Veg in Cow Country

cooking (and eating) vegan and vegetarian in the midwest

Lazy Sunday Supper Quinoa Casserole October 14, 2012


Do you call it a casserole if you make it on top of the stove and never put it in the oven? I don’t care. I’m doing it anyway. This is the simplest thing ever. If you can boil water and sauté onions, you’re good.

I haven’t used quinoa much, and I don’t know why; it’s really easy to cook and it even tells you when it’s done: a little white tail pops out of each grain! It’s like the turkey thermometer that pops out for… not meat. If you haven’t cooked quinoa, trust me, it’s very exciting to see the little white tail pop out and know that it’s done! (Or it may just be me and I may be crazy, and that’s a distinct possibility considering the week I’ve had).Image

Quinoa comes in several different colors (red shown here), and is high in protein, iron, and fiber, and super-low in fat. It also provides good amounts of things you didn’t even know you needed — like zinc, copper, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese. (Whatever the heck those things are…)


(And, yes, we call it “supper.” Because “dinner” is Sunday at noon, and evening meals are supper — apparently that’s what they call it on the farm, and although I am two generations removed from the farm, old family habits die hard!)

Lazy Sunday Supper Quinoa Casserole

1/2 cup quinoa (any color), rinsed

1/2 cup vegetable broth

1 – 1 1/2 cup water

1/2 small red onion, chopped

6-8 white or portobello mushrooms, washed and chopped

1/2 tsp minced garlic

1/2 box frozen spinach (or 4 big handfuls fresh)

1/4 tsp cumin

1/2 cup Daiya mozzarella shreds (optional)

Bring broth and 1/2 cup water to a boil. Add rinsed quinoa and cook, adding water occasionally, until little white tails pop up out of each grain.

Meanwhile, sauté onion, mushrooms, and garlic; if using fresh spinach, add to pan until wilted. If using frozen spinach, thaw just enough to break off half of box, then press between papertowels to drain water.

Add onions, mushrooms, garlic, and spinach to quinoa. If using frozen spinach, replace on warm burner to warm spinach. Add cumin and Daiya, if using, and stir briefly. 


Homemade Soft Pretzels September 20, 2012

Filed under: Baked Goods,Comfort Food — vegincowcountry @ 5:28 pm

I always look forward to receiving my Penzey’s catalog. They have beautiful photos of food, and although I rarely find a recipe that is vegetarian or vegan, I do get some good ideas (and rack up a list of things I MUST buy next time I go by Penzey’s during business hours, which is rare). A couple of months ago, I found the recipe for Homemade Soft Pretzels – already vegan! I ripped the page out and stuck it on the fridge. See, my experience with yeast up until now had always involved the bread machine — that bread machine is pretty infallible. I considered that torn-out page on my fridge for some weeks… What if it falls flat? Worse, what if it blows up? 

I couldn’t figure out for the life of me what a “warm place” was for the dough to rise… A warm oven? At room temperature in the kitchen? Then two friends translated — one uses a cold oven, the other a cold oven with a pan of warm (tap) water alongside. Makes much more sense than “a warm place.” 

Surprisingly, these turned out pretty darn good on my first try! That hardly ever happens — but I’m certainly not complaining. Now that I know that the dough won’t fall apart, I’ll work with it a little more next time to make more perfect-looking pretzels. I followed the recipe exactly — ok, well, not exactly, as I substituted margarita salt for Kosher Style Flake Salt (don’t tell Penzey’s). Enjoy!

The recipe can be found at:


Asparagus Mushroom Casserole April 9, 2012

Filed under: Casseroles,Comfort Food,Entertaining,Holidays — vegincowcountry @ 1:14 pm

I’ll admit to a certain amount of bias when I state that I come from a family of great cooks! And I wasn’t at all surprised when my sister Laura made a great dish for Easter brunch. It’s a Taste of Home recipe, called “Asparagus Mushroom Quiche” — but it didn’t stick together like a quiche and it called for only two eggs. We agreed that it was more of a casserole with a crust in a pie pan. The basic recipe is definitely a keeper, though, and I immediately began thinking about how to veganize it… Mom and Laura made a few alterations and I made a few more. This is the result!

Although I’m all for off-brands when they taste the same and cost less, I bought the Pillsbury brand crescent rolls this time because the off-brand (HyVee) contained trans fat! You learn so much reading labels…

This is for a half recipe, but it’s easily doubled in a deep dish pie pan. We decided we would prefer crust on both top and bottom, so I used a whole tube of crescent rolls for half of the filling. It ain’t health food, but it’s a nice treat.

1 tube (8 ounces) refrigerated crescent rolls

1 tsp spicy brown mustard

3/4 lb. fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1/2 medium red onion, chopped

1/4 c sliced fresh mushrooms

2 Tbsp Earth Balance

¼ c pureed soft tofu

1 c (4 ounces) mozzarella-style vegan cheese (I used Daiya)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon each dried basil, oregano and rubbed sage


Separate crescent dough into triangles; place in an ungreased 2-quart and press onto the bottom to form a crust; seal perforations. Spread with mustard; set aside.

In a large skillet, sauté the asparagus, onion and mushrooms in butter until asparagus is crisp-tender. In a large bowl, combine the remaining ingredients; stir in asparagus mixture. Pour into crust.

Bake at 375° for 20-25 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Yield: 4 servings.


Vegan Fried “Chicken” with “Chicken” Cream Gravy March 19, 2012

Filed under: Comfort Food — vegincowcountry @ 8:07 pm
Tags: , ,

Although I was born and raised in cow country, fried chicken was a major part of my culinary life before I went vegetarian. Sunday dinner (which was eaten at noon) at Grandma’s almost always consisted of fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, and apple salad. Typically, I never ate much meat, but filled up on mashed potatoes and gravy!

Grandma (now 90) still fries chicken occasionally, perching on her stool in front of the stove to turn the pieces with a fork. Gravy to go along must be cream gravy, and the women in my family have always scoffed at those who claim that making gravy is difficult. We’re expert gravy-makers, descended from a long line of German and English farm women who made gravy up to three times a day!

Making fried chicken into a vegan (or even vegetarian) dish took some thinking and planning. I started out experimenting with tofu, but it’s just the wrong texture. I ended up using gardein chick’n scallopini pieces cut into quarters, and that works well (but I would love for Quorn cutlets to be made vegan because I think that might work better – if you don’t mind egg whites, try Quorn and let me know how it turns out!) Be sure and use unsweetened soy or almond milk for the gravy – trust me, there is a difference! I learned to make gravy the way I learned a lot of things — by standing around watching Mom and Grandma — so there aren’t a whole lot of measurements in this recipe, just approximations….

Thaw the gardein pieces just enough so that you can easily cut them into halves or quarters. The soupy mess in the top right of the photo above is a mixture of Vegenaise (BTW, I do not recommend the Reduced Fat variety — just trying to use it up!) and soy milk. The gardein pieces need a little moisture so that they will pick up some flour for breading. Dip in soupy mess, then in flour mixture. Flour mixture = flour + salt + pepper. See? I told you I can’t really do measurements… And feel free to add in a tablespoon or so of cornstarch, which will help keep the gardein from soaking up a bunch of oil – neat trick I learned from a friend!

Peel your potatoes and slice into equally-sized pieces. Boil water and add potatoes; cook while frying chik’n and making gravy. (As an aside, lesson I learned years ago in my very first apartment: do NOT put potato peelings down the garbage disposal…) Boil potatoes until sticking a fork in them makes them fall apart. Drain, add margarine and soy milk and mash. I cheat using my electric hand mixer. 🙂

Add about 1/2″ of canola, peanut, or olive oil to a skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Toss a little pinch of flour mixture into the oil to see if it’s hot enough. Fry chik’n until golden brown. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels.

Pour all except from 3-4 tablespoons of oil out of pan and turn heat down to medium-low. Add 3-4 tablespoons of all-purpose flour (yes, all-purpose – I used whole wheat here and regretted it) to make a roux. Add soy milk to desired consistency and stir into roux. Turn heat down to low; you might have to add more milk to thin it out. Add white pepper and salt to taste.

Serve gravy, mashed potatoes, and chik’n hot and Enjoy!


Baked Potato Soup (vegan!) February 16, 2012

Filed under: Comfort Food — vegincowcountry @ 6:16 pm
Tags: , , , ,

I had lunch with Grandma today. I love doing that – even though she always insists on paying (and I’m how old??) she’s always open to trying a new restaurant and she enjoys new scenery. She also always enjoys good food – a trait I think someone inherited from her… When Grandma, who recently turned 90 (but doesn’t look a day over 70), requested soup today and our usual go-to chain for soup was horribly crowded, I suggested a sandwich shop down the street, and told her (praying that I was remembering right) they had soup. They sure did have soup – 4 different kinds!

When the waitress plunked down in front of Grandma a bread bowl full of creamy potato soup with bacon and cheese on top, I was momentarily distracted from my own toasted sandwich filled with guacamole, salsa, tomatoes, onions, and mushrooms (but only momentarily). It must have been good – I won’t embarrass Grandma by saying exactly how much time it took her to put away that soup (she is on the net and does read this blog!) but I will say that she couldn’t finish the bread bowl, and seemed pretty disappointed by that fact.

So that got me thinking potato soup… I have ham-flavored TVP, so that’s what I used, but this would work equally well with vegan bacon bits or soy bacon, and would be fabulous with a little Daiya (too bad I didn’t have any). This recipe would serve about two people — or one very selfish person for 2-3 meals!

I can be a messy cook — and peeling a hot potato is messy business!

Yeah, ok, so my soup was gone about as fast as Grandma’s at lunch — and I admit, I had 3 bowls!

1 large baking potato

1 Tb Earth Balance

1-2 Tbsp unbleached all purpose flour

1 cup vegetable broth

½ cup unsweetened soy or almond milk

1-2 Tbsp soy sour cream (or double the Vegenaise)

1-2 Tbsp Vegenaise (or double the soy sour cream)

¼ cup ham-flavored TVP

½ tsp onion powder

¼ tsp garlic powder

3-4 green onions, sliced, for garnish

Daiya for garnish, optional


Microwave potato until cooked to “potato salad” done-ness. Remove from microwave, peel and cut into chunks using a sharp knife.

Pour ¼ cup boiling water over TVP and set aside.

Melt Earth Balance in a medium-sized sauce pan; add flour to make a roux. Slowly add vegetable broth and milk; add potatoes.

Add soy sour cream and/or Vegenaise and use a hand mixer (not a hand blender, the potatoes are too heavy for an immersion blender) to break up the potatoes into manageable chunks.

Add onion powder, garlic powder, and TVP (along with any unabsorbed liquid). Garnish with green onions and Daiya and serve!


Vegan Chocolate Tofu Pudding February 1, 2012

Filed under: Chocolate!,Comfort Food — vegincowcountry @ 4:14 pm
Tags: , , ,

This chocolate pudding is thick and decadent, almost more of a vegan mousse than a pudding. It sets up easily and is so pretty in individual serving dishes.

Asian markets have silken tofu (actually, any kind of tofu) at a much better price than mainstream grocery stores. Mori-Nu is a great brand that is often also available at mainstream grocery stores. For dairy-free chocolate chips, try Trader Joe’s or Ghirardelli semi-sweet.

Vegan Chocolate Tofu Pudding

1 box silken tofu, firm or extra-firm (12.3 ounces)

6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

2 Tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon salt

Melt chocolate chips in a double boiler or in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between. Put all ingredients into blender or food processor and mix until well-blended. Spoon into individual serving dishes and chill for 1 hour. Serve with chopped nuts or sliced bananas for garnish.


Shepherd’s Pie January 10, 2012

Not the most visually-appealing dish, Shepherd’s Pie is all about comfort food. This version uses pearl barley and lentils — my favorite legume, full of protein and iron! This is my favorite meal to make for meat eaters because they are familiar with both vegetable stew and mashed potatoes — no scary or strange “vegetarian ingredients” (just don’t mention the Marmite!) Also, it’s easy to split this up just before baking and toss a non-vegetarian ingredient in half, if necessary to keep the peace.

Although this meal is heavy on the pot-and-pan usage, it’s not technically difficult, requiring only a little chopping, measuring, and stirring. If you can make soup, you can make shepherd’s pie! The basic premise is a stew (usually made with a non-vegetarian ingredient) topped with mashed potatoes, and baked in the oven until the potatoes brown slightly on top. Easy, if messy — but who doesn’t like mashed potatoes?? 

Ready for the mashed potato layer (steaming up the camera lens!)

2 cups broth (made with Better Than Bouillon “Not Beef” if you can get it)

1 tsp Marmite

1/2 cup dry lentils

1/4 cup barley

1 large carrot, diced

1/2 onion, finely chopped

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

1/4 tsp white pepper

2 large baking potatoes, chopped

2 Tb Earth Balance

1/4 c soy or almond milk

salt to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, combine 1 cup broth, Marmite, lentils, and barley. Simmer, covered for 30 minutes or until tender.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine 1 cup broth, carrot, onion, and walnuts. Boil until tender, about 15 minutes. Add white pepper.

Boil potatoes until tender; drain and mash with Earth Balance and soy milk.

Combine carrot mixture and lentil mixture and pour into a 2 quart casserole dish; top with mashed potatoes and baked until lightly browned on top, about 20-30 minutes.


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