Sunday, December 23, 2012

Vegan Holiday: Cornbread, Squash and Brussels Sprouts Stuffing with Tempeh Bacon

It's the countdown to a very ninja Christmas!  Here at the Fur Ninja house, we had a special early Christmas with Mike's kids since we won't see them on the 25th.  We opened presents, baked and decorated vegan Christmas cookies (and spilled lots of colored sugar on the floor!), went to see the Love Park Christmas Village, and even got a special phone call from Santa Claus!  Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and Mike and I will be dropping the kids off at their mom's, going to see my grandmother, attending a live nativity Christmas Eve service at the church I've been attending, and then lounging on the couch drinking spiked vegan nog and chocolate martinis while watching "Love Actually" and "Gremlins."  We've been so busy for the past few days and working on so very little sleep, that we may not get off that couch for quite a while!

But in case you've got more time and energy that I've had lately, or in case you need another dish to round out your Christmas dinner, here's a recipe for a very non-traditional stuffing made with lots of delicious veggies, yummy cornbread, and some smoky and sweet tempeh bacon.  Lots of fresh herbs round out the flavor and walnuts add a wonderful crunch.  This stuffing is pretty and delicious and would make a great addition to any dinner or family gathering.

Cornbread, Squash, and Brussels Sprouts Stuffing with Tempeh Bacon


Ingredients:

A double recipe Ninja Skillet Cornbread cut into 1" cubes OR enough vegan cornbread cubed to make 12 cups
One recipe Smoky Tempeh Bacon cut into bite-sized pieces
1 - 3lb butternut squash
Olive oil for roasting the squash
4 Tablespoons non-dairy butter
1 large leek, cleaned and sliced 
2 cups diced celery
1 Tablespoon minced fresh sage
1 Tablespoon minced fresh thyme
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup brussels sprouts, halved
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 cup walnut halves

Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees F.  Cut the butternut squash in half, scoop out the seeds and stringy bits, and rub the squash with oil.  Place on a lightly greased baking sheet, cut side down and roast for one hour.  The squash is done when easily pierced with a fork.  Remove from the oven, allow to cool, and remove the skin from the flesh but do not turn off the oven.  Dice the flesh into 1" pieces and place in a large bowl with the cubed cornbread.
Meanwhile, melt the non-dairy butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the sliced leeks, celery, sage, thyme, salt, and pepper and saute for 5 minutes until the vegetables soften.  Add the vegetable broth and simmer for another 3 minutes.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.  Add to the bowl with the cornbread and squash.
Heat a saucepan of water to boiling and add the brussels sprouts.  Boil for 4 minutes.  Drain and add to the bowl with cornbread and other ingredients along with the chopped parsley and walnuts.  Using salad tongs or two large spoons, gently toss everything in the bowl until the ingredients are evenly mixed.
Lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking pan and add the stuffing mixture to the pan.  Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake for another 20 minutes or until lightly browned on top.

Tips and Tricks:

1. This recipe tastes best if your cornbread is slightly stale.  The best way to accomplish this is to cut the bread into cubes, place the cubes in a bowl, and just let them sit for a day either on the counter or in the fridge.  If you are using fresh cornbread, or if you want a crunchier texture, you can toast the cubes in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

2. Cleaning leeks - leeks tend to have a lot of grit, so make sure you clean them well before using them in this or any other recipe.  The easiest way to do this is to slice the leeks and add the slices to a large bowl of cold water.  Swish the leeks around a bit, then let them sit in the water for about 5 minutes.  The grit will sink to the bottom of the bowl.  Remove the leeks with a slotted spoon without disturbing the water too much and you're ready to go!

3. If you're making a big dinner and need to save time in the kitchen, you can assemble the whole recipe a day or two ahead of time into the baking pan, but don't bake.  Cover with foil and place in the fridge until you are ready to pop it in the oven.

So I hope this latest recipe finds all of you well and ready to spend some quality holiday time with loved ones.  I will have one more recipe to post before Christmas (chocolate dipped sugar cookies) and then I will be taking some well-deserved down time on the 25th.  Mike and I are going to spend a quiet Christmas at home with the kitties and just appreciate how thankful we are to have so much love and so many blessings in our lives.  I hope all of you are looking forward to a holiday filled with warmth and love as well.  Until next time!

Love,

The Fur Ninja <3

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Smoky Tempeh Bacon

Happy Saturday! Well, the world didn't end yesterday, so what better way to celebrate than to make a big ol' breakfast with some yummy vegan bacon? Now, I haven't tasted actual bacon on over 15 years, but Mike told me that the taste of this was "bacon-y" although the texture isn't fooling anyone. The sweet smoky flavor is far superior to store-bought veggie bacon though (and most of the veggie bacons I've seen aren't vegan anyway) so make some of this with some vegan pancakes and roasted potatoes for a big hot breakfast full of yum. What a great way to begin the day (and the next Mayan calendar cycle for that matter!)
The longer you can possibly marinate the tempeh, the better, so plan ahead. I'd recommend marinating it overnight, but you really need to let it sit in the marinade for at least an hour. The longer the tempeh soaks, the more delicious the flavor will be. This is great served as-is with breakfast, layered onto some sandwich bread with lettuce and tomato, or used in a recipe - I actually made my last batch of this to add to a cornbread stuffing recipe (that's getting posted next!) so get creative, and use this wherever you'd like some smoky, bacon-y flavor.

Tempeh Bacon
Sizzlin' in the pan....yum!

Ingredients:
 8 ounces tempeh
1/2 cup soy sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
2 teaspoons liquid smoke
a few grinds black pepper
4 Tablespoons peanut or canola oil for frying

Slice the block of tempeh long-way into strips about 1/4" thick.  You will get approximately 10 strips.  Combine the remaining ingredients except the oil in a large, shallow dish.  Place the tempeh in the dish with the marinade, and spoon some of the marinade over the top of the tempeh.  Marinate overnight if possible, or for the very least an hour, turning at least once.

Heat the oil in a large non-stick or cast-iron skillet over medium heat.  Add half the tempeh, being sure not to crowd the pan too much.  Cook for about 2 minutes or until browned on one side.  Flip, and add 1/2 of the marinade on top of the tempeh.  Continue to cook for another 2 minutes or until the other side is browned and most of the liquid is absorbed.  Drain on paper towels and repeat with the remainder of the oil, tempeh, and marinade.

Optional: for crispier tempeh, place the cooked tempeh on a lightly greased baking sheet and broil 3-5 minutes until crisp, checking often to avoid burning.

Enjoy!

Tips and Tricks:

1. The tempeh strips are rather delicate until they crisp up, especially if they've been soaking in the marinade for a long time, so be careful flipping them and moving them around in the pan.  If they break a little though, don't sweat it.  They will still be delicious even in smaller pieces.

2. The broiling step isn't necessary, but if you want a crisper texture, go for it.  The broiling still won't get these as crisp as "real" bacon, or even the store-bought veggie stuff, but it will give a chewier texture that might be better for sandwiches and recipes.


That's all for now; we are going to see Santa today, I'm on a last-minute shopping mission for a tea ball as part of a gift (I can't seem to find one anywhere), and the kids are going to help me with some cut-out sugar cookies at some point this weekend as well.  Holiday recipes for cornbread stuffing and easy chocolate dipped sugar cookies coming soon!

Love,

The Fur Ninja <3

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Vegan Holiday: Ninja Skillet Cornbread

Oh dear; it's almost Christmas and I have so many holiday-worthy recipes to post!  We are very busy here in the Fur Ninja house - almost have all of our shopping done and presents wrapped, tree decorated and lots of homemade Christmas decorations up around the place.  I'm hopefully starting the cookie baking today.  Here is a recipe that I made as part of a cornbread stuffing recipe (that one soon to follow) but is also a delicious addition to your holiday table as-is.  I don't like to toot my own horn, but this is THE BEST cornbread I have ever eaten, vegan or otherwise.  You will need a cast-iron skillet in order to make this recipe turn out perfectly, and if you don't have one I recommend that you purchase one.  Cast iron is simply the best, not just for cornbread, but also for making other fried things nice and crispy without anything burning or sticking.  I got my cast iron skillet for about 10 bucks from Target, so they are very affordable too.  If you don't have a cast iron skillet, you can make this in a 9x9 square pan by mixing the melted butter in with the wet ingredients, and then putting the fully mixed batter into the pan and baking as directed.  However, the cast iron skillet gives a wonderful, browned crust to the outside of the cornbread while keeping the inside nice and moist.  This not-too-sweet and easy to make bread is perfect for any holiday or just an every day meal.

Ninja Skillet Cornbread



Ingredients:

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup non-dairy milk
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce 1/2 cup non-dairy butter


Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F.
Mix the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl.  Combine the non-dairy milk and vinegar in a measuring cup or small bowl and allow to sit for a minute to curdle.  Mix together the curdled non-dairy milk and applesauce in a small bowl.  Add wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix until just combined.  A few lumps are okay.
Melt the non-dairy butter in a 10 inch cast iron skillet over low heat.  Once the butter is melted, turn off the heat and pour the batter into the hot butter.  Use a spatula or wooden spoon to gently scrape at the batter until it is mostly incorporated with the melted butter.  A little bit of melted butter on top or around the sides is okay.
Place the whole skillet in the pre-heated oven and bake for 30 minutes or until lightly browned on the edges.  A toothpick inserted in the middle should come out clean.

Serve this cornbread right away while it's still warm, or use it in my cornbread stuffing recipe (coming soon!)  I hope you love it as much as we did.  I will definitely be making more of this for our Christmas dinner!

More recipes very soon; until then, enjoy your holiday preparations and be sure to take some time out amid all the hustle and bustle for good food and those you love.

Love,

The Fur Ninja <3

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Not-Really Recipe: Broke as a Joke Hash

At the urging of one of my friends, I've decided to start posting some of my "in-between" meals.  You know, what the Fur Ninja makes in her kitchen when she doesn't have time/money to be cooking up a big meal from scratch.  Even ninjas need to cut corners sometimes, and I for one, think that's okay.  It's reality.  Hopefully me starting to post some shortcut meals doesn't make any of you think less of me!

I'll be calling these little in-between meals "Not-Really Recipes" and I hope you find them helpful and informative for those times when you need to cut some corners but still have a yummy and nutritious meal.  So here's my first: Broke as a Joke Hash.

Now, people who never have been broke (much less broke as a joke) might not know the ins and outs of hash.  The specifics of what's in your hash probably differs based on what country/region you're from, but basically a hash is a bunch of coarsely chopped food all mixed together, usually meat, potatoes, and some vegetables.  You can learn more about the "official" definition of hash here.  But here in the Fur Ninja house, hash is made when your fridge looks like this:

The hot dogs, butter, and mayo are Mike's :)

and you're still several days away from being financially able to buy food.  So you take a bunch of stuff from the fridge, a bunch of other stuff from your pantry, fry it all up in a  pot, and eat off of the leftovers for a few days, hoping it will carry you through until pay day.

There are three crucial elements to a successful hash: a starch, a protein, and a sauce. 

Starches can include rice, potatoes, pasta, couscous, polenta, stuffing, or anything similar.  Obviously, whole-grain "brown" starches are going to be far more nutritious than refined "white" starches, but since you're probably broke when making this, just go with what you have in the pantry.  You can even serve a hash over prepared instant mashed potatoes or biscuits if that's all you have at the moment. 

Protein - since we're talking vegan here - is not going to be meat.  You're most economical source of protein is probably going to be dried beans, prepared according to package directions, but you can also use canned beans, lentils, tofu (cubed, coated in flour, and fried until crispy is usually the best texture for hash), tempeh, seitan (it's rather inexpensive if you make it from scratch with wheat gluten, water, and spices), or you can even use some chopped "fake meat" (veggie burgers/dogs/lunchmeat/etc.) if you have them (I usually don't because I don't buy processed fake meats as a rule) or toss some nuts or seeds in.  Just make sure you have some sort of protein in there to fill you up.  The point of hash is to keep you full until you can do a grocery run, so if you're just eating empty carbs, it's not going to get the job done.

Sauce - pretty much anything can be made into a sauce, but here are some ideas: canned tomatoes/pasta sauce, veggie broth (thickened with a flour roux or cornstarch), peanut butter, tahini, refried beans, prepared sauce or spice packets (usually in Tex-Mex or Asian flavors - I love these due to the variety and cheapness but be careful of animal derived ingredients and MSG; a great place to get these is Asian markets), or even just a little bit of water/non-dairy milk and lots of spices if you don't have anything else.

The fourth good (but non-essential if you don't have any) addition to hash is vegetables - preferably fresh but frozen or canned is good too if it's all you've got.  You can put pretty much any veggie in hash, but especially good ones are tomatoes, onions, and mushrooms because they add a lot of flavor.

When making hash, just basically do a fridge/cabinet clean-out.  Heat some oil in a large pot, fry things like tofu, seitan, tempeh, garlic, onions, and fresh veggies first.  Then add your sauce and anything that doesn't need the fry in the oil (like beans).  You can either mix in your starch with the sauce (I do this with things like rice or pasta) or keep the starch separate and serve the mixture over it.  Keep tasting your concoction and add lots of spices, salt, and pepper until it tastes good.  Don't be afraid to experiment!  Just because you're hurting for money doesn't mean cooking can't still be fun :)

So by now you know that hash is different every time, but here's the ingredients/instructions for the hash I made last night for dinner.  Mike thought it was delicious, and I have to admit that it did turn out pretty well.  I have not included pictures because while hash can be delicious, it is almost never visually attractive.  All measurements are approximate.

December 2, 2012 Broke as a Joke Hash

Ingredients:

2 Tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 of a large onion, diced
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 large tomato, diced
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1-14 ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
1-14 ounce can large black olives, sliced
1-14 ounce can corn, drained
1-10 ounce can diced tomatoes with chiles, undrained (either mild or hot; I used hot)
2 cups cooked rice (white or brown; I used brown)
1 1/2 cups cooked beans or one can beans (any kind; I used white beans)
Half of a 14 ounce can of vegetarian refried beans
2/3 cup nutritional yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
freshly ground black pepper
crushed tortilla chips

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the garlic and onion, and cook 2-3 minutes until the onions soften.  Add the mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes until they are tender and starting to brown.  Add the tomato, cumin, and oregano, and cook for 1 minute.  Add the diced tomatoes, olives, corn, tomatoes with chiles, rice, and beans, and stir until everything is well-combined.  Add the refried beans, nutritional yeast, salt, and pepper and continue to stir gently until everything is heated through and the refried beans liquefy to form a creamy sauce.  If things look dry, add water one tablespoon at a time until the desired consistency is achieved.  Taste for spices and add additional if needed.  Serve with crushed tortilla chips on top.

That's it!

So hopefully that big ol' pot of food will hold us for a while.  All we've got left after that's gone is an Indonesian soup spice packet from the Asian market to add to some more beans, rice, and half an eggplant.  Hoping that some money comes through (I'm transitioning from disability to unemployment so my payments are sporadic and Mike is waiting for some partial unemployment due to missing work after Hurricane Sandy) soon!  Until then, we have love and lots of hash to keep us satisfied.  Hoping that you have full hearts and bellies as well.  More proper holiday recipes once I can afford a grocery run!

Love,

The Fur Ninja <3

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Vegan Holiday: Cheezy Potato Casserole

Hello again!  Goodness; I certainly have been prolific with the recipes this week, haven't I?  I'm so glad that I've had lots of good things coming out of my kitchen that I can share with all of you for the Christmas season.  We're definitely getting into the spirit here at the Fur Ninja house - watched Charlie Brown's Christmas special last night and this time of year always gives me the cooking bug even worse than usual!

This recipe is another side dish that would be a great addition to your holiday table.  After making it, I couldn't decide what to call it - vegan potatoes au gratin or vegan scalloped potatoes?  What is the difference anyway???  So I actually Googled "what is the difference between potatoes au gratin and scalloped potatoes?"  And here is what I learned: the difference is cheese.  Potatoes au gratin apparently always have cheese, while scalloped potatoes never have cheese.  I suppose you really do learn something new every day!  This still left me with a conundrum, because while these don't have any cheese, they are meant to simulate a cheesy taste with the addition of the nutritional yeast.  So rather than have a semantics argument with myself, I just called this a "cheezy" potato casserole and left it at that.  But no matter what you call them, these creamy and delicious potatoes are sure to please both vegans and omnis alike at your holiday table.  Mike gave these his enthusiastic omnivore approval; these will definitely become a favorite at our house!

Cheezy Potato Casserole
Prep time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Makes 12 servings 


Ingredients:

2 lb potatoes (russet or yukon gold)
4 Tablespoons non-dairy butter
2 Tablespoons flour
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1.5 cups non-dairy milk
2 Tablespoons tahini
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 cup tofu, pureed
1 Tablespoon miso
1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons vegetable broth or water, divided
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 cup breadcrumbs
2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
pinch thyme
cooking spray or olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Scrub the potatoes well since you will be leaving the skins on.  Slice the potatoes into slices between 1/4 and 1/2" wide.  Then stack the slices and slice crosswise into quarters, like this:


Place your sliced potatoes in a 9x13" baking pan or casserole dish.
In a saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the non-dairy butter.  Add the flour and whisk constantly for 2-3 minutes until the mixture is a light golden color.  Add the garlic, onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon thyme, and turmeric and cook another minute.  Whisk in the non-dairy milk, tahini, and 1/2 cup nutritional yeast and increase the heat to medium.  Cook, whisking constantly until bubbly, 2-3 minutes.  Remove from heat.
Puree the tofu with the miso and 2 Tablespoons broth or water in a blender or food processor until very smooth.  Add to the saucepan with the 1/2 cup water or broth, lemon juice, salt, and pepper and whisk until well combined.  The mixture should be thick and creamy but pourable.
Pour the mixture over the potatoes and toss until everything is well coated.
In a small bowl, mix the breadcrumbs, 2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast, and pinch thyme until well combined.  Sprinkle the breadcrumbs evenly over the potatoes. 
Cover the potatoes with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove the foil and spray the breadcrumbs with cooking spray or drizzle with a small amount of olive oil.  Bake for another 20 minutes.  Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Tips and Tricks:

1. Leave the skin on your potatoes.  It's easier and makes the dish more nutritious.  I almost never peel vegetables for recipes unless it is absolutely necessary.  Why do all that work if you don't have to?  However, if you really must, you can peel your potatoes before you slice them.

2. Measuring tofu - I know I have a few recipes that calls for measured amounts of pureed tofu.  Measuring tofu is kind of a pain and not a totally exact science.  I do it by breaking some tofu off the block and smooshing it into a measuring cup.  It's not 100% exact, but if you smoosh it in there enough (get that smooshing technique down!), it's close enough that you don't need to worry about it.  Use the leftover tofu from a partial block in a stir fry or puree it with tomato pasta sauce to make it creamy and full of protein :)

3. The cheezy sauce used on these potatoes would also be great poured over veggies or pasta.  You can also modify this dish by adding other herbs such as rosemary, parsley, and sage, or tossing in things like broccoli or other veggies, diced seitan, veggie bacon, etc. to make it a main dish rather than a side.  Get creative!


Hope you all love this dish as much as Mike and I did.  I definitely think I'll be making it again in the future with some chopped veggies and high protein add-ins like beans or tempeh.  It's really versatile and easy to make.  I definitely encourage you to try it, and feel free to leave feedback in the comments section!

More recipes to come soon.  I'm getting the cooking bug (specifically baking - started thinking about Chambord-spiked chocolate raspberry cookies last night!) pretty badly, what with Christmas and all.  I'm planning on decorating this place up like Santa's workshop and cooking until Mike and I are both fatfatfat (but happy!)   At the urging of a good friend of mine, I'm also planning on posting some "quick meal" ideas - basically what we eat in Fur Ninja land when I'm not up to cooking from scratch and just need something fast and easy, so be on the lookout for that too.  Until next time!

Love,

The Fur Ninja <3

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Vegan Holiday: Roasted Green Beans with Orange Balsamic Glaze

Hello again! Whew, I certainly have been cooking quite a bit these last few days! I whipped up this recipe last night with some green beans and few other simple ingredients I had in the kitchen. I served these for dinner with sauteed seitan, leftover Thanksgiving stuffing, and cheezy potato casserole (recipe coming soon!) and Mike couldn't stop raving about how great these beans were. What's more, it's a simple and no-fuss side dish (washing and trimming the beans was the most labor intensive part) that's just a little bit fancy, so it's great to serve with a Christmas or other holiday meal where you're putting most of your energy into the main dish or desserts. These definitely beat out plain ol' steamed veggies as a side dish worthy of your holiday table.  I will definitely be making these as part of the Fur Ninja Family Christmas dinner!

These beans are made delicious with the addition of maple syrup and orange juice, and the sweetness is tempered with balsamic vinegar, some bitterness from orange marmalade and a final sprinkle with orange zest.  Then the whole shebang is roasted in the oven until the beans are tender crisp and delicious.  I think they are great as is, but if you have picky eaters or little ninjas that might be turned off by the balsamic, simply leave it out of the recipe and your beans will be left with a simple sweet orange glaze that might just make your little dudes eat their veggies.

Whoever, you're serving this to, make a double batch if you've got a crowd.  Realistically, this dish would make 5 servings if you eat like a normal human, but Mike and I went through nearly the whole pound of beans last night with just the two of us because we're "seconds" type people when something is really delicious.  Doubling this recipe is just as easy, so make a whole ton of these delicious little veggies and impress your guests (or just yourself!) this Christmas.

Roasted Green Beans with Orange Balsamic Glaze 
Time: 30 minutes
Makes 5 servings 





Ingredients:

1 lb fresh green beans, washed and ends trimmed
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon pure maple syrup
1/3 cup orange juice
2 teaspoons orange marmalade
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
zest from 1/2 an orange

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. 
In a large bowl, combine the olive oil, vinegar, maple syrup, orange juice, marmalade, salt, and pepper.  Add the washed and trimmed green beans and toss well to make sure the beans are coated evenly.  Spread the green beans on a baking sheet or large baking pan in a single layer.  If there is any remaining liquid in the bowl, drizzle it over the beans. 
Bake the beans in the oven for 25 minutes, checking halfway through and tossing them with a spatula so they cook evenly.  The beans should be slightly wrinkled and crisp-tender.
Remove from the oven and place the beans and any remaining liquid in a serving bowl.  Sprinkle with orange zest before serving.

Tips and Tricks:

1. As I always say, be sure to use 100% pure maple syrup and not the fake sugar-water concoctions that come in plastic bottles.  Read labels!

2. This recipe would also be delicious with asparagus!


So that's it.  See?  I told you it was easy!  And they're really delicious!  Here's a picture of the meal we had last night with a preview of my next recipe post:

Clockwise from top: leftover Thanksgiving stuffing, roasted green beans with orange balsamic glaze, cheezy potato casserol, sauteed seitan with tomatoes and gravy
The cheezy potato casserole is another yummy, vegan holiday worthy dish that neither Mike nor I could get enough of.  That recipe coming next, along with holiday upside down cake, gingerbread swirl cheesecake, fennel braised tempeh, cornbread and brussels sprouts stuffing, and quite possibly some cookie or candy recipes thrown in.  I've also got a mango and some coconut in the fridge that I might throw together a light dessert with as a break from all this heavy holiday fare.  So lots more to come; I'm here to help you with all of your vegan holiday season needs.  Until next time - warm hearts and full bellies!

Love,

The Fur Ninja

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Vegan Holiday: Sweet Potato Bread Variation - Cinnamon Sweetbread

Good (chilly) morning, ninjas!  If you are living here in the Northeast of the United States, you're with me in getting some wet snow and sleet!  I can't think of a better time to post a recipe for some warm and yummy homemade bread.

I posted a recipe for these sweet potato rolls a few weeks ago, and because I still had some cooked sweet potato in the fridge waiting to be used up, I decided to try a variation of that recipe and make a cinnamon sweet bread.  This recipe would be perfect for your vegan Christmas (or whatever holiday you celebrate) dinner, or maybe try using it to make some crunchy coconut french toast for a yummy holiday brunch.  Of course, it's also delicious on it's own, or just toasted with a touch of non-dairy butter and eaten with a cup of hot chai. 

This bread is only lightly sweetened, but if you prefer a sweeter bread you can simply add more sugar.  However, I feel like the current level of sweetness is perfect for pretty much any meal from breakfast toast to an accompaniment to a holiday feast.  This recipe can be made super-easily in a bread machine or can be made by hand, and it can be used to make dinner rolls or a regular loaf of bread.  I provide instructions for both :)

Cinnamon Sweetbread

Makes 12 large rolls or 1 large loaf of bread




Ingredients:

1 cup peeled and diced cooked sweet potato, canned or fresh
1/2 cup non-dairy milk
1 packet (2 1/4 teaspoons) yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup non-dairy butter, softened
3 Tablespoons packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 cups flour, plus more for kneading/dusting 

To make in a bread machine:
If you are using canned sweet potato, drain the can and give the pieces a quick rinse to remove most of the syrup.  Mash the diced potato very well in a large bowl until very smooth.  Add the mashed potato and all the rest of the ingredients to your bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer.  If you want to make a traditional loaf of bread, simply set your machine to the setting for a "large" loaf of bread and let it do the rest!  Remove the bread from the bread machine pan promptly after the cycle finishes and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes before slicing.
If you want to make dinner rolls, set the machine to the "dough" setting.  Once the dough cycle is complete, turn the dough out of the bread machine onto a floured surface.  Divide the dough into 12 equal portions.  The easiest way to do this is to pat the dough into a roughly square shape on your floured surface.  Using kitchen shears or a sharp knife (kitchen shears are easiest), cut the dough in half.  Cut each half in half again so you have four pieces of dough that are roughly equal in size.  Use your knife or shears to cut each piece into three equal portions.  Roll each portion into a rounded shape.  They don't have to be perfect; just try to get them as round-ish as you can.  Place the rolls on a lightly greased baking sheet, cover with a towel, and allow to rise for another 30 minutes.  Before baking, brush the tops of the buns lightly with non-dairy milk.  Bake in an oven pre-heated to 375 degrees F. for 22-25 minutes or until lightly golden brown.  Serve warm.

To make by hand:
Dissolve the yeast in the warm water in a large bowl.  The yeast should start to form bubbles after a few minutes, if it doesn't, it means your yeast is dead and you need to start over with new yeast.  If you are using canned sweet potatoes, drain the can and give them a quick rinse to remove most of the syrup.  Mash the sweet potatoes very well in a bowl.  Add the mashed sweet potato, milk, non-dairy butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt to the yeast mixture and stir.  Add the flour 1/2 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition.  When the dough gets too stiff to mix with a spoon, knead it with well-floured hands.  The dough should come together into a smooth ball, but it shouldn't be too dry.  Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead well for about 10 minutes.  Place the dough in a large bowl that is lightly oiled with non-dairy butter or canola oil.  Turn the dough to coat the outside with oil.  Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel and allow to rise in a warm place for one hour. 
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it a few times.  If you are making a traditional loaf of bread, put the dough into a large, lightly greased loaf pan.  If you are making dinner rolls, divide the dough into 12 equal portions and place the rolls on a lightly greased baking sheet.  Cover the dough with a towel, and allow to rise for another 30 minutes.  Before baking, brush the top lightly with non-dairy milk.  Bake in an oven pre-heated to 375 degrees F. for 35-40 minutes for a loaf or 22-25 minutes for dinner rolls.  The bread should be lightly golden brown and a loaf should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.  If you baked your bread in a loaf pan, allow to cool for at least 5 minutes before slicing.

Tips and Tricks:

1. Store leftover bread in a plastic bag on the counter (not in the fridge!) to keep it fresh as long as possible.  Try to eat the bread within 4 or 5 days or it will start to get stale/moldy.

2. If you make this recipe as dinner rolls, the big, puffy rolls also double well as sandwich and/or burger buns.

Well, that's all for now.  I'm working on another recipe for your vegan Christmas celebration to be posted soon - balsamic glazed roasted green beans!  See you all soon!

Love,

The Fur Ninja <3

Monday, November 26, 2012

Fried Green Tomatoes with Tangy Dipping Sauce

Hello, my dear ninjas!  Before I get rolling on the holiday recipe posts, I thought I would throw this one on the blog for you all.  It's really more of a summer recipe, but believe it or not, since the frost was so delayed here, we actually had some un-ripe tomatoes still hanging around on the vines in our gardens until last week.  Since it's nearly December, and these babies are clearly never going to ripen, I decided to try my hand at fried green tomatoes to keep from wasting them.  The results were delicious!

If you don't have any green tomatoes laying around, this recipe would also work on other veggies like mushrooms, sliced zucchini, green beans, cauliflower, etc.  Get creative and see what you can fry up!  This is a great way to use up veggies that are still edible, but slightly past their prime.  Use veggies that are "medium softness" like the ones listed above.  Harder veggies (potatoes, winter squash) won't cook quickly enough while frying, and very soft veggies (like ripe tomatoes) with a lot of water content will probably just fall apart.  These are great with the creamy, tangy sauce I whipped up to go with them.  There are quite a few ingredients in the sauce - I came up with it by basically chucking a bunch of condiments and spices into my food processor - but it's super-duper easy, so don't be afraid!  The dipping sauce can also be made by itself.  It's great as an all-purpose dip for veggies or smeared on a sandwich or veggie burger.  Mike and I were dipping raw mushrooms in it and it was delicious!  The recipe for the sauce follows the main recipe.

Fried Green Tomatoes with Tangy Dipping Sauce


Ingredients:

4 large, green tomatoes, sliced into 1/4" thick slices
canola oil for frying
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3/4 cup flour
1 Tablespoon garlic powder
3/4 cup tofu, pureed
6 Tablespoons non-dairy milk
1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Lay out your tomato slices in a single layer on a large plate or tray.  Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.  Place the flour and garlic powder in a shallow bowl and mix well with a fork.  Puree the tofu with the non-dairy milk in a blender or food processor and place the mixture in another bowl.  Mix the panko, paprika, and cayenne in a third bowl.
Heat about 1/4" of oil in a large cast-iron or non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Dip each tomato slice in the flour mixture, then the tofu mixture, then the breadcrumb mixture.  Place each slice in the hot oil.  Fry in batches so you don't overcrowd the pan.  Fry each slice for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden brown.  Drain on paper towels.  Serve warm with Tangy Dipping Sauce.


Tips and Tricks:

1. Make sure each slice is well-coated with each mixture; you don't want any tomato-y parts peeking through.  

2. Watch your tomatoes carefully once they are in the oil.  Once everything is hot, they tend to cook rather quickly and can burn easily.  Your tomatoes can also burn once the pan starts to run low on oil.  Add more oil if it looks like things are getting a little dry.  You want to the oil to cover the whole bottom of the pan.

3. To keep your mixtures from clumping up while you coat your tomato slices, designate a "wet" hand and a "dry" hand.  Use the "dry" hand to coat the tomatoes in the flour and the breadcrumb mixtures, and your "wet" hand to coat the slices in the tofu mixture.  Your hands will still get messy, but you won't end up with clumpy flour and breadcrumbs.

4.  Serve these immediately or as soon as possible.  They will get soggy rather quickly once they cool.





Tangy Dipping Sauce

Ingredients:

3/4 cup firm tofu
1/2 cup non-dairy milk
1 teaspoon vinegar
2 Tablespoons tahini 
2 Tablespoons canola oil
2 Tablespoons BBQ sauce
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 Tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
a few dashes hot pepper sauce (optional)

Combine the non-dairy milk in a measuring cup or small bowl with the vinegar and allow it to sit for 2-3 minutes to curdle.  Put the milk mixture with all remaining ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.  That's it!



That's all for now, and it is quite possibly the last non-holiday recipe I will be posting for a while, because I'm going to try to give you lots of yummy things to make as Christmas (or whatever it is you celebrate) approaches.  Roasted green beans with orange balsamic sauce on deck, and I'm working out some cookie recipes, vegan gingerbread swirl cheesecake, fennel braised tempeh, cornbread and brussels sprouts stuffing, as well as a sweet cinnamon version of my sweet potato rolls recipe.  See you soon!

Love,

The Fur Ninja <3 br="br">


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Boo for the Flu - Fur Ninja Thanksgiving Cancelled :(

So I just wanted to apologize to everyone who reads that I won't be putting up any additional recipes prior to the Thanksgiving holiday. I came down with the flu last Sunday and it's a doozy. It's already Wednesday and I can't get off the couch. Fortunately, Mike is taking very good care of me (fried up some tofu for me last night to get some protein in me since I haven't had anything but crackers and noodle soup for days) and I'm slowly getting my strength back by watching old episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Netflix. I am, however, very sad that I won't be making some of the recipes I've been dreaming up in time for Thanksgiving dinner. It appears as though we'll be getting Chinese takeout and watching movies tomorrow. I would like to wish all of you a very happy Thanksgiving anyway, even though I won't be doing it with any additional yummy recipes. I hope you are spending the day eating good food and spending time with those you love. Remember: no matter where you are in life, we all have something we can be thankful for.

Here are some of mine (in no particular order):
Mike
my family
good beer
my kitties
always being able to eek by financially no matter how dismal the situation seems
my car continuing to run against all odds (214,000 miles and counting!)
living in a nice house where I feel safe
warm blankets
chai tea
chocolate almond milk
Tofutti cream cheese on bagels
Costa Rican coffee
big dreams
electronic music
being able to dance after my surgery
Philadelphia
avocados
cuddling
my red hair
kisses from Mike
Vitamin Water
nerdy tv shows on Netflix
afternoon naps
hot baths
candlelight

I could go on....but the point is, as long as you can be happy with what you have, you have a full life. Sure, money and "stuff" is great and all, but those things are transitory. The really important things in life can never be taken away from you. Take it from me - in the last few years, both Mike and I have nearly lost everything financially, but without all that bad stuff happening, we might never have been brought together. I wouldn't trade any of it for the world. Here's hoping that we all remember what's really important as the Christmas season starts in full swing on Friday. Instead of rushing out the door and leaving your family to go buy them "stuff," maybe linger over family gatherings a little longer, give a few more hugs, and say a few more "I love yous." Those are all things that won't be forgotten on December 26th.

Wishing you all a happy and love-filled Thanksgiving.

Love,

The Fur Ninja, Mike, Lucy, Skye, Shoes, and the rest of the Fur Ninja Family

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thanksgiving Recipe - Baked Tofu and Onions with Sweet White Wine Sauce

So I seriously cannot believe that it's almost Thanksgiving.  Honestly, we really don't have any plans here at the Fur Ninja house.  Mike's kids are with their mom, and my family doesn't really "do" Thanksgiving in a big get-everyone-together way.  We might go down to Maryland to see Mike's grandmother the day after, and we were invited by some friends about an hour and a half north, but I'm not sure Mike wants to make the drive.  So right now we don't have much in the works for Thanksgiving Day.  Mike had the idea of doing an "anti-Thanksgiving" where we get Chinese takeout and just relax in each other's company.  Because I'm always doing crazy amounts of cooking (and Thanksgiving just gets even more super crazy), and because money is so tight right now, and time so limited with Mike working two jobs, I'm thinking that sounds like a great idea.  I'd rather spend the holiday snuggling with my beautiful man and our adorable kitties than spending all of it in the kitchen.  However, I know that most normal people will be enjoying big meals with family and friends, and the Thanksgiving holiday presents a special challenge for us veg*ns.  I've decided that in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving (and afterwards, Christmas) that I'll be posting lots of holiday feast-worthy recipes that will have even the omnis at the table sneaking jealous glances at your animal-free plate.  Last week, I posted this recipe for Sweet Potato Rolls, which would be a perfect compliment to a vegan holiday meal, and today's recipe is for a main dish that you can sink your teeth into without harming any happy little turkeys.

Now granted, I'm not a big fan of baked tofu.  I don't particularly enjoy eating it on it's own, but prefer it as part of a whole in stir fries, scramble, on pizza as vegan ricotta, etc.  However, every once in a while, I decide to try out a marinade and see what develops.  It also doesn't hurt that I found huge restaurant-size bulk packages of tofu at the Asian market for a mere $3.50, so I've got lots of it to experiment with.  This recipe is great for two reasons - first, the herbs playing off the sweetness of the wine and maple syrup in the marinade really makes the tofu delicious, and if you broil it at the end, it gets rid of the squooshy texture and makes it satisfyingly chewy.  Second, the marinade is very thick and can be poured over both the finished tofu and anything else you've got on your plate that could use a little bit of gravy love.  I served this baked tofu with mashed potatoes, stuffing, spinach sauteed with garlic, and sweet potato rolls for both Mike and an old friend of mine with a big ol' bottle of white wine.  Mike went back for seconds (the true test of whether or not a recipe is omni-friendly here at the Fur Ninja house) and even my other friend who is less-familiar with my vegan cooking loved it.  So make up this tofu for your Thanksgiving meal, your next family gathering, or just because it's Tuesday and you have some tofu in the fridge...no matter when you make it, I guarantee it'll make you feel just a little holiday warmth, no matter what time of year it is.

Baked Tofu with Sweet White Wine Sauce
***This recipe requires advanced preparation - the tofu should marinate as long as possible for the best flavor, so press and marinate your tofu the night before or in the morning.





Ingredients:

2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon rosemary, crushed slightly in your fingers
1/2 teaspoon sage
1/8 teaspoon ginger
pinch of five-spice powder
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1/4 cup white wine
2 Tablespoons maple syrup 
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
several grinds fresh black pepper 
1 Tablespoon cornstarch

1 lb extra firm tofu
1/2 large sweet onion, cut into wedges

First, press your tofu.  Wrap it in a clean tea towel and put on a cutting board or plate.  Place another plate on top of it and weight down slightly with a can or two of beans or a cookbook or something.  Don't weight it too much or you'll just smush your tofu.  Leave for 30 minutes. 
Meanwhile, make your marinade.  Heat the olive oil over low heat in a small saucepan.  Add the garlic and cook gently for about 3 minutes or until fragrant.  Be careful not to burn the garlic.  Add the rosemary, sage, ginger, and five-spice and cook for 30 seconds.  Add the vegetable broth, wine, maple syrup, soy sauce, and pepper and whisk everything together.  Place the cornstarch in a measuring cup or small bowl and add about 1/2 cup of the marinade from the pot.  Whisk until the cornstarch is dissolved.  Add the whole thing back into the pot and raise the heat to bring it to a boil, whisking constantly.  Lower the heat slightly and simmer for 5 minutes until thickened.  Turn off the heat and cool for about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, slice your pressed tofu width-wise into slabs about 1/2" thick.  Place the tofu slabs along with the onion wedges in a single layer in a shallow baking dish.  Pour the marinade over the tofu and onions.  There should be plenty of marinade to cover everything completely.  Cover and set aside for at least 1 hour, but it's best if you marinate overnight or in the morning if you're going to be making this for dinner.

Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees F.  Remove the tofu and onions from the marinade (reserve the marinade to serve with the tofu) and place on a baking sheet that has been sprayed lightly with cooking spray or olive oil.  Bake the tofu for 10 minutes, flip the pieces over, and cook for another 10 minutes.  Turn on the broiler and cook another 5 minutes (watching closely to make sure you don't burn) to make the tofu nice and chewy.

When ready to serve, gently heat the marinade in a saucepan until warm.  Serve over the tofu.


So there you have it; a delicious main-dish for your holiday meal.  Tofu not your thing?  Never fear; I'm developing recipes for cornbread stuffing with brussels sprouts and veggie bacon, and another main dish recipe of braised tempeh with fennel and oranges so you'll have lots of options for your holiday meal.  I may even get a pie recipe up if I have the time.  Until next time then - much love and happy tummies!

Love,

The Fur Ninja <3

Friday, November 9, 2012

Sweet Potato Rolls

Happy Friday!  So okay, when I find that the world is getting me down, I tend to cope by cooking a ridiculous amount of food.  Yesterday the world kind of slammed me, so I delved deep into the cupboards in my kitchen to see what I could find to make a ridiculously huge meal.  I decided to use up the rest of the tofu in my fridge making marinated tofu and onions, discovered a bag of stuffing mix and a box of instant mashed potatoes (I know, I know - I always make things from scratch, but they were there and needed to be put to good use), a carton of vegetable broth that I made homemade gravy with, and.....a HUGE can of sweet potatoes.  Now, I'm not even sure where this can of sweet potatoes came from, because I hate the canned kind.  I think maybe my mom might have given it to me in one of her famous huge boxes of canned goods she tends to give me.  I wanted to use it as part of this huge "cabinet cleanout" dinner, but eating them on their own - all mushy and covered in disgusting corn syrup - was not something I was trying to do.  So instead, I decided to mash them up, combine them with a bread recipe, and see what took shape.  And what took shape?  Deliciousness!

I took the easy way out and made these in a bread machine, although I've included instructions for how to make them for those without a machine as well.  I encourage anyone who wants to make any sort of bread on even a semi-regular basis to get a bread machine because it makes everything so much easier with hardly any mess.  Even if you don't bake bread much now, you might start if you have a bread machine at your fingertips.  Bread machines tend to be expensive, but check out your local thrift stores and you can check freecycle as well.  It's a Yahoo group where people list things they are giving away for free in an attempt to give to the community and keep things out of landfills.  Just go to freecycle.com to find a group in your area.  My mom gave me my bread machine as a gift, and I'm pretty sure that's where she got it, and I got my awesome, kickass '70s era food processor from freecycle as well.  It's totally awesome, so check it out!
I used the canned sweet potatoes for this, but you can use fresh sweet potatoes in this recipe as well; just bake them until very soft, peel off the skin, and continue with the recipe as written.  I'll definitely be making these deliciously puffy golden rolls again - especially because I still have lots of leftover sweet potatoes from that can in the fridge!

Sweet Potato Rolls

This recipe makes 1 dozen BIG rolls!
Ingredients:

1 cup peeled and diced cooked sweet potato, canned or fresh
1/2 cup non-dairy milk
1 packet (2 1/4 teaspoons) yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup non-dairy butter, softened
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups flour, plus more for kneading/dusting 

Step #1: If you are using canned sweet potato, drain the can and give the pieces a quick rinse to remove most of the syrup.  Mash the diced potato very well in a large bowl until very smooth.
If you are using a bread machine, add the mashed potato and all the rest of the ingredients to your bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer, set the machine to the "dough" setting and wait until the cycle is finished to continue with the rest of the recipe, starting at step #2.  If you do not have a bread machine, dissolve the yeast in the warm water in a large bowl.  The yeast should start to form bubbles after a few minutes, if it doesn't, it means your yeast is dead and you need to start over with new yeast.  Add the mashed sweet potato, milk, non-dairy butter, and salt to the yeast mixture and stir.  Add the flour 1/2 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition.  When the dough gets too stiff to mix with a spoon, knead it with well-floured hands.  The dough should come together into a smooth ball, but it shouldn't be too dry.  Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead well for about 10 minutes.  Place the dough in a large bowl that is lightly oiled with non-dairy butter or canola oil.  Turn the dough to coat the outside with oil.  Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel and allow to rise in a warm place for one hour.  Continue recipe at Step #2.

Step #2: Turn the dough out of either the bowl or bread machine onto a floured surface.  Divide the dough into 12 equal portions.  The easiest way to do this is to pat the dough into a roughly square shape on your floured surface.  Using kitchen shears or a sharp knife (kitchen shears are easiest), cut the dough in half.  Cut each half in half again so you have four pieces of dough that are roughly equal in size.  Use your knife or shears to cut each piece into three equal portions.  Roll each portion into a rounded shape.  They don't have to be perfect; just try to get them as round-ish as you can.  Place the rolls on a lightly greased baking sheet, cover with a towel, and allow to rise for another 30 minutes.  Before baking, brush the tops of the buns lightly with non-dairy milk.  Bake in an oven pre-heated to 375 degrees F. for 22-25 minutes or until lightly golden brown.  Serve warm.

Tips and Tricks:

1. These would also likely work with leftover mashed white potatoes to make regular potato rolls.

2. If you like your rolls sweeter, add a Tablespoon or two brown sugar or maple syrup.  You can also try adding cinnamon, ginger, or other spices.  I may try this with my next batch - will let you know how it turns out!

3. These go stale rather quickly.  To store leftover rolls, wrap in plastic wrap or a plastic bag and store on a kitchen counter or cabinet.  Don't refrigerate!  It will make them harden faster.  Leftovers make an excellent breakfast toasted, either smeared with non-dairy butter or jam, or made into sandwiches with some tofu scramble, sliced tomato, and avocado.

4. These make rather large rolls, so they would also be great sliced and used as homemade veggie burger or sandwich buns!

That's all for today, ninjas.  This Fur Ninja has a very busy day today (going thrift store shopping, yay!) so I won't get the other recipe I created last night (baked tofu and onions marinated in sweet white wine and herb gravy) up until this weekend.  Also, Mike loves to cut recipes out of the paper he reads at work for me (my love is so wonderful with encouraging my cooking - or maybe he just loves all the good food!), and he recently brought me a recipe for stuffing with brussels sprouts that I will be toying with and adding some signature ninja twists, so hopefully that turns out well and will go up on the site soon.  Trying to plan our Thanksgiving menu as well (I might be cooking for Mike's grandmother, eek - gotta whip out my bestest ninja skills on this one and make a good impression) so there will be recipes from our Ninja Family Thanksgiving to come soon too.  Until then, stay warm and full of good food and ninja love!

Love,

The Fur Ninja

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Rotini with Red Bean Sausage and Tomato Cream Sauce

Hello again, ninjas.  Well geez - here we are in the Northeast just recovering from one storm, and we're about to get hit with a nor'easter with anywhere from 3 to 12 inches of snow, depending on whether you believe Al Roker or Weather.com.  Seems like perfect timing that I made this warm and hearty recipe last night as a special Election Day dinner for Mike.

I decided to make this because we have an over-abundance of pasta in the house and wanted something warm and filling.  I had intended to make the sausage out of seitan, but ended up not having enough vital wheat gluten so I improvised with a can of kidney beans.  The red bean veggie sausage turned out much softer and less chewy than the seitan sausage I usually make, but this turned out to be a good thing in the end, because it kind of melded with the sauce and permeated the whole dish instead of staying in separate chunks, which gave the whole thing really amazing flavor.  Plus, this sausage is a LOT less time-consuming than seitan, so you can have this whole meal on the table in under an hour.  It all comes together quite quickly once you get going.  Mike definitely gave this one a "thumbs up" and I think it turned out insanely delicious as well, if I do say so myself.  Pair this with some garlic bread and a simple green salad on a night when you want something that doesn't take forever to make, but tastes like you were slaving over the stove for hours.  Perfect comfort food to share with the one you love when it's cold outside!

Rotini with Red Bean "Sausage" and Tomato Cream Sauce





Ingredients:
1 lb rotini or your pasta of choice
1 recipe Red Bean Veggie Sausage (see below)
4 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon thyme, crushed in your fingers
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 cup white wine 
1-15 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1-15 ounce can diced tomatoes, with juice
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 cup unsweetened almond milk (or non-dairy milk of your choice)
2 teaspoons salt

Cook the pasta according to package directions.  Drain and rinse with cold water to prevent sticking.  Set aside.
Heat 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil in a large pot over medium-low heat.  Add the diced onion and sugar and cook slowly for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions begin to brown and carmelize.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 Tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Chop the Red Bean Sausage into bite-sized chunks and add to the skillet.  Cook the sausage pieces for 6 minutes, flipping frequently with a spatula, until the pieces are browned and slightly crispy.  Remove from the pan and set aside.
When the onions are golden in color and very soft, add the garlic, mushrooms, oregano, thyme, and red pepper and raise the heat to medium.  Cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently and being careful not to burn the spices.  If it looks like things are sticking too much, you can add a small splash of water.  After the mushrooms have cooked down with the spices, add the chopped fresh rosemary and cook for an additional minute.  Deglaze the pan with the white wine, being sure to scrape up all the stuck on bits from the bottom of the pan.  Add the crushed tomatoes and the whole can of diced tomatoes with the juice (do not drain) to the pot along with the nutritional yeast, almond milk, salt, and veggie sausage chunks.  Simmer gently for 5 minutes until the mixture thickens slightly.  Add the pasta and toss gently to combine.  Cook for another minute until everything is heated through.  Serve and enjoy!

Tips and Tricks:

1. If you don't want to de-glaze with the white wine, you can substitute vegetable broth or even water.

2. Make sure you add the pasta to the sauce rather than serving the sauce over individual portions of pasta.  Cooking everything together at the end lets the starch from the pasta thicken up the sauce.

3. This dish makes awesome leftovers!  If the sauce gets too thick after sitting in the fridge, add a tablespoon or two of non-dairy milk while heating.

4. The pasta is relatively spicy due to both the sausage and the red pepper flakes.  If you're serving this to kids or you just don't like spicy food, feel free to leave out the red pepper - it will still be delicious!


 Red Bean Veggie Sausage

Ingredients: 
1 15 ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons soy sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder
3/4 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
pinch of cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/3 cup vital wheat gluten

Mash the kidney beans with a potato masher or fork in a large bowl.  There should be no whole beans left.  Add the rest of your ingredients except the fennel seeds and wheat gluten and mix well.  Crush the fennel seeds slightly using either a mortar and pestle or just put them in a bowl and use the back of a spoon or bottom of a pepper grinder to crush them slightly.  They don't need to be pulverized; you are just trying to release the flavor a bit.  Add the fennel seeds and mix everything together very well.  Add the wheat gluten and continue to mix with a spoon until a soft dough forms.  Knead the dough for 3 minutes. 

That's it!  Now you're ready to shape the sausage and pan-fry it.  The recipe above calls for bite-sized chunks, but this would also be delicious formed into patties and fried up for breakfast with some scrambled tofu and potatoes!


So that's the recipe for today.  I urge you to make it....it's absolutely delicious.  I only post recipes here that both Mike and I feel are really good, but this is one of the best dishes I've made in quite a while.  I hope everyone is staying warm and well fed as winter approaches.  More warm and yummy recipes to come soon!

Love,

The Fur Ninja

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Happy Election Day - Get out and vote!

Happy Election Day, ninjas!  If you're anything like me, you're sick of seeing both these guys all over your tv/billboards/bumper stickers/etc.....but it's almost over!  Get out and vote today, and let's finally move forward instead of hearing people argue about this crap every second of the day.  Now, I have my own opinions about what this country needs (and frankly, none of my opinions really jive with either of the two major party candidates), but in my mind it doesn't matter if you're Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Green, or you're voting for a write-in candidate (Fur Ninja for Pres?  Hmmmm....), as long as you go out and vote for someone, you've got this ninja's respect.

And as you head to the polls, remember: no matter which side of the political fence you're on, most of us are all basically looking for the same things - happy and peaceful lives and better futures for our families.  We all just have different ways of thinking when it comes to how to achieve that....even within the same party.  So have respect, have compassion, and engage in respectful political discourse.  And if you can't be respectful, just ditch the politics and share a good meal with someone.  Fur Ninja believes that food heals many ills and the simple pleasure of a good meal shared with others is something we can all agree on! 

Wishing you all a peaceful Election Day.  Much love from Lucy, Skye, Shoes, Mike, and the Fur Ninja.


Oh wait....who is this "Shoes" person, you ask?  Well she is the newest addition to the kitty family.  She was a stray we found literally half starved to death in the alley behind our house so we started feeding her and she happily "adopted" us and lived in our backyard.  Mike's youngest, Damien, loves her and says she is "his" cat.  Unfortunately, Hurricane Sandy threw a wrench in that arrangement, as I couldn't in good conscience leave a helpless cat outside in a hurricane.  In she came, and she is making herself right at home.  She is also going to be HUGE - she's almost as big as Lucy and shows no signs of stopping.  I'm pretty sure she's only 6-9 months old.  Uh oh....  Lucy and Skye are pretty displeased, although Lucy is adjusting better than Skye is - Skye always has been rather high strung.  Shoes has claimed "her" sleeping spot (one of the two beds in the boys' room) and is just as annoying with the constant mewing at dinner time as Lucy is, perhaps even more so.  Big fat girl who likes to sleep?  Yeah, I think she'll fit right in...

Here's some pics of her!

Back when Shoes still lived outside.  Cuddling with Mike.

She's a LOT bigger now.  But look at those gorgeous whiskers!

Making herself at home while the hurricane goes on outside.

Definitely not cut out to be a mean ol' alley cat.

This is how she sleeps - with her front paws all stretched out.  Another weird cat in our house!
We'll be getting Shoes a collar and ID tag this weekend when the kids come to visit.  Since she is Damien's cat-at-Dad's-house, I wanted to wait so he could go to Petsmart with me and help pick it out.  Working on being able to afford to get her spayed...ack!  But hey, at least she is safe now; we'll figure the rest out in time.  Well, that's all for now.  I'm making Mike a special Election Day meal tonight of penne with carmelized onion, crimini mushrooms, and red bean sausage in a creamy basil sauce.  Recipe up soon as long as it turns out as yummy as it sounds!

Love,

The Fur Ninja <3 br="br">

Friday, November 2, 2012

Ninja Cheezy Spread

Hello, ninjas!  Whew, it's been quite an eventful few weeks....first let me say that I hope all my readers came through Hurricane Sandy unscathed.  Here in Philadelphia, the impact of the storm was relatively minor.  We didn't even lose power.  Mike has been out of work for a week due to storm damage at his job, and we're not entirely sure how we're going to pay the bills with that loss of income, but it could have been a lot worse.  Friends in other parts of the East Coast lost cars, property, and some are still without electricity and water.  I am also told that there is looting and National Guard activity in some parts of New Jersey.  Please keep all of the victims of this disaster in your thoughts and prayers, and I would encourage everyone to donate to the disaster relief via The Red Cross (http://www.redcross.org/), or donate your time volunteering if you are in the area.

With that said, I also hope everyone had a good Halloween, despite inclement weather.  Mike and I took the kids trick or treating at the Philadelphia Zoo, and good times and excessive amounts of candy were had by all.  And the last bit of exciting news - a good friend of mine welcomed his first child into the world last week, so congratulations to Joe on being a new daddy!

So with all the hoopla lately, there hasn't been tons of time to experiment in the kitchen, but I did manage to whip up some cheezy spread the other day when I found myself with a cupboard stocked with tomato soup and I had a hankering for vegan grilled cheese.  I've been on quite a soup-and-grilled-cheeze-on-homemade-bread kick lately and I'm loving it.  The bread recipe I've been using is not mine, but can be found here: http://www.thehungrymouse.com/2010/03/25/homemade-sandwich-bread/.  It makes a perfect grilled sandwich and I think I might be trying it with french toast this weekend using my own crunchy coconut french toast recipe (found HERE in case you were wondering) since I also have some fresh coconut from the Asian market to use up.  I have a bread maker so I just halve the recipe amounts (because the recipe makes two loaves) and dump it all in the bread machine on a regular loaf cycle and it comes out perfectly.  I may never buy bread again.

So anyway, here it is - my recipe for yummy, tangy, cheezy spread.  Just spread it generously between two slices of non-dairy buttered bread and grill as normal for grilled "cheese" (I like some sliced tomato and sweet onion in there too) or just spread it on crackers or use as a dip for veggies.  The spread keeps in a lidded container in the fridge for up to a week.

Ninja Cheezy Spread

Ninja Cheezy Spread grilled with sweet onion between slices of homemade bread courtesy of a recipe from The Hungry Mouse, and tomato soup with chopped fresh basil.  You know you want some of this!

Ingredients:
1/4 cup quick oats
1/4 cup hulled raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
pinch coriander
pinch cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon olive oil or non-dairy butter
2 cloves garlic
1 1/3 cups vegetable broth
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 Tablespoon tahini
1 Tablespoon miso 
1 Tablespoon plain vegan creamer or non-dairy milk

Place the oats, sunflower seeds, nutritional yeast, cornstarch, dry spices, and salt in a blender or small food processor.  Process until the mixture is a fine powder.  Place the oil or non-dairy butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat and add the garlic.  Gently saute the garlic for 3 minutes until fragrant.  Whisk in the dry mixture, vegetable broth, lemon juice, tahini, and miso and raise the heat to medium-high.  Bring the mixture to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium and cook for 3 minutes, whisking constantly, until thick.  Remove from heat and whisk in the creamer/non-dairy milk.  Allow to cool for 5 minutes before using. 

Tips and Tricks:

1. The mixture will thicken more as it cools, if it becomes too thick for your liking, simply whisk in some more non-dairy milk, vegetable broth, or water until you reach your desired consistency.

2. This recipe really does work best when you need a spread-type texture.  If you're looking for a melty cheese sauce, you may want to try a different recipe, as the oats and sunflower seeds make it quite thick and sticky.  I'll try to post a good cheese sauce recipe soon!


That's all for today, ninjas!  Hopefully things will calm down around here long enough for me to spend some quality time in the kitchen soon so I can bring you some more delicious eats.  Until then, much love and full bellies!

Love,

The Fur Ninja <3 b="b">

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Curried Bean and Rice Soup

Hello again, my dear ninja readers!  Fall is upon us, with beautiful cool days and chilly nights, not to mention there seems to be a wicked cold/flu going around (Mike, his kids, and I all have had bouts with it), so it seems like high-time to make a big ol' batch of soup to chase away those sniffles and cold nights.

I made this soup to make use of some of the brown rice and dried beans I have in the house.  Every time I see my mother, she loads me up with non-perishables, and at this point I have literally 10 pounds each of brown rice and various dried beans.  The soup is a bit spicy, which is great if you're sinuses need some clearing out, and like all good soups, it only gets better the longer the leftovers hang out in the fridge.  When re-heating leftovers, you may need to add a bit of water or vegetable broth to thin it out if you like a brothy soup, as the rice continues to absorb the soup broth while in the fridge.  Mike loved this soup, as evidenced by his second and third helpings on the night I made it!  In addition to the spicy sinus-clearing properties, it packs a nice wallop of protein and vitamins from the beans and kale.  I think this is going to be my new go-to "get better" soup whenever someone in the ninja household is sick, but whether chasing away a cold, warming up from a chilly fall evening, or just craving a comforting bowl of yumminess, this soup is where it's at.  Serve with some crusty bread and you've got yourself one awesome meal. 

Curried Bean and Rice Soup


Ingredients:

2 Tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1" cube of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 carrots, diced
1 onion, diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
2 teaspoons curry powder
3/4 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seed
 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
7 cups vegetable broth
3 cups water
1 cup dried white beans, soaked overnight, drained, and rinsed
1 cup uncooked brown rice
14 ounce can coconut milk
1 bunch kale, leaves only, coarsely chopped
1 Tablespoon maple syrup
2 teaspoons lime juice
1 Tablespoon salt
fresh ground pepper to taste 
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat.  Add the garlic, ginger, carrots, onion, and jalapeno.  Saute 4 minutes or until vegetables start to soften.  Add the curry powder, coriander, cumin seed, turmeric, and cinnamon and cook another 2 minutes until spices are fragrant.  Add the vegetable broth, water, and soaked beans.  Stir everything together and make sure you scrape up any stuck-on spices from the bottom of the pot.  Turn up the heat and bring to a boil.  As soon as the soup is boiling, lower the heat to a gentle simmer and partially cover the pot.  Simmer for 45 minutes.  Add the uncooked brown rice and simmer partially-covered another 45 minutes until both the beans and rice are tender.  Add the kale, coconut milk, maple syrup, lime juice, salt, and pepper, and return to a gentle simmer, uncovered.  Simmer the soup for 3-5 minutes until the kale is wilted.  Taste for seasonings and adjust if necessary.  Remove from heat and stir in the chopped fresh basil.  Allow the soup to sit for 10 minutes to allow the flavors to incorporate before serving.

Tips and Tricks:

1. Fresh ginger - seems like a pain in the butt, but really isn't if you know a couple of tricks.  Peel your ginger under running water with the edge of a spoon.  The skin should come off easily without losing too much of the root.  Instead of mincing my ginger with a knife, I pulverize my peeled ginger in a coffee grinder until it's a mushy pulp so that its flavor infuses the dish more evenly.

2. Make sure you are using whole cumin seeds and not cumin powder for this recipe.  If you only have cumin powder, you can use it but you will need less, so halve the amount and add more at the end if needed.  The flavor will be altered slightly.

3. Make sure you are actually simmering your rice and beans and not continuously boiling them or they will be mushy.  Leave the lid on the pot slightly askew so steam can escape and check to make sure your heat isn't too high periodically during cooking.


That's all for today, lovely readers.  I've still got ninja chocolate chip cookies, and cheezy spread recipes soon to come.  Plus it's Mike's birthday on the 24th, so expect a recipe for vegan red-velvet cake with cream cheese frosting (his requested birthday cake) at some point in the near future.  Until next time!

Love,

The Fur Ninja

P.S. I see from my blog stats that there are a lot of UK folks reading lately.  Not sure if this is due to me posting again in the Hair Extension Forums (hello lovely ladies and thanks for reading!) or something else, but either way, it's good to have some ninjas here from across the pond  :)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Welcome to Fall! ~ Peanut Butter Apple Bars

Ahhhh....fall.  The weather is cooling, leaves are turning, and it's time to dig deep in our closets for those comfy hoodies that we put away when spring started to bloom all those months ago.  Fall is Fur Ninja's favorite season for many reasons - Halloween (who doesn't love playing dress-up?), hiking, hot chocolate, snuggling, birthdays (mine, Mike's and my sister-in-law's are all within a week of each other), pumpkin carving, and.....apples.  I somehow got it stuck in my head at the end of last summer that I really just HAD to go apple picking this fall - something I haven't done since I was a child.  And, as luck would have it, since Mike has some little ninjas of his own, it was a childhood memory that I got to share with the younger generation too.  One Saturday a few weeks ago, we took our little modern family to Shady Brook Farm in Yardley, PA for some fun for both kids and grown-ups alike. 

After a day filled with giant pillow-jumping, goat-feeding, tractor rides, haunted houses, a corn maze, pedal carts, and of course the apple-picking, we returned home to Fur Ninja headquarters tired, happy, and with an obscenely large amount of apples.  I decided to whip up some kid-friendly apple-peanut-butter bars as a treat to use up some of the yummy fruit, and here's what I came up with. 
This recipe is pretty healthy and low-in-sugar (especially if you forgo the powdered sugar glaze, which is optional) so I felt okie dokie serving it for breakfast.  Mike's middle boy liked them, although the youngest turned them down in favor of strawberry Pop Tarts.  Oh well, guess you can't win them all.  The grown-up ninjas, however, thought they were delicious. 

Peanut Butter Apple Bars


Ingredients:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup non-dairy butter, melted
1/2 cup firmly-packed brown sugar
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
3/4 cup natural peanut butter (I used creamy but chunky is fine too)
1 cup non-dairy milk
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
3 large apples, peeled and chopped (about 3 cups)

Glaze topping (optional):
3/4 cup confectioners sugar
2 Tablespoons non-dairy milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly grease a 16x9 inch pan.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, and salt in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, mix together non-dairy butter, brown sugar, maple syrup, peanut butter, non-dairy milk, and vanilla until smooth.  Add wet ingredients into dry and mix until just combined.  Fold the chopped apples into the batter.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake 25 - 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the pan comes out mostly-clean, and the top of the cake springs back when touched.  Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing.
While the bars are cooling, make the glaze.  Mix together all ingredients until smooth.  Pour evenly over the bars.  The glaze will harden up in the refrigerator, or you can eat it right away as long as you don't mind gooey fingers!

Tips and tricks:

1. Make this recipe even healthier by substituting 1/2 of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat pastry flour or white whole wheat flour.

2. Let's talk apples - to be honest with you, I'm not even sure what type of apples I used for this recipe, since we picked several different types at the farm.  I know we came home with Gala, Cortland, and Honey Crisp, so there was probably a mixture of all of those in the bars.  As I have said before in my post about Ninja Applesauce (found HERE in case you were wondering), the only type of apple I recommend against cooking/baking with is the Delicious variety.  I know there are more complicated schools of thought on this, with specific types of apples that are best for pies, applesauce, cakes, etc., but I can't remember all that.  In Fur-Ninja-Land, it's simple: Delicious = bad.  Everything else = good.

3. Going against my own "heck no; I'm not peeling this [insert name of produce here]" rule: I peeled the apples for this recipe because I was feeding it to kids, and because I thought the texture of peels in these rather fluffy, cake-like bars wouldn't necessarily be a good thing.  If you'd like to leave your peels on, more power to you.

That's all for now.  Recipe for ninja chocolate chip cookies, curried vegetable and rice soup with kale, and Fur Ninja's own recipe for cheezy spread (perfect for vegan grilled cheese sandwiches!) up soon.  Also, attempt #2 on vegan mayo was undertaken in the Fur Ninja kitchen last week.  We're getting closer to the goal of delicious, homemade, egg-free mayo here, folks, but some more experimentation is needed before we declare this mission accomplished.  Hopefully that will soon be a success and be posted in the blog as well.

Until next time, ninjas - snuggle with the one you love and some good food!

Love,

The Fur Ninja