Macaroni and “Cheese” with Spinach

macaroni and cheese with spinach

This is largely based off of a recipe from Very Vegetarian, but after a couple years of enjoying it, Clare helped me find the missing ingredient — spinach. The downside of mac and cheese is that it is low on the vegetables. I tried broccoli, green beans, and snap peas, but they weren’t that good. Spinach goes very well though. The “cheese” part is actually a nutritional yeast sauce, which doesn’t sound too tasty, but it is. Even my parents liked it!

Note that since I am no longer vegan, I usually use regular milk instead of soymilk, and I sometimes add a little real cheese after mixing the pasta and sauce. I have also found that running the spinach through the food processor is better, especially if you have picky children who don’t want big chunks of spinach. Sometimes I use fresh spinach instead of frozen if I have it, and it is better, though more expensive.

German Potato Salad

potatoSalad

When many Americans (especially Midwesterners) hear “German Potato Salad”, they frequently think of a warm, vinegary potato salad, sometimes including bacon. In fact, this sort of potato salad can even be found in cans in the supermarket. In my numerous trips to Germany, I can’t recall ever eating potato salad of this sort. Most of the potato salad I ate there was more similar to American potato salad, containing mayonnaise, and sometimes boiled eggs. I definitely had quite a few other variants though, and my favorite one was from my friend, Markus Hofbauer. This one is a bit more similar to the Midwestern vision of potato salad, as it contains vinegar, but is usually served cold or at room temperature. I don’t think that Markus put any dill in his version, but I think it makes a nice addition. And, because it’s vegan, you don’t have to worry about anyone getting food poisoning from eating your potato salad that has been sitting out during a hot summer picnic.

Peppernuts

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This recipe comes from my mom’s dad’s mom. It seems that we make more every year around Christmas time, as more and more friends expect their share of the tasty, gingerbread-like cookies that look a lot like dog food. They taste quite a bit like gingerbread, though they have no ginger. The name is also similar to the German Pfeffernüsse, but they do not have anise.

Smoky Three Bean Chili

chili

This recipe is based on one from Almost Vegetarian Entertaining, but over the years I kept tweaking until I got it just how I like it. Depending on my mood, I sometimes use other beans, such as great northern, cannellini, pinto, or adzuki.

Creamy Potato Soup

potato_soup

This is just like my grandma used to make it, except instead of thickening with milk and flour, I use water and cornstarch

Vegan Biscuits and Gravy

biscuits

One of my favorite dishes back when I was a meat eater was biscuits and gravy, and it was one of the last things that I gave up on my journey towards vegetarianism. Recently I decided to try to make a vegan version, and after several attempts, I am quite happy with the results.

Preparing Tofu

Pressing tofu

Many people I have talked to say they do not like tofu, and frequently they say it is because of the texture. What this really means, is that they have not had tofu that has been prepared well. There are several things to keep in mind when cooking with tofu.

Stri-frying tofu
Stri-frying tofu

First, make sure you buy the right kind of tofu. There are two kinds — firm (regular) and silken. Here is where it gets a bit confusing, as each kind often have different firmness labels as well. Usually silken tofu is sold unrefrigerated in a tetrapak, while regular tofu is sold in a plastic container and is packed with water. For most recipes you will probably use regular tofu. For anything that gets blended, you want silken tofu.

The most important thing about preparing firm (regular) tofu is to press it. Pressing the tofu gets rid of excess water from the packing. Getting rid of the water allows the tofu to absorb more of a marinade (if you are using one), and it will also allow the tofu to be fried better. For most stir-fry applications, I usually shallow fry the tofu a bit. If the tofu has lots of water in it, it will end up being boiled instead of fried, and will not achieve the desired texture.

Pressing tofu is quite easy. Simply place the tofu whole on a plate, then put another plate on top of it (upside down), and place something heavy on the top plate, such as canned beans. Let the tofu sit for at least 15 minutes. It’s best if you pour off the water two or more times. Unlike raw meat, having put raw tofu on a plate does not harm it all, so I frequently use the same plate to eat off, saving me the trouble of washing some extra dishes.

To stir-fry tofu, heat a non-stick wok as hot as you can, then add some oil with a high burning point such as canola oil or peanut oil (not olive oil). Add the tofu to the pan and cook until golden brown on all sides. The tofu will cook better if the wok is only about half full – don’t crowd the pan.

Enjoy!

Tomato basil salad

tomato basil salad

There’s only two things that money can’t buy, and that’s true love and home grown tomatoes. Don’t even bother making this salad with store bought tomatoes. They have to be home grown or from the farmer’s market. Also make sure that your basil is fresh, not dried. Dried basil is almost flavorless.

Szechuan eggplant and bok choy lo mein

Szechuan eggplant and bok choy lo mein

This is a spicy dish with some of my favorite vegetable – bok choy and eggplant. They taste great together, especially with a spicy black bean sauce. It might seem like a lot of bok choy, but it cooks down quite a bit.