Review of Quick and Easy Low-Cal Vegan Comfort Food

Cookbook Reviews, Reviews

Alicia C. Simpson’s Quick and Easy Low-Cal Vegan Comfort Food: 150 Down-Home Recipes Packed with Flavor, not Calories is a black and white cookbook with one section of full color photographs.  I counted pictures of 20 recipes.  Helpfully, the recipes which have pictures appearing in the photo insert have a camera icon next to them.  As much as I rely on good pictures of every recipe to help me decide what I want to try cooking, I understand the dilemma of vegan cookbook authors–often publishers aren’t willing to spring for full-color pictures of every vegan recipe.

I’ve found that one good test of vegan cookbooks is its recipe for basic seitan.  With this in mind, when I wanted to stock up my freezer, I found the basic seitan recipe in this book.  The overall procedure is great–you make a dough and boil it in water–but it seems odd to me to flavor the cooking broth and not the dough directly.  Nevertheless, with modifications, this is my new favorite seitan recipe.

One neat feature is the section called “A Menu for Every Size and Occasion” which lists menus of various caloric values.  Additionally, nutrition information per serving appears for every recipe.

At first glance, this book seems to include many soy ingredients, but substitutions are easy enough.  A great feature is that many of the recipes build on each other–you start with a recipe for some basic component and then use it in a more complex recipe.  I love when cookbooks do that instead of instructing readers to buy and use their favorite vegan hot dog.  Speaking of hot dogs, the recipe for those on page 161 looks pretty delicious.  It uses the foil and steam method of seitan cooking.  Surprisingly, I’d have to find my own recipe for reduced-calorie hot dog buns.  You’ve got to draw the line somewhere, I suppose.  You can find a recipe for corn dogs on the next page, however.

I think there are some tasty gems in this cookbook.  If I had it on my shelf, I think I’d use it as  a go-to source for making comfort food.  But for now, back to the library it goes.

Ultimate Lasagna


I was pretty excited about trying Daiya wedges. They taste pretty awesome. For your viewing pleasure, I took pictures of the lasagna before and after it was baked to show off the lovely way it browns. I used some squash from my CSA but you can easily adapt this recipe to whatever is in season.

9 whole wheat lasagna noodles cooked to al-dente (or use the kind that is ready to bake)

8 oz hemp ricotta
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1 half onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, sliced or minced, depending on your preference
1 Tablespoon Italian Seasoning mix
Pepper to taste
Salt to taste

3 large pattypan squash, thinly sliced (easy to do in food processor)
Olive oil

28 oz. crushed tomatoes
1 package jack style Daiya wedge

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Sauté the squash in olive oil. Add salt to help squash release water. The goal here is to reduce water content in squash so it doesn’t make your lasagna soggy.

While the squash is cooking, mix ricotta, yeast, onion, garlic and seasonings in small bowl. Set aside.

Put a layer of crushed tomatoes in the bottom of a 9 X13” casserole, enough to thinly coat the bottom. Put the first three noodles on the tomatoes and layer with half of the ricotta stuffing. Add a layer of cooked squash (half of the total squash) and top with tomatoes. Add second layer of noodles, the rest of the ricotta and squash, and some tomatoes. Top with final layer of noodles, last of the tomatoes, and slices of Daiya. Bake until Daiya melts and browns, about 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit 10 minutes to allow cool slightly.

Coconut Mini Bundt Cakes


This is a moist pound cake recipe with a light coconut taste.  It would be good frosted with chocolate or vanilla frosting and freezes well.  It’s moist enough to enjoy plain or accompanied by fruit.  You might like to try adding a half cup shredded coconut as an add-in if you have it around.


1 cup hemp milk (or milk of your choice)
1 can coconut milk
5 oz unrefined coconut oil
2 tablespoons vanilla
3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 ½ teaspoons baking powder

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease Bundt pan, mini Bundt pans, or muffin tins and set aside.  Mix wet ingredients until smooth.  Add dry ingredients and mix until few lumps remain.  Pour into greased pan or pans.   Cake will rise during baking so do not fill pans to top unless you want puffy cupcakes.  Bake in preheated oven until brown around edges—timing varies depending on pan.  Large Bundt pan will take at about 60 minutes.  Mini pans and regular-sized muffins will take about 25 minutes.  Cake is easiest to remove from pan when slightly cooled.  For larger cakes, do the inversion method.  Cool in pan inverted on plate, give a few taps, and release cake to pan.  For large or small cakes, you may need to run knife around edges to help cake release.

Simple Harissa Hummus

Recipes, Uncategorized

If you start with Harissa olive oil like I got in the June Vegan Food Swap, this recipe comes together quickly.  If you don’t happen to have harissa olive oil around, use regular olive oil.  If you want spicy hummus, you will need to add pepper flakes, chili powder, or some such.  If you add something that’s not in powder or oil form, add it with the garlic.  For added flavor, top with smoked paprika when you serve.  I thought I would have a picture of this but it ended up disappearing before I got the camera out.  Stay tuned–I’ll post a picture the next time I make it.


2 cloves garlic
2 cups chick peas
½ cup tahini
3 tablespoons lemon juice
½ cup water (or to taste, depending on what consistency hummus you like)
Salt, to taste (start with a small pinch)
¼ cup Harissa Olive Oil

Process garlic in food processor until the pieces are all stuck to the processor bowl.  Add chick peas and process until they become uniformly grainy.  Add all other ingredients except olive oil.  Process until it doesn’t get any smoother.  Slowly pour oil into running processor.  Put into refrigerator for flavors to meld and, if you desire, top with smoked paprika and additional olive oil before serving.  I like this with plain whole wheat tortilla chips.

Open-Faced Radish Sandwiches with Zippy Spread


This recipe features radishes from our CSA.  It’s kinda hard to stop eating these pretty little bits of yum.  This recipe makes enough spread to make sandwiches for two and have some spread left over.  It’s a good idea to make the spread ahead of time, but it will still taste good if you make it to use immediately.

First, make the Zippy Spread

1/2 cup room-temperature butter substitute
1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
1 green onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh tarragon or 3 teaspoons dried
lemon juice and zest from one lemon
salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper

Mash ingredients together and allow to sit in the fridge for as long as you can stand it.  30 minutes will do, but the longer, the better.  This time allows the flavors to come together.


One small bunch radishes
8 slices sourdough bread mini loaf (or whatever bread you have around)
Zippy Spread (you will have leftover spread)

Clean and thinly slice the radishes.  A food processor comes in handy for the slicing.  If they have leaves, trim those off and set aside.   Spread the Zippy Spread on bread and top with radishes.  You can put the radish leaves on as well, if you have them.

Vegan Food Swap: June


It’s time for another box of tasty goodness.  Thanks to Kathy of Healthy Slow Cooking.

Everything looks pretty yummy and there was only one item that I had even seen before.  The vegan food swap sure is a fun way to try new things!

I’m looking forward to trying the macaroni and cheese-.  Funny thing is, I was just craving it the night before I got the package but then the craving passed.  I know some instant cheese gratification will come in handy though.

There was a bit of a spicy theme, which I love.  Unfortunately, the plastic lid on the harrisa olive oil cracked and there was a minor oil spill in the box.  Didn’t loose too much of it though.  It has a nice little kick to it so I’m looking forward to cooking with it.  The gourmet salt makes me want to make some big fancy soft pretzels.  And I may have to have a Parmesan replacer taste test.  Expect to see some new recipes and reviews: this box was inspirational.

Are you interested in exchanging care packages with cool vegans from around the country every month?  That’s what the Vegan Food Swap is all about. Click the link to find out more and sign up.

Korean-Inspired Cold Noodle Salad


I’ve been on a fit of trying to use things up lately.  Today’s target was some CSA produce and buckwheat noodles.  I made this awesome noodle salad which was just perfect for the current heat wave.  Serves 2.


200 grams thin buckwheet noodles
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 medium cucumber, sliced
1 carrot, diced
a handful of radishes, sliced
1 green onion, sliced


2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 clove garlic, minced
crushed red pepper flakes, to taste


Sesame seeds
sriracha sauce
hoisin sauce (make sure it’s vegan)

Put water to boil in medium pan.  In meantime, prepare all vegetables.  If you’d like to make this a complete meal, consider adding tempeh.  In a large glass bowl, mix dressing ingredients until sugar dissolves.

In the meantime, add noodles to boiling water with 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Cook 4-5 minutes.  Drain noodles and rinse with cold water, stiring thoroughly so noodles don’t stick.

Add cooked noodles to dressing, toss.  Serve into bowls, top with vegetables and other toppings to taste.  Makes for good make-your-own dinner.


Chewy Trail Mix Granola Disks


I made this recipe as a veganized (and soy free) version of the Kashi TLC Trail Mix Granola Bar.  While they turned out pretty tasty, I couldn’t achieve bar shape.  In the next version, I will try increasing the syrup mixture.  The dry ingredients are pretty flexible.



Dry Ingredients
1 1/3 cups rolled oats
1 cup almonds
1 cup raisins (or 1/2 cup raisins and 1/2 cup cranberries)
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup rice protein powder
1/2 cup brown rice syrup
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
If you have rock-hard raisins, boil some water and add the raisins you will use to the water.  Let steep until they plump up, strain and use as normal. Mix dry ingredients in large bowl and set aside.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir sugar and rice syrup. Stirring constantly until mixture starts to thicken, about 3 minutes.
Add syrup to dry ingredients and mix quickly until the dry ingredients are evenly coated.  Portion into walnut-sized balls, and squash between sheets of parchment paper.  You can also form these into whatever shapes you’d like.  Store in an airtight container.

Strawberry Scones


This recipe is eganized from the Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook.  I wanted to make a treat after coming home from picking strawberries.  I had made vegan scones following that recipe once before and they turned out pretty scrumptious.  Now I’m writing down what I did.  These are made with 100% whole wheat pastry flour which is local, too.  Double the recipe if you want plenty to freeze.

8 tablespoons coconut oil

7.5 ounces strawberries

1/2 cup hemp milk

1/2 cup soured rice quinoa milk*

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt



1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon melted coconut oil


Scoop the 8 tablespoons coconut oil out onto tray that will fit in your freezer.  Once it has frozen, chop it into small flakes with a knife and return to freezer.  Also put the cleaned and washed strawberries into the freezer.  Mix milks together in small bowl or large measuring cup and put in fridge.

Make sure your oven rack is in the middle and preheat to 425°.  Prepare baking sheet with parchment paper.

Mix dry ingredients in a medium bowl.  Add the frozen coconut oil to the mixture and mix until dry mixture coats oil flakes.  Add milk mixture and stir until combined.  Turn out onto floured surface and knead a few times.  It should hold together in a ragged ball.

Roll the dough into a square and fold into thirds, like a letter.  You may need to use a scraper or spatula if it sticks.  Put the dough on a plate and put in freezer for 5 minutes.

Bring the chilled dough back to the counter and roll out into a foot square.  Sprinkle berries over dough and press down slightly to embed them into the dough.  Roll the dough up so that it forms a tight, strawberry-studded log.  Use your scraper again if needed.  Flatten the log so it’s about 4 inches wide and cut scones.  If you cut it crosswise into 4 equal rectangles, you can cut each triangle regularly to form 2 triangles or cut each rectangle into 4 smaller triangles.  I made mini scones so they last longer.  Transfer to prepared baking sheet.

If you’d like, brush tops with melted coconut oil and dust with sugar.  Bake until tops and bottoms are golden brown, 18-25 minutes for regular sized and maybe 10 or so for mini.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for at least 10 minutes if you can stand it.

You can make these ahead and refrigerate them on the baking tray overnight or freeze them at that stage for up to a month.  If they’re frozen, don’t thaw, heat the oven to 375° and cook longer.  25-30 for regular and shorter for minis.

*If you don’t just happen to have this hanging around in your fridge, use your favorite vegan sour cream substitute.

Vegan Food Swap: May


I have to admit, the May vegan food swap didn’t go quite as smoothly as the original, but I was very happy with the end results.  Basically, the first person who was assigned to send a box to me didn’t wish to participate but forgot to let anyone know.  Luckily, her sender hadn’t sent anything yet, so she sent a very thoughtful box to me.  Thanks, Lindsay of Lindsay Loves Veggies.

After the kerfuffle of changing senders and some procrastination on getting it sent, I received my May Food Swap box in June.  It actually works out well because I plan to take all the portable food with me on my Megabus trip to Toledo.  It always helps to have some tasty munchies on a long day of travel.

I loved the raw caramel bites.  I’m especially looking forward to trying the coconut water.  It was cool to see some of my favorites which turned out to be  Seattle-made (and local to my sender).

Are you interested in exchanging care packages with cool vegans from around the country every month?  That’s what the Vegan Food Swap is all about. Click the link to find out more and sign up.