Bein’ Fat and Polish: Carb-Loaded Vegan Pierogi

Oh-gy Pierogi! Damn, it’s good to be Polish.

Why?

Because although, yes, Italians have gnocchi and tortellini, and Americans have chicken dumplings or whatever, and Asian cultures have steamed buns and such, there is just not a good comparison between the joys of eating one of those definitely delicious foods and the mind-blowing physical experience of a perfectly pressed and presented pierogi.

Pyrohy

Mmmmm sweet, salty, doughy deliciousness. Even on your thighs.

For those of you who may not be familiar with these Polish staples, pierogi are made by letting rise a simple dough, stuffing with any number of ingredients, pressing around the stuffing, and then boiling the dumplings to cook. The best way to enjoy them? Sauteed in the skillet, with some butter, margarine, or oil all up in there to get it snuggled and crisped. Oh, it’s perfection when you get a springy dough, a moist and plump middle, and a bit of crunch on your exterior that’s also a little salty on the tongue. And, of course, you gotta finish it off with a good sauce. Old schoolers will tell you a pyrohy is nothing without sour cream, and while I am inclined to agree, our diet is not. So, here, in addition to providing you with the recipe I used, which is done in the traditional eggless way, I also present you with two different (vegan) fillings I came up with and a fricking fabulous sauce that is creamy, tangy, and utilizes one can’t-live-without ingredient for most Poles (you know, besides sour cream): a good horseradish.

I used the dough recipe from Tasting Poland with MUCH success; the dough was smooth, easy to work with, not too sticky, and yielded very springy, firm pierogi when boiled – which, from my experience eating and making pierogi, is exactly what you’re looking for. Once the pierogi are properly stuffed and pressed into dumplings, drop them into boiling water and allow them to float to the top, stirring frequently enough to keep them from sticking to the bottom of the saucepan, sides of the saucepan, their pierogi friends…pretty much anything. They’re sticky while they boil! Once they float, boil them an additional 3-5 minutes, testing them for firmness, doneness, and a touch of spring when you gently push them. Imagine that they should resemble the Pillsbury dough boy in “pushback” when given a gentle but solid poke. Don’t be afraid to burn your finger.
Note: I used 100% whole wheat flour both times I made this dough and only found that I needed to add a bit more water and a bit more rising time, but that is typical of any baking or cooking done with whole wheat flour when a recipe doesn’t necessarily call for it. Expect approx. 1/4-1/2 c. extra water per batch, and about 5-10 extra min. of rising time.

Paper bag pierogis

These are just the leftover dumplings; imagine row upon row of orgasmic pierogi here instead.

Here’s a great reason to ask for paper instead of plastic if you forget your reusable bags at the grocery store (or if you like to walk to the liquor store and need something opaque for your return journey): you can use them to drain all that extra fluid from your freshly boiled pierogis lest you decide to throw them in all wet and end up with tiny burning droplets of oily liquid sun fire reigning down on you like arrows in a scene from 300. ‘Cause that happens. So, you’ll drain the boiled pierogis for a few minutes at least, then saute them on medium to medium-high heat in your fat of choice until they are your desired brown. We love Canoleo Soft Margarine because it’s vegan and genuinely tastes like salted butter, but is both not butter and not made from 100% canola oil like many other margarines. However, olive oil for savory pierogis, grapeseed oil for either savory or sweet pierogis, your favorite vegan margarine, or whatever oil/fat you please depending on your existent or non-existent dietary preferences should work just fine. I can’t recommend grapeseed oil enough for something new to try once in a while; it has a high flash point, neutral taste, and a lot of purported health benefits, including its high level of omega-6 fatty acids.

Sweet Filling: Apple-Cran
3 medium peeled apples, diced
~1/4 c. dried cranberries
margarine
brown sugar
a bit of lemon juice
fresh ground nutmeg

Simmer the ingredients (most of them to taste) on medium-low heat until the mixture begins to get sweaty and juicy, about 20-30 minutes. The lemon juice will keep the fruit from browning due to air exposure, and cuts through some of the sweetness. Fill your pierogis carefully, trying hard not to get any fruit juice on the outer portion of the dough where you will be pressing the dumplings closed. These were very good plain and with vegan sour cream.

Filling 2: A New Spin on Tradition in Potato and Onion
about 5 large red potatoes, cubed
about 3 stalks of green onion, diced very small
minced garlic
a little olive oil
salt, pepper, and basil or parsley to taste
optional: tofu, Boca veggie crumbles, or seitan

For this filling, boil the potatoes until soft enough to mash, about 20 minutes depending on the size of your cubes. Drain into a strainer, rinse in very cold water, and then mash by hand in a large bowl. Mix in other ingredients (again, most of them to taste, but go easy on the oil) and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to let the flavors get acquainted. Stuff the pierogis, boil, saute, and eat with this awesome sauce:

Saucin’ the Supper: Vegan Creamy Horseradish Sauce
1 ramekin of vegan mayonnaise (we use Grapeseed Vegenaise)
good horseradish (we buy ours at the Broadway Market in Historic Polonia, so we know it’s good)
lemon juice
onion powder

Mix the ingredients until you get just enough kick from the horseradish, and an acceptable consistency from the lemon juice (you could also use apple cider or white vinegar). You won’t want to leave out a bit of onion flavor from the onion powder, or, if you like onions more than I do, you can add some diced green onion to the sauce and enjoy. If eating with people who are unsure about the enjoyment they may derive from horseradish, put the ingredients on the table and have a make-your-own-sauce party. Personally, I add at least 2 tbsp. of horseradish to every 1/4 or 1/3 cup of Vegenaise. I love the slight kick in the back of the nose and the slightly sweet taste of tart vinegar and root that every childhood family get-together was punctuated with in the presence of my Polish grandfather.

Moral of the story? Vegans can still get their Polish on. So next year, when you go out to buy your pussy willows and squirt guns for Dyngus Day, make sure you stock up on more than just Sobieski so you can enjoy these delicious pyrohy.

vodkasobieski.com

commons.wikimedia.org

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What to Expect When You’re Expecting…to Transition Between Vegan and Non-Vegan

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There’s me, folks, wearing my amazing sunhat and posing with my husband in Florida traffic. This is pre-sun, and also hours before the topic at hand: our vacation from the Buffalo winter that was also a vacation from our vegan lifestyle. The reasons? 1) We were traveling with a friendly carnivore, 2) We are still foodies, so we wanted to sample foods from the area, and 3) Since we’re not entirely ethical vegans or even 100% vegan, the lifestyle change was partially an experiment (mostly for Jonmark), not easy, and admittedly not always super fun given our many passions for food. So, we tried it a week away.

It began with Aunt Donna’s dinner: sausage and vegetable soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, great comforts after traveling through snow and wind to North Carolina. Normally, my body revolts against sausage of any kind, the mere smell or subtle taste on the tongue sending me into a blurry state of headache and salivation as my mouth reacts with tingling pain to the oral memory of nitrates. But this soup…mmm. And then I was suddenly a little kid treated to her favorite sandwich, legs swinging as I cheerfully and heartily partook in copious amounts of cheese for the first time in about 8 weeks. The apple pie with goat’s milk cheddar…that was when I knew we were past the point of no return as that first bite snapped, crunched, and slid down the tofuhole (piehole is too literal).

I was even dedicated at Subway the next day in one more attempt at salvation, but to no avail. Monday I horked down lox with toasts, capers, onions, sour cream (!), and the cherry on top of my fishy metaphorical sundae: hard-boiled eggs. Eggs may be a more recent love of mine, but damned if it’s not hard to give them up. I ate them with delight, in addition to some kettle corn during the girls’ night showing of Dirty Dancing later that evening. Ignoring the cheese and fish that normally comprise our diet, my other indulgences included a bacon cheeseburger from Sonic, a chicken enchilada at an authentic Mexican place we checked out, an ice cream sundae at Baskin Robbins, a few small sausages and meat pastries at a fun Middle Eastern restaurant in West Palm, quiches and berry crisp at Aunt Donna’s (oh her house!), and a mixed cold cut (aka turkey) sub from Subway today. And of course, various aeolis, dipping sauces, milk chocolates, and processed foods along the way. That’s a long list right here, kids.

I can speak for both my husband and I when I say that the transition back to meat-eating wreaked havoc on our bodies. I am absolutely certain when I say that the combination of putrid odors, gummed-up bowels, and organ-pressing gases that we experienced are enough to deter me from ever returning to a fully carnivorous diet again. Ever.

I wrote some of these words to you from Sandra, my best friend’s Elantra, as we made our return journey from Florida. My husband had recently released from the depths of himself a smell so repulsive that, as he locked the windows and cranked the heat, the fog cooked and morphed into an almost liquid state of human excrement that hung dense in the air and clung desperately to our nasal mucus. If you can imagine the smell of Frito corn chips and the swampy, rotting carcasses of former road kill, that is the best estimation I can make.

And now that we’re back to “normal”? Hungry and mildly craving a meaty sandwich, but feeling better, more regular, and less sluggish. So folks, from two people who experienced it firsthand, this is what to expect when you’re expecting to transition between between vegan and non-vegan.

Mind Over Batter: Addictive Gluten-free, Vegan, Flourless Chocolate Cake

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Huge green tea = huge wake up or a giant’s regular wake up

What a night. I woke up with my partner at 5:30 this morning, and laid in bed until 6 before I got up to be productive. Then what did I do? I slept from 7:30 til noon after reading for a while on the couch! The sluggish, groggy feeling in my head and body means I turned immediately to my hilariously large mug and filled it to the brim with green tea brewed strong. With this and some Nature Valley Oats and Dark Chocolate under my belt (most indulgent processed second breakfast ever), I’ll be ready for the day.

So, chocolate. People who know me well know I have a huge soft spot for chocolate; no one knows this better than my husband, who is often my chocolate-go-getter. Besides Valentine’s Day indulgences (my first ever real box of chocolates!), we have become much more conscious of and dedicated to eating vegan chocolate. No more milk or white chocolate, though I never really liked them much to begin with anyway when compared to dark chocolate. Luckily for us, a city like Buffalo offers many places and opportunities to stray from “the norm,” and we frequent the Lexington Co-Op in Elmwood Village to satisfy our chocolate needs. I had been wanting to make a vegan, flourless chocolate cake for a while, and armed with a pound of vegan chocolate bits from our local co-op, I was ready to begin.

I wanted to create a flourless chocolate cake that was different than the other recipes I had found. Many recipes for vegan flourless chocolate cake utilize non-wheat flours like coconut flour, which I thought defeated the purpose of flourless! Wanting to stay true to the concept, the recipe I have here is an experiment and definitely a work-in-progress, but delicious nonetheless. The only real trouble is getting the cake to setup entirely; this cake is somewhere between a supremely stiff pudding and a dense cheesecake. I will include the recipe and my plans for altering next time so you can all follow along and make any recommendations!

First, melt your (vegan) chocolate bits in a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler, you can do what I do: heat about an inch of water to a consistent simmer in a small saucepan and place a stainless steel or glass bowl wide enough to cover the opening on top. Melt the chocolate in your double boiler slowly, stirring until completely melted. Then, add the canola oil and stir until well-blended. Why add the oil now? I simply find that the fats mix better when combined at the same time. And a little heat never hurts (a little!).

You can see my double boiler setup here under all that melty deliciousness!

You can see my double boiler setup here under all that melty deliciousness!

Since you’ll have a couple of minutes while the chocolate begins to warm, take the opportunity to cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the inside of your springform pan. You can either free-cut and hope for the best, like I did, or you can just trace the pan onto the paper with a pencil and cut inside the drawn circle.

Pretty close...

Pretty close…

Next, puree the black beans and banana, and stir in with the chocolate mix.

Mmmm getting there

Mmmm getting there

After you’ve dirtied the food processor by pureeing the black beans and banana, you can dirty it even further by whipping your silken tofu. Whipping the tofu helps add a bit of air and gives it a smooth texture.

Tofu! Eggs, be gone!

Tofu! Eggs, be gone!

Brew up your strong coffee…

Caff. Eine.

Caff. Eine.

…and add everything remaining to the chocolate mix: the coffee, sugar, vanilla, water, baking soda, and apple cider vinegar. Pour into your pan, and bake at 325 for 40-50 minutes. And no, that’s not a joke: 40-50 minutes.

Yeah! Uncooked magic :D

Yeah! Uncooked magic 😀

Once out of the oven, freeze for 20 minutes to jump-start the setting process, and transfer to the fridge for at least 2 hours or until cool completely.

A friend who hates black beans ate the cake and had no idea. We all loved the cake. I would recommend having a pie server handy for getting your slices out, because this cake will be funny to get out.

Gluten-free, Vegan Flourless Chocolate Cake
1 lb. vegan chocolate bits
1 c. canola oil
1 banana
1 c. silken tofu
1/2 c. black bean puree
3/4 c. sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla
1 c. strong coffee
1/4 c. water
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. baking powder

Now, for next time, I think I’m going to change up the recipe a bit. First, the moisture content needs to come down. Second, the banana flavor needs to come down. Third, I think the cake needs to actually try to rise less in order to get the correct dense texture of a flourless chocolate cake. So, this is my proposed NEW recipe:

1 lb. vegan chocolate bits
1 c. canola oil OR vegan margarine (my new favorite thing)
1/2 banana
1 c. silken tofu
1 c. black bean puree
3/4 c. sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla
1 c. strong coffee

Fewer ingredients, but who knows how it will come out? It’s untested. I’ll do an update once it’s completed! But for now, the tested, gluten-free, vegan flourless chocolate cake is a pretty damn good substitute! With a side of unsweetened almond milk, it’s just heaven. One small slice is enough to send you into a health coma!

 

 

Surprisingly Delicious Lunch

Aside

Wheat bread, vegan Boca “chicken” patty, fresh spinach, cucumber slices, peanut butter, hot sauce, and vegan mayonnaise. Awesome vegan sandwich!

Quinoa? Qui sais?

My Salad's Mix-ins

Spring has sprung, and besides eagerly awaiting the day when I can finally go swimming again, I am highly anticipating summer foods. And summer foods mean picnics. When I was a kid, we used to make annual trips to a beach about sixty miles south of where I grew up. That beach was a haven for me, one of the few places I could swim and really be a kid. Who doesn’t remember building sand castles for hours in the hot, dusty sand, surrounding piles of the goopy stuff with moats and little stick flags? Who didn’t dance down to the water’s edge on sock-sensitive feet, wading past the shallow surf thick with seaweed and children’s urine to the deeper, cooler water where the fish would bite? My favorite summer memories are by the water. My father would pull me around the lake’s surface by my arms and make a motorboat noise. My parents, my younger brother, my grandparents, my aunt, we sat on a picnic blanket wet from our bathing suits and gritty with our sand and munched out of a bright red cooler. Sandwiches, little green grapes, Tupperwared salads, cold cans of Brisk, and any number of items would be pulled from the cooler and passed around–not to mention chips, crackers, and big jugs of water from beach bags. I don’t know what it is about being at the beach, but no matter how much food you pack, you are always hungrier when you leave than when you got there.

Preferred on my informal list of summery foods are salads, and my mother makes ’em like no one else: pasta salad, macaroni salad, potato salad, green salad, white salad, chicken salad…The list goes on and on, and each one is unique. But there is something about my mother’s pasta salad that is just spot-on. I think it is the way it mimics an antipasto, the cured meat mixed with cheese and veggies and drizzled in the traditional Italian fashion. For years, I have been patiently picking black olives out of the salad so I can enjoy the salty and tangy noodles that swim in cheese, pepperoni, and tomatoes. For a spin, my mother told me about how she began preparing quinoa like she does her pasta salad, and I knew I had to try it. With spring in the air, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

Cooked Quinoa

What is quinoa, you might ask–and how do I pronounce it? Quinoa, or keen-wah, is a grain that is so nutritionally complete that you simply cannot live without it once you’ve tried it. If you’re like me and you’re hungry 2 hours after a bowl of cereal, looking for an alternative to pasta when you’ve eaten it 4 times in a week, or trying vegetarian/vegan alternatives without sacrificing protein, this grain is for you. Cooked much like rice, quinoa has a much nuttier flavor and is absolutely delicious prepared like oatmeal, cold salads, tabouli, or even rice pudding. This cold quinoa salad was a total success, and was so quick! It paired nicely with steaming roasted asparagus and some Italian bread with butter. I leave out olives, but pasta salad is delicious with olives, and the great thing is that it can be made vegetarian or vegan by subbing pepperoni for tofu and/or cheese for soy cheese. Really, this quinoa antipasto salad is about your tastes; my partner wants me to include pepperoncini peppers next time. I will never look longingly at pasta salad at the deli counter again, even if I’m starving. 🙂

Delicious Quinoa Antipasto Salad

Quinoa Antipast0 Salad
1 cup dry quinoa
2 cups water
2 roma tomatoes
large bunch of baby spinach (approx. 2-3 ounces)
6 baby portobello mushrooms
4 oz. cubed cheese (whatever is on hand, I use cheddar or Monterey Jack)
1 package sliced pepperoni
~1/4 cup diced red onion
1/2 cup Italian dressing (see below for my homemade Italian)

-Boil 2 cups water and add the quinoa, letting the water come back to a boil and then simmering on medium heat for 15-20 minutes, or until water is absorbed.
-Meanwhile, dice tomatoes, spinach, mushrooms, cheese, and onion and add with pepperoni to large bowl.
-Add 1/2 cup of either homemade Italian dressing (see below) or the store brand version of your choice to the bowl.
-After quinoa has cooled (which will take approx. 20 minutes in the refrigerator), add quinoa to the bowl and mix well. Season with additional salt and pepper if you wish (though it is not necessary). Enjoy!

This recipe made my mouth water when I made my own dressing:

Separates like oil and water...or oil and vinegar.

Whitney’s Homemade Italian Dressing
3/8 cup extra virgin olive oil (or canola if you choose)
1/8 cup white vinegar and balsamic vinegar (trust me, you’ll want to combine)
1 tsp minced garlic
Italian seasoning to taste
salt and pepper to taste

-Mix ingredients in glass measuring cup, stirring constantly to keep combined as possible. Tip: Use a fork or whisk–it will break the oil and vinegar into droplets, making them easier to combine.
Tip: This recipe can be stored for future use, so double, triple, or quadruple the recipe to your heart’s desire.
Tip: This dressing is also delicious if you dip your Italian bread in it…

The perfect quinoa meal...