two with collard greens. We had steamed snap peas instead, one of our favorites.

We're reserving our comments on the cookbook until we've had a little more experience with it... but there is a lot of positive buzz out there. Many of the recipes we've been interested in trying seem to require between 45 minutes and 1.5 hours to prepare though; not the kind of meal Jane likes to prepare during the week.

The next recipes we've earmarked for Jane to try are the Chickpea Cutlets, which the authors tout as one of their best recipes, and the vegan Mac 'n Cheese because we miss that comfort food! We'll keep you posted.

Vegan Baked Goods

So far, it's been our experience that baked vegan desserts leave a little to be desired. Bread doesn't seem to lose much in translation as often bread recipes do not call for non-vegan ingredients anyway. Most of the baked desserts we've tried however, have paled in comparison to their non-vegan counterparts. So when Jane received The Joy of Vegan Baking for Christmas this year, we were both hopeful. Here was an expert who had a published book on the very topic we were having issues with. An answer had to be in sight!

Jane decided that she would bake at least two recipes a month from this cookbook. So far, we've had the Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins (twice), the Blueberry Lemon Muffins, Mexican Wedding Cookies, and Peanut Butter Cookies. The Peanut Butter Cookies were made with Almond Butter however as Jane doesn't care for peanuts in almost any form.

The Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins were excellent the first time around, but didn't hold their shape well. In other words, they were falling apart even as Jane removed them from the muffin tin. However, they tasted great. They were amazingly moist and tender and the combination of bananas and chocolate always wins in my book. Jane thought that the muffins may have fallen apart because the bananas we bought were rather large. Since the recipe calls for four mashed bananas, rather than an actual measurement, there is a lot of room for error here.

After such an auspicious start, we had high hopes for the recipes that followed. Next in the cookbook is a recipe for Blueberry Lemon Muffins. They cooked up nicely and I thought they tasted good, but Jane felt they had a metallic taste and was thinking it was the baking soda / vinegar combination which is used as a leavening agent here. So, one for two.

Mexican Wedding CookiesNext were the cookies. We had Mexican Wedding Cookies at a friend's house this year, made with vegan butter in our honor. According to our friend, with that change she had a completely vegan recipe. They were excellent. So we had high expectations here. The cookies looked exactly the same. Unfortunately, these were dense and very doughy, not at all melt-in-your mouth as the recipe claimed. But not every recipe is going to work, so this didn't deter Jane from her next endeavor.

Almond CookiesAlmond Butter Cookies. These cookies were very good. The batch didn't last two days (it wasn't just us though, we had company and put out the plate of cookies)! Jane made half the batch as described and half with chocolate chips. Surprisingly, the ones without the chocolate chips were better! Both versions of this cookie would have benefited greatly from a glass of cow's milk. But we don't drink that anymore. Regardless, we will certainly be having these again.

And then it was back to the Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins. This time Jane only used three bananas, and they were slightly smaller than the bananas she'd used the previous time. Also, she forgot to set the timer so they were slightly overcooked. They still had the same great flavor, but they were a tad hard and that definitely detracted from the experience. Alas.

I wonder what she'll make next?

How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, or Not

Jane has Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian" on loan from our local library. She likes to test drive new recipes prior to buying a new cookbook. This cookbook looks very promising. It's almost 1,000 pages and seems quite comprehensive. The recipes we've read sound appealing. So we're pretty excited to try a few.

Recently, we went to our favorite local Indian restaurant and had a delicious, new-to-us, eggplant dish. As Jane was going through the Bittman Cookbook she found a recipe that looked similar to that dish. She actually called me to tell me about it and that she was going to prepare that recipe for dinner tonight. In response to "what are we eating tonight" I usually hear "dinner." Jane has long since stopped telling me what I'm getting since, on rare occasion, I might have suggested I'd rather eat something other than what she was preparing. So I knew she was pretty excited about this recipe since I was hearing about it in advance.

Unfortunately, the dish didn't live up to what we had at Akbar, the Indian restaurant I've been referring too. We were both pretty disappointed in the results. The dish looks pretty, and smells good, but it was kind of, well... not what we had at Akbar. So, this recipes not a keeper. But we're not through with this cookbook just yet.

Traffic

Grr. Some of you may have heard about yesterday's disaster on the 405 (Los Angeles freeway near LAX airport). A truck overturned and traffic was absolutely abominable in the area ALL day!!!! Needless to say, my commute was unpleasant, in both directions. Alhtough certainly not as unpleasant as the poor truck driver who perished in the accident.

I don't really deal all that well with traffic issues. I've been driving this same route for a long time and know exactly how long (to the minute) it is supposed to take me, and when my commute goes long, I start getting antsy. Jane is always threatening to take the clock out of my car so I'll be less frustrated. I'm not sure if that would be a larger benefit to me or to her!

At any rate, I love my wife. Since this is not a blog about marriage, I won't be writing about the times I don't totally love my wife or how difficult marriage can be... Not that ours is a bad marriage, but every marriage can be trying at times. On the positive side, there are moments that make you never want to be single again. Last night was one of them.

I finally arrived home after 1 hour and 16 minutes to find Jane hard at work in the kitchen. Apparently, after seeing the traffic report, she realized I wouldn't be getting home at a reasonable hour. So she made one of my favorites, the spanikopita recipe from Real Food Daily Cookbook. It was just as good as last time. But Jane made a few minor alterations. Mainly, she forgot the leeks, so she used maui onions instead. Personally, I couldn't tell the difference and it was just as yummy as last time! And what a treat to come home to!

And for dessert, because I was so cranky, Jane whipped up a quick batch of muffins. This time she put in wheatberries for added crunch and the fruit was gooseberries. (Huh?) So, the muffins are crunchy and tart. I think they are very good, but Jane doesn't care for them that much. Also, she's still working on perfecting the basic muffin recipe... When she's happy with it, she's promised to post it for you all.

Oh, and Happy Halloween!

Looks Like Something the Cat Coughed Up

Our new vegan lifestyle has led to a huge increase in our tofu consumption. Looking to replace meat with some kind of protein, tofu has been the easiest choice. Of course, there is conflicting information out there about just how much tofu you should be consuming. Admittedly, I have done only the most cursory of online searches to solve this newest (to us) nutritional mystery. Since the new vegan thing is different enough, I'm not going to do any further research for now. Suffice it to say, there are other ways to get your protein. Jane usually makes a tofu stir-fry once a week. And there's always a bean based dish or three. We've also had a few things with store-bought chicken seitan. And we've discovered that some grains have protein too! (Couscous and quinoa, for example.)

Looking for alternative sources of protein, Jane decided to try and make seitan at home. We've had seitan, or "wheat meat" as it is also known, in a few of the vegan restaurants we've tried and it's been mostly good. Time for an adventure in the kitchen.

We really both love the Real Food Daily Cookbook cookbook by Ann Gentry (as we've said many times already). However, her recipe for basic seitan was far more work than Jane felt like undertaking for her first venture into the world of home-made seitan. We did have a recipe in The Accidental Vegan by Devra Gartenstein that looked simple.

Basically, you take some wheat gluten (Jane used Bob's Red Mill Vital Wheat Gluten) and water to form the dough. That's the attractive picture at the top of this post. We've both made bread before and adding the water to the wheat gluten is pretty much like the beginning stages of making a loaf of bread. However, it really looks like cat puke, as any of you who live with the furry beasts can attest to! Then you boil it in water with soy sauce and ginger. Pretty simple. And pretty tasty.

For our dinner last night, Jane then made a gravy based on nutritional yeast and flour and which was rather good. She also roasted butternut squash with olive oil and brown sugar, salt and pepper. The picture does not do it justice. Dinner was yummy. Hearty winter fare. As usual, our entree was accompanied by a salad of mixed field greens with onion, apple, cranberries and a balsamic dressing.

Spanakopita

We've been vegans for a little over three months now. Since we're old dogs (in our 40s), it's been a bit of a challenge to change our way of thinking about what a meal should be, and that's been harder on Jane than on me, since she prepares most of what we eat.

To date, most of the recipes Jane has tried have been more than reasonable and there have even been a few that have been outright delicious. But nothing has come close to what she made for dinner last night. We had spanakopita, greek spinach pie, and it was restaurant quality food. And I don't mean Denny's! The recipe was out of Ann Gentry's Real Food Daily Cookbook, with a slight modification, Jane didn't bother making triangles, she just layered everything in a pyrex dish and made a pie. I cannot recommend that cookbook highly enough (link below). The recipe in the book is called "Phyllo Triangles with Spinach and Tofu Cheese."

This will be the dish Jane prepares for non-vegan company. You have to get this cookbook!