November 3, 2013

Stuffed Thanksgiving Burger

Makes 6 burgers
Total time: 1 hour || Active time: 30 minutes

Stuffed Thanksgiving Burger

There are plenty of ideas out there for what to do with Thanksgiving leftovers, and those creations are some of my favorites in the world. But what if it’s the beginning of November and you don’t yet have any Thanksgiving leftovers? Well, how about I transport you to the day after Thanksgiving; except without all those dishes, without all the travel and without all of those classic “jokes” where your great-uncle twice removed tries to make you eat turkeys?

Enter the from-scratch Thanksgiving Burger. It’s an unholy carbfest: think stuffing that’s stuffed in a roll! Lentils provide that proteiny burgerness, mushrooms add that earthy umaminess and hazelnuts aren’t only deliciously festive here, but they add great texture, too. And of course, you’ve got to have cranberries. Here, they are dried and studded throughout the burger like ruby jewels, providing little bursts of tart sweetness. All of the stuffing stand-bys — your celery, sage and thyme — are accounted for, too. You’re basically eating a beautiful Bob Ross landscape of the prettiest autumn foliage you ever did see. But in burger form. And believe me, you will give thanks with every bite!

Stuffed Thanksgiving BUrger

Recipe Notes

~Canned lentils work super great here. But if you don’t have any, make sure to account for the time it will take to boil some up.

~I used kale as my green, but it wasn’t completely untouched. I rubbed it with a little olive oil and salt. I think, though, that arugula (plain and unadultereated) would be a fantastic green to use instead.

~Mayo was my spread of choice for sure. I think ketchup would be too overpowering with these babies.

~I can see some food processors not doing the best job of chopping hazelnuts. If yours is such a machine, chop them by hand, using a clean kitchen towel over the cutting board and your chef’s knife. PS don’t bother peeling the hazelnuts. The skin doesn’t disturb anything here.

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Small yellow onion, diced medium
2 ribs celery, thinly sliced
8 oz cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Fresh black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dry rubbed sage
4 cups baguette sliced into cubes
1 cup vegetable broth

1/2 cup hazelnuts [see note above]
I cup cooked lentils (brown or green)
3/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup dried cranberries

To serve:
6 sourdough rolls
Kale [or your preferred greens, see note above]
Vegan mayo (storebought or homemade)

Preheat a large, heavy bottomed pan non-stick (preferably cast iron) over medium high heat. Saute onion in one tablespoon olive oil for about 3 minutes with a pinch of salt, until translucent. Add mushroom, celery, garlic, black pepper, thyme and sage and saute for 7 to 10 minutes, until mushrooms have released most of their moisture.

Add baguette cubes, and drizzle in the other tablespoon of oil. Toss bread to coat in the mixture and cook for 5 minutes or so, tossing often, to lightly brown the bread.

Add the vegetable broth and use your spatula to really mush the bread up in the broth, so that it absorbs all the liquid and resembles stuffing. Let it cook about 3 more minutes, to sop up all the flavor.

While everything is cooking in the pan, place hazelnuts in food processor and pulse until they are chopped (not pureed.) Pieces should range from itty bitty to pea sized. Transfer nuts to a large mixing bowl. (No need to clean it out for the next step.)

Add the lentils to the food processor and puree until relatively smooth. Now add the bread mixture from the pan into the processor and pulse 10 to 15 times. You want the mixture to hold together, but there should still be mushroom and celery visible, it shouldn’t be a puree.

Transfer this to the mixing bowl with the hazelnuts. Add in the cranberries and salt. The cranberries like to stick together so make sure you separate them. Combine thoroughly, using your hands if need be, to form a firm but still malleable mixture. Taste for salt and pepper.

Let the mixture cool completely. Refrigerate for 15 minutes or so, just to help it firm up and let the flavors meld a bit.

Rinse out your cast iron, and preheat on medium-high. Roll the burgers into 6 equal sized tennis balls. Wash your hands often and keep them a little damp during this process for that the burgers don’t stick to your hands. Flatten into 1 1/2 inch thick patties.

Cook in a thin layer of oil for about 4 minutes on each side. Serve on buns with greens and mayo. Die of happiness!

October 30, 2013

Roasted Red Pepper Mac & Cheese – VIDEO

Serves 4
Total time: 30 minutes
Active time: 20 minutes

Roasted Red Pepper Mac-N-Cheese
Photo by Vanessa Rees

This is a beautiful bright orange mac, flavored with pepperoni type pizza seasonings; fennel, thyme, and oregano. I used to call it Pizza Mac & Cheese, actually! I’ve written a lot about vegan Mac & Cheese in the past, so I’ll skip all the broohaha, and just tell you to check out the latest Make It Vegan video and then get your mac on! For roasted brussel sprout directions, use this recipe.

Recipe Notes

~I always have a jar of roasted red peppers on hand, but making your own doesn’t take much time or effort. If you’ve got the oven on to cook something else, anywhere between 350° and 425°F, simply sneak in a pepper or three on a small baking pan. Roast whole for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the pepper appears collapsed, then transfer to a paper bag immediately and close the bag up securely. This will steam it, so that when cool the skin comes off easily. Once you get the skin off, open the pepper up (if it hasn’t already broken open) and discard the seeds. Voilà!

~If you don’t have any pizza seasoning laying around, simply use these spices: 1/4 teaspoon fennel seed or ground fennel, 1/4 teaspoon oregano, 1/2 teaspoon thyme, 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic)

~You can make this a baked mac, if you prefer! Transfer the whole shebang to an 8×8 casserole and bake at 350 F for 20 minutes.

~If you forgot to soak the cashews, have no fear. You can boil them for the same creamy effect, and still have this on the table in 30 minutes. Just submerge in boiling water for 15 minutes, drain, and proceed.

1/2 lb macaroni or other small pasta

3/4 cups unroasted cashews, soaked in water for 2 hours
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced medium
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups vegetable broth
1 1/2 tablespoons organic cornstarch
1 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional)
1 roasted red peppers (jarred or homemade)
1 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoons pizza seasoning (see note)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon turmeric

Preheat a 2 quart sauce pot over medium heat. Saute onions in oil with a pinch of salt for 5 to 7 minutes, until onions are translucent. Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds or so, then transfer to a blender or food processor.

Boil a large pot of salted water for cooking the pasta. Once boiling, cook pasta according to package directions.

Drain the cashews and add them to the blender along with the vegetable broth, corn starch, nutritional yeast, red peppers, tomato paste, pizza seasoning, salt, mustard and turmeric. Blend until very smooth. Scrape down the sides every 30 seconds or so and test for smoothness.

Transfer the sauce in the blender back to the sauce pot where you cooked the onions. Turn the heat up to medium and let cook, stirring very often, until thickened. This should take between 10 and 15 minutes. Taste for salt. It should taste slightly salty because you’re going to be pouring it on the pasta.

The pasta should be done while the sauce is thickening, so drain and place pasta back in the pot you cooked it in. Set aside.

When sauce is thickened, add it to the pasta in the pot, and use a large slotted spoon to mix well, taking care not to break the pasta. Serve!

October 27, 2013

Isa Does It Book Tour 2013

This fall and winter, I’ll be traveling across the country, reading from Isa Does It, handing out cookies, signing books and spreading vegan goth joy. I hope you can come see me at one of these events! More dates will be added for 2014. If you would like to make me an offer in your city that I can’t refuse, email me at and I will put you in touch with my publisher. See you soon!

Isa Does It Book Tour

Denver, CO
Tattered Cover
Monday October 28, 7:30 pm
Speaking, Q&A, signing, & cookies!

Omaha, NE
Omaha Public Library, Read It & Eat Culinary Conference
Saturday November 2, 1:00 pm
Demonstrating how to make Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream. Samples for everyone!

Minneapolis, MN
Magers & Quinn 
Wednesday November 6, 7:00 pm
Speaking, Q&A, signing, & cookies!

Atlanta, GA
Atlanta VegFest
Saturday November 9, 1:00 pm
Demonstrating how to make Quinoa Caesar Salad & Rosemary Chocolate Chip Cookies, signing books

Athens, GA
Avid Bookshop
Sunday November 10, 2:00 pm
Sounds like this is going to be a party!

Santa Cruz, CA
Bookshop Santa Cruz
Tuesday November 12, 7:00 pm
Speaking, Q&A, signing, & cookies!

San Francisco, CA
Book Passage
Wednesday November 13, 6:00 pm
Speaking, Q&A, signing, & cookies!

Berkeley, CA
Books Inc
Thursday November 14, 7:00 pm
Speaking, Q&A, signing, & cookies!

San Francisco, CA
Omnivore Books
Friday November 15, 6:30 pm
Speaking, Q&A, signing, & cookies!

Portland, OR
Powell’s Books
Monday November 18, 7:30 pm
Speaking, Q&A, signing, & cookies!

Seattle, WA
Book Larder
Thursday November 21, 6:30 pm
Speaking, Q&A, signing, & treats

Portland, OR
Herbivore Clothing
Sunday December 1, 1:00 pm
Meet & greet, signing, & treats

Philadelphia, PA
The Humane League Holiday Party
Saturday December 14, 7:00 pm
Speaking about the progress of vegan food over the past few decades

October 24, 2013

Nirvana Enchilada Casserole – VIDEO

Serves 8
Total time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Active time: 30 minutes

Enchilada Casserole
Photo by Vanessa Rees, food styling by Kate Lewis

Enchiladas can be a lot of work. This version, in casserole form is a little less so. Don’t get me wrong, it still makes more dishes than you want to do, but it’s a lot easier than stuffing each tortilla. Watch me make it and see for yourself! (Oh and check out my sweet HODOR shirt.)

This recipe from Isa Does It is the first I’ve posted from the Sunday Night Suppers section. You know, recipes that you could pull together on a weeknight, but really, why not spend a leisurely Sunday with your friends or your kids or your mom or some stranger off the street, hanging in the kitchen and cooking dinner together?

Layers of corn tortilla sopping up spicy, fragrant, red sauce then overstuffed with mushroom, pinto beans and roasted potatoes. On top is a voluptuous cashew creme that will have you rolling your eyes to the back of your head like a zombie. An enchilada zombie.

PS I just wanna’ give a shout out to my girl Kate Lewis for the amazing styling on this one! It was tough to make a dug-into casserole look so ridiculously appetizing, but Kate found a way. Thanks, girl!

Recipe Notes

~If you want to add extra heat, there are a few ways I can recommend doing it. Saute a sliced, seeded jalapeno with the onion for the filling, or try an extra jalapeno in the sauce.

~The white sauce is not entirely necessary, but it’s easy enough to do and it looks (and tastes) great. If, however, it’s too much to finagle at the moment or you forgot to soak cashews, then you can just serve topped with some guac. If you wanted to serve with your favorite meltable vegan cheese instead, then I can try to look the other way.

~I love the tenderness of pintos here, but feel free to use black beans! I bet lentils would be yummy, too. But that’s no surprise because I always think lentils would be yummy.

~This is definitely more of a Sunday night supper, but if you want to enjoy it on a weeknight, it can happen. Make the enchilada sauce the night before and be sure to soak your cashews. Everything will come together in a snap!

For the potatoes:
1 1/2 lbs yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
Fresh black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the Enchilada sauce:
4 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced medium
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped (use 2 if you like more heat)
6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons dried oregano (Mexican, preferably)
2 28 oz cans whole tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon agave nectar

White sauce:
1 cup cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours
3/4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cornstarch

For the filling:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, quartered and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups cooked pinto beans (2 15 oz cans, rinsed and drained)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

For assembly:
18 8 inch corn tortillas

Optional toppings:
Fresh chopped cilantro

Make the potatoes and enchilada sauce:
Preheat oven to 425 F.

Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss the potatoes with the oil right on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with fresh black pepper and salt, and toss to coat. Bake for 15 minutes, reduce the heat to 350 F, flip potatoes and bake for 10 more minutes. Leave oven at 350 F because that is the temp that the enchiladas need to bake at.

Preheat a 4 quart pot over medium heat. Dry toast the cumin and coriander seeds in the pan for about 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until they’re fragrant and a few shades darker, just be careful not to burn. Add the oil and saute the onion, jalapeno and garlic with oregano and a pinch of salt for about 5 minutes, until onions are translucent. Add the tomatoes, salt and agave, cover pot turn the heat up to bring to a slow boil. Let cook for about 20 minutes.

Once cooked, puree until smooth with with either a submersion blender or by transferring to a blender of food processor. If using a blender, intermittently lift the lid to let steam escape so that it doesn’t build up and explode and kill you. Also, note that if you use a submersion blender you really have to blend a lot to get the seeds to smooth out. Taste for salt and set aside to cool.

Make the filling:
Preheat a large pan over medium heat. Saute the onion in oil with a pinch of salt for about 5 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and saute just until fragrant, 15 seconds or so. Add the mushrooms and salt, and cook until they’ve released a lot of their moisture, about 5 minutes. Add the pinto beans and lime juice and cook just until heated through, 2 minutes or so.

When the roasted potatoes are ready, toss them into the filling mix. Taste for salt and set aside.

Make the white sauce:
Drain the cashews. Add everything to the blender and puree until completely smooth. It’s rather thick, so definitely scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula often or so to make sure you get everything. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Assemble this bad boy:
So we’re just going to be adding layers of sauce, tortillas and filling, then topping it all off. Let’s begin.

Lightly grease a 9×13 casserole pan. Ladle in a thin layer of enchilada sauce, then layer 6 tortillas into the pan. Now things are going to get a bit messy! Ladle in another layer of enchilada sauce (about a cup’s worth), and flip each tortilla to smother in the sauce. Each one should be coated, but you should still be able to see the tortilla, that is to say, it shouldn’t be drowning in the sauce. Next, layer the tortillas so that they’re slightly overlapping and covering the bottom of the pan.

Now add half of the filling, and pour on 1/2 cup of sauce or so. Layer in 6 more tortillas and repeat the process of smother each of them in a cup of sauce. Cover with the remaining filling. Once again pour 1/2 cup of sauce over the filling, and add the final layer of tortillas. Smother those in a cup of sauce. Reserve the rest of the sauce (if any) for serving.

Finally, top with the cashew sauce. I pour it directly out of the blender and try to ribbon it in thick globs over the top. It doesn’t have to be neat, it will look cute pretty much no matter what. Place in the 350 degree oven, and bake uncovered for about 30 minutes. The topping should be lightly golden.

Remove from oven and sprinkle with a handful of pepitas and chopped fresh cilantro if you like. Now it’s ready to serve!

October 22, 2013

Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream – VIDEO

Makes 1 quart

Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream

Well, today is finally the release of Isa Does It. But who cares? Here’s an amazing ice cream recipe! Yeah, maybe the days are getting colder, but I’ve always loved ice cream on a chilly day and who doesn’t want to eat everything pumpkin during autumn? Watch how easy it is in a new episode of Make It Vegan!

I spent forever coming up with a really really creamy ice cream that just shouts, you know, ICE CREAM. Tofu is just fine, but it can be, um, tofu. And coconut milk is sometimes just too icy for me. This ice cream is where it’s at. So I want to talk a bit about the ingredients I’m using and why I’m using them. (You don’t have to read it if the “why” of things bores you. Just skip ahead and make the best ice cream you’ve ever had.)

We will get to the cashew base in a sec, but first things first: we want to prevent ice crystals. When you take a taste of the ice cream, you want undisturbed lickability without any disruptions, like scraping your tongue along a gravelly piece of ice. (Yes, I said lickability.) So a few of the ingredients are there to prevent that dastardly iciness.

For one: a big dose of pure vanilla extract. The alcohol in it helps to prevent ice from forming. Plus, it tastes pretty darn good.

And maybe you raised your eyebrows at the olive oil. Well the fat does a few things. 1) Prevents ice crystals. 2) Makes the texture creamy and rich. You need fat in ice cream. We’re not making sorbet here! 3) Flavor. Olive oil and pumpkin? That is music to your tastebuds.

Next up: corn syrup! A bit of liquid sugar prevents iciness as well. And organic, non-gmo, beautiful amber corn syrup seems to do the trick best. If you need to replace it with agave or maple syrup, though, so be it!

Now, about those cashews. Well, I use cashews in a lot of things, and it’s because they are as close to a heavy cream as a vegan can get. In this ice cream, I also boil the cashews instead of merely soaking them to soften. I tried it both ways (soaked vs boiled) and noticed that the boiled ones just created a better texture as well as neutralized any cashew flavor. Win win! I mean, cashews are delicious and all, but really, it’s all about the pumpkin here.

And finally, rice milk. Why rice milk? Because it is one of the only commercially available plant-based milks without any thickeners or preservatives. I don’t want any tapioca starch or carageenan in my ice cream. Those ingredients also will affect the outcome of the ice cream. To keep things consistent, rice milk is best. Look for ones that only have a sweetener and a little salt. Those are ingredients we’re adding anyway. On the other hand, if you’re like “to hell with consistency”, you can use any plant based milk you like.

OK OK, there’s a wonderful video here, so why am I even writing all this? It’s time for ice cream.

Recipe Notes

~To make your own pumpkin pie spice, it’s just 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ginger, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg and 1/4 teaspoon allspice.

~I used regular old canned pumpkin puree, but you can really use any sweet winter squash. Try red kuri or butternut or kabocha, they are all delicious and easy to work with. Simply preheat oven to 425 F, hack the squash in half, scoop out the seeds and place cut-side-down on a lightly greased cookie sheet, and roast until easily pierced with a fork, usually around 45 minutes. Let cool, scoop the meat into a blender and puree!

~All ice cream makers are not created equal. I love my Breville Smart Scoop, and think it’s as close to a professional ice cream maker as a home cook can get. But read your ice cream maker instructions before using, because you may have to pre-freeze the containers, or some such thing.

1 cup unroasted cashews
1 cup plain rice milk
3/4 cup pumpkin puree

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon organic corn syrup
1 tablespoon light molasses
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice [see note]

First, boil the cashews in water for about 30 minutes. Drain them and add to the blender.

Add all remaining ingredients and blend until completely smooth. Blend for about a minute, then test for creaminess. It should take about 3 minutes total to get it as smooth as possible.

Preset your ice cream maker to a hard gelato setting, and pour in ice cream mixture. Once churned, you can eat immediately as a soft serve, but for scoopable results, seal tightly and freeze for about 24 hours.