Wednesday, May 23, 2012

New Piece on TDIV

Here's the link to my Why I Went Veg piece over at This Dish is Veg. I hope you all enjoy getting to know a little more about my personal experience.

Oh what a beautiful day...

So far I've spent my morning writing and sipping amazing coffee that my new friend from Washington sent me. I'll have a new piece up at This Dish Is Veg shortly. This one is my personal story of why and how I went Vegan. I'll post a link when its up. I've also been busy today packing up this months Vegan Food Swap box to ship to Janna of nomvegannom as well as a box filled with teas for a friend from high school. The weather here is cool and calm this morning. It feels like the perfect day to just lounge and read a good book. Alas, I need to kick it into high gear and conquer the chores around this house as well as prepare for a Healthy Lifestyle coaching I'm doing this afternoon.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Bountiful Baskets & Lemon Loaf Cake

I volunteered with our local branch of Bountiful Baskets yesterday morning. What an awesome organization bringing fresh inexpensive produce to regions of the US that normally don't have any. While I do believe very heavily in buying as much from local farmers as possible, the growing season in Rapid City is only about 2 1/2 months long. Which leaves us without good quality produce for the majority of the year. I joined Bountiful Baskets to help us save money and so we could get fresh food from smaller farmers from the US and Mexico. Even if you don't pay the extra for their 100% Organic Basket, much of the produce is Organic. The breads they offer are amazing! And at $12 for 5 artisan loafs of Organic, small bakery produced bread, you can't beat it. We got some really amazing lemons in our basket this week, so naturally I awoke this morning ready to make Lemon Loaf Cake.

Lemon Loaf Cake

1/2 cup Earth Balance at room temp.
1/2 cup Cane Sugar
1 tbsp Cornstarch dissolved in 3 tbsp Water
zest of one large Lemon
1 cup All-Purpose Flour
1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp fine Sea Salt
4 tbsp Soy Milk
Juice of 1 large lemon
1/2 cup Powdered Sugar

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease a loaf pan. Cream together the Earth Balance and sugar. Beat in the cornstarch mixture and lemon zest. Slowly beat in the flour, baking powder, salt, and soy milk. Spread into the loaf pan and bake 45 min or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack and remove from pan. In a small sauce pan dissolve the powdered sugar into the lemon juice. Prick the loaf cake with a toothpick and pour the lemon juice mixture over. Enjoy!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Jon's Veggie Chili

This is a vegan version of a chili that I've been tinkering with for a long time, incorporating bits from various recipes and approaches, although the two largest influences have probably been the Betty Crocker's Cookbook that was a gift my parents and Alton Brown's Good Eats episode on chili.

A coffee grinder dedicated to being a spice grinder helps immensely. Spices that are as fresh ground as possible is the way to go here.

Also, I mention a slow cooker in the recipe, but you can do this over the stove if you like

Serves about 4.


Frying pan
Slow-cooker (or largish saucepan)
Spice mix:

1 Tbs brown sugar
1 Tbs chili powder (I'm liking the Spice Island blend recently)
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
¼ tsp kosher salt

2 inches cinnamon stick (1 tsp ground, if you must)
1 tsp whole cumin seed
¼ tsp whole black pepper

Grind the cinnamon, cumin and black pepper together in spice grinder.


1 Tbs canola oil
1 medium onion, cut into half-moons
4 cloves garlic (or be bold and do more), minced
¼ cup water.
1 -2 chipotles from chipotles in adobo, seeded and chopped, along with a 1-2 Tbs of the sauce
1 can diced tomatoes (fire-roasted are good)
1 can tomato sauce (or 1 6oz can tomato paste & 24 oz water)
1 can red kidney beans
1 can great northern beans
1 can black beans
1 can corn
1 bag yellow corn tortilla chips. couple handfuls for the recipe, the rest for eating ;)

Put the oil in the frying pan and put the heat on mediumish. Add the onions once the oil's warm. Cook till the onion has browned (about 6 to 8 minutes), stirring occasionally. Add the chopped garlic and stir for another 30 seconds or so. Put the onions and garlic in the slow cooker. Put heat on low, then deglaze the pan with the ¼ water.

Add diced tomatoes (drained), spices mix, beans, and the can of tomato sauce to the slow cooker and set on high. A note on the beans, the wife doesn't like pinto beans much and we've found great northern beans, although not traditional, adds a nice flavor.

Crush two or three handfuls of the tortilla chips and add to the slow-cooker.

You'll want to add the two deseeded and chopped chipotles and a tablespoon or two of the sauce that they come in. If you haven't used chipotle in adobo before, they're absolutely wonderful. I'd recommend using gloves. Open the can, take one out, cut it lengthwise. You'll then want to press it flat like you're opening a book and scrape out the inside and the seeds and throw them away. Chop up the pepper and add to the slow-cooker. Then take a tablespoon or two of the adobo sauce and add it.

If you really don't feel like dealing with the peppers, you can use a chipotle salsa instead. I've used this in the past as well. You can find a very small can of “chipotle salsa” frequently nearby chipotle in adobo sauce, and a few tablespoons of this stuff works pretty well.
I keep a glass canning jar around and put the leftover adobo and peppers in there and freeze them for later use.

After the chipotle is cleaned up, removed gloves (I just have some non-powdered latex ones in a drawer) and wash hands.

Stir the mixture in the slow-cooker periodically and let it cook for probably at least an hour. When you're getting close to serving, add the can of yellow corn. When it's hit a good mix and a consistency you like, serve.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Somewhere Over The Rainbow Cheesecake

Last month I celebrated my 32nd birthday party. It was wonderfilled! We had a Mad Hatter's Tea themed party, for which I made some of my favorite tea time treats. Everything from Pineapple Cream Tea Sandwiches, to Asparagus & Onion Phyllo Wrapped Quiches, to my Somewhere Over The Rainbow Cheesecake. Not a crumb was left behind!

Somewhere Over The Rainbow Cheesecake

1 14oz Package Mori-Nu Firm Silken Tofu
1 8oz Package Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese
2/3 cup Cane Sugar
1/8 cup Lemon Juice
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
2 tbsp Cornstarch
Assorted Food Coloring
1 9in Graham Cracker Crust

Preheat Oven to 350. Combine silken tofu and cream cheese in a food processor and blend until smooth. Add sugar and allow to blend for 4-5 minutes. Whisk together the lemon juice, vanilla, and cornstarch. Blend cornstarch mixture into tofu until very smooth.

Divide mixture into several small bowls and add a few drops food coloring to each.

Layer the cheesecake mixture into the crust and bake for 45 minutes. Allow to cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes and then in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before serving. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Jon's longer bio and his Roasted Cauliflower with Tomatoes recipe

 Hi all. Ashley did a nice job introducing me, but I figured I would write a short post to explain a little more about myself and why I'm experimenting with vegan/vegetarian dishes.

In my professional work I do IT work for the University of Illinois's Library. I have degrees in both Computer Science and Library Science. (You can read more about that over at [my website |]).

There's a couple of useful things to keep in mind when reading my recipes:

  • I'm not vegan or vegetarian. Given the nature of this blog, I felt compelled to explain why I am not a vegan. I have never been a huge meat eater, rarely eating steak and usually seasoning any meat pretty heavily. However, I did discover as I cooked more for myself I could prepare meat in ways I liked. My wife Colleen grew up on an organic farm which did raise and butcher animals. She's well-versed in the cycle of raising and slaughtering in a more humane way than the factory farms. We have been trying to cut back on our meat consumption and buy from local farmers who actually provide pasture animals with pasture and don't cage their chickens. This means learning to have a greater part of our diet supplied by non-meat foods.
  • No meat substitutes. Since we are still meat eaters, I don't tend to cook recipes substituting meat with ingredients like tempeh or tofu. I also avoid processed products like veggie burgers and tofu dogs. If we're craving meat, we just have meat. I'm trying instead to discover how to bring out the tastiness of actual veggies. That's not to say I won't use tempeh or tofu, but I'll likely end up using such ingredients in more traditional ways. I leave meat substitution to experts like Ashley. 

    I'm a home cook. I have little formal training. I did do a stint at Hardee's in high school where I often was the only cook in a very busy kitchen, but that's all. Cooking has always been enjoyable and the past few years I've been actively striving to to become a better cook. Being a book nut I frequently read cookbooks, seeking to build up some techniques as well as working recipes to suit them to my tastes.
I'm looking forward to sharing recipes that I find that are vegan in various cookbooks, or can be tweaked to be vegan. I loves spices, so you'll notice a variety of spices in my dishes. If you live in an area without any Indian or Mexican grocery stores, I think it's well worth ordering online through a dealer like Penzey's. Without spices, I find a lot of my dishes lack a sense of wholeness.

Now I'm off to page through my latest acquisition, 660 Curries.

Roasted Cauliflower with Tomatoes (Bhapa Phul Gobi)

I never was a huge fan of cauliflower as a kid, but this recipe taught me it was merely unadorned steamed cauliflower I disliked. Aside from me, this recipe hasn't had the greatest record converting cauliflower haters. Still, it is a hit with folks who like cauliflower and sways over many of the indifferent. I don't cook it as much as I'd like as Colleen remains staunch in her opposition to cauliflower.

The recipe comes from the cookbook Extending the Table. Extending the Table reads like a church cookbook with recipes from around the world rather than just one congregation. Not surprising, given the fact it is a compilation of recipes from Mennonite missionaries. The included stories of missionary work may turn off some, but I find adds an unusual charm to the book. The book does a good job of presenting samples of cuisines around the world with easy to obtain ingredients.

This recipe for cauliflower caught my eye for use of a garlic-ginger-onion paste in oil to form the base of the dish. This was my introduction to a technique I learned was common in Indian and Asian cooking. Nowadays instead of following the recipe as given in the book I ended up using a more general garlic-ginger paste that I try to keep on hand. It is wonderful for using in quick stir frys or veggie side dishes during the week.

Garlic – ginger paste:

  • 1 cup ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • ½ cup garlic, peeled and roughly chopped

I use about a 1 to ½ ratio of ginger to garlic and it seems to scale up or down pretty well. Put the ginger and garlic with a little bit of water into a food processor and blend in bursts. The paste will creep up on the sides, so have a spatula ready to push stuff down. If it lumps and blending doesn't seem to be working, add a little water. I typically put it into several small canning jars and freeze all but one of the jars, leaving one for cooking through the week. Don't forget to leave some space for expansion while freezing.

Roasted Cauliflower:

  • 3 Tbs Garlic-Ginger paste
  • 1 cup chopped onions

  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into pieces

  • ¼ cup oil
  • 1 canned diced tomatoes (or 4 tomatoes, sliced)
  • ¾ c. peas
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. Cayenne
  • ¼ cup water

Put the oven on at 350 degrees.

Blend the onions and garlic and ginger paste in the food processor until the onions become incorporated in the paste.

Chop up the cauliflower and place into a casserole. You want something that will not spread out the cauliflower too much but also be deep enough to contain the tomatoes and water. You'll also want a cover or a lid.

Cook the oil in a pan at medium heat. Add the paste and cook till brown.

Add tomatoes, peas, turmeric, sugar, salt, and cayenne and cook till the tomatoes start breaking down.

Add this to the casserole dish, along with some water. Cover and put in the oven for about 20 minutes, till the cauliflower is tender.

Sometimes I uncover the dish for the last few minutes to dry out the cauliflower a bit so it doesn't get soggy, sometimes I don't.