Sunday, December 7, 2014

Dining In - Sweet-and-Sour Party Meatballs

Sweet-and-Sour Party Meatballs - Chloe's Kitchen Blog Veega
Sweet-and-Sour Party Meatballs - Chloe's Kitchen

I've now made this recipe twice, but for two occasions that were a couple years apart. The first time I made them for a holiday party I was hosting and the second time was this year for a Thanksgiving appetizer. Both times they were a crowd pleaser for vegans and non-vegans. I caught my uncle going in for thirds at Thanksgiving and my friend kept asking for the recipe after my holiday party. We have Chloe Coscarelli to thank for this one. You can find this recipe and others in Chloe's Kitchen (buy your copy here). 

The ingredients are so filling that it can be good and bad as an appetizer - good because you may be too full to overindulge on the main course, but bad because you may be too full to fully enjoy the main course! Either way these are made with lots of healthy, hearty goodness. They have a creamy, nutty taste and the sweet and sour sauce goes perfectly with them to give little punch of tangy flavor. The sauce when cool starts to resemble a jelly from the cornstarch thickener and can be difficult to dip into, so it's best to serve both the "meatballs" and sauce warm.

Organic Tempeh Lightlife Vegan Veega Blog
Party Meatballs 1 8 oz. package of tempeh
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 15 oz. can lentils, rinsed and drained
1 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil

Sweet and Sour Sauce
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Chopped Onions on a Cutting Board with Knife Veega Blog
Toasted Walnuts Veega

To Prepare Meatballs: 

Start by steaming the tempeh to remove the bitterness. Break up the tempeh block into about 4 pieces to fit into a steamer basket over a small pot of water. Heat water on low to medium and steam tempeh for about 20 minutes. 

Heat olive oil on medium-high heat in a large skillet and cook onions until softened. Add garlic and cook for a few more minutes, until fragrant. 

Using a food processor, add steamed tempeh, lentils, walnuts, flour, basil, salt and pepper and pulse until everything is blended and forms a thick paste. Though difficult to do, I like to leave some texture to the meatballs by not over-processing, but make sure all ingredients are incorporated together.

Using your hands scoop out mixture and form into 1-inch balls and place on a plate. 
Sweet-and-Sour Party Meatballs - Chloe's Kitchen Vegan Blog

Heat canola oil on medium heat and fry the meatballs using a wooden spoon to turn them to cook on all sides. It's hard to keep these perfectly round shaped, but moving them around often with the spoon helps. Transfer cooked meatballs to a paper towel covered plate to soak up excess oil. 

Sweet-and-Sour Party Meatballs - Chloe's Kitchen

Soak up excess oil with paper towels
Soak up excess oil with paper towels

Sweet-and-Sour Sauce

To Prepare Sweet and Sour Sauce: 

In a medium saucepan, whisk all sauce ingredients together and heat on medium-high heat until mixture begins to boil. Reduce heat down to medium-low and continue cooking until the sauce thickens and big bubbles form, keep stirring throughout.

Stick a toothpick or fancier hors d'oeuvre pick into each ball for easy serving. Serve warm with sauce on the side or poured over meatballs so they are already covered.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Dining In - Pasta Carbonara with Shiitake Bacon

Vegan Pasta Carbonara with Shiitake Bacon - Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen Veega Blog
Pasta Carbonara with Shiitake Bacon - Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen

This recipe came from Chloe Coscarelli's newest cookbook Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen (buy a copy here). I don't own this yet, but she was kind enough to share this recipe with her fans and followers on her website, link here. I made it with my mom for a family dinner. Though my dad modified his by adding ham and making it not vegan, it was enjoyed by all. I was happy to eat it again for leftovers the next day. The sauce was creamy and light, similar to an alfredo sauce. I'm not a fan of mushrooms, but of all of the varieties I do prefer shiitake the most. The method of baking these until they crisp up for that"bacon" crunch for a topping was a great idea. They were coated in olive oil and it added nice texture to an otherwise simple bowl of pasta. I had many helpings of this, as is the usual struggle when eating Italian food. The tofu in the sauce brought in some needed protein along with the brown rice pasta I used. I would make this again without a doubt! I served it with a few slices of toasted Italian bread to soak up any sauce, but the sauce was fairly thick and stuck to the pasta instead.

Shiitake Bacon Topping
1 pound shiitake mushrooms, trimmed and cut into thin slices, about 1/4 inch
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/4 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Pasta Carbonara
Brown Rice Fettucini Pasta - Veega Blog1 pound gluten-free pasta (recommended: linguine, spaghetti, fettuccine)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped 
3 cloves of garlic, minced
Red Star Yeast Flakes - Vegan Veega Blog14 oz. of soft tofu (I used silken tofu and didn't have any issues)
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
Ground black pepper
Fresh parsley, for garnish
Vegan Parmesan or nutritional yeast, for topping

To Prepare Shiitake Bacon:
Start by making the shiitake bacon first. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Toss mushrooms with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Bake on large cooking sheet for about 30 minutes, turning frequently with a spatula, until lightly browned and crisp.

To Prepare the Pasta Carbonara:

Using a large pot, boil water with a pinch of salt. Add pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain (rinse if using gluten-free pasta) and return to the pot.

Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add chopped onion and let cook until soft. Add garlic and let cook a few more minutes, until fragrant. Remove from heat.

In a blender, add in onion, garlic, tofu, water, lemon juice, and salt. Blend on high for about two minutes until very smooth.

....After Blending

Add sauce to pasta and toss to coat. Season with salt and  pepper. Let pasta sit for about 5 minutes to allow sauce to thicken slightly. Top with shiitake bacon, parsley, vegan Parmesan topping, if using, and serve.  
Pasta Carbonara - Vegan Cream Sauce - Blog Veega
Allow Pasta to Sit to Soak in Sauce!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Dining Out in Minneapolis - Ecopolitan

Raw Taco Pizza (Half Order) - Ecopolitan

After trying out the raw vegan cuisine in Chicago (at Chicago Raw) the week before, I thought why not give it a try in Minneapolis where I was for my next business trip? I found the Ecopolitan, a 100% organic raw vegan restaurant not far from my hotel so I hopped in a cab and went for lunch.

Dining Area - Ecopolitan Vegan Raw Minneapolis
Dining Area - Ecopolitan
It was peaceful and quiet for a weekday lunch hour, which didn't surprise me as it's not very centrally located to many offices and didn't have the quick service, fast food vibe. The dining area is basic with a handful of wooden tables and chairs and it has a small area with pre-made desserts in a cooler case along with various supplements and powders for purchase. You can also just walk in for a quick juice or smoothie from this area versus sitting and waiting for service. 

I asked the waiter what the popular items were which included mainly full size entrees like Rawvioli, Mac and Cheese, and the Nachos Supreme, but knew I was going for a smaller meal and didn't want to break the bank. 

Vegan Raw Greenway - Coconut Smoothie - Ecopolitan Minneapolis
Greenway - Coconut Smoothie - Ecopolitan
I ordered the Raw Taco Pizza in the half size and started with a coconut smoothie called Greenway, made with coconut water, banana, pear, spinach, seasonal berries, and vanilla. It was thick and creamy. The flavor was refreshing and not too sweet or too "green" tasting. I would order this again and again. The Raw Taco Pizza was marked as spicy, but I first confirmed that it wasn't too hot, as I can only stand a little. It was made with macadamia-cashew cheese, lentil taco meat, tomato, bell pepper, onion, cilantro, cashew sour cream, and hot sauce. It packed a lot of bold flavors. The veggies were fresh and helped keep the saltiness down; I often taste a lot of oversalted raw foods. I liked the creaminess of the nut cheese to offset the sharp tang and kick of the lentil meat. The full size would have been too much because this was much heartier than it looked and kept me full for a while. It was a little odd that it was served with a side of raspberries, but it was a nice sweet bite to end on, and I am one who always needs a little dessert to finish a meal, out of habit sadly. 

I would dine here again to give at least one of the full entrees a try. There were many other juices and smoothies I would have liked, as well so it's worth a return visit. I probably wouldn't bring a non-vegan here unless they are very open-minded and prepared for raw food!

2409 Lyndale Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55405

Ecopolitan Raw Dining BlogVegan Raw Ecopolitan Minnesota Veega

Friday, November 21, 2014

Dining In - Oreo Cookie Balls

Oreo Cookie Balls Made Vegan! Blog Veega
Oreo Cookie Balls Made Vegan!

As some may know, Oreos are vegan! The food company Mondelez actually supplies us with quite a few surprisingly vegan food products like Swedish Fish, Wheat Thins, and BelVita. This popular holiday recipe is simple - only 3 ingredients and no baking! I made my first batch of these for work and they were a hit! I had my boyfriend taste test and his reaction said it all, "Whoaaaa." I love the smell of Oreos, a sweet vanilla, chocolately scent that translates into its taste. When combined with cream cheese (vegan or not) it's a creamier version of an Oreo that's been coated in chocolate for a rich, velvety bite. I especially love when the cookie crumbles are big enough to leave a little crisp and texture in the truffle. For how quick and easy this process was, I'll be making them again for sure. Here is original recipe from the brand's site.

Oreo Cookie Balls Recipe - Vegan
1 package Oreo cookies, regular variety
1 8 oz. tub of vegan cream cheese, softened (I used Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese)
1 1/2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips, dairy-free

Leave the cream cheese out to reach room temperature or microwave for 30 seconds or less on low power. 

Start by using a food processor to pulse and crumble the full package of Oreos. 

Oreo Cookie Balls Recipe - Veega Blog Oreo Cookie Crumbles - Recipe

Pour into a large bowl and add in cream cheese. Blend together until incorporated and you have a dark, wet batter. 

Roll dough into about 1-inch balls and place on cookie sheet. I found it was easier to freeze these before coating in melted chocolate to avoid them falling apart. 

Melt chocolate chips in a double-boiler or the microwave on medium-power for about a minute, stir, heat for another minute. 

Using a fork coat each ball in chocolate and place back on baking sheet. Freeze the coated balls until hardened. Then serve or package up as holiday gift baggies!  

Vegan Oreo Cookie Balls
Coated and Uncoated Oreo Cookie Balls

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Dining Out in Minneapolis - Pizza Lucé

Sign for Pizza Lucé

Athena Pizza, Gluten-Free & Vegan - Pizza Lucé Veega Blog
Athena Pizza, Gluten-Free & Vegan - Pizza Lucé

I visited Minneapolis for the first time earlier this year on a business trip. I knew my options would be limited for vegan dining, but I was happy to find a vegan-friendly menu at a local pizza chain, Pizza Lucé. The food wasn't anything to write home about, but I was fed and enjoyed seeing a menu well labeled, meeting the needs of dietary restricted diners. I first dined in with a friend.  Our waiter was friendly and was able to speak to the vegan options. We started with an app, the Veggie Meatball Appetizer, with veggie balls smothered in thick red sauce seasoned with herbs and served with garlic toast. These were hearty and good, probably the highlight of the meal. 

Vegan Veega Menu Options Pizza Luce

Vegan Blog Veega Minneapolis - Pizza Lucé
Mock Muffeletta - Pizza Lucé
For my entrée I had the Mock Muffeletta Sandwich. It was okay, but the bread to filling ratio wasn't quite right, as you can see in the photo. It came with BBQ sauce and seasoned mock duck, similar to seitan texture, with Muffeletta olive mixture, red onions, and Rinotta, their homemade vegan cheese made with tofu and cashews. I would and did skip this the next time. We finished out the meal with two desserts, because the prices were so cheap and I wanted to try as much of the menu as possible! We ordered the Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars and the Molly Bar. The Molly Bar (both gluten-free and vegan) was supposed to be a brownie, but it so dry and chalky we actually told the waiter we didn't want it. The Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars on the other hand were very good. It reminded me of a Rice Krispie treat, but made with peanut butter. It was topped with a layer of chocolate and powdered sugar garnish. These were very crumbly and flaky, but not dry in a bad way like the Molly Bar. 

Molly Bar, Gluten-Free & Vegan - Pizza Lucé

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bar - Pizza Lucé

The second time I ordered delivery to my hotel room. Unlike Galatic Pizza, Pizza Lucé offers free delivery! I treated myself because there was no way I was stepping outdoors again in the -15 degree temperature. Nothing quite like pizza delivery to your hotel room, lounging in PJs, and watching reality TV after a day's work! I ordered the Athena pizza with a few modifications to make it gluten-free and vegan. Typically it includes fresh spinach, tomato, feta cheese, Kalamata olives, artichoke hearts, red onions, Greek oregano and toasted garlic with light mozzarella on Bianca sauce. My order was: 1) gluten-free crust 2) no feta 3) swap out mozzarella for vegan cheese and 4) no olives (I'm just not a fan). Again, it wasn't anything outstanding, but it satisfied my craving and was more than enough to fill me up. I much prefer the vegan cheese (it might be Daiya) over their Rinotta homemade vegan cheese, which does have a grainy texture like ricotta. 

All in all I would and have gone back to Pizza Lucé when in town because my options are so limited, but it's been hit-or-miss so far. I think I'll stick with the vegan cheese pizzas or appetizers.

Pizza Lucé
119 North 4th Street
Minneapolis, MN 55401

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Dining In - Hostess-Style Crème-Filled Chocolate Cupcakes

Vegan Crème-Filled Chocolate Cupcakes Hostess, Veega Blog
Hostess-Style Crème-Filled Chocolate Cupcakes - Chloe's Kitchen

Veega Vegan Blog - Hostess Cupcakes
Plastic Wrapped Cupcakes vs. Homemade?
This recipe is a clear winner!
For a friend's birthday, I cracked open my Chloe's Kitchen cookbook and went straight to the desserts section for a recipe that hadn't been checked off yet and that wouldn't require walking the whole city to discover the appropriate ingredients. I'd never made a "filled" cupcake so I was intrigued and ready for the challenge. Whether or not you liked them growing up, who doesn't remember Hostess cupcakes? It was fun to get a little nostalgic and bring these back, but in a much improved, and of course vegan, way to share with friends. There wasn't a single negative comment in the crowd. Even the waiter at the bar I brought them to begged to have two! You can find this recipe and others in Chloe's Kitchen (buy your copy here).  

Chloe's Kitchen Recipe for Crème-Filled Chocolate Cupcakes Vegan
The cupcakes made their way to the bar!
Chocolate Cupcakes
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup oil
1 cup cold coffee
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
teaspoon vanilla extract

Creme Filling
1 cup non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening
3 cups powdered sugar
2-5 tablespoons of almond milk

Chocolate Ganache
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (dairy-free)
1/4 coconut milk
2 tablespoons canola oil

To Prepare Cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line two cupcake pans with about 15 or 16 liners.

In a large bowl, combine and sift together all dry ingredients: flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate medium bowl, bowl and stir together all wet ingredients: oil, coffee, vinegar, and vanilla. 

Pour wet ingredients into dry and mix well, but don't overdo it. Pour batter into cupcake liners until about 2/3 to 3/4 of the way full. 
Veega Vegan Chocolate Cupcake Batter
Bake for about 16-18 minutes and check that they are cooked through with a toothpick. Allow them to cool completely before filling. 

To Prepare Crème Filling:

In a medium bowl use a stand or handheld mixer to smooth out non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening. On a slow speed add in powdered sugar and alternate with one tablespoon at a time of almond milk and the vanilla extract, until frosting is not too thin and not too thick.

To Prepare Chocolate Ganache:

In a microwave or using a double boiler, melt down chocolate chips and coconut milk in a small bowl and stir them together. Add in oil and continue stirring until combined and smooth. 

To Assemble Cupcakes:

Once cupcakes have cooled, fill a pastry bag with the white crème filling and use a round tip. Poke the tip into the top of the cupcake and push down a little, squeezing in filling. With no way of seeing how much goes in, count 3-5 seconds and watch as the cupcake puffs up a little and the filling starts to come out the top. Wipe or scrape away any excess white filling so it doesn't mix in when you coat with the Chocolate Ganache.

Next use a frosting knife and coat the cupcakes with a generous helping of Chocolate Ganache. I froze mine after this step to allow the coating to harden before piping the decorative loops.

Veega Blog Hostess-Style Crème-Filled Chocolate CupcakesAfter the chocolate has hardened use your pastry bag and a small round tip to create 3-4 loops of white crème filling to resemble the original Hostess Cupcakes! 

Voilà - Share your hard work with others.

Dining In - Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Cupcakes

Veega Blog - Recipe for Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Cupcake
Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Cupcake

I made this decadent cupcake recipe for a friend at work who loves pretzels. The pretzel buns served in the bread basket are her favorite part of our office lunch! There aren't a whole lot of dessert recipes that incorporate pretzels, even though popular dessert snacks are chocolate-covered pretzels and peanut butter filled pretzels (I love both! It's that combination of salty and sweet that always gets me). I originally found the recipe through a search on Pinterest and discovered this link

Vegan  Veega Pretzel Crust Cupcake with Peanut Butter Frosting
Pretzel Crust Cupcake with Peanut Butter Frosting
In the future, I would swap out the cupcake recipe for one of my tried and true Chloe Coscarelli cupcake recipes to get a moister cake and better flavor, but I may have simply over-baked these. I'm still wondering how to prepare them so the bottom pretzel crust layer is crunchy, because unfortunately after being buried in wet batter it ended up a little soggy. The peanut butter frosting was yummy, but didn't whip up like a buttercream as I expected so I spread it on with a frosting knife instead of using a pastry bag and piping it. Regardless of the minor issues, they looked pretty incredible, and tasted rich and peanut buttery!

Pretzel Crust
1 1/4 cups pretzels, crushed
1/4 cup Earth Balance margarine, melted

Chocolate Cupcakes
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
2/3 cup strong cold coffee
1/3 cup almond milk

Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes - Veega Blog Recipe

Peanut Butter Frosting
1/2 cup Earth Balance margarine
1 18 oz. jar of creamy peanut butter (not natural variety, unfortunately) - I used closer to 3/4 of a jar!
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar

Chocolate Covered Pretzel Garnish
Mini or large thin pretzels
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate or dark chocolate chips (dairy-free)

Pretzel Crust in Cupcake Pan
To Prepare Chocolate Cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line two cupcake pans with about 15 cupcake liners.

Start by crushing the pretzels in a bowl and stir together with melted margarine. Scoop out about a tablespoon of pretzels and press into each cupcake liner (my pieces may have been too large for this step).

In a medium bowl combine all dry ingredients: flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda salt. In a separate bowl combine wet ingredients: vanilla extract, vinegar, oil, coffee and almond milk. Pour wet ingredients into dry and mix until well combined, but don't over mix. Pour cupcake batter into each liner until about 2/3 or 3/4 full. 

Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out without batter on it. Remove from pan and allow to cool before frosting.

To Prepare Peanut Butter Frosting:

In a medium bowl use a mixer and cream together butter and peanut butter. Slowly add in powdered sugar and blend together. Add in vanilla extract and blend well until smooth and creamy. 

Use a pastry bag and tip to pipe or use a frosting knife to cover each cupcake. 

To Prepare Chocolate Covered Pretzel Garnish:

In microwave or using a double boiler melt the chocolate chips. Carefully coat half of each individual pretzel and lay flat on a parchment paper on a baking sheet. Put in freezer for at least 15 minutes to cool and harden. 

Place pretzel on each cupcake for a pretty garnish. Use any leftover melted chocolate to drizzle over the cupcakes with a spoon or fork.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Cupcakes

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