October 4, 2013

Monster Mash Shepherd’s Pie

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

Monster Mash Shepherd's Pie

This is what nightmares are made of! If nightmares were totally delicious. A grizzly green ghoul with haunted olive eyes, gaping radish fangs and ferocious claws…of thyme? Vegan food hasn’t been this scary since the 80s!

But beneath all the horror, this is a Lentil Mushroom Shepherd’s Pie With Scallion Cilantro Mashed Potatoes. Unfortunately, there’s nothing scary about that. So to name this macabre creation, I turned to the Post Punk Kitchen Facebook and ran a contest to find the perfect title. There were so many good ones, but come on…Monster Mash? That took the cake. Or took the potato, as it were. The winner will be receiving a signed copy of Isa Does It plus $25 to her favorite charity!

A few runner-up titles: Creature From The Black Legume, Mr. Potato Dead, Ghoul Interrupted, and Frankenthyme! Haha, good work, guys. Check back on Facebook soon for another Halloween recipe and your chance to win.

But for now, here we are: the perfect Halloween feast! DIG IN AT YOUR OWN RISK. And check out this video for a little extra guidance. (Watch with the sound on for the full effect.)

Recipe Notes

~Hey, cilantro haters! You can totally replace that herb with some parsley or extra scallions, if you prefer.

~For extra decadence, replace the almond milk in the potatoes with cashew cream. Yum!

~I used white pepper in the potatoes so that you wouldn’t be able to see it. But if you don’t have any, black pepper is totally fine. Maybe your ghouls have freckles?

For the mashed potato ghouls:
3 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1 1/2 inch chunks or so
2 cups chopped scallions, green parts only
1 cup fresh cilantro, including stems
1 cup unsweetened, plain almond milk (or your fave unsweetened non-dairy milk)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon white pepper

For the lentil mushroom shepherd guts:
2 cups cold vegetable broth
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, medium dice
2 medium carrots, sliced into thin half moons
2 cloves garlic, minced

2 ribs celery, thinly sliced
1 lb cremini mushroom, chopped (about pea sized pieces)
3 tablespoons fresh thyme
Fresh black pepper
1 teaspoon salt (plus more, to taste)

4 cups cooked lentils
1 cup frozen peas

Pimento stuffed green olives
Thyme sprigs

Make the mashed potatoes:
Place potatoes in a large pot and submerge by an inch in cold water. Sprinkle about a teaspoon of salt into the water. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower heat to a simmer and cook until very tender.

In the meantime, place scallions, cilantro and milk in a blender and puree until relatively smooth and bright ghoulish green!

Once potatoes are tender, drain them, then place immediately back in the pot. Do a preliminary mash with a potato masher, just to get them broken up. Add the oil and the blender mixture, salt and pepper and mash until very smooth. Taste for salt and pepper. Cover to keep warm until ready to serve.

Make the lentil layer:
In a measuring cup, mix together the broth and cornstarch until mostly dissolved. Mix in the tomato paste and set aside (we’ll use this to thicken later on.)

Preheat a large pan over medium heat. Sauté onion and carrots in oil with a pinch of salt for 5 to 7 minutes, until onions are lightly browned. Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds or so, just until fragrant. Add mushrooms, celery, and thyme along with a bunch of fresh black pepper and 1 teaspoon salt. Let cook for about 5 minutes, until mushroom have released a lot of moisture. Add the cooked lentils and use your spatula to much them up a bit right in the pan. This creates a “ground beef” effect. :)

Add the cornstarch/broth mixture, and mix well. Let cook until gravy-like and thickened. Fold in the peas. Taste for salt and seasoning.

To assemble:
Now comes the fun part! Slice olive into 1/8 inch thick “eyes.” The ends will need to be a separate snack, since you’ll just want to use the pieces with pimento in the center.

Slice radishes into 1/8th inch thick discs, and slice those discs into halfmoons. Then use a paring knife to carve out triangles for teeth. Have fun with it! Don’t worry about perfection here. (View video above for reference)

Strip thyme sprigs of their leaves until reaching their “claws.”

Have ready a large freezer bag with a 3/4 inch hole sliced out of the corner. Fill bag with some ghoulish mashed potatoes. This works best if they’re still warm!

Now fill individual bowls with shepherd guts. Take your mashed potato bag and squeeze ghouls into existence right onto each bowl of guts.

Place sliced olives into its eye sockets. Postition radishes for mouths. Position into mouth. Attach stems to the ghoul’s arm sockets. It’s alive! Ahh!

October 2, 2013

Coconut Cream Pie

Makes one 9 inch pie

Coconut Cream Pie

“Another pie recipe? To what do I owe the pleasure?!” – you

Well, I’m really occupied working on stuff for the release of Isa Does It, but I still want to give you a little somethin somethin! And since pie season is here, I figure why not put up some of Vegan Pie In The Sky’s greatest hits? This time, I won’t ask you to roll out a crust, so hopefully you will still like me.

This pie was a serious tester favorite. A creamy cloud of coconut heaven! It’s one of those pies that is even better the next day, and even better the day after that, once the flavors have had a chance to “marry.” So make it on a Wednesday and serve it on a Saturday, if you manage to keep yourself from sneaking into the fridge in the middle of the night and smush your entire face into the deliciousness. (Actually, use the tip below so that you can have a secret chef’s taste without destroying the pie!)

Happy piemaking, everyone!

Recipe Notes

~So this recipe calls for agar powder, which is basically vegan gelatin that comes from seaweed (instead of all that gross stuff.) You can’t replace it or leave it out because it’s what makes the filling set. You can order it, or find it at your local Asian market (Telephone brand is awesome.) And it’s really worth having, I promise!

~To answer your next question: I don’t suggest replacing the powder with flakes unless you have experience with it already. And, no, you can not crush the flakes up into a powder and get the same results. Why not? I dunno! But it didn’t work for either Terry or I, nor did it work for the testers. So if you want to do any replacing, it’s not impossible, but I can’t guarantee it will work for you.

~There may be a little leftover filling, so just pour it into a cup and let it set. Now you’ll have a creamy taste for yourself without having to destroy the pie.

~For a variation, try Coconut Lime Cream Pie. In place of 1/4 cup almond milk, use 1/4 cup fresh lime juice. Along with the shredded coconut, add 2 teaspoons lime zest and mix.

For the crust:
10 oz vegan vanilla cookies (should equal 1 3/4 cups once processed. Use gluten free varieties for a gluten free pie.)
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons melted coconut oil (refined or virgin)
1 tablespoon plain non-dairy milk (I prefer almond)

For the filling:
1/2 cup cashews, soaked in water for at least two hours and up to overnight
1 13 oz can coconut milk at room temperature
3/4 cup plain unsweetened almond milk (or non-dairy milk of your choice)
1/2 teaspoon agar agar powder
2/3 cups sugar
3 tablespoons coconut oil (refined or virgin)
1 1/2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon coconut extract (optional, another teaspoon vanilla will work, too)

For garnish: Blackberries and coconut flakes

Prepare the crust:
Preheat oven to 350 F and have ready a 9 inch pie dish.

In a blender, pulse the cookies into fine crumbs. They should measure out to be 1 3/4 cups. (You don’t have to clean the blender after this, you can just get out as many of the crumbs as you can, and then proceed with the filling recipe which follows.)

In a mixing bowl combine cookie crumbs and sugar, then drizzle in melted coconut oil. Mix to moisten the crumbs, then drizzle in the milk and mix again to form a crumbly dough. Use another tablespoon of milk if it seems very dry. Transfer to a 9-inch pie plate and press crumbs on the sides then work your way down to the bottom.

Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from oven and set aside.

Make the filling:
Drain the cashews and place them in a food processor or blender. Blend with the coconut milk until totally smooth, scraping down the sides occasionally. This can take up to 5 minutes depending on the strength of your machine, but give your blender a break every minute or so, and check frequently that the mixture feels smooth and not grainy.

In the meantime, stir together the the milk, agar agar, and sugar in a small (2 quart) sauce pot.

Bring mixture to a boil, stirring pretty consistently. Once boiling, lower the heat so that you’re just getting small bubbles. Let cook for about 5 minutes, then add the coconut oil and mix until melted.

With the blender running, stream the hot mixture in until thoroughly blended, then add the extracts and pulse a few times to combine. Stir in the shredded coconut, but don’t blend it again, just mix it with a spatula – you want the coconut to remain intact. (It’s important that the mixture goes in hot, and is poured into the crust immediately, to prevent it from setting up before it’s in the pie. )

Transfer mixture to the prepared pie crust (being careful not to overfill) and refrigerate until set, at least 5 hours. The filling is very thin at first, but that is how it’s supposed to be, so don’t worry, it will thicken as it sets. Once set, slice and serve! Top with coconut flakes and a berry, if you like. If not using immediately, wrap tightly in plastic wrap for up to 4 days.

September 25, 2013

Appleberry Pie With Olive Oil Crust

Serves 8

Appleberry Pie

The wee infant hours of autumn are always bittersweet. This pie is a way to savor your summer memories while welcoming the new season in a delicious way. Sweet, tart berries meet lush apples, laced through with some warm spices and all wrapped up in your new favorite pie crust!

Made with pantry-friendly olive oil, this is a fast and convenient all-purpose crust ideal for fruit pies. It became mine and Terry’s go-to as we were writing Vegan Pie In The Sky; olive oil produces a light flaky crust with a surprisingly neutral taste that has just a hint of fruitiness. The secret is to freeze the olive oil before hand, so that it become partially solid. This helps the fat to blend into the dough in little pockets, creating the flakiness you crave.

Pie season is here, everyone! You’ve got plenty of time to practice for the holiday table. But really, who can argue with pie ever?

Recipe Notes

~To prepare the olive oil: About an hour before beginning the recipe, place the olive oil in a plastic container; for best results use a thin light container, like the kind used for take out food. Freeze until it’s opaque and congealed but still somewhat soft, like the consistency of slightly melted sorbet. If it’s over-frozen, that’s ok, just let it thaw a bit so that you can work with it.

~Refrigerate the flour before using. That helps to keep the dough cold while you work with it, which will produce a lighter, flakier crust.

~Keep that crust from burning by using a pie shield half-way through baking. This adjustable one is heaven sent!

For the Olive Oil Crust:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup olive oil, partially frozen (see above note)
4 to 8 tablespoons ice water
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

For the Pie:
2 cups fresh blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, or a mix, fresh or frozen (about 10 oz)
4 cups peeled Granny Smith apples, sliced 1/4 inch thick (about 1 1/2 pounds)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Big pinch of ground nutmeg
4 tablespoons cornstarch

For topping:
2 tablespoons almond milk (or preferred non-dairy milk)
1 tablespoon sugar

Prepare the pie crust:
In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour and salt. Working quickly so that it stays cold, add the olive oil by the tablespoonful, cutting it into the flour with your fingers or a pastry cutter, until the flour appears pebbly.

In a cup, mix together 4 tablespoons of the ice water with the apple cider vinegar. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of the water and vinegar mixture into the flour, and using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, stir into the dough, adding more water a tablespoon at a time until it holds together to form a soft ball. Take care not to over-knead the dough.

Divide dough in two, roll each half into a ball and press eachh into disk about an inch thick. Place one disk between two 14 inch long pieces of waxed paper. Use a rolling pin to roll each piece into a circle about 1/4 inch thick. Refrigerate rolled dough wrapped in waxed paper for at least 30 minutes, or until ready to use.

Assemble the pie:
Preheat the oven to 425 F.

Combine the filling ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Fit the bottom crust into the pie plate, pile in the filling, and gently press down to get everything in. Cover with the top crust, pinch the edges together, trim excess dough to about an inch, and crimp. Make five slits in the middle of the pie to let steam escape (a steak knife works great for this).

Brush the top of the pie with almond milk and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 F and continue baking 35 to 40 more minutes, or until the filling bubbles up through the edges. Place the pie on a cooling rack and let cool for about 30 minutes before serving.

September 22, 2013

Everyday Pad Thai

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

Everyday Pad Thai
Photo by Vanessa Rees

Here it is: the quintessential sweet and sour Thai noodle. Also, the key to my heart. If I didn’t think it would give me some sort of vitamin deficiency, I’d probably eat Pad Thai for every meal. This recipe introduces my super top secret ingredient. (Um, as usual it’s miso.) It adds a bit of fermented depth that mimics traditional fish sauce. I have a recipe for Pad Thai in Vegan With A Vengeance, but this one is from Isa Does It, which means…it’s much, much, simpler! We’ll get back to the recipe in a sec, but first I have to share my excitement about the new book.

We are exactly a month away from the release of Isa Does It and in many ways, this feels like I’m releasing my first cookbook ever. After all, it is my first full-color, hardcover book! Perfect for gift-giving, coffee tabling, and yeah, even cooking from.

So I’m hoping that you love it as much as I do. And I don’t forget for a second that I couldn’t have written it without you. I am grateful for all of the feedback and support as well as the ideas and inspiration I get from you guys. There’s something so motivating about putting up a recipe and having someone far away prepare it only hours later. It warms my cold, gothic heart.

In addition to saying “thank you”, I’m giving away this cool Isa Does It tote for preodering the book (USA only.) All you have to do is forward your preorder receipt and your mailing address to littlebrown@hbgusa.com and boom, the perfect vehicle for hauling your veggies in your hot little hands.

Isa Does It Tote

Full details here. So if you haven’t already, please do preorder, and if you already have, no worries, you can still get the tote. Yay!

And now….back to the Pad Thai.

Usually Pad Thai is made to serve, one order at a time. But if I have no one to impress, I’m not going through the trouble. It isn’t exactly authentic, but it gets the job done with common ingredients and has a great balance of sweet, sour, spice and salty. And if Sriracha and miso are not common ingredients to you, they definitely will be after digging in to this!

Recipe Notes

~Rice noodles come packed in all different quantities and nothing seems to be consistent. I think that 8 oz is just about perfect. If you have a package that is more than that, I would suggest making all of the noodles and using the leftovers in a salad the next day. Perhaps with some Peanut Sauce? But more than 8 oz make it really difficult to stir the noodles properly.

~To get this done in 30 minutes, start the water boiling for the noodles the second you step through the door. Be really careful not to overcook them. Most packages say to boil water, then turn the heat off and soak the noodles for 8 or so minutes. That seems to work perfectly for all brands, no matter what the cooking directions say. Set a timer so that you don’t overcook because they will disintegrate on you. Once cooked, immediately drain them and run under cold water to stop from cooking any further. Follow those steps and you will have perfect noodles every time!

~I prepare this dish all in one pan. While the tofu browns, I prep everything else. Then remove the tofu and prepare the rest. You might save a little time by using 2 pans, but this method has served me well over the years.

~You can follow these directions for perfectly browned tofu, if you’ve had any tofu issues in the past.

8 oz pad thai rice noodles, cooked according to package directions, immediately rinsed with cold water and cooled (see note above)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
14 oz tofu, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
4 cups brocolli florettes and thinly sliced stems
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups scallion, chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 cup lightly packed cilantro, chopped
4 oz mung bean sprouts

For the sauce:
2 tablespoons tomato paste
5 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce (use gluten-free tamari to make this gluten-free)
6 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons Sriracha
2 tablespoons mellow white miso
1/4 cup water

To serve:
3/4 cup chopped roasted peanuts
Extra lime wedges

First make the tofu. You’ll need a large cast iron pan, or something non-stick that can take very high heat. Preheat pan over high heat. Once pan is good and hot, drizzle in 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the cubed tofu and sprinkle with about 1/4 teaspoon salt. The tofu should immediately sizzle when it hits the hot the pan, otherwise, turn the heat up. Cook for about 7 minutes, tossing often, until it’s nicely browned.

In the meantime, mix together all of the ingredients for the sauce and set aside. The miso may not completely dissolve, but that’s okay, just get it as smooth as possible.

When tofu is browned, transfer it to a plate and cover gently with tin foil to keep warm. In the same pan, cook the broccoli in 2 teaspoons oil with 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Cover the pan in between stirring, to get it to cook faster. It should take about 5 minutes, and be lightly charred in some places. Transfer to the same plate as the tofu.

Now we’ll cook the sauce. Lower heat to medium. Cook the garlic in the remaining oil very briefly, about 15 seconds. Add the scallion and cilantro and toss just to get it wilted. Now pour in about half the sauce and get it heated through.

Add the noodles and toss to coat. Then add back the tofu and broccoli, the mung beans and the remaining sauce, and toss to coat.

Serve immediately, topped with peanuts and lime wedges, plus extra cilantro if desired.

September 14, 2013

BLT Mac & Cheeze

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

BLT Mac & Cheeze

I don’t know how this happened, but I guess I’m a tomato farmer. Tomatoes are all I’ve thought about all summer. If I’m traveling, I don’t wonder about my boyfriend and cats, I wonder about my tomatoes. Are they getting enough nutrients? Are they getting the right amount of water? Do they need trimming? Are there any pests pestering them? And, most importantly, do they miss me like I miss them?


After a few snafus this past Spring (who expects snow in May?!) my babies finally got going. And even now in mid-September, most of my plants are still producing juicy orbs of ridiculous deliciousness. So of course I’ve been using them in everything. And, well, one thing led to another and I guess I don’t have to tell you, that this is how BLT Mac & Cheeze was born.

Being late summer, I really wanted this mac to be gardeny. If you have a garden, or a CSA, or just want to use some in-season produce from the grocery, maybe you’ll appreciate that. So I made the “B” out of eggplant (remember: vegans will make bacon out of anything.) For the “L”, arugula is always prolific in the garden, plus I love its muskiness, which goes perfectly with the bright and smoky flavors of the other ingredients.

The “cheeze” sauce is just something I threw together, very similar to the Chipotle Mac, but without the pepperiness and perhaps a little more noochy than usual. It’s just a nice creamy backdrop to the more assertive flavors its tossed with.

And there you have it: BLT Mac & Cheeze. I hope your summer has been as fruitful as mine (literally and figuratively) and I can’t wait to share some fall recipes with you soon!

Recipe Notes

~For time management: Get the oven preheating and the water boiling, then prep the eggplant. Once the eggplant is in the oven and the pasta is boiling, you have plenty of time to prep the tomatoes and puree the sauce.

~I was making this for a friend who is sensitive to garlic (I KNOW!) and so I didn’t use it. If, however, you NEEDS your garlic, throw a clove or two into the sauce while it’s pureeing.

~I used gluten-free noodles here, and actually, I usually do with Mac-N-Cheeze. I just prefer them. They stand up beautifully to the sauce, and tend not to get mushy as leftovers. But you obvs can use whichever noodles you love! I recommend Tinkyada brand. (I used shells, but they have a macaroni, too.)

~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.

~Oh and hey, if you’re doing the oil-free thing, you’ll be happy to note that this recipe is completely oil free if you leave the cooking spray off of the eggplant bacon recipe.

8 oz small shell pasta or macaroni (gluten-free, whole wheat, or any type)
4 cups baby arugula
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved (or chopped regular tomatoes)
1 recipe Eggplant Bacon

For the sauce:
1 cup cashews, soaked in water for at least 2 hours (see note above)
1 cup vegetable broth
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
2 teaspoons onion powder
Salt and pepper to taste

To make the sauce: Drain the cashews and place all sauce ingredients in a blender and blend away until completely smooth. Scrape down the sides with a spatula to make sure you get everything. Depending on the strength of your blender this could take from one to five minutes. Taste for salt and pepper, keeping in mind that you want it just a little saltier than you think because it’s going to be poured over all of the other ingredients.

When the macaroni is tender, drain it in a colander. Immediately place it back in the pot you boiled it in and stir in the sauce. Place pot on low heat and stir for 3 minutes or so, until the sauce is thickened a bit and everything is deliciously creamy. Taste for salt again.

Now toss in the arugula, tomatoes and eggplant bacon, leaving a little extra aside to garnish if you like. Serve!