Veg in Cow Country

cooking (and eating) vegan and vegetarian in the midwest

Almond Joy Cake April 8, 2012

Filed under: Baked Goods,Chocolate!,Entertaining,Holidays — vegincowcountry @ 8:46 pm
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Three of my favorite flavors all in one cake — amazing! I was worried at first that the almost delicate, almond- and vanilla-flavored cake wouldn’t meet my expectations for a rich, decadent dessert, but I was happily wrong. This is a slight adaptation of a recipe I found here: I replaced the rather cumbersome frosting in the original recipe with my own favorite fudgy buttercream. It has been a big hit with vegans and non-vegans alike – definitely a keeper!

3 c unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 c sugar
1/4 c canola oil
1/4 c coconut oil (or double the canola oil)
2 Tbsp no-sugar-added applesauce
1 1/2 c unsweetened almond or soy milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 Tbsp white vinegar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix sugar, oils, applesauce, milk, and extracts. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, salt. Add flour mixture slowly, stirring. Stir in vinegar. Cake batter will be thick. Line the bottoms of two 8″ or 9″ round cake pans with wax paper and grease the sides. Pour cake batter evenly into pans and bake for 25-30 minutes. Let cake sit in pan for 5 minutes, then remove from pan and cool on wire rack. When completely cool, cover bottom layer with frosting/almond/coconut mixture, then put other layer on top. Frost.

2 sticks Earth Balance margarine, softened
2-3 c powdered sugar
1/3 c dark cocoa powder
1/4 tsp almond extract
sliced almonds and coconut for garnish

1/3 of frosting
1/3 c sliced almonds
1 c flaked coconut


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

Filed under: Comfort Food — vegincowcountry @ 8:07 pm
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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!


Jerusalem Salad March 18, 2012

Filed under: Middle Eastern,Salads,Summertime — vegincowcountry @ 5:27 pm
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This has got to be one of the prettiest salads I’ve ever made, and the fresh parsley is what makes it so visually appealing. It tastes fresh and tangy and very much like spring! I have this salad every time I go to my favorite Middle Eastern restaurant, which sits unostentatiously in a run-down strip mall (don’t all of the best restaurants??)

As a teenager, I worked for a Palestinian family in their (now long-closed) sandwich shop, and developed a taste for Middle Eastern food in general and falafel in particular. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet figured out how to make falafel that doesn’t fall apart in the frying pan… 😦 Fortunately, I CAN make Jerusalem Salad — and with fresh pita bread, kalamata olives, and dolmas from the Mediterranean market, it’s an easy meal.

The dressing recipe makes much more than you’ll need for this amount of salad, but it keeps for several days in the fridge — and you might want more salad…

If you’ve never had occasion to buy tahini, you’ll find it at Middle Eastern or Mediterranean markets and some health food stores. It’s crushed sesame seeds made into a paste that’s nice and creamy for dressings.

I was told at my Mediterranean market that my jar of tahini would keep for a year in the fridge… I’m doubting that, but am willing to bet that it will keep longer in the fridge than in the pantry! Lemon juice bleaches the tahini in this recipe, so it’s an almost white dressing. It also makes a great dip for falafel, and is an essential ingredient in homemade hummus.

Jerusalem Salad

1 medium or large cucumber, diced

2-3 small tomatoes (Romas work well), seeded and diced

1 handful fresh parsley, chopped

4 Tbsp tahini dressing

Fresh ground black pepper to taste


Tahini Dressing

¼ cup Tahini

¼ cup water

5 Tbsp lemon juice

1 Tbsp olive oil

½ tsp salt

 Combine cucumbers, parsley and tomatoes in a bowl. Add tahini dressing and pepper and mix. Chill before serving. Enjoy!

Do you shop at ethnic markets? What is your favorite?


Tofu Jambalaya February 26, 2012

Filed under: Casseroles,Entertaining — vegincowcountry @ 12:57 pm
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I love other people’s blogs, especially Susan Voisin’s Fat Free Vegan Kitchen. I have several of her recipes in my permanent cookbook binder that I make over and over again — especially Impossible Vegan Pumpkin Pie and Red Beans and Rice. Today I tried her Tofu Jambalaya, which was, not surprisingly, wonderful. Out of respect for Susan and her copyright, I will share the link to her page instead of the full recipe: 

The only change I made was in the tofu. The recipe calls for the tofu to be frozen and then thawed and pressed, but I don’t particularly care for the texture that this process imparts. So I pressed my tofu well and went with that. Extra firm tofu, pressed well, held up fine.

I used 1/2 teaspoon cayenne, which made it just hot enough for me — my lips were definitely tingling after that first bite!

This is a half recipe, and it fills up my skillet — it makes a lot. This is a very versatile dish, and I can see myself splitting it between two skillets and cooking half with shrimp for a tofu-fearing guest, and the other half with tofu for me. Definitely a keeper!


Chocolate Almond Toffee (vegan!)

Filed under: Candy,Chocolate! — vegincowcountry @ 12:26 pm

One of my favorite candy bars has always been a Heath bar, or a Skor bar. They’re pretty much the same thing, a layer of toffee with a few pieces of almonds mixed in, dipped in chocolate. I find it very hard to resist big broken chunks of toffee with a chocolate bottom and nuts on top at a candy store, too… Even though I know that toffee is (usually) made with butter. I love my Earth Balance, I make fantastic, fudgy chocolate frosting with it (among other things), but I was skeptical about using it to make something as decadent as toffee. Would the flavor hold up or would it separate into oil and water, like most margarine? I’m now a believer that Earth Balance can be used to make candy — it held up perfectly!

Toffee is really so simple to make that it’s hard to believe I never tried it before! No candy thermometer required here — just watch the clock and stir, stir, stir!

Note: Do NOT stop stirring, even for a few seconds! In the middle of making my second batch, I took the pot off the heat and ran across the room to pick up the phone. I was gone less than 30 seconds, and that sucker burned. 😦 I ended up with a slimy, nasty, burned-tasting mess. So don’t do what I did!!!

Some recipes (vegan and non-vegan) I’ve seen for toffee state that you absolutely must have a nonstick pan for this. I don’t use nonstick, but that wasn’t a problem at all. This recipe doesn’t make a whole lot, but I would guess that smaller batches are easier to handle as far as stirring and pouring over the nuts.

Chocolate Almond Toffee

1/2 cup (1 stick) Earth Balance margarine

1/2 cup brown sugar

pinch of salt

1/2-1 cup sliced almonds

1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Prepare a metal 8″ cake pan or a loaf pan (I used a loaf pan) by spreading sliced almonds on the bottom, covering it entirely with one layer of nuts. This is where you will pour the melted toffee mixture when it has cooked long enough to melt the sugar. Using a metal pan will make it easier to get the toffee out once it has hardened.

Melt Earth Balance over medium heat; when half-melted, add sugar and salt. Stir. When mixture reaches the almost-boiling point, start timing 7 minutes. Stir for 7 minutes over medium heat. Pour into pan on top of sliced almonds in a back-and-forth manner, spreading the toffee evenly over the nuts. You can’t really go back and spread this with a spoon, so pour it evenly. Sprinkle chocolate chips on top and leave it alone for a few minutes.

Spread the now-melted chocolate chips over the toffee with the back of a spoon. Let harden, then turn pan upside down on a cookie sheet or cutting board. When toffee is out of the pan, use the tip of a knife to break it into chunks.


Baked Potato Soup (vegan!) February 16, 2012

Filed under: Comfort Food — vegincowcountry @ 6:16 pm
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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!


Spicy Garlicky Bok Choy February 1, 2012

Filed under: Asian — vegincowcountry @ 4:46 pm

Bok choy is such an attractive vegetable, it’s hard to believe that it also tastes pretty good and is easy to cook. I have seen several different sizes and varieties at the Asian market.

I first tried one of the highest-rated bok choy recipes on It is surprising how many vegan or almost-vegan recipes are highly rated on the site. 

I initially cooked with the large, “full-grown” bok choy that is available in mainstream grocery stores. If it can be said that a vegetable looks intimidating, at over a foot tall with dark green leaves, then bok choy does look intimidating! However, the stalk is tender and sweet and the leaves do not get slimy or mushy when cooked.

The baby bok choy I found was around 8″ tall and very tender. I found it at the Asian market for 89 cents a pound, as opposed to $1.49 a pound at the regular grocery store for the “full-grown” version! I don’t know that I have a preference, as both varieties taste about the same.

Spicy Garlicky Bok Choy

1 pound bok choy or baby bok choy

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1/4 cup water

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon vegetarian “oyster” mushroom sauce

1 tablespoon light soy sauce

1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce, or more to taste

Optional: shiitake mushrooms, fried tofu cubes, green onions, brown basmati rice

Wash and slice bok choy, separating stalks from leaves. Heat 1/2 of each oil in a skillet, reserving half. Cook sliced stalks in oil on medium heat until they look about half-cooked, 3-4 minutes. Add sliced leaves and cook another 2-3 minutes. In a bowl, combine remaining half of oil, water, garlic, mushroom “oyster” sauce, soy sauce, and Sriracha. Pour over bok choy. Add fried tofu cubes, cooked shiitake mushrooms, and green onions and serve over brown rice for a whole meal.


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