Sunday, August 7, 2016

Vegan Hot Dogs, a Review (If you're looking for an actual recipe, this isn't the place.)

Recently, I decided to recommit myself to trying to eat better.  Mostly, I just need to stop snacking all day, because if you were here at the meals I actually fix, you would think we eat healthy and you'd be wondering how I keep gaining so much weight.  I'm tired of the weight, so I'm going back to what I know works for me, and that is to follow the principles in the Word of Wisdom. I've had some rather interesting (to me) experiences in trying my hand at vegan cooking and I was thinking that I ought to start a blog and share them with people, but then I remembered that I already had a blog that I wasn't using, since I am the world's worst blogger. Anyway, what follows is my experience in trying to find out if I could make a vegan hot dog.  I'm not sure why I felt the need to do this, since I haven't eaten more than a few hot dogs in the last 15 years, but the idea got stuck in my head, so I gave it a try.

I actually made two versions.  The first one I found to be amazing in its complexity and not so amazing in its delivery, so this was likely a one time thing.  You make these things by steaming potatoes, carrots and beets and then chopping them fine in a food processor. They end up looking like this:
 If you happen to dislike any of those veggies, don’t worry, because the finished product didn’t resemble any of them and was way worse than any aversion you might feel to any of them individually.  Although, for a substitute hot dog it really wasn’t too bad. But I’m getting ahead of myself.  So you process those together, along with some onion and spices until the stuff has the consistency of a very liquid mud.  I think the word “slurry” might fit that description.  Then, you add enough flour to make it into a dough.  Not a nice, workable dough like bread dough; no, this is very sticky, and you’re supposed to keep oil on your hands to keep it from sticking to them while you take hunks of it and roll them into hot dog shapes.  The beets made this a dark pink color which actually somewhat resembled raw meat.  That might be appealing to the hard core carnivores out there, but raw meat has never held any sort of appeal for me, even when I was eating a lot of meat (cooked), so that didn’t help this project at all.  Anyway, I would roll one out, wash my hands, put some more oil on them, do another  one, wash my hands, etc.  Time consuming and tedious.   And don’t even think that you’re going to be cooking these things in an easy way like just baking them in the oven.  Not even.  You have to steam them for, well, I can’t even remember, but it seems like it might have been around 45 – 60 minutes.  Okay, then can we eat them?  No again!  Now we have to fry them or broil them or grill them to try to get brown lines on them so they look like hot dogs.  I don’t have a grill (and I don’t want one, either, so don’t go sending my name in to the Ellen show or anything like that), so I just opted to fry them in a pan for a little bit. 
I have to say that the finished product was not terribly appealing.  Thankfully, everyone at my table knows better than to use crude terms to describe the food I have just slaved away preparing for them, but in all honesty, it kind of looked like grilled pooh logs.  You know that I am a very proper lady and all (not that the Queen has ever invited me to tea, or anything), but I do try to keep my language out of the gutter, but that is as delicate as I can be about this stuff.  It was not pretty.  In all fairness, the real ones have their own issues in the looks department, but I doubt that I can describe those and continue to be a proper lady, so I’ll leave it at that.  Anyway, I put one on a bun and slathered it in ketchup, mustard and mustard pickle relish, and you know what?  It tasted just like I remember hot dogs tasting, which is like ketchup, mustard and pickle relish.  By the time you put all of that on them, you pretty much forget about the “meat,” so it really doesn’t matter that much.  Amazingly enough, everyone ate them and there weren’t any leftovers.  Thank goodness.  The kids did tell me that they really weren’t hot dogs, but I said that they had that spongy texture and they said that it wasn’t the texture of hot dogs.  I’m probably going to have to just let them be right this time, since , like I said before, it's been a long time since I've eaten them, and it might be that I have forgotten what they really are like. I could have shared more pictures here, but from the description above, you can probably figure out why I didn't.

Next attempt: Carrot dogs!  Seriously, no one would even believe that you could do a hot dog with a carrot, right?  Well, guess what?  You sort of can, though never again with the recipe I tried.  The stuff had so much vinegar in it that when I opened the bag to take them out of the marinade, people in the next county complained.  Or maybe it was just the people in the next room.  I forget, but the smell was strong.  So here’s how you do it, not that anyone ever needs to know.  You take the carrots and peel them and then boil them until they are just fork tender.  You don’t want them to be mushy.  Then you put them in a zip lock bag in this marinade that has lots of vinegar, along with some soy sauce, liquid smoke, and some other spices, then zip up the bag and put it in the fridge for anywhere from 4 to 48 hours, depending on which blog you find the recipe on.  When they’re ready (and it’s really anyone’s guess what “ready” really means), you take them out and grill or fry them, again to get brown grill lines on them and to get them hot, then stick them in the bun.  It was pretty amazing, really. They look like this:

 They tasted like ketchup, mustard, and pickle relish, just like the other one, with a different texture and much better appearance.   I knew my family wasn’t going to be thrilled with the vinegar, and I was right.  They all said they’d prefer to just eat the carrots the way you’re supposed to eat them.  I guess I’ll have to agree with them, there, though I do wonder if I could just use a boiled carrot and forget the spicy marinade.  I’ve about decided that really what we want is a just a way to eat ketchup, mustard and pickle relish.   Don’t hold your breath on this one, but I may just try that sometime, boiling the carrot, just for fun, to use up the leftover hot dog buns.  One thing I will say is that if you’re going to make your own hot dogs, you can plan it so they come out in eights instead of tens and have them match the number of buns in a package.  Who was the marketing genius that came up with that idea, anyway? (Oh wait, come to think of it, maybe they were a marketing genius.) It makes me want to do things that proper ladies don’t do, which may have something to do with why I stopped eating hot dogs in the first place.

My conclusion, after all this work, is that version #1 is way too much work to bother with, even though it was the one that most of the family ate.  Version #2 might have potential if I really decide that I need a carrier to help me get my condiments into me, but I'll have to find a recipe with a lot less vinegar. My recipe for sunburgers here:  satisfies that need very nicely, though, so I probably won't mess with the hot dogs much.

Coming up in future posts I'll share some recipes for vegan pulled pork sandwich taste-a-likes and vegan bacon that are fabulous.  

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Forget Chikin! Eat More Kale!

I "discovered" a great new product at Costco the other day:  Baby kale.  I'm talking about "discovered" in the same way that Columbus discovered America.  It was already there, and people knew it was there, but in my world, it was a new thing.  I was so excited, because the thing about adult kale is that it is quite strong tasting and tends to taint the flavor of smoothies.  You really need to become friends with this luscious leafy green, because it is being touted as the most nutrient dense food on the planet.  One of my first thoughts (with thousands of thoughts/minute going through my head, it's hard to know which one actually gets credit for being "first") when I saw it was to wonder if it had the same nutritional profile that adult kale has.  Well, I don't know the exact profile of its more mature predecessors, but I'm thinking that the baby is doing quite well for itself.  Just get a load of the listing on the ingredient label, and I'm going to compare it to spinach so you can see how awesome this stuff is:

     BABY KALE                    SPINACH
Vitamin A    260%             110%
Calcium         10%               8%
Vitamin K    870%                0%
Vitamin C    170%               40%
Iron              8%                 15%

Isn't that amazing?? Well, I thought it was.  Also, and I may have mentioned this in a previous post, but I read a while back that the nutrition in kale actually goes up when it's cooked, and not just steamed.  You can cook the daylights out of it, and it is still super healthy for you. Of course the above numbers are for raw kale, so you don't need to cook it to get plenty of nutrition; just know that if you do, you'll only be adding to it. So let me tell you about this recipe I made out of it today.  I have 3 children at home during the day and they all ate it AND like it!  One of them is super fussy, so she just took a small piece, but then ate the rest of it.

I'm calling this recipe:

Green Eggs and Kale 
Time: 10 minutes or less
Serves 4

Kale (I use baby kale. If using adult kale, chop it up.)
Fresh grated Parmesan cheese (or whatever cheese you want)
Oil (I use coconut oil.)

You'll need a frying pan with a lid.  Put about a tablespoon of oil in the pan, and start it heating on medium heat. Crack 8 eggs into your blender. Loosely pack in the kale and blend it up.  You can then add more kale, maybe a couple more cups to really load it in, and blend again.  When the oil is hot, pour the mixture into the pan and put the lid on it.  Cook until the eggs are all cooked.  If it's a little frothy on top, you can cut it into 4ths and flip each piece over for another minute or so, until it's all cooked.  Put a wedge on a plate and top with salsa and a spoonful of grated cheese.  Yum!

Another way I used it the other day was as a substitute for lettuce in a wrap. Just for fun, I looked up the nutrition data on Romaine lettuce.  Are you ready for this?  It says 10% on Vitamin A and 2% on Vitamin C.  Just for more fun (b/c you can't really have too much of that), I looked up iceberg lettuce, and guess what?  It lists more nutrients than Romaine!  Here you go: Vit. A  7%, Vit. C  3%, Calcium  1%, Iron 2%.  I say we scrap the lettuce and eat kale and spinach.  

Here's a recipe for a delicious wrap, using kale:

Turkale with Cranberry Wrap


Tortilla (I like whole wheat)
Laughing Cow cheese wedge 
Leftover turkey
Cranberry sauce

Lay the tortilla on a plate and spread it with the cheese.  I was using a whole wedge, but you would actually be fine with 1/2.  Of course, they're only about 30 calories per wedge, so indulge if you want to. Then put the turkey on top of the cheese.  I just spread it apart, so I could cover more area with less.  Then spread a couple of spoonfuls of cranberry sauce over the turkey, and add a layer of baby kale.  You can eat this cold, or plop the whole thing on a heated, dry frying pan and warm it up a bit.  I had mine warm, and it was fabulous.  

One other way I've eaten it this week is to just steam it in a frying pan with a little bit of water.  Put the frying pan on the stove, and turn the heat to medium. Put enough water in the pan to just barely cover the bottom.  Put a few big handfuls of the kale in the pan, put the lid on and steam it for a couple of minutes.  Don't go anywhere!  This won't take long. When it's barely steamed, take it off the heat, sprinkle on a little bit of Soy or Tamari sauce, or Bragg's Aminos (I have this in a little spray bottle that works great!), and then sprinkle a tablespoon of fresh grated Parmesan cheese (only about 30 calories in that much cheese), and enjoy.  You could also add some craisins and Greek olives if you like.  Delish!

A few more ideas of ways to use kale:

Use it in your green smoothies
Add it to soups and chilis.  To make it less noticeable, you can chop it up or blend it first, but it's really fine as is.  
Blend some up and add it to a corn bread recipe. 
Add it so a stir fry.
Use it instead of food coloring on St. Patrick's Day to color everything you make. :)  

Well, you get the idea. Give it a try! 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Delicious summer squash/potato/broccoli hash

I'm so excited about this, because it's a recipe I came up with all on my own, and it turned out delicious!  I've been trying to get up the courage to learn to use my pressure cooker the past couple of weeks.  The first time I tried it, whatever I made turned out well (I can't, at the moment remember what it was), but the second time I tried to cook some quartered red potatoes, but it didn't work well.  I had misplaced the manual that goes with it, and I was in a bit of a hurry to get dinner on (which is not the best time to be trying to learn to use my fancy equipment), so I googled "pressure cooker potatoes" and found a page on WikiHow, or something like that. It said to put the potatoes in the cooker with some water and cook them according to the instructions that came with the cooker.  Dude, if I had the instructions, I wouldn't be looking it up, now, would I?  I looked at several other places and couldn't find it, so I just winged it, but I didn't cook them long enough.  They were still quite hard, so we didn't end up eating most of them, and they went in the fridge to live the life of the leftovers.
     Tonight, I decided to see what I  had in the fridge that we could eat, and I realized that we'd better eat those potatoes before I had to throw them out.  I also had some more of the squash that never ends, and some broccoli, so I decided to do kind of a stir fry and see what I came up with.  I chopped the potatoes and squash in my Chopper*, and then I chopped the broccoli into small pieces and cooked them in a frying pan with some coconut oil (expeller pressed, that has no coconut flavor).  After a while I added 1/2 cup of water and then put the lid on to let it all steam for awhile. Then I got the idea to season it like we do fish, with butter, dill weed and lemon.  I put about 1/4 cup of butter and let it melt down, then I squeezed a lemon over all of it and sprinkled the dill weed on top and mixed it up.  I used quite a bit of dill weed.  Then I added salt and pepper and served it.  It was fabulous.  So there's another idea for using your squash.  I guess this would be a summer squash, potato, broccoli hash.

*Do you know about The Chopper?  It is one of my all time favorite kitchen tools.  See it here:

Whoa! I just noticed that the price has gone up about 25% since  I bought mine last year.  There are others that are less expensive if you search "The Chopper" on Amazon, but I can't vouch for the quality.  This has worked very well for me.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Here a squash, there a squash. . .

It seems like this time of year, we either have squash coming out our ears, or we don't have any at all (which probably says something about the number of friends we have, but I hope not).  This year would be the former, and I've actually been getting a little creative about how I use it.  Squash is not an all-around favorite at our house.  I eat it because it's good for me, but I can't say that it's at the top of my preferences list.  I don't dislike it at all, I just don't find it to be all that flavorful, no matter what I do with it.  I have found that we can eat a lot more of it if I put it other recipes, and I just wanted to pass along a few suggestions for using it.  You don't really  need recipes for these ideas, because we're just going to put them in stuff we're already making.  

1.  Squash muffins or bread.  You just use your favorite zucchini recipe and substitute the yellow squash.  Actually, any of these ideas are for any kind of summer squash.

2.  Stir Fry.  Dice or slice the squash and add it to the vegetables in your stir fry.  Put a good teriyaki sauce over it to add more flavor.  

3.  Add to casseroles.  You can dice, slice, or shred squash and add it to almost any casserole recipe.  

4.  Hawaiian haystacks.  Same thing here, and if you want to give it more flavor, saute it in a little oil or butter until it's a little bit browned, then put it in a bowl and serve as one of the toppings.  

5.  In tacos.  You can shred it up and mix it in with the taco meat, or just shred it and use it raw as one of the toppings.

There are a few ideas to get you started.  What do you do with your squash?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Hearty Lettuce Wraps

I love P.F. Chang's lettuce wraps.  The problem I have with them, though, is that I can almost eat them all day long and still be hungry.  I think I've come closer to solving the problem with the way I made them tonight. The original recipe I was using can be found here:

The changes I made were as follows:  I used about a cup of chopped almonds instead of the chestnuts (mostly because I was too lazy to go down in the basement to hunt for them), and I added some cooked rice, probably about 1 1/2 cups.  I also skipped the onions (didn't have any), and I used iceberg lettuce.  I never buy iceberg lettuce, since I think the darker kinds must be healthier, but my son needed that kind for a scout campout, and then went off and forgot about it. Everything else I did the same, and they were fabulous.  Yet another complaint-free meal!  Woot! 

Super Fast Broccoli Millet Salad

I have never been one of this world's most creative cooks.  When I first got married, I was a bit shocked when my husband put vegetables in the macaroni and cheese, as I was a bit of a purist, and since veggies didn't come in it already, it just seemed like they belonged on the side.  I was surprised at how much I liked it, though, and it's been rare ever since that we don't add vegetables to that and other pasta dishes.  Since I latched onto the "grains are the staff of life" idea, I seemed to have turned on a little creativity spark when it comes to putting more grains into our diet.  This week I came up with a couple of great ideas (at least they passed the muster at my house), so I thought I'd share them with you.  I particularly like this first one, as it took me less than 15 minutes to have the meal on the table.

I was searching through the fridge during the nightly 5 p.m. Panic, trying to figure out what I was going to fix for dinner, and I found a couple of bags of shredded broccoli salad (I think sometimes it's called "broccoli slaw") way in the back that I'd totally forgotten about. Thankfully, it was still very good, so I took it out and dumped both bags into a bowl.  I got out a quart of my  home-bottled chicken, chopped half of it up and put it in a frying pan with some barbecue sauce and just heated it a little.  I had a couple of cups of millet leftover from breakfast, so I added that to the broccoli.  Then I made a dressing by mixing 1/2 C. of Vegenaise with a tablespoon of tamari (lower sodium soy sauce), and mixed that in with the broccoli.  After that, I tossed in the chicken, and voila! Dinner was served!  Oh, I also steamed some green beans while I was mixing up the salad.  Even though the children had not been interested in the millet for breakfast (I liked it), everyone ate plenty of this salad, and I had no complaints.

Here's a better list of the ingredients:

 2 bags of shredded broccoli salad (with carrots and purple cabbage--or you could do your own, but why would you?)
2 Cups of cooked millet (cooled, if you weren't using leftovers)
1 pint of cooked chicken
3 to 4 T. of your favorite bottled barbecue sauce

1/2 C. Vegenaise (or other mayonnaise)
1 T. soy sauce

Chop the chicken.  Put in a frying pan with the barbecue sauce and heat through.  Let cool while you do the rest of the salad.  Mix the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl. Mix the broccoli with the millet in a bowl.  Add the dressing and mix well, then toss the chicken in there and toss it well.

This would also be good with some peas, peppers, olives, etc.  There's lots you could do with this.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Whole Wheat Tortilla Recipe

I have now eaten the Breakfast in a Jar four times this week, and I have to say that it is a definite winner.  I realized after posting it that in the recipe I posted last time, I had doubled all the ingredients except for the milk, so I've changed that so it's correct.

I had someone ask me about tortillas yesterday, so I thought I'd just post what we do for them.  Most of the time we just use corn tortillas, since they seem to be made from the whole grain, and that's got to be healthier than the white flour ones, which dissolve into a paste in my mouth.  But that's just me.  What we really like, though, are my home made whole wheat tortillas, but being that they are a bit time consuming for this large crew, and being that I don't typically start thinking about thinking about what's for dinner (no, that wasn't redundant) until around 5 or 5:30, I usually don't have time to make them before the dinner hour of 6 p.m.  When I do make them, they're always a hit, though, and now that our numbers are getting fewer I should probably do this more often.  One thing that I think is an absolute necessity for making tortillas is a tortilla warmer.  It is nothing more than a round shaped insulated container that keeps the tortillas warm and soft while you're making and serving them.  I've seen them all over at grocery stores, and they aren't expensive.  If you don't have one, but you're just dying to make tortillas, you could probably get by wrapping them in a clean dishtowel, but these warmers are definitely worth having, if you're wanting to make your own tortillas.  Here's a picture of a tortilla warmer:

They come in lots of colors and materials.  Some are very decorative and some, like the one pictured are less so, but they all do the same thing.  They can also be used for pancakes.  The one pictured doesn't actually appear to be insulate, so that may not be the most important factor, but I have two that are (meaning they have a double layer of plastic with air trapped between them), and one that isn't, and they do the same job.

Okay, enough babbling, let's get on with the recipe!  Here it is:

Whole Wheat Tortillas

2 C. whole wheat flour
1/2 t. salt
3 T. olive oil
2/3 C. warm water

Mix the flour and salt together, then add the oil and stir until blended.  Slowly add the water and stir to make a nice dough, and knead 10 or 15 times to form into a ball.  Let sit covered for about 20 minutes and divide dough into 10 or 12 smaller balls.  (I think 10 is better.)  Roll each ball out onto lightly floured surface into 6 to 8" circles, and cook on a hot griddle for about a minute on each side, until it forms bubbles, and the bubbles start turning brown.  Keep them in the tortilla warmer and serve from there.  With leftovers, you can make some delicious chips, too!  Just stack them on top of each other and cut into 8 sections, and bake on a cookie sheet at 350 for about 5 minutes, or until they start to brown and get crisp.  You need to watch them because they cook pretty fast.  You could spray a little oil on them and season them with garlic salt or other seasoning, or do like we used to do with pie crust leftovers and put cinnamon and sugar on them.