Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Scottish Bento!

I went to a Scottish festival this past weekend and they don't usually have anything at these types of events I can eat. I've been itching to use my new Zojirushi bento lunch box and came up with the first Scottish bento box ever! So without further ado:

by Virginia's Vegan World Kitchen

Clockwise from left we have:

Mashed potatoes - I make them homemade with organic potatoes. I leave 1/2 the skins on and mash them with Earth Balance organic vegan margarine, and Silk organic soy milk. Salt and pepper to taste. These were packed in the "rice" container.

Bangers - Though not properly called "bangers" Tofurky makes several banger type sausages. Here I used the kielbasa, but the beer brats would have worked well too. Pan fry them as per the package directions, then cut to fit your bento. This was packed in the large entree container.

Onion gravy - First I sauteed 1/2 a chopped onion. (use the same oil to cook your banger Yumm!) Then I whipped up some Hain brown gravy, and after the onion was browned, I added it to the gravy. The gravy went in the "soup" container

Mushy peas - I first had these in Scotland and have been hooked ever since. This dish is the only one I use canned peas for - fresh or frozen just doesn't work. You want them...well...mushy! Heat your peas on the stovetop or in the microwave. Drain and mash them up with a fork or potato masher. Proceed as though you were making mashed potatoes, but use a higher margarine to soymilk ratio. I pepper these, but be careful with the salt - commercial peas (even organic) are pretty salty as is. The peas went in the small entree container with a little pat of butter on top.

I also packed two little containers of mustard (English and Dijon) and instead of the included chopsticks, I packed a fork, knife, and spoon.

Everything was delicious and I had a little crowd of interested people watching me unpack and eat my "Japanese" Scottish lunch.

Zojirushi review

I heated my container and made sure everything was good and hot before I packed my lunch. I carried it outdoors, in February, and it was still fairly warm when I ate it four hours later. The soup container with the gravy was by far the warmest - it is also packed at the very bottom. The potatoes were pretty warm as well. The banger was much cooler however, and the peas, which are packed in the "lid" of the bento were almost cold. A cold dish like a small salad or fresh fruit would do well in the small top container. And of course, inside it would have stayed warmer. All together, it worked pretty well and I promise to make more Zojirushi bento.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Chinese Dinner

Chengdu Mapo Dofu with Peanut Butter Noodles, served with Sesame Broccoli
From Virginia's Vegan World Kitchen

I love this dish with an irrational passion and eat it at least once a month. Mapo dofu is eaten all over China and more recently in Japan. It is normally served with white rice. However in a little restaurant in Chengdu they served with it with the most luscious Peanut Butter noodles. The flavors are simply divine together and now I can't eat it any other way. Here I've added some steamed broccoli drizzled with a little sesame seed oil. The light, fresh broccoli complements the heavier dishes and adds vitamins. You could also serve it with steamed snow peas dressed the same way. For the peanut butter noodles, by far the best peanut butter to use is the pure, unadulterated, fresh ground peanut butter. At the health food store by my house, they have a grinder all set up with a hopper full of fresh, roasted organic peanuts. You hit the switch, hold your container underneath, and out comes the good stuff. If this is not available, the next best thing is no salt, no sugar, no added (or substituted) oil, health food peanut butter.

Nearly all the time for this dish is spent in prep. Actual cooking time is less than 10 minutes.


For the Mapo Dofu:

For the sauce:
1/2 cup vegetable stock
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons any chili paste with soybean or soybean paste with chili
1-2 teaspoons ground cayenne pepper (depending on how hot your chili paste with soybean is)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch

For the pan:
1/2 container of Firm or Extra Firm Tofu (about 6 ounces)
1/4 cup vegan burger crumbles or tvp crumbles (can be omitted)
2 Tablespoons oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
3 green onions, sliced into rounds including most of the green
Sesame seeds for garnish
Chopped cilantro for garnish

For the Peanut Butter Noodles:

For the sauce:
3/4 cup pure peanut butter (see description above). If unavailable, substitute grocery store "natural" chunky peanut butter (like Laura Scutters). If you absolutely must, you can use commercial peanut butter like Skippy, but you'll need to adjust your seasonings
1/2 cup vegetable stock
2 Tablespoons sesame oil
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 Tablespoon rice vinegar (unsweetened/seasoned - if you only have sweetened, you'll need to adjust your seasonings)
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon sugar (if using commercial peanut butter or sweetened rice vinegar, omit)
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

For the pot:
4 oz vegan Chinese Lo Mein noodles (substitute linguine if you can't find them)
1 green onion sliced into rounds including most of the green for garnish

For the Broccoli with sesame oil

1 cup of broccoli crowns per person
Sesame oil
Sesame seeds for garnish

Putting it all together:
First, set the water to boil for your noodles while you make your sauces. For the Mapo Dofu, combine all ingredients except the cornstarch in a bowl or measuring cup. Mix well. For the Peanut Butter Noodles sauce, mix the peanut butter well, then add your wet ingredients a little at a time until they are well incorporated, then mix in the remaining ingredients. the sauce should be somewhat thin, like a thin pancake batter. If it's too thick, add a little water. This sauce will thicken a little when it sits.

Next, mince your garlic and ginger, slice your scallions and cut your tofu into cubes. Chop your broccoli into florets and set up your steaming apparatus.

Begin cooking your noodles as per package directions, and heat your oil on high in the pan or wok for the tofu. When hot, put in the garlic and ginger. Stir fry for a few minutes or until garlic just begins to brown. Add the green onions and cook for a minute or two more. Add the tofu and reduce heat to medium-high, stir and fry for 5 minutes. Add the sauce and the burger crumbles (if using), reduce heat to medium-low, and allow to simmer until your noodles are done. If you're using TVP crumbles, simmer until they are completely re-hydrated. This is a good time to steam your broccoli. When your noodles are just about done, add the cornstarch, dissolved in a tablespoon of water, to the tofu dish. Bring to a boil and stir until sauce begins to thicken. Remove from heat.

Drain your now cooked noodles and fold in the sauce mix. You may not need all of the sauce depending on how much water is clinging to the noodles. Leftover sauce is spectacular on steamed veggies or, thinned out with water and chilled, as a salad dressing.

Remove your broccoli from the steamer and drizzle a healthy bit of sesame seed oil (maybe 2 teaspoons per serving) and salt to taste.

When serving, garnish the Mapo Dofu with sesame seeds and cilantro, the noodles with green onions, and the broccoli with sesame seeds.


Friday, February 16, 2007

Japanese Lunch

Vegan Spicy Shrimp Sushi Roll
By Virginia's Vegan World Kitchen

Spicy shrimp is incredibly easy to make. All you need is:

4 Vegan Shrimp
1 Tbs Vegan Mayonaise
1 Tsp Sirachi hot sauce
Sushi rice


Make and cool your sushi rice. Sushi novices can find instructions for making the rice and rolling the roll on a number of websites.

Very finely mince the defrosted shrimp. You could use a food processor if you like a finer mixture. Stir in the mayo and the hot sauce. Check your mixture and add more hot sauce if you like it to have more of a kick. Lay out your nori, cover it with sushi rice and place the mixture at the very bottom as in the picture. Roll it up (I use a dishtowl to help me with this as it's much easier to clean than a bamboo sushi mat.)

I also made:

Basic Vegan California Roll

This is an easy roll to make with avocado, slivers of organic carrots and cucumber. See below:

My final item was:

Inari Sushi

It doesn't get any easier than this. The little tofu "packets" called aburage can be bought in the cold section of many Japanese markets. Fill it with the sushi rice and add a sprinkle of vegan furikake (a rice seasoning made with sesami seeds, nori, and sometimes greens like spinach. Be careful when you buy this as many versions have bonito flakes or other fish in them). If you don't have any furikake, you can use sesame seeds and crumpled notri.

Here's the final lunch:

The spicy shrimp roll is on the top, the California roll on the bottom, and the Inari is snuggled in between. I've added wasabi in the upper right corner and pickled ginger in the upper left, with a little dish of soy sauce off to the left. Only half of each roll is on the plate. The other half, along with another Inari went into my bento box:

I put a little drop of the Sirachi sauce on each spicy roll, to give it a little extra kick. to the left is a little bottle of soy sauce and a little container of wasabi. Above that is the pickeled ginger. You can see the little door open on the lid that hides the chopsticks. I love this box :)

European breakfast

This morning I woke up and took one look at my luscious basket of fruit and immediately knew what to do with it. Muesli! Muesli is a Germanic Swiss invention of dairy (usually yogurt, but sometimes cream or milk), fruit, raw or toasted grains, nuts or seeds and a sweetener. It is now eaten all over Europe, and through European backpackers in many other parts of the world. Here I've veganized it using soy yogurt.

In South America, they often make this dish with Acai, a small, deep purple fruit which grows on one of the many species of palm there. It's popular with locals and backpackers alike. In the US, we can get this fruit crushed and frozen in the freezer section of many health food stores (it spoils very quickly and is unavailable fresh outside South America). It's often sold as a smoothie additive. If you're having trouble finding it, you can buy online at Get the unsweetened smoothie pack for this bowl. This fruit is absolutely packed with antioxidants and is delicious. Oh, and I suppose you could put it in a smoothie too ;)

Acai Muesli Bowl
by Virginia's Vegan World Kitchen
For each bowl:

1/2 banana sliced
1/4 apple (I like green for this) finely diced
1/4 cup fruit of your choice (I used blood orange segments)
1 cup soy yogurt (vanilla or plain)
I packet unsweetened acai, defrosted
1/4 cup raw rolled oats
1/8 cup seeds or nuts of your choice (sesame seeds, pine nuts, and shelled pumpkin seeds are all good)
Liquid sweetener (agave nectar, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, etc.)

Layer the ingredients in your bowl in the order above. If your soy yogurt is sweetened, you may not need the sweetener, but I always like a little swirl of agave nectar on top of mine.

This dish can also easily be made raw. Just omit the yogurt and use an entire very ripe banana. Instead of slicing the banana, mash it together with the acai, then proceed as above.
Yumm!!!!!If you're planning on packing this to go (in a bento box or plastic containers) pack the yogurt and acai together, the fruit in another container, and the raw oats and nuts in a third. This is an easy dish to put together at work.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Koh Pha-Ngan Thai Rice Soup

You're probably expecting a Valentines Day dish today. I just couldn't bring myself to do it. In my opinion, V-Day dishes, no matter how delicious, always end up looking like some heart shaped travesty covered in blood sauce. But, in honor of the day of lovers, I made a little heart with my vegan shrimp and tomato slice in the center of the soup. Happy Valentine's Day!

Koh Pha-Ngan Thai Rice Soup
from Virginia's World Vegan Kitchen

Rice soup, or Congee, is eaten all over Asia. I found this version at a little restaurant next to the bungalows I was staying in on Sunset Beach on Koh Pha-Ngan. I absolutely fell in love with it and the cook was kind enough to show me how to make it. It is wonderfully light and fresh tasting. The shrimp were somewhat rare and there was usually only one in a bowl, so I have duplicated that here. You may, of course, add more. You may also completely omit the shrimp (the way it was served to me) if they are unavailable or not to your liking. This soup may sound complicated, but if I have the roasted garlic on hand (and I always do) this meal takes me 15 minutes from start to finish.

Ingredients (clockwise from lower left):
1 rounded cup of cooked white rice
4 frozen vegan Shrimp (I like the Vegetarian Plus vegan shrimp with chili sauce, available at Whole Food's Market. You won't need the chili sauce for this dish)
Garlic for making roasted garlic cloves (see instructions) You'll need three roasted cloves.
Salt and pepper
1 small handful cilantro
2 green onions
1 "finger" of ginger
1 smallish tomato

Instructions for roasting garlic: (Note:I usually make a couple heads of this at a time. They are easily stored in an airtight container in their oil for several months, then they are ready to add a rich, buttery flavor to stirfrys, pasta sauces, or in this delicious soup!)

Carefully peel your chosen amount of garlic. Many Asian markets sell packets of fresh, pre-peeled whole garlic - a real time saver! Put your garlic cloves in a small sauce pan and pour vegetable oil (your choice) over the garlic. The oil should completely cover the garlic. Turn heat on high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and deep fry garlic for 4-5 minutes or until it turns a deep tan/light brown color. Remove from heat and lift out garlic with a slotted spoon to avoid further cooking/burning. On the left you can see whole heads of garlic, freshly peeled garlic, and the cooked garlic on the plate. Allow oil to cool. Pack cooled garlic in a small glass jar and fill jar with oil, making sure to to completely cover garlic, and leave at least an inch of headroom at the top of the jar. Screw on lid and keep in a cool dark place. Discard if oil becomes cloudy or "stringy", and in any case, after 6 months.

Instructions for dish:

Wash and slice the tomato into wedges.
Finely chop cilantro
Slice green onions into thin rounds, including 3/4 of the green
Peel and mince or grate the ginger, you'll need a scant tablespoon of ginger.

Dump the rice and one cup of water into a medium stock pan. Turn heat to high and bring to a boil. Once water is boiling, begin mashing and smashing the rice against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon (See picture below). The rice will break down and thicken the soup fairly quickly.

When the soup becomes quite thick, pour another cup of water into the pot, bring back to a boil, and begin mashing the rice again. Once the soup thickens a second time (this will take a little longer than the first time, perhaps 5 minutes), pour 1/2 cup of water into the soup and bring back to a boil.

Add the shrimp, garlic cloves with their oil, half the ginger, 1 teaspoon of salt and a generous grinding of pepper. Reduce heat to low and let simmer (no lid) for 3-4 minutes.

By now the soup will have thickened up again. Add another 1/2 cup of water and again bring to a boil. Add the tomato (save a few wedges for garnishing), the green onions and most of the cilantro (save a tablespoon or so for garnish). Reduce heat and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
The soup will again have thickened. Add 1/2 to 3/4 cup of water to thin the soup. It should be somewhat, but not too watery. I try and add water so that when the rice settles it comes about 1/2 inch below the level of the water.

Bring back to a quick boil and add the rest of the ginger. Check the spices, you may need to add another 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of salt and some more pepper. Remove from the fire and serve immediately. Serve family style or in individual bowls. Garnish with a slice of tomato and a quick sprinkling of cilantro.

Makes about 5 cups. Serves 4 people for a soup course, or 2 people for a main course. Make sure everyone gets a shrimp :) The garlic cloves are meant to be eaten...yummmm!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Welcome to Vegan World Kitchen!

Welcome! On World Vegan Kitchen, we will explore vegan food from around the world. Some dishes will be regional vegan favorites, some will be veganized versions of meat-based dishes, and some will be completly new vegan recipes, inspired by regional cuisine.

Starting tomorrow I'll be posting pictures and recipes of incredibly delicious and healthy vegan meals. I'll include shopping lists and information on any hard to find ingredients. In addition, I'll give tips on packing these meals for lunch, and in some cases how you can prepare them at work with only a microwave.

So come back tomorrow and travel the world with me!