Need a good vegetarian gravy recipe?

Hold on to your brunch biscuit, people.

Recently, I posted this photo of me and a giant breakfast bowl swimming in gravy.img_0040

And I got several comments about the lack of decent vegetarian gravy recipes. This my food friends is the real deal veg gravy. Trust me because I pretty much ate all that AND had the gravy on mashed potatoes the night before. It was a gravy drenched weekend.

So, where did I eat the BEST vegan biscuits and gravy?

My favorite of all veggie restaurants, The Chicago Diner. If you’re ever in Chicago– just go. Seriously. I’ve gushed about this place before and you’ve gotta eat there. Everything on the menu is a vegan/vegetarian dream come true.

Yeah, but it’s brunch time, HERE– I need a veggie gravy recipe now.

Luckily, I’ve bought all their cookbooks and below is the recipe for ultimate gravy goodness. Eat hearty and enjoy every last lick of that plate.


The Chicago Diner’s White Sage Gravy from The New Chicago Diner Cookbook

Yield: 4 Cups

Vegetarian Gravy Ingredients:

1 cup vegan margarine like Earth Balance

2 cups minced onion

1 cup rice flour

2 tablespoons vegetable bouillon dissolved in 1/4 cup soy milk

8 cups water or vegetable stock

2 tablespoons onion powder

2 tablespoons fresh chapped sage or 1 teaspoon dried sage

1 tablespoon dried marjoram

1 tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes

1 tablespoon white pepper

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

How to cook gravy:

  1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the margarine. Add the onion and saute until it is  caramelized.
  2. Slowly sift the flour into the saucepan, whisking constantly until it is completely blended. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until a golden brown roux forms.
  3. Slowly add the vegetable stock and water to the saucepan, still whisking constantly.
  4. Add all of the remaining ingredients to the saucepan. Raise the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to low and simmer the gravy for 8 minutes, until the desired thickness is reached. Remove from the heat and transfer to a gravy boat.

Cooks’ Note: You can easily thicken up a too-thin gravy by slowly adding 1 tablespoon of flour or nutritional yeast flakes, but be sure to whisk vigorously and constantly while adding it to avoid lumps.










Mother’s Day Strawberry Pie!


I have a little pie hobby and it was recently featured on Hallmark’s Think.Make.Share blog (Yay!)

If you’re looking for a trustworthy strawberry pie recipe– check it out! It’s great for all the special people in your life– especially you. I also give some crust tips, because as we all know, crust can be oh so tricky.

Now those are some pumpkin pie pancakes…

2014_10_30-Pumpkin Pancakes-5

Alas. They are not my pumpkin pie pancakes. My lovelies photographed like this…

photo (1)

Though not as pancake glamorous as the previous photo, they were pretty good. If you’re anti-pumpkin spice– stop reading this now. However, if you can’t wait for the autumn breeze to blow in tastes of cinnamon, ginger, clove, and of course, the famous gourd– then read on my spicy friends.

I love fall just for the pumpkininess of it all. Butternut squash is good too, but come on, let’s be honest, it’s a back-up to all other autumn flavors. Pumpkin Spice Rules. I’ll admit that perhaps this year things did get a little out of hand. When a whole page of the grocery store ad is dedicated to pumpkin-spiced-you-name-it-products, I do start to question my devotion.

BUT– then I make something like these pumpkin pie pancakes. Suddenly, I forget about the Pumpkin spiced Oreos and fall in love all over again with the cozy smells of autumn drifting up from my plate.

Pumpkin Pie Pancakes Recipe:

I adapted the kitchn recipe, due to my preferred pancake consistency (which is cakey and a tad bit dense).

What you need: Makes 10 pancakes, or more if you keep them small!

2 cups (9 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1  teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 cups milk, preferably whole
1 cup canned pumpkin puree  (not pumpkin pie puree)
2 large eggs, separated
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Canola oil (or butter– yeah, you know who you are), for cooking

The How-To:

Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, brown sugar, and spices in a mixing bowl and stir to combine.

In another bowl, or large measuring cup, combine buttermilk, pumpkin puree, egg yolks, and vanilla.

Pour the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients. Don’t over stir. There should still be visible clumps of flour. Over-stirring is the killer for all pancake mixes.

Fold in the egg whites. They won’t combine all the way. You’ll still see a glossy shine on the top of the mixture, and that’s okay.

Let the batter to rest for about 10 minutes. This will make your batter fluffier. I learned this trick making cornbread. While you wait, wash the dishes and get the syrup ready!

Preheat a large cast iron skillet or griddle on medium-high heat

Add 1 tablespoon of canola or a tablespoon of butter.

To test the heat of your skillet, dab on a teeny-tiny pancake. When the batter starts to bubble, then your skillet is ready!

Add 1/4 cup portions of batter to the skillet.

Lower the heat to medium and cook until the batter starts to bubble.

When this happens, flip the pancakes and let them cook for 2-3 more minutes.

Set those pancakes aside (a plastic container with a lid will keep them warm), then re-grease your skillet. I do this between each batch. You might need to lower and then increase your heat if the skillet gets too hot.

Keep pumpkin pie pancaking away until you run out of batter!



Favorite meal from last week

For over 2 years now I’ve posted my favorite meal from yesterday on Facebook and I thought the meal of the week should be posted here.

Last week was a tie…
I had the epiphany to eat my leftover guiltless French Toast with my apple butternut squash soup (topped with almond slivers).


The combination of the egg and the butternut squash was awesome. I used a baggette so my pieces were small enough for dipping into the soup (no syrup necessary!)
To make the French toast “guiltless” you use 6 egg whites, a tsp of vanilla, and 1/2 cup of orange juice (with a pinch of cinnamon) – no milk!
I cut 8 inch wide rounds of bread. Dip and soak them with the eggs and cook then like regular French toast. The recipe recommends pouring the leftover egg mixture over the bread while it cooks…and so do I.

The other favorite meal was something I ate at lunch and dinner- sautéed garlic tofu with canniloni beans, 2 diced garlic cloves, 6 cherry tomatoes, 6 fresh basil leaves, and a sprinkle of fresh pecorino Romano cheese (garlic salt and pepper to taste)


Um yeah, I had it with roasted potatoes then ate it again as a hot topping to fresh spinach with a little olive oil dressing.


I kind of wish I had it now. So maybe there isn’t a tie after all…

I (heart) the Chicago Diner- More travel food!

I know I’ve sung the praises of The Chicago Diner before, but every time we go I am reminded about how amazing the food is and how special it is to eat at an established vegetarian/vegan restaurant. I just don’t take that for granted because it’s harder to find than you think.

One of the other things I love about eating there is the inspiration I get for my own cooking. For instance, this time I had the Cornish “beef” hash with an egg sunny side up on top.


I’ve got to figure out how they make that seitan- it slices perfectly and seems to absorb marinating juices really well. I think they use it in their signature Reuben dish too. The egg on top of this dish was a brilliant touch.

John had the black bean burger.


Josh had a spicy breaded “chick” sandwich which despite the good waitresses fair warning was not too hot for ol’Josh.


If I am truly honest with myself I would admit that it isn’t just the amazing, hearty meals that bring us back every time we visit Chicago…it’s that mind-blowing chocolate chip cookie peanut butter vegan shake. I think I’ll let the evidence speak for itself…



Sunday Night Dinner: April 1- A Hearty “winter is coming” Meal

As you know Sunday night is a prime night for TV viewing at our house. While Mom, Dad and Lynley have been Madmen-ing it, John and I have chosen a different viewing path—Game of Thrones on HBO.

For the premiere of season two I wanted to tie-in with the show theme a bit (and eating a heart was CLEARLY out of the question.) I decided to make a “winter is coming” meal (since that’s a big phrase and plot point in the series). It turned out to be like 80 degrees that Sunday in April (I guess that was the April fools joke on me), so I thought I should have changed the phrase to “summer is coming,” but I still went with my winter theme weather be damned.

The meal: Pepper and garlic baked potatoes, Italian veggie sausage and onion, red wine mushrooms, broccoli and carrots.

I grew-up eating two kinds of baked potatoes: mom’s and dad’s. Mom’s were simply scrubbed clean, wrapped in foil and baked. Dad’s were scrubbed clean, smeared with butter, sprinkled with garlic salt and ground pepper and baked.  I like them both for different meals, but for a winter is coming dinner you need that warm kick of pepper and garlic.

Plus when you wrap the potatoes in foil they look like vegetable knights in armor. (Don’t forget to poke holes through the foil so the potato can steam!)

While the potatoes were baking (and they took about an hour and half at 400 degrees F.) I started the rest of the meal.

Dad’s red wine mushrooms are so good on top of baked potatoes. I love the way the sauce seeps into the buttery potato and seasoned skin. You can slice the mushrooms, but I prefer to remove the steams and leave the caps whole. Use as many mushrooms as you like. John doesn’t eat mushrooms, so I use just enough for me. Cut red onion slices; about half as many onions as potatoes. I like my onions thick and chunky, but you can slice them thin too.

Pour around two tablespoons of olive oil in your frying pan. The frying pan should fit the amount of mushrooms and onions. You want the veg to be snugish in the pan.

Turn the pan on medium heat and place the veg in the pan. Sprinkle garlic salt and pepper, then let the mushrooms and onions cook for a few minutes. Wait for the snap and crackle of oil to start before adding a drink or two of red wine to the pan.

Also add a tablespoon of Worcester Sauce (or tamari). Turn the mushrooms down on low and place a lid on top. Let them simmer for as long as you like. A drunk mushroom is a good mushroom in my book, so if the pan starts to look a little the dry (the sauce will thicken as it cooks) feel free to give them another drink!

You’ll know they’re ready when the mushrooms and onions have absorbed the wine and look dark. You really can just let them cook away as you prepare the rest of the meal, it won’t hurt them!

There are a few ways to eat a baked potato. I’m in the group that tends to cut the potato up and then mash it out on my plate. John likes to cut his in thick chunks to eat (no mashing). I learned my method from my mother. Although she just topped our potatoes with a little butter, the cut and mashed potato is really good for topping with other things like yummy mushrooms, sprinkle cheese, you name it!

For dessert we had homemade cinnamon apple cobbler with ice cream. Was I stuffed? Yes I was. Did we get dishes done before the show started? Yes we did!

And don’t forget…winter is coming.

Vegetarian Sukiyaki!

Two years ago I learned how to cook sukiyaki from my friend Jennifer. I made it for a Sunday Night Dinner and since the whole fam lived here, we all got to experience it for the first time together (you can check it out at

Now that I’m vegetarian I wanted to make sukiyaki again, but do some substitutes for the chicken and shrimp I used last time.
After researching on line I decided to add eggs, more greens and some vegetarian wontons I found at Whole Foods.
Here’s the recipe and how it went…

1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup tamari
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup mirin
2 cups dashi (Japanese stock- I used veggie stock but created a soy sauce, mushroom base in the pot first then added my broth to that)
Cooking oil
1 small Bok choi
1/2 cup of green onions chopped
1 can bamboo shoots (drained and sliced)
4 cups spinach
2 cups Renkon or white sweet potato
1 block medium tofu pressed and cut into chunks
1 package of rice noodles or chewier undon noodles.
1 egg
4 white mushrooms, sliced
Frozen vegetarian wontons ( not necessary but fun! I found mine at Whole Foods)

In a separate frying pan sauté tofu in a tablespoon or two of cooking oil. Cook until crispy and golden. Add shiitake mushrooms, sauté for one minute. Add egg and scramble until tofu and mushrooms are coated and the egg is cooked.


Set the tofu mix aside- it’s ok if it cools.

In the soup pot add 2 more tablespoons of oil. Sauté white mushrooms for 3 minutes on medium heat. Add soy sauce and tamari and simmer for 3-5 minutes. This will make a base for your broth.

Add a cup of broth and boil for 10 minutes. Add the rest of the broth and a 1/2 cup of water, the sugar, and the mirin.

Bring to a boil.

Add the rest of the sukiyaki ingredients one at a time letting each one cook for a couple of minutes before adding the next ingredient.


While this is cooking prepare your noodles according to package direction. I cooked mine in another pot.

Add the tofu, shiitake, egg mixture, and the cooked noodles last!



Sunday Night Dinner: September 18, 2011- Hillbilly Shepherd’s Pie with Homemade Biscuits- Yeehaw!

You would think I would learn, but no, pretty much that doesn’t happen. I spent a crazy day in the kitchen on Saturday testing out several kinds of pumpkin pie recipes, so Sunday I just decided to take it easy in the afternoon and read. I lounged for too long and found myself scrambling at 7:30 trying to get homemade biscuits and hillbilly shepherd’s pie made all at once.

THANK GOD John stepped in and helped make the biscuits and do other prep work. He is an excellent chef and partner. The biscuits turned out very tasty. Good job honey!

On to the hillbilly shepherd’s pie. Tennessee rubbed off on me a bit and I got the wild hair to make vegetarian shepherd’s pie (and here’s the hillbilly part) and top it with cheesy grits instead of mashed potatoes. A traditional shepherd’s pie has a buttery mashed potato topping, and trust me there’s nothing wrong with that, I heart mashed potatoes. I just thought buttery, cheesy grits might be a good twist.

Hillbilly grits with a pad of butter- pre-baking


I made John some unfortunately lumpy mashed potatoes (sorry sweetie) since he doesn’t dig on grits. In the end the veg filling which used tempeh and a homemade mushroom gravy need more kick and spice in the gravy– so I’d judge it as only ok. The grits were good though. The whole thing was super rich and filling.

Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie with corn, mushroom gravy and tempeh

My plate.

We also had brown sugar carrots on the side– how can you not?

Mixing it all together!

We talked about our upcoming work week, the movie we saw on Friday night (Our Idiot Brother), Dr.Who, and my longing to study astronomy (I was told the math was too hard for me)  and John’s college class with Dr. Wolf.

For dessert, we taste tasted all of my new pie recipes: buttermilk pie, pumpkin buttermilk, cinnamon sugar top crust pumpkin pie, harvest moon pumpkin pie, and 2 different versions of spiced whiskey nut pumpkin pie (I tested those, not JY- teetotaler).

We both really enjoyed the buttermilk pumpkin pie which was a Steph original recipe I’m proud to say! But they all were good. Guess we were getting into the fall spirit (and thinking about a pie business!)

Sunday, July 24, 2011: A McCartney Meal and a bittersweet anniversary

I’m not going to lie to you, but yesterday was a hard day. A year ago Sunday two wonderful things happened to me: I started my 6 month sabbatical and I (with all my family) saw Paul McCartney in concert. Both events changed me as a person in ways I can’t even begin to explain, so Sunday was there was some reflecting and serious sadness going on…and that’s just the truth.

To celebrate our first meeting with our pal Paul, I made a meal from one of Linda McCartney’s cookbooks and homemade cornbread with the Sanford’s baked beans.

At the last moment I decided to add a swirl of honey to the top of the corn bread and it made a crispy, sweet coating…very interesting.

Sanford baked beans is a recipe from our beloved and neighborly-basically-family members, yes, you guessed it, the Sanford’s. John and I leave out the bacon which might drive one of the Sanford’s a little crazy, but hey…we just don’t dig on swine.

Linda’s meal all took place on the grill. It involved marinated vegetables and veggie sausage kabob and egg dipped, garlic stuffed cornmeal potatoes.

Here’s pictures from our grilling process– John was the man in charge of the keeping the fires burning.

pre-grilling/ post-boiling

Ok, here’s the story on the potatoes. The Linda McCartney cookbook I have is used and the cook who owned it before me took detailed notes on what was good or not and why and altered the recipes. If you’ve read Harry Potter then you’ll get the “Half-Blood vegetarian” feel of this next section. The cook noted that these potatoes were “bland, despite the garlic, but the cornmeal crust had a nice crunch.” I thought, “I can add garlic powered and pepper to the cornmeal and that will solve the bland issue.

Dang it! It didn’t work. I have to remember the Half-blood vegetarian is always right.

For dessert we decided to walk down to Sonic for ‘Blasts.”

I got Oreo and John got Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup…can you tell which is which?

They were both almost too melt-y to eat, so we ate the whipped cream off the top and put them in freezer to “reconstitute themselves” as John said. Guess what’s for dessert tonight!