Faux Pho: Vegetarian Pho

And we’re back. (the royal we, that is, since you have little to do with these posts.) This is part two of our pan-Asian feast, and you should still be hungry after the TVP egg rolls, considering they were over a month ago.

Below is my recipe for faux pho, or vegetarian/ vegan pho with seitan. If you knew me in the last year before my veggie turn, you know that I wanted to inject pho directly into my veins; I used it to celebrate, to mourn, to energize, to relax, to turn on, and turn off. I used to live in a town outside of DC and frequented a place—Pho 75—that looked like a shitty high school cafeteria had a baby with a scene from Apocalypse Now. But they served a huge, cheap, steaming bowl of pho replete with Sriracha and tripe. Wondrous offal aside, the staple beef broth makes pho a no-no, so I had to adapt. Welcome to the adaptation, kids.

And please no asshats who say, “This isn’t pho because it isn’t beef based,” “The noodles/ sprouts aren’t correct,” or any other frivolous critiques. Shut up and, like I say in my about this veg virgin, take my recipe and do with it as your tongue sees fit.

Ingredients for the broth:

7 – 8 cups vegetable broth

1 medium onion, quartered

1-inch hunk of ginger, skinned and sliced

8+ garlic cloves, crushed

2 tbs. ground anise

3 tbs. ground clove

1 tsp. cinnamon

4 tbs. soy sauce

1 tbs. cayenne pepper

1 tbs. olive or sesame oil

Ingredients for everything else:

1 lb. buckwheat soba noodles (or rice noodles)

8 – 16 oz. diced seitan, depending on your protein concerns (tofu also works; just double the amount)

7 scallions, thinly sliced

2 big handfuls of bean sprouts (I used the skinny ones, but the fat are excellent too.)

2 big handfuls of basil leaves, whole

1 – 2 limes, cut into wedges (or a really convenient bottle of lime juice)


hoisin (although I don’t really use hoisin)

Makes 4-6 servings.

To make the broth, heat the broth over a medium to medium-high heat. Use a big ass pot, because it’s a group swim by the end of the recipe. Char—but do not burn!—the onion, ginger, and garlic in the oil. After the broth begins to steam, dump in all of other ingredients for the broth, veggies included. Slowly bring the broth to a boil, drop the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain the broth, and keep the solids if you’re feeling economical. For the faux pho, though, you’ll only need the liquid.

To make the soup, cook the noodles appropriately (or inappropriately, if it doesn’t get too messy and weird). Strain. When you’re getting close to serving time, add the seitan to the hot broth to heat it through. Divide the noodles into the desired portions and portion out the seitan with a slotted spoon. Next, cover the noodles with your beefy non-beef broth. Serve with the basil, sprouts, lime (juice), Sriracha, and hoisin. This is an interactive meal, so everyone can dress as desired.

Enjoy, bitches. Make sure to keep chopsticks, a big-ass spoon, and sweat napkin handy throughout.

Non-Veg Friendly Factor: 4.734. Everyone I served this to loved it, from vegetarians to dedicated and stubborn omnivores, two of who aren’t even big fans of standard pho. The dish was just as comforting, tasty, contingently spicy, and satisfying as I remember. It was at my kitchen table instead of a dive pho place with Vietnamese on the menu, but I found some familiar escape in my steaming bowl of noodles. I will be honest about something: I don’t exactly remember what beef broth tastes like; so while I stand by mine as a good approximation—especially of pho broth—I’m not willing to say it will make you forget about bovine liquid (although the phrase bovine liquid might).

Baked Egg Rolls

It's like food porn on an ugly bed.

I know; I know: I’ve been away awhile. My fairly deep, fairly sincere apologies. I won’t hold it against you if you’ve all turned into tofu trollops without me. In fact, I hope you have been out there, playing the field, and experimenting—you know, getting your veggie freak on. But I’m glad we’re reunited now, back to our painted people of tempeh ways. (If you haven’t noticed, I’m slowly compiling a compendium of ways to link overt sexuality and vegetarianism. Actually, if you haven’t noticed, shame on you; it’s in the blog’s title, people.)

What’s on the menu for this glorious comeback? Try a three-course, eastern-Asian inspired meal. In a few days, there will even be my first interweb foray into desserts, which will blow your simple minds. First thing’s first, though. The appetizer: baked eggrolls with textured vegetable protein (TVP).


16oz. shredded red cabbage

1 cup ginger dressing

1 cup textured vegetable protein

7/8-cup miso broth (thanks to the most helpful vegetarian I know–see comments below–I now know to be on the look-out for miso with bonito, or dried Mackerel flakes, in it. Consider yourselves warned.)

1 pkg. Nasoya egg roll wrappers (comes with 21 wraps, but I recommend splitting them for 42 wraps if you bake them)

A note about TVP: I haven’t used it much, but, so far, I’m pretty impressed. It’s a soy-based protein, and is a very well-rounded one at that. It’s completely flavorless, so it will soak up whatever flavor you use to reconstitute it. I recommend going with a strong flavor, since I’m not kidding when I say “flavorless”; some sources call the taste “neutral,” but that’s not nearly descriptive enough. Simply put, don’t fret about over-flavoring TVP. It’s even great for meat-eaters looking to cut back on calories, since it (reportedly) works well as a low calorie, low fat, high protein extender in things like ground beef. I promise you’ll be seeing it more on the VV.

Now for the steps.

Preheat the oven to 425degrees and allow it to warm up. Pour the ginger dressing over the shredded cabbage, making sure to coat every shred. Every damn one, slacker. Let it sit while you accomplish the paragraph below.

Slowly bring the miso to a boil and quickly add it to the TVP, stirring the slurry together until all of the liquid is soaked up. (Think making oatmeal with boiling water.) Taste the TVP, and make sure it’s cooked enough; you don’t want any crunch, but a subtle, spongy give.

Now comes a crucial decision: bake or fry. If you want to fry, just use the wraps as-is and—this is a VV guess—fry with the peanut oil at 350degrees until the mothers float. If you’re baking, though, tear the two sheets of wrapper apart from each other—like peeling a sticker away from a surface—so you have a thinner wrapper. I tried both as-is and peeled versions, and I preferred the latter; they were less gummy and baked more evenly.

I hope your burrito/ egg roll folding skills are on point. If not, just flip over the Nasoya package and follow their graphic guidance. (Or, just check out this video; I use more filling than this person does. My recipe isn’t for gastronomic wussies and culinary quitters.) Orient the wrapper in a diamond and place the filling—I did about a 1:1 of cabbage and TVP—just south of the middle, from left to right. Now fold the bottom point of the wrapper over the filling, fold the right and left sides in, and roll the bad boy up into a tasty tube of tasty, making sure to use water, non-stick spray, or an egg wash to seal the final corner.

Spray each side of the egg roll with a nonstick spray or rub with oil—extra virgin olive oil or, better yet, sesame oil—and bake at 425 for 8 minutes, flip, and put ‘em back in for another 8 minutes. By the end, they should be crispy wonderful.

And, if you’re feeling adventurous, serve with my peanut dipping sauce or some more of that ginger dressing.

I don’t have an exact number, since I experiment with wrapper thicknesses, but this should about 15 – 20 egg rolls. Should.

Non-Veg Friendly Factor: 4. They come out like hearty spring rolls, which makes for a nice appetizer or side dish. Plus, the TVP is barely distinguishable from meat, so you’re good to go there. It has a light flavor without the sauce and there’s a subtle crunch, thanks to the wrapper and cabbage. I really liked the purple color hinted through the thin wrappers, but I did hear some complaints about the aesthetics. They don’t microwave so well, though: they end up kind of soggy and flaccid. My main complaint, however, is that they’re flat, not round. I guess my rolling skills aren’t as on point as they should be. Eff.

Egg rolls are fun, easy, and exciting for my tongue. You’ll definitely be seeing more recipes. Next time, however, will be course two: Faux Pho.

Shroomin’ Risotto

The VV has taken some time off since his last post and, to be honest, you’re lucky you’re getting one at all. The hardware on my computer is freaking out and typing is a Huge Pain in the Ass, below is a labor of love. But it may be a good thing that my keyboard’s messed up because today is all about the risotto, and salivating on my computer probably won’t do any more damage.

Oh, and the first thing you need to know: risotto is NOT difficult. It just sounds highfalutin and looks fancy. It does require a lot of attention, though, so break out a bottle of wine and kick it by the stovetop. (Veg Virgin confession: I got a solid buzz on the last time I made this. I am the furthest thing from a sommelier—in fact, I consulted a tall wino on what do drink who was subsequently rewarded with this meal—but I recommend Pinot Noir or Pinot Gris; basically, a hearty red.)


2 cups Arborio rice (one of my few concessions away from whole grains, but a necessary one)

6+ tbs extra virgin olive oil

1 cup chopped onion

8 cups vegetable stock (9 if you like the risotto a bit softer and creamier), heated

or 4 cups mushroom stock, the rest vegetable stock, mixed & heated

10oz. mix of cremini, oyster, and shiitake mushrooms, sliced (baby portobellos would probably be excellent but, again, I’m allergic)

Makes 4-5 huge, meal-size servings

*This recipe makes a lot; so if you want to do it as a side dish, just halve the ingredients.

First, if you have dried mushrooms, rehydrate them according to the directions on the package. The leftover liquid, which should be about 4 cups, is your mushroom stock. Mix this with the 4-5 cups of vegetable stock. Otherwise, just use the vegetable stock. (I think I prefer this latter version, for what it’s worth.) Also, they’re kind of pricey, but if you can afford it, definitely exchange the cremini for porcini, which offer a much deeper, fuller, darker flavor of superness.  Regardless, make sure the stock is heated; if you use cold stock with risotto, the dish won’t come out right. Just keep it over a low to medium-low heat; and do not let it come to a boil: you don’t want it to reduce.

Next, take half the oil and coat the bottom of a pan over medium heat. Cook the onions until translucent—about 3 minutes. Add the Arborio rice, which you pretty much must use, and mushrooms. If you’re using fresh, not rehydrated, shrooms, then add them in now; otherwise, wait until the end. Add the rest of the oil and stir the whole mess around, making sure to get the rice covered in the oil. Now add half of the heated stock and wait for it to almost completely absorb, stirring regularly. As it continues to absorb, pour in one or two ladlefuls (about 1/4 – 1/2 cup at a time) and STIR. The mix will probably come to a slow, rolling boil, which is fine; if it goes much higher, drop the heat a bit.

You’re just going to keep ladling and stirring. Once you see that there are about 2 cups of stock left-to-be-ladled, start tasting your rice. It’ll still be crunchy at this point, but it’s good to get an idea of how quickly it absorbs the liquid from here and you’ll be able to pull the rice off the burner when you have it at the consistency you like.

In the end, you’ll have a gooey, supple, mushroomy plate of boom. I recommend serving with Veggie Grated Topping for full on Italian effect.

Non-Veg Friendly Factor: 4. You have everything you could want in a risotto: creaminess; heartiness; warmth; gustatory satisfaction. Remember the aforementioned tall wino? She said the risotto was “awesome.” All that aside, this dish may take some omnivores by surprise since risottos, at least in my experience, use chicken stock, and may have seafood in them (any pescatorians here?). If you end up making this risotto and someone complains, just guilt trip the hell out of them by fluffing ‘how much work went into this meal, which you slaved over, and you’re just trying to be healthy and you wanted to mix up the weekly menu and, besides, you hear the Veg Virgin is really hot’—you know, that card.

Enter the Wonton

Konichiwa, bitches. Do I have an accidental surprise for you: wontons. (Yes, I know wontons are Chinese and not Japanese; I just love “Konichiwa, bitches” too much.) I say accidental because this went from a sub-par ‘breakfast’–more on that in a sec–to punch-me-in-the-face-good pot stickers. See, at my also sub-par job (where I am writing this post, oddly enough), I often work a 1am-10am shift. So I wake up at 11 or 11:30pm to be out of the door by 12:30am. It’s disorienting to wake up yesterday and go to work tomorrow, but that aside, figuring out what an appropriate veg breakfast is can be somewhat complicated. I often just stick with toast and hummus or scrambled eggs with mushrooms and spinach, but that can get old fast. So one morning I decide to make a tofu scramble: extra firm tofu, diced red peppers, and diced onions. I seasoned it a bit, but it still sucked. I mean, it was fine, but not for an 11:45pm breakfast. So, unwilling to throw it out, the scramble went into Tupperware and was forgotten. Fast forward four or five days and to a large helping of hunger and boredom. The rest, readers–well, the rest is this post. Peep this ish.

Ingredients for wontons:

1/2-lb extra firm tofu, drained and crumbled (you can do this with your hands)

1 red pepper, diced

3/4-cup onion, diced

1-package wonton wrappers (The brand I used, Nasoya, works great and comes with 48 in a pack; you won’t use them all, but better safe than sorry.)

2 tsp. garlic powder

1 tbs. black pepper

2 tbs. low sodium soy sauce

1 egg, whisked

1 tbs. extra virgin olive oil or sesame oil

Makes as many servings as it makes. Depending on how much stuffing you can add and the shape you form them, expect about 20-30 wontons.

Ingredients for (optional) dipping sauce:

1 tbs. natural peanut butter

2 tbs. low sodium soy sauce

1 tsp. Sriracha sauce/ hot sauce

1 tsp. pepper flakes

If you’re not into spicy, kill the Sriracha. I recommend only cutting the amount of pepper flakes in half, though, to keep some of the flavor.

Heads up: the peppers will need to be diced finer.

First up: the scramble. Heat the oil to a pan over medium to medium-high heat and cook thepepper and onion mix until soft–about 5-6 minutes. Now add the drained and crumbled tofu, the seasonings, and soy sauce and cook for another 3-5 minutes. You’re not looking for any real char on the tofu or peppers, just heat and tenderness. (I feel like there’s a joke here, but it’s 3am at work and one-liners are out of my immediate reach, so this one’s on you.) Set aside the mix; this will be your filling.

Now for the incredibly not fun part: stuffing the wontons. You have three shape choices to choose from: the bindle, the tortellini, and the ravioli; I utilized the latter two, forgetting totally about the first. The steps aren’t hard; it’s just a matter of patience, the type of wrapper (mine was probably too thick for the bindle), and using the egg to seal the seams. The bindle and tortellini take about the same amount of filling, and the ravioli can take just a bit more. I recommend starting out with a hefty teaspoon and working from there. Mind you, stuffing isn’t an exact science–you’ll only get a feel for it by the end–and it’s an obnoxious pain in the ass with tasty results.

For the bindle: place the filling in the middle of the wrapper, egg-wash the exterior of the wrap (as if a frame of egg wash), and gently twist the wrapper closed, like you would a bag of bread when you lose/ give up on the twist tie.

For the tortellini: this one is hard to explain verbally, so bear with me. Orient the wrapper so it’s a diamond, place the filling in the middle, and frame the outside of the wrapper with the egg wash. Bring the bottom point to the top (home base to second base), then squeeze and seal. Finally, do the same for the side corners (third and first bases). For a visual reference, this version looks like a tortellini.

For the ravioli: This one is easy–so easy, in fact, that I quit on the tortellini halfway through and did this one. You get more stuffing in and it’s less (but still quite) tedious. Again, place the filling in the middle of a wrapper, wash the outside, and place another wrapper on top while aligning the corners. Seal and crimp the edges.

As far as cooking goes, you can pan fry (or deep fry, if you must), steam, or boil these suckers. For the latter two–steaming and boiling–make sure your seals are especially perfect. I pan fried them in a cast iron skillet with peanut oil; use this or vegetable oil, since they have high smoke points and will tolerate the high heat well (unlike olive oils).

These dudes are tasty on their own, but a dipping sauce is always nice—and this one is real easy, too. Combine the ingredients and microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring between nukes, until you get a thick consistency and all of the ingredients are combined. You can zest this up with some lime or grated ginger, as well. In fact, this sauce works great over pasta and rice dishes as well. So consider this as two posts, you greedy bastards.

Non-Veg Friendly Factor: 4.5. My brother, a committed meat eater who hates tofu, was scarfing these wontons and lathering them with the sauce. I think I pimp smacked him with the pimp spatula at one point because, damnit, I needed this for dinner for a few days. The half-point deduction is because these do have tofu in them, which automatically sounds unfriendly. My brother is an adventurous eater, so I was able to persuade him for the sake of NVFF research.

These things are light enough (if steamed) for an appetizer or, when paired with the sauce and pan-fried, great as a meal. I’m not sure how they freeze, but I imagine it’s just fine.

Mac & Cheese: the Omega

I know; I know: this is the quickest turn-around from the VV you’ve seen yet. I promise it’s not premature posting; I just thought I owed you after that, you know, embarrassing performance with the Vurgers. I know you keep telling me that it happens to all new vegetarian cooks, but I’m a little embarrassed, nonetheless.

So how do I make up for those ramshackle burgers? The best, most awesomest, pants-wettingest, life-changingest, revelatory mouthgasm that ever involved the words ‘mac’ and ‘cheese’. Flavor aside, it’s goddamn healthy too. Boom. So hopefully any Debbie Doubters resulting from the Veggie Burgers are now Acolyte Annies. Remember: the Virgin reserves his right to any and all hyperbole and salesmanship. Truthfully, though, this meal sometimes feeds me 2-3 times a week, freezes great, and always hits the spot. It’s probably a little high in protein and sodium–not to mention more caloric in the outlined portions for people who are on a strict weight-loss diet–so if you’re really concerned, eat it before or after a hard workout.


1lb. Pasta Barilla Plus (I like the elbows or rotini.)

8oz. fat free shredded mozzarella cheese

8oz. fat free shredded cheddar cheese

5oz. reduced fat bleu cheese (feta also works, but bleu is the best for kicking up the flavor)

12oz. broccoli and cauliflower, steamed (I use the microwave steam bags because, well, why not? They’re easy, fast, and maintain nutrients more reliably; plus they free up a burner.)

8oz. white mushrooms, sliced

1/4-cup butter or butter substitute (Brummel & Brown was listed here before, but if you consult the comments below you’ll see why it was taken out.)

2 tbs. all-purpose flour

2-cups skim milk

Not pictured: black pepper

1 tbs. hot sauce

1/2-tbs. crushed red pepper flakes

1/2-tbs. cumin

1 tbs. ancho chili powder

1 tbs. cayenne pepper

1.5 tbs. paprika

1/3-vegetable bouillon cube, grated (at some point in the future, I’ll show you how to make your own)

(garlic) salt & pepper to taste

. . . feel free to include the kitchen sink, if you want.

Makes 5-6 servings if main dish, a helluva lot if a side.

Boil the pasta. Strain and set aside.

Using the flour and butter, make a rue (check out my Mushroom’s Cream Soup for guidance, since it’s a bitch to write about twice). When the rue is made, add the milk. It helps if the milk is warm so the hot rue isn’t shocked with cold milk, thereby stunting the process a bit; you don’t want it boiling, so a couple minutes in the microwave should do the trick. Now throw in the seasonings and hot sauce. (This is a good time to steam the broccoli and cauliflower, especially if you’re using one of the steam bags.) Once the rue is done—I normally wait for the milk to reach a very slow boil over a medium heat, then drop the heat a little—start adding in the mozzarella and bleu cheeses, about 1/4 of the amount at a time. With a whisk or long fork, keep stirring the mix so the cheeses melt uniformly, also while breaking up and smooshing any remaining clumps of flour-butter. Once all of the cheese is added and melted—making one gooey, cheesey pot of awesomeness—take the cheese sauce off of the heat or drop the burner as low as it can go. Oh, and most importantly, sneak a taste of some and thank me later.

While you’re working your (my, actually) magic with the cheese sauce, coat a shallow, rectangular baking pan—mine looks to be about 11” x 8” x 1.5”—with a non-stick spray. Dump in the pasta, mushrooms, broccoli, and cauliflower and stir it all together. Pour on the cheese sauce and, again, stir the mother. Now sprinkle on the cheddar cheese—but don’t even think of stirring. Jerk. This unassuming sprinkling ends up as a delicious film of melted cheese, and if you want to mess that up then you deserve to die cold and alone. Now here’s a point of disagreement: I’m not one to sprinkle breadcrumbs on top; I don’t need the added crunch. If you’re one of these people, knock your socks off—I recommend Italian breadcrumbs—but if you’re on the fence about it, I say try it first without the crumbs.

Bake for 11-12 minutes at 375 degrees. Dig the hell in.

I promise it tastes better than it looks.

Non-Veg Friendly Factor: 5(trillion-hundred-million). Yea, it’s another typical omnivore dish—eat it. Considering its nutritional profile to gustatory satisfaction ratio, there is nothing not-bitchin’ about this meal. The broccoli and cauliflower add a nice texture without overwhelming—roasted eggplant or peas would work well too; just nothing too crunchy—and the mushrooms are succulent after their time in the oven. Just a warning: this is the type of meal that forces you to unbutton your pants afterward, so I recommend sweatpants or, if it’s a classy function, Gloria Vanderbilt stretch jeans; you know, the ones with the swan.

Veggie Burgers: redemption awaits.

So the Virgin is back, albeit with a less than stellar performance with some Veggie Burgers. Sure, my ego is bruised, but what more can you expect from a (vegetarian) virgin? I was tempted to not share this one, but they do taste pretty good, nonetheless. The problem isn’t the taste—which I guess is redemptive—but the consistency; the form, not content (for what it’s worth).

The coNo, you will not eat the plastic wrap--at least not more than once.urse: the all-crucial Veggie Burger. Below will surely be only the first in a series of Vurger installments—if for no other reason than to atone for the final results. The problem, which I’ll get into more below, is that the burgers didn’t stay together very well; they didn’t totally come apart, but they didn’t keep shape perfectly either. Towards the end I propose some ways to try and fix this problem in the future.


1/2 yellow bell pepper, (not too) finely diced

1/2 jalapeño, (not too) finely diced

4 pepperoncini, diced

4 Spanish olives, diced

4 cloves garlic, diced (getting the trend yet?)

6 oz. black beans, drained

6 oz. lentils, drained

2 tbs. extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp. fennel seeds

1.5 tbs. paprika

1 tbs. garlic salt

1 tbs. majoram

1 tbs. crushed red pepper flakes

1 tbs. basil

1 tsp. dill

6 oz. panko

Makes 4 patties

Coat the bottom of a skillet with oil. Heat over medium to medium-high heat. Add all of the vegetables except for the beans. Feel free to add a pinch of salt to help bring out some more flavor and sweat the peppers. Heat everything until the peppers become semi-translucent and the garlic just begins to brown, making sure not burn it. Remove and allow to cool.

Combine the mix and the beans, and then stir in the rest of the seasonings. Crack that egg and drop it on top. Mix the whole mess together with your hands, making sure to disperse the egg and somewhat break down the black beans; this means don’t be afraid to use some pressure, muscles—but not too much, since you don’t want mush.

Dollar is for scale, not consumption.

Form the mess into patties; you should be able to get four. Here’s a tip I stole from mygrandmother: use a shallow plastic container to get the shape. Just make sure to line the bottom with a fair amount of plastic wrap so you can wrap the burgers and individually freeze them. I let them set up for 30mins in the fridge—but I don’t think this is enough. Again, though, I’ll get into that below.

No rocket science here. Just serve it like you’d serve any burger: tomato; onion; bun; cheese; avocado. I advise staying away from mustards or ketchup with this one, though, since the flavors don’t jive with the veggie mix.

Non-Veg Friendly Factor: 2, maybe less. For one, veggie burgers are a hard sell to carnivores; there’s no way around that. But give them a veggie burger that falls apart and you’ll get your face grilled. That being said, the mix is of vegetables is pretty great. I may not use lentils next time—I want a different consistency—but everything else was spot-on. Wait until you smell the veggie mix in the pan; you’ll have omnivores pouring in, asking for a bite.

Finally, to my gripe: these bitches fall apart. They stay together better after they freeze (as opposed to simply setting up for 30mins), but it’s still not ideal. I have a (hopeful) solution though: 1-2 oz. more of panko, or maybe some olive oil mayonnaise. I need some more/ better binding, so if anyone has any suggestions, light up the comment box below. Otherwise, just wait until Veggie Burgers: the Return, you damn non-participators.

Mushroom’s Cream Soup

I don’t care what any of you godless atheists say; good soup is proof that there are powers bigger than–and beyond the understanding of–us humans. Refute me; I dare you. In the meantime, though, get mushroom-slapped in the mouth with this recipe.


1lb mushrooms, sliced

1 small onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, chopped

4-cups vegetable stock, heated

1-cup fat free cream

1-2 tbs. Veggie Grated Topping (more on this at the bottom of the page)

1/4-cup  butter or butter substitute

2 tbs. all-purpose flour

2 sprigs fresh thyme leaves

1 tsp. ground clove

2 tsp. cayenne pepper

2-3 tsp. dried marjoram

Salt and pepper, to taste (probably significantly more of the latter)

The following group of steps involves making a rue, albeit with a couple steps between the rudimentary ‘melt fat, add flour’. Don’t worry–this rue isn’t complicated; it just has some added steps. A rue is a great way to thicken up things like soups and cheese sauces (you’ll see it again when I do my–so far–all-time favorite recipe: my yet-cleverly-named mac & cheese. It’s more or less equal portions of fat and flour, although I kind eyeball it when I’m doing it and adjust the butter and flour as necessary. If you want a more detailed account of how to make a rue, check out this video and description over at Mom on Wheels. Just a little aside, though: I do not use the initial oil before I add the butter; I just jump right into it. Oh, and heat up the liquid (veggie stock, here) before you add it; this will help the butter and flour de-clump faster. The liquid shouldn’t boil, but warm or steaming is good.

Ok, enough with that–I’m hungry. I recommend using a large, high-walled frying pan for this (think a large sauce pan) to allow for good heat distribution (or, if you have it, a medium sized pot, which, unfortunately, I don’t have.). Melt the butter over medium heat and add the onion, garlic, and thyme, stirring and cooking for a minute or two, until the garlic is translucent and just beginning to brown. Add the mushrooms, ground clove, marjoram, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Cook for an additional 4-5 minutes, or until the mushrooms are soft and brown. Finally, add the flour and stir.

Lower the heat a bit and add the vegetable sock, stirring vigorously. Try to get out as many clumps as you can, but don’t worry about making it perfect–the smaller ones should cook out. (Just try to make sure there are no clumps in your finished product, since no one likes flour balls with a squishy exterior.) Up the heat and bring the thing to a boil. During this time–when it’s coming to a boil–is when you want to work out the remaining clumps. Now reduce the heat to low and let the bad boy simmer for a couple minutes, stirring occasionally.

Whisk the cream and Veggie Grated Topping into the soup. Up the heat to medium-low and make sure to not let the soup boil. Trust me, you don’t want it to burn; it will taste horrible and cleaning the pan/pot will suck. A lot. Just get it hot enough to serve. If you want to make it thicker, feel free to whisk in some low fat sour cream or (my always popular) fat free mozzarella cheese. Just do so a little at a time so you don’t end up with a paste.

Feel free to garnish with some additional Veggie Grated Topping, full sprigs of thyme, or chives. The soup also goes great with some whole wheat or grain artisanal bread. In fact, I have a feeling this is going to be a huge cornerstone of my Thanksgiving dinner (something I’m still trying to figure out as a veg virgin). Also, mix it up with the mushrooms a bit. I only used simple white mushrooms and I’m allergic to portobellos, but this soup should be great with some wild, porcini, and/ or cremini cremini mushrooms. Go: experiment. Just don’t you even think of feeding me a portobello, ass.

Non-Veg Friendly Factor: 5. Fine, so between the Baked Chili Rellenos and this soup I’ve kind of been cheating with the Veg Friendly thing because I’m just making standard (although healthified) recipes. Bite my bird. This soup is a great way to quench a craving for cold weather comfort food, especially with a big hunk of bread. If anything, I hope some of these recipes can prove to any non-vegs that a transition to vegetarianism–or almost vegetarianism–is wholly possible without being a huge pain in the ass. So for all of you haters looking for a new way to incorporate seitan: wait and enjoy this soup. Ass.

As for the Veggie Grated Topping: it may sound gross, but it tastes exactly like Parmesan cheese. Plus, remember my Parmesan retraction at the bottom of my Silken Sun-dried Tomato Alfredo post? Retraction retracted, kind of. Eat this stuff and you’ll never buy–or miss–animal stomach Parmesan again. You’re welcome.

How to Roast Peppers

It’s hard to beat the flavor of roasted peppers. They add a great dimension to salads, sandwiches, chili, breakfast cereals, etc. Plus, adding the words ‘Roasted Pepper’ to any recipe makes it sound like it has a higher skill level. Just a heads-up, though: this flavor can be overwhelming. While tooling around with my Baller-Ass Chili, I used some roasted poblano peppers and it was all I could taste. So, if you want to use roasted peppers, make sure to build the dish around this ingredient or use a very small amount.

The best part about roasted peppers: easy as hell to make. So easy, there’s no need to EVER buy them in a jar. If you own a grill, oven, or gas stove, you can save some money (and if you don’t own these things, what the hell are you doing on my blog?). My favorite method is the gas stove, but the others work just as well—albeit a little slower.

First of all, rub the pepper with oil


For a grill: Place over medium-high to high heat. Rotate and char on all sides.

For an oven: Place under the broiler on high as close to the heating unit as you can get while still avoiding direct contact. Rotate and char on all sides.

For a gas stove: Place directly over a high flame. Rotate and char on all sides.

It’s important to not let the pepper sit on the heat too long after it blackens; you just want to char the skin, not cook the pepper all the way through.

Once all sides are blackened, place the pepper into a container and cover. Let it sit for 15 minutes. Make sure to get cover the pepper as quickly as possible—you want the heat to steam it so the skin can peel right off. When the time is up, just use your hands and peel the skin. I don’t recommend leaving it on—it tastes like straight burn, not too good. You can go over to my Baked Chili Rellenos recipe to see these roasted poblanos put into action.

Welcome to flavor country.

Baked Chile Rellenos

Fried food is awesome. Cheesy food is awesome. Spicy food is awesome. Unfortunately, two of the three can he brutal to your health when consumed too often (whereas the third can just be every other kind of brutal). Hence my dilemma with chile rellenos: friggin’ awesome, but friggin’ brutal. Below is a baked version that manages to keep the crispiness, thanks to panko flakes, and cheesiness, thanks to sour cream and fat free cheese.

Here are the ingredients:

6 poblano peppers, as dark and firm as you can find (TWSS)

1 tbs. extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

1/2-cup sour cream

1-cup fat free cheddar cheese

1-cup panko breadcrumbs (possibly more, if needed)

1 pinch each salt, pepper, Adobo light seasoning

1 egg

1/2-cup skim milk

Makes 3-6 servings.

Roast the peppers. (I have a section on roasting peppers on another page.) When the peppers are done roasting and the skin is removed, cut a 2-3 inch slit in each—enough to get some stuffing in there. Here’s a really important step: extract as much of the veins and seeds as you can; this is where all of the heat is. I can handle spicy stuff so I only took out about 2/3 of the seeds. I was sweating by the end of my meal and looking for something to cool my mouth off. Any spicier and I probably wouldn’t have been able to finish my meal. So, if you don’t like spicy, be really anal about getting the innards out or use another kind of pepper.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Heat the oil over medium-high heat and add the diced onions. Sprinkle on the salt, pepper, and Adobo light to add some flavor and help the sweating process. Heat the onions until they are soft and translucent. When they’re finished, take them off the heat and allow them to cool. When they’re at room temperature mix the onions, sour cream, and cheddar cheese in a bowl to make the filling. You want a pretty chunky mix, so use as much or as little sour cream as you think necessary (or tasty). All of these steps should be able to happen while the peppers are roasting.

Once the roasted peppers are gutted, gently stuff them with the filling. Seriously, be gentle—the peppers are pretty fragile and any extra tearing can make the whole process really obnoxious. Once they’re all stuffed, use toothpicks to close up the seams. Normally I would recommend a suture type closure, but since the peppers are so slippery and fragile I had to insert the toothpicks across the seam perpendicular to the pepper.

Now whisk the egg and milk in a large bowl. Spread the breadcrumbs on a plate. Cover the peppers in the egg wash and cover them with the panko. Place them in a baking sheet and bake for 15 – 20mins, or until the breadcrumbs are golden.

I served mine with some Goya sofrito lightly spread on top. Of course, you can include anything: limes, salsa rojo, salsa verde, chunky guacamole, etc. In fact, I have a mind to spoon-over some of my Baller-Ass Chili the next time I eat these. I’d even recommend some seasoned rice under the whole mess.

Non-Veg Friendly Factor: 5. This recipe is basically a healthified version of something any omnivore would be happy ordering at a restaurant or eating at a bar. It’s not even fair to have this rating in this case. But then again, omnivores can eat anything vegs eat, not vice versa. If anything, I should give a Non-Healthy Friendly Factor, which would probably be 3 or 3.5. Imitating fried food can be difficult, and anyone craving it probably will have a hard time settling for something less. But for those of us willing to compromise just a bit, this recipe is exactly what belongs on your plate.

Baller-Ass Chili

The finished product, which tastes better than it looks.

So it’s starting to get colder—I have the hood up on my hoodie and high basketball socks on right now—and it’s time to eat some chili. Think about it: it’s a mix of awesome nutrition, flavor, and ease—a trifecta for this veg virgin. And the meal is just as satisfying without meat, especially when you add mushrooms. I use normal white button mushrooms, but only because I’m allergic to portobellos, which I imagine would be awesome in here. Just make sure to have at least an hour once you throw all of the ingredients into the pot; I’d hate to be the reason your kitchen burns down because you weren’t minding the stove. Plus, burned kitchen almost always means burned chili.


3 – 15.5oz. cans of Nature’s Promise beans (I like black, light kidney, and dark kidney)*

1 – 14.5oz. can of stewed tomatoes*

1 – 15.25oz. can of whole kernel corn*

1 box mushrooms, sliced

3 peppers, red and orange, diced (about 1/2” to 1”)

1 jalapeño pepper, diced

1 tbs. cilantro

1 tbs. crushed red pepper flakes

1 tbs. cayenne pepper

1-2 tbs. garlic salt

1 tbs. cumin

1 tsp. paprika

1 tbs. black pepper

Makes 4-6 servings.

*A quick note about the canned goods: I always look for “low sodium” and “no salt added” varieties because, well, canned stuff is a salt bomb. I hear you can drain and rinse the canned stuff to drastically reduce sodium content, but for chili I keep the liquid (it gives flavor and acts as a thickener) and, for stuff like tomatoes, rinsing can over saturate the food. So, in short, go for low sodium options. I like Nature’s Promise (only at Giant food stores) for the beans. Most major brands have low sodium options. Buy them.

Now for the steps, which couldn’t be easier. Cover the bottom of a large pot with oil and heat it over medium-high heat. I recommend putting a piece of a pepper at the bottom and waiting for it to sizzle, which means the oil is ready. When that sizzle happens, add the peppers, mushrooms, and about 1/4 to 1/3 of each of all of the spices. Cover and stir until the peppers are somewhat soft and the mushrooms are brown. Make sure to get the seasonings around as much as you can.

Once all that is softened, everyone else into the pool: add the beans, tomatoes, corn, and the remainder of the spices. Stir it all up and jack the heat up to high until it all boils, then drop the heat to a simmer or low (you want somewhere at or below a slow, rolling boil with occasional bubbling) and leave uncovered. Let the whole thing sit over the low hear, stirring every 10 minutes or so, for at least an hour—more if you have the time. You want the liquid to reduce and flavors to concentrate, so the process takes time—but you’re only stirring every 10 minutes, so don’t complain.

To be honest, the chili comes out somewhat soupy, so feel free to simmer it longer or drain the corn before you add it (the less liquid means more stirring, so all ingredients are submerged for equal amounts of time). I say drain the corn because it’s a stronger flavor than the tomatoes and the thick liquid from the beans helps to thicken up the chili—you know, the whole point of draining the corn in the first place. Also, feel free to add some brown rice or, the real winner, place Jiffy cornbread at the bottom of the bowl. Hell, do the cornbread even if the chili comes out like paste because it’s awesome (I just didn’t have time to do it this time around). Oh, and feel free to add sour cream (disgusting, you pervert) and/ or fat-free or low-fat cheddar cheese right after you spoon it into your bowl for a creamy and gooey treat (which is also, incidentally, what she said). My next chili recipe will probably have a guacamole add-on option (not what she said, unless she cooks).

Non-Veg Friendly Factor: 3.5. OK, so I know I hyped this chili because of the mushrooms took place of the meat but, truth be told, some omnivores are unable to think “chili” and not mean ‘meat’—perfectly understandable, considering chili was originally all-meat and the purest varieties have big pieces of cubed beef. Nonetheless, this veg option is great as a hearty side or an occasional dinner (especially with cheap and easy Jiffy cornbread!) when dealing with meat eaters.