Friday, July 27, 2012

Nomz for Ninja-Grandmom's Birthday - Seitan Hot "Wings" and Roasted Sweet Potato Salad

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It's summertime, ninjas!  Time for cookouts with good friends, good brew, and of course....good ninja eats!  My ninja-grandmom celebrated her 90th birthday a couple of weeks ago and I made some rockin' good food for the occasion.  I absolutely love any excuse to make an obscenely large amount of awesomely delicious food - especially when I get to please a crowd of omnivores in the process.  So of course I showed up to grandmom's shindig with a ridiculous amount of vegan scrumptiousness (prompting a comment from my ninja-love Mike, "Isn't this party catered?"  Well yes....but I wouldn't be me if I didn't cart around stupid amounts of food to a gathering) to share.

So here's a special double-recipe post of what I made for my awesome grandmom's party.  The "wings" and potato salad both travel well, and were scarfed down by vegans and omnis alike.  Next time you hit a pot luck or cookout, bring one or both, but be warned - you probably won't have much in the way of leftovers!

Onto the recipes!

Seitan "Wings" and Roasted Sweet Potato Salad

Seitan "Wings" With Creamy Dipping Sauce

Please note: these take some advance prep as they need to chill overnight.  Plan accordingly!  They are also VERY hot; you can adjust the hot sauce/butter ratio as you see fit.  Double this recipe if making for a crowd - I made 2 lbs and they were nearly all eaten up by the end of the party even though there were only 2 other vegans in attendance.


2 lb seitan, torn into bite-sized chunks
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup non-dairy butter
1 cup hot pepper sauce (I used a combo of Louisiana Hot Sauce and Frank's Red Hot)
2 Tablespoons tomato paste

First, you need to get your seitan as dry as humanly possible.  Whether you make your own seitan like I do (try the recipe in Veganomicon - amazing!) or buy it at the store, chances are when you start this recipe it's swimming in some sort of broth.  You need to get as much moisture out of the seitan as possible if you want it to get crispy.  Take the torn up chunks of seitan, and one at a time squeeze them between paper towels until they are relatively dry.  This will make a huge mess and use up about half a roll of paper towels.  Just decide to be okay with this before you start.  Once the seitan chunks are dried, mix together the flour, cayenne, garlic powder, and salt in a bowl.  Dunk the chunks in the flour mixture, making sure to tap the chunks on the side of the bowl in order to shake off the excess.  Place the seitan chunks in a lidded container lined with paper towels and put in the fridge to chill overnight.  If you can't wait that long, make sure they're in there for at least an hour.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F and line two baking sheets with aluminum foil.  Grease the foil lightly with cooking spray or olive oil.  Melt the non-dairy butter in the microwave or a small saucepan over low heat.  Mix in the hot sauce and tomato paste with a fork.  Remove the chilled seitan chunks from the fridge and dunk each one in the hot sauce mixture and place on a baking sheet.  Bake for 1 hour, turning once, or until the chunks are browned, but not burnt.  Serve either hot or room temp with dipping sauce.

Creamy Dipping Sauce
I didn't like bleu cheese even BEFORE I was vegan, so I'm really not sure how close this is.  Probably not very....but it was delicious on the wings.  It also makes a great dip for veggies and is yummy spread on veggie wraps, burgers, and sandwiches.
1 cup soft silken tofu
1/2 cup tahini
1 Tablespoon agave nectar
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 teaspoon vegan worcestershire sauce (sub soy sauce if you can't find any)
1 clove minced garlic
3 Tablespoons canola or other light oil
1 Tablespoon lemon juice

Put everything in a blender and blend until smooth.  Chill until ready to use.  That's it!

Tips and Tricks:

1. Make your own seitan. it.  Store-bought seitan is SO overpriced and definitely not as tasty.  I use the recipe in the amazing Veganomicon.  If you don't have this cookbook, you need to go out and buy it...right now....I'll wait............ok then.  Isa's recipe in Veganomicon only makes 1 lb so you'll have to double it, or if you're like me and don't have a pot big enough to make 2 lbs of seitan at the same time, you'll have to make two batches.  Seitan is pretty easy though, and yeah - it needs an hour to cook, but I figure that's how long it would take me to drive to the store and buy some anyway.

2. All ovens are different, and these little wingies can go from deliciously crispy to burned and horrible in a very short time.  Check them every 20 minutes or so.

3. You need the silken, shelf-stable boxed tofu for this recipe.  You can usually find it in the aisle with the Asian food.  In a pinch, use the water-packed, refrigerated kind, but the texture might not be as smooth.  Measuring tofu is a pain, but just kind of smoosh it into the measuring cup and do your best; it doesn't have to be 100% precise.

4. Vegan worcestershire sauce can be challenging to find.  Annie's Naturals makes a good one that I always keep on hand for when I need a bloody mary fix.  I've also found some cheapie store-brand worcestershire on occasion that does not contain anchovies.  If you are stuck, just substitute soy sauce and it won't be too much different.

And now, onto the next recipe!  This potato salad got RAVE reviews from everyone at the party.  The spiciness of the onion, pepper, and Mexican-inspired spices contrasts beautifully with the cooling dressing and sweetness of the roasted veggies.  It's freakin' delicious.  Make some.  Make some now.

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad
If you can't find vegan mayo or don't want to use it, just substitute more soft silken tofu.  You might have to adjust the seasonings slightly if you do this, so make sure you taste, taste, taste!


2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" chunks
1/4 cup olive oil 
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons cumin, divided
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons salt, divided
2 ears corn, un-husked
1/2 red onion, diced
1 serrano chili, minced 
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup soft silken tofu
1/4 cup vegan mayo (I used Vegenaise)
3 Tablespoons canola or other light oil
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon spicy brown mustard
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Toss the sweet potato chunks with the olive oil, cayenne, 1 teaspoon of the cumin, and 1 teaspoon of the salt.  Place on a baking pan.  Place the un-husked corn on another baking pan.  Put both in the pre-heated oven.  Roast the corn in the husk for 30 minutes or until corn is tender and remove from the oven.  Continue to roast the sweet potatoes for another 15 minutes (for a total of 45 minutes) or until easily pierced with a fork.  Allow the corn to cool enough to handle, remove husks, and cut kernels off of the cob.  Allow the veggies to cool completely.
Meanwhile, make your dressing.  Combine the tofu, vegan mayo (or just more tofu if you're not using vegan mayo), canola oil, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, and chili powder in a blender and blend until smooth.
Once the potatoes and corn have cooled, place them in a large bowl with the onion and serrano chili.  Add the dressing and mix gently to combine.  Add the cilantro and mix again.  Taste for spices and adjust to your tastes as necessary.  Chill until you're ready to eat!

Tips and Tricks:

1. Vegenaise is really amazing.  I'm definitely not a proponent of vegan-specific, pre-packaged foods, as they tend to be rather unhealthy and VERY expensive, but I was a great lover of mayo on many things before I was vegan, and Veganaise thus has a special place in this ninja's heart.  It's amazing as a base for dressings or just smeared on the bun of a portobello burger.  The taste is pretty spot-on and I love it.  If you're subbing more tofu for the 1/4 cup vegan mayo, just taste the dressing before pouring it on, as you may need more vinegar, mustard, or lemon juice.  Remember - all good fur ninjas taste, taste, taste as they cook!

2. When you mix in the dressing and cilantro, be GENTLE.  The sweet potatoes will be very soft, so they will get mushy easily.  If some of them break up, that's ok, but you don't want a goop-y mashed potato consistency.  There should be some whole pieces of potato going on in there.

3. This recipe makes for a lightly-dressed potato salad, which I felt was great because it allowed the flavors of the veggies, spices, and cilantro to shine through, and the use of softer sweet potatoes rather than white potatoes added creaminess to the finished product so not a lot of dressing was needed.  However, if you're a huge fan of potato salad that's just DRIPPING with dressing, the dressing recipe can easily be doubled.

So that's it for now, ninjas....I hope those recipes will keep you busy for a while and give you lots of ninja-cooking inspiration.  I DID make one more thing for the birthday party - insanely decadent brownies that put everyone into a complete and total chocolate and sugar-coma.  I'll be posting those soon!

And now, I leave you with a pic of my big awesome ninja family with the lady who inspired me to come up with both of these recipes.  Thank you, ninja-grandmom a.k.a. Leatrice for being such an integral part of my life, and being the inspiration for me every day to be a more kind, generous, and loving soul.  I hope you loved your birthday party....can't wait for the 100th!

Whether related by blood, marriage, or love alone (us ninjas like to "adopt" random people!), my family is loud, obnoxious, opinionated, and absolutely the bestest family anyone could ever ask for.  Here's to good food, good family, and  ninja-love!

The Fur Ninja

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