Friday, November 19, 2010

Shephard’s Pie Stuffed Portobello

This recipe was a spur of the moment thing this week. It was really good! These were accompanied by my really awesome vegetable soup I made earlier this week and a salad.

Shepard's Pie Stuffed Portobello

* Prep Time: 15-20 minutes
* Cook Time:
25 minutes
* Ingredients:

  • 2 large portobello caps, stems & "gills" removed
  • 1 8-10 oz bag of frozen peas and carrots
  • 1 lb red creamer potatoes, peeled & quartered
  • 1 8 oz Upton’s Naturals Ground Beef seitan*
  • ½ onion, diced
  • Pinch of salt (to sautee onions)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • ¼ cup vegan cream of mushroom soup*
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp vegan soy butter*
  • ½ cup almond milk*
  • 2 tbsp dried or fresh chives
  • Vegan Parmesan Cheese, as need*
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil (for cooking seitan)
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
* Recipe:
  1. After potatoes are peeled and quartered, place the potatoes and garlic cloves in a sauce pan with water at least an inch above potatoes. Salt and bring to a boil.
  2. Once the potatoes are soft enough to stick a fork into and they break apart, remove from heat and strain the water. In the sauce pan or a separate bowl, add the boiled potatoes, soy butter, almond milk, and chives. Mash to a smooth consistency.
  3. While potatoes are boiling, start to prepare the filling. Heat a skillet with the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions and pinch of salt; sweat until the onions are translucent. Next, crumble the seitan into the skillet and brown. Time to add the peas and carrots. Add the peas and carrots to the skillet and cook until tender.
  4. While the vegetables are cooking, preheat the oven to 375°F.
  5. In a cup, mix the cornstarch and cream of mushroom soup until the cornstarch is evenly mixed. Add to the seitan mixture and stir until even coated. Cook for just a few minutes until the soup has thickened and remove from the heat.Using a spoon, start stuffing the mushrooms with the seitan mixture. Be sure to pack the mixture in so that all the gaps are filled.  Top the mushrooms with the mashed potatoes liberally; you are basically sealing the stuffing in. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over the top and place in the oven to 10 minutes on the top rack.
  6. After 10 minutes, place the oven on broil and let the tops brown, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve.
* Note: Upton's Naturals is a local Chicago seitan company. They sell their faux meats here in Chicagoland. You could use other seitan-style meat crumbles such as Boca Ground Crumbles. For cream of mushroom soup, I used Imagine Foods Natural Creamy Portobello Mushroom soup. For soy butter, I used Earth Balance. Feel free to use whatever type of non-dairy milk you want. I just keep almond milk at home over soy milk, etc. Lastly, for vegan Parmesan I used Vegan Topping by Galaxy Nutritional Foods. You can find the soup, soy butter, and cheese at your local health food store or places like Whole Foods.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Deep Dish Pizza

Many people think it is impossible to veganize certain things. I am to prove people wrong. With the exception of something such as say oysters rockefeller, most things can have meat and dairy-free alternatives. The task at hand this time was vegan deep dish pizza and it was successful!

Deep Dish Pizza

* Prep Time: 45 minutes
* Cook Time:
20 minutes
* Ingredients (for dough):
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup finely ground yellow cornmeal
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp yellow cornmeal & flour (used to dust counter to roll out dough)
* Ingredients (for pizza filling):
  • 1 package Upton's Naturals All Natural Italian Sausage*
  • 1 package mozzarella flavored Daiya*
  • 1/2 package mozzarella flavored Teese, cut into slices*
  • 1 cup baby bella mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup (yellow or white) onion, sliced
  • vegan Parmesan cheese*
* Ingredients (for sauce):
  • 1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • Salt & pepper, to taste

* Recipe:
  1. In a separate bowl, combine water, sugar, and active dry yeast to activate yeast and let sit for at least 5 minutes.  
  2. In a mixer, add the dry ingredients and mix on a low setting using a bread hook. When the yeast is ready, add it to the mixer with the olive oil. Let the dough form in the mixer until it forms a uniform ball and starts to climb the bread hook. (If you do not have a mixer, then combine the dry ingredients with the bowl of yeast, kneed until smooth.)
  3. Remove and let stand for at least half an hour or until it doubles in size.
  4. While waiting for the dough to rise, prepare the other ingredients. To prepare the sauce, add all of the ingredients in a sauce pan and let simmer on low heat until ready to use, stirring occasionally.
  5. In a lightly oiled skillet, add the seitan and lightly brown. Prepare the mushrooms and onions now while you have the time.
  6. Once the dough has risen, punch it down and then use the the cornmeal and flour to dust the counter. Form an even roll and cut in half. Lightly oil one half and place it in a zip lock bag in the freezer for another day.
  7. Roll or press out the dough into a circle that will fit in a round, 9 inch cooking pan (I used a spring form pan for this). Lightly oil the baking pan and lightly dust with flour to prevent the dough from sticking. Place the dough in the pan so that it climbs up the sides to make a wall.
  8. Preheat the oven to 450°F. 
  9. Begin layering the ingredients. To keep it authentic, add the seitan sausage first, then the mushrooms and onions. Sprinkle a layer of vegan Parmesan cheese. Now for the cheese: add half of the Daiya for the next layer, being sure to spread it as evenly as possible. Then add the sliced Teese followed by topping it with the remaining Daiya. Sprinkle oregano over the cheese for a little added flavor. Add the pan to the oven and bake for 15 minutes.
  10. Remove and add a layer of the sauce. Place in the oven again and bake for an additional 5 minutes.
  11. Remove and let cool enough that you can handle and remove from pan. Place on a cutting board, slice, and serve.

* Note: Upton's Naturals is a local Chicago seitan company. They sell their faux meats here in Chicagoland. You could use other seitan-style meat crumbles such as Boca Ground Crumbles. As many of you have heard, Daiya is great. You can find it at Whole Foods as well as vegan websites such as Teese is a local soy cheese made by Chicago Soydairy. You can order it online from vegan websites as well. I used these two types of cheese for this pizza specifically since they melt well and taste good. Please try to use these brands if you can get a hold of them. Lastly, for vegan Parmesan I used Vegan Topping by Galaxy Nutritional Foods which you can also find at your local health food store or places like Whole Foods.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Vegan Tokyo

In the summer of 2008, I lived in Tokyo studying an intensive Japanese language course (4 hours a day) to finish my minor. I apparently took no pictures of the vegan restaurants and food I had there which is a shame. So, I am posting pictures from Google image search and my own personal photo's of the country and my experiences.

Living in Japan is tough as a vegan. Really tough. Sometimes you just had to try your best to make sure there was no fish broth hidden away somewhere in your meal, but it was oftentimes trying to do this. Language differences and your host/grocer's idea on veganism has a lot to do with this. So, I went out to find the restaurants in this vegan dining book to Japan I had.

In Harajuku, there were a number of vegan places. First, there is Brown Rice Cafe.  This place was my all time life saver in Tokyo. It was close enough to walk and they had a take out counter, so I could eat something that I knew was vegan. We could not cook in our dorms which was so horrible for any vegetarian or vegan. The only thing we had was a hot water maker for ramen, but 99.9% of the instant ramen in Japan is fish broth based. Brown Rice Cafe had a small cafe as the name implies as well as the take out counter which also had organic, natural products for sale. From my recollection, the food was very good. They have an English menu too.

Catty-corner from Brice Rice Cafe, there was a microbiotic/vegan and vegetarian-friendly/eco-friendly health food store and cafe. It is called Natural House. The health food store sells vegan products such as mock meats and cheeses.They also sell fresh produce. I was lucky to be able to talk to a sales clerk that spoke good enough English to realize why I was struggling and staring at the nutritional value of things like bread and using my kanji dictionary. So hard. Not fond of those memories! haha. She would tell me what had eggs or milk in them. Very nice of her. The cafe was good. I used to study and spend the afternoon munching on my lunch and drinking tea or coffee. They had a really good mushroom stir fry dish that I liked very much. Oh, and they have a vinegar drink! I LOVE vinegar. I have some crazy irrational love of vinegar and cornichons (fermented foods are my favorite...). So, this was MY drink!
Another Harajuku vegan place was der Akkord bakery. They have specifically marked vegan breads  there. Very good quality bread and freshly baked. Definitely worth checking out.

In Shibuya, there is the really awesome Vegan Healing Cafe. This is where I found my Vegan Restaurant Pocketguide book. A lot of Tokyo is small side streets where you weave in and out of them onto other small side streets until you are completely turned around and have to find a main road again just to figure out where you even are. On one of these side streets, a group of us were walking around the shops and suddenly I see a big sign that says, 'VEGAN". I literally squeaked out loud and went running to the sign. It was Vegan Healing Cafe. I was SO happy! I, at last, found veganism in Japan. This was the first vegan restaurant I found and thankfully, it was early on in my study abroad. I bought the book there and had many nice meals there through out my time in Japan. It was my first experience with texturized soy meat too. I had no idea what it was, but I liked it. I even brought some home with me because I didn't even know you could get it in America! Mmm. The owner was so nice too. She could tell just how I excited I was about her restaurant. She had vegan and animal right literature out by the cash register too (mostly PETA leaflets in English and Japanese). 

My 21st birthday was when I was in Japan. As this is a huge birthday in America, I wanted to properly celebrate it. The legal drinking age in Japan is 20 (they never card you anyways), so it wasn't big news there. In London, for my 20th birthday, I got a vegan chocolate cake at the brand new Whole Foods there at the time. In Tokyo... I thought I would be cake-less. To my surprise, I found vegan birthday cakes to order! Such a crazy thought, honestly. DevaDeva Cafe makes vegan birthday cakes to order (place your order 10 days in advance). The trip to get this cake was a great adventure. I had to take several trains waaaay on what seemed like the outskirts of Tokyo and then go on a hunt for this cafe. Street signs in Japan are not marked well (or at all sometimes). After wandering around for almost three hours on many side streets, I found this place. It was on the second level. Of course. I wasn't looking up for a sign; I was looking at the ground level. I remember I took a Starbucks break in this long hunt and ended up having an early dinner at DevaDeva because it just took so long to find! The cafe had quite a menu and they sold little snack foods (pre-packaged and baked goods they made) at the cash register. 

The picture of me is of my birthday party at our study abroad group's favorite dive bar by the dorm, Foods & Bar. Yes, it is called, "Foods & Bar". Amazing. Did you know they give you edamame, popsicles, and wasabi peas as bar food in Japan? Haha. Well, as many of you know, the Japanese sort of interchange their "r"'s and their "l"s. My name is Alexis. It sounds like Arexis in Japanese. Behold my mistaken cake. It was banana bread cake as we found out that night in the bar.
I had the amazing opportunity to go to New York Bar while I was in Tokyo. Have you all seen Lost in Translation? If you have not, you must! It says so much about Tokyo and the Japanese people. Well, New York Bar is within the Park Hyatt Tokyo. Throughout the movie, Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson go to this bar in the middle of the night because they have bad jet lag. There they meet and become friends. The view is one of the most spectacular things you have ever seen. It was an epic birthday moment that I will never forget. Here we had very well crafted martini's and listened to live jazz.
This is a picture of part of my host family in Japan. We are at a botanical garden several hours outside of Tokyo.
Of course, no blog post on Tokyo is complete without picture of Shibuya at night. And here you are. Always busy, always alive. ♥ 
One of the nights in Tokyo, a group of us went to a ninja restaurant. Yes, you read correctly, a ninja restaurant. Only in Tokyo. It is called Ninja Akasaka. It is built with trap doors and you dine in a dungeon. You are each served like a 8-10 course meal. They accommodated my veganism very nicely too! I don't remember all what I had but it was really crazy food presentation. Oh, the waitresses and waiters were dressed up as ninja's and the menu's were on scrolls. The picture of the tree thing is not vegan, but that is definitely a dessert. The soil is chocolate, I believe.
Couple useful phrases:   
1. "Watashi wa bejitarian/bigan desu." - I am vegetarian/vegan.
2. "Taberarenai mono ha..." - I don't eat...
niku - meat
sakana - fish
shifudo - seafood
niwatori - chicken
gyunyu - milk
chizu - cheese
tamago - eggs
machimitsu - honey
bata - butter
mayonezu - mayonnaise
sakana dashi - fish stock
3. After finishing your meal: "Gochisosamadeshita!" - Roughly, thank you for the good food (hard to translate).
4. "Ie, sakana wa shokubutsusei dewa arimasen, sorera mo dobutsusei desu." - No, fish are not plants, they are animals too.

Lastly, if you are at a conbini (convenience store), look for onigiri (rice balls) filled with umeboshi (pickled plum) or konbu (thick seaweed). There should also be nori maki there and the vegetarian ones are easy to spot with cucumber and konbu. Pickled vegetables in small trays are available at most. If you dig on natto (fermented soybeans), you'll find it here too. Natto is really good for you, but it is an acquired taste and quite frankly, it's pretty gross.

And there you have it in a good gist. Vegan Tokyo!
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