Thanksgiving Seitan Roast

I had been wandering around the Internet, looking for a good loaf-like thing to make for Thanksgiving.  I hadn’t found anything that looked good, and decided to just make tamales, instead.

Then, on Wednesday morning I woke up to find that Isa of The Post Punk Kitchen had cracked the magical code she’d been working on, apparently for 20 years, and had come up with a perfect seitan loaf to be filled with mushroom stuffing and baked in tinfoil.

In writing her recipe, she lamented that it was probably too late for most people to make for this year’s Thanksgiving.  But, I’m not most people, and I am a master of last-minute impulse cooking.  (It’s like impulse buying, but involves looking in the pantry instead of down the grocery store aisle.)

Seitan loaf

Seitan roast stuffed with shiitakes and leeks.

I started by prepping the ingredients:

Seitan Loaf Stuffing Ingredients

Stuffing ingredients.

I had never used shiitake mushrooms or leeks before, so both of those were chopping adventures for me.  I have to admit that mushrooms creep me out a bit.  They’re just…weird looking.  And a little dirty, maybe?  I don’t know.  Regardless, I rinsed the mushroom, removed the stems, and sliced them.  Then, I sliced the shallots into half-moons as the recipe said to.  (I think I did, at least.)  The poor lemon had suffered through a fairly unsuccessful zesting earlier in the day, so it was starting to look a little pathetic by this time.  But, it was still up for a juicing for the stuffing.  I also struggled a bit with the thyme.  I don’t know if there’s a better way to remove the leaves from the stems than the one I used, but the leaves just kept sticking to my hands and fingers and it was driving me nuts.  Eventually, I got the required amount of thyme off the stems.  For the bread crumbs, I used panko, because that’s what I had.

Seitan Loaf Ingredients

Seitan loaf ingredients.

The loaf ingredients required no chopping or cutting, which was nice.  (Of course, if I actually used real garlic instead of the lazy garlic-from-a-jar, there would have been more to do than measure.)

So, I started by making the stuffing.

Seitan loaf stuffing

Seitan loaf stuffing; mushrooms, leeks, and thyme.

Every time I sauté vegetables, I’m surprised by how much they reduce.  Every. Single. Time.

Completed seitan loaf stuffing

Seitan loaf stuffing: Completed.

I finished the stuffing and was pretty satisfied.  It smelled good, and I’d successfully cooked shiitakes and leeks for the first time.

I set the stuffing aside, and started with the seitan loaf.

First I put the beans and broth (and assorted other ingredients) into the food processor.

Beans and broth in food processor

Beans and broth in the food processor.

This is only exciting because I just bought this food processor.  Previously, I did all my blending and processing in the Magic Bullet, which, while magic in many ways, is quite small.  Unfortunately, even though I followed the “don’t fill with liquid above this line” rule, the food processor still leaked liquid.

Beans and broth in food processor, processed

Slightly leaky, but the job got done.

Even with the leakiness, it was probably less messy than having to do this blending in two or three Magic Bullet cups.

Next, I mixed the dry ingredients for the seitan.

Seitan loaf: dry ingredients

Seitan loaf: dry ingredients

I love looking at all the different spices together.  It makes me happy.  Spices (and herbs) make food delicious.  This is a fairly recent discovery for me.  (Also, while the Magic Bullet is too small for big food processing jobs, it is wonderful at chopping herbs, like fennel seed.)

Then I slowly poured the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.

Pouring, one

Pouring wet ingredients into dry ingredients (action shot one).

And I continued pouring.

Pouring, two

Pouring wet ingredients into dry ingredients (action shot two).

And I poured some more.

Pouring, three

Pouring wet ingredients into dry ingredients (action shot three).

The first time I used vital wheat gluten, I had no idea what would happen when it mixed with liquid.  I was in total shock when it got all thick and stretchy!  (Now though, I know what to expect.)

I kneaded the dough and stretched it out onto some tinfoil.

Seitan loaf: dough

Seitan loaf: dough.

Then, I scooped the stuffing out of its pan and dropped it onto the seitan loaf dough.

Seitan loaf: stuffing on dough

I wasn't expecting the stuffing to be as moldable as it was.

I rolled it all up.  This process was surprisingly easy!  I thought it would be messy and/or difficult, but I rolled it up without any problems.

Rolled and ready to bake.

Seitan loaf, rolled and ready to bake.

I baked it for 50 minutes like the recipe said, but when I peeked at it, it didn’t seem done yet, so I baked it for five more minutes.  I took it out of the oven again, let it cool for a while, and looked again.  It looked like the edges were starting to brown a bit like Isa’s pictures showed, but the middle still seemed pretty raw.  So, I put it in for about ten more minutes.  By this time, I think it was more done.  But, I’m not entirely sure.  Regardless, when I reheat the leftovers, I will be reheating it in the oven, so it will get a few more minutes of baking time then.

After making this (and the various other things I made that day), I was too tired to make any gravy.  But, I did eat the loaf together with an applesauce based fruity thing that I made.  The sweet fruit sauce made a good accompaniment to the seitan loaf.

Seitan Loaf: Final Product

Seitan loaf slices with mixed-fruit sauce.

All in all, it was pretty successful!  The people I shared Thanksgiving with were a little weary of this “weird” vegan food.  A couple people ventured to try a bite, but no one ate more than a few bites.  Whatever – that just means more leftovers for me!  It was pretty delicious and way more appetizing looking (not to mention healthier and with fewer preservatives or chemicals) than the creepy Tofurky loaves that you can buy at the store.  (Appologies to anyone who enjoys the Tofurky loaves.  I have never eaten one, but the picture on the box sort of grosses me out.  I don’t know why.)

I was really happy with how this turned out, and will definitely make it again for big food-centered events that require loaf-shaped food.

I am the newest member of the Chickpea Cutlet Fan Club!

So, I finally succumbed to the hype, and made The Post Punk Kitchen’s Chickpea Cutlets.  (I actually made the Doublebatch of Chickpea Cutlets, even though it was my first attempt, because the hype was so positive.)

Upon reading the recipe on The PPK, my hope was that these would taste something like the Morningstar Farms Chik Patties or the Boca Chik’n Patties.  I had long had an embarrassing obsession with these (I think I liked the Morningstar ones more, but I could never really remember, so I always just bought whatever was on sale.)  Since going vegan and working to eliminate chemicals and preservatives from my eating habits, I haven’t bought these “vegetarian junk food” items, as my roommate and I used to refer to them.   In my pre-vegan days I would cook up one of those chick’n patties and top it with tomato sauce and cheese and have a lovely little veggie chick’n parmesan.  Or, I would put on some salsa, jalapeños, and cheese, slice it up, put it in a tortilla, and serve it up Mexican style.  Or, I’d mix together some honey and mustard, and serve it with a honey mustard sauce.  Or, I’d put on catsup and mustard and eat it on a pita like a chick’n sandwich.

In the past, I’ve sort of had possibly unhealthy streaks of chick’n patty overdose.

Now, though, I was ready to move on and be a healthier person.  I was ready to try the famed Chickpea Cutlets.  They’re originally from Veganomican, but I used the recipe off the website (see above).  Of the 167 comments posted about the recipe, nearly all of them are positively glowing.  Much like when I made the heavenly delicious Mac and ‘Shews recipe a few months ago, I didn’t believe that the hype could be true.  But, much like 234 commenters couldn’t be wrong about the Mac and ‘Shews, those commenters erecting monuments in honor of the Chickpea Cutlets are pretty much right.  The Chickpea Cutlets are a winning food all around (unless you can’t eat gluten, sorry.)

These delicious patties are made mostly of chickpeas, vital wheat gluten, veggie broth, and spices.  That’s it.  So quick, so easy, so perfect.

I do have to admit that I had a bit of trouble, though.  The recipe says to mash the chickpeas, which I tried to do, but I don’t think I mashed them enough.  When it came time to mix everything together, the chickpeas had a really hard time incorporating into the rest of the dough.  This was such a problem, that I ended up loosing a good deal of them in the process – I just could not get the chickpeas to mix in with the rest.  When I divided up the dough to make into patties, I ended up with about 1/2 cup (maybe more) of chickpeas sitting sad and alone at the bottom of my mixing bowl.  Next time I make these (and there WILL be a next time, probably really, really soon), I will make sure to smoosh the chickpeas even more.  Hopefully that will help them to incorporate into the dough more fully.

Also, instead of pan frying the patties, I baked them in the oven.  They came out absolutely lovely and delicious.  (I sprayed the baking sheet with olive oil, then sprayed the top of the patties with olive oil, too.  I flipped the patties after about 20 minutes, and let them cook ten more minutes after that.)  I should add, though, that when I say “lovely,” I simply mean that they weren’t burned and they tasted good.  They weren’t quite round, or oval, or any recognizable shape.  But they tasted like I wanted them to, and that’s what mattered.

As luck would have it, I think I have finally found my homemade substitute for those preservative-laden store-bought chick’n patties.

Chickpea Cutlet

Close up of the chickpea cutlet.

I didn’t get any pictures of the chickpea cutlets alone, but that’s okay.  They are pretty boring looking.  Here, though, is a close-up of a chickpea cutlet covered in tomato sauce and nutritional yeast.  So yummy!

Chickpea Cutlet Parmesan

Zoomed out a bit, with a view of some pasta beside the chickpea cutlet.

I usually don’t eat much pasta, but I made an exception here.  I felt that a chickpea cutlet just begged to be eaten beside some whole wheat pasta, with everything drowned in nutritional yeast.  (And really, who am I to deny the chickpea cutlet what it wants?)  It was good!

Perhaps I became a vegetarian all those years ago because I just didn’t like having to cut meat.  One of the selling points of the chickpea cutlet for many people is that you need to eat it with a steak knife.  Well, I don’t want to eat it with a steak knife.  I’d rather eat it with a fork and nothing else.  So, I tore a chickpea cutlet into bite-sized pieces and mixed it in with some pasta and sauce (and a good dousing of nutritional yeast).  This method worked wonderfully.  No knife, no fuss!

Chickpea Cutlet in Pasta

Pre-cut chickpea cutlet with pasta.

The next day for lunch I had my last serving of Mac and ‘Shews that I made months ago and froze in individual containers.  I though, ‘why not tear up a chickpea cutlet and add it to the Mac and ‘Shews?!’  So I did, and it was perfect.

I also ate a chickpea cutlet with catsup and mustard in a pita bread.  Delicious.

I had half of a leftover sweet potato sandwich that I was going to eat.  I wondered what would happen if I added a chickpea cutlet to the sandwich.  So, I tried it and it was great!

I would like to officially become a member of Chickpea Cutlet fan club.  I plan to make them many more times, and devise many more ways to eat them.

More Chocolate Pumpkin Muffins

I didn’t mean to.  It just sort of happened.  All on its own.  I looked up from doing some Very Important work on my computer (um, probably checking my personal email or reading web-comics) and there, sitting on the counter, I saw this:

Magically Appearing Chocolate Pumpkin Muffin Ingredients

Magically Appearing Chocolate Pumpkin Muffin Ingredients

I said to myself, “Self?  What is sitting there on your counter?”

Well, in the Pyrex measuring cup I discovered 3/4 cup of white AP flour, 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour, a tad more than 1/2 tsp cinnamon, a tad more than 1/4 tsp nutmeg, a tad more than 1/4 tsp ginger, a tad more than 1/8 tsp cloves, 3/4 tsp baking soda, and 3/4 tsp salt.  In the next bowl I found 1/2 cup of chocolate chips and 1/2 cup of chopped pecans and walnuts.  In the front bowl, I found a bit more than 3/4 cup of turbinado sugar.

On the left side, I saw some canola oil (and felt compelled to measure out 2 tbs of it) and some vanilla (I had an inkling that I really needed 1 tsp of that stuff).  In the measuring cups I discovered 1 cup of pumpkin puree, 1/3 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder, and a little more than 1/2 cup of apple sauce.  Also, out of the corner of my ear, I heard the tea kettle boiling 1/3 cup + 2 tbs of water.

While the chocolate chips and nuts would have tasted good alone, as would the apple sauce, the pumpkin puree would have tasted okay (if a bit bland), and the boiling water would have been fine with a tea bag, all of the other ingredients really needed to be combined in some way.

So, I took the apple sauce, the oil, and the cocoa powder and mixed them together in a large bowl.  Then I added 1/3 cup of the boiling water and mixed it in with the chocolate mixture until it made a thick chocolaty paste.  Next, I added the pumpkin, sugar, and vanilla and mixed everything together well.

After that, I sifted in 1/2 of the flour mixed and mixed for just a few seconds, added 1 tbs of boiling water, and mixed for a few more seconds.  Next, I sifted in the other half of the flour mixture, mixed for a few seconds, added another 1 tbs of boiling water, and mixed for a few more seconds until the flour had just incorporated into the batter.  Then I carefully folded in the nuts and chocolate chips.  I lightly greased a muffin tin, poured the batter in, and cooked it at 350 degrees for about 23 minutes.  I took them out and had perfection.

Chocolate Pumpkin Muffin

Look at the beautiful insides of that muffin!

The cocoa powder and pumpkin give it a lovely brownish orange hue.  The chocolate chips and nuts are distributed throughout.  The incorporation of whole wheat pastry flour gives it a little more fiber.  The deliciousness factor makes me eat three-at-a-time.

These muffins are pretty much perfect.

(See the original recipe at The PPK.  I added nuts, decreased the sugar (and used turbinado instead of white granulated), increased the apple sauce, increased the spices, and substituted half the flour for whole wheat pastry.  I also made these muffins (with fewer modifications) a few weeks ago.)

Fall = Pumpkin?

Here in the desert, we are just barely starting to get a hint of fall.  While the daytime still frequently hits temperatures in the 90s, the nights have been cooling down to the 60s.  The cooler nights allow us to shut the doors and windows all day, and keep the cool early-morning air in the house, thus avoiding the air conditioning.

I know that in normal climates, it has been fall for quite some time already.  And, with fall comes pumpkins.  I have started doing pumpkin-themed activities with my first grade students, and decided to expand the pumpkin theme to my cooking.  Last week Isa posted a recipe for a chocolate pumpkin loaf over at The Post Punk Kitchen.  The pictures looked wonderfully delicious, but I don’t have a loaf pan in which to cook the chocolately, pumpkiny loaf of deliciousness.  Luckily, she also added a note to the recipe giving cooking times for muffins.  So muffins I made.  In addition to the chocolate chips, I added some chopped up pecans to my batter (about 1/4 cup, I think).  I totally plan on making these muffins again, and this time I might decrease the sugar a bit, decrease the chocolate chips a little bit, and increase the nuts to 1/2 cup.

Chocolate Pumpkin Muffins

Chocolate pumpkin muffins, cooling in the muffin tin.

I ate two of the muffins the day I made them, put three more in a tupperware in the refrigerator, and shared one with my roommate.  The rest, I wrapped in plastic wrap and stuck in the freezer.  I have been bringing them to work and eating them as a snack in the afternoon when the students are gone.  These chocolate pumpkin muffins have regularly been the best part of my day, this week.  And it hasn’t even been a particularly bad week.  The muffins are just that good!

Chocolate Pumpkin Muffin

Close-up of a chocolate pumpkin muffin, in all its chocolately, pumpkiny glory.

I ended up having some pumpkin left over after I made the chocolate pumpkin muffins.  I was nearly out of granola, so I decided to make pumpkin granola with the leftover pumpkin mush.  I originally was planning on using my normal recipe, and just adding the pumpkin in place of the apple sauce (which I use as a substitute for oil).  But then I decided to look around on the internet for a recipe specifically for pumpkin granola.  I decided I should use a different recipe, since the pumpkin granola recipes call for different spices than regular granola.  I settled on this recipe from The Pastry Affair, partially because I had all the ingredients, partially because the website had such pretty pictures, and partially because it just sounded really good!

Pumpkin Granola Ingredients

I love the bulk bins and the spice aisle.

Really, the ingredients weren’t all that different from my regular granola.  As usual, I used apple sauce instead of oil, and I didn’t quite have the 3/4 cups of pumpkin specified in the ingredients list (it was more like 1/2 cup).  Also, I didn’t use fresh pumpkin seeds, I used the raw unsalted pumpkin seeds that I always have on hand for granolas (but I toasted them in the oven for about 10 minutes before adding them to the granola mixture.)

I ended up sort of badly burning one pan of granola (I had it on the bottom oven shelf, and it was too close to the heat source).  Then, after I took out the burnt pan and was continuing to cook the other pan, I burned that one, too.  (What can I say, I’ve got skills.)  When I took it out, it was smoking, for more than a few minutes.  However – I am stubborn.  I was determined that it would taste great even if it was a little scorched.  I picked out the worst burned parts, and tossed the others together.  Ultimately, it is a tad well-done, perhaps a little crunchier than even granola is supposed to be, but it still tastes good.  I don’t know that it actually tastes pumpkiny at all, but it does taste like granola, which was really my main goal.

Pumpkin Granola

Pumpkin granola in my perfectly-sized granola tupperware container.

I was reading a book about pumpkins with my students the other day, and it talked about how the Native Americans used to eat pumpkin seeds for breakfast.  They were all confused and awestruck.  I told them that I had eaten granola with pumpkin and pumpkins seeds in it for breakfast, and they were fascinated.

I’m not sure what my next pumpkin adventure will be.  I do not like cutting pumpkins or other squash.  It is hard work!  However, it is also delicious.  In fact, I am doing a pumpkin seed activity with my students and may end up cutting open two dozen pumpkins tomorrow… Maybe I’ll get really, REALLY good at it.

Weekend Cooking Adventures, Part 1

Lately, I have been spending my weekends cooking.  Here in Arizona, it is still too hot out to really do much outside.  And besides, cooking is a great form of procrastination! Unlike, say, watching videos on YouTube, you actually end up with a (usually) edible product at the end of the procrastination!  In my case, enough food to last me the whole week.

So far this weekend, I have cooked two things (with a few more waiting until my roommate wakes up, so I don’t bother her with the clank of pots and pans and the whir of the Magic Bullet).

Yesterday, I made cookie dough scoops from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar.  Cookie dough scoops are, embarrassingly enough, little balls of cookie dough to freeze and eat.  This is NOT vegan at its healthiest or classiest.  It is, however, pretty delicious.  And, due to the fact that the only flour I had left was whole wheat, they are at least a tiny bit more nutritious than they would be with white flour…  I’m contemplating melting chocolate chips, and dipping the cookie dough balls in the chocolate, and then re-freezing.

I also made Black Beans and Quinoa with a Chipotle Raspberry Sauce.  Yesterday was the second time I have made this recipe, and both times have been absolutely delicious – and really easy.  Also, unlike the uncooked cookie dough scoops, this is actually very healthy!

What I tend to do on the weekends is cook something, and then partition it into little containers, and freeze most of them.  Then, each day I throw one in my lunch bag to bring to work, and it’s defrosted by lunch time.  Also, as someone who is cooking only for myself, I would get tired of the food if I had to eat it for every meal, every day, until I ate it up.  Freezing the food allows me to mix it up from day to day.  Still in the freezer from past cooking escapades are containers of Black Beans and Seitan chili in a mole sauce, tofo-vegetable curry with rice, noodles with cashew sauce, and lentil mushroom burgers.  It’s like having my very own, homemade frozen entrees at my disposal.  But, unlike the frozen entrees you buy at the store, mine create no packaging waste, have no preservatives, are generally low in sodium, and contain only the specific ingredients that I want them to contain.  Also, they’re a whole lot cheeper, and taste a whole lot better.  I love it.