Whatever Happaned to Sunday Dinners : The General, Mihl & a Monday suggestion (if I may…)

Before we get all food p*rny, I’d first like to apologize to Mihl of Seitan is My Motor. She is beautiful, talented, makes the most amazing cookies ever and shares delightful German recipes and cultural tidbits. Reading her blog is like taking a little trip to Dresden, and if you haven’t been over there lately, you should!

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gummies

Why am I saying I’m sorry? Mihl so sweetly sent me super-delicious vegan Gummy Bears and an adorable handmade card decked out with origami animals and despite my best intentions, I inadvertently left her out of my Happy Mail round-up. I officially suck and will hang my head in shame as I compose the rest of this post

It’s almost Mardi Gras!!! Wooot! Here in France we don’t get as crazy-wild-fun as does our friend Kittee (I can’t wait to see pictures of her in her costume!), but it does mean crêpes! Love it! But wait, mardi is Tuesday…whatever will we eat on Monday? May I suggest you make yourself some extraordinary New Orleans Style Red Beans? I made these last Monday and good grief did my house smell amazing all morning while those beans were simmering!

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Delicious, simple beany goodness served over a mix of wheat berries, wild rice and whole white rice. Leftovers were enjoyed rolled up in tortillas. So easy, so nutritious and so affordable!

And now on to Sunday Dinner, which is brought to you today by the letter “K” as in Krys of Two Vegan Boys. She served up some General Tao’s Tofu the other day and it got me craving take out Chinese again (what is up with that?). The recipe is here though I just used it as a guideline : I doubled the sauce, played with the spices a little, cursed the fridge gods for not having any peppers or green onions, and thanked them for the broccoli, mushrooms, green beans, cauliflower and carrots I did have. Oh yum. Thanks for the inspiration, Krys!

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This was the first time I dipped tofu in an egg replacer before giving it a good cornstartch coat. I’ll be honest, I’m not really sure if it was necessary. I think just giving it a little dip in some non-dairy milk or even just a smidge of water would have worked fine. Just sayin’.

I love crêpes & la fête de la Chandeleur! Oh, and Whatever happened to Sunday dinners? Sweet & Sour Tofu and Asian-Style Veg

Happy fête de la Chandeleur! Let’s get crazy and eat crêpes!

While some of you are “celebrating” Groundhog Day, here in France it’s one of my favourite little holidays of all – la fête de la Chandeleur, and we get to eat crêpes! I wrote a lovely explination of this holdiay last year, and let me tell you, it is the most popular post on this blog. I can’t begin to tell you how many English language “Chandeleur” searches lead folks to me. There is also my tried & true vegan crêpe recipe on that post, which is also quite popular this time of year. So go read up on Catholic propaganda and crêpes – what fun!

But what about Sunday dinner?

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Sweet & Sour Tofu

One of my favourite “treats” as a child was going out for Chinese food. Now grant you, there was only one Chinese restaurant near-by (and near-by being a rather subjective distance), and it was only on very special occasions that my parents piled us all into the mini-van for some Chinese cuisine. Now a mum myself, I can only discern virtual Congressional Medals of Honor for the courage and heroism (and insanity?) my parents displayed bringing us all out to eat in public, in a restaurant. All six of us.

My absolute favourite thing as a kid was the Sweet & Sour Chicken balls. The sticky-sweet red sauce clinging to the deep-fried, breaded balls – which really should have been called Sweet & Sour breading balls with a tiny piece of chicken in them, seriously – and the sticky white rice painted pink after a proper slathering in the sweet & sour sauce…it was like dessert, but for dinner.

I haven’t had the sweet & sour goodness in so long it is crazy, since at least 1990 when I went veg, but probably before. This is a test recipe for 500 Vegan Recipes, and I feel like I need to have a second child and name her Joni in order to properly thank her for this recipe it is so damn good. If you ever enjoyed food-court-style take out in your pre-vegan days and miss that wonderful, terrible sticky red sauce, you are going to love this recipe.

ss-tofu-vegAsian-Style Veg and Sweet & Sour Tofu

I’m a little embarrassed, but I’ll admit it. I made this twice in three days I love it so much. There. I said it. Please don’t totally lose respect for me.

I don’t know what I’m going to do when Joni & Celine are done testing their recipes for their upcoming cookbook 500 Vegan Recipes. What will I make? Seriously, I love this because I just consult what needs to be tested and I have my menu for the week! Don’t forget the Flickr group for more food p*orn love.

Whatever Happened To Sunday Dinners? Twice-Baked Potatoes, how I love thee!

This was one of those dinners that made me feel all down-home and comfort-foody. Love that!

The closest I had ever come to making twice-baked potatoes are the Samosa-Stuffed Potatoes from VCON. Monsieur Fish and Guppy both really like them, they’re quick and easy and they are always a big hit with omnis, so they work well as appies when we have a little soirée. However real, honest-to-goodness born in Betty Crockeresque kitchen in the 1960’s twice-baked taters had never been on my list of things to make. Maybe because I’d never had them before? I have had potato skins – those were considered “party food” when I was little and my mum wanted to make us a special finger-food type meal. But twice-baked potatoes? Nope. Never.

Oh how wrong I was to have neglected such an easy and delightful dish!

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Sunday Dinner: Twice-Baked Potatoes, Basic Seitan Crumbles, Roasted Green Beans with sautéed Mushrooms & Onions, and Orange(r) Carrot Coins

These Twice-Baked Potatoes were dangerously good. I mean, hide the left-overs so there will be some left for tomorrow good. Don’t get me wrong, they are not to be considered low-fat or something I will make every week, but they are now in the canon of “comfort foods”. And those Basic Seitan Crumbles? Outta sight! So versatile, they could be used in a myriad many ways – on pizza, over a salad…we ended up sprinkling them on our potatoes like bacon bits. Heaven. The Carrot Coins also scored high on their “not tasting like health food carrots” according to Monsieur F. We were having trouble not having thirds, and fourths…

With the exception of the roasted beanies, this meal was built by Celine and Joni, the goddesses of vegan recipe creations. You’ll have no choice but to pick up a copy of their 500 Vegan Recipes. Ok, you’ll have a choice, but really, you won’t be able to help yourself from wanting all this goodness! Want to see more? Go check out the 500 Vegan Recipes Flickr Group.

While preparing the potatoes for this dinner, I couldn’t help but thinking about my friend Ricki of Diet, Dessert and Dogs, but I couldn’t figure out why. I mean, this wasn’t one of her recipes – though I do use her recieps often! Then it hit me: last year Ricki wrote a very moving post, one of my favourites, and she therein mentions potato boats. This post touched me for many different personal reasons, and so deeply that well over 6 months later I was brought back to her childhood memories as I prepared my meal. As most of you know, Ricki was recently nominated for a blogging award grâce à her beautiful prose. I just wanted to say that award or not, Ricki’s talent, culinary and literary, is undeniable!

Whatever Happened To Sunday Dinners? : Wild Rice, Mushrooms & Flageolets Verts Au Vin Blanc

In our continuing series of Sunday Dinners, I bring you some earthy yummieness I cooked up today. Born from the need to use the mushrooms and leeks that were in my fridge, this delicious dish was of the “stick to your ribs” type.

If you don’t care for or have a difficult time finding flageolets (which are a French green kidney bean), you could easily sub any mild-tasting bean like cannellini beans (which are the white Italian version of the same bean!). You can play with the proportions of wild rice to whole rice – I used my extra special wild rice stash sent to me from Libby in America! Lucky me.

Oh, and did I mention the wine? It sounds a little classier to say “au vin blanc” than to say “hey, there’s wine in it!”, right? Now pour yourself a little vino and get cooking!

thiswildmushroom

Don’t be deterred by the rather drab-looking photo, this is a flavourful dish with lots of depth and a hearty, toothsome texture thanks to the mushrooms. I tried to remember to write this down, but it’s not as precise as it could be so if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to let me know! I’m here for you!

Wild Rice, Mushrooms & Flageolets Verts

  • 1 cup wild rice
  • 1/2 cup brown/whole rice
  • 1 leek, top & tail removed and sliced into thin half-moons
  • 400-500g mushrooms I used crimini, cleaned & roughly chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves sliced thinly
  • 2 cup dry white wine 1 cup for you to sip while preparing your meal, the other is for the recipe (or veg broth would work, too if you’re sans vin.)
  • 2 cups cooked flageolets
  • salt, pepper, dried herbes de provinçe
  • a little olive oil
  • pine nuts (optional)

Cook your rice – if you’re rather organized you could rinse and soak over night, but if you’re not, don’t sweat it. I wasn’t that organized today, trust me.

While your rice is doing its thing, get to the veg prep. Heat a splash of olive oil in your pan and add the garlic, and when it’s fragrant add the leeks. Stir that around, and in a few minutes, add your mushrooms. If things seem a little dry you can add a few splashes of water. When the mushrooms are tender lower the heat and add the wine and spices and let this simmer – I think this was about 5 minutes or so. Now add your rice and your beans and cover. I had the heat on low and just let things simmer to share their flavours.

While this is happening you can toast your pine nuts in a dry frying pan – if you’ve never toasted your own pine nuts you’re missing out on one of the easiest and gratifying little tricks in the kitchen. Just add your pine nuts – I used a handful – and with a wooden spoon or spatula just shiggle them around so they don’t burn – you can lower the heat if you need to, don’t worry, you can always turn it back up. They’ll get all toasty and smell yummy.

And voila! In the interest of nutrition you should serve this with a green salad or a bowl of soup, but I didn’t do that. Today was one of those “feeling sorry for myself because I’m still not able to run or do much else” days. I’m also feeling helpless and terrible about the horrible war crimes happening in Gaza. My heart just breaks when I think about the families who have no water, electricity, can’t bury their dead with dignity…not even aspirin or antibiotics to give the wounded. I cannot help but feel embarrassed to be human.

We all stayed in our p.j.s all day and watched movies and I did a little crafty sewing. We were salad-less and I wasn’t up for making soup. Be a better vegan than I was and have a little something with this, ok?

Whatever Happened To Sunday Dinners? : I *Heart* Indian Cuisine!

Nothing like a little spice to warm up your insides when the weather outside is frightful! It is frightful here – every day it gets colder and colder…

indian-food

Clockwise from top : Chickpea Masala, Peas in a Creamy Curry Sauce, and Spicy Chick-Wheat Savory Muffins

Nothing like getting all curry & cumin! This was one of those meals where you’re really, really glad there are left-overs. My big strategy of making a big Sunday luncheon and being a big lazyfish and leaving the left-overs on the stove until dinner…yeah, I like it. Now I just hope there’s enough left for tonight!

The “Chickpea Masala” is a test recipe for Celine & Joni’s 500 Vegan Recipes, and I am so going to make this like, a million more times. This was as scrumptious as it was easy and inexpensive (or cheap, but that sounded so dirty!).

I recently noticed that Guppy really likes peas, so I jumped at the chance to milk this for all it’s worth and made Ricki’s delectable “Peas in a Creamy Curry Sauce” and just went light on the spice. These were really delicious and it was nice to have some green on our plates! Guppy of course snubbed the peas, because she has gone through the hideous transformation of “no, I don’t like that!” (no matter what it is). Oh how I miss the days of her liking everything. Well, if she’s hungry, she’ll eat*.

And to round out the meal, some tasty “Chick-Wheat Savory Muffins”. I loved these. They are perfect for helping soak up all the masala and curry goodness you see on the plate!

*Rest assured, I do try to see that the kidlet eats properly. As long as we have bananas and soy yogurt, she won’t starve. Oh, and when she eats elsewhere she eats everything…just like most other toddlers. The joys of parenthood are without number…

Whatever happened to Sunday Dinners? Lentil Casserole & “Wanna Be” Twinkiesque Cupcakes

Ever since drooling over Jennifer McCann’s veganized Twinkie(r) recipe, I have been able to think of nothing else (sorry, just had to laugh at the absurdity of that sentence- can you imagine only thinking about spongecake & creme filling? No dwelling on worrying about stressing over thinking about things like paying the bills, what to feed your 2 year-old, grading papers for students who really don’t care anyway, your checking account’s current negative balance, et all.) Let’s say that the vegan Twinkies(r) have been on my mind. A lot.

I went to a few stores in town and none of them carried anything even close to the cakelette tins one needs to build the perfect vegan Twinkie(r). While ordering them on-line is a possibility, the shipping is more than the tins…so, I surrendered to the idea of just making cupcakes, but that is so not the same thing.

 

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The other little snag in my devious plot for vegan Twinkie(r) perfection was that the recipe for the creme filling calls for barley malt powder. Now, if you think finding the cakelette tins is a problem here, you can forget about finding something as obscure as barley malt powder.

Not prepared to renounce a chance at tasting the sweet nostalgia of my youth, I decided to improvise (as usual) and used the “Fluffy White Icing” recipe from Vegan With A Vengeance. I’ve made Isa’s (Can I call you Isa? I think I can. Or would you prefer Ms. Isa? How about Vegan Cupcake Goddess?) “Fauxstess Cupcakes” before (they are délicioso), though I’d not gone the extra caloric-mile with the cream filling. It was a mile well worth taking, because it was perfect. The recipe calls for non-hydrogenated shortening which is also impossible to find in ma ville, but doubling up on the non-hydrogenated margarine worked perfectly much to my delight!

The Twinkie-cupcake experience was all rather exciting for me as I’d never used a pastry bag to fill anything before- how fun! I actually exploded a few cupcakes in the process (which was also kinda fun), but it was no problem, I just decided to cover up the damage with some swirly-cream! (I felt so Martha Stewart).

 

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Before…

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after!

Mr. Fish had never before tasted the goodness that we call Twinkie(r), and he was converted instantly. I’d planned on bringing some to work with me today to make up for the Valentine’s cupcakes which never made it…and he persuaded me that it was better to keep them here, with us. For Us.

I was so busy being productive yesterday with the cupcakes and my long run and putting the finishing touches on my Pointy Kitty (which I’ll blog more on later), that the dinner part of Sunday just sort of slipped away from me.

Being that it’s the end of the month (we’re paid monthly here in France) and the cupboards are beginning to be a wee bit bare, and I was rather short on time (and energy, licking all that cream filling off my fingers was exhausting!), I wanted to find a nutritious and delicious casserole recipe, but where? how? Who would help me through this dilemma?

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Didn’t actually get a photo of the casserole, so here’s another cupcake!

Casseroles make me think of the 1950’s, which make me think retro, which logically make me think of looking in a Sarah Kramer cookbook. Makes sense, right? See, here’s the deal, I have a love/hate relationship with La Dolce Vegan!. You know, like the colleague you seem to always be sort of harping about, so much so that someone finally tells you “hey, you have a crush on them!”- Ha! and all the incredulous “No I don’t, whatever!”s in the world can’t change the fact that you spend an awful lot of time talking about said person.

 

That’s me. I totally think Kramer is a righteous fish and her books are hip, but I just can’t figure out how to effectively use LDV. I can’t find things easily. Take yesterday for example. I wanted I casserole recipe, so I look under casseroles in the index. I find just a few. Nothing that would work with my kitchen stock. I continue to flip through and accidentally happen upon “Wendy’s Lentil & Brown Rice Casserole” (which was not with the casseroles, go figure). Cool. I put down book, the Guppy picks up book and starts reading it and of course page is lost. I can’t find it. I know C for casserole won’t help, I then look under W for Wendy but that doesn’t work… luckily for me I found it under “lentils” because it was yummy. I amped up the spices adding more basil and oregano, adding turmeric, cumin, crushed red pepper flakes, and four carrots. Very tasty, very easy. One pot meals rule! Yes you have to take it out to stir a few times, but since I had dishes to do and papers to grade at the kitchen table, it wasn’t terribly difficult.

I would like to say we enjoyed the casserole with a fresh, green salad with mustard vinaigrette (that was the plan) and homemade rolls (also the plan), but we were so full from noshing on the cupcakes that, well, we just left those out.

“Whatever happened to Sunday Dinners?” featuring tempeh, veggies and dessert!

In our continuing series “Whatever happened to Sunday Dinners?” I would like to propose:

  • Barbequed Tempeh from The New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook
  • Chickpea Broccoli Casserole from Vegan With A Vengeance
  • Gâteau au “fromage” à l’orange & aux amandes (orange & almond tofu “fromage” cheese cake) a Shellyfish original.

If you’re hungry, scroll down, this is a little long…

Being a vegan isn’t always easy. Dealing with an oft-misinformed public, tricky labeling, well-meaning but misguided friends and family members choosing sometimes radically inappropriate moments* to re-vegan-hash the “So why don’t you eat meat again?” question, stern-faced teachers and daycare personnel, incredulous about the lack of animal protein in your child’s diet…and so many other examples. I became a vegetarian over 18 years ago, and I was very lucky to have a supportive omnivore family, and then I moved to the other end of the United States and was living in an extremely veg-friendly city with great veg-friendly businesses, bakeries, groceries and restaurants. While I very, very rarely did anything resembling “cooking” or “baking”, I always had veg-friendly things to eat at my apartment, but I admit to very often eating out or getting take-out, and was generally a very lazy veg who was lacto-ovo much of the time.

It’s not the same life anymore for the Shellyfish, and I find myself spending more and more time in the kitchen. I used to cringe when I would imagine the “TMF” (typical married female) living somewhere between her laundry room and her kitchen, waiting on her husband and kids… (this reductionist view may well explain my former fear of commitment syndrome). I’ve evolved, and while some chicas are sadly uber-oppressed, I’m happy (most of the time) being a part-time stay-at-home mom, and I have discovered a new passion these past few years: spending time in the kitchen!

With the plethora of vegan cookbooks on the market and the growing numbers of vegan recipes on-line, it’s rather easy to find cruelty-free delicious things to prepare. While I am still in a far from veg-friendly French town, we have three, count ‘em, three health-food stores where I can find (expensive) tofu and other “oddities”, and when I lived in the area summer of 2004, there was much less choice to be had. It’s exciting to see things changing! While newly pregnant during Fall of 2004 (and home-bound and hungry!), I ordered a copy of The New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook edited by Louise Hagler and Dorothy R. Bates at the suggestion of a friend brought up in a veg-household (and whose mom is a mid-wife). This cookbook is so amazing! I rarely see it cited on the veg-blogosphere, and it’s dommage because it is really one of the most complete, basic vegan bibles out there. It explains DIY tofu, tempeh, yuba, gluten/seitan, you name it. The other great thing about this book is that it doesn’t call for specific hard-to-find brand-names, most everything is findable for a country mouse or a city mouse. I admit NFVC isn’t as hip or sexy as the newer, glossy books available. This book is from the mid-70s (just like me!), and it’s retro without trying to be. Get this book. You will not regret it. Well, maybe you will, but I think you’ll really like it.

Enough babble, on with our Sunday Dinner menu!

Until yesterday I’d never made my own BBQ sauce. There is a snappy recipe in the NFVC that you let simmer for an hour, and it is tangy and sassy and all those great BBQ adjectives rolled into one. Get your sauce going, then start your gâteau au fromage. I adapted this recipe from the basic Tofu Cheesecake recipe in NFVC, and have never regretted it. I’ve got another variation with maple syrup & pecans, but that’s for another day…

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  • GATEAU AU “fromage” À L’ORANGE ET AUX AMANDES
  • 500g/about 1lb medium tofu (just pat dry, don’t press)
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup veg. oil of choice
  • 1 cup organic sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/2 tablespoon orange essence/orange water (different brands call it different things)
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract
  • shaved almonds, orange slices, raspberry coulis for garnish

Break up the tofu, and add all ingredients together in a food processor or blender and whip until creamy and smooth. If things are a bit grainy, mix some more, adding a hair of orange juice if it’s too thick. Pour into your crust of choice and bake at 350f for about 45 minutes or until it hardly jiggles in the middle. Let cool completely before trying to cut it!

While your gâteau is cooking and your BBQ sauce is simmering, you can set to work on the “Chickpea Broccoli Casserole” from VWAV. I’d never made it before, and I learned the hard way that you can’t always do with a “stiff fork” what you can do with a potato masher. After getting nowhere with my fourchette, I decided to squish my chickpeas with my bare hands (I’m a brute).

Once you get your casserole in the oven, just deep-fry your tempeh, and pour a little of your now-finished sauce in the bottom of a baking dish, add your blotted tempeh, then bake for about 15 minutes at around 350f.

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Everything was so super delicious! Mr. Fish was a little afraid of the casserole because it looked so “healthy”, but once he tasted it (and covered it with BBQ sauce) everything was fine. The Guppy devoured her gâteau au fauxmage, but the BBQ sauce was a little too much for her.

*like at the dinner table when they are about to wolf-down a fork-full of dead animal…I usually say, “I don’t think this is an appropriate time to talk about this.” or something similar, they push, I begin discussing slaughter-house strategies, etc., and inevitably someone at the table is horribly offended and gets all ‘radical vegan’ on me…

Tofu Loaf, Oven-Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Mighty Miso Gravy & Brown Rice: Now Whatever Happened to Sunday Dinners?

Wanting to make a special dinner for Mr. Fish yesterday (it was his fête, or Saint Day, I told you, holidays, albeit little ones, all the time!), I felt a bit strapped for ideas. I try very hard to be an organized person, properly rotating dishes to vary the nutrients and tastes, eating in season, having the correct ingredients on hand…but frankly, it’s a bit of a full-time job to do it all 100%, so I just do what I can (that being said there is a great little article in the recent VegFamily newsletter/website on meal planning
which describes a great idea, which I just might try).

When I went to the marché on Friday with the Guppy we bought about 500g/1lb of brussels sprouts because they looked so tasty. We eat brussels sprouts fairly often, but I would like to point out that before living in France I could not stand brussels sprouts: their geeky-pallor, hideous aroma- YUCK! Alas I was, as are many, victim of boiled-sprouts syndrome, which is unfortunate, because fresh brussels sprouts are amazing, and so good for you. Frozen just can’t compare, though I am not against frozen veggies at all, on the contrary they are often better and more accessible than fresh, but frozen sprouts lose part of their delicious soul, which is dommage. My favorite way to cook sprouts is to roast them, which is sooo easy it’s crazy, and they are so darn good you’ll be nibbling them off the serving dish. Yes, you will. Vegan With A Vengeance (one of my favorite cookbooks) has a nice simple recipe for roasting them with garlic so you could opt for that to begin. Once you start, you’ll be making them all the time and your friends will threaten to no longer eat over if you don’t make something else.

Yummy Tofu Loaf with oven-roasted brussel sprouts
Yummy Tofu Loaf with oven-roasted brussel sprouts

Anyway, needed to cook the sprouts, which left me thinking, “OK, great, you have your vegetable, but where is your MEAL???”, which is when I had this sort of magic infinity-moment where all was right with the world, I saw myself sitting down to a Clever family Sunday dinner and tried to envision what would be served next to the steaming platter of brussels sprouts and then it hit me- meatless loaf! Hourrah! I love tofu loaf! It’s such an easy main dish to throw together in a flash, and makes you feel like you’ve invited an old friend to your table (even if you’ve never been partial to loaf!).

A good tofu loaf is really a subjective thing- a good base-loaf recipe for you to use if it’s uncharted territory is the “Tip-Top Tofu Loaf” from Sarah Kramer’s La Dolce Vegan!. Recently a friend asked me for my tofu loaf recipe, and because it is never the same I suggested this recipe (because I just sort of do it “by ear” or au pif, by nose). I’m glad I did because it gave me cause to flip through it- I’m just not a big fan of this book because of its presentation. I get weirded out by all the pictures of Kramer prancing about. I don’t know why. There are, however, some great basic recipes for newbie vegans trying to find good transition comfort foods- or for folks like me who often make vegan meals for omnivores.

Tofu loaf, oven-roasted brussels sprouts, brown rice & Mighty Miso Gravy

Tofu loaf, oven-roasted brussels sprouts, brown rice & Mighty Miso Gravy

Rather than go with the traditional mashed potatoes usually found lurking around loafy-dishes, I made some brown rice, and no loafy-meal would be complete without a delicious gravy, so I made my family’s favorite “Mighty Miso Gravy” from How It All Vegan. Delish!

I did, however, make too much rice, so I’ll be searching for a good rice pudding recipe later today…

(In a moment of incredible dorkiness, I found that if you look quickly at the above picture it looks like a man wearing a monocle is smiling at you!)