Category Archives: summer

Nori Sesame Dressing

Wow… Spring already? Boy is time flying… and there has been a lot going on at your vegan neighbor’s house lately, which has been making things seem to move along even faster. Most recently, I started working at an awesome little shop downtown. (In fact, it was my first job in town when I moved here 13 years ago!)  It’s great to be back again (despite being away from my kiddos) because I really loved working there and being downtown. I reluctantly let this job go when I got hired to work as the bread baker full-time at the Green Scene Baking Company (a vegan bakery/restaurant), which is no longer in business… not because the food wasn’t great, but because the owner decided to move to California and become a nutritionist! I’m sure all of Athens misses the Green Scene – I know I do!

Anyway, I apologize for not posting for so long – I promise it’s not a sign of things to come!! I just needed some time adjusting to my new schedule and some other changes. And now that I’m a working mom (*all mom’s are “working moms” but what I mean here is outside the home), I will be able to relate more easily to those of you in that position, and I’ll try to post more recipes that will help make dinner simpler for everyone! That said, I am more than ready to start sharing some of my favorite spring & summer recipes with you!

Nori Sesame Dressing

This salad dressing may be familiar to those of you who have actually eaten at The Green Scene. It was one of the most popular salad dressings and was served on a mixed greens salad. (picture coming soon!)

Mix in food processor until clumpy:

  • 3 sheets Nori (look for this in the Asian section of your grocery store)
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup toasted sesame seeds

Then add:

  • 1/2 cup brown rice syrup
  • 3/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup water (I usually add > 1/2 cup, but you may choose to add the other 1/4 cup if you desire a thinner dressing)
  • 3/4 cup sesame oil (drizzle in slowly, last!)

BLEND ~ BLEND ~ BLEND

Apply to greens (with salad toppings of choice) and DEVOUR!

Traditional Tomato Sauce

Do you ever just wonder where the time went? That has honestly been the question I have been asking myself pretty regularly for the last 4 years (or should I just say since my daughter was born!) Despite my delay of posting a blog (sorry about that, by the way), I have been cooking up a storm over here… including all of my favorite oldies, as well as trying some new things.

As you can see, we have our fill (and then some) of tomatoes over here!

Our garden is absolutely exploding with tomatoes!   The last time I told you about my garden, we had a serious abundance of cucumbers… Well, i didn’t really know too many ways to eat them all!  We were literally picking off about 8 cucumbers a day on average for a while there!  We ended up eating a lot on salads… snacking on tortillas filled with diced cucumber/tofutti cream cheese (which is even better with a little salsa, says my 2 1/2 year old)… and we juiced the rest that we got to before they went too rubbery.  I really found that apple/cucumber juice (give or take a carrot or two) is really delicious! As is watermelon/cucumber/apple juice.  I meant to pickle some of our cucumbers, but I wanted to invest in a good canning set-up instead of using the quick-jar method using a pickling pack. I also had a recipe for a cold cucumber soup that I wanted to try (that also contained coconut milk, which I LOOOVE), but honestly, I’m just not really a fan of cold soup and I didn’t ever get around to making it… But alas, now it seems that our cucumber plants are dying.  Next year I may just keep it at 2-3 plants.  6 plants just produced too many cucumbers for us to consume at once!

So… tomato sauce!! This is my basic pasta sauce recipe. It’s easy, its quick, it freezes beautifully and its a GREAT way to use up extra veggies and (of coarse) tomatoes.  If you have fresh herbs, feel free to substitute them for the dry (if doing so, use a little more than the dry amounts). And feel free to add extra tomatoes, spices or veggies of your choice!

I find that making tomato sauce is a bit of an art… You can follow a recipe, but I find its best just to taste it occasionally and add what you think it needs more of 🙂 That being said, this is a great recipe to eat as is… but sometimes it changes slightly depending on what veggies are sitting in our fridge. Sometimes I even stir in a pack or two of faux beef crumbles if we’re in the mood for a “meaty” sauce.

Your Vegan Neighbor’s Traditional Tomato Sauce

1) Saute together everything but the tomatoes (and sugar) until the onion is tender.

2) Mix in the tomatoes and sugar. Simmer 15-30 minutes, to let the flavors blend, stirring occasionally.

Veggies:

  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 8-10 mushrooms, sliced (optional)
  • 1 green or red pepper, chopped (or use 1/2 cup of each!)

Spices:

  • 2 tsp dry oregano
  • 1 tsp each dry basil, thyme
  • generous 1/2 tsp pepper
  • pinch fresh rosemary
  • 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • generous 1 tsp salt
  • 2-3 Tbsp olive oil

Tomatoes:

  • 1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes (or4 cups fresh, pureed)
  • 1 15-oz. can tomato paste (or two 6 oz cans)
  • 5-8 fresh tomatoes, diced (the bigger the better)
  • 1 or 2 tsp sugar, as needed, to balance the acidity

okay, so this picture is a little boring, but here is my humble plate of noodles topped with tomato sauce

my husbands plate looking much fancier topped with homemade sauce, nutritional yeast and fresh basil… leaves me wondering “why didn’t I do that?!”

This is roughly the amount of sauce the recipe makes. The big one went into the freezer, and the small one served 4 plates with leftovers!

If you missed my faux meatball recipe, check it out here!  I plan on experimenting with another meatball recipe soon!

Fruit Crisp

Summertime… and the livin’ is easy.. at least that is what they say, right?! Well, having a garden or yard that’s producing fresh vegetables & fruit sure make living seem easier!  There is nothing quite like being able to go out to the garden and get some fresh vegetables when they are needed!

Something that always makes me think of summer is fruit.  Fresh fruit… grilled fruit… fruit cobblers… apple, peach, blueberry, strawberry-rhubarb pies… mmmm I just love anything to do with fruit! There is absolutely nothing like being able to pick fresh fruit right off the tree or bush and eat it.  We currently have 2 peach trees, a fig tree and 3 blueberry bushes.  We had a small pear tree last year but it got some weird disease and we had to pull it up.

If you are a mommy, this recipe is one that the kids will definitely have fun helping with. They can pour in the fruit and help crumble the topping over the top, which practically makes it for you!

This is such an easy and delicious recipe it is one that everyone should have on-hand because anyone can make it, and like I said, it’s easy and delicious!  I decided to try using spelt flour this time (usually I use unbleached flour) and it turned out beautifully!   It’s good to know this quick dessert is tasty using spelt flour for those times when you need to whip up something quick for an unexpected gluten-free guest**(see note).  As long as you have some frozen fruit in the freezer (which we always do, since we are big smoothie makers over here) you should be able to throw this in the oven by the time it preheats.

** NOTE: Spelt flour is practically wheat free, which makes it a good substitute for people with a low intolerance for wheat, though some people with serious wheat allergies, such as those with celiac disease, are also allergic to spelt. In that case, you should try replacing the flour with a 100% gluten-free baking mix (most grocery stores carry a blend for general flour replacing). Please check if you are making these for someone who is gluten-free.

~Fruit Crisp~

  • 3/4 cup flour (unbleached all-purpose or spelt flour, both work well)
  • 3/4 cup raw sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • about 4 cups frozen fruit (fresh fruit should also work fine)
  • 1 stick vegan butter (I like EarthBalance soy margarine)

If using fresh fruit, wash and cut any fruit you like and sprinkle it with lemon juice.  Frozen fruit works great (no need for lemon juice) and that is usually what I use. Some good combinations I like are peach/blueberry or apple/pear.

1) Preheat oven to 375 F.

2) Combine the flour, sugar and salt.  Using a knife, cut 1 stick ( = 1/2 cup) of cold soy margarine into bits and add it to the flour mixture, crumbling with fingers or fork until thoroughly mixed.

3) Pour the fruit into a square 8×8″ baking dish and sprinkle the topping over the top.  Bake for about an hour, when crisp will be bubbling hot and golden.  Let cool about 5-1o minutes. Enjoy hot or cold! (Try this with ice cream for a real treat!)

We grew these peaches in our backyard!

Crumble the topping on over the fruit…

After baking, let it cool at least 5 minutes!

Enjoy hot or cold!

Your Vegan Neighbor’s Summer Garden (2012)

Well, I decided that it’s about time I should show you all my garden I keep talking about so you know I’m not just making it up! It does really exist!

We kinda got a late start to our garden this year because we missed out on planting the early leafy greens, like spinach, kale, and even carrots… but I should be able to grow those easily as late summer/fall crops. This is our 4th year of having a garden in this plot so our soil has become really nice and rich. And of coarse, I need to thank my husband for all his hard work including all of the tilling and row-making!

I am super proud of our garden this year because we grew the entire thing from seed (except for ONE plant) and it’s all organic 🙂  All our tomatoes are heirlooms.  Ahh… life is good when you have a garden!  I can’t wait until every plant is producing!  I won’t ever be able to decide what to make! Right now our choices are limited to basil, cucumbers and blueberries! (It may be time for some blueberry pie!)

This year we decided to try laying down this nice breathable weed guard that was given to us by my in-laws (thank you again!!) and it has worked out BEAUTIFULLY and saved me god knows HOW much time from having to weed the garden!  Definitely worth the small amount of extra effort!  The water absorbs right through the cloth and into the ground after several minutes.  It has done a fantastic job so far! I have it weighed down to stay in place by using empty juice jugs filled with water and potted plants.

Summer Garden : heirloom tomatoes, jalapenos, cucumber, green pepper, chili peppers, eggplant, collards and okra… and mint, cilantro and basil also.

I live in Georgia, and what I find grows abundantly with little effort (aka all you have to do is water it) is cucumbers, okra, figs (tree) and blueberries.  We also planted  eggplant, collards, green peppers and chili peppers, and jalapeno, none of which are producing just yet, though these all seem to have really started growing better since the weather got hotter.   Collards seem to grow great here, but they must be checked daily for little green worms that like to eat the leaves up. I really hate picking them off, but it is necessary… and on the bright side, I haven’t noticed them as much since it really started getting hot! In fact, since the latest heat wave, I swear our collards have doubled in size.

My favorite ways to eat okra are fried or grilled!

Cucumber and apples make the BEST fresh juice! Who knew!

Cant wait to make and preserve tomato sauce for the rest of the year!!

Our tomatoes are finally starting to get bigger but they are still pretty small and green.  In fact, they have grown quite a lot since I took this picture (above) about 2 weeks ago! We also have had great luck with our herbs (cilantro, mint and basil) which all grow great with little effort, besides watering regularly.

Here’s a good shot of the garden where you can see the weed guard… That’s the eggplants and green peppers in the front row, okra behind that and you cant really see the collards well behind those.

We have been getting a bowl full of blueberries DAILY!! We have 3 bushes right now but I say we plant 3 more!! You can never have enough fresh organic blueberries!

I’m trying to grow kale and cauliflower in containers just for the heck of it. These two plants aren’t supposed to grow well in hot weather, but I have them in pots under my front porch, so I guess I’m kinda just doing an experiment. The kale is actually lookin like its growing pretty good!

This year our garden has actually NOT been eaten by deer.  I seriously can’t believe it. We have never gotten so much out of our garden before because the deer usually get our cucumbers, blueberries and figs before we get a chance. We have tried hair clippings around the garden, fishing line, and even peeing around the garden on occasion to deter the deer, and we have never had luck. I swear we tried everything to keep the deer away…… So… This year we tried something new. We used a store-bought spray that you spray around the border of the garden.  It stinks. It’s basically made of rotten eggs (which is why we never tried it before – it’s not really vegan). But it apparently works.  The way I see it, is sometimes you gotta weigh your options. In this case, we decided to buy this spray so that we can save LOTS of money on vegetables. Our family eats a lot of vegetables.  And so far, we have not only saved money, but we have also been able to share the bounty with our family, friends and neighbors.  And that outweighs the cons in this case in my opinion.  (When you consider that after the deer eat your plants once it forever stunts their production if it doesn’t kill the plant entirely.)

Today is the 3rd day of temperatures over 100 (with a recording breaking 109 two days ago) so needless to say, we haven’t been doing much working in the garden (or even being outside) the past couple days.  I gotta say… and I’m sure my garden agrees… I can’t wait for temperatures to cool down!

Vegan Macaroni Salad

We started out our day this morning in the garden.  Our garden is currently producing cucumbers at warp speed , so I’ve been trying to think of recipes that use cucumbers.  Ironically, this recipe doesn’t contain any cucumbers, but bear with me! There will be some coming! I am not a HUGE cucumber person… I’m not sure why I planted 6 (yes, six!) cucumber plants in our garden this year.  But, on the bright side, it’s been forcing me to eat cucumbers with a vengeance.  So far, with our first ones, we’ve been making salads… eating cucumber & cream cheese sandwiches… we have had hummus with slices of cucumber on the side… falafel patties topped with cucumber and tomato.  I think I may try to make my own pickles this year with some of them.  What is your favorite thing to do with cucumbers?

This morning we made a big “Green Juice” in the juicer, containing (surprise!) cucumber, apple, kale, spinach and celery.  It was really refreshing! My kids didn’t care for it though -not sweet enough I guess!  Maybe I will add more apples for them next time.

It’s finally starting to really feel like summer here in good old Georgia, with pleasant morning temperatures climbing high late in the afternoon… but it’s not late enough in the year to be deathly hot yet!  Ahhh… it’s totally one of those days that makes me want to make sweet tea (if you’re from the south you will know what I mean) and grill out vegan hot dogs with macaroni salad and potato chips on the side… which brings me to today’s recipe – Macaroni Salad!

This macaroni salad is delicious, easy AND healthy… it is tofu based instead of mayo based… You could use vegan mayo if you wanted to, but trust me and try this first – everything I have ever made from scratch always turns out better!  Make this ahead of time and keep cold until ready to serve.  Even though it’s not made with mayonnaise, I personally don’t like to leave anything that should be cold sitting out in the hot sun for long!  This is a great salad to have around on the Fourth of July or at any picnic or cookout!

I changed very little from the original recipe, which is from Vegan Planet, one of my first and very favorite cookbooks! Robin Robertson never lets me down.  She makes vegan cooking seem so easy!

Vegan Macaroni Salad

  • 8 oz elbow macaroni noodles
  • 1/2 cup minced celery (I only used 1/4 cup)
  • > 1/2 block silken tofu
  • 1/4 cup grated onion
  • 1/4 cup sweet pickle relish
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • cayenne pepper (optional)

1 – Cook the noodles in some boiling salted water until al dente, 8-10 minutes.  Drain and rinse well under cold water.  You want to rinse off the starch and stop them from cooking any furthur and turning into mush! Put them in a large bowl and continue on.  (You could even shock the noodles in a little ice bath to stop them from cooking and chill them really quick if you wanted to.)

2- In a blender or food processor, combine the tofu, soy milk and process until smooth.  Scrape down the sides and process again. Stir in by hand the onion, celery, relish, lemon juice, mustard, salt and cayenne to taste (or save the cayenne for last and sprinkle on top as serving).  Add the cold (drained) pasta noodles and mix well.  Cover and chill at least 1 hour before serving cold. Devour… alongside your other favorite summer dishes!

This easy macaroni salad is a great addition to any BBQ, cookout or picnic!

Vegan Filet O Tofu Fish Sandwiches

So, I haven’t blogged in quite a few days… all of this warm summery weather and unusually high temperatures has been keeping us outside pretty late.  We’ve also been busy working on the yard by doing some light landscaping… planting flowers…  starting our herb garden… trimming our peach trees… weeding the front bed… and of coarse we have also spent lots of time just being together playing outside (mostly swinging).

We’re trying to do our part to stimulate the economy by visiting some of our favorite local restaurants too, which is always fun and usually leaves us with delicious leftovers 🙂 Man, this great weather has really been putting me in the mood for a visit to the ocean… but since a beach vacation isn’t in my near future, I decided to make my own ocean experience with these “fish” patties!

After I whipped up this quick yummy 3-ingredient tartar sauce, I realized just how essential the sauce is – it is the sauce that really makes this fish taste for me… probably because the only fish I ate as a kid that I actually liked were frozen fish sticks with tartar sauce!

These breaded tofu “fish” cakes turned out really great and they can also be made fish stick style, which is how I made them for the kids… My husband and I ate our’s as filet sandwiches on a bun with tartar sauce and a slice of vegan american cheese. My husband has since told me his mouth was salivating in anticipation of his next tofu “fish” sandwich, which makes me really happy  🙂  We may make these again for a Dinner and a Movie night and eat them while we watch Shark Tale, the Little Mermaid or maybe (Not) Finding Nemo!

Tartar Sauce

Mix and chill:

  • 1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise (I like Veganaise)
  • 2 heaping Tbsp sweet relish, excess liquid drained off
  • 1/2 tsp mustard (I used Dijon)

Filet-o-Tofu-Fish Sandwiches

First press your block of tofu, then cut it into 4 slices lengthwise and marinate your tofu in a large tupperware or shallow bowl for as long as possible in this mix:

  • 1 cup water & 2 heaping tsp kelp granules or kelp powder (you will need more for coating, see below)

I used this for my patties and it sure gave it a fishy quality!

After marinating the tofu, dredge the tofu slabs through the mix below thoroughly and pan fry them in a little olive oil. You can also bake these for about 40 minutes at 400 if you prefer, flipping halfway through.

  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 Tbsp kelp granules or powder
  • 4 hamburger buns, 4 slices vegan cheese

* I recommend sprinkling a little extra kelp over the top of the filets as you pan fry them for the ultimate ocean experience! *

marinating the tofu in kelp-water

coating the "fish sticks" with breading

pan frying in olive oil

A simple and delicious sandwich.

Filet o Tofu Fish served with tartar sauce, red quinoa and green beans

A Mess of Mama’s Vegan BBQ

Check out this weeks Dinner and a Movie  🙂  We watched one of our favorites -Emmet Otter’s Jug-band Christmas and made… what other than… BARBECUE!! A mess of mama’s barbecue to be exact… with baked beans.

Check it out by clicking here!

And if you missed it, check out the pictures I added of my Dr. Seuss Omelet