Monday, December 20, 2010

Holiday Cookie Baking/Round One

It is time, once again, for me to bake for my trouble shooters. They do so much for me throughout the year, it is nice to be able to do something for them and who doesn't love some cookies for the holidays? This year I am taking a little bit different tact. My oven was out of commission for a while, so it messed up my baking schedule. I was not able to bake on my days off, so I have to get it done while I am working. This can prove challenging as most of you busy folks know. I've decided the best plan of attack is to break my baking into two rounds.

Last night was round one. I also decided to give love to two different authors this year (well technically it will be three). For round one, I featured Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. The cookies were from Vegan with a Vengance and Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. I try to get a good balance of flavors, colors and textures. For round one the selections were City Girl Snickerdoodles.These made the cut for their ease of making and they just happen to be a special favorite of one of the guys. Next we have the Ginger Sparkle Cookies from VwaV. They epitomize the smells and flavors of Christmas baking to me. They are soft in the middle and crunchy on the outside. The molasses and ginger make you feel all elf like and happy. I had a bit of a problem with the dough this year for some reason. It was super sticky. I ended up having to add 2-3 extra tablespoons of flour to be able to work with them. Last but certainly not least are the decadent Chocolate Fudgy Oatmeal Cookies from VCIYCJ. These are a simple cookie that produce decadent results. They are rich, but I pretend they are healthy. They do have oatmeal after all!

I hope you enjoy round one of my Christmas baking frenzy! For round two, I plan on featuring cookies from the Vegan Cookie Connoisseur by the adorable Kelly Peloza. What to make, what to make? Stay tuned.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Thanksmas Pasta Bar

Happy Holiday season to one and all! Whatever you celebrate, I wish you health, happiness, joy and peace.

Sometimes in all of the hustle and bustle of the commercialized Christmas season, it is easy to lose sight of the real joy of Christmas - Love. This year all of the adults in our family agreed to forgo gift giving with each other so that we could focus instead on giving to needy families and children. The company I work for is huge into community outreach. Our employees give time and money to hundreds of local organizations. Each year different departments each adopt a local family in need. We had a family of seven. Their requests were mostly for necessities like blankets, space heaters and warm clothes. Of course the kids had some toys they were hoping for as well. We were able to get just about everything on their wish list donated. I was fortunate enough to be able to be part of the team that delivered the presents to the family this year. I can't adequately describe how grateful and excited the family was. The kids were allowed to open one present while we were their. The joy on their faces was a sight to behold.

This year I became involved with a group called Dining for Women. We get together once a month for a potluck. We write a check for what we would have spent going out to dinner and donate it to DFW. The money is used to empower women and girls who live in extreme poverty all over the world by funding programs to educate them and improve their lives. This fabulous group of women have touched the lives of so many other people in our community and all over the world through their volunteerism and giving. This month we banded together to give to a local childrens home called Sunshine Acres. We put together several gift boxes that were filled with gift items, party favors and cake mixes so that the children could have presents and birthday celebrations throughout the year. It was a fun gathering of friends that also happened to be a great way to give back to the community.

With all of the gift giving and donations out of the way, it was time to focus on family. It can be pretty stressful and difficult to get growing and extended families together over the holidays. Fred's kids have so many places to visit over the holidays. Everyone wants to see the grandkids, including us. Fred and I have never had traditional work schedules, so actual holiday dates don't really mean a whole lot to us as far as celebrations go. We are used to being VERY flexible with our dates on these occassions. To alleviate the stress of having to try and see everyone on the actual holidays, we decided to have a Thanksmas (thank you Tyler for coining our new holiday) celebration between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Fred proposed doing an afternoon into evening celebration so that we could play games both outside and inside. What a splendid idea! This way the family and friends could pop in anytime.

Family Time - Generations

The big question for me was what to make for dinner? I wasn't sure when our guests would be coming and going. I also wasn't sure how hungry the crowd would be. My daughter in law offered to bring a salad and our daughter brought some tasty beverages. We also had some noshing materials set out. For the main food event, I thought it would be fun and handy to do a pasta bar. I got busy making Lachesis' incredible Alfredo sin Mushrooms, Frecklefoot's killer Vodka Sauce, and my own version of meaty spaghetti sauce. I cooked up three different types of pasta and sliced and diced a variety of veggies and Julie Hasson's Italian Sausage. It worked out swell, with people coming and going all day. Everyone got a hot and fresh dinner. Oh, and I must not forget the garlic bread. Our son-in-law was in charge of cooking the garlic bread; lest we have the ADD induced tragedy of last year's burnt loaves. I made a mixture of olive oil, tons of garlic, fresh herbs and Carla's Cheezy mix for the garlic bread. I could have eaten a whole loaf myself...and I may have. I don't think anyone went home hungy and everyone got to custom order their pasta. It was a really fun way to do a holiday dinner. This may be a new tradition for us!!

Pictured here are the pasta bar fixin's

Here is a view from the other side. You can sese the sauces simmering.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Waiting for Appetite for Reduction and Giveaway Winner!!

While I anxiously await my tester copy of Isa Chandra Moskowit's LOW FAT book, Appetite for Reduction, I am going down a tasty and healthy memory lane of my testing experience. I will do a full on review when my copy arrives, but for now, I'd like to share one of the recipes that I honestly wasn't expecting much from and was pleasantly surprised at how truly wonderful it was. I bring you the Goddess Nicoise Salad. This baby packs in a slew of flavor and texture without a boat load of calories. As an added bonus it is very filling so you don't leave the table feeling deprived. Make sure you try it out!

Ok, now lets talk about food at the other end of the spectrum. COOKIES! I want to thank all of you who commented. It's nice to see that you are out there reading the blog and loving cookies!

The winner of the VIT home made cookies is #3! Steph. Steph, please e-mail me at vegintraining at gmail dot com with your address so I can mail you some sweet treats. I will be sending it USPS so if you have a post office box it can be shipped there. Thanks again to everyone who commented. There will be more giveaways coming up!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Product Review - Queen Creek Olive Mill

Queen Creek, AZ used to be a small county island in the middle of nowhere. There were a sprinkling of farms, horse properties and a backdrop of the San Tan Mountains, but not much else. We took a drive out there last week and much to my amazement it has become quite the metropolis. On the outskirts of town there sits the Queen Creek Olive Mill. The olive mill is owned and operated by the Rea family. The land was previously vacant when they purchased it. Today they have  They have been experimenting with different varieties of olive trees for over a decade.

We decided we'd pay the $5.00 per person and take the guided tour. It is a very small operation so my use of the word guided may not be an accurate description of the "tour". It was, however, very informative. A lovely young lady educated us about the history of the property and more importantly about the olives and olive oils produced there and elsewhere. She explained that the trees at the mill are still considered very young for olive production, so their yeilds are fairly small. They actually only produce the Extra Virgin Oil from their trees. The infused oils are sourced out of Italy. They have a big olive orchard to the north of the main building and they also have some trees planted in a small picnic grove pictured below.

The mill has a little deli counter. Most of the items are not vegan, but a few can be easily vegainzed. We didn't take the opportunity to eat on this visit, so I can't comment on the selections at this time, but I can tell you they use local breads and many other local ingredients, including herbs from their own organic herb garden.

The tour was short, but infomative and fun. After a 20 minute little talk outside in the lovely weather, we were lucky enough to be taken to the press room. They only harvest and press 2 1/2 months out of the year. We unknowingly picked the perfect time to visit. I'm not sure the tour would be worth it when they aren't pressing because there is not much to see. However, you do get a complementary olive tasting. It was really nice to be able to sample a few varieties before purchasing. During the presentation, we were told they have a specific percentage of each type of olive. We noticed that the mix in the press was a bit different than described. the green olives are very young, produce a peppery flavor and should comprise about 40 percent of the mixture. As you can see here, it appears there were more in this pressing.

The press room

The talk at the beginning of the tour is decidedly geared toward convincing you to go into the retail area and buy some of their product. Check this out. Have you ever expienced such a variety of olive oils in one place? There were a couple of rows just like this one. There is a tasting bar with a big variety of the oils they sell. The flavors are really interesting and the quality is excellent. I didn't buy any olive oil because I still have their vanilla and chile oils left over from a gift I recived last year. I need to whip the vanilla out for some holiday baking.

I did get some of their Vermouth Garlic Stuffed and Mexican Lime Jalapeno Stuffed olive. They are big and delicious on their own or in a martini. I also picked up some of their Spanish Fly dirty martini mix. It's a nice way to get your olive juice without having to strain it out of the can. Honestly, I 'm not that lazy, but I was amused by the label and couldn't resist owning the bottle.

They also sell many local products like baked goods, sauces, syrups and candies. I picked up a little bit of the organic Jalapeno pepper sauce. It was great on my buffalo wingz.

The retail area has a boutique type vibe and prices. The entire operation is very clean and the staff was very friendly. I'm looking forward to heading back out to check out some of the wine tastings and entertainment they offer. If you are in the area and want an atypical desert adventure I'd recommend stopping in. You're likely to drop some coin, but it is a novel and fun experience. We had a nice afternoon enjoying AZ weather in December.

As an added bonus we saw these very cute t-shirts that are perfect for our upcoming Martinis and Manicures fund raiser on December 16th! If you are in the area, come support the "girls"!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Holiday Baking - Giveaway!

Inspired by Celia at On Cardamom and Cast Iron, I've decided now is a great time to do a holiday giveaway. Coming off of a month of spicy treats, my sights are now turned to sweet treats.

Each year I do a massive cookie baking fest for all of the trouble shooters that work so hard for me each year. There are close to 40 hungry line men who do all they can to keep our customers in power all year long. It is always fun to bake for them. Many of these guys give Phat Freddie a hard time about his eating habits and tease us both about that "vegan crap". On one particular occassion PF brought a batch of cookies into his office. One of the trouble shooters (who shall remain nameless to protect the innocent) was spouting off about how he'd never eat that vegan stuff as he was scarfing down a delicious vegan cookie. Each year I try to introduce another variety. I haven't decided the selections for this year, but I have lots of options, what with Carla's Quick and Easy Bake Sale recipes and Kelly's Cookie Connoiseur Book? It's going to be hard to narrow it down.

In the spirit of the giving season, I offer to you a box (2 dozen or so) of home-made vegan cookies. Just leave a comment telling me about your favorite cookie and why it is special to you. I'll be drawing a name at random Wednesday, December 8th. This one is for US folks only as I'm afraid they wouldn't make the trip overseas. I'm hoping to do an international giveaway soon!

Happy holiday season!!!

Vcon Rumnog Cookies

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Follow up - Piri Piri and Peppedews

After our little celebratory happy hour I realized that I had not taken the time to tell you about two of the peppers featured in the final MoFo 2010 post.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Final MoFo of 2010! Pepper Party!!

I want to thank you all for reading this month. It has been a long but fun food month. Every year at the end of MoFo I always have mixed emotions. I feel relieved that I can relax a bit and not try and come up with something worth reading for you every day. On the other hand I always feel like there is more I could have posted about. I really feel that way even more this year because I just think there are so many incredible ways to use chiles. We've gone from reviewing the fiery habanero to enjoying the almost sweet meatiness of the pasilla chile.  I have not even begun to tap into international cuisines and their uses of chiles. Celia and Gail...I have not forgotten your suggestions and have plans to bring it for you yet. So make sure to check in periodically. I totally want to get on the hot and sour soup and curry.

We decided to go out with a bang. A whole boat load of peppery chile thoughts were running through my head. All day long I kept thinking of all the things I could have done this month and what I could share on this last day of MoFo 2010. I'm pretty sure my mom and my sister think I'm a crazy cooking obsessed weirdo. But nonetheless they celebrated a fantastic day and a fantastic month of MoFo with me tonight. We covered a several peppers tonight: jalapenos, peppadews and piri piris. I tried to jam in chipotle, but my sis wasn't to excited about chipotle in her cosmo. Hee hee. I hope you had as much fun as I did this month. I am looking forward to sharing more with you so come back and visit often.

So here it is: the official MoFo Happiest of Happy Hours!

Here my mom (who is visiting from Illinois), my sister and I enjoyed a toast with Prickly Pear Cosmos and Dirty Martinis made with local Queen Creek Olive Company "Spanish Fly" dirty martini mix. Oh man so good...both of them...and yes I did drink both. MMMmmmm.

Here we have a nice shot of the fabulous ingredients of my dirty martini. Oh yeah, garnishing that bad boy with Jalapeno Mexican Lime stuffed olives (also from Queen Creek Olive Mill) and Peppedews! It was a local and truly special treat.

Check this out. Pepper/Chile Mania
The happy hour menu: 
Seared Tofu with Piri Piri Sauce, Jalapeno Wingettes, Artichoke-Peppedew Tepanade Bruschetta

Here's a closer shot of the tapas. The Piri Piri Sauce is in the white bowl. It is a Peruvian specialty.

Yet even more intimate shot of the seared 'fu with Piri Piri

I can't resist sharing this picture of multi-colored pepper action. So beautiful even in their simplest form.

Monday, November 29, 2010

MOFO - Day 29 - Anthony's Spices Arizona Jalapeno

There is a local dude here in AZ that makes some incredible spice mixes. I have to give some local peeps some attention. Anthony's Spices is based out of Phoenix. He makes some awesome spice blends using a variety of dried peppers. They vary from mild to an extremely hot habanero mixture. He kindly puts a heat scale (out of 10) on each bottle so you have an idea what you are in for. I'm a big fan of the jalapeno salt myself. Yesterday I decided to try another one of his jalapeno variations - Arizona Jalapeno. This one was rated 5/10. Personally, I thought it was on the mild side, but I'm not super heat sensitive. This mixture boasts jalapenos, rosemary, thyme and some secret spices.

My first test run for this flavor was a simple topping for popcorn. It had nice flavor and a nice little hint of heat. I'm looking forward to using this in many other dishes...I'm thinking about some nice BBQ sauce or tofu seared with a boat load of this on it. This stuff is awesome. It's a bit pricey at $4.99 a bottle, but I've spent a lot more on things I liked a lot less. If you live here locally, you can find this at the Guadalupe Market and Whole Foods for sure. You can also order online from their website.

Here is the magical mixture. Oh baby, a little bit of Earth Balance and a heathy sprinkling of Arizona Jalapeno and a good movie with my mommy. Great night.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

MOFO - Day 28 - Pablano Vinaigrette from VegNews

We're getting mighty close to the end of MOFO. I'm not running out of inspiration, but I am running out of steam. Last night we did a soup night. Fred was roped in to making a salad dressing. I haven't used any pablanos this MoFo and it just so happens that last month's VegNews was featuring this mild chile. It originates from the city of Puebla, Mexico. Here in AZ they are sold by the name of pasilla. You may be familiar with them in their dried form - ancho.  Rumor has it you can find a hot one here and there, but all of the ones I have had the pleasure of meeting have been very mild.

The dressing featured in VegNews was a bit sweet for my taste, but if you like a sweeter dressing, this one may be up your alley. It had both orange juice and orange zest as it's main ingredients. We served it with a simple salad of romaine, tomatoes, avocado, red onion and spicy croutons. I thought it might make a nice marinade for tofu.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

MOFO - Day 27 - Black Bean Chili

Just getting in under the wire. I tested a wonderful version of Black Bean Chili from Carla Kelly's upcoming "One Pot Wonder" book. It is smoky, mushroomy and black beany. You'll have to wait for a bit, but it will be worth it. Yummy for your tummy!!

Friday, November 26, 2010

MOFO - Day 26 - Product Review - Tofurkey Frozen Pizzas

The past couple of days have been jam packed full as I am sure they have been for everyone. I did not have even an hour to whip something up today, so I am going to do a product review of the new Tofurkey Pizza's. I bought 3 varieties and we have tried two of them so far: the cheese and the roasted vegetable. While I much rather make my own pizza's, these work pretty nicely in a pinch. I fed these to my mom and sister who are not vegetarian. Fred and I also tried them. While we all thought they were pretty tasty, my omnis didn't really think the cheese was very close to the real deal. I have to admit, on a cheese only pizza, Daiya is not nearly amazing as it is when it is used as more of an accent than a main attraction. We all very much liked the roasted veggie pizza. The veggies are chopped very small, I'd love to see them a bit larger so they are more distinctive. The sauce is a bit bland, but sprinkle of oregano and crushed red pepper livens it up quite a bit. We all agreed we'd eat the roasted veggie one again.

The cheese variety would need some doctoring to make it to the plate. All in all, I think these are a fine fall back when life gets really busy. It's nice to have a good vegan option in a frozen pizza. Tofurkey brand is the best vegan frozen pizza I've tried yet. I'll be keeping at least one on hand for those busy days.

Oh and so I don't stray from the chile theme, we topped half of the cheese pizza with jalapenos. Yum!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

MOFO Day - 25 - Happy Thanksgiving

I had a wonderful time with friends and family today and I hope you all did too! I had a rough day in the kitchen and every where else today. But my mood stayed good because there are so many things to be thankful for. I was not in charge of the whole meal today.

I was in charge of appetizers and took it upon myself to make a couple of other dishes. The apps turned out great, but I've already posted about that this month.

What I planned on sharing with you was a fabulous new recipe for au gratin potatoes. This is where things go south. I painstakingly sliced my potatoes paper thin. They were beautiful. I made a flavorful Southwestern bachamel with chipotle and green chiles. Here is where I'm not entirely sure what happened. The potatoes and sauce were carefully layered in my French White Pyrex casserole. I baked these puppies for almost and hour and a half total. Still, the potatoes rebelled. They were still crunchy, so I had to concede defeat. I do think this dish has promise, and when the bloat from holiday eating wears off, I plan to perfect it. I think the problem is that there were too many layers. On the remake I will use a larger pan and layer them more thinly.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

MOFO - Day 24 - Kabocha Pot Pie

I was feeling a little bit like a slacker after yesterday's post. Even if I truly feel you NEEDED to know about chips and salsa that are truly outstanding, I was feeling like I didn't give you my all. Tonight, dear readers, I feel I have redeemed my place in MoFo land.

I recently had the delicious experience of trying kabocha squash. I don't know why this delicacy has never made its way to my kitchen. Well, I bought a couple of them this past week. I had this nagging desire to make a dish with this lovely squash as the edible bowl. I kept seeing versions of shepherds pie and was contemplating making a Southwestern version of that. But suddenly it dawned on me, I had some puff pastry begging to be released from the freezer. Hmmm what to do. What to do indeed? I have this love of leeks, but never seem to make enough use of them. Oyster mushrooms, how I love thee. The marriage of the two in this dish. Well, you be the judge. This is my homage to pot pie with a bit of Japanese influence from the squash with a southwestern twist.

Now I am not trying to toot my own horn here. But both my mom (who isn't a fan of spicy) and Fred (who decidedly is a fan of spicy) both gave this 4 forks. They cleaned their plates. The combination of the sweet squash and the subtle heat from the Hatch green chiles made a little dance on the taste buds. This is a rich, homey, warm, lovely belly filler. It's also kinda pretty. It takes some time and prep. But I have to say, you won't regret it.

Kobocha Pot Pie

Makes 4 servings

2 kabocha squash
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup leeks, white and light green parts only, halved and thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup diced green chiles (I prefer hot)
3/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1/4 teaspoon rubbed sage
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
3 cups oyster mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1 medium red potato, un-peeled, 1/2 inch dice
2 med carrots, halved and thinly sliced, 1 cup
1/2 cup green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 cup TVP chunks or soy curls, rehydrated in 2 cups boiling water or broth
3 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 large sheet puff pastry

I have to admit, I wasn't really paying attention to prep times and technique because I was hanging out with my mommy, who is visiting from IL, and drinking wine. So the instructions may not be totally accurate. Early apologies.

Preheat oven to 400. Cut kabocha in half, lengthwise, making two "bowls". Place squash, cut side down, on lightly oiled large cookie sheet. Bake for 30-50 minutes depending on the size/ripeness of your squash. Squash should be softened but still have a little firmness. It is going to bake for 20 more minutes after it is filled.

In a large skillet (I used my 18" iron skillet) over medium heat, saute leeks, garlic and green chile in one tablespoon of olive oil until leeks are just softened, 3-5 minutes. Add mushrooms and saute until they start to release their liquid, about 5 minutes. If your pan is dry, add a touch of veggie broth. Add salt, cumin, smoked paprika, oregano, sage, and black pepper. Stir to combine and saute for about another minute. Add 3 tablespoons flour. Cook for about 5 minutes to eliminate flour flavor. Add in potatoes, carrots, green beans, rehydrated tvp chunks or soy curls and broth. using a fork or a whisk, whisk until all flour is incorprated with no lumps. Cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes until potatoes and carrots are softened, stirring ocassionally. By this time your squash should be done.

Carefully turn your squash right side up. You should have very nice little bowls of yum. Ladle equal portions of stew mixture into each squash half. Roll out your puff pastry large enough to cut 4 circles that are 1 inch larger than your squash. Place puff pastry over filled squash and gently press edges along the outside. Take a small knife or the tip of a big knife and make 3 slits in the top of puff pastry to allow steam to escape. Return stuffed squash to oven and bake for 20-25 minutes more until puff pastry is golden brown. Let sit for 5-10 minutes. Be warned: the inside will be molten hot.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

MOFO - Day 23 - Product Review Tacupeto Chips and Salsa

I have to be honest with you, I am a bit of a salsa snob. Not that I think mine is the best or anything like that, but I find many jarred salsas sub-par at best. Every once in a while I stumble across one that is truly worthy of a place in my fridge. I was pleasantly surprised to find just such a salsa in the refrigerated section at Whole Paycheck. The salsa is so fresh tasting. It has just the right amount of roasted, smoky goodness I crave in a salsa. The tomato goodness makes you feel like it was just a tomato in a garden recently.

Several weeks earlier I found a new love that has certainly made my pants fit just a little more snuggly, because yes, dear readers, I am a tortilla chip scarfer from way back. Again, most commercially produced chips leave me wondering why I'm eating them (not that I stop). Enter Tacupeto corn chips. Oh my beautiful crunchy triangles of corny joy, I am both thrilled and horrified to have found you. Thrilled because your texture and flavor make me want to eat a whole bag of you in one sitting. Horrified because my ever expanding posterior really didn't need the new addition. Tacupeto is based out of Encinas, CA. The only ingredients in the chips are corn, soy bean oil and salt. The easy to read and understand ingredient list with no artificial ingredients has added to my bliss. If you can find this brand, check it out. It will make your mouth so happy!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

MOFO - Day 21 - IRON Chef Round Up and Blackened Tofu Portobello Benny

This was my first time hosting the MOFO Iron Chef challenge. I'm not sure if I picked tough ingredients or what happened, but there were only three of us who did the challenge. But, oh, what gorgeous recipes they were.

The first entry came from Sugarcookie of the PPK and Down Home Vegan. She braved making a grocery store run after a nasty ice storm to run out to get the ingredients for this (not to mention watching her beloved Vikes get smashed). So I applaud you and hail you truly Iron for your dedication to the challenge!!

Her creation is this beautiful Grilled Portobello with Red Quinoa and Chipotle Cream. Now I HAVE to have one of these salads. Thanks for being so hard core!!!

Next was Christina of Vegan Van-Guard. She slid into home at the last minute! She made a beautiful version of portobello fajitas with and almond based chipotle crema. It looks so good. Check it out!!

I've been neglecting one of my favorite meals this fine MoFo - Brunch! One of my favorite non-vegan brunch dishes was Eggs Benedict. I don't know if it was the presentation, those cute stacks of deliciousness and decadence or if it was the flavor. This dish satisfies both. I wanted to make something that wasn't carb overload and had some good veggie action going on. There are a few components and steps, but you can marinade the tofu and mushrooms the night before. You can also whip up the aioli and blackening spice ahead of time. The aioli will keep for 1-2 weeks in the fridge and the blackening spice will keep for a long time in an airtight container.

Pour yourself a mimosa with fresh squeezed orange juice and have fun with this pretty, delicious re-vamped chile-ized, colorful version of a classic.

Blackened Tofu Portobello Benny

4 medium sized portobello mushrooms, stems and gills removed
I actually used some super giant creminis (about 2 1/2" wide). If you can find them feel free to sub 8 of them.
1 - 14 oz package extra firm tofu, drained and pressed
4 - 1/4 inch thick slices large tomato
1 large avocado cut into slices

Tofu and Mushroom marinade

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons soy
1/2 cup veggie broth
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon granulated onion
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano

Blackening Spice

2 teaspoons ancho chile powder
2 teaspoons medium or mild chile powder
2 teaspoon granulated onion
2 teaspoons granulated garlic
3/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon white pepper

2 teaspoons olive oil
16 oz spinach, rinsed, leaving some water on leaves
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 cloves garlic

Chipotle Garlic Aioli

1/2 cup Vegannaise
4 teaspoons adobo sauce (from can of chipotles in adobo)
2 teaspoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons granulated garlic

In a 9 x 13 baking dish mix all marinade ingredients. Slice tofu into 4 equal slices the length of tofu block, making 4 large steaks (cut into 8 if using smaller mushrooms). Place tofu and mushrooms in pan with marinade. Marinade for at least one hour turning once. 

Preheat oven to 350.

Remove tofu from marinade and place on separate plate. Cover baking dish with foil and bake in oven for 10-15 minutes until juices are running from mushrooms and they are cooked through, but not overcooked.*

While mushrooms are baking prepare blackened tofu. Heat large iron skillet over medium high heat until just under smoking. Spray with canola oil. Place blackening spice in shallow small dish (large enough for tofu to fit in with a little extra space for flipping. Coat each side of tofu with blackening spice and place back on plate. When all slices are coated, spray one side with canola oil. Carefully place oiled side down in hot iron skillet. You might want to turn you vent/fan on at this point. It is likely to get a bit smoky. Blacken tofu on first side for about 3 minutes. Spray other side of tofu with oil before flipping. Blacken on second side for about 2 more minutes being careful not to burn. Turn heat off. 

Next prepare spinach. Spray large high sided saute pan or wok with canola oil. Over medium heat saute garlic for about 30 seconds until it is fragrant. Place slightly wet spinach in pan with lemon juice. Saute, stirring frequently until just wilted.

To assemble benedicts:

On each plate place one portobello mushroom. Layer with sauteed spinach, blackened tofu, tomato slice (sprinkled with a touch of black salt), avocado and dollop with 1-2 tablespoons Chipotle Garlic Aoili. Serve immediately.

Sausage Option:

I originally made these with the mushrooms stuffed with about 1 1/2 tablespoons Gimme Lean sausage. Fred preferred the sausage versions, but I  think they are great without, but if you want something a little heartier you can make this version.
*Before putting mushrooms in oven to bake, break up 2 tablespoons of Gimme Lean Sausage over each mushroom. Increase your baking time by 5-10 minutes depending on your oven.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

MOFO - Day 20 - Harry's in Shock Green Chili - Contest Winner!!!

First and foremost I'm happy to announce the winner of the Amercian Vegan Kitchen Giveaway.

#26 Noelle!!! Your are the winner! Noelle likes to put roasted chiles in her sketti. Now she can find some other great ideas from AVK. Thanks to everyone who commented.

I am working a 12 hour shift today, but will be making my green chili and posting it tonight, so make sure to check back later today.

My green chile recipes is a conversion of a green chili recipe I got from an old lineman from work. Harry is a tough old lineman from Kentucky. He retired a few years back just shy of 70. He would have worked until he was 90, but his lovely bride had other ideas. Harry was an incredible troubleshooter and a fantastic guy to work with. He used to bring all of "us girls" in the office lovely jewels every year for Christmas. He is quite the southern charmer. Wow, I guess I really miss having him around work. He's far from vegan, hence the name of the recipe. I'm sure he would poo poo this version, but the original was so good, I had to veganize it. Now that I have written the intro, I MUST cook this tonight.

A word of warning. This recipe can be very spicy hot. The heat is what makes it Harry's. So if you like something milder, I'd shy away from this recipe. It gets hotter as it sits too!

Don't forget the Iron Chef Challenge: Chipotles and Portobellos! Submit your entries by tomorrow at 4pm!

Harry's in SHOCK Green Chile

Makes 4-6 burritos

2 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1/2 medium sweet or yellow onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 large hatch green chiles, diced (leave seeds in if you like the heat)
2 serrano chiles, finely diced (again leave seeds in if you like the heat)
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 chile tepins, crushed
2 medium red potatoes, un-peeled, very small dice (about 1 cup)
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 pound beefy seitan (I used Savory Seitan from AVK)

In small stock pot heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, garlic, green chiles and serrano chiles. Saute until onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add cumin, red pepper flakes, black pepper chiletepin and salt. Stir until combined and saute for about 30 more seconds. Add potatoes and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and simmer until potatoes are soft, about 15 minutes. While the potatoes are simmering, slice the seitan into thin strips about 2 inches long. See photo. In 10 inch iron skillet or non-stick pan, saute seitan strips until nicely browned. By this time the potato mixture should be cooked and thickened. Add browned seitan to potato mixture and simmer for about 10 more minutes.

Warm 4-6 flour tortillas (8 inch). Scoop filling into tortilla. Roll it up and enjoy!

The original version was served in flour tortillas without garnish. I recommend them that way here as well. If you are a garnisher, feel free to garnish away, but try 'em naked first.

Here's what the potatoes look like diced. See how small they are. You can cut them larger but I like the texture best when they are small.

This photo shows a good shot of the thinly sliced seitan. They should resemble a shredded style "beef"

Thursday, November 18, 2010

MOFO - Day 18 - Red Hot White Bean Chili

Number two in the Red, White and Green Chili series features a delicious little number from Robin Robertson's  Vegan Fire and Spice. Robin has written many excellent cook books, but this one is by far Fred's favorite. He's actually made several different recipes from it. I needed something quick, hearty and tasty for today's post. This recipe filled the bill. If you use a food processor to chop the veggies as she suggests, it is super quick.

Now the first time I made this recipe, I had to do an emergency sub. I ran out of chile powder. The recipe calls for 3 tablespoons and I only had one. So I substituted one tablespoon of ancho chile and one tablespoon of chipotle chile powders. I actually loved the result, so I made it the same way this time. I only had two cans of cannellini beans, so I had to do yet another sub with one can of Great Northerns. 

It looks red, but technically it is a white bean chile, so I'm calling it white!! 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

MOFO - Day 17 - Chase the Chill Chili from AVK

I'm going to keep going with my American Vegan Kitchen love today. I have made this chili (and variations of this chili) a few times now. Fred and I love things a little hotter, so I used hot chile powder in this. I love the combo of both seitan and beans in this version. It is a stick to your ribs chili. It really will chase the chill. I made a whole batch of Tami's savor seitan and froze the leftovers for another tasty meal.

We ate this straight up this time, but it is excellent with jalapeno corn bread. It makes a good amount, but our whole batch is almost gone. Fred ate lots and we gave some to our good friend today. He is a hard-core meat eater, so I am excited to hear what he thinks.

I'm starting a sub-theme today: Red, White and Green Chilies. Today's chili is the red portion of the sub-theme. Check tomorrow for White!!

Just look at those beautiful chunks of veggies, seitan and the hearty beans. Oh yes, don't forget your organic beer!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

MOFO - Day 16 - Chipotles American Vegan Kitchen Style - GIVEAWAY!!!

I'm very excited to announce that I am going to be giving away a copy of American Vegan Kitchen!!! **

I always am so happy when I make things from American Vegan Kitchen. Tami knows her way around the kitchen there is no doubt. She also does spicy extremely well.

She has generously offered to send one of my lucky readers a free copy of American Vegan Kitchen!!!!! If you don't have this book yet, you should make sure you add it to your collection. Who knows, you might be the lucky winner and get it for FREE! Just make sure to leave a comment on this post about how you use chiles your favorite American dishes and you could be the lucky winner. If you have a favorite from AVK tell me about that too! 

Winner will be drawn at random for all comments posted by Friday at midnight. So make sure you comment before then!

Every time I open AVK I have a really hard time deciding what I am going to make. This time I was able to narrow it down because of my MoFo theme. I love smoky chipotles. So I found the perfect recipe for today's post. Smokin' BBQ Portobello Sandwiches. Tami's Smokin' Chipotle BBQ Sauce is really easy to make. It is smoky, sweet with a little bit of heat. It would be great for any type of BBQ recipe really. But I wanted to stay true to the book, so we had these as mini po'boy of sorts. I sauteed up the mushrooms, slathered them with the sticky, yummy sauce and served them on little slices of baguette with a touch of Vegannaise. They were the perfect quick easy chile filled snack for our mid-afternoon house cleaning break.

I am going to be featuring another dish from AVK tomorrow, so make sure to check back. Don't forget to leave your comments on this post for your chance to win. The winner will be drawn on Friday!

**Sorry to my international readers, this can only be shipped within the US.

Here they are in all their yumminess 

Smokin' BBQ Portobello Sandwiches

Monday, November 15, 2010

MOFO - Day 15 - Green Chile Grilled Cheeze

So this is not officially a recipe, but it is officially pretty tasty. I ran out of time today and had nothing ready for today's post. So I decided to ad-lib for today's entry. This will end up being something I will make again too.

Green Chile Grilled Cheeze

1 Sandwich

2 slices whole wheat bread
Vegan butter (enough to butter bread)
1 thick slice sweet onion
1 teaspoon olive oil
dash salt
1 - 1/2 inch thick slice large tomato or two smaller slices
1 whole roasted green chile, large enough to cover the size of the bread
1/3 cup grated Daiya cheddar (or your favorite vegan cheddar grated)
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives

In small bowl combine cheddar and chives. Butter one side of each slice of bread. Heat small iron skillet over med-low heat. Lightly salt and grill onions in olive oil until they are softened about 3-5 minutes. Remove from pan. Place one slice of bread buttered side down in same pan. Top evenly with half of Daiya mixture. Next layer in order with green chile, tomato slice(s), grilled onions, remaining Daiya mixture and second slice of bread with butter side on top. Grill on med low heat until bread it browned and crisp, about 3-5 minutes. Flip and grill other side until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Slice in half and serve immediately.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

MOFO - Day 14 - Iron Chef - Quinoa

The iron chef ingredient this week is quinoa. Now I love quinoa in so many ways. I wanted to do something reflecting fall and Thanksgiving. I also managed to make it gluten free for my sensitive friends and readers. Quinoa is an amazing seed (it is not actually a grain). It is a complete protein all on its own which makes me love this cute little nutritionally packed ingredient even more.

I thought about making something very healthy, but seeing as I just acquired a brand new deep fryer, my inner fried food loving fiend won out. I was very pleased to discover that quinoa makes an incredibly crunchy coating for fried treats. To keep with the chile theme, I used two types of chiles in today's dish: hatch green chiles and serrano chiles.

Red Inca Quinoa Crusted Hatch Green Chile Croquettes with Serrano - Lime Cranberry Sauce

Serrano Cranberry Sauce

Makes just under 1 cup

1/2 cup agave nectar
1/2 cup water
8 oz fresh cranberries
1 teaspoon tequila
1 tablespoon lime zest
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice
1 serrano chili pepper, seeded and finely minced

In a medium sized sauce pan over medium heat. place all ingredients in pan and simmer until thickened, stirring frequently. This should take between 15-20 minutes. Cranberries will pop as they cook. Be careful of splattering. Once thickened, remove from heat.

Red Inca Quinoa Crusted Hatch Green Chile Croquettes

Makes 20 croquettes

3 large cloves garlic minced
2 tablespoons red onion, finely minced
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 tablespoons minced roasted Hatch chiles (you can sub any type of roasted green chiles)
1 1/2 cups roasted mashed sweet potatoes
3/4 cup corn flour
3/4 teaspoon ancho chile powder
1 teaspoon teaspoon salt (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1 1/2 cups cooked red inca quinoa

Preheat deep fryer or oil in deep pan (with enough oil to be 2 inches deep in pan).

In small saute pan over medium heat, saute garlic and onion in olive oil until onion is just soft, about 2-3 minutes. In large bowl, combine garlic, onion, chiles, sweet potatoes, corn flour and dry spices until well combined. Form 1 tablespoon of mixture into a ball.  Roll ball into cooked quinoa, coating evenly. You may have to press quinoa into ball. Carefully drop balls into oil. Do not crowd. Fry for 3-4 minutes until croquette is golden dark brown. Drain on paper towels. Serve with toothpicks and side of cranberry sauce.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

MOFO - Day 13 - Chicken Nachos a la Lombardi's

This is going to be short and sweet because I have a hot date with my handsome honey. If you know me or have followed my blog for a while, you might know that I got my first cooking gig when I was 15 at a place called Lombardi's 2nd Effort. Oddly enough it was an awesome Mexican joint that also made pizza. The owner was definitely Mexican, but he loved Vince Lombardi and his philosophy. They gave me my first opportunity to cook and I fell in love.

The other day I was on FB and my very great cooking bud from this very restaurant had asked me if I remembered how we made these. It stirred up wonderful gastric memories and I developed an unbelievable hankering for their famous chicken nachos.

In this version I used chicken seitan cutlets cut into 3/4 inch pieces. They were coated with my favorite taco seasoning and seared until they were dark brown. I used some thicker and very crunchy chips. This is very important, because otherwise the chips will not hold up the the toppings. The chips were topped first with a small dollop (maybe 1/2 teaspoon) of toffutti sour cream, then one chunk of the seasoned chicken. I then placed very thinly sliced Daiya Italian blend over each chip and garnished with a thin slice of jalapeno. Slap these babies under the broiler for about 3 minutes until the chips start to brown and the Daiya is bubbling. Serve with your favorite salsa and share a great memory with yours truly.

Mucho Gusto y gracias Dan Cervantes, wherever you are.

Friday, November 12, 2010

MOFO - Day 12 - Chicken and Waffles with Jalapeno Gravy

12 days in a row. I feel good! I'm having a lot of fun with you guys. I hope you are enjoying chile mania. I know I've been a little heavy on jalapenos, but we are getting a good crop out of the garden. You have to run with that when you are so lucky.

Tonight I decided to go all fatty and decadent. My friend, the lovely Julie, just happened to have a brand new fryer and waffle iron she was getting ready to put in a garage sale. Instead she gave them to me! Well, out of courtesy of course, I felt I should take them and appreciate them immediately. Gotta show my gratitude.

I've been seeing and hearing a lot about fried chicken and waffles lately. Now this is a combo I would not normally think of eating. For one, I am not a big fan of waffles. Secondly it is certainly not healthy or light. But I do have to say, it was a fun plate to create.

The waffles are the Corn Meal Waffles from Isa's Vegan Brunch. I made the savory option. The "chicken" was from a previous Food Network Friday challenge. The recipe is here. I served the chicken smothered with a Cajun Jalapeno Gravy. You gotta have some green with all of this beige, so I quickly sauteed up some smoky collard greens.

Cajun Jalapeno Gravy

Makes about 1 3/4 cup

3 tablespoons vegan butter
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 large jalapeno, finely chopped (2 tablespoons)
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic minced
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon granulated onion
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1/8 teaspoon rubbed sage
2 cups vegetable broth

In a small bowl combine smoked paprika through rubbed sage (dry spice mix) and set aside.

In medium sauce pan over med high heat, melt vegan butter. Whisk in flour. Stirring constantly to prevent burning make a medium roux by cooking until the mixture is light brown in color. The mixture is extremely hot so use caution. Add jalapeno, shallot and garlic. It will sizzle very loudly and may splatter a bit. Saute for 1-2 minutes until the vegetables soften up. Add dry spice mix. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Slowly pour in vegetable broth while whisking constantly until all the broth is in the pan. Stir with a spoon making sure to get all cooked on bits off the bottom of the pan. Turn heat to low and simmer, whisking frequently until gravy thickens up, about 10 minutes. If you like it thicker, you can let it simmer longer. Salt to taste. Serve over chicken or mashed 'taters.