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.

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...

Hollandaise Revisited: Mockandaise

Hello, my name is Whitney. Hi Whitney. I have been an artichoke addict for about a month now. This week, I caved twice: once at my partner’s parents’ house, and once again at 2 AM this morning. I feel I shouldn’t be indulging myself with artichokes, but…they are absolute bliss. After a weekend of the world’s most delicious cheesecake and heaps of red meat with gravy, who can blame me for craving a leafy green artichoke in all its glory? I couldn’t sit still as I waited for the pot to boil; always 45 minutes to wait for the exotic thistle to soften, the cynara cardunculus of my dreams.

If this addiction were to continue–if I let myself give in–there has to be a better way to make hollandaise sauce, a healthier way, so my waist band doesn’t expand as my addiction deepens into obsession….with artichokes.

I experimented last night with a preparation I thought might work and…lo and behold! It did. After making my first hollandaise recipe, which resulted in an excess of this smooth, fatty emulsion, I reduced the old recipe by 33% and still had plenty for 2 servings (while the old recipe is more like 3, which I don’t need for two people). When there is a large bowl of this stuff in front of you, it’s hard not to dip in and lick the bowl, so the result of my crafty cutting is sure to cut back on the nutrition in a huge way:

Old Hollandaise: New Hollandaise: Mockandaise:
2 artichokes                                    2 artichokes                                       2 artichokes
3 egg yolks                                       2 egg yolks                                         1 large egg
6 tbsp.                                              4 tbsp. butter                                     2 tbsp. unsalted butter
—-                                                    —-                                                        2 tbsp. canola oil
1 tbsp. + 1 tsp. lemon juice          1 tbsp. lemon juice                            1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. water                                   2 tsp. water                                         2 tsp. water
salt and pepper                              salt, pepper, garlic powder             salt, pepper, g. powder

Calories: 387                                  Calories: 260                                     Calories: 260
Total fat: 41 g                                 Total fat: 27.5 g                                 Total fat: 28 g
Saturated fat: 24 g                        Saturated fat: 16 g                             Saturated fat: 9 g
Polyunsat fat: 2.3 g                       Polyunsat fat: 1.6 g                           Polyunsat fat: 5.1 g
Monounsat fat: 13 g                     Monounsat fat: 8.6 g                        Monounsat fat: 12.6 g
Cholesterol: 400 mg                    Cholesterol: 267 mg                          Cholesterol: 124 mg
Sodium: 1200 mg                         Sodium: 1200 mg                               Sodium: 1200 mg
Total carbs: 1.4 g                           Total carbs: 1.1 g                                Total carbs: 0.5 g
Protein: 4.3 g                                 Protein: 2.9 g                                      Protein: 3.3 g

The nutritional differences are striking enough that one may consider switching to the “mockandaise” sauce…

This now concludes our session of ALA (Artichoke Lovers Anonymous).

Homemade v. Made at Home

Mmmm chunky and cheesy

Despite my best intentions and time management skills, there is sometimes no way that I can cook dinner every night. Luckily, I have a partner who is more than willing to work the stove (and the dish sponge) and who is simply not a picky eater. Though our tastes are sophisticated, we are humble eaters, too, and this is what separates us from foodies: not everything has to be the best. So we have developed a number of consistent and easy recipes that we tend to eat about every week, like the rice and beans/burrito recipe and Chinese stir fry. Since both of us love pasta, there is always a box of spaghetti or rotini in our pantry weekly as well.

And so developed my easy alfredo and greens. The beauty of this recipe began when I stumbled upon a can of alfredo sauce in Aldi’s that has no freaky additives and unpronounceable ingredients. After deciding that just pasta and sauce was not going to be filling enough, I decided to add a package of frozen spinach. The next time, I added frozen broccoli. Following that, fresh broccoli. And then, after that, ground turkey. What I love the most about making this pasta and alfredo is that there is time to play around, and it is so cheesy that it is very versatile. Plus, you’re not worried about “ruining” expensive and time-consuming alfredo sauce with frozen veggies (just like I hate ruining good cheese by eating it on a Ritz!) This meal is ready in 20 minutes tops and is absolutely delicious…and can very easily be vegetarian!

Easy Pasta and Alfredo1 lb. box of any pasta (I love spirals!)
1 jar alfredo sauce
1 10 oz. package frozen spinach
1 cup chopped or frozen broccoli
1/2 – 1 c. milk or water
1 tbsp. canola oil
minced garlic to taste (I use at least 2 tsp.)
red pepper flakes to taste
herbs to taste
ground black pepper to taste
grated parmesan cheese

Pasta and Alfredo Sauce...mmmmm

 

-Put pot of water on to boil and cook pasta according to the directions while you prepare the alfredo sauce.
-Saute minced garlic in oil on medium heat for about 2 minutes.
-Add frozen spinach directly from package and cover, separating the block every 2 minutes or so until no longer frozen. If working with frozen broccoli, add at the same time and cook with the spinach.
-If working with chopped fresh broccoli, add after the spinach has “melted” and cook uncovered for about 2 minutes. Tip: If you would like to add ground turkey or chicken, now is the time to do so! Cook on medium-high for a few minutes until the meat just begins to brown.
-Add the alfredo sauce, milk or water, red pepper, black pepper, and herbs to the pan and stir contents together, cooking until the sauce begins to bubble. Turn down the heat and let simmer covered for about 5 minutes.
-Drain the pasta and serve the sauce!

The best thing about this recipe? It’s quick, easy, and a great way to get any picky eaters to eat vegetables. Honestly, who can pass up anything covered in cheese? This recipe is great not only for dinner, but also for a quick and filling lunch during the windy Oswego winter.