Thursday, November 18, 2010

Incredibly Yummy Vegan New Mexican Green Chile Stew

Green Chile
What the heck is green chile stew?  If it's not New Mexico's state dish already, it should be.  It's New Mexico's answer to the tradtional beef and potato stew.  At its core, it is just a beef and potato stew, but instead of the typical pot roast vegetables like carrots and celery, you have green chile.
As far as green chile is concerned, I am not talking about green chile in the can, which you often see in stores around the US.  (By the way, I am not putting the "Perfect Pantry" -- which I typoed at first by missing the "r". Serious Freudian slip there -- down.  They just actually had a picture of canned green chile I could use!)  I am talking about frozen green chile, which is all the taste without all the fuss.  Jarred green chile is usually better than canned too.  Canned green chile is often packaged with citric acid, which changes the flavor and texture.  In some cases, I actually like it, but it would make the soup a bit tangier than it's supposed to be.
Also, if you'd like to know how much heat green chiles have, well, it varies and they're packed according to how hot they are.  They come in several heat ratings:  mild, medium, hot, and extra hot.  Generally, they aren't a bell pepper, but the hottest green chile is not as hot as the hottest jalapeƱo.  Varieties for green chile include Anaheim, Big Jim, and several other varieties.  Check out this page from New Mexico State University for details on the varieties used.
If you live in New Mexico, you probably already know that you can find containers of green chile in your freezer case at just about any grocery store.  Here in Albuquerque, it wasn't long before Whole Foods and Vitamin Cottage started carrying them in addition to the regular grocery stores that have been carrying them for as long as I can remember.  Chances are, if the store doesn't carry it, the customers ask the store to start stocking it.  Which, if you are having a hard time finding it where you live, is exactly what you should do!  Ask your local favorite store if they will special order it or even stock it for you!

A bowl of delicious green chile stew

Vegan Green Chile Stew
So now that we have a good idea of what green chiles are and how wonderful and awesome I think they are, let's dig in and make some green chile stew!  Mine's simmering and filling the house with warm awesomeness as I type.

Ingredients needed to make green chile stew.
1 ~13 ounce container of frozen green chile.  (If you did not thaw it, it's not a tragedy.)
3 large potatoes
1 large yellow onion
4 cloves of garlic
Meat substitute resembling beef (see details in recipe if you're not sure what I mean.)
3 Tbsps of powdered vegetarian vegetable broth, "chicken" broth or "beef" broth*
Canola oil
6 cups of water*
6 quart soup pot with cover

*Instead of the broth powder and water, you can just use 6 cups of a vegetarian broth like those from Imagine Foods.

The "meat substitute resembling beef" can be just about any meat substitute. I highly recommend TVP, or frozen soy crumbles like Boca Crumbles or Gardein Beefless Tips. This go-round, I used the beefless tips. I typically use the Boca Crumbles.
Chop the potatoes into quarter inch or smaller cubes.  Heat roughly 1-3 tablespoons of canola oil in a nice big frying pan.  The oil will be thinner and may appear swirly when ready.  Don't let the oil smoke!  Add the potatoes and sautee until brown.  Add the potatoes to the soup pot.
Dice onions and sautee until almost clarified.  Meanwhile, crush the garlic and add to the sautee pan.  Sautee the mixture until clarified but not brown.  Add the mixture to the soup pot.
If the meat substitute is a frozen or refrigerated product like the crumbles or beefless tips, sautee it until it's nice and brown.  This will prevent your meat substitute from becoming mushy in the soup.  If you're using TVP, you can just toss it into the pot.  The broth will do all the hydrating you need.
Dump the green chile into the pot.  Put in the powdered broth, toss in the water, stir generously, cover and turn the heat to high until it boils vigorously.  Now, turn the heat down to low and let the pot simmer for an hour or two. As you let the pot simmer, be sure to stir on occasion.  What you're trying to do is break down the potatoes so that the starch thickens the soup.  If you're successful at this, and you're not stirring the pot, the bottom will burn.
Once this is all done, enjoy your green chile stew!  Serve in a bowl beside fresh, hot flour (flour, not corn)  tortillas spread with melted Earth Balance.  I hope you love it as much as I do!
Heat yourself a tortilla to go with the green chile stew

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Notes on Laundry Detergent

When choosing a laundry detergent,  I have 3 major goals:

  • Vegan:  no animal testing or animal ingredients
  • Environment:  The less the rest of the world knows that I've used this detergent, the better. 
  • Effective:  my clothes must look clean and not smell.
My opinions here are by no means fully formed.  These are the experiences I've had so far in my search.  Feel free to share your own (and even contradict me since I am fairly new to the search for vegan laundry detergents.) 

I like Maggie's Soap Nuts for day-to-day washing.  I work in an office environment where my clothes don't get heavily soiled except for the occasional food stain.  When using these, I occasionally give my clothes a wash with another detergent as these tend to be a fairly mild detergent.  Here, I am referring to the actual soap nuts in a bag. 

I tried both the Maggie's Soap Nuts liquid and the Biokleen liquid laundry detergent.  Both of these had very embarrassing results for me.  This summer, I washed my tee-shirts using this detergent, dried the shirts and tossed one on and then went to my friend's house.  The summer days here are pretty hot and I usually sweated up a storm on the way to his home and even after I got to his home because he does not air condition the entire house.   Even though I had a shower just an hour before, my shirt smelled like I had run a marathon the previous day and then went to sleep in it and came straight to his house.  I was difficult to be in the same room with (and we were having an all-day LAN party).   I may have done something wrong in using these detergents, but I don't understand why if I had used too much I would not smell like detergent rather than "butt".

Right now, I am using Ecos Laundry Detergent from Earth Friendly Products. This detergent is actually working out really nicely so far and seems to be a decent detergent.  Sorry I don't have stain tests or anything myself rather than a lax recommendation.  

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The "beer" chocolate chip cookies that did not get my approval and more...

If you can't tell already, I know and love Tofu Mom of the Vegan Food: More than Tofu and Sprouts! blog.  Though I cook plenty of my own things, I like a lot of her recipes, such as this vegan chocolate chip cookie recipe that her daughter developed.  That's not the recipe involving beer!  If you want really awesome chocolate chip cookies, I suggest you make this recipe to the tee.... No substituting of ingredients, even in terms of subbing whole wheat flour for all-purpose, etc.  The cookies are not supposed to be healthy!  They're supposed to make your friends insanely jealous when you give your friends one bite and then say, "Sorry.  I need the rest of the cookies because of my special vegan diet!"  (No, seriously, your friends will love these.  They don't taste "vegan", whatever that means.)
The recipe is infallible in the sense that if you follow these directions, you will come out with an awesome chocolate chip cookie.  I can't seem to get my cookies to turn out exactly like her daughter's, but I come up with cookies that I give out to people and they clamor for more.   The recipe is well-calculated and has been studied and revised as much as recipes in a good cookbook are.  But somewhere in the process, I am doing something differently without knowing it.  This recipe is not one in which she has left out the secret ingredient or knowingly left out a detail of the process.  She wants people to succeed in making the recipe.  Thing is, her cookies flatten out into these nice thin chewy disks, and mine are these thick cookies that are crunchy on the outside and chewy in the center.  Neither of these results is a bad cookie...  Her's by far are more aesthetically appealing.  Mine are more of the "If it tastes awesome, who cares?" camp.  The only thing I can guess is that I need to buy honest-to-goodness all purpose flour, use Smart Balance Light and not Earth Balance.  The flour and oil matter in the recipe a lot.  You don't want the gluten in the flour hanging on for dear life to keep the cookie in its original shape and the oil has to start out solid and then give in order to spread the cookie out in the pan while the cookie bakes.

Beer and Chocolate
So now that I've bragged all over Tofu Mom's daughter's vegan chocolate chip recipe, I want to tell you about a little experiment I tried the other night.  Did you know that beer and chocolate pair well?  No, I am not talking about that one night you put on your "Whoa there, Stallion!" baseball cap, drove down to the quick shop and picked up a six pack of Bud Light and a Hershey Bar!  I am thinking of something more along these lines.  If you have not tried Rogue Chocolate Stout and you enjoy a good beer, you should.  On tap is even better. (I found it on tap in Portland.  I could not tell you how likely you are to find it in a bar, as I seldom go to bars.)
Knowing this, I decided I would start with a good chocolate chip cookie recipe and substitute beer in for the liquid.   Well, okay, it was on the spur of the moment late at night when the stores had already closed, and even if they hadn't, I did not want to go.  So the beer was not the only substitute I made.  I used whole wheat flour instead of all purpose flour, no-sodium baking powder (doubled in amount) for the baking soda, and doubled the flaxseed because I suddenly found myself without Ener-G Egg Replacer.  I even considered using corn starch in place of the Ener-G, which would be a poor substitute, and found myself even without cornstarch.  Hey, but I have plenty of pinto beans and quinoa!
The cookies did not turn out to be a disaster.  They're just a bit drier than they should be -- so actually pretty acceptable for a homemade chocolate chip cookie.
The part that disappointed me was the part the beer played in the cookie.  I broke out the 1554, a dark ale, but not quite a stout or porter and added the 1/4 cup of it for the liquid in the recipe.  The first disappointment is that I used the beer to mix the flaxseed and it just was not coming together.  Flax seed is a substitute for eggs in baking, and you mix the flaxseed with a liquid and beat it thoroughly to bring out its egg-like binding properties.  The flaxseed will begin to congeal with the liquid and pretty soon you will notice the flaxseed refusing to just let that water settle in the bowl like it was before.  Now it has some binding properties.  Not with the beer!  I could not quite figure this out.  Flaxseed works with plant milks and I assume it works just fine with water.  So what the heck is it about beer?  I beat the flaxseed into the beer for quite some time and it finally became a little bit bindy.  I would have to settle for that result.
The next part was even more disappointing.  1/4 cup of beer -- even a good strong tasting beer -- is just not much beer, and I was wondering if it was going to come through in the dough.  I tossed a little more in before I decided to have the rest of the beer myself.  I mixed it into the dough and tasted it.  I could taste the beer a little bit, but I was suddenly not sure what I thought of it.  The beer was coupled with sugar, margarine, and coconut oil, and I was tasting buttery beer with sugar.  It was a little bit fruity.  Maybe baking it would resolve matters.
I baked the cookies and gave them a taste.  I thought I could not taste the beer.  I was having a hard time telling because I was sick of chocolate by the time I got the cookies baked and any taste of chocolate seemed too strong.  I tasted the cookies the next day and they were good -- but something was off.  After contemplating it for a while, the "off" taste in the cookies was -- the beer!
So, the reaction I imagine from others if I were to give them these chocolate chip cookies is:

"Wow!  These are good chocolate chip cookies.  What's that weird taste, though?"
"Ummmm.... beer."
"Beer?  Why'd you put beer in chocolate chip cookies?"
"I thought it would taste good."
"Yeah, I'd leave that part out."
"Want another one?"
"Could you make a batch without the beer?"

And that in short, is why we have beer bread but not beer chocolate chip cookies.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Pumpkin Pie

On years when the threat of squash bugs running rampant in my garden does not scare me off, I plant various winter squashs including the ubiquitous pumpkin.  There's a variety of things you can do with winter squash.  One thing I can highly recommend that may be slightly out of the ordinary is a curried squash soup.  Some people also like to just dollop some Earth Balance, salt and pepper on them and eat them straight up.  I so don't do this, even though I would probably enjoy it just fine now.  I had to do this as a kid and it always seemed to be the stringier, more watery varieties of winter squash that was put in front of me.  With my often generous crop of winter squashes, I like to make pumpkin pie.  

The obvious choice for pumpkin pie is pumpkins, and I do grow these alongside other winter squashes.  These are smaller pumpkins than the ones you cut up for Jack-o-Lanterns, which tend to be larger and stringier.  You can make even better pumpkin pies with less stringy, fuller fleshed squashes, like kabocha squash or miniature hubbard squashes.  

This year I grew miniature hubbards alongside pie pumpkins.  Neither did as well as I hoped, but I got a modest harvest.  The sweet and tender hooligans, otherwise known as squash bugs reared their ugly head in July and called an early end to the beautiful vine progression that was happening over the summer.  I fought them with a vengeance, cutting and burning leaves infested with eggs squashing the bugs between bricks.    They seemed to disappear and then reappeared very stubbornly on various plants around my garden.  I felt a little disheartened, but did not suffer a total loss. 

For the vegetarian meetup that I attend, I used one of my hubbard squashes to bake a vegan pumpkin pie. The hubbard squash gave the pie an excellent texture and the pie was fully eaten by the end of the event.  My pumpkins by comparison are a little more stringy and watery, and do not result in quite as dark of pie filling.  

Pumpkin Pie with Crumble Crust

So let's get on to my yearly tradition:  vegan pumpkin pie with crumble crust.  It's a bit of work to make, but totally worth it.  By the way, I got this recipe from someone who got it from

Recipe 1:  Cooked winter squash
Not a real recipe, but you need one decent sized winter squash that you plan to make a pie with.  
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 
  • Cut the winter squash horizontally across the center so that the stem is on one end and the blossom is on the other end.  
  • Using hands or a spoon remove the seeds and innards.  Don't toss the seeds!  They can either be saved to plant in your garden next year or they can be made into roasted pumpkin seeds.  The innards can be fed to your dog if they're not full of copius amounts of small seeds or added to the compost. 
  • Put the two halves of the squash on a baking pan.  I usually use a glass one because that's what I have.  Bake the squash for an hour to an hour-and-half till the skin is browning and it's collapsing in the pan. 
  • Allow squash to cool and then peel the flesh away from the skin.  Be sure to get all the skin off you can as I find it adds an undesirable flavor if mixed into the squash. 

Recipe 2:  Pie Filling
  • 1 cup of cooked winter squash  (You can substitute a can of pumpkin if you wish to skip recipe 1. Make sure it's pumpkin and not "pumpkin pie filling".)
  • 1 box of firm silken tofu.  Make sure it's silken!
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • dash of salt
  • 2 Tablespoons grated ginger, squeezed and added
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne (Yes, this is a personal touch of mine) 
  •  blend tofu, sugar, and spices very thoroughly until tofu is perfectly smooth and no chunks remain. I typically use a mixing bowl and a hand blender.  A food processor may work just as well. 
  • Add in squash and mix until smooth.  At this point, you should have a yummy spicy pumpkin pudding.  
Recipe 3:  Crumbly Pie Crust
I originally just found this recipe on someone's post for making a crumbly crust for apple pie and it would work really well for apple pie.  It works great for pumpkin pie too.  The recipe for crumbly crust I am using with little modification can be found here too. 

  • 1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup canola oil  (virgin coconut oil works too) 
  • 2 tablespoon soy milk or orange juice  (I use almond milk) 
  • Note: This dough is not the type you roll out.  It's not going to come together into a nice ball or flatten out perfectly.  It's not meant to. 
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Put flour, salt, and sugar into bowl and mix well.  
  • Cut oil thoroughly into flour until oil and completely mixed into flour.  Use a fork or a pastry knife. 
  • Pour in milk or orange juice and continue to cut liquid into flour until flour is fairly uniform in texture.  I tried using lemon juice tonight instead of orange juice.  It gave my flour this really high citrusy note which would be good in another pie but does not go well with pumpkin pie. 
  • Press dough into pie pan, covering the pan as uniformly as possible.  (It won't happen, though, which is part of the beauty of this crust.) 
  • Put crust in oven for 2-3 minutes. 

Recipe 4:  Pumpkin Pie
  • Pie Filling from Recipe 2
  • Pie Crust from Recipe 3 
  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  
  • Put pie filling into pie crust and swirl and flatten with a wooden spoon or spatula until the thickness is fairly even.  If the thickness must vary at all, it should be thickest at the very center. 
  • Put pie in oven for an hour to an hour-and-a-half.  Pie is done when a chopstick or cake tester comes out of the pie nearly clean.    

Hope you enjoy the pie as much as I do!