Southern Vegan Food – Discontinued?

In writing this collection of veganized Southern food I have come to realize some difficult things about this project:

1.) Southern food as it is viewed today is generally not very healthy. While a blog simply about veganized Southern food is easy, and many cookbooks and chefs do create magnificent Southern vegan dishes, I don’t know how helpful this blog will be if the recipes are loaded with fat, sugar and calories. Growing up in the South, I did not eat fried chicken every day of the week but some people would think that to be the case. I remember my greatest “culinary joy” was getting a strawberry from the garden before our dad got to it.

2.) I have not had the time to develop and test my own recipes. Other priorities have taken over and this is truly the first time that I have had a chance to think about the future of this effort.

3.) Making Southern food is good but are you ready to go on a journey with me? How about vegan food with a Southern flair? As I have created these recipes, more of my life experiences outside of the South have creeped into the food. Recreating Southern classics or other people’s perceptions of what those are has never been my mission. The South is changing so rapidly and more people appreciate Chinese or Mexican food there now as much as they do traditional Southern.

So, you tell me. What would you like dear readers?

Spring 3-Bean Salad and Update

It has been a while since I have shared any new recipes here. While I would really like to pick up on the “dear” meat recipe that I have been developing, I thought it might be more timely to share something for Spring. This is a quick and simple three bean salad. This is not a pickled bean recipe because the vinegar is relatively low-acid. The mustard vinaigrette used in my other recipes can be used here or if you want to sweeten it more you can. I cooked a mess of beans yesterday and have been using them in all sorts of recipes. So, enjoy the recipe!

Simple 3-Bean Salad

1 cup black beans
1 cups lentils
1 cup dark red kidney beans
8 asparagus spears, ends trimmed and chopped into 1/2 inch segments
3 green onions, chopped
1 small shallot, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 – 1 cup cilantro or parsley, rinsed and chopped
2 tbsp Dijon mustard (brown mustard is OK)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp maple syrup or agave nectar
salt and pepper to taste

If you are using canned beans, rinse them well through a strainer then proceed with the recipe.

Set harder asparagus pieces in the bottom of a steamer basket or bottom of a shallow bowl with a little bit of water in it in the microwave. Set the softer pieces on top and cover. Steam for 2-3 minutes, just until asparagus is bright green. Pull out immediately and rinse in a strainer under cold water.

In a medium bowl, combine last six ingredients (beginning with garlic). If you wish to add a little oil, olive or safflower would not hurt. Taste and remember that this flavor will be diluted a bit over the beans.

Once you are satisfied with this, add the beans and herbs. You can add thyme or chives, if you wish.

Mix thoroughly and serve at room temp or chill to serve later.

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Deer Hunting

I would be remiss in writing a Southern cookbook without including some form of deer. Every year, sometimes not even waiting until the holidays, our father would trek off to the woods with his bow and arrow or guns and hunt for deer. When our mother dragged us along, we would wake up in the camp to see deer hanging by their ankles being gutted and blood dripping from their mouths. Other men, hunters, stood around, waiting to use the cleaning area, would chat and laugh with one another, one hand holding a cup of black coffee and the other a cigarette. These were cold, gory mornings. Sometimes, a pack of wild dogs could be heard in the distance and our mom told us not to wander too far off. Truthfully, we wanted to go as far away as possible.

Dad and Deer

This one’s life taken 2009. This is the last deer that my father killed.

It makes me flinch now to look at this picture of my father holding a dead doe’s antlers (also in my pre-vegan days). So, I ask, why even do a recipe on deer meat for vegans? It is for the same reason that there are veggie dogs, seitan and any other sort of meat sub you can think of. We humans are creatures of habit. Traditions enforce habits that distance us from the harsh truths that we had become aware of. They can force us not to think or to feel and blind or numb us to our compassion. I have seen people revert to eating animals and their by-products when they get together for whatever holiday, birthday, BBQ and even when getting a cold. The Southern tradition of deer hunting, taught to us by our ancestors, is one of those traditions.

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Many deer come to this pond. They will stand still, stare at you for a moment then walk away.

If you are vegan or vegan-curious reading this blog and are dealing with the traditional holiday mealtimes, you are not alone. If you love to eat meat, enjoy the umami flavor, the texture, I understand. We had deer meat throughout the fall and winter and it was very hearty and filling. My father was usually the one who cooked it and we enjoyed it without regard to the animal(s) whose life was taken. Now, I do not desire to eat animals because I see how it takes an animal’s life and I find it revolting. However, we can now enjoy the flavors in a rich stew, jerky or a black pepper fry-up of “dear” meat and no one has to die for it. If you feel compelled to still get together with a bunch of your friends in the woods, as a lot of teenagers are these days, maybe you can still shoot animals but with cameras instead of guns. Recipe to be provided in next post.

Thanksgiving is Here!

Mushroom and Nut Loaf

This is the first vegan version of the bean and nut loaf that I have made. I must acknowledge Roz Denny’s The Ultimate Vegetarian Cookbook as my inspiration and starting point. This loaf uses kidney or baked beans, something that Southerners might just have cans of in their pantries. If you do make it with baked beans cut back on the additional BBQ sauce. But if you make it with kidney beans, I recommend making my recipe in advance. It is real spicy.

This loaf will do well the next day if you decide to toast it in the oven or saute a piece or two in the pan. It’s versatility is akin to the meatloaf of my omni days but now cruelty-free.

It is served here on a bed of sauteed kale but you can serve with roasted sweet potatoes and celery root. If you don’t have celery root for the recipe or the side, please feel free to use celery. There is a wonderful herb-onion gravy here also that takes only 15 minutes to make.

Mushroom and Nut Loaf

1 cup kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup pecans halves
1 cup walnut pieces
10 ounces mushrooms, chopped
1 large onion finely chopped
1/2 cup sweet potatoes, cleaned, peeled and cut into tiny dice
1/2 cup celery root, cleaned, peeled and cut into tiny dice
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tbs barbecue sauce
1 cup kale, chopped
2 Tbsp water
1 tbsp flaxseed, ground
1 tsp salt
1/2 tbs black pepper
2 tbs non-dairy butter
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 cup fresh thyme, finely chopped
2 tbs fresh sage, finely chopped

1. Preheat oven to 375°F.

2. Mix water with ground flaxseed in a small bowl and set aside to allow it to gel. This is your “flax-egg”.

3. Toast nuts in dry skillet then place them in a food processor. Process nuts until there are tiny pieces (not butter). Empty processor (place nuts to the side).

4. Add non-dairy butter to skillet until melted. Add diced root vegetables (sweet potatoes and celery root). Saute for 3 minutes on high.

5. Add onion, mushroom and garlic to pan and saute for another 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

6. Add vegetables to the food processor and include kidney beans. Process for a minute or two and push mixture down along the side walls.

7. Empty mixture out into a medium bowl and gently stir in the nuts, barbecue sauce, raw kale, onion powder, thyme, sage and more salt and pepper to taste.

8. Pour mixture into a prepared bread pan (sprayed with vegetable oil) and smooth the surface.

9. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another hour.

10. Test loaf in center with a toothpick. If any loaf sticks to the toothpick it needs to go back in.

11. Pull loaf out when finished baking and let cool for 15 – 20 minutes on a rack.

12. Place a light cutting board on top of bread pan and holding the sides of the bread pan close to the cutting board flip it over. The loaf should fall loose from the pan onto the cutting board. Slowly lift the bread pan and you should see a clean, firm loaf.

13. Slice pieces and serve with sauteed kale or roasted root vegetables (ideally more celery root and sweet potatoes).

Servings: 6

Herb-Onion Gravy

Herb-Onion Gravy

1 tbsp non-dairy butter
1 cup onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup vegetable broth, heated
1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
1 tbsp fresh sage, chopped
1 tbs whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper

1. Heat non-dairy butter in medium pan.

2. Add chopped onions and garlic and saute on medium-high until lightly brown on the edges.

3. Stir in flour over onion mixture and cook for 1 – 2 minutes.

4. Pour vegetable broth slowly over onions and using a wire whisk incorporate the onion mixture throughout. Throw in herbs and continue stirring slowly.

5. Gravy will thicken in about 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.

Goodbye CSA!

A few of the animals that the farm keeps on-site. This timid donkey would not come any closer.

Yesterday was our last CSA pickup and I feel conflicted about it. This being our first experience with a CSA, I have new insights and knowledge that I would like to honestly share with you.

Positives about this CSA experience were:

  1. The CSA is located only 5 miles (as a bird flies) from our home.
  2. The CSA is part of a larger “village” that employs, houses and interns special needs individuals.
  3. All plants are grown organically.
  4. Some of the selections are unique, such as tatsoi, Long Island cheese pumpkin, snapes and ground cherries.
  5. It was relatively inexpensive broken out over three seasons.
  6. We got into juicing so as not to waste anything and it has become a very healthy way to start our day.

The negatives were:

  1. Often there was too much of a good thing. As a 2-person household, we had difficulty consuming even a half-share of produce. With a juicer and a vegan in the house, we would have items from the last pickup sitting in the fridge or on the counter.
  2. Lack of choice touches on so many other problems. But let’s just say particular items are fascinating but you better find out how to use these perishables quickly. This can inhibit meal planning as you are forced to plan around them. Produce staples such as onions, garlic and potatoes were not always available.
  3. There was no advance notice about what was growing at the CSA for meal planning.  The CSA maintained a blog but it is was not updated regularly. Often, I had to anticipate what would be at the next pickup and not purchase that item at the grocery store only to find it was not there at the CSA pickup. Sometimes it was available but for the full share pickups, not for the half shares.
  4. Inflexible CSA pickup times (no delivery) were on Tuesdays and Fridays from noon – 8:00 pm. This became a hinderance to meal planning as I did my weekly planning on Saturday or Sunday.
  5. Trying to write a cookbook about Southern vegan food using food resources provided by a CSA (and outside of my normal meal planning for a vegan and non-vegan) was too difficult a lot of times. There were too many variables to stay on top of so as not to create more waste.
  6. Being a vegan became an issue. Biodynamic farming can mean many things (animals or humans or a combination of both are in farming). This label meant nothing to me in the beginning until I slowly began understand when the CSA began to talk about acquiring and using draft horses for next season (see my previous post on Bill and Lou) in order to not use fossil fuels. The CSA also has a dairy farm that sells raw milk. I didn’t see the connection about how my CSA membership was supporting the dairy until I saw a sign at the CSA sign-in sheet that read “Meat for sale”. I found out that the retired dairy cows are slaughtered and sold to CSA members. All of these gorgeous cows in the fields would someday meet this fate. I asked the CSA about the non-bovine animals on the farm, the goats and the sheep, were they to be food animals at some point but they said that they were there to “just to look cute”. But, they will acquire pigs and “broiler chickens” next year for slaughter and sell to CSA members. This put a huge knot in my stomach. I asked the CSA to consider veganic farming and shared this highly successful and local CSA but this was met with the sound of crickets.

So, I am reflecting on this experience with a lot of gratitude. I am grateful that we were able to afford this venture, the opportunity was there, the produce was wonderful and we supported our local economy. Most importantly, it taught me the true value of our local farmer’s markets. These farmers are responsible for bringing to market what they think the general public will buy in a competitive environment. They are obligated to provide staples and offer them at a lower price than other competitors every week. I encourage everyone to check out their local farmer’s markets and support them as much as you can. Other options that we can look into are small-scale farming and veganic permaculture, something which I am still learning about. If we do join a CSA next year, we would choose a produce-only CSA and those can be found on the Localharvest.org website. In the meantime, we say goodbye to this CSA with a refrigerator FULL of produce and who cannot be grateful for that?

Biscuits

Biscuits

These biscuits remind me of the ones that my mother used to make growing up (with nearly every meal). However, she would place them all together in a cast-iron pan. This practice harkens back to the wood ovens and cast iron utensils that were in use at one time. These are light and savory and are best eaten right away but can be wrapped up individually for later and eaten as a sandwich with tempeh bacon or tofu eggs.

Biscuits

3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup white flour
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup Olivio coconut oil spread or chilled non-dairy butter
6 ounces non-dairy yogurt (pref So Delicious Greek Style Plain Coconut Milk)
1/2 cup non-dairy milk

1. Preheat the oven to 450°F.

2. Combine the dry ingredients in one bowl.

3. Using a fork or a pastry dough blender, cut the coconut oil spread into the flour. Push the utensil into the fat downwards into the bottom of the bowl. Repeat procedure until the flour texture has large white peas.

4. Combine wet ingredients in a separate bowl and stir into the dry ingredients. Fold wet ingredients in just until the dough is wet and sticky. Do not overmix!

5. Lightly flour a surface and fold wet dough onto it. Push the dough into a relatively flat piece and using a 2″ round circle cutter cutter cut 6 circles and place them onto an ungreased baking sheet.

6. Place in the oven and bake for 15 – 20 minutes. Biscuits should be light brown and will continue to cook for a few minutes after they emerge from the oven.

Servings: 6

Cooking Times Preparation Time: 15 minutes Cooking Time: 15 minutes Total Time: 30 minutes

Two on the Side

Hurricane Sandy just rolled through and I managed to throw together two very simple side dishes (before the power went out). The first one is from the oven and the second from the stovetop.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Radishes

Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Radishes

2 cups sweet potatoes, cleaned and cut into 2-inch cubes
1 cup radishes, tops reserved for another dish and diced into 1-2-inch cubes
2 tbs coconut oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup cilantro or parsley, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

2. Clean and cut vegetables. If you buy the radish in a bunch with top, reserve it for another dish.

3. Line a baking sheet and spread vegetables out on it evenly.

4. Dot the vegetables with pieces of the coconut oil then put the sheet in the oven for 30 minutes.

5. Watch the vegetables and turn them midway. When the sweet potato pieces are slightly toasty they are ready to come out of the oven.

6. Stir chopped cilantro or parsley at the end.

Servings: 4 Yield: 3 cups

Yellow Patty-in-the-Pan Squash and Sweet Onions

Yellow Patty-in-the-Pan Squash and Sweet Onions

2 yellow pattypan squash, cleaned and quartered
1/2 cup sliced sweet onion
1 bunch radish tops, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbs canola oil

1. Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium-high and add canola oil to the pan.

2. Sear pattypan squash on cut edges for 5 – 10 minutes

3. Add yellow onion slices and saute until browned lightly for 5 minutes.

4. Add chopped radish top and saute again for a few minutes more.

5. Season to taste and serve.

Servings: 2

Cooking Times Preparation Time: 5 minutes, Cooking Time: 15 minutes, Total Time: 20 minutes