Monday, October 17, 2011

Fettuccine Alfreda with Gomasio

Today is National Pasta Day! What better way to celebrate it than with a cruelty-free alfredo? We renamed it alfreda.

Fettuccine Alfreda with Gomasio

One onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 c. vegetable broth
2 t. mustard
2 t. Braggs Aminos
2 t. chili powder
1/2 c. toasted pine nuts
1 c. nutritional yeast
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. black pepper

Cook the fettuccine according to package directions. Saute the onion and garlic until soft. Add onion and garlic and remaining ingredients to a food processor and blend until smooth. Pour this pesto like mixture over the drained fettuccine and mix well. Serve with a sprinkle of gomasio.


1/2 c. toasted sesame seeds
1/2 t. sea salt
1/2 t. kelp flakes

Blend in a food processor until well mixed.

This would probably lend itself well to the addition of some seitan chunks, but I didn't consider that until after I was eating it. I have no leftovers; it was completely devoured.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Have it Your (Tofu) Way

It amuses me the looks on the faces of those who have never had good tofu. The nose wrinkles, the head shakes, all followed by the inevitable "Yuck!". In fact, the only people I know who like tofu are vegans and some vegetarians. I suspect, no, I KNOW, it is because their exposure to tofu has been the little spongy blocks found in some dishes in a Chinese restaurant, or a block sitting in the refrigerator they mistook for cream cheese and wondered at the blandness. Some don't like the mouth feel, or as my non-vegan son states, the sense of biting into a marshmallow when you weren't expecting to.

It's all in how it is prepared.

I got in a major cooking mood yesterday. Two blocks of tofu were calling my name and I was in a feasting mood. I pulled out the packages from the freezer, boiled them, drained them and pressed them. Sliced one and cut the second into small squares. Let the cooking begin!

The tofu squares became:

Tofu Turkey

Marinate the squares in:

1-1/2 c. boiling water
1/2 t. dill
1/2 t. rosemary
1/2 t. thyme
1/2 t. marjoram
1/2 t. sage
1/2 t. black pepper
3 cloves garlic, sliced
3 T. olive oil

Let the tofu marinate for at least 2 hours, laid out in a single layer, in a casserole dish. After the 2 or more hours have passed, put the entire thing in the oven. 350 for one hour, but turn the slices over after 30 minutes.
When it is done and cooled, fry the squares in some olive oil until nicely browned on both sides.

The slices became:

Chicken Fried Tofu with Cream Gravy

Dip each slice in a non-dairy milk of your choice, and then into a mixture of:

1-1/2 c. flour and 1 T. of seasoning

Fry the slices in oil until nicely browned.

Chicken Fried Tofu Seasoning:
1/4 c. salt
2 T. garlic powder
2 T. black pepper
1 T. white pepper
1 T. onion powder
1 T. paprika
1 t. cayenne pepper
1 t. cumin

Combine this and mix well. Label so you'll know what it is so you can use it again!

For the gravy, I added the leftover milk and a handful of the flour mixture I'd used to coat the tofu with in the pan with the leftover oil. Whisk, whisk, whisk until it is blended smoothly. Add more milk if you have to.

I also whipped up some mashed potatoes, but not the usual boring kind. I cut up potatoes and carrots and about 3 garlic cloves and boiled them together. When everything was soft I mashed them with some non-dairy milk until smooth.

Then a green bean casserole.

My son overdid it a little with the gravy in the picture and the orange plate lends an interesting color to the photo, but everything turned out really well and was subsequently devoured. It really put me to thinking about Thanksgiving. I need to start to work on that menu!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Jeweled Rice

Rice is so versatile. Have rice, can cook.

Jeweled Rice

One onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 t. salt
Olive oil
One package firm tofu, drained and cut into little bite sized pieces
One green bell pepper, sliced small
One package frozen chopped broccoli
2 carrots, sliced
One small can mushrooms stems and pieces, drained
2 cans kidney beans, drained
1/2 t. dried basil
1/2 t. dried oregano
black pepper to taste
cayenne pepper to taste
1-1/2 c. basmati rice
2 tomatoes, chopped
One can small black olives, drained

Saute the onions, garlic and salt in the olive oil, until onions are softened. Add tomato juice, tofu, bell pepper, broccoli, carrots, mushrooms and beans. Stir gently but well. Add basil, oregano, black pepper, cayenne pepper and rice. Add water if necessary to make sure the rice will cook. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer 30 minutes, longer if needed to ensure rice is cooked. Add the tomatoes and black olive, stir. Serve when the liquid has all been absorbed. Serve. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Peanutty Pasta

I love nuts, especially in pasta. My recipe files are full of recipes that include nuts of all kinds; almonds, pistachios, pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, pretty much any and every nut I like and will find a way to incorporate it into a recipe.

My husband isn't big on nuts in recipes, but he does like peanuts. Voila!

Peanutty Pasta

Cooked pasta, shape and type your choice
1/4 c. peanuts
Parsley, fresh or dried
2 cloves garlic
1 c. vegetable stock
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. black pepper
1 T. lemon juice
One zucchini
One can diced tomatoes

In a food processor, whir together the peanuts, parsley and garlic until nicely minced. Cut up the zucchini (I quartered mine) and add to a pot with the diced tomatoes. Heat to boil, then reduce to simmer. In a separate container, mix the stock with the salt and pepper and lemon juice. Whisk until blended.

Place the hot cooked pasta in a bowl. When the zucchini is cooked and soft, add the zucchini-tomato mixture to the pasta. Add the minced peanut mixture to the vegetable stock mixture, whisk well and add to the pasta. Mix everything up gently, serve, enjoy!

You can really play around with this dish. You can use different nuts, you can slice the zucchini instead of quartering it, you can use cherry tomatoes halved or cut up a whole tomato.

Oh, and you can try out different types of pasta or shapes, too. It's a really easy, simple dish.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Garlicky Red Pepper Pasta

Have you ever ordered a pizza and it came with these little packets of red pepper flakes? Did you wonder, what the heck is this? I did. Then my kids started sprinkling it on their pizza. Okay, they like hot stuff. They eat jalapenos, too. When they were little they called jalapeno slices *hot okra*. This provided hours of amusement when their brains registered what they just ate and they ran for the water. Didn't faze them - they still like hot and spicy foods even now. My daughter would shovel salsa and chips as a toddler. Even I couldn't eat the spicy foods like she could, and does.

Then while doing some research I discovered how absolutely wonderful and beneficial red pepper really is. I remember hearing Hillary Clinton laud the stuff when she was campaigning and catching a glimpse of her purse contents and spotted a container of red pepper flakes.

I consume red pepper regularly now. In fact, daily.

Garlicky Red Pepper Pasta

Saute a minced whole head of garlic in olive oil, with 1 t. of red pepper flakes and 1 t. salt. Cook your pasta of choice. Gently mixed the sauteed garlic with the cooked pasta, sprinkle on some more olive oil and a little bit of fresh or dried parsley. Enjoy!

Red pepper flakes add another dimension of flavor to a dish without making every mouthful hot and spicy. They seem to elevate the taste of other ingredients and make a simple recipe complex and interesting. Take this dish of pasta with olive oil, garlic, and red pepper - it is a classic combination of three basic ingredients, but the end result is more than a sum of its parts — and the red pepper is what makes it sing.

The chemical compound capsaicin (8-methyl-N-vanillyl-6-nonenamide) is the active component of chili peppers, which are plants belonging to the genus Capsicum. It is an irritant for mammals, including humans, and produces a sensation of burning in any tissue it comes in contact with. Because of the burning sensation caused by capsaicin when it comes in contact with human flesh, it is commonly used in food products to give them added spice or "heat" (piquancy). Typically the capsaicin is obtained from chili peppers. Hot sauce is an example of a product customarily containing large amounts of capsaicin and may contain chili peppers or pure capsaicin.

Capsaicin and several related compounds are called capsaicinoids and are produced as a secondary metabolite by chili peppers, probably as deterrents against herbivores. Pure capsaicin is a hydrophobic, colorless, odorless, crystalline to waxy compound.

Extracts of capsaicin from red chili peppers are used as a fresh ingredient in foods, as medicinal herbs to treat pain and inflammation and in concentrated sprays as non-lethal weapons (really!)

New understanding of the way capsaicin functions inside the body to reduce inflammatory responses and improve nerve cell signalling is rapidly expanding the use of this herb to treat a wide variety of medical conditions, including diabetes and has been shown to prevent the replication of prostate cancer cells. Small daily doses of capsaicin have even been shown to prevent chronic nasal congestion.

It may also be used as a cream for the temporary relief of minor aches and pains of muscles and joints associated with arthritis, simple backache, strains and sprains. I can attest to this. I use a capsaicin cream for shoulder pain I have that results from my Klippel Feil. It does heat up the skin, turning it pink almost like a sunburn, but it feels good and helps me a great deal.

Oddly enough, the pain treatment properties can also be applied internally to treat digestive disorders. According to the University of Pittsburg Medical Center, oral consumption of capsaicin reduces the pain associated with indigestion. The compound depletes substance P in the stomach, and temporarily relieves the burning sensation that characterizes dyspepsia. Capsaicin may also prevent stomach ulcers caused by drugs used to treat inflammation, such as aspirin.

If you are worried about the heat, don't. Chilis are ranked according to their pungency (heat) on a scale called the Scoville Scale.

Some examples of heat scores are:
  • Red bell peppers 0-600
  • Jalapeno peppers 2500 – 10 000
  • Serrano peppers 10 000 – 25 000
  • Habanero peppers 80 000 - 150 000
They are pretty mild by comparison.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Bean and Potato Bake

My youngest likes beans of any kind. Everyone in my family loves their potatoes. So, this seemed like a logical pairing.

Bean and Potato Bake

2 cans of beans, your choice - I used pinto beans and black eyed peas
Potatoes, sliced thin - I think I used 5-6
Daiya Cheddar shreds

Layer the ingredients in this order - potatoes, beans, cheese, repeat. I did not drain the beans so that the liquid would help in cooking the potatoes. If you cook the potatoes first, you can drain the beans. Bake 350 for about 45 minutes, covered with foil.

I'll be honest. I thought this was ordinary. Boring. My youngest, however, devoured it. I had no leftovers because he had 3 or more servings. A serving size to him means a heaping plate. So I present it here in case you have a kid like mine who will totally love this dish.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Kerry's Cuban Beans and Rice

My son thinks black beans are the bomb. I'll admit, we never really ate them before becoming vegan. They kind of reminded me of bugs and they turned everything black. Well, hello, uninformed me never knew you should drain and rinse them first! Ugh, sometimes I disturb myself. Now, of course, we eat them fairly often. Seriously, you just can't have Mexican or other Spanish styled dishes without them at least in one dish!

Kerry's Cuban Beans and Rice

One onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
One green bell pepper, chopped
One jalapeno pepper, chopped
Olive oil
Cooked rice
1 c. vegetable broth
1 t. salt
1 t. pepper
2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
One lime

Saute onion, garlic and peppers in the olive oil until softened. Mix in the remaining ingredients except the lime and stir well to mix. Add more broth or water if it seems too dry. Let heat through. Cut the lime in half and squeeze the juice over the rice mixture. Stir well. Serve. Enjoy!

You can use uncooked rice and add more broth and cook longer, if you want, but I had leftover rice so used that instead. This was really very good and quite tasty.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Skillet Chickpeas

We love chickpeas. Just something about those little nuggets that are so tasty. I think I could make anything and as long as I added chickpeas to it, it would be devoured. We snack on them, add them to salads, heck,  I've even cooked with chickpea flour.

Skillet Chickpeas

One onion, diced
Three cloves garlic, diced
Sesame oil
Small can sliced black olives, drained
2 cans chickpeas/garbanzo beans, drained
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
1 t. curry powder

Saute the onion and garlic in the sesame oil. Add the olives, chickpeas and seasonings, heat through. Serve over rice with a splash of Braggs Aminos. Enjoy!

Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are a legume high in protein and one of the earliest cultivated vegetables; 7,500-year-old remains have been found in the Middle East.

The name "chickpea" traces back through the French chiche to Latin cicer (from which the Roman cognomen Cicero was taken). The Oxford English Dictionary lists a 1548 citation that reads, "Cicer may be named in English Cich, or ciche pease, after the Frenche tonge." The dictionary cites "Chick-pea" in the mid-18th century; the original word in English was chich, found in print in English in 1388, and taken directly from French.

The word garbanzo came to English as "calavance" in the 17th century, from Old Spanish (perhaps influenced by Old Spanish garroba or algarroba), though it came to refer to a variety of other beans (cf. Calavance). The Portuguese arvanço has suggested to some that the origin of the word garbanzo is in the Greek erebinthos. But the Oxford English Dictionary notes that some scholars doubt this; it also mentions a possible origination in the word garbantzu, from Basque — a non-Indo-European tongue — in which it is a compound of garau, seed + antzu, dry.

Domesticated chickpeas have been found in the aceramic levels of Jericho (8350 BC to 7370 BC) along with Cayönü in Turkey (7250-6750 BC) and in Neolithic pottery at Hacilar, Turkey (ca 6700 BC). They are found in the late Neolithic (about 3500 BCE) at Thessaly, Kastanas, Lerna and Dimini. In southern France Mesolithic layers in a cave at L'Abeurador, Aude have yielded wild chickpeas carbon dated to 6790±90 BCE. Domesticated chickpeas have also been found at several archaeological sites, including Tell el-Kerkh in Syria and Akarçay Tepe (7280-8700 BP) in Turkey. The earliest to date is Tell el-Kerkh, in the late 10th millennium BC, and scholars suspect that since el-Kerkh is a considerable distance from the native lands of the wild chickpea, the domestication took place somewhat earlier than that.

By the Bronze Age, chickpeas were known in Italy and Greece. In classical Greece, they were called erébinthos and eaten as a staple, a dessert, or consumed raw when young. The Romans knew several varieties such as venus, ram, and punic chickpeas. They were both cooked down into a broth and roasted as a snack. The Roman gourmet Apicius gives several recipes for chickpeas. Carbonized chickpeas have been found at the Roman legion fort at Neuss (Novaesium), Germany in layers from the first century CE, along with rice.

Chickpeas are mentioned in Charlemagne's Capitulare de villis (about 800 CE) as cicer italicum, as grown in each imperial demesne. Albertus Magnus mentions red, white and black varieties. Nicholas Culpeper noted "chick-pease or cicers" are less "windy" than peas and more nourishing. Ancient people also associated chickpeas with Venus because they were said to offer medical uses such as increasing sperm and milk, provoking menstruation and urine and helping to treat kidney stones.

In 1793, ground-roast chickpeas were noted by a German writer as a coffee substitute in Europe and in the First World War, they were grown for this in some areas of Germany. Chickpeas are still sometimes brewed instead of coffee.

Okay, I said above we'd probably consume them no matter what they were in? I think I'd have to draw the line at coffee. But that's just me.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Scarborough Fair Meatloaf

Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme

With apologies to Simon and Garfunkel and its possible 1670 origins, it was this ballad that came to mind as I was making this meatloaf.

Scarborough Fair Meatloaf

2 stalks celery, chopped
One onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
One block of firm tofu, frozen and thawed, drained and crumbled
1/4 c. walnuts, chopped
12 oz. vegetarian meat crumbles
1-1/4 c. quick cooking oats
3 T. Braggs Aminos
2 T. ketchup
1 T. Dijon mustard
2 t. parsley
1/2 t. each - sage, rosemary and thyme

Saute the celery, onion and garlic until soft. In a large bowl, add the sauteed vegetables and remaining ingredients. Mix well.

Here's where I confess my sins.

The original recipe said to spray a loaf pan, but this made more than my loaf pan would hold, so I sprayed a casserole dish instead. Dumped it all into the dish,  covered it with a coating of ketchup and baked at 375 for one hour.

Came out tasty, but definitely not a loaf. More of a hash. We dished it on top of the mashed potatoes and gobbled it up. Not sure how to make this more loafy - my son suggested going ahead with the loaf pan and maybe pressing it down a bit to compact it. Not sure if that would work, but we liked it well enough for me to give that a go. If anyone has a suggestion, or has tried the packing technique and it works, let me know, would you?

My non-vegan cousin teased me about using the term *meat* in the recipe, but another friend pointed out that the word *meat* is defined as the the edible part of something as distinguished from its covering (as a husk or shell), so can be used to describe both plant and flesh. So there!

The word meat comes from the Old English word mete, which referred to food in general. The term is related to mad in Danish, mat in Swedish and Norwegian, and matur in Icelandic, which also mean 'food'. The word "mete" also exists in Old Frisian (and to a lesser extent, modern West Frisian ) to denote important food, differentiating it from "swiets" (sweets) and "dierfied" (animal feed).

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Lettuce Wrap

I just had the tastiest lunch, so wanted to type this up before I forget the ingredients!

Lettuce Wrap

Shredded red and green cabbage
Julienned carrots
Cucumber sticks
Few sprigs of cilantro
Chopped peanuts
Thai peanut sauce
Romaine lettuce

Layer cabbage, carrots, cilantro and cucumber sticks on top of the romaine. Pour peanut sauce over the vegetables and sprinkle the chopped peanuts on top. Roll the entire thing up in the lettuce, burrito style. Enjoy!

I'll need to find a recipe for a peanut sauce now. This was slightly sweet. It was messy to eat, but truly finger lickin' good!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tuscan Style Linguine with Chickpeas, Zucchini and Rosemary

You can't go wrong with pasta. Well, I mean, you probably can, but more often than not, everyone loves a pasta dish.

Tuscan Style Linguine with Chickpeas, Zucchini and Rosemary

Another fave from Pasta For All Seasons. Linguine, chickpeas, zucchini, tomatoes, garlic, red pepper flakes and rosemary from my garden. The sauce is a snap to make, and is versatile. One night I made it and didn't have any chickpeas. I did have fava beans, though, and they made a delicious substitution.

If you are in a hurry and need a dish you can whip up quick, this is the one!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Parmesan Style Eggplant

The eggplant (or aubergine, as my British friends call it!) is a plant of the family Solanaceae (also known as the nightshades). As a nightshade, it is closely related to the tomato and potato, but I don't know as many people who eat eggplant as much as they do tomatoes and potatoes!

I do, however, know a lot of vegans who love it!

Parmesan Style Eggplant

This delicious dish I discovered in another Robin Robertson cookbook, Vegan Planet. It is a HUGE cookbook, loaded with all kinds of enticing dishes. This particular recipe features eggplant (duh!), crushed tomatoes and herbs. I crumbled up some Boca Vegan Burgers for the sauce. Even my non-vegan hubby had two helpings!

It was really pretty quick and easy to make. These eggplant cutlets are not breaded, but are baked, and I think that makes a world of difference.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

New York Times Veggie Burgers

Becoming a vegan was easy enough for my youngest. We had started reading The Food Revolution by John Robbins and it was a done deal. But when my aspiring firefighter son discovered the story of the Engine 2 firefighters in Austin, it pretty much cinched it for him.

New York Times Veggie Burgers

These yummy burgers from The Engine 2 Diet were not only good tasting, but surprisingly easy to make! Black beans, tomatoes with green chilies, cilantro, garlic and oats blend quickly and easily. Make into patties and bake and you've got dinner! Slice up some tomatoes, tear off some lettuce and slather on some vegan mayonnaise on a whole wheat bun.

If you are unfamiliar with Engine 2, their story is impressive. When firefighter Rip Esselstyn learned that one of his fellow Engine 2 firefighters in Austin, Texas was in dire physical condition with a dangerously high cholesterol level of 344, he motivated the entire Engine 2 firehouse to join together in plant-strong solidarity to help save the life of their friend. By committing to plant-based meals with Rip as their guide, all the Engine 2 firefighters in Austin lost weight (some more than 20 lbs.), lowered their cholesterol (Mr. 344′s dropped to 196), and improved their overall health.

We've made several of the recipes from the book, and each and everyone has been wonderful!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Fettuccine with Cilantro Lime Pesto

My kids and I discovered cilantro lime rice some time ago, and it is one of our favorite ways to make rice. We love it in tacos and burritos, especially. Imagine our delight to find a recipe for it using pasta!

Fettuccine with Cilantro Lime Pesto

This yummy recipe comes from one of the first vegetarian cookbooks I bought, Pasta For All Seasons, another winning cookbook by Robin Robertson. It features the obligatory cilantro and fresh lime, but also flat leaf parsley, garlic, peanuts and other seasonings. You can sprinkle extra peanuts on top, if you'd like.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Shredded Veggie Rice

I have several vegan cookbooks. There isn't a one I don't love. So I'm going to trip through some of them and introduce others to the fantastic variety out there!

Shredded Veggie Rice

This tasty and very simple dish is courtesy of Rice & Spice by Robin Robertson, one of my favorite vegan cooks. This fried rice is loaded with veggies - squash, zucchini, onions, garlic, ginger, carrots, etc. She suggests using tamari, but I used Braggs Aminos instead. The ginger gives it a really nice kick. I didn't mince the garlic, I just allowed it to be shredded with the rest of the veggies.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Summer Stir-fry

When it is hot outside (and hot inside when your ac decides to stop working!), you don't want to spend time over a hot appliance. Salads are often the wisest choice, but sometimes you just want something a little warmer than that. Stir-fries are an easy choice, as they cook up fast.

Summer Stir-fry

Olive oil
One bunch of fresh aspargus, tough parts removed and composted, tender ends snapped into smaller pieces
One onion, sliced
One package sliced mushrooms
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 t. Italian seasoning
One tomato, cut into chunks
Salt and pepper to taste

In the olive oil, saute the asparagus, onion, mushrooms and garlic until veggies are heated through and take on that bright look sauteed vegetables do. Add the seasonings and tomato. Stir-fry until vegetables are heated and cooked through.

Serve over some rice and a nice drizzle of Braggs Aminos. Enjoy!

The term stir-fry was introduced into the English language by Buwei Yang Chao, in her book How to Cook and Eat Chinese,  to describe the technique of cooking in a wok. Stir-frying is similar to sauteing, in that it is a method of quick cooking food in a hot pan with a small amount of fat for a relatively short period of time. The goal being to brown the food while preserving the color, texture and flavor of the individual ingredients.

I don't currently have a wok, but if I did I would get one made of mild steel. It is preferred for its heat transfer properties; thin stamped stainless steel or aluminum just don't hold enough heat, and cast aluminum takes to long to heat upand cool down. I would avoid anything teflon coated. A properly conditioned iron wok is at least as non-stick as any teflon coating ever made.

A new wok must be seasoned before use. Scrub it well with soap and water to remove any coating applied to protect it during shipping, rinse well, and dry. Place the wok over low heat, wipe lightly with vegetable oil and let stand on the heat for 10 minutes. Cool and wipe with paper towels to remove the dark film. Repeat the oiling, heating, cooling and wiping procedure until the paper towels come away clean. Once a wok has been seasoned, it should be cleaned with plain water only using a wok brush, never with soap or abrasive cleaners, then dried and oiled before storing. If the metal ever rusts, clean with steel wool or fine sand paper and re-season.

If you like to cook Asian dishes, a wok will become indispensable.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Easiest Spanish Rice Ever!

I love Tex Mex food. I think it is one cuisine I never get tired of eating. It helps that I am surrounded by numerous restaurants that cater to my craving. Fortunately, I also like to cook it in never ending variations on a theme.

The Easiest Spanish Rice Ever!

One can of diced tomatoes
1-1/2 c. vegetable broth
1-1/4 c. rice
1 T. olive oil
2 t. chili powder
1/2 t. oregano
1/2 t. garlic powder

Combine all of the ingredients into one pot, bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 25 minutes.

That's it! Super easy!

Top with some sliced green onions, serve, enjoy! We had ours with some black beans. You could also substitute a can of tomatoes with chilies if you'd like more spice to it. You could also top with some Daiya, if you'd like, or really whatever suits your fancy. I know this recipe will remain in my repertoire for its taste and convenience.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Country Vegetables

It was hot today, and to top it all off, my air conditioner is on the fritz. Argh! I came upon this recipe in my files, and thought, what the heck. It looks easy and I won't have to spend too much time in the kitchen! The picture is from the recipe. I didn't get to snap a picture, it got gobbled up so quick!

Country Vegetables

Olive oil
One package of sliced mushrooms
2 stalks celery, sliced
One pint of cherry tomatoes
One package frozen broccoli and cauliflower
One onion, sliced
One c. water
2 T. Braggs Aminos

Saute the onion, celery and mushrooms in the olive oil until softened. Add broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, water and Braggs. Heat to boiling, cover, reduce to simmer for 20 minutes.

This was really nice, and like I said above, got gobbled up by my family. The original recipe listed carrots and snow pea pods, but since I had neither of those, I used celery instead. The vegetables came out tender with just a slight crunch, which I liked. I cooked up some mixed wild and regular rice just to go alongside it. Nothing left for leftovers for tomorrow's lunch!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Vegan Tuna Salad Sandwiches

A couple of cans of garbanzo beans have been sitting on my counter for a few weeks now. My daughter had planned to mix up a batch of vegan tuna salad, but never quite got around to it. So, Saturday night rolls around, my youngest son and I are getting hungry, so...

I've made a few different tuna salads and always with great success. But today I came upon this one while looking for something else, and just had to share.

While I normally post the recipe here, this one is already online, so I'm just going to share the link for it here.

I used white onions instead of red, because it is what I had on hand. I pulse everything in my little food processor, mix in the vegan mayo, salt and pepper and serve. We ate it on whole wheat bread, but I'm going to nosh a little later using crackers. Enjoy!

Nothing Medi-Okra About This!

I've been a bit on an okra binge. Fortunately, my family likes okra, so all is well in my household. I saw a quote today about how so few people like okra that it doesn't even make it into the top ten most hated foods list! I think they are missing out!

Creole Peas

One c. diced celery
One c. diced green pepper
One c. diced onion
2 hot peppers, diced
Olive oil
2 cans diced tomatoes
2 cans black eyed peas
One bag frozen sliced okra
Salt and pepper to taste

Saute the celery, green pepper, onion and hot peppers in the olive oil until softened. Add tomatoes, black eyed peas with liquid, okra and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, simmer for about 20 minutes.

This is a really flavorful dish. My family will sometimes season their food individually, but none of us found a need to do so with this. I served it over a lemony-dill rice.

Lemon-Dill Rice

Make your choice of rice according to your preferred method. Once done, melt butter with some fresh dill (dried if you can't get your hands on any fresh) and about a tablespoon of lemon juice. Pour this over and mix into the rice.

Butter Stewed Carrots

I had some carrots sitting in the crisper drawer, so I pulled them out, peeled and sliced them, then sauteed them in butter and maple syrup. They looked quite lovely next to the peas and rice.

Round it all off with some fresh strawberries and some pineapple slices and enjoy!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Veggie Biscuit Pie

There are so many ways one can make a potpie. I mean, really, the possibilities are endless. It simply has to be the simplest way ever to use up leftover veggies. I think I found an even simpler version.

Veggie Biscuit Pie

Olive oil
One package of sliced mushrooms
One turnip, cut into chunks
2 carrots, sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
One onion, diced
1-1/4 c. non-dairy milk
3 T. flour
One container vegetable broth
One can corn
One small bunch of broccoli, or one package cut up broccoli
Salt and pepper to taste
Biscuits - your choice

Saute the onion, mushrooms, turnips, carrots and celery in the oil until slightly softened. Mix the milk and flour together until there are no clumps, then pour this into the onion mixture. Add the broth, corn with its liquid, broccoli, salt and pepper. Stir well, heat to boiling. Reduce heat to low, cover and let simmer about 20 minutes.

In the meantime, make your biscuits.

To serve, spoon up some of the delectable vegetable mixture into a bowl, and top with a biscuit. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Roman Beans and Fried Pecan Okra

I've spent the first half of this year cleaning, organizing and redecorating my home. In doing so, some projects got pushed to the side in favor of more pressing ones, like organizing my craft room and painting my den. One project that has sat on the sidelines for way too long is culling my recipe collection. Four, count them, four boxes of recipes sat in my kitchen, off to the side. I don't even want to mention the four boxes of magazines still to be gone through...

At any rate, I finally tackled the boxes of loose recipes. Sitting beside me was a bag for any I no longer want or can't veganize to be recycled and a file box with labeled hanging folders to file any I want to try. To my satisfaction, more went to the recyling bag than into the folders; proof positive to me that I really can part with unnecessary things!

I decided that I would plan many of my meals around Dr. Neal Barnard's Power Plate idea - dividing a plate into four sections - legumes, vegetables, fruit, grains. It might make for some odd, but interesting, meals, but a bonus is I get to further cull my recipes while also trying out some new ones!

Roman Beans

One onion, chopped
One carrot, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
Olive oil
One can diced tomatoes
2 t. basil (I used fresh basil from my garden)
1 t. oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
One can kidney beans, drained

Saute the onion, carrot, celery and garlic in olive oil until softened. Add tomatoes, herbs, salt and pepper and kidney beans, heat through and let simmer to blend the flavors.  Serve over rice.

Pecan Fried Okra

One c. chopped pecans
Baking mix of choice (I used cornmeal and flour mixed with salt and pepper)
One package of frozen whole okra
Peanut oil

Whir the pecans and baking mix in a food processor to blend well. Thaw the okra. Coat the okra in the pecan mixture and fry in the hot peanut oil in batches.

I thought the beans had a really nice flavor, but the okra could use more seasoning. I will play around with that more next time. To round out the Power Plate, I included fresh blackberries for dessert.

Now back to tackling the boxes of magazines...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Mermaid Succotash

My mom used to make succotash when I was a kid. I always thought the name was funny. I don't think hers was like this.

Mermaid Succotash

1/3 c. wakame
Olive oil
One large onion, chopped
Bag of frozen baby lima beans
One can corn (or frozen, if you prefer)
2 t. dried basil
2 t. dried oregano
1 t. dried thyme
2 t. sea salt

Rinse the wakame and then soak for about 15 minutes. Drain. Depending on the style you bought, chop if you need to. Saute the onion in the olive oil. When it is softened and nicely browned, add the limas, corn, herbs, salt and wakame. Add 1-1/2 c. water, bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cover. I let mine simmer long enough to boil noodles.

I served the succotash with buttered and parslied noodles and cut up cantaloupe. It was a delicious take on the power plate!

Succotash comes from the Narragansett word msíckquatash or msikwatash , which means, "boiled corn kernels" or "ear of corn", depending on what you read. It is a dish primarily comprised of corn and lima beans, but some people add bell pepper to it (I don't). It was popular during the Great Depression and is often served at Thanksgiving - it is rumored it was served at the very first Thanksgiving.

You could substitute soybeans for the limas, if you prefer. I'll stick with the limas, thank you. I grew up eating limas and baby limas, so rather like them.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Quick and Easy Gyros

Ah! So happy to be back blogging! I've been so busy lately, and have grown weary of throwing together anything and calling it supper! Ugh! Now that I've got more time to do more things, I'm getting back into the groove of cooking! Yay!

My family loves gyros. I've mentioned this before and included a seitan recipe here. That one was made with seitan and while delicious, is more time consuming. Imagine my surprise when flipping through a magazine I find this little gem.

Quick and Easy Gyros

One (or in my case, two) packages of vegan style Boca Burgers
One container vegan sour cream
2-3 cloves garlic
Whole grain tortillas
Roma tomatoes
Lettuce, shredded
Half a cucumber, peeled
Red onion

Chop and mix together the tomatoes, cucumber and red onion. Cook Boca burgers according to package directions (we made ours in a skillet). In a food processor, blend the garlic and sour cream together.
To assemble, cut a burger into two halves and place on top of tortilla. Stack on the veggie mix, lay on some lettuce, and smooth on some of the sour cream mixture. Fold in half, eat, enjoy!

This was so very simple to make and remarkably tasty, considering we were using a prepackaged burger instead of making one from scratch. I wanted something simple and quick, but tasty, and this worked out well. I served it with no-salt potato chips and my youngest went back for three of them!

You can certainly used the more typical pita bread to serve your gyros in, but I've always found they fall apart too easily, whereas flour tortillas seem much more manageable.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Even Pumbaa Would Like This!

After spending the day painting and gardening, you don't want anything with too many ingredients or too much preparation time. You want quick, but still tasty.

African Beans and Potatoes

2 T. peanut oil
One red onion, diced
2 stalks of celery, diced
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 c. vegetable broth
Potatoes (I used five), chopped (I scrub, but don't peel, mine)
1 can chickpeas, drained
1 can pinto beans, drained

Saute the onion, celery and garlic until soft. Add the broth and potatoes, bring to a boil, then cover and simmer until potatoes are soft, about 20 minutes. Add chickpeas and pinto beans, heat through. Sprinkle with peanuts or pumpkin seeds and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes. Serve. Enjoy!

My daughter thought it was a little bland, so add salt to taste.

You can add more broth to make it more of a stew and serve it with some good crusty, buttered bread. A simple salad will round it out nicely.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Broccoli with Garlic and Cashews

Broccoli - you either hate it or love it, but you don't meet too many people who are indifferent to it. I remember my mother-in-law being absolutely amazed that my kids would eat it raw. Her other grandchildren wouldn't eat a raw vegetable for love or money, but my kids would nosh on raw veggies like nobody's business. They still do. We like our veggies all ways - raw, pickled, fried, baked, boiled, steamed - you name it, we'll probably like it.

Broccoli with Garlic and Cashews

Olive oil
5 cloves garlic, chopped
Broccoli - fresh or frozen (I used fresh), chopped
1/2 t. salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 c. raw cashew pieces

Saute the garlic in the olive oil until soft. Add the broccoli and saute until well coated, add the salt and cashews and continue stirring until all are well coated and softened. Remove from heat and add a few twists of freshly ground black pepper. Serve over buttered Basmati rice. Enjoy!

Broccoli is a spectacular and unique package of versatile disease fighters and abundant in numerous strong, well-known phytochemicals and antioxidants, including indoles, isothiocyanates, quercetin, glutathione, beta carotene, vitamin C, folate, lutein, glucarate, and glutathione. Broccoli is extremely strong in anticancer activity, particularly against lung, colon, and breast cancers. One of the most well known and extensively studied is the isothiocyanates. These powerful chemicals are thought to stimulate certain enzymes produced by the liver which act to neutralize the effects of cancer causing agents that enter the body. The result is less damage to DNA which can give rise to tumors. These chemicals are so powerful they have even been shown to slow down the progression of existing cancer cells. Like other cruciferous vegetables, it speeds up the removal of estrogen from the body, helping suppress breast cancer. Scientists believe there are other important cancer preventative agents in broccoli that have yet to be identified.

Broccoli is rich in cholesterol-reducing fiber and has antiviral and antiulcer activity. It is a super source of chromium that helps regulate insulin and blood sugar. Broccoli is also a good source of calcium.

However, broccoli is one of the leading intestinal gas producers. To reduce its gas production, eat broccoli with ginger or garlic. Like this dish!

Heavy cooking and processing destroy some of the anti oxidants and phytochemicals such as indoles and glutathione. Eat raw or lightly cooked as in microwave and stir-fry.

Whatever or however, just make sure you make broccoli a frequent visitor to your dinner repertoire!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Dining with the Bard

Today is the birthday of William Shakespeare. I grew up reading his works, reading my first play, Romeo and Juliet, when I was in second grade. I was aggravated in high school how the teachers would read Shakespeare to us as a class, reckoning not mistakenly I'm afraid, that the average high school student would not be able to understand his writing. I read years later that reading Shakespeare to your infants would enable them to grasp him easier later. So, that's what I did. It must have worked, in some fashion at least; my kids look forward to attending the annual Shakespeare festival each summer. That sound you hear is me patting myself on the back for raising some spectacularly awesome kids.

In typical style, I knew I had to make something to celebrate. I have numerous period cookbooks to choose from, but wanted something relatively simple to make. That's why I settled on


1 c. Basmati rice
3 c. almond milk
1 c. cut up faux chicken
1/4 c. slivered almonds

In a pot add the rice and almond milk, and bring it to a boil. Add the faux chicken, cover, reduce heat and cook for 20 minutes. When done, fluff the rice, add the almonds and mix lightly to blend. Serve. Enjoy!

Blancmange is more traditionally a dessert type dish, and frankly, I didn't think the faux chicken added much to it. It has a lovely light taste, just a hint of sweet. I served mine right along with the other dishes and thought it was better that way.

The origin of the dish is obscure. The Danish, Anglo-Normans and the Dutch all had similar dishes from the time period. It was considered a common dish with the upper class during the Middle Ages. Chaucer even mentions the dish in The Canterbury Tales.

Why not make this dish as a part of your day's celebration of the bard. What? You don't have plans or know what to do? You can find lots of ideas here.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Green Food for Green Thursday

Today Catholics all over the globe celebrate Holy Thursday. In the Czech and German traditions, it has another name: Green Thursday. They celebrate it by eating large green salads, so I thought, well, let's expand on this a bit. So, I made an all green supper.

Green Goddess Salad with Green Goddess Dressing

Green, leafy lettuce
Cucumber, peeled and chopped
Tomato - cut into bite sized pieces
Half of a red onion, chopped
One can of black olives
1/4 c. pine nuts, roasted
Fresh parsley, chopped
Green Goddess Dressing
Faux Feta

Mix salad ingredients together and toss well to coat.

Green Goddess Dressing

2 garlic cloves, minced
2 green onions, chopped
Fresh parsley, chopped
Fresh basil, chopped
1/4 c. olive oil
1/4 c. tahini
2 T. apple cider vinegar
1 T. lemon juice
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. black pepper

Combine all ingredients and blend well in a food processor. Add to salad.

Faux Feta

One package firm tofu, drained and pressed and frozen, boiled, pressed again
2 T. olive oil
2 T. water
1/4 c. red wine vinegar (actually a little less, we thought it turned out a little tangy)
Fresh basil, chopped
1 t. salt
1/4 t. dried oregano
1/4 t. dried dill
1/4 t. black pepper

Crumble the tofu and mix with remaining ingredients. Let marinate at least an hour.

Green Beans with Brazil Nuts

Frozen or fresh green beans, steamed
2 T. olive oil
One onion, chopped
1/4 t. salt
Brazil nuts, chopped
Fresh basil, chopped
Lemon juice

In the olive oil, saute the onion, nuts and basil. Add the green beans and salt, sprinkle in a dash of lemon juice, mix well and heat through. Serve.

Okra Strips in Lemon-Tarragon Viniagrette

Frozen whole okra, thawed, ends trimmed and pods cut in half lengthwise
Flour mixed with Cajun spices of choice
3 T. lemon juice
1 t. red wine vinegar
1 t. Dijon mustard
One clove garlic, minced
1 t. dried tarragon
8 T. olive oil

Coat the okra in the flour mixture and set aside. Mix remaining ingredients in a frying pan and mix well. Heat to medium high and add coated okra. Cook until brown. Serve.

The plated food looked really lovely, even if it was heavily green!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Let the Days of Grilling Begin!

You know the weather is warming up when the familiar smell of charcoal permeates the air. You decide you want to throw something on the grill but before you even start you can tell your neighbors have the same idea. Nothing really says it's the weekend like that smell.

We actually have two grills - one charcoal, one gas. Hubby likes the charcoal grill, but I'm seriously considering designating the gas grill as mine and vegan only. I should probably learn how to use it first.

Hubby is really good about it, though - he scrubs the grill before he cooks our stuff, and always cooks the vegan stuff first. He announces his desire to grill and follows it with a directive to me to find something for the vegans in the house to grill, so we can join in on the grilling goodness.

I am particularly fond of The New Vegetarian Grill, and adapted the following recipe from it:

Grilled Veggie Salad

One eggplant, sliced thickly
One zucchini, cut in half lengthwise
One yellow squash, cut in half lengthwise
Two large tomatoes, sliced thickly
One red bell pepper, cut in half lengthwise
One large sweet onion, cut in quarters and skewered
1 T. balsamic vinegar
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh basil, chopped

Over a medium hot grill, place the veggies. Brush liberally with olive oil and grill until nicely done. When cool enough to handle, cut the veggies up in bite sized pieces and place in a large enough bowl. Add balsamic vinegar, basil and salt and pepper. Mix well and let set for about 30 minutes to allow flavors to blend. Enjoy!

To accompany our salad, I marinated some tempeh strips in some bourbon laced barbecue sauce. After hubby grilled the tempeh, I chopped it up fine with some onion and had myself a delectable sandwich. It was a great Sunday afternoon meal for a beautiful day.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Juicy Portobello Steaks

I live in cattle country. You can find steakhouses and barbecue places everywhere. Seriously, they are darn near spaced about a mile apart. And if not those, burger joints. I swear, I can hear the mooing as I pass. Makes me sad, makes me angry. When you are surrounded by all that death, the very least I can do is come home and make my dinner cruelty free.

Juicy Portobello Steaks

1/2 c. almonds
1/4 c. olive oil
1/4 c. Braggs Aminos
1/2 c. water
2 T. balsamic vinegar
3 cloves, garlic, chopped
1 t. dried rosemary
1 t. dried oregano
4 large Portobello mushrooms, stems removed
1 onion, sliced

In a food processor, whir the almonds until powdered. Add oil, Braggs, water, vinegar, garlic, rosemary and oregano and blend until well mixed. In a baking dish, lay the mushrooms upside down. Pour the sauce over the top, lay some onion slices on each mushroom. Bake at 250 for 25 minutes.

OMG, these are so juicy and delicious! It makes a wonderful gravy that you can pour over rice or mashed potatoes.

Since hubby had grilled some potatoes recently, I took a few of those and scooped out most of it, leaving the skin intact to form a shell. I mixed in some green onions, Daiya cheese, vegan butter and some herbs until it was all mixed well, scooped the mixture back into the potato skins and baked them alongside the mushrooms.

This was very elegant and would be perfect for dinner guests. Throw together a salad or cook some greens of your choice, and you truly have a winner here.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Quick Pasta Special

We all have them - those days when we are just so busy and fast food beckons to us. So convenient. So quick. So yucky. I don't know about you, but I get tired of going to a fast food restaurant and having to special order. And even then not being sure about how it was prepared. Ugh!

These times call for something quick and easy to prepare, that still tastes good!

Quick Pasta Special

12-14 oz. pasta of your choice
4 c. broccoli florets
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1/2 c. chopped red or green onions (or a mixture of both!)
1/2 c. chopped walnuts
2 T. lemon or lime juice
2 T. balsamic vinegar
1-1/2 T. extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 t. curry powder
pinch of black pepper, cayenne pepper and salt
dash of Bragg's Aminos or soy sauce

Cook pasta, but before draining, add the broccoli. Let set together about 5 minutes, then drain together. Toss in the tomatoes, onions and walnuts. Mix remaining ingredients together, then add to the pasta. Serve. Enjoy!

What the heck is balsamic vinegar? I remember when I first started seeing it used in recipes and thought, wow, this is fancy stuff! I'd thought I was being upscale by using red wine or white wine vinegars! How does a lowly vinegar come to reap such praise?

The ancient art of making a sweet condiment from grape juice dates back centuries. Romans invented the art of making ’sapa,’ a mixture made from boiled down grape juice. As far back as 900 years ago, vintners in the Modena, Italy region were making balsamic vinegar which was taken as a tonic and bestowed as a mark of favor to those of importance. In earlier days, the families cared for the vinegar, perfected it over years and passed it on as a treasured heirloom. They presented small vials to their special friends and even bequeathed it to their daughters as a valuable part of her dowry.

Although it is considered a wine vinegar, it is not a wine vinegar at all. It is not made from wine, but from grape pressings that have never been permitted to ferment into wine.

Sweet white Trebbiano grape pressings are boiled down to a dark syrup and then aged under rigid restrictions. The syrup is placed into oaken kegs, along with a vinegar "mother," and begins the aging process. Over the years it graduates to smaller and smaller kegs made of chestnut, cherrywood, ash, mulberry, and juniper until it is ready for sale. All of these woods progressively add character to the vinegar. As it ages, moisture evaporates out, further thickening the vinegar and concentrating the flavor.

Some balsamic vinegars have been aged for over 100 years. It is this aging process that makes true balsamic vinegar from Modena in Northern Italy so expensive. Luckily, a little balsamic vinegar goes a long way.

In Medieval times, balsamic vinegar was valued for its healing properties. The word balsamico *(from Latin balsamum , from Greek balsamon*) means "balsam-like" in the sense of "restorative" or "curative". During the later part of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance era, the nobility enjoyed the different varieties of vinegar as a refined drink. They believed the vinegar was a natural remedy for the plague. Balsamico was stored in the family attic and tended to as meticulously as an other facet of the family estate, as it slowly matured into a liquid gold. Balsamico came to be a symbol of peace and an extension of the hand of friendship from one family to another, and from one friend to another.

All I know is I like using it in my dishes. Not sure how my daughter would feel if I were to give her a bottle on her wedding day. She'd probably look at me funny. Once I told her it was made from grapes, though, she would totally understand!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Southern Fried Tofu

I'm what's known as GRITS - a girl raised in the south. I've spent time up north, had my share of winter and July (lots of snow for those unfamiliar with seasons other than summer! LOL!), but the south is where I was born and have spent most of my life. It's familiar. Comfortable. And has some of the best food around.

My mom always made the best fried chicken. She didn't do anything special, just flour, salt and pepper, but for some reason, mine never tasted as good as hers. She doesn't make it anymore, and the animals and I thank her for that. But those flavors linger in the mind. And now I've found a way to have my fried chicken taste cruelty free!

Southern Fried Tofu

One package extra firm tofu, frozen in the package, boiled, pressed, cut into bite sized chunks
Seasoning Mix:
1-1/2 c. nutritional yeast
2 t. salt
1 t. garlic powder
1 t. onion powder
1 t. parsley
1/2 t. paprika
1/2 t. tarragon
1/2 t. dill
1/2 t. basil
1/2 t. oregano
1/2 t. curry
1/4 t. mustard
1/4 t. rosemary
1/4 t. celery seeds

Soy or any vegan milk, plain
Lemon juice
Olive or peanut oil

Mix the seasoning mix together. In a separate bowl, mix the milk with a little lemon juice. In a third bowl, add the flour. Heat oil in frying pan.
The process is simple - coat the tofu pieces in the flour, shake off excess. Dip the pieces in the milk, then in the seasoning mix. Fry in the oil until nicely browned on all sides. Drain on paper towels. Serve. Enjoy!

I served mine with vegan mac and cheese and green peas, but you could go all southern and serve it with mashed potatoes and make some gravy. This has a really nice flavor. Next I want to find a copycat recipe for Popeyes chicken and try making the tofu with those seasonings. Finger lickin' good! Okay, I'm mixing my commercials, but who cares? Good food is good food, and this is good food!

Vegan Paella

I never made paella before I became a vegan. I would see the recipes and think, ooh, that sounds good! But I never actually got around to making it. I'm glad now, because that's one less dish with meat that ever got made. It still amazes me at the wealth of recipes that can be made vegan. Kind of exciting, really!

Vegan Paella

Four cups uncooked rice, cooked in whatever fashion you prefer
One bag frozen cut green beans
One bag frozen petite green peas
Olive oil
2 onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1/3 c. raw cashews
One red bell pepper, diced
One green bell pepper, diced
One can diced tomatoes
One container vegan plain yogurt or sour cream
Salt to taste
A dash of: cumin, paprika, cinnamon, cayenne, ground cloves

Saute in the olive oil the onions, bell peppers, cashews and garlic. Add tomatoes and yogurt, stir to mix well. Add green beans and peas and two cups of water. Bring to a boil, add spices, reduce to simmer and cook until everything is well blended, about 20 minutes. Add the cooked rice and mix well. Serve. Enjoy!

Paella is actually a cooking utensil, similar to a flat frying pan with handles on both sides. Peasants of Valencia would use the pot to cook rice, and add in available ingredients. It evolved depending on the cook's inspiration. Rice originated in Asia and, along with pasta, was brought to the Mediterranean by the Moors. When the Moors invaded Spain, they brought both products with them. The Moorish casseroles of rice and fish established the custom of eating rice in Spain. By the 15th century, when Spanish Catholics expelled the Muslims from Spain, rice had become a national staple.

Paella traditionally is made with saffron. Saffron grows wild in Spain, and not only gives a rich and unique flavor to the rice, but a deep yellow color as well.

You will note I did not add saffron to my paella. Feel free to add it if you like. Saffron comes in threads (expensive) or powdered (cheaper). I do very much like saffron rice and may do that the next time I make this dish.

You can use fresh green beans and tomatoes in this dish if you like, but I'm about quick, easy and convenient. I also used spices common in garam masala. You can use that in place of the spices, too, if you'd like. So, play around with it and make it yours!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Taste of the Tropics Pasta Salad

What a beautiful day! After a blah winter, spring has arrived and it is welcome! Hubby and I spent the day doing a small amount of gardening and some yard cleanup - anything just to get outside and enjoy the lovely weather! A good way to end it is with a pasta salad studded with mangoes!

A Taste of the Tropics Pasta Salad

8 oz of your choice of twisty pasta
1 green pepper, chopped
2 T. peanut oil
1 T. rice vinegar
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. black pepper
4 green onions, both white and green parts, sliced
1 mango, cut into chunks
8 oz. plum tomatoes
Small handful of chopped cilantro

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Before straining, chop the green pepper and place in the colander. Poor the hot pasta over the green pepper and rinse until pasta is cool.
In a large bowl, whisk the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Add pasta and remaining ingredients, stirring well to mix. Refrigerate.
Before serving, sprinkle on some dry roasted peanuts.
Think tropical thoughts!

The mango originated in Southeast Asia where it has been grown for over 4,000 years. Over the years mango groves have spread to many parts of the tropical and sub-tropical world, where the climate allows the mango to grow best. Mango trees are evergreens that will grow to 60 feet tall. The mango tree will fruit 4 to 6 years after planting. Mango trees require hot, dry periods to set and produce a good crop. Most of the mangos sold in the United States are imported from Mexico, Haiti, the Caribbean and South America. Today there are over 1,000 different varieties of mangos throughout the world.

Beyond being delicious and rich in vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants, mangos contain an enzyme with stomach soothing properties similar to papain found in papayas. These comforting enzymes act as a digestive aid.

Selecting the ripeness of mangos can be determined by either smelling or squeezing. A ripe mango will have a full, fruity aroma emitting from the stem end. Mangos can be considered ready to eat when slightly soft to the touch and yielding to gentle pressure, like a ripe peach. The best flavored fruit have a yellow tinge when ripe; however, color may be red, yellow, green, orange or any combination.

Cutting open a mango is a little tricky, but with practice, quite easy! You can learn how here.

They are a good source of fiber, so be sure to include some on your next grocery shopping trip!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Green Bean and Mushroom Stroganoff

We all have our comfort foods, usually associated with our childhood, something Mom would make that made us feel loved and all warm and fuzzy inside. I have several. Most were served over wide egg noodles.

Green Bean and Mushroom Stroganoff

1 pound of green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 inch lengths
2 T. olive oil
One onion, chopped
One package of sliced mushrooms, rinsed, patted dry
1 T. paprika
2 T. flour
1 T. tomato paste
1/2 c. dry white wine
2 c. vegetablel broth
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Vegan sour cream

Steam the green beans and set aside. Or buy frozen cut green beans and skip this step.
Saute onion in olive oil. Add the mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms start to release their juices. Add paprika and flour and cook, stirring until flour is well mixed. Add tomato paste and wine and stir until smooth. Add the green beans and broth, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 20 minutes. Add salt and pepper. Blend about one cup of broth with the sour cream and add back into the stroganoff.
Serve over noodles of choice and enjoy!

Beef Stroganoff or Beef Stroganov is a Russian dish of sautéed pieces of beef served in a sauce with smetana or sour cream. From its origins in 19th-century Russia, it has become popular in much of Iran, Europe, North America, Australia, South Africa, Lebanon, Portugal and Brazil, with considerable variation from the original recipe.

The origin and history of Beef Stroganoff dates backs to 19th century. Elena Molokhovets' classic Russian cookbook (1861) gives the first known recipe for Govjadina po-strogonovski, s gorchitseju "Beef à la Stroganov, with mustard" which involves lightly floured beef cubes (not strips) sautéed, sauced with prepared mustard and bouillon, and finished with a small amount of sour cream: no onions, no mushrooms. Some have suggested it had probably been in the family of Count Pavel Stroganoff's for some years and had become well known through his love of entertaining. Count Pavel Stroganoff was a celebrity, a dignitary at the court of Alexander III, a member of the Imperial Academy of Arts, and a known gourmet. Given it's history, it is doubtful that Beef Stroganoff was his or his chef's invention.

An 1890 competition is sometimes mentioned in the dish's history, but both the recipe and the name existed before then. A 1912 recipe adds onions and tomato paste, and serves it with crisp potato straws, which are considered the traditional side dish in Russia. The version given in the 1938 Larousse Gastronomique includes beef strips, and onions, with either mustard or tomato paste optional.

Me? I like mine cruelty-free, thank you! No beef, just yummy plant foods! Feel free to play with it, adding or subtracting ingredients as you please.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Tempeh with Cabbage and Potatoes

When I was younger, my mom would make this dish she called skillet hash. It was ground beef with potatoes and some kind of gravy, but the concoction was quite tasty. I've gone the way of cruelty-free for awhile now, but this dish I made reminded me an awful lot of that skillet hash of my childhood.

Tempeh with Cabbage and Potatoes

Olive oil
One onion, chopped
Half a head of cabbage, shredded
3 potatoes, diced (I always leave the skin on)
1/2 c. water
salt and pepper to taste
Smoky tempeh (recipe follows)

Saute the onion on the olive oil until softened. Add cabbage, potatoes, water and seasonings, cover and cook about 12-15 minutes. Uncover, cook until vegetables are soft, and add the tempeh. Cook until flavors are nicely blended, about 10 minutes.

Smoky Tempeh

One package of plain tempeh
3 T. soy sauce
3 T. water
1-1/2 t. liquid smoke
1 T. olive oil

Cook tempeh in water over medium heat for about 20 minutes. Crumble the tempeh (I use my little food processor). Mix the soy sauce, water and liquid smoke together. Heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the tempeh and cook until browned, then add the liquid mixture. Stir to coat the tempeh well and continue cooking until the tempeh is evenly coated and the liquid is absorbed.

The smoky tempeh is good in any recipe that calls for crumbled bacon. I like mine in grits. Yes, I'm from the South.

Next time I make this dish, I'm going to chop the potato much finer, to more resemble the skillet hash my mom made.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Emerald Isle Pot Pie

I don't think there is anything easier to throw together for supper when you use premade pie crusts. Add the ingredients and pop it in the oven and voila! Supper!

Emerald Isle Pot Pie

Premade frozen double crust
Any vegetables you like, chopped
Vegetable broth
Olive oil

Saute the chopped vegetables in the olive oil until softened. Add a little vegetable broth to moisten. Add sauteed vegetables to the pie crust and top with second pie crust. Poke a few holes with a fork on the top crust. Place pot pie on a cookie sheet, and bake at 375 for about 30-40 minutes until the crust is golden. Enjoy!

 The veggies I used were onion, cabbage, potatoes, green pepper, green onions, collards. Throw in some herbs like dill, thyme, sage or any you love. Season with salt and pepper to taste. This is one of the most versatile dishes you can ever make! I made mine for with lots of greens to celebrate my Irish heritage.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Spicy Fried Tofu

Some months back, my son and I decided to check out a local vegetarian Indian restaurant. We had no idea what we were eating, but it was all so good! We wrote down the names of some of the dishes labeled on the buffet tables so we could look them up when we got home. A few days later I checked out several Indian cookbooks from the library, hoping to find some of the dishes I could replicate. I'll let you know when I try some of them.

One of the dishes I did find, however, was for a spicy fried fish. Having had some pretty good luck with substituting tofu slices for fish in other recipes, I gave this one a go. It was so good I think I quite literally gobbled my food!

Spicy Fried Tofu

1 container of tofu, frozen, then boiled, pressed and sliced into 1/4 inch slices
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t. salt
1 t. fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1/2 t. turmeric
1/2 t. black pepper
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
2 t. lemon juice
Olive oil

Mix the garlic, salt, ginger, turmeric, black pepper, cayenne pepper and lemon juice together to make a paste. Spread the paste over the tofu slices and let sit for about 20 minutes. Fry the slices in the olive oil until nicely browned. Drain on paper towels and serve!

I served mine with a basmati rice mix with cranberries and almonds and some frozen green beans. Like I said, it was so good I couldn't get enough!

This recipe fascinated me not only because it sounded delicious, but because of the ingredients. I had been doing some research on turmeric and how good it was for a number of reasons, but mostly because of its cholesterol lowering abilities. Doing the research, I learned that studies have indicated that curcumin (turmeric) has a poor bioavailability (absorption) when consumed orally due to its rapid metabolism in the liver and intestinal wall. However, piperine (black pepper) is a bioavailability enhancer that allows substances to remain in cells for longer periods of time. The studies found that by consuming turmeric with black pepper, the bioavailability was increased by 154%!  In Indian foods, the average dietary intake of turmeric in the Indian population ranges between 2 to 2.5 grams. Pepper was the one of the first crops that was cultivated in India and is consumed together with turmeric. They noted that the rates for colorectal, prostate, and lung cancers in India are one of the lowest in the world.

Researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center have found that the compounds curcumin and piperine could play an important role in preventing and even treating breast cancer. The research shows curcumin and piperine target stem cells (unspecialized cells that can give rise to any type of cell in an organ). This is of major significance because cancer stem cells comprise the small number of cells inside a tumor that fuel the growth of malignancies. More good news: the compounds had no effect on the normal process of cell development known as cell differentiation. That means the spice compounds are not toxic to normal breast tissue.

So, suffice it to say I'll be adding more Indian dishes to my cooking repertoire!


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Veggie Fajitas

I think if I had to pick, Mexican food would top the list of favorites. My favorite, of course, is Tex Mex, but I'll try almost any Mexican food restaurant. My favorite is my neighborhood restaurant, Los Caporales. The owner knows us, is always friendly and they have the BEST salsa EVER.

The biggest problem with any Mexican restaurant, though, is finding something vegan. Oh, vegetarian is easy, but vegan? Not so much? Just about everything has cheese on it or in it. And some serve cheese enchiladas with a meat gravy! Yuck and double yuck!

We like to cook Mexican often at home. There is always something different - tacos, burritos, enchiladas, nachos, fajitas. I swear, I never get tired of it.

Veggie Fajitas

Olive oil
One onion, sliced
1 T. chili powder
1 T. paprika
1/4 t. salt
Black pepper to taste
2 zucchini, sliced lengthwise and into half moons
1 green pepper, sliced
4 Portobello mushroom caps, sliced
1 t. tamari
1 can black beans, drained
Whole wheat flour tortillas
Daiya mozzarella style shreds

Saute onions, chili powder, paprika, salt and pepper in olive oil, until onions are soft. Add zucchini, green pepper, mushrooms and tamari, cook until veggies are heated but not soft. Stir in the beans and heat through. Spoon some in a line down a flour tortilla, sprinkle on some Daiya, roll up and enjoy!

Feel free to add sliced avocados or salsa or anything to your liking!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Orange Tofu with Coconut Lime Rice

How many times when you are watching tv do you see the ubiquitous Chinese takeout boxes? It seems whenever characters onscreen do takeout, it's Chinese. Kind of like every time you see a character with a grocery bag, there is a loaf of French bread sticking out. As if these food items are so recognizable, that no one can mistake what is going on. It strikes me as amusing.

There are several Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese restaurants near where I live. We have our choice when we get in the mood for something delectably Asian. More often than not, though, when the family's taste buds are so inclined, they ask me to make something at home. Nothing beats homemade in their minds, and I so agree!

Orange Tofu with Coconut Lime Rice

2 t. arrowroot powder
1 t. orange zest
1/2 c. freshly squeezed orange juice
3 T. tamari
2 T. maple syrup
2 T. apple cider vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. toasted sesame oil
1/8 t. salt
1  package extra firm tofu, frozen in package, boiled to thaw, pressed and drained and sliced into 1/2 thick squares
1/4 c. green onions, thinly sliced
1 T. sesame seeds

In a shallow baking dish, mix arrowroot powder with orange juice until powder is fully dissolved. Mix in orange zest, tamari, maple syrup, vinegar, garlic cloves, sesame oil and salt. Combine well. Add tofu and be sure to coat both sides. Cover and refrigerate and marinate at least an hour. Place in cold oven, bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes. Turn tofu over and bake again, uncovered for a few minutes more, until sauce is bubbling at the edges. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and green onions and serve with Coconut Lime Rice.

Coconut Lime Rice

1 c. rice (we like basmati)
13-1/2 oz. can light coconut milk
1/2 c. water
1-1/2 t. lime zest
2 T. freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 t. salt

Combine all ingredients except zest in a pot and bring to a boil. Stir, cover, reduce heat to low and cook 35-45 minutes. Stir in lime zest and serve.

Jennifer Lee, in her book, The Fortune Cookie Chronicles points out that there are “some 40,000 Chinese restaurants in the United States—more than the number of McDonald’s, Burger Kings and KFCs combined.” Americanized Chinese food includes variations of the original dishes from China or new creations from the United States. Take, for example, the fortune cookie. Its origins are often contested, but a general consensus concludes it was created in San Francisco.

Also, chop suey, a dish of chopped meats cooked with vegetables like cabbage, celery and bean sprouts cooked in a thick sauce, was allegedly created by Chinese immigrants who came to California to mine for gold and work on the Transcontinental Railroad. They used whatever ingredients were available and also created dishes modified to suit a non-Chinese population.

Take General Tso, for example. General Tso’s chicken is virtually unknown in China but there was a real 19th-century general named Tso in Hunan Province who was involved in the bloodiest civil war in human history but his “long march across China” did not explain how “his long march across America" came to pass.
The driving force behind Chinese cooking is the desire to adapt and incorporate indigenous ingredients and utilize Chinese cooking techniques. I see this here in Texas with Mexican food, using local ingredients with a Mexican flare. We call it Tex-Mex, and I have to admit, I favor it over more traditional Mexican food.
If you like Chinese food, experiment with some dishes, like this Orange Tofu dish and have fun with it. Buy some chopsticks (but be aware of the environmental impact and get some that aren't disposable), watch a Jackie Chan movie (no one can move quite like that man can!) and be sure to celebrate Chinese New Year.
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