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. 


Vegan Spinach Artichoke Souffle September 29, 2012

Filed under: Baked Goods,breakfast/brunch — vegincowcountry @ 8:11 pm
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I would never have ordered a soufflé at Panera. Although I do eat eggs and dairy when I’m eating someplace that’s not home, I avoid dishes that contain large quantities of either. I’m not even a fan of hot breakfast food — if I don’t eat breakfast at home, I’m more into donuts and pancakes and sugary stuff. But one morning, the office brought in Baked Egg Soufflés from Panera. I was hungry and had forgotten my usual snack. And when I get hungry, I get cranky. So I dug through the box and found one labeled spinach and artichoke – worth a try, right? It was amazing.

I didn’t even know what the heck a soufflé was – I’m not sure I still do, and I don’t care. I HAD to make a vegan version of whatever this was – a cheesy, savory, spinach and artichoke filling baked in flaky croissant dough! Idly, I googled “vegan soufflé” and found that I’m not the only wannabe vegan who fell in love with this decidedly-not vegan dish. Jessica at Clean Green Simple ( is very ambitious – she re-made Panera’s recipe into something that was not only vegan, but gluten free! I set out to make a simpler, gluten-y but still vegan version.

This is my high-tech tofu press. Good Housekeeping (circa 1985) informs me that a soufflé contains butter, flour, salt, pepper, milk, cheese, and eggs. No croissant crust. I knew I liked my version better…

I’m not above occasionally using prepared convenience foods (except for cake mix – cake mix is always evil). So I used Pillsbury crescent rolls – which, despite the prominent label “Butter Flake,” contains no actual dairy products. So apparently “flaky” describes this product in more than one way… (I’m aware that ingredients vary for lots of foods based on country and even region of the United States, so don’t take this as the case for what you’ll find at your grocery store). 

I used 8 ounce ramekins, they’re about 4” in diameter. One roll of crescent rolls was enough for 3 ramekins, and I had filling left over that would have filled another 2-3 ramekins.

2 rolls Pillsbury crescent rolls (or other vegan crescent rolls)

¼ cup white or yellow onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

½ can artichoke hearts in water, drained

2 large handfuls fresh spinach

Olive oil

½ block extra-firm tofu, pressed and crumbled

¼ tsp turmeric

1 to 1 ½ tsp salt

½ cup nutritional yeast

½ cup Daiya mozzarella shreds or other vegan cheese substitute

2 Tbsp Earth Balance (spread or sticks – optional)

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat olive oil in skillet; sauté onion, garlic, and artichoke hearts until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add spinach until wilted. 

Mix artichoke/onion/spinach mixture and crumbled tofu in mixing bowl; add turmeric, salt, nutritional yeast, and vegan cheese.

Spray 5-6 4”, 8-ounce ramekins with cooking spray; use 2 to 2 ½ crescent roll triangles to line the bottoms and inside of each ramekin, leaving enough to fold over top. The top does not have to be completely covered. Fill ramekins ¾ full with filling; add 2-3 tsp Earth Balance, and fold excess dough over top.

Bake ramekins on a cookie sheet for 20-30 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy!


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?


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