Italian Wedding Manicotti (let’s call it a soup face lift)

The next recipe I’ve tackled for week three of VeganMofo is a veganized Italian Wedding Soup Manicotti.

Let’s be honest here. Who needs a clear, brothy soup when you can have parmesan sausage and escarole stuffed manicotti, baked in a creamy «chicken» rue?  

I know what you’re thinking — what the heck is escarole?

I don’t really have the answers for you, I could pretend to and go Google it, but I’d rather not lie to you. I can tell you this much, though; it’s green, looks a little like curly bib lettuce and people use it a lot in Italian Wedding Soup. 

Escarole not tempting enough? Picture this: your favorite creamy, homey, chicken noodle soup with (surprise!) savory sausage and a rich paremesan flavor. Ready to try it now? Good. 

Italian Wedding Manicotti

(Serves 4)

Ingredients:

One box of manicotti (mine came with 16 in it)

1 package of Lightlife Gimme Lean Sausage (probably my favorite sausage replacement)

32 oz carton of Imagine Organic No Chicken Broth (this is essential, plain old veggie broth just won’t do)

1 cup shredded escarole

1/2 cup vegan parmesan (or nutritional yeast suffice)

1 large onion diced (I used the sweet variety)

4 TBS vegan butter

3/4 cup whole wheat flour

2 tsp Italian seasoning

1/4 cup minced garlic

Salt to taste

Pepper to taste

Directions:

Boil your manicotti (mine took seven minutes). Once cooked, allow to bathe in cool water for two minutes. Drain and get ready to stuff!

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a medium to large saucepan, bring your butter and no-chicken broth to boil. Whisk in whole wheat flour and stir constantly for 3-5 minutes. Reduce heat. (Your liquid should be getting creamy). Stir in salt and pepper to taste. 

In a small bowl, mix gimme lean sausage, Italian seasoning, diced onion, shredded escarole, parmesan and minced garlic. Mash all the ingredients together until well blended.

Take the sausage mixture and roll into an oversized golf ball, then roll into a link, see picture below. (I know, it’s a little on the chunky hot dog, kind of phallic side of things).

Place sausage link into the empty manicotti and then place in a greased casserole dish (mine was a 9×13). Continue until all the shells are stuffed. 

Pour creamy chicken rue on top and bake for 20 minutes.

Make this for your friends and astound them with your thinking-outside-of-the-box mentality.

A childhood favorite, minus the cruelty (AND freezer burn)

I’m not sure we ever actually ate these when I was little. Sometimes it’s hard to understand the line between what  we really consumed and what it seemed like every other American family was.

You know them from nearly every sitcom (about middle class families that is) or possibly more familiarly from your television dinners.

Fish sticks.

Crispy (usually burnt on one end and still frozen on the other), greasy, right out of the freezer, fish sticks.

For a long time after going vegan my husband and I had given up on mock seafood. There was no convincing us that some dry seaweed and lemon could do the trick. Turns out, all it needed was a little extra malt vinegar.

Tofush sticks
(Makes 14 ‘sticks’)
Ingredients:
1 16 oz package extra firm tofu
1 cup Malt Vinegar
1/2 cup Olive Oil
2 TBS lemon juice
Old Bay seasoning
Cajun seasoning
Garlic powder
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Corn flake bread crumbs
1 cup Vegenaise (for tartar sauce)
1/4 cup relish (for tartar sauce)

Directions:
Cut tofu into fish stick sized strips.
Lay between paper towels and depress excess water from it.
Dust a liberal amount of Old Bay seasoning, Cajun seasoning and garlic powder. (See picture for an idea of «liberal.»)
Add malt vinegar, olive oil and lemon juice to a dish or bowl and allow tofu sticks to soak for two hours (flip halfway if they’re not full submerged).
After they’ve marinated, warm one inch of canola oil on medium heat in a frying pan.
In a bowl, mix together corn flake breadcrumbs, more Old Bay seasoning, Cajun seasoning and garlic powder.
Dip (or «batter») tofu sticks until covered in crumby deliciousness.
Drop in the oil and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side.
Allow to cool on a plate with a paper towel underneath (to absorb excess oil).
To make tartar sauce, simply mix together Vegenaise and relish with a fork.

These were an absolute hit with not only the Chubby Vegan Mom and Dad, but our Little P as well.

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Start your Monday morning off right (with dessert!)

I have a confession.

I am the Chubby Vegan Mom and I do not like breakfast.

That’s really why this VeganMofo thing is such a challenge to me. I hardly ever cook anything delectable for breakfast or lunch, mainly because I’m not hungry until noon and I’m kitchen-lazy until dinner. This basically means a lot of skipped meals (but not pounds, since people who eat breakfast are less likely to be overweight) and bland bean and rice tacos for lunch.

The beauty of making Week One of my VeganMofo journey breakfast? 

I’m taking myself out of my comfort zone. 

So in true VeganMofo fasion, one fabulous vegan I’d never met before left a comment on my blog. I went ahead and cruised over to hers (because isn’t that what we do, we want to know exactly who is checking us out), when I came across a post about her love of honeycrisp apples, I decided to take a walk on the wild side and try something new too (with said honeycrisp apples).

And that is how my caramel apple french toast was created. 

I’m not going to lie to you folks. I severely under-anticipated the skill level required to make this breakfast food. An hour and a few batches later, I finally got the hang of it and ended up with something not just edible, but ridiculously good. 

Caramel Apple French Toast

(Serves 4)

Ingredients:

8 slices of Texas Toast (big, thick, bread-on-steroids)

An undetermined amount of cinnamon

1 1/2 cups almond milk

Raw, big, fat crystal sugar for a crunchy topping

3 honeycrisp apples (or your fav, I encourage you to give a new apple a whirl)

1 stick of butter (plus a little extra to cook the apples in. Also, I’ve had questions from readers about what butter I use and for this it was Blue Bonnet Light*). 

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup milk

2 tsp vanilla extract 

3 TBS cornstarch 

Powdered sugar (for topping, if desired)

Directions:

Peel three apples, cut them into smaller wedges and cook them on low-medium heat in butter (about 1/2 a stick). Sprinkle a little cinnamon on top. Cook for 10-15 minutes or until apples are golden and soft.

While the apples are cooking, start your caramel sauce in a small sauce pan. Melt one stick of butter and stir in 1/2 cup of milk and 1 tsp vanilla extract. Add in brown sugar and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring, for three minutes. Whisk cornstarch in and then turn heat off, allowing caramel sauce to thicken as it cools.

For the French toast, pour 1 cup of milk into a bowl (large enough for you to dip your bread in) and mix in remaining tsp of vanilla. Do a quick dip on both sides (letting it sit will cause soggy bread, I learned the hard way, so take my word), then top one side with a raw, big, fat, sugar crystal topping and a sprinkle of cinnamon. In an oiled pan, cook french toast on each side for two minutes (or until crispy brown on the outside).

Place on a plate and top with cooked apples and caramel sauce. Both hubby and I were only able to put back a few pieces each because of how stunningly sweet this breakfast was. 

But for a fall morning? The calories, effort and sugar are more than worth it. 

*Blue Bonnet Light was confirmed as having no animal ingredients, but the regular version DOES have a milk ingredient, so be careful!

Chunky monkey oatmeal cookies

I know what you’re thinking.

Chubby Vegan Mom, are you getting dull on us?

 You’ve tackled Banana polentaCaramel apple french toast and Curry vegetable pitas, not to mention an incredibly out-of-the-box, choose-your-own Vegan dessert cookbook giveaway, but for the last week of VeganMofo AND a week you’re totally dedicating to desserts, you pick oatmeal cookies?

Yes, friends, I did.

But fear not, this isn’t your run-of-the-mill oatmeal raisin cookie, this is a banana and chocolate chunk filled, chewy oatmeal cookie of goodness. This will seriously have you hopping on the oatmeal cookie train in an instant.

Plus, oatmeal cookies are deceiving. It doesn’t matter that they’re riddled with butter, chocolate chunks and loads of brown sugar, they have oats in them, so they have to be healthy, right? Which means it’s OK for me to eat 15 of them after dinner, right? Which means I’m not going to gain 10 lbs from VeganMofo dessert week, right?

Probably not.

At any rate, I’m a big fan of throwing bananas into cookies, especially if it means saving them from the fate of not being used! They’re great binders and they add a new flavor to ho-hum cookies.

Chunky monkey oatmeal cookies
(Makes 18-24 cookies, depending on how much size matters)
Ingredients:
1 stick of vegan butter, softened
1 large banana, mashed
2/3 cup brown sugar
Flaxseed «egg» (2 TBS flaxseed, 3 TBS warm water, let it sit for 10 minutes)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cup rolled oats
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup chocolate chunks (we’ve been enjoying the heck out of Enjoy Life’s chocolate chunks)

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Cream together all the «wet» ingredients (banana, butter, extract, «egg»). Stir in brown sugar.
Mix in dry ingredients, starting with flours, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and then oats. Add in chocolate chunks last.
Spoon onto greased baking sheet (golf-ball size), squish down a little and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until bottoms start to get golden brown.
Cookies will firm some after sitting.

Serve with a glass of your favorite nondairy beverage and call it a night, y’all.

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Fab Five Friday: the second VeganMofo edition

Despite my measly three recipes this week for VeganMofo lunch, I’m still taking VeganMofo very seriously. (In case you didn’t know, the Chubby Vegan Clan packed their bags and headed south to Hilton Head for a week-long vacation). So the fact that I was able to cook up THREE homemade vegan meals while being 700 miles away from my kitchen says a lot.

That, and on my last day in Hilton Head I’ve devoted nearly two hours to scouring other VeganMofo bloggers looking for this week’s Fab Five Friday recipes. (All while I should be packing. I was about two seconds away from hauling my laptop to the beach, but decided I’d probably end up with sand in the keyboard and crabs in the motherboard).  

So without further ado, here are my picks (in no particular order) for this week’s Fab Five VeganMofo Friday. And thanks again to all you VeganMofoers for making it so difficult to pick!

No. 1: Veggie Converter’s recipe for bacon cheeseburger soup. Um, can we say holy yummy? It doesn’t matter that I’m in 80-degree, sunny, beach weather, Veggie Converter just took two of my favorite things and made them ridiculous easy to eat: bacon and cheeseburgers, in liquid form. And mad, mad bonus points to Veggie Converter for using a lentil-rice blend as the «burger» meat. You rock!

No. 2: Growing up Veg’s recipe for vegan spaghettios. Are you kidding me? For the last four years my husband and I have (lazily) sought already-made, straight-from-a-can, reminiscent-of-our-childhood vegan spaghettios, without success. And while I knew it was probably pretty easy and quick to make our own batch, I never really went to the trouble of doing it (I have a bad habit of mixing up tomato paste and tomatoe puree). Growing up Veg took all the guesswork out for me (thank you), so now my daughter won’t be deprived of a traditional childhood meal. 

No. 3: Operation Veggie’s veganized spinach and pepperjack hot pockets. Who doesn’t like spinach and pepperjack cheese all wrapped up in a flaky, crust of deliciousness? Crazy people, that’s who. And I’m not crazy, so you better believe this Chubby Vegan Clan is going to be testing out a few delicious hot pocket recipes of our own. Maybe you’ll even be lucky enough to see a few next week, when I take on dinners for VeganMofo. 

No. 4: Awkward Vegans’ recipe for tempeh chili. Apparently, I’m craving some serious soupage for my chilly departure from the beach (well, that might make sense, except I think it’s actually been hotter in our Ohio hometown than our beachy getaway). The Chubby Vegan Clan seriously digs chili, but I have yet to ever make a tempeh version (which is silly, because I love me some tempeh)! I think I have some smokey barbecue and maple tempeh calling my name for this recipe. 

No. 5: My Fab Five VeganMofo Friday wouldn’t be complete without a dessert and Bite me (I’m Vegan)’s Caramel Coffee Cake seriously fits the bill. In fact, Bite me (I’m Vegan) had me at hello (or caramel, whichever). This cake looks moist, fluffy and covered in just the right amount of caramel. But let’s be honest, can you ever go wrong when you pour caramel all over something? 

Think you have a recipe that I’m absolutely insane not to try (or feature!)? Email me at amanda@chubbyveganmom.com and you just might see your dish featured next Friday! 

Make it a taco … pizza night!

I am a girl who likes her tacos.

Whether they’re lentil, quinoa or rice and bean tacos, we have some sort of taco-esque food at least once a week in the Chubby Vegan Household.

I am also a girl who likes her pizza.

We don’t actually have this as much as I’d like to, mainly because I’m lazy and I don’t feel like making the pizza crust from scratch, but too frugal and don’t want to buy one.

But for week three of VeganMofo, I decided it was time to bust out the big guns.

We talking taco pizzas (on freshly baked naan bread), stacked with a «cheeze» sauce, soyrizo, black bean and corn salsa and shredded lettuce.

Let’s just say these got several thumbs up from Chubby Vegan Dad.

Taco Pizza
(Serves 6)
Ingredients:
See the Naan ingredients and directions here. Only change: Sub the cumin and tumeric with 1 TBS of taco seasoning.
Jar of salsa (we chose black bean and corn because it’s our favorite)
2 cups shredded lettuce
1 cup soyrizo
1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes
3 1/2 cups water
1 TBS lemon juice
2 TBS chipotle hot sauce
1/2 cup oats
2 TBS vegan sour cream
2 TBS taco seasoning
2 TBS corn starch
1/4 cup garlic

Directions: 
Make the naan as directed on the page above.
In a skillet, cook soyrizo for 10 minutes in a thin layer of oil.
In a food processor, blend nutritional yeast, water, oats, lemon juice, hot sauce, sour cream, corn starch taco seasoning and garlic.
Pour mixture into a saucepan and bring to a boil for three-five minutes, stirring constantly with a whisk (so nothing sticks to the bottom!) until thick.
Spread a layer of cheeze sauce on the naan and top with soyrizo, salsa and shredded lettuce.

This recipe is specifically Chubby Vegan Mom and Dad approved (the little one liked it too, of course).

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Seriously suspicious sausage gravy (it’s just that good).

When I was still a, flesh-eating, zombie (a time I lovingly refer to as my childhood), we used to go to Bob Evans for family breakfasts, softball tournaments and really any time that warranted pancakes.

On the off chance I wasn’t stuffing my face with a stack of pancakes (have you noticed that the only way I’ll actually entertain the thought of eating breakfast is if it’s a dessert?), I was probably filling up on their super savory sausage, biscuits and gravy.

This recipe is a serious, country-road-take-me-home quality breakfast.

And it’s brought to you by the Chubby Vegan Dad. He has been cooking this up (as breakfast, lunch OR dinner) for the last few years and because he does such a kick-butt job with it, I designated him the sole sausage gravy chef.

Seriously suspicious sausage gravy
(Serves 4-6)
Ingredients: 
1 «tube» of Lightlife Gimme Lean Sausage (SO good)
2 cups almond milk
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup whole wheat flour (you can add a little more depending on what texture you’re desiring, the more flour, the more thick and lumpy)
Handful of minced garlic
LOADS of pepper (to taste, but hubby puts a serious grind on our black pepper for this recipe)
Cajun seasoning (to taste)
If you’re lazy in the morning like I am and don’t feel like baking biscuits, a package of crescent rolls

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and bake crescent rolls for 10-15 minutes.
Tear «sausage» into chunks and cook in a skillet with garlic on low-medium heat until browned.
In a saucepan, mix butter and almond milk and bring it to a low boil. Add in whole wheat flour and whisk on a low boil for a few minutes, reduce to a simmer and allow to thicken. Stir in as much black pepper and cajun seasoning as your palette prefers.
Mix sausage and garlic into gravy.
Smother crescent rolls in sausage gravy.

Drool. A LOT.

One MAJOR reason to get in your car and drive to Hilton Head, right now

I’m serious folks.

You need to drop whatever you’re doing, hop in your car, plane or bus, and get your fancy selves down to Hilton Head, South Carolina.

What’s the emergency you may ask?

It’s a vegan one.

An amazing vegan one, to be exact.

Robert Irvine, star of «Dinner Impossible» and «Restaurant Impossible» has an ultra cool, super trendy, crazy stylish restaurant in this peaceful beach town — Eat. (Yes, I want you to eat, but his restaurant is actually called ‘Eat’).

To the naked eye, there is nothing even remotely vegan on the menu. You’re surrounded by filet mignon, blackened grouper and cheesy mushroom crepes (not to mention bread pudding with Tabasco ice cream that could sway even a veteran vegan — no, we didn’t go against our vegan ways, so quit your judging), there isn’t a butter-free vegetable or plain pasta dish in sight.

Don’t get us wrong. We usually prefer hole-in-the-wall cafes to this type of dining experience. But there’s one really nice thing about ultra cool, super trendy, crazy stylish restaurants — they have ultra creative, super talented, crazy chefs that are often willing to think outside of the box for us outside-of-the-box eaters.

Case in point this ridiculously amazing Cilantro lime seared tofu on a bed of citrus pumpkin and potato dice.

I kid you not, this is hands down the BEST tofu dish I have ever had in my four years of veganism (because you know, I didn’t dare eat tofu before I went vegan). My only complaint was that I wanted more, like four dinners worth more, which really speaks to my gluttony and the chef’s mad tofu skills.

The even better part? There wasn’t one cube of tofu on the menu. This is something they just have «in case» a vegan or vegetarian with a hankering for tofu just strolls on in. On an island that has been nearly-nightmarish to find vegan fare, this famous chef-douting, fancy grassfed meat and organic cheese carrying restaurant kept tofu nearby «just in case.»

That gets like 40 thumbs up in my book.

Bananas and coffee for dinner? Oh my!

The Chubby Vegan Clan has returned from their fabulous beachy vacation. Don’t tell anyone but we’re actually still trying to catch up on all the sleep we lost during our 5 p.m.-5 a.m. commute. Trust me, with an incredibly busy and bounce 17-month-old we didn’t want to risk driving during too much daylight, it would be a recipe for disaster.

What wasn’t a recipe for disaster, however, was our attempt at tackling the second VeganMofo Iron Chef Challenge. While I was busy dreaming up heavenly desserts and scrumptious breakfast ideas, my bubble was quickly burst when I realized this is Week 3 of VeganMofo, which means I’m featuring dinner (aka NOT dessert and NOT breakfast). 

How the heck could you eat bananas and coffee for dinner?

Thank Heavens for that 12-hour drive to figure it out and my husbands idea for a killer coffee barbecue sauce! 

 

Coffee BBQ baked banana polenta with carrot mash

(Serves 6)

Polenta ingredients: 

2 cups water

1 cup almond milk

1/2 stick vegan butter

1 ripe banana

1 cup corn grits

1/2 cup corn meal

1 tsp salt

Carrot mash ingredients:

1/2 pound baby carrots (we used fresh but frozen would work)

8-10 large yukon gold potatoes 

1 sweet onion

1/2 stick butter

Salt to taste

Pepper to taste

1 TBS minced garlic

Coffee barbecue sauce ingredients:

1/2 cup ketchup

1/4 cup molasses

1/8 cup apple cider vinegar

1/8 cup spicy brown mustard

1 TBS vegan steak sauce

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/8 tsp blackened seasoning

1/4 tsp hot sauce (we used chipotle Tabasco)

1 TBS coffee extract

Directions:
Dice carrots and potatoes and boil (together) in a large pot for 20-25 minutes or until tender. Once cooked, either use a hand masher to mash them together (if you like them chunky) or throw them in your favorite food processor to form an even blend. 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Peel one ripe banana and smash with a hand masher until gooey and chunk-free.

In a medium saucepan, boil two cups water, one cup almond milk and 1/2 stick butter. Add mashed banana, corn grits, corn meal and salt. Reduce heat to low and stir for five minutes. Let sit for five minutes. 

Grease a casserole dish (I used a glass 9×9) and spread polenta mix evenly. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until firm on the outside. Cut into six slices. 

In a small bowl, mix together all the ingredients for the barbecue sauce (in no particular order). 

To plate, spoon a layer of carrot mash, followed by a slice of baked banana polenta. Drizzle or (pour) coffee barbecue sauce on top.

Side note: If you’ve been buying barbecue sauce, stop, now. It’s SO easy to make and you probably have most of the ingredients on hand, PLUS you can make your own variation by swapping out steak sauce for other sauces, like teriyaki or buffalo). If you don’t have molasses on hand, buy some to keep in your pantry, it’s not just great for sauces, but pies and cookies.

Do YOU VeganMofo?

Hurray! It’s here! The most magical time of year! Time to get my cooking into gear! But never fear! My counter top is clear!

I’m going to stop rhyming now, because it’s not catchy, just lame.

It’s midnight, I have a small child that has been asleep for four hours and will undoubtedly rise far too early tomorrow morning, so why am I still up you might ask?

Because I’m dedicated … or crazy, whichever.

It’s October 1, which means it’s VeganMofo. Oh, you’re not in the cool, elusive community who knows what the heck VeganMofo is? It’s one entire month dedicated to none other than vegans, vegan food and vegans blogging about vegan food. It’s my first year participating and I’m a combination of abashed, anxious and ecstatic.

So what exactly are you in store for?

Lots and lots of Chubby Vegan Mom in the month of October. Probably more Chubby Vegan Mom than any one person can handle. But we’ll take it day by day and you just might find I’m not so bad after all.

What on Earth will I find to blog about for an entire month?

Well, not to spill the beans, but here’s a sneak peek!

Week One will focus on certified, country-fied (not fried, fied), Vegan breakfasts. We’re not talking about those flimsy pancakes fast food chains serve. We’re talking fluffy, pillowy pancakes and super savory sausage and gravy.

Week Two will focus on light lunches and snacks. Whether it’s throwing something yummy into a pita pocket or whipping up some macaroni salad, this Chubby Vegan Mom promises to provide you with a variety of simple lunch ideas and kid-friendly snacks. Lunch is an incredibly neglected meal at our house, so this will be the real challenge for me.

Week Three will feature — you guessed it — dinner, with some kick-butt appetizers to boot. Here in the Chubby Vegan Mom household, dinner is the one meal a day that we usually get to spend together. So we gather round the table (or have a living room floor picnic if the little one is being difficult) and nosh on some seriously scrumptious and seriously vegan food. You can be on the lookout for some yummy pizza ideas and maybe even a Not-BBQ seitan sandwich, the perfect dinner for friends, patios and a few cold beers.

 

Week Four will assure a strong VeganMofo finish, as it’ll be seven glorious days of vegan desserts. Death by chocolate desserts, extravagant cupcakes and maybe a pie here and there, and I promise you this week will not disappoint. Because honestly, everything really is fine in moderation and with regular exercise and lots of water. Always drink water.

As usual, the recipes that appear on Chubby Vegan Mom are all kid-tested, kid-approved and will have mom and dad licking their plates. They’re that good.

And be forewarned, excuses are not accepted. I am in no way, shape or form what one would consider a chef. So if it can be done by me (a self-declared Martha Stewart of baked goods, but more tv dinner in the kitchen) it can be done by you.