What is The Vegan(ish) Experiment?

Our family (me, my husband D, and our four-year-old Molly) started 2009 with a mostly-vegan, macrobiotic-inspired diet (although I have to admit, the strict macro rules have pretty much gone out the window). I have seen a marked improvement in my chronic migraines, and I'm enjoying proving that we can make amazing, mouth-watering, memorable food without animal products. For a more in-depth intro, click here.

I stopped updating this blog quite awhile back, when life got in the way. I'm still keeping a mostly vegan kitchen, though, and loving it. Have fun browsing my recipes!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Day 58: New Food Pyramid

The wonderful blog My Year Without Sugar just alerted me to a new food pyramid made just down the road from me, at Harvard.

Here's a low-res picture of it:

I just printed out a higher-resolution version in color here to hang up in my classroom.

Any thoughts? I love it! The old food pyramid let people get away with eating a ton of white carbs and red meat if they wanted to. This one emphasizes whole grains, vegetables, and healthy proteins. Yay!!!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Day 55: Vegan Moussaka!

My friend Rachel loaned me her copy of Veganomicon, a huge vegan cookbook. I've made two dishes from this book so far, and it's enough to convince me that I need to buy my own copy. Both dishes were big successes. I think this is one of those cookbooks that you'll find in most vegan kitchens, sort of a Joy of Cooking for plant-eaters. Thanks, Rachel, for the loan!

The first dish I made was vegan moussaka. If you've ever had moussaka at a Greek restaurant, you know that it's sort of like Greek lasagna. No noodles, but it's a layered dish that typically includes tomato sauce, cheese or bechamel sauce, lamb, and eggplant. Considering that half of the ingredients I just listed are animal products, it's hard to imagine how a really good version of this dish could be made in a vegan kitchen. Well, luckily, I didn't have to imagine it - the authors of Veganomicon did it for me! And they kindly gave me permission to reprint the recipe here. It's not a recipe for a weeknight (takes too long), but is completely worth all the work. It would be a crowd-pleaser at a dinner party. Next time I make lasagna, I plan to adapt both the tomato sauce and the pine nut cream from this recipe (subbing Italian spices for the Greek ones).

Vegan Moussaka

(For a much prettier picture, taken by the cookbook authors, click here.)Scroll to the bottom of this post for the recipe, try it, and see if you don't go and buy the cookbook yourself!

The second recipe I tried was a lot easier, and will definitely be part of our repertoire from now on:
Plantain and Pinto Bean Stew with Parsnip Chips

Thanks to D for making this with me! The spiciness was just right (for us - unfortunately too much of a bite for Molly), and the plantains were a perfect addition. You'll have to buy the cookbook for this recipe, though.

Eggplant-Potato Moussaka with Pine Nut Cream

From Veganomicon, used with permission. My comments are underlined.

Serves 6 to 8
Time 1 hour 20 minutes (or 2 hours if you have a toddler and/or are not very fast with a knife)

Vegetable Layer:
1 pound eggplant (I found this to be 1 not-too-big, but maybe bigger-than-medium, eggplant)
1 pound zucchini (For me this was 3 small zucchinis. Probably 2 big ones.)
1 1/2 lbs. Russet or baking potatoes (6 medium russet potatoes for me)
1/4 c. olive oil (I didn't measure)

1/4 c. olive oil (I used less)
4 large shallots, sliced thin (I used one medium onion)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 c. vegetable broth or red wine (I used white cooking wine, which was good)
2 (15-oz) cans crushed tomatoes, with juice (I used 1 28-oz can)
2 t. dried oregano
1/4 t. ground cinnamon (I used less - D isn't a huge fan - I guess he does have SOME faults.)
1 bay leaf
Salt (I actually didn't have to add any, probably because I assume there was some in the canned tomatoes)

Pine Nut Cream (The BEST part! So good!)
1 lb. soft silken tofu (I used NaSoya 50% less fat)
1/2 c. pine nuts, plus additional for garnish (optional - I didn't do this because I only bought a 1/2-c. bag, at $3! Does anyone know any cheaper sources for pine nuts?)
3 T. lemon juice
1 t. arrowroot powder (I didn't need this. If you do need it and don't have any, you can use 1/2 heaping t. cornstarch)
1 clove garlc
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (add more at the end if you can't taste it - I had to)
1 1/4 t. salt, or to taste
white pepper (I probably shook in a good 1/4-1/2 t, and it had a nice bite. By the way, white pepper at the supermarket was $6. I got some at the Armenian store, probably as much as 2 supermarket containers, for $1.80!)

1/2 c. dry, fine white bread crumbs (I used coarse, whole-wheat panko crumbs - and it was yummy!)

PREHEAT THE oven to 400. Lightly oil three baking sheets or shallow pans. (I used cookie sheets lined with foil for easy clean-up.)

Prepare the vegetables:
Wash the eggplant and zucchini, and trim the stems. Scrub and peel the potatoes. Slice the eggplant, zuchinni, and potatoes lengthwise into approximately 1/4-inch-thick slices. (Yes, long slices - they will be layered, so don't worry if they are cut sloppily. Just try to keep not too thick, and not too thin. Too thin on the eggplant, I discovered, makes it stick to the pan when you roast it.) Rub the eggpland slices with a little salt and set aside in a colander in the sink or in a big bowl for about 15 minutes to drain. Briefly rinse with cold water and pat dry with a paper towel. (I forgot the rinsing step! But the salt made the eggplant really good, and there's not much salt in this recipe, so I'll probably skip the rinsing next time too.)

Place each vegetable on a separate baking sheet. Distribute the 1/4 c. oil among the three sheets and sprinkle the vegetables with salt (except the eggplant, if salted already. I forgot to salt the other veggies, and did not find the recipe to need any more salt. So will probably skip this next time, too.) Toss to coat the vegetables on each sheet, making sure each piece is completely coated with oil. (This is easy if you've lined the sheets with foil - you can grab both ends of the foil and fold them together to toss the veggies.) Drizzle a little extra oil on the eggplant, as it has a slight tendency to stick (or place the eggpland slices on oiled baking parchment. I don't have any parchment, but may get some for next time, because they really do stick.) Spread out the vegetables on each sheet; some overlapping is okay. Roast the pans of zucchini and eggplant for 15 minutes, or until tender. Roast the potatoes for about 20 to 22 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned. Allow the vegetables to cool. (Once cooled, if the zucchini is watery, blot excess liquid with a paper towel so that the casserole is not too wet. I also blotted the oil off of the potatoes.)

While the vegetables are cooking, prepare the tomato sauce:
Combine the remaining 1/4 c. olive oil and minced garlic in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Heat over medium heat and let the garlic sizzle for about 30 seconds, then add the shallots and cook until soft and translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the wine and simmer until slightly reduced, another 3 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, oregano, ground cinnamon, and bay leaf. Partially cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 12 to 14 minutes, stirring occasionally. The sauce should reduce slightly. Turn off the heat, remove the bay leaf, and adjust the salt (if necessary.)

Make the pine nut cream:
In a food processor, blend the pine nuts and lemon juice, scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, until a creamy paste forms. (Do NOT use the immersion blender, unless you want little bits of pine nuts all over one area of the kitchen. Which you will then be finding for months. Use the food-processor attachment.) Add the tofu (at this point, I put it all in a mixing bowl and switched over to the blender attachment), garlic, arrowroot (or corn starch, or nothing), nutmeg, salt, and white pepper. Blend until creamy and smooth. Taste it and feel your eyes widen at the shock that there is no cream in this creamy sauce.

Lightly oil a 9x13-inch pan and preheat the oven again to 400, if necessary. Spread 1/4 cup of tomato sauce on the pan, then add successive layers in order of half the eggplant, half of remaining sauce, and half the breadcrumbs. Spread all the zucchini on top of this. Top with a final layer each of eggplant, potatoes, sauce, and bread crumbs. Use a rubber spatula to evenly spread the pine nut cream over the entire top layer. Scatter a few pine nuts on top, if desired.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the top is lightly browned and a few cracks have formed in the topping. Allow to cool 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Day 47: Vegan Sloppy Joes

I made Sloppy Joes for dinner on Valentine's Day. Is that unromantic? Well, at least they're red ... And D and I got a babysitter and got to go out the next night, which was perfect.

This dish was very successful, in large part because of this amazing organic ketchup that I found. It's sweetened with agave nectar instead of the unfortunate high-fructose corn syrup that American companies generally use. I'm not a big ketchup fan ... or I wasn't until I tasted this stuff! The flavor is so good - way more tomato-y than other brands, a little spicy (but not hot), and a little sweet. I'll never buy Heinz again.
So, Sloppy Joes ... the real test is, does the 2-year-old like them? A properly-made Sloppy Joe will be a hit with any kid. Molly's been a picky eater lately, so I had my fingers crossed. You tell me if you think she liked them:

Hopefully that convinced you, and you'll make this easy-and-tasty dish yourself. D and I loved it, too. By the way, I was inspired by a recipe over at Simply Recipes, which I made in the past. But I wasn't crazy about the spice mixture in that one, so I improvised. And of course, that recipe isn't anywhere close to being vegan ...

Vegan Sloppy Joes

2 T. olive oil
1 medium or large onion, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
2 small (or 1 large) stalks celery, diced
3-4 cloves minced garlic
1/3 cup agave-sweetened ketchup (or at least organic, sugar-sweetened if you can't find the really good stuff)
1 large (28-oz.) can tomato sauce
1/4 t. cinnamon (less if you aren't a huge fan - you can really taste it)
1/4 t. ground sage
salt to taste
2 (15-oz) cans beans (I used one can garbanzo, and 1 can kidney), drained
6 Whole-wheat sandwich rolls or hamburger buns (the least nutritionally-iffy ones at my supermarket were Thomas' mini bagel buns. Sort of a cross between a bagel and a hamburger bun.)
Vegan margarine

  1. Saute onions in oil, over medium heat, until translucent.
  2. Add carrot and celery and cook for 4 minutes.
  3. Add garlic and cook 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add ketchup and tomato sauce. Stir until well-blended.
  5. Add cinnamon and sage. Stir well. Add salt to taste.
  6. Add beans. Stir and bring to a boil. Turn down heat and simmer 10-20 minutes (the longer the better).
  7. Toast and butter bread. Serve open-faced, with the Sloppy Joe sauce poured over both halves of the bun.
I think this sauce would be good over rice as well, or even added to a macaroni bake. But then it would be called something other than "Sloppy Joes" ...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Day 43: Spicy Mustard Marinade

Have you got one of those awful colds that seems to have caught everyone? (I personally like to think a cold catches me, rather than the other way around!) I have it, D had it, and Molly got it so bad that it turned into an ear infection. My little two-year-old is on antibiotics for the first time in her young life.

Anyway, this marinade will clear your sinuses faster than you can say, "Achoo!" It's spicy and oh-so-good. Nice to invent something successful, after the bland garam masala marinade I attempted a couple of weeks ago (and tried again last week, with only marginal success). Reduce the cayenne and crushed red pepper, or just replace the cayenne with chili powder, if you like things less fiery.

Baked Tofu and Tempeh with Spicy Mustard Marinade

Spicy Mustard Marinade
1/4 c. soy sauce
2 T. lime juice
1 T. dijon mustard (I like the seeded kind)
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
a few good shakes dried crushed red pepper
1/4 t. dry mustard

Stir well. If using as a marinade for baked tofu or tempeh, follow my recipe here. I marinated the tofu for a couple of hours, which was wonderful. But the tempeh only got about 10 minutes, as I didn't realize we were out and had to go buy more. It was still excellent. I sliced it very thin this time, which I think helps. The baked tofu link has some ideas for sandwiches, too. (The White Bean & Caper spread from my previous post also goes nicely with this, balancing out the spiciness.)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Day 42: White Bean & Caper Dip with Rosemary-Garlic Pita Chips

I'm not sick of hummus yet, but was ready for a change. So this week I made a big batch of white beans (soaked overnight this time - gotta love foresight) and experimented. The resulting dip looked like mashed potatoes. I'm not sure if that's a good thing, but it didn't taste like them, which I think is for the best. The dip isn't incredibly strong in flavor, but is complex and mouth-watering. Molly even liked it, which surprised me because of the caper flavor. And the chips ... well, who can say no to pita chips?

White Bean & Caper Dip with Rosemary-Garlic Pita Chips
Here are the recipes:

White Bean & Caper Dip or Spread
about 2.5 cups of white beans (3/4 cup dried beans)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. capers, drained
1/4 c. olive oil
2-3 T. lemon juice
salt to taste

  1. Soak and cook beans according to package instructions (or use the quick-soak method, or just use 2 cans of beans - I used Goya Small White Beans and added a strip of kombu, removed at the end).
  2. Use a food processor or hand blender to thoroughly mix all ingredients.
  3. Salt to taste
  4. I made this thick, because we use it as a sandwich spread as well as a dip. But you can add water, a couple of tablespoons at a time, if you want it creamier and thinner.
Rosemary-Garlic Pita Chips
6 small, or 4 large, whole-wheat pitas
2 T. olive oil
1/4 - 1/2 t. garlic powder
1 T. dried rosemary
1/4 t. salt

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F (175 ° C).
  2. Cut pitas into eighths.
  3. Mix other ingredients in a large zip-top bag.
  4. Add pita to the bag and shake until well-coated.
  5. Place chips on a foil-lined cookie sheet and bake until crispy, turning once, about 15-20 minutes.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Day 41: Vegan Lasagna

I tried making vegan lasagna for the first time. BOY, was it a lot of work. (Although as D, who was helping with all the cooking, said, "You know, it takes less time if you just get the sauce from a jar instead of doing it from scratch...")

The sauce was only mostly from scratch, though. I took a shortcut with canned, previously-seasoned tomatoes. D was worried he wouldn't like it, because it wasn't very tomato-heavy and he likes really tomato-ey sauces with his lasagna. There were several other ingredients that muted the tomato flavor. However, he loved it, probably more than I did. (I think I may have preferred a more traditional tomato-flavored sauce ... go figure! I absolutely loved the flavors of the sauce I made, and I'll make it again.... but for a comfort food like lasagna, I think I may need a more basic marinara.)

Like every lasagna I've ever seen, it's not incredibly pretty. (The next day when we had leftovers, it had had time to set up a bit and the different layers stayed more intact.) But it is as moist as it looks in the pictures, and the tofu ricotta, although it didn't really taste like cheese, had a nice familiar texture and an excellent subtle flavor.

Vegan Lasagna

The beautiful side dish is mustard greens, green beans, and mushrooms, adapted from a recipe here.

If you choose to use this recipe, feel free to experiment with the sauce - whether it's adding something new to it, taking something away, or even just throwing in a store bought jar of the red stuff (watch out for sugar content!) - and reply here to tell me how it was. I'm interested to try different versions of the recipe.

Vegan Lasagna

Before Starting: Find someone who will help out with the lasagna, make the side dish from scratch, and do the dishes. Thanks, D!

First, The Sauce:

2 15-oz cans Italian stewed tomatoes in juice (you'll have to add basil, oregano, etc. if you don't have the Italian ones)
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 very small butternut squash (or 1/2 of a larger one), peeled, seeded, and roughly cut into chunks
2-3 T. oil
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 package tempeh, cut into very small chunks (don't use if you don't love the flavor of tempeh - you can really taste it in this sauce)
8 oz. sliced mushrooms

  1. Add tomatoes, pepper, and squash to a pot and heat over a medium-low flame.
  2. Heat the oil in a skillet. Cook the onion until it is starting to become transparent, and add the tempeh. Cook, stirring regularly, about 8-10 minutes until it is browned. Add the garlic 1 minute before the tempeh is done.
  3. Add the tempeh, garlic, and onion to the sauce. Turn up the heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer at least two hours (we did three hours), stirring occasionally. After an hour, add salt to taste. After an hour and a half, stir very well, using the spoon to mash up the butternut squash so that it dissolves into the sauce.
  4. Add mushrooms 10 minutes before taking off the flame.

Next, the Tofu-Spinach Ricotta:

2 T. sesame oil
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. tofu, drained and cubed (no need to press it)
2 T. tamari, or 3 T. soy sauce
1/2 t. dried basil
10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
Salt, if needed

  1. In a large skillet (don't bother to wash the skillet you used for the tempeh - just reuse it), cook onion over a medium flame.
  2. When onion is just beginning to brown, add garlic. Cook 1 more minute.
  3. Add tofu, tamari, and basil. Stir-fry for 5 minutes.
  4. Remove from flame. Add tofu mixture and spinach to a mixing bowl or food processor. Pulse with food processor or hand blender until a chunky texture is reached.
  5. Add salt to taste, if necessary (I use reduced-sodium tamari so I can control the salt content of my dishes, so I had to add a little. Using regular tamari or soy sauce may mean you don't have to add any.)

The assembly:

  1. Cook a box of whole-wheat lasagna noodles according to package instructions. I recommend starting this 30 minutes before the sauce is done, because boiling that much water takes awhile. If they finish cooking early, rinse with cold water so they don't stick.
  2. Preheat oven to 375.
  3. Layer the ingredients in a large, oiled casserole. I had a lot more sauce than ricotta, so I did it in this order: Sauce-Noodles-Ricotta-Sauce-Noodles-Ricotta-Sauce-Noodles-Sauce.
  4. Sprinkle nutritional yeast on top, if you want a little bit of a Parmesan cheese feel to the dish.
  5. Cook for 30 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before cutting.
Coming up this week: recipes for White Bean & Caper Dip, Rosemary-Garlic Pita Chips, and Spicy Mustard Marinade!

Health update: 1 migraine (today) - a full 2 weeks after the last one. Got rid of it very easily with prescription meds, which are working better now that I'm not using them 5 times a week....

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Day 36: Quinoa Tacos with Tangy Jicama Slaw

It's been a few days since I've posted, but I haven't stopped cooking. I wasn't planning to blog about the stew I made Sunday - it was from The Self-Healing Cookbook, so for copyright reasons I do not want to post it here. But I decided, at the last possible second, that I will give you a picture so that you can see how tasty it was. I only had about a half-serving left in the fridge, so this pic is taken in an oh-so-lovely Ziploc storage container:

Hearty Autumn Stew
This stew contains carrot, cabbage (my addition, because I didn't have any daikon radish), onion, celery, parsnip, butternut squash, kombu, tempeh, and peas. I also added a little leftover brown rice. It was hearty, warming, and a perfect dish for our family to munch on this week - we've all had colds, and this felt like a vegan version of chicken stew. Definitely worth buying this cookbook!

Have you ever had jicama? Its Anglicized pronunciation is HIC-uh-muh, and it is the root of a native Mexican plant. Jicama is like a turnip in texture - crunchy and a little starchy - but has a little bit of a sweet tang to it, like a mild green apple. It's such a great, surprising salad ingredient. It soaks up dressing, too, so jicama salads taste even better the next day.

Last night, having tired of leftover stew for 3 nights, we made Quinoa Tacos with Tangy Jicama Slaw. The filling for the quinoa tacos is an old favorite from allrecipes, and the jicama recipe was inspired by one from Rachael Ray, but has been changed so much that I think I can call it my own now.

Here are the pictures:

Quinoa Tacos with Tangy Jicama Slaw
And the slaw recipe:

Tangy Jicama Slaw

1/3 c. olive oil
1/4 c. lime juice
1 T. cumin (less if you aren't an insane cumin fan like I am)
1/4 t. garlic powder

1 medium-sized jicama, roughly juilenned
1/4 head cabbage, shredded
2 carrots, grated into ribbons with a vegetable peeler
1/4 c. cilantro, chopped
3-4 green onions, chopped

salt & pepper to taste

Combine first four ingredients in a small bowl or measuring cup.
Combine jicama, cabbage, carrots, cilantro, and onions in a large bowl.
Pour dressing over salad and toss well. Season with salt and pepper.

Eat as salad, or as a taco topping.

Mmm... after thinking about that jicama salad, I think I'll have to go have some leftovers!

Migraine update: have not had one for ... NINE DAYS. !!!

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