Cooking with Beer: Beer Bread and Vegetarian Chili


So we had some nonalcoholic beer in the fridge that I purchased to recreate beer-battered squash flowers and beer-battered avocado fries and so, I used the magic powers of Google to find some uses for it (because just drinking it would be boring).


I found two recipes — a beer bread recipe and a vegetarian chili recipe — that fit the bill. And both are easy as could be–essentially, you just throw everything together, let it cook or bake for a while, and sit back and enjoy an episode of Entourage or two on DVD. Simple.

 Lucky for me, the day I made these was uncharacteristically cold (around 75–it felt like a deep freezer after the >95 week we’d had earlier) and so having the oven and stove running was actually comforting instead of sweat-inducing.


The bread came out delicious–subtly sweet from the brown sugar, with a delicious crust and tender inside. The chili was a bit of an experiment, and I’m happy to report it too hit the spot–three bean, tofu, spice-heavy. Just what the doctor ordered.

Chili and homemade bread. Perfecto comfort meal.

DSCN4411Without further ado:

Beer Bread

Adapted from this recipe

2 cups whole wheat flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup brown sugar

4 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

12 ounces beer

Oven: 350°F. Grease and flour a 9.5×13″ loaf pan.

Sift the flours and combine with sugar, baking soda, and salt. Add in the beer and stir to combine. Pour into loaf pan, smooth out, bake 55-60 minutes or until toothpick is clean when inserted and removed from the bread.

Optional: before baking, pour 2 tablespoons of melted butter on top.

Vegetarian Chili

Adapted from this recipe

28 ounces of canned tomatoes (or fresh)

1 15-ounce can garbanzos

1 15-ounce can kidney beans

1 15-ounce can chickpeas

1 cup or half a block tofu, crumbled

1 cup tomato sauce

2 tablespoons chili powder

2 tablespoons cumin seed

1 tablespoon turmeric

sprinkle of parsley

spices to your liking (ginger, etc)

1 12-ounce can of beer

plain greek yogurt, for serving

Combine everything but yogurt in large saucepan. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20-25 minutes. Serve with a dollop of yogurt.


This was a really, really good meal. Satisfying. Vegan if you omit the yogurt. See the melty butter (er, earth balance)… mm. It’s melty because that bread is still warm from the oven–what a rare luxury to eat homemade crusty bread. No wonder it’s all gone (within two days). The beer bread goes deliciously with the chili… even if it’s not a cold winter night. Summer has some chilly days too. And the chilly days are perfect… for chili. See what I did there…?


BLATs: “Bacon” Lettuce Avocado Tomato Sandwiches


Okay, don’t run away upon reading the word “bacon” in quotation marks. After seeing a photo of a classic BLT on a menu or on TV or somewhere, I was thinking hmm, I wouldn’t mind having a BLT again. I don’t really like to eat too much meat, especially bacon, but that combination of sweet tomato, creamy mayonnaise, crisp lettuce and savory bacon is just oh-so-hard to resist.


So when I had a block of tofu to use up and a chance tofu-bacon-recipe-encounter, the choice was obvious! Tofu bacon for BLTs it is!

Actually, BLATs it is–I threw on some avocado for good measure (and because I have a love affair with Avocado… watch out, Chocolate).

BLATs: “Bacon” Lettuce Avocado Tomato Sandwiches

Adapted from Allrecipes and Vegan Feast Kitchen

7.5 oz extra firm tofu (I used this sprouted tofu I got from Trader Joe’s)

4 tablespoons maple syrup

6 tablespoons of water

1/2 teaspoon of soy sauce (or, do 2 tablespoons of water instead of 6, and 4 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce)

2 teaspoons onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

Sesame oil for pan-frying

Drain the tofu and cut into very thin slices (the thinner, the better; I used a cheese-slicer). Set aside.

In a flat, shallow container, whisk together the marinade ingredients. Submerge the tofu slices and marinade for as long as you like; some recipes say 10 minutes, others say 8 hours or a few days. I did about an hour or so and the taste was delicious!

In a grill pan, heat some sesame oil to medium heat. Fry the tofu slices about five minutes total or more for extra crispiness, flipping for even cooking. The cooked tofu will be easier to handle and less crumbly. Get some grill marks on them!

Let cool and assemble the sandwiches. My BL(A)T consists of: toasted bread, miracle whip, lettuce, tomato, avocado, bacon, miracle whip, toasted bread, in that order. Ground pepper, as well, if you so desire (I dislike pepper).


The tofu bacon was surprisingly… delicious. It didn’t taste like exactly bacon, of course, but was subtly sweet due to the maple syrup (and my much lowered amount of soy sauce–using more soy sauce may be necessary, I just didn’t have any low-sodium on hand). I would try to add more soy sauce or sprinkle some sea salt on them next time, to bring the flavor to the next level. The crispy texture of the thinner slices was really yummy and complemented the other sandwich ingredients very well.

The sandwich was truly satisfying. This is a delicious way to use up extra tofu!

Grilled Sesame-Ginger Tofu over Vegetable Orzo

Guess I’m practicing for being in China, where my diet will consist of what I believe will be dumplings and porridge for breakfast and vegetable stir-fries with tofu and/or meat for lunch and dinner for 3 1/2 weeks. Actually… I sort of doubt that orzo will make an appearance. What can I say? We were out of rice…

Conclusion? Orzo or rice, I think I’ll be fine with the food.

Grilled Sesame-Ginger Tofu over Vegetable Orzo

Adapted from The Vegan Grill and my own concoction

Tofu: Serves 4

1 package of firm tofu (1 block)
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon champagne vinegar (what I had on hand… originally called for rice vinegar)
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 pressed cloves of garlic or 1 tablespoon pre-chopped garlic

Drain tofu and rinse with water. Fold up paper towels in quarters, making two soaking-up apparati and place on a cutting board. Put tofu on one, place other on top, and then put something heavy on top of that to press the remaining liquid out of the tofu. You may have to replace the paper towels after a time. I think I allowed them to press for a few hours.

Mix marinade ingredients.

Once pressed, slice tofu in half to get two equal slices about 1/2 an inch thick and then cut how you like–I made triangles.

Coat each piece in marinade and put into an airtight container to sit for 30 minutes or more.

Heat up a grill pan with some olive oil; have a large oil-spatter mesh cover at the ready. Place each marinade-soaked piece on grill and grill about 3 minutes per side.


1 box orzo
1 head broccoli
3 carrots
Onion, chopped roughly
Olive oil

Cook orzo according to package directions.

Chop up broccoli and carrots into small pieces. Heat up oil in a large nonstick pan and add onion, cook about 4 minutes until translucent. Add other veggies, stir and cover, cook until they are fork-soft and tender. (5-10 minutes). Toss with orzo.

To serve, place a bed of orzo on a plate, and topped with two tofu steaks.

This was so yummy! The grilled tofu wasn’t tough like I’ve had in the past (at school)–maybe because I used firm, not extra-firm tofu. It was very soft and easy to cut, which I liked. The broccoli and carrots were great counterpoints to the savory tofu, and the orzo base was delicious as well. All this needed was a dressing or sauce of some sort. Any ideas? I didn’t want to drown out the flavor of the tofu, but I also didn’t want to amp up the salt consumption by adding more soy sauce to the orzo. Maybe a peanut sauce?

Anyway, this made a delicious lunch! Totally going to be grilling more tofu in the future.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Pumpkin Cheesecake! A vegan pumpkin cheesecake. Kind of. I didn’t have margarine so I just used butter for the pecan/brown sugar topping. Oops.

… It didn’t taste much like cheesecake. So if the name erroneously directed you to expect such a flavor, my bad.

But it did taste good.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Adapted from Vegan Pie in the Sky’s NY Times Article

1 recipe Graham Cracker Crust (see Old-Fashioned Chocolate Pudding pie recipe, below), or use a store-bought 9-inch vegan graham cracker crust.

1/2 cup whole unroasted cashews, soaked in water for 2 to 8 hours, or until very soft
1/4 cup mashed banana (about 1 medium banana)
1 (12- to 14-ounce) package silken tofu, drained
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons coconut oil, room temperature
6 teaspoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon orange extract or 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/4 cups canned pumpkin purée
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon nonhydrogenated margarine
Pinch of salt
1 cup pecan pieces, roughly chopped

Make the topping first. In a mixing bowl, use a fork to mash together brown sugar, margarine and salt until crumbly, then fold in the chopped nuts and stir to coat with the mixture. Set aside until ready to use.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly spray the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray. Prepare the crust and press it very firmly into the bottom of the pan. Bake for 10 minutes, and move the pan to a cooling rack, leaving the oven on for further baking in a bit.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling: Drain the cashews and blend with the banana, tofu, sugar, brown sugar, coconut oil, cornstarch, lemon juice, vanilla and orange extracts, and sea salt. Blend until the mixture is completely smooth and no bits of cashew remain.

Set aside 1/3 cup of batter. To the remaining batter, add the pumpkin purée, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg and blend until smooth, then pour it onto the crust. Randomly spoon dollops of the reserved batter onto the cheesecake. Poke the end of a chopstick into a batter blob and gently swirl to create a marble pattern; repeat with the remaining plain dollops.

Bake the cheesecake for 45 to 50 minutes, removing the cheesecake halfway through the baking period to sprinkle on the topping. Return to oven to continue baking. Cheesecake will be done when the top is lightly puffed and the edges of the cake are golden. Remove it from the oven and let cool on a rack for 20 minutes, then transfer to the fridge to complete cooling, at least 3 hours or, even better, overnight. To serve, slice the cake using a thin, sharp knife dipped in cold water.

Yield: One 9 1/2-inch cheesecake.

Graham Cracker Crust

1 3/4 cups finely ground graham crackers (crush 10 ounces  of graham crackers and measure from this; use remaining crushed crackers for another crust!)
3 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons melted nonhydrogenated margarine, melted coconut oil or canola oil
1 tablespoon plain soy milk or almond milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly spray a 9-inch pie plate with nonstick cooking spray.

In a mixing bowl, combine the graham crumbs and sugar. Drizzle in the oil or melted margarine. Use a spoon to blend the mixture thoroughly to moisten the crumbs, then drizzle in the soy milk and stir again to form a crumbly dough.

Pour the crumbs into the pie plate. Press crumbs into the sides of the plate first, then work your way down to the bottom. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until firm. Let the crust cool before filling.

Yield: Makes one 9- or 10-inch pie crust.

It was pretty simple, all in all. I forgot to soak the cashews so I just let them sit in warm water for the 10 or so minutes I spent gathering everything together–and it was fine. I’ve never worked with coconut oil before this–it’s pretty and pearlescent at room temperature but melts easily, with a subtle coconut flavor that isn’t noticeable in the finished product (if you don’t like coconut).

At least for me, this came out delicious. However, it tasted nothing like cheesecake. The texture was smooth and creamy, but you could really taste the citrus notes in the flavor–they somewhat predominated. I could taste the pumpkin, and oddly, the tofu. Perhaps this is because I did not exactly measure the juice or the zest (oh the lazy cook I am). The pecan topping added a nice texture contrast though. It was fun to swirl the non-pumpkin-ed filling into the top of the rest of the cheesecake–even though the pecans kind of covered up the swirlage, which i thought was kinda dumb. (That’s why there’s whiter/oranger areas of the cheesecake top.)

The crust was super yum and pretty easy to put together. Make sure to bake it until it is fully browned/toasty–the bottom did get a bit soft rather than firm.

This “cheesecake” does taste decadent… after all, it is a creamy dessert in a graham cracker crust with sugar/pecan crumbly topping. But you’re eating tofu, banana, and pumpkin–3 power foods (protein, potassium/fiber, beta-carotene–>vitamin A/fiber, respectfully) plus healthy fats and protein in the nuts. And, it’s super filling!

I’d like to find a way to make this taste more cheesecakey. But it’s definitely not a dessert I regret making.

Chocolate Cake with Beets and Peanut Butter Banana Saucy Frosting

I made a cake.

A chocolate cake.

An almost vegan chocolate cake with beets in the batter and tofu in the frosting.

For no reason.

Except that it was the 158015th day of rain this year and I had cabin fever.

Good thing it was … so, so good.

PS: Make the frosting first, so it can chill in the fridge while you make the cake.

Chocolate Cake with Beets

Adapted from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen

1 can of beets


unsweetened apple sauce

thick Greek yogurt

2 tbsp. water

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tsp. apple cider vinegar

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup white whole wheat flour

1/2 cup cocoa

1/2 cup + 3 T raw sugar

1 tbsp. cornstarch

2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Rinse off the beets. Puree with your tool of choice (food processor, blender, immersion blender) with 1/4 cup water until smooth.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Oil or spray your cooking pan(s). I used 2 round cake pans.

Put the pureed beets into a 2-cup measure. I added about 1/2 cup-2/3 cup apple sauce to finish the jar and then a few dollops of greek yogurt (maybe 1/4 cup – 1/2 cup? Eyeball it. The original recipe did not include this, but I think it made the cake super good and fudgey. Add the 2 tablespoons water, vanilla extract, and apple cider to the beets and mix well (I re-immersion blendered it).

Mix the dry ingredients together; then add the beet mixture and stir until well-combined. I also added some chopped chocolate chips. Bake for 35-60 minutes, depending on the size of pan you use: more for small, deep pans and less for a 9X13 pan. I used two round cake pans and I think it took about 35 minutes or so. Test by inserting a toothpick into the center; it’s done when the toothpick comes out clean.

Allow to cool completely before cutting and serving.

Banana Peanut Butter Saucy Frosting

6 oz silken tofu

1 banana

2 tbsp. natural peanut butter

1/4-1/3 cup agave nectar, to taste (less was more for me)

1/4 tsp. vanilla

1/2 tsp. lemon juice

Crushed peanuts

Blend all ingredients except the crushed peanuts in a food processor or blender until smooth. Refrigerate until needed. The sauce will thicken in the fridge, so it’s best to give it time to chill if you plan to sandwich it between layers of cake. (Mine was actually kind of thin. Not sure if adding more tofu would give it some more thickness). I put some in the layer and sprinkled the peanuts in it, then spread the rest of the sauce over the top of the cake and sprinkled more peanuts on it.
Makes 8 servings.

This is not a cloyingly sweet cake, but through the rich chocolate flavor there is a subtle sweetness. It is deliciously dense and moist, almost like you’re eating a little meal than a dessert, due to the whole wheat flour, undetectable beets, and yogurt.

Suddenly rainy days don’t seem so bad anymore.