Vegan Salisbury Steak with Onion Gravy

I’ve wanted to veganize Salisbury steak for some time now, but I wasn’t sure how to get the right texture. I’m always looking for ways to make homemade versions of what I would normally be forced to buy in processed form (usually loaded with soy protein isolate). Amy’s Kitchen makes a frozen Salisbury steak entrée that’s soy free and tastes amazing, but it’s getting harder to find and pre-packaged “convenience” meals are expensive. It may not seem like it; $5 for a meal isn’t terrible, but when you can make 4x as much food for around $2, homemade is clearly the better choice. I’m sure it’s healthier too!

I found a few recipes online for vegan Salisbury steak, but most of them called for veggie crumbles, textured vegetable protein, or crumbled up veggie burgers. These weren’t going to work for me since I wanted to avoid processed soy (read: vegan junk food), as well as expensive pre-packaged products. I also found a recipe that called for lentils and brown rice as the base, and although the flavor was okay, the texture just wasn’t where I wanted it to be.

I had some bulgur and black beans on hand today and wondered if I could use those as a base for the steaks, similar to the base I use for sausage patties. I use bulgur in my favorite chili recipe too and everyone always asks, “What is this stuff that has a meat-like texture?”

I was really excited with what I came up with, and on my first try too! The bulgur adds a more meaty texture and the beans act as a good binder. Now, I’m not saying that you’ll fool all your friends into thinking this is meat, but it’s an awesome recipe with great flavor and texture, in my opinion. Slather it in onion gravy and it’s even better. 🙂

For the steaks:
1 1/2 cups water + 1 1/2 teaspoons Better Than Bullion’s No Beef Base
1/2 cup bulgur
1 cup black beans
1/4 cup vital wheat gluten
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon vegan Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Mix the water and bullion in a saucepan over medium heat until the bullion is dissolved. Add the bulgur, put a lid on the pot, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn the heat down to a simmer (around medium-low) and leave the lid slightly tilted. Simmer for 15-20 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed.

While the bulgur is cooking, mash the black beans in a big bowl with a fork. You want to make sure the beans until no whole beans are left. Alternatively, you can pulse them in a food processor a few times.

When the bulgur is done, let it cool slightly and then add it to the bowl with the black beans and the rest of the ingredients. Use your hands to mix everything together, sort of kneading the mixture for a couple of minutes.

Divide into 4-5 parts, depending on the size steaks you want, and form them into patties.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat with a little oil and cook the steaks for 3 minutes on each side.

For the gravy:
1 tablespoon Earth Balance Buttery Spread
1 small onion, halved and sliced thin
2 cups water + 2 teaspoons Better Than Bullion’s No Beef Base
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
salt and pepper to taste

While the steaks are cooking, start the gravy.

Heat the Earth Balance in a medium-sized sauce pan over medium heat and saute the onions for 6-7 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a gentle boil. Lower the heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, for a couple of minutes until the gravy thickens. Season with salt and pepper as needed. The gravy will also thicken more as it cools.

salisbury steak

Vegan Cornbread Dressing & Thanksgiving Gravy

It’s Thanksgiving folks! Time to stuff our faces like the world’s about to end, and hopefully, through all the munching, mention a few things we are thankful for.

My absolute favorite can’t-have-thanksgiving-without-it dish is dressing. NOT stuffing. Cornbread dressing. This is the South, y’all. : ) Even though it’s essentially a bread casserole, people are very particular about how they like their dressing/stuffing. People put all sorts of strange things in it like oysters or sausage, and while some people like to add sage, others think that’s absurd. I’ve discovered in recent years that dressing can be a lot simpler than people make it and that the eggs are totally unnecessary, so it’s super easy to veganize. They’re not needed as a binder or for moisture. I’m starting to realize this about a lot of recipes that are traditionally made with eggs!

We had this with this amazing green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, savory mac-n-cheese, cranberry sauce, and Thanksgiving gravy. If you’re looking for a more traditional “main,” I recommend these chickpea cutlets with gravy or the Field Roast brand’s Celebration Loaf or meatloaf. You could also just add chopped Gardein Chik’n Breasts or Field Roast’s Apple Sage Sausage to the stuffing and have that be a more substantial main dish.

For the Dressing:
1 batch of cornbread (make this a day or two ahead of time so it will dry out a bit – omit the cheese and jalapenos for this recipe)
4 slices day-old or stale bread (I used frozen Ezekiel bread, so I just dried it out in the oven on 350 for 5 minutes and then left it out for a day)
2 Tablespoons Earth Balance buttery spread
2 cups celery, finely chopped
2 cups onions, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
1 1/2-2 cups no-chicken broth (I used Better Than Bullion’s No Chicken base)
1 teaspoon dried, rubbed sage
1 1-2 teaspoons dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon marjoram
Salt and pepper

I realize probably no one in the world uses carrots in their dressing, but it’s a nice pop of color and you won’t taste them. Feel free to omit. : )

Crumble the cornbread into a large bowl and then tear the bread into tiny pieces add it to the bowl.

Sauté the onions, celery, and carrots in the Earth Balance over medium heat for about 7 minutes, then add to the mixture.

Add in the spices and salt and pepper to taste. Pour 1 ½ cups of broth over the mixture and toss until everything is moist, but not soggy. Pour into a lightly greased 9×13 casserole dish and press everything down really well with a spatula. At this point, you can leave the mixture overnight if you want. When you’re ready, bake at 350° for 45 minutes. Add more broth as needed about half-way through if it’s looking dry, especially around the edges. You want it moist, but again, not soggy.

For the gravy: (makes 1 ½ cups)
1 cup plant-based milk, unsweetened
1/2 cup no-chicken broth (or just use vegetable broth or more milk)
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
Salt (if needed) and pepper to taste

Add the nutritional yeast and flour into a saucepan and turn the heat on medium. Let these dry ingredients sort of “toast” for a minute or two.

Whisk in the milk and broth. Increase the heat slightly, add in the rest of the ingredients, and bring to a gentle boil. Keep whisking until the gravy thickens and then serve over everything!

There was no time for food styling with all this food waiting to be devoured, so these pics were quickly taken before we got our nomnom on! Happy Thanksgiving!
thanksgiving 2

thanksgiving 3

Thanksgiving

Cherry Pie Green Smoothie

This smoothie recipe was the result of having some cherries and a handful of spinach that needed to be used, and the bad 80’s hair band song that was stuck in my head this morning for some unknown reason. It tastes just like cherry pie!

I beg you, for the love of all that’s good and holy, do not use maraschino cherries! Read about the horrifying way they’re made here. Gross!

Ingredients:
About 20 frozen dark sweet cherries (about 1 cup)
1 cup almond milk
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large handful spinach
1 tablespoon chia seeds (optional – they don’t affect the flavor but add nutritional benefits)
5 drops liquid stevia (or whatever sweetener you like)

If you have a Vitamix, add everything in and blend on high for about 30 seconds.

If you have a “regular” blender, blend the spinach and milk first, then add the rest of the ingredients and blend on high until smooth. Here are some tips on how to acheive a good green smoothie without a high-powered blender.

Low-Fat, Oil-Free, Healthy (and yummy) Granola!

When people hear “granola” they tend to think “fattening!” (Or maybe “hippies,” which is strange to me because I’ve never seen a fat hippy!) But granola can actually be good for you, providing a hearty breakfast or snack rich in iron, calcium, omega fatty acids, fiber, and antioxidants. What you need to watch is the oil and the sugar. This is where any good breakfast can go downhill quickly. I scoured the web for “healthy” granola recipes, only to find that most of them called for at least ¼ cup oil and up to 1 ½ cups of sugar! Can you say 10AM sugar crash?!

I wondered what it would be like to make granola with ZERO oil. Would it crisp up? Would it taste good? The answer, my friends, is YES! The oil is not necessary at all, nor is all that sugar. Dried fruit is sweet enough, and with just a touch of 100% fruit juice and a little pure maple syrup, your granola will be plenty delicious, believe me!

A Note On Substitutions:
The recipe below is exactly what I did to make mine, but you can change up the nuts and fruits based on what you have on hand. You can also use seeds like pumpkin, flax, or sunflower (no need to chop those). Feel free to switch up the juice as well, substituting orange or apple, for example. I didn’t have any fruit juice on hand, so I just blended up a few pineapple chunks in the blender and then pressed the juice out through a mesh strainer. Agave, honey, or coconut nectar can be substituted for the maple syrup.

This makes about 4 cups.

3 cups rolled oats (not instant or quick cooking!)
1/4 cup pure pineapple juice
1/2 cup almonds, roughly chopped
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
3/4 cup mix of raisins and dried cherries
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
scant 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 300.

Put everything except the fruit and coconut in a bowl and mix well. Pour onto two baking sheets, lined with parchment paper, and spread out into an even layer. Bake for 30 minutes, taking the pans out and stirring the mixture every 10 minutes. When you have 5 minutes left on the timer, add in the coconut so it will get lightly toasted.

Remove from the oven, add in your fruit, sprinkle a light layer of cinnamon over the top, and toss everything together. Let it cool and then store in air-tight containers.

I love this as a cereal, hot or cold, with any plant-based milk. It’s also good on top of coconut milk yogurt or just eaten by the palm-full after a workout. I think it would be super cute packaged in glass Mason jars with ribbon for a gift. You could even include a jar of homemade almond milk to go with it. 🙂

granola

Vegan Popcorn Balls

I’ve never made popcorn balls, but since it’s Halloween, I decided to give it a try.
popcorn balls

My mother always tells stories of how people would make homemade popcorn balls and give them out at Halloween when she was a kid, but now everyone’s too afraid to take anything that isn’t wrapped and factory sealed.

I try to make healthy versions of recipes for sweets, but some things are just going to be those once-in-a-while treats that aren’t that great for you. It helps if you use organic corn syrup and organic popcorn seed. Unless it’s organic, corn is genetically modified and sprayed with more chemicals than I care to think about. I’d like to think that raw sugar and vegan butter make this a little better as well. All in all, they’re popcorn balls. They’re sugary, salty, and delicious. I’ve seen recipes that use agave nectar, but I haven’t tried those yet. I read it doesn’t yield the same flavor. Just don’t eat the whole recipe and you’ll be fine. 🙂

To pop the corn kernels, I like to air pop them in the microwave. This is really easy. Just take a brown paper bag (like the ones kids used to take their lunches to school in, back in the day when it was safe to eat popcorn balls from your neighbor), add 1/4 cup popcorn kernels, and roll the top of the bag up twice (small folds). Place in the microwave for 2 minutes. You don’t need oil or anything! Just the paper bag and popcorn!

I do this twice and that gives me enough popcorn for this recipe. Make sure to toss out any un-popped kernels so that no one has to take a trip to the dentist!

Makes about 1 dozen baseball-sized popcorn balls

Ingredients:
9 cups popcorn (popped)
1/3 cup organic light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 cup raw sugar
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon (or so) cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup Earth Balance Buttery Spread
1/2 cup add-ins like dark chocolate chips, peanuts, or dried fruit (optional)

Spray a big bowl with cooking spray and place your popped corn in the bowl.

In a saucepan, heat the corn syrup, water, vinegar, sugar, and salt over medium heat. Stir until the sugar is melted and then turn the heat up to medium-high. You want the mixture to boil, but you don’t want to burn it. My stove dial goes from 1-10 and I leave it on 8.

Simmer the mixture on medium-high heat for about 5-6 minutes. You want it to reach the hard ball candy stage. You can test this by letting a small drop fall off your spatula into a bowl of water. If the drop forms a ball, it’s ready.

Add in the cinnamon. I didn’t measure; I just lightly shook a layer of cinnamon over the surface of the sugar mixture. Now stir in the butter and vanilla until smooth and then immediately pour over the popcorn. This is where you’ll want to add in any extras like fruit or nuts. Start folding the popcorn over in the bowl, mixing well until everything is coated. As the sugar cools, this will become a little difficult, but just keep at it. After about 3 minutes, the mixture will still be warm, but not too hot to handle.

Rub a little butter on your hands and take handfuls of popcorn and press them into balls with your hands. I found that I had to re-butter my hands every 2 balls or so. Place on lightly oiled foil or wax paper to cool for about 15 minutes. Store in an airtight container or wrap individually in plastic wrap or cute gift bags.

NOTE: When you’ve reached the bottom of the popcorn bowl, the sugar will basically be cooled into a nice hard cement! Just put the bowl in the sink and fill with hot water. The sugar will re-melt so that you can rinse and wash the bowl clean.