Date-Sweetened Zucchini Brownies with Chocolate-Peanut Butter Frosting

Date-Sweetened Zucchini Brownies with Chocolate-Peanut Butter Frosting

Even when your blog is called “FatFree Vegan Kitchen,” some occasions just demand to be celebrated with chocolate and peanut butter. My family has been through some challenging times recently, so when we see an opportunity to celebrate, we seize it. Today is my beloved husband’s birthday, and he requested Barbequed Ribz for dinner tonight and let me decide what to make for dessert. I’ve had a craving for chocolate lately, so I chose to make up a batch of chewy, chocolately brownies with a little green zucchini twist.

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Homemade Veggie Dogs

Homemade Veggie Dogs

Af few weeks ago, my family had a craving for hot dogs, and having heard so much about Field Roast Frankfurters*, I decided to give them a try. When I found them in the store and took a look at the package, it took a few minutes to get over my sticker shock, not at the price but at the nutritional stats. Each hot dog clocked in at 180 calories and 8 grams of fat. The ingredients list included “expeller pressed safflower oil” and “organic expeller pressed palm fruit oil,” ingredients I normally try to avoid. Still, I had promised my family gourmet hot dogs and I figured I could practice self-discipline and eat just one, so I bought them and brought them home. Huge mistake! Not because they were bad but because they were so freaking good that my vow to eat only one vanished after one bite, and the only thing saving me from complete gluttony was the fact that there were only 6 frankfurters in the package.

I’d like to say that I’ll never buy them again, but Field Roast dogs basically ruined my family for other packaged hot dogs. More like a sausage than other veggie dogs, they had a great flavor as well as texture. Fortunately, we don’t eat hot dogs or other packaged food often, so it’s not that big of a temptation, but I have to say that I’ve been practically haunted by the memory of them ever since we had them. And then I realized that I didn’t have to give in to temptation or give up on hot dogs–I could make them myself.

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Walnut and Kidney Bean Spread

Walnut and Kidney Bean Spread (Lobio)

I like hummus as much as or more than the next vegan. After all, I have between ten and twelve hummus recipes on this blog, depending on what you count as hummus. But lately I’ve been thinking that I eat too many chickpeas and need a little variety in my bean dips, so I’ve been doing a little experimenting with other types of beans.

This red bean-based spread is a variation on Lobio, a popular dish in the former Soviet republic of Georgia. I adapted a recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, Madhur Jaffrey’s World-of-the-East Vegetarian Cooking, by reducing the amount of walnuts, increasing the amount of beans, and omitting the olive oil. The original recipe kept the kidney beans whole so that it was more of a salad than a spread, but I wanted to stuff it into pita bread and make it into sandwiches so I slightly mashed the beans along with the walnut dressing. The results were a tangy spread that tastes great packed into a pita with a lot of vegetables or spread on French bread piled high with lettuce, tomato, and sliced radishes. My recipe makes a lot, but the good news is it keeps well in the fridge for at least a week.

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Orange-Sesame Coleslaw

Orange-Sesame Coleslaw

I often go back and remake some of my old recipes, and when the original photo is really bad (as are most of my early ones), I take a new photo. Sometimes, however, I go a little bit further and change up the recipe so that it fits my current tastes. That’s what happened to this coleslaw.

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Hummus-Crusted Cauliflower Steaks

Hummus-Crusted Cauliflower Steaks

Let me say right off the bat that this is more of an idea than a recipe. Lately, cauliflower steaks are everywhere. I can’t seem to pick up a food magazine or check out a blog without running into them. They’re the new “other white meat.” So I figured I needed to try them. And why not, while I’m at it, do something weird like coat them in hummus?

Before I get to that, I’m going to impose another video on you. After years of refusing to learn how to post a video, I’ve discovered that I actually like making videos–as long as I don’t have to be in them. (This same stipulation applies to photos in general.) Today’s video has nothing to do with food but is about a subject even dearer to my heart: Animals.

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Smoky Apple Baked Beans

Smoky Apple Baked Beans from FatFree Vegan Kitchen

Happy Valentine’s Day! I know that on this day of love, I’m supposed to offer you a rich, sugary indulgence or at least a romantic dinner for two with aphrodisiac potential, but what, dear reader, do I have in store for you instead? The lowly and much-maligned bean.

But wait, could there be any more thoughtful or loving gift of food? After all, in the words of the immortal “Ode to Beans”:

Beans, beans, they’re good for your heart,
The more you eat…

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Homemade Caraway Rye Crackers – Recipe


Homemade Caraway Rye Crackers

I’ve been obsessed with the flavor of rye lately. It had been on my mind and I ended up improvising a loaf of rye bread with a salt crust that came out amazing and I’m kicking myself because I didn’t write anything down, so now I can neither reproduce it nor share it with you, at least until I have another try at it. Anyhow, I think rye has an amazing flavor that deserves to be more widely used. I’ve got in mind to try rye crepes, and maybe a rye crumble for an apple crisp. Those are experiments for another day, but for today let me show you how to make simple and flavorful rye crackers.

Now oddly, I’ve never made crackers before. I remember a friend saying they had been making their own, and another friend saying, basically that there are perfectly fine crackers at the supermarket and they can’t imagine why any right thinking person would do it themselves. Naturally I took that as a challenge! And I think there are good reasons to make them yourself, at least occasionally. They taste fresher and better than most anything you can buy. And compared to the price of the best grocery store crackers, you certainly save a lot of money.

I based my ratios for these crackers on Lucy’s lovely looking semolina crackers. When I went to look at her about page and book, I realized her publisher is Harvard Common Press too. What a small world!

It took me 3 batches to get these coming out the way I saw them in my mind’s eye (tasted them with my mind’s tongue? that doesn’t sound quite right). The keys are (1) get them really, really thin (2) brush with a generous amount of olive oil and sprinkle on a generous amount of salt, (3) bake them until quite deeply brown. These details make the difference between a brutish, somewhat underflavored cracker and one that has a bright snap and a pop of rye, caraway and salt. I ate the whole batch in a day.

Homemade Caraway Rye Crackers
Yields about 36 big crackers
  • 1 cup (128 grams) rye flour
  • 1 cup (128 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons (150 grams) warm water
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (22 grams) + more for brushing
  • 2 tablespoons caraway seeds (11 grams)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (5 grams)
  • Maldon salt for sprinkling
  1. Combine rye flour, all-purpose flour, water, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, caraway seeds and kosher salt in a stand mixer outfitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium low-speed, scraping down occasionally, until a dough forms. Switch to the dough hook and knead on medium-low for about 8 minutes. (You can also mix and knead this dough by hand.)
  2. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 F, using convection if available.
  3. Divide the dough into 3 parts and wrap 2 of them back up in plastic. Place the first piece of dough between the smooth side of two silpats. You could also use parchment paper cut to the size of your baking sheet. Roll out until very thin. It should cover about 80% of the surface area of the silpat. Remove the top silpat and transfer the bottom one to a sheet pan. Brush generously with additional olive oil and sprinkle on Maldon sea salt to taste, breaking the crystals up between your fingers as you sprinkle.
  4. Bake until deep golden brown, about 8-10 minutes. Cool on a rack and then break up into random-sized crackers.

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Javanese-Inspired “Chicken” Soup (Vegan Soto Ayam)

Javanese Inspired "Chicken" Noodle Soup (Soto Ayam)

I haven’t properly been teaching my daughter to cook. Or at least that’s how I felt after reading an article in the New York Times about a mother who has her 10- and 14-year-old sons cook dinner on their own once a week. When I read the article a few weeks ago, my first, defensive thought was, “Impossible! E would cook lasagna every single week.” My second and more disturbing thought was, “Could I really relinquish control of the kitchen and trust that E wouldn’t burn down the house or sever an artery?” The sad truth of the matter is that, other than teaching her the two easy dishes she makes for herself after school (baked potatoes and pasta and vegetables with basil and olive oil), I’ve done very little to prepare my almost 15-year-old to cook on her own.

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Vegan Sausage and Mushroom Etoufee

Vegan Sausage and Mushroom Etoufee

I’m writing this from a hotel on St. Charles Avenue after a night of revelry in the streets of New Orleans. If you’ve never been to Mardi Gras, you might assume that the partying is confined to Fat Tuesday itself, but Mardi Gras day is just the culmination of all the parties and parades that have been going on over the last couple of weeks. Yesterday, out on the street for over twelve hours, my family and I were able to catch six parades (and a couple of bags of purple, green, and gold beads). Tonight we’ll be back out there for four more, and we’ll stay to see Zulu and Rex on Tuesday before we return to real life.

You would think that because we’re in New Orleans we’d get to sample a lot of great New Orleans-style food, but the truth is that, though N.O. has become more vegan-friendly over the last few years, there don’t seem to be many restaurants that offer meatless versions of gumbo, etoufee, or even red beans and rice. While we’re here, we’ll seek out great Vietnamese food or maybe Tapas, but we won’t be able to find Eggplant Creole. Last week, in anticipation of our trip, I began craving spicy New Orleans food, and since I knew I probably couldn’t get it here, I made it myself.

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Beetballs: A Vegan, Gluten-Free, Soy-Free Sausage Recipe

Beetballs and Spaghetti

When I heard that a food blogging conference was taking place in the state just next door, I was intrigued. When I heard that friend, cookbook author, and fellow blogger Kathy Hester was going to be there, I said “Sign me up!” So a couple of weeks ago, I drove the four hours to Birmingham, Alabama, to attend Food Blog South‘s second annual conference. Though I don’t do blogging conferences very often, I’ve found that they’re a great way to recharge my batteries; having actual face-to-face conversations with people who share my enthusiasm for food, photography, and writing takes a lot of the isolation out of blogging. This particular conference left me super-charged because I was able to spend time not only with Kathy but also with two other vegan bloggers, Heather of Better With Veggies and Katie Cain of Bistro Katie. Dinner out with them at the vegan-friendly Bottletree Cafe was one of the highlights of the weekend.

Of course, the conference itself offered plenty of information and inspiration, but when you’re a food blogger, your main focus is on the food, and when you’re a vegan, that focus turns into concern, as in “Will there be anything for me to eat?” The answers in this case were “No, no, YES, and not really.” Neither the pre- and post-parties nor the breakfast offered much for a vegan to sink her teeth into other than pickled okra, but the lunch, provided by Shindigs Catering, featured a vegan, gluten-free main dish that turned out to be the second highlight of the conference: Spaghetti squash with tomato sauce and vegetable-based orbs that all of us vegans began calling Beetballs after conversations with the very gracious chef revealed that the ingredients included beets, almonds, chickpeas, smoked mushrooms, and smoked onions. I was sure that one, if not all, of us would wind up trying to recreate Beetballs.

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